Danny at the Haunted Mansion, evening of 3/24
Danny is the first of the three outstanding CMs I will be writing about from my spring break trip (3/18 thru 3/25/2006).
On Friday evening the 24th, my girlfriend and I decided to try to squeeze in one last tour through the Haunted Mansion before closing. There was nobody in line as we made our way up the walkway in front of the large brick house, and the doors were closed. It was about 7 minutes or so before the scheduled closing time, and we were concerned they might not be admitting any more guests (last semester myself and two friends had been turned away from Muppetvision 3D at MGM a full 9 minutes before closing, so it wouldn't have suprised me if we were turned away here too). About 4 or 5 other people found their way into the line behind us as we stood waiting on those heavy wooden doors, hoping they would open to invite us in.
Sure enough, after what felt like eternity (ok, maybe it was three minutes), those doors did in fact swing open, and a butler stepped slowly out of the darkness. He was tall and thin, with short, curly hair, and a stoic, almost blank expression on his face. I was closest to the door, and so naturally he walked right up to where he was nearly touching me, and just gazed through me as if I wasn't there at all. Immediately I realized that this guy was good with the whole getting into character thing, so i decided to try and test him a bit.
Now, I have all sorts of expereince in maintaining "military bearing", stemming from my 4 years of marching band and being in Sea Cadets in high school, and from AFROTC in college. So I decided to test the bearing of our butler on this evening. I turned my face towards his, raised one eyebrow in what I thought was a sort of comical, yet sort of creepy look, met his eyes and just stared back at him, waiting to see if he would break character. This staring contest of sort went on for probably a good 15 seconds or so, and a few guests were beginning to chuckle at us.
"Get in!" he says suddenly. It wasn't shouted, or even remotely loud for that matter, but it was firm, and the fact that it was so sudden startled me and I almost broke into a grin. It took a great deal of effort for me to keep a straight face, but with the exception of his mouth moving to say those words, our butler stood just as still as the tombstones alongside us, his face completely without emotion. "Ok," I thought to myself, "this guy is good!"
He turned around and walked back into the mansion, beckoning us to follow. He said nothing, but walked with a very determined step. It was creepy to watch, but fun at the same time. In my many, many experiences at the Mansion prior to this (which are so numerous due to the fact that it is my favorite attraction at the Magic Kingdom), just about all of the best butlers and maids I have had the pleasure of visiting I had deemed the best because of their cleverly personalized versions of the little speech they give as you enter. It's usually something like "Welcome, we do need more bodies. Please drag your wretched corpses into the dead center of the room.... blah blah blah etc." Sometimes you got a really clever or funny one of those, and those are the ones I always proclaimed to be the best or most memorable.
But this guy was different. He said very little, almost nothing in comparison to most Mansion staffers, but instead used his body language to impress the atmosphere upon us. The few things he did say were humorous, but not overdone. He didn't bother telling us to crowd into the center because there weren't enough of us to take up even a third of the room, but he did ask us to "please shut up" (I know that sounds kind of rude in writing, but it was funny the way he said it... it's one of those 'you would have had to have been there' things).
Once the door closed and the room started stretching, he began walking around the room, circling amongst the guests seemingly at random. I stopped watching him for a moment to take a look at the wallpaper (which, if you're still uncertain as to whether you are going down or the ceiling is going up, is really the best way to tell), when all of a sudden my girlfriend makes a sort of a suprised nervous giggle and makes a subtle pointing gesture over my left shoulder. I turn my head in that direction, and there once again is our friendly butler, standing uncomfortable close and staring me down again. I didn't even try to get my bearing back, and instead just let myself crack up over this.
I was still laughing when the Ghost Host got to his part in the script that says, "...of course, there's always my way." With timing that must have come from having done this hundreds of times before, our butler (without taking his eyes off of mine) snaps his fingers loudly, apparently knocking out the lights with the sound. As soon as the room went black, I could see just enough to see that he turned and walked away briskly. All I could assume at this point was that he was going to find another unsuspecting guest to stand really close to and startle once the lights came back on, another favorite trick I've seen many a maid and butler pull in the stretching room.
After the clap of thunder and lightening, the revelation of the swinging corpse above, and the scream of the unseen person falling to their demise, the ceiling reappeared and the lights returned to normal. The first thing I did was look around to see who our butler was standing next to this time, and realized he wasn't there at all. My girlfriend must have been doing the same thing as I was, because I heard her say softly "Where did he go?" I was more than a bit confused, because I'd never seen a butler leave the stretching room during this segment of the attraction before, and I surely would have noticed a door opening with the room darkened like that.
"Look down there! What happened to him?" I heard a mother pointing out to her child nearby. I looked over and saw her pointing at the floor behind me. I turned around and looked down at my feet, and sure enough, sprawled face down on the carpet behind me was our tall, curly haired young butler in the green suit. A couple of people chuckled nervously, myself included. This guy was really good. I was very impressed.
We all shuffled through the door and got into the queue to load up the doom buggies. It was then that I realized that I had never thought to take a look at the name badge of this awesome butler, and decided right then and there that I would ask someone at the end of the ride if they could tell me who it was. So after exiting the ride, I went up to the maid standing outside at the entrance to the queue (probably turning folks away by this point, as it was surely past closing now), and asked if she could tell me the name of the young man working the stretching room just now. I gave her a description of him, and she said it sounded like Danny, being tall with curly hair. I then told her about the dying act in the stretching room, and she laughed. "Oh yeah, that's definitely Danny then. He likes to do that." Apparently Danny's little dying act is a bit of a signature performance for him, and apparently a crowd favorite. It sure impressed me, I can assure you that much!
I returned to the Mansion once more the following day, the last day of my vacation, and as I boarded my doom buggy to begin the ride portion of the tour, I looked up at the young man standing at the console at the end of the moving walkway, right where your Ghost Host lowers your safety bar. Sure enough, it was the same butler who had greeted me the night before, and this time I made sure to check his name tag. "Danny." Awesome... now at least I know I got the name right.
To Danny: Thanks so much for everything. Your antics made my final attraction of the night the most memorable one of the entire day, and once more reminded me of exactly why the Haunted Mansion is the coolest attraction in the Magic Kingdom. Great job, and keep up the good work.
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