Saturday, October 6, 2007

Meet the Hitchhiking Ghosts!

This marks the first in a series of blog entries looking back at past Halloween-themed releases by the Walt Disney Classics Collection.

The Walt Disney Classics Collection held its first-ever Collector Convention at the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort from March 19-21, 1999 in Orlando, FL.

It was a fun-filled weekend of specially-themed entertainment, a variety of 'behind-the-magic' seminars, and of course, exclusive convention merchandise. The Convention was themed around the Haunted Mansion Attraction, which celebrated its 30th Anniversary.

In keeping with the theme of the convention, and to coincide with the 30th anniversary, the Walt Disney Classics Collection released the three Hitchhiking Ghosts (Phineas, Gus & Ezra). "Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts," a three-piece Numbered Limited Edition (NLE) of 1,500 sculpture set was sculpted by Patrick Romandy-Simmons.

Meet the Hitchhiking Ghosts!
Gus Gracey
Born: November 1, 1850, Ohio
Died: August 22, 1939

Gus was born into the Ohio branch of the family. George Gracey, Sr.’s second cousin, Gus was a genetic dwarf and a deviant. His childhood had been plagued by incidents caused by his violence. He had killed several family pets and attempted to murder his siblings several times. His parents finally had him institutionalized, but after several years of confinement he escaped. Although his parents moved in an attempt to lose him, Gus managed to find them and follow them wherever they moved.

In his wanderings he maimed or killed many people and animals. It was a delight for him to laugh hysterically while beating people or animals with his ball and chain. He would knock people down by wrapping the chain around their legs, then he would exclaim, "Now you’re down to Gus size!" As far as he was concerned his attacks were always justified, but the wrongs against him were usually imagined.

This is the hitchhiking ghost also known as Ball & Chain.

Ezra Dobbins & Phineas Queeg
Born: Unknown
Died: June 3, 1914

Ezra Dobbins and Phineas Queeg were friends of Gus Gracey. The three were cellmates at the Salem Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

Ezra was a voyeur--his lean frame was ideal for climbing trellises and trees. He developed a fascination with obese women and sought out the most rotund young ladies to spy upon. Ezra was finally caught skulking in the boudoir of the mayor’s ample daughter. When this corpulent miss took the stand, the chair groaned under her weight, the court did not hesitate to accept Ezra’s insanity plea and commit him to the Salem Asylum.

Phineas was a discredited chemist who made his living as a snake-oil peddler. He traveled the countryside, carpetbag at his side, seeking the most ignorant rubes to buy his worthless potions. His diabolical sense of humor led Phineas to spike his wares with ingredients he knew would cause unwanted side effects, i.e. his "hair tonic" was actually a depilatory. Phineas made his final mistake when he sold "Queeg’s Youth Elixir" to the chief of police, causing the man’s voice to raise an octave. Criminal charges were promptly filed. A parade of hapless witnesses, combined with Phineas’s snickering in court, led him to the Salem Asylum.

These two are the hitchhikers also known as Derby and Hunch.

The three cellmates spent their time planning their escape. Ezra fasted until he could squeeze through the bars to reach the keys and unlock the cell door. Once the three were free of their cell, Gus toppled the guards with his ball and chain, while Phineas set off a smoke bomb to prevent their pursuers from chasing them.

The Three friends hitchhiked down the road. They would hop aboard the moving vehicle regardless of whether the coach or carriage stopped for them or not. Passengers were startled when the three friendly little fellows plopped down beside them or on their laps. Ezra always aimed for the plumpest female; Phineas picked out the stupidest looking; and Gus just wanted to play with the children.

Ezra Dobbins and Phineas Queeg met their ends at a carnival. Phineas sampled a quack remedy at the medicine show. Ironically, he died not from the quack remedy, but rather he cut his lip on the bottle cap and died from lead poisoning. Likewise, Ezra’s fetish ultimately caused his demise. He snuck into the sideshow fat lady’s tent and was killed when she inadvertently sat on him after he had crept up behind her.

Gus finally caught up with his parents by mailing himself to them. He killed them after they attempted to nail him back in the crate. He then waited for some relative to take him home, that relative turned out to be George Gracey, Sr. Realizing Gus’s potential threat, Gracey, Sr. kept Gus locked up in the Mansion. When Master Gracey inherited the Mansion he discovered his charge. To ensure that Gus would not further damage the Gracey reputation in the community, Master Gracey looked to Madame Leota for a solution.

Madame Leota cast a spell confining Gus to the Mansion for as long as he lived and eternity after that, but she took pity on the lonely dwarf and summoned the spirits of his two departed friends to keep him company. They decided to stay and there they’ll remain until they spot someone they’d rather follow home.

The first evening of the convention ended with the retirement of the Under the Sea Scene from The Little Mermaid. I was standing talking with sculptor, Patrick Romandy-Simmons and he said, "you may want to head towards the front of the park." With that I headed towards Main Street and as I came out of Liberty Square, I heard the sound of hoofs against the cement and turned around and coming from Cinderella's Castle was the Headless Horseman!

Next Installment: Little did we know the appearance of the Headless Horseman at that convention, the following year an announcement would follow ...


Matthew said...

This set is one of my "holy grails"... since my first job at Walt Disney World was as an attractions host at The Haunted Mansion.

As the years go on, it feels less and less likely that I'll be able to afford the high price this set now commands.

It's an amazing set.

cuatrecess said...

Wow! How great to learn more about these pieces!

Duckman said...

It truly is an amazing set Matthew and notice it does consistently do well on the Secondary.

Hoping one day your holy grail will be part of your collection. I can imagine your association with the theme park attraction, making this one set you would like to own.

Duckman said...

Thanks Cheryl! Glad you enjoyed both the background on these sculptures plus a little more about each of the ghosts. They each were quite unique characters.

Timon said...

This is a great set and it was a fun convention, too. Like Matthew, I'm very glad I own this set.

I'm also looking forward to your next installment about the Headless Horseman, another favorite Halloween set I like to display!

Herc said...

Love this set. And the convention was fun too. Here's hoping for more Haunted Mansion sculptures and to another round of WDCC conventions.

Matthew said...

Yes, yes, Herc! I would love to see more HM sculptures.

But then I'd really have to work hard to get the Hitchhiking Ghosts to complete the collection!


Behr said...

So a little birdie told me that once they complete the Pirate Pieces, the next series that they are going to do from the parks is additional pieces to the haunted mansion. Now that I've secured my ghosts I'm anxiously awaiting more releases.

Duckman said...

Haunted Mansion would make another great series. There are so many great moments in that ride.

If given another six piece series, not counting the possibility of a special release like the Pirate on Cannon, what specific scenes would make a great representation for that attraction?