A year or two ago I created a blog-post detailing a mythos/backstory which I created for the Haunted Mansion attraction in Disneyland (set in New Orleans). Here I've decided to do a similar project but as a backstory for the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World (Set in the Lower Hudson River Valley). This exists in a seperate continuity to my previous mythos and unlike my New Orleans variation of the story which was structured into indivisual biographies akin to the Ghost Gallery, this one is arranged as a single narrative going from time-period to time period more similar to the backstory made by Cracked Mack.
Chapter I (1655-1671)
Captain Marc Davis van der Grasser was one of the first Dutchmen to come to colonize the lower Hudson River Valley in the New World with his family. Marc was a merchant, not an exceptionally wealthy or prosperous one but a sharp and hard-working one who was dedicated to doing whatever it took to benefit himself and his family. The Clan van der Grasser came to settle in a village called “Liberty Town”, a small settlement nuzzled between the Hudson and a dense forest.
With him Captain van der Grasser brought his three children Walther, Myall and Harriet van der Grasser each of whom he had rigorously trained in the ways of sailing and merchant-work since they were young. Eventually Marc found himself the owner of his own vessel to further his trade with the other colonies along the Hudson, a ship he named The Weeping Willow after his late-wife Willow van der Grasser who had passed on before the family’s remains immigrated. By 1658, Marc had decided that he wanted to build a grand estate for his family to live on, upon a hillside overlooking the town. This hillside however was built on stolen sacred grounds which were used for burial by the Native Americans who proceeded the settlers only to be chased off of their own land, a ground known in English as, “The Whispering Glade”.
The mansion was designed by two architects named Joel van der Rathbone and Harry van Packer but construction of the estate was plagued. Supplies would go missing, the Hudson’s tides would rise and flood the grounds, mud-pits would appear seemingly out of nowhere and suck workers in, and throughout it all Rathbone and Packer appeared to be losing their minds. Rathbone became obsessed with a black raven which lived on the grounds which he blamed for the accidents, had constant nightmares of, and which he claimed could speak and which was watching him constantly. Due to this Rathbone began making insane design choices within the manor as he believed it would make it harder for the Raven to find him. He constructed fake doors, staircases to nowhere, labyrinth-like corridors and secret passageways left and right. Packer on the other hand became much more fixated on the accidents themselves and being an avid chess-player in his personal life, he began to weave chess pieces into the manor’s architecture as he began believing that it was fortifying the mansion’s defense.
During the years it took to build the mansion, Marc’s daughter Harriet married a man named Martin Bender and together they had a son who they named Wathel Rogers Bender. Myall went on a journey to the city for about a year and came back with a son who he named Huet van der Grasser. Walther married a Dutch woman named Mary who he had two sons with; Claude and Dave van der Grasser. This woman died from a fever and following her death Walther remarried to a franco-american woman from down-river named Lillian.
By 1671, Lillian was pregnant again while Walther and Marc had fallen into a quarrel with one another. Walt wanted to take his family down-river to live in the city to improve the family’s fortune and status but Marc refused to let him leave as he was fixed on his old-ways. The relationship continued to deteriorate as Marc being an old minded Dutchman disdained Walther’s choice of a French wife and how his new son was to be of French blood. By the night of September 30th Lillian was giving birth in the town convent while the tall and burly Walther was engaged in a heated argument with his short and older father Marc. Just when Walther was about to leave the room, Marc in a fit of anger struck Walther over the head with his cane.
Walther dropped to the floor dead and after realizing what he had done Marc went to the floor to hug his son’s corpse with tears in his eyes. Marc disposed of Walther’s body in the Hudson River and went on to claim that he died by trying to take a boat out on the river which sank. At midnight the old captain went to the convent where Lillian was giving birth only to find out from one of the nuns that she had died during childbirth but her son survived, a son Marc wanted to name Yale but whom his mother told the nuns she wanted to name “Dorian”. Marc named the boy Dorian Yale van der Grasser and took it upon himself to atone for his own sins by raising the boy as if he were his own.
That very night upon returning home, Marcus was greeted by Joel van Rathbone. Rathbone was drenched in sweat, red in the eyes and smiling like a mad-man as he told his master that they had finally done it, that after thirteen years of hard and difficult labour, the Mansion was finally ready.
Chapter II (1690s-
In 1693 an atrocity was committed within the state of Massachusetts, in a town called Salem. The town’s populace had broken out with paranoia of witches living among their populace and in a fit of violent hysteria commit what would come to be known as the “Salem Witch Trials”. More than two-hundred citizens were accused of witchcraft and twenty-five of whom died horribly as a result; most were hung to death, some died in prison, and one of whom was crushed under planks of wood and boulders until death took him. All of this was delusional mass-hysteria of course; heinous acts performed out of fear, hysteria, intolerance and narrow-mindedness. After all, if a witch truly had lived in Salem then surely she would have left town before all of the anarchy took place as any good witch would have foreseen the events, likely within a crystal-ball.
Eleanor Leota was a woman who moved to Liberty Town just over a week after the witch-trials had commenced. She was a beautiful woman of both Romani and Old-French blood and who was born in Massachusetts to her mother whom had immigrated to the New World from Paris. She came into town at night in a wooden caravan pulled by an ashen horse before buying a room in the Van Brunt Inn to spend the night. That very night tragedy struck the with the death of Steven van Miller, the owner of a trading shop which sold jellies, jams and kitchen appliances as Steven’s simple-minded son had placed ground hemlock flowers within his father’s jam, not knowing it was poisonous but simply knowing how it was his father’s favorite flower. By morning, Steven van Miller was found dead with a piece of cooked bread in his mouth, a piece of bread smothered in jam.
As if called by some queue, Eleanor came forth to the Van Miller son and offered to purchase the shop which he had inherited from his late-father. She seemed unfazed from the events, almost as if she had prepared for this very occasion and managed to buy it cheap for a fraction of it’s true worth and with much of what the original owner had left behind before convincing the son to leave town. What became of the lad exactly remains unknown, some say he started a new life for himself in another village while others claim he was so consumed by guilt that took his own life.
Leota set up shop with all the belongings which she had brought with her from her old home in Salem; potions, ingredients, spell-books, her pet black cat, her tarot deck, a few poppets, a hand of glory, her cauldron and her crystal ball. She assumed the alias of a physician and reopened the shop under the name of “Memento Mori”, although none of the town’s populace knew what the name meant.