By Lynn Arave
ANAHEIM, Calif. — "There's always room for one more" is the unofficial slogan for Disneyland's popular Haunted Mansion attraction. That phrase could also apply to the growing population of urban legends, including the incorrect belief that the white, horse-drawn hearse in front of the Haunted Mansion is the same one that carried Brigham Young's body from his funeral to his burial place in 1877.
Glen M. Leonard, director of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Museum of Church History and Art, said historical records are conclusive that the hearse couldn't possibly have been used for Young.
"Historical evidence shows no hearse was used," he said.
However, Leonard agrees that it's possible the hearse may have gone to California from Utah, where it could have been used in Salt Lake City, though probably after President Young's time.
Dozens of Internet sites claim the Haunted Mansion hearse was used for Young. Some Disneyland visitors even report that tour guides occasionally tell guests the hearse carried Young. Other Web sites debate the issue. All it takes is a "haunted mansion and hearse" subject search on the Web to find these sites.
A KUTV-Ch. 2 special report on Feb. 11, 2001 featured the Haunted Mansion hearse and included extensive research on the vehicle's history. However, the report upset Leonard because he felt it perpetuated the mystery about the hearse.
The KUTV report was done with a tongue-in-cheek style and concluded with some uncertainty on the issue when Leonard said there is none.
(Another KUTV report on the hearse aired on May 12, 2016.)
He prefers to view this widespread, incorrect belief as the result of "poor research," rather than an urban myth.
Leonard said Young's will was explicit about his funeral and burial. President Young died in the Lion House on Aug. 29, 1877, and his body was carried on a platform by clerks and employees, as prescribed in the will, to the Tabernacle for the funeral. Afterward, the same pall bearers hand-carried the casket up South Temple, through Eagle Gate and to the small private cemetery at First Avenue.
No wheeled vehicle was used in the transport of the body for the few blocks it needed to be transported.
Disneyland sources also expressed some doubt about the hearse's Brigham Young connection.
"It is documented to the extent that it can be documented," said John McClintock, a regional publicity manager for Disneyland. "It is at least a widespread belief that the hearse carried Brigham Young. . . . However, the proof is hardly indisputable."
Disneyland acquired the hearse from a Malibu collector, Dale Rickards, who had nothing to trace the ancestry of the wagon. Apparently there were once some documents of authenticity, but when the previous owner of the hearse, Robert "Dobie Doc" Cottle of Las Vegas, died, the papers apparently disappeared.
There are also rumors of a Young family from the Salt Lake area owning the hearse before Cottle got it, but no one's been able to verify that either. That possible "Young" connection could be the source of the Brigham Young link.
The Disney Archives had no additional information available on the hearse.
The KUTV report included extensive research on horse-drawn hearses and discovered the hearse could be an 1890s vintage, too recent to have been associated with Brigham Young. And there is some evidence in old Utah historical photographs that the hearse could have actually been used in Utah in the 1890s and thereafter until motorized hearses became available.
That's the only mystery left with the hearse: Did it come from Utah?
To Disneyland, the hearse is a prop, and there is no official sign that connects it to Brigham Young. In fact, the manufacturer's plate on the hearse is missing, so its origin cannot be verified.
McClintock said the Haunted Mansion continues to be one of the park's more popular attractions, and since many Utahns frequent Disneyland, the hearse and a possible Brigham Young connection are discussed frequently.
-Notwithstanding the Brigham Young myth, there is one actual tie to Utah – and Mormons – for the Haunted Mansion.
When actor Kurt Russell narrated an insider’s look at the newly opened Haunted Mansion in 1970 for Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color” TV series, he was accompanied on the tour by none other than the Osmond Brothers from Utah.
There’s a 10-minute YouTube video available of this “World of Color” segment at:
-Written by Lynn Arave in the Deseret News on Feb. 23, 2001 and revised and then published on Feb. 24, 2017.
The Web address to the original Deseret News story is: