- This article is about the Disneyland version of the ride. For the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland version, see The Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland).
|The Haunted Mansion|
|Land||New Orleans Square|
|Opening date||August 9, 1969|
|Hosted by||The Ghost Host (voiced by Paul Frees)|
|Vehicle names||Doom Buggies|
|Vehicle capacity||2 or 3|
|Maximum speed||3 mph (4.8 km/h)|
|Number of lifts||1|
|Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion|
As the opening spiel says: We have nine hundred and ninety-nine happy haunts here, but there's room for a thousand. Any volunteers?
Originally conceived in the mid-1950s by Walt Disney as a walk-through ghost house, artist Harper Goff was tapped to conceptually design the attraction. The house originally had a rural American design and was intended to be at the end of a crooked path that led away from Disneyland's "Main Street" area. Eventually the decision was made to place it in the New Orleans Square section of the park, and thus the attraction was themed as a haunted antebellum mansion.
The Haunted Mansion's design went through many changes before its facade was completed in 1963, six years before it would open to the public, delayed by Disney's involvement in the New York World's Fair in 1964 and 1965. At one point Disney's concept was to be entirely walk-through and empty out at a restaurant with a theme of "The Museum of the Weird." (This would be similar to other rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, which is paired with The Blue Bayou restaurant.) Plans were designed for this concept, but then abandoned.
In what might be considered to be an odd twist to a supposedly abandoned structure, the exterior appears new and the surrounding grounds meticulously maintained. Designers wanted to make the exterior of The Haunted Mansion look like the stereotypical haunted house but Disney himself overrode the idea, claiming "we'll let the ghosts take care of the inside. We'll take care of the outside."
On August 9, 1969, the Disneyland version of the attraction was completed and has remained essentially unchanged, with the exception of the yearly conversion to the "Haunted Mansion Holiday" discussed below.
Guests stand in line outside the mansion, passing a pet cemetery, and are led into a spooky parlor by castmembers dressed as maids and butlers. The mansion is based on the "Shipley-Lydecker" house, in Baltimore, Maryland (as shown above, in black and white), and sits pushed to the back of a very well-kept lot.
The foyer is where the guests begin the tour of the mansion. Flickering candles light the room from sconces and the sole chandelier, while an organ plays a single-note melodic line which serves as the theme for the rest of the ride. After enough guests have collected in the foyer, the "Ghost Host" introduces himself, and welcomes everyone to the Haunted Mansion.
The Stretching Room
From there, the guests are brought into an octagonal room, where the door by which they entered becomes a wall, and the chilling voice of the Ghost Host (voiced by Paul Frees) taunts them:
- Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination, hmm? And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows, and no doors. Which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out!
As the voice speaks, the walls quietly seem to stretch upwards, elongating the paintings on them to reveal the fates of previous guests. (For instance, one man - noted in an early script as "Alexander Nitrokoff" - is seen to be standing on a keg of dynamite.) The lights go out, lightning and thunder effects fill the gallery and, in a rare instance of Disneyland "dark humor," a glimpse of the earthly remains of the "Ghost Host" is shown dangling by a noose from the ceiling rafters above.
At the attraction in Disneyland, the room is, in fact, an elevator with no roof that is being lowered slowly to give the illusion that the room itself is stretching; this brings the guests down to where the ride begins, below ground level. The ceiling above is a piece of fabric called a scrim, which conceals the hanging body until it is lit from above. This elevator effect was necessary to lower the guests below the level of the park-circling railroad at Disneyland.
The actual ride building of this attraction is located outside of the berm surrounding the park, and the Disney imagineers developed this mechanism to lower the guests to the gallery leading to the actual ride building. It is interesting to note that although it is not necessary to lower the guests at the other theme parks, this effect of the stretching room is still used at the other instances of this attraction at the other Disney theme parks, not as an elevator as at Disneyland, but by raising the roof of the room.
When the walls finally do open, guests are ushered into an art gallery with paintings that change from normal to "spooky" every few seconds. A simulated thunderstorm rages outside while the grim busts of a man and woman placed at the end of the hall seem to turn their heads in relationship to the viewer's perspective. The effect, patented by Disney, was achieved by creating a negative image using a mold. This effect was discovered when the eyes in a mask created for the "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" attraction appeared to follow the observers. Lighting effects give the illusion of a positive image.
The Load Area
The next part of the attraction consists of a continuous track of "Doom Buggies" in which the guests sit as they are brought through the mansion. The "Doom Buggies" are actually Disney's Omnimover system which "pan" the riders to focus their attention on specific scenes much like one would pan a motion picture camera.
The Endless Hallway and the Corridor of Doors
From here, guests travel up a staircase, and begin the guided tour of the house. They pass an endless hallway, and travel down a corridor of doors. Finally, guests' attention is directed towards a large grandfather clock which is striking thirteen as an eerie shadow passes by.
The Seance Circle
After the corridor of doors, guests move into a seance circle, hosted by Madame Leota - a disembodied head inside of her crystal ball. After this encounter, it seems the happy haunts "have received your sympathetic vibrations, and are beginning to materialize." From here, the Doom Buggies move to the ballroom.
