The PJ Tatler

The only known photos from the White House's 2009 "Alice in Wonderland" party

By now you’ve probably heard about the “Alice in Wonderland”-themed Halloween party that Obama threw back in 2009 and which the White House tried to cover up (a charge they’re already furiously denying). Here at PJM Belladonna Rogers and J. Christian Adams have already blogged about it, so there’s no need for me to go into the details any further.

But the question everyone’s asking is: Where are the photos?

Well, unfortunately, it seems that the Obamas successfully banned discouraged photographers from inside the party itself. But all is not lost: There were a few photos taken inside of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton in Alice in Wonderland costumes along with Alice herself and the Obamas. And some other photos were taken of festivities outside the event. I’ve done quite a bit of searching, and this is what I could find, so for all of you out there hungry for pictures, here you go (presented in the highest resolution I could track down for each image):

[Note: THESE ARE REAL PICTURES of Halloween at the White House in 2009.]

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, an actress playing Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton in costume along with the Obama family at the 2009 White House Halloween party. The original can be found here, and (as far as I can tell) was originally posted to a Johnny Depp fan site (with the wrong date, oddly).

Verum Serum has also dug up some more party pics from the same fan site:

Here’s a blurry one that no one seems to have noticed yet:

Flickr user “Jon Schnitzer” was inside the White House that day and snapped a series of photos — not of the party itself, but of some Halloween preparations. For the completists, here’s one of his snapshots of a decoration for the Alice in Wonderland party:

Pretty amusing – a portrait of Bill Clinton next to what looks like a Tim Burton-designed “Pumpkin King.”

You can see the rest of Jon Schnitzer’s White House Halloween 2009 photos here.

Following a trail that Morgen of Verum Serum got me started on, I’ve uncovered a cache of additional (mostly blurry) snapshots taken inside the party by (apparently) Jonathan Benya, an actor who starred with Johnny Depp in an earlier film and who was at the Halloween event. The full cache can be found at “Imagebam,” a photo storage site, and further insider details are posted at the Russian-language Tim Burton fansite “Burton Land” — English translation here.

Below are a few of the photos — click the Imagebam link above for the full set:

This one is the most interesting, because it shows some of the party-goers and chefs in the background and some of the treats and party favors on the table.

Here’s a commentary from a “Burton Land” contributor who was at the Halloween event, and who explains many details heretofore unknown. Because the account has been auto-translated into Russian and then back out, the verbiage is a bit stilted, but you can get the gist of it:

Hatter tea party held at the White House dining room. Most of the cast of Alice were there. Johnny sat at the head word in a suit Hatter. The program also had a magic show, 3D paintings, Orchestra, tasting drinks, biscuits and a lot of other things. Johnny walked into the room and talked to people. Resident spoke with nearly all members of the cast. Guests are not allowed to take pictures, then, according to Kefir, there was “a ton of press photographers.” On the Zone has brought the girl just because she is “scanned” the Internet in search of photos from the event. At the end of the evening Johnny went out without makeup. The girl said a few words in his “pirate style”. Show sponsored by Johnny Depp and Disney. The guests were mainly represented by the White House staff and their children.

The celebration consisted of three parts. The first part took place in the fresh air. The second one was inside and included Johnny Hatter costume, greeting children and everything else. And the third part – it was restricted party for the elite, where Johnny was already without a suit. A highlight of the party was fun, “dragon breath” (marshmallow dipped in dry ice and then it all fizzles out through a straw) – Johnny was very good at it. Yogurt says that Johnny is very nice and an absolute gentleman. He held the hand of each guest without the slightest strain. I was touched a thing. In the suit Hatter Johnny said his voice. But when he took off his suit, noted Kefir, the emphasis Hatter sometimes still slip…

Here’s another forbidden photo, showing Abraham Lincoln overseeing the party set-up:

One of the Obamas makes an appearance in this photo — yes, that’s “Bo,” Obama’s Portuguese Water Dog being hugged by a cast member on the left:

As the description from the Burton Land commenter above reveals, there were three phases to the event: First, an outdoor party with kids and trick-or-treating (at which all the press photos were taken); then a private party inside the White House with Jonny Depp and all the “Alice in Wonderland” cast members in costume (at which the photos above were all taken); and finally an even more exclusive ultra-private adults-only affair at the end of the evening at which Depp (and the rest of the cast) had changed back into normal clothes. The question then arises: Where are the photos of this super-secret Phase Three?

Fear not! For I have those as well. Yet a different gallery at Imagebam has two photos from the final part of the evening, showing Depp out of costume (and Burton still sporting his eye-patch), posing with a White House staffer (whom I don’t recognize at the moment). Here are photos from the last phase of the Halloween event:

Depp and staffer.

Burton and staffer.

Want more? View the full sets at Imagebam here and here.

That’s it for inside the party (if you know of any other photos from the event, please post links in the comments section below), but pool photographers were allowed to snap pictures of the festivities outside. Some media outlets have reprinted pictures of the Obamas handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, but the “out-takes” are pretty amusing. a2zclutter’s photostream on Flickr features several pictures from the evening’s entertainment, including:

A band of musicians dressed as skeletons performing outside the White House on Halloween, 2009. What were they playing – “The Politically Tone Deaf Funeral March”? Or perhaps “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”

Here’s a close-up of the band:

The official caption reads “A skeleton band performs at the North Portico of the White House in Washington on October 31, 2009.”

As the kids arrived, left-wing anti-war protesters awaited them outside the White House gates:

The New York Times included this image in a slideshow about Halloween at the White House in 2009.

Another image from the slide show reveals butterfly dancers inside bubbles on the White House lawn.

Getty Images has more of that skeleton band, for those of you who can’t get enough of the ironic imagery. Some of the same photos (without watermarks) can be found on the band’s Web site:

“A skeleton band performs at the North Portico of the White House in Washington on October 31, 2009,” reads the official caption.

This one is my favorite:

There are plenty of photos on other sites of the trick-or-treating part of the evening (which seems to be not connected to the later Alice in Wonderland party), but if you’re curious nonetheless, the This Week With Barack Obama blog has a pretty extensive photo collection of the Obamas and various White House staffers handing out treats to kids on Halloween 2009.