Here it is...my Disneyland Haunted Mansion Secret Panel Chest, which I bought new sometime in the early 70s. Not much is known about these chests, other than they were manufactured in Japan sometime in the 1960s, and that there was a Walt Disney World version as well. The top-panel illustration is based on a concept painting by Disney artist Sam McKim (itself based on an earlier rough concept drawing by Ken Anderson).
The 7 panel movements required to fully open the box and reveal its hidden drawer have been documented elsewhere on the web (this excellent site has some nice step-by-step stills).
BUT... did you know this puzzle box can be used to gauge the collective learning power of alien children? It happened in Village of the Damned, the 1960 adaptation of John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos.
The entire population of the village of Midwich (a fictional location placed somewhere in England) suddenly falls unconscious for several hours. After they've awakened from their mysterious sleep, all the women in town are found to be pregnant. They all deliver on the same day, a brood of physically perfect children with piercing, otherworldly eyes.
One of the new fathers, Gordon Zellaby, notices the children are developing at an accelerated pace. Visited by his brother-in-law Alan Bernard, who is conducting an investigation of the births for military intelligence, Gordon explains that he taught his "son" David to open the secret panel chest, even though such a puzzle should be much too complicated for a one-year old.
Now, Village of the Damned having been filmed in 1960, nine years before the Disneyland attraction opened (and a good two years before construction even began), the chest that appears in the film isn't actually from The Haunted Mansion. But it is clearly the exact same make of puzzle box that would eventually become the much sought after ride souvenir. In fact the only visible difference is the illustration on the top panel (which, being a fully removable piece, was probably just swapped out for the Disneyland version).
After Gordon's demonstration with his son, he takes Alan to visit several neighboring children who are able to open the puzzle box just as easily as David, despite having never seen it before. Evidence, Gordon suggests, of a collective intelligence.
Just for fun, here are a few quick Photoshops with the Haunted Mansion secret panel chest artwork superimposed over the Village of the Damned puzzle box.
Buy Village of the Damned here.
Buy a Haunted Mansion Secret Panel Chest on Ebay... if you're lucky.
2 years ago