Disney Imagineer’s murder remains unsolved with no leads or motives so far


It started as a model maker for a major production house, contributing to nearly every animated and live-action film to come to the theater from 1940 to 1956. Then he progressed to the entertainment giant’s theme park division, using his creativity and layout prowess to bring movies and movie adaptations to dazzling (and sometimes chilling) life.

And then he was killed in cold blood. And now, over 35 years later, there are still no motives, no leads and no suspects, and cold-blooded murder has long since become cold business.

Credit: Disney

It sounds like the plot of a great motion picture, but surprisingly it’s the true story of the murder of one of the waltz disneythe most creative and capable Imagineers, Yale Grace.

Yale Grace was born in Shanghai, Qing Dynasty, China on September 3, 1910. According to D23.com, he was the son of an American consul and attended an English boarding school. After graduating, he moved to the United States where he attended the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles.


Credit: Disney

Gracey began her Disney experience in 1939, joining The waltz disney Company like a model maker and work on Disney’s Pinocchiowhich was released in 1940. A year later, fans got to see Gracey’s layout work in Disney’s Fancy. In addition to working on the House of Mouse feature films, Gracey has also helped design the layout and backgrounds for many of the studio’s animated shorts featuring beloved Disney characters like Donald. Duck.

Then, in 1961, just six years later waltz disney opened Disneyland in California, Yale Grace begins the second stage of his journey inside The waltz disney Company. This part of her journey put Gracey right in the action as a special effects and lighting artist at waltz disney Imagine.

He was among many “the greats” at waltz disney Imagineworking alongside (or at least bumping elbows with) the likes of Mark Davis, Ken Anderson, and the incomparable Imagineer behind “The Museum of the Weird”, Roland (Rolly) Crump.

While Gracey is known for his contributions to many Disneyland attractions (some that would one day also end up at the Walt disney World Seaside resort)he is perhaps best known for his work on Disney’s Haunted Castle attraction.

Credit: Disney

waltz disney always wanted a haunted house in his new disney park in California, but when Disneyland opened in 1955, there were no haunted houses, no haunted castleand of course, no ghosts.

Sketches of the structure that would one day house the Haunted Castle attractions at disneyland was created as early as 1952 by Disney’s Harper Goff. But construction did not begin until 1961. It was completed in 1963, but thanks to the New York World exhibition in 1964, the Haunted Castle himself stood in a dark corner of the park until ghosts began to move into the old castle inspired by the Victorian era Shipley-Lydecker House in Shipley Hill, Maryland in 1969.

shipley lydecker house

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Yale Grace was not so involved in the thematic development of the attraction. Instead, he worked closely with other Imagineers as a special effects designer. His genius allowed him to bring into reality what other Imagineers conjured up in their minds.

Today in Disney History: Haunted Mansion Opened at Disneyland Park in 1969 |  Disney Parks Blog

Credit: D23

He is credited with engineering the “Leota effect”, a special effects seen on the way. Gizmodo explains the most basic part of special effectssaying:

The animation of Madame LeotaThe face of is the first truly magical effect in the Haunted Castle only possible with technology. Leota’s Singing Face is a projection of a real human face, filmed while speaking the lines. The “actress” is Leota Toombs, who worked for WED at the time of the Haunted Castleof development, using his own costumer and modeling skills on other attractions such as “it’s a small world” and Pirates of the Caribbean.

13 ghoulish ghosts that haunt Disneyland Park's haunted mansion |  Disney Parks Blog

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He also perfected and developed a much older technique called “Pepper’s Ghost” for use in the iconic attraction.

Thanks in part to Gracey’s contributions, the Haunted Castle attraction at Disneyland became an overnight success, leading the disney park at its highest one-day attendance to date after only two weeks of opening, according to the Unofficial Guides website.

Yale Grace retired from The waltz disney Company in October 1975 after 36 years combined with Walt and Walt’s Imagineers team.

Almost 8 years later, on September 5, 1983 – just two days after her 73rd birthday – Gracey and his wife Beverly were spending the night at their Bel Air Bay Club cabin on the Pacific Coast Highway in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood on the west side of Los Angeles when a burglar broke into the house and shot them both as they slept.

Bel Air, Los Angeles - Wikipedia

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Yale Grace lost his life in the attack and his wife was injured and taken to Santa Monica Hospital after a neighbor reported the attack around 2:30 a.m.

Yale Gracey article

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Beverly Gracey told detectives an intruder entered the couple’s beachside cabin and fired several bullets from a small handgun before fleeing north along the beach. She described him as a man in his late 50s and said he had a dog with him.

It’s been almost 40 years since Yale Grace‘s murder, and the case was never solved. There’s still no motive in the case, no suspects and no leads.

Like most Imagineers who have worked on the Haunted Castle stroll, Yale Grace received a tribute in the family cemetery at the entrance of the Haunted Castle. He is nicknamed “Master Graceybecause he was a “master” of illusion and special effects at Disney.

Walt Disney World Memories: Room for One More at the Haunted Mansion |  Disney Parks Blog

Credit: Disney Parks

It reads, “Master Gracey buried, no mourning please, at his request.

r/WaltDisneyWorld - The rose atop Master Gracey's tombstone is freshly picked when the park opens, withered and dead by the end of the night.

Most mornings, cast members lay a red rose on the honorary headstone at Disneyland and Disney World — a practice Disney Fandom says began in the 1980s after Gracey’s death, to honor his memory and his contributions.

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