In the ballroom, the Doom Buggies pass a ballroom where ghosts dance with each other in mid-air through the use of Pepper's ghost, an effect from the Victorian era which makes figures appear ghostly. Also in the ballroom is a birthday party, and with each effort of the birthday girl to blow out the candles, the rest of the figures sitting at the table disappear, and reappear. There are also two ghostly gunmen coming out of their pictures to fire their guns at each other.
An important part of Disney history is located in the ballroom scene of the original Anaheim attraction. The pipe organ on the far left of the scene is the original prop from the studio's 1958 release, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Prior to the construction of the Haunted Mansion, the organ had been on display in an attraction in the "Tomorrowland" area of the park. The ghostly organist plays the organ in the ballroom scene of the ride.
Guests now enter the attic, where they are shown wedding portraits of "Constance," a bride with a terrible habit of decapitating her husbands. This May 3, 2006 change to the attic scene is quite possibly the most ambitious to date. The original scene was lit with black lights and fluorescent paint. Shrunken heads and ghouls on vertical lines attached to the floor and ceiling would occasionally pop out from inside their boxes with help from blasts of compressed air. A faceless, ghostly bride with glowing blue eyes and red, pulsing heart rocked slowly back and forth near the exit to the graveyard scene. In the opening days, to the right side, also sat the infamous Hatbox Ghost, which many believe was the husband of the bride.
The changes include some groundbreaking optical effects - and a considerably darker storyline. In the new scene, wedding gifts are neatly stacked throughout the attic along with four corresponding wedding portraits. The bride, whose name is Constance (with her body played by Julia Lee and voiced by Kat Cressida), is the same in each portrait; the husband is different each time. In each portrait, the head of each husband slowly disappears and reappears. Reason: The bride admits to doing each of them in. The new bride, now appearing to the left of the scene's exit, utilizes sophisticated digital video projection inside a mannequin in a manner similar to Madame Leota to present the bride and her confessions. A hatchet appears and disappears in her hands throughout her monologue.
From here, guests enter a graveyard full of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" who have come out to "socialize." Guests pass a frightened caretaker and his dog, then enter the graveyard proper. A band of musicians is playing, a quintet is singing, and many other spooks are enjoying the "swinging wake." From here, guests enter the crypt, and are issued this warning: "Beware of hitchiking ghosts." Guests learn that they have been selected to fill the quota of 1000 happy haunts, and that they will be haunted until they return - the safety bar will be raised, and a ghost will follow them home! Guests pass a group of mirrors where a ghost seems to sit right in the Doom Buggy, and then disembark.
As guests leave the exit, they pass through the remainder of the crypt, and see the "Ghost Hostess," (unofficially dubbed by WED as "Little Leota") a figure which taunts guests and reminds them to bring their "death certificates" the next time they come. She also tells them to hurry back.
The Effects and Music
The special effects they are shown were groundbreaking for the time. ; there is an attic with the ghost of a spurned bride, a crypt and a cemetery, halls which appear endless and a mystical fortuneteller named Madame Leota who appears as a disembodied head inside a crystal ball with musical instruments floating in the air around her. Finally, the guests are shown that a "hitchhiking ghost" has hopped into the Doom Buggy with them.
Though the setting is spooky, the mood is kept light by the upbeat 'Grim Grinning Ghosts' music which plays throughout the ride. The music was composed by Buddy Baker and the lyrics written by X Atencio. The deep voice of Thurl Ravenscroft sings as part of a quartet of singing busts in the graveyard scene. Ravenscroft's face is used as well as it is projected onto one of the busts, specifically one with a detached head.
The other incarnations of the ride are very similar, but have their differences. The Haunted Mansion is the only ride to appear in each of the Disney theme parks in a different location in the park. The Magic Kingdom's version of the ride is located in Liberty Square and has a New England facade, likely because the intention there was to base the attraction around the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. The Disneyland version is located in New Orleans Square.
Tokyo Disneyland placed the Mansion in Fantasyland. The version at Disneyland Paris is in Frontierland and is named The Phantom Manor and features different music (although it still contains the Grim Grinning Ghosts theme), an Old West theme, and a more cohesive storyline than the other three Mansions (an opening narration by Vincent Pricewasrecordedbutnotused, and is available on the Haunted Mansion soundtrack). The versions in Florida and Tokyo still have a stretching octagonal room to greet their guests, though in these three the ceiling actually raises instead of the floor moving; there was no need to use an elevator in those Mansions.
In 1999, a retrospective of the art of the Haunted Mansion was featured at the Disney Gallery above the entrance to The Pirates of the Caribbean. When the 2003 film The Haunted Mansion was released, a retrospective of its art was featured in the gallery as well.
Haunted Mansion Holiday
- For more information, see Haunted Mansion Holiday.
Beginning in 2001, the Disneyland attraction is re-decorated from September (just prior to Halloween) until just after the new year into "Haunted Mansion Holiday," a theme based on the 1993 Tim Burton stop-motion animation feature, The Nightmare Before Christmas. In 2004, Tokyo Disneyland's mansion received the overlay as "Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare."
The 1,000th Happy Haunt
On October 21, 2004, a bidder on a Disney-sponsored auction on eBay won the right to be the first non-Disneyland employee to have his name added to an attraction. Cary Sharp, a doctor and health-care attorney from Baton Rouge, Louisiana placed a winning bid of $37,400 (US) to become the "1000th ghost" with the addition of his nickname, a joke epitaph and the signatures of Disney "imagineers" on a tombstone to be displayed in the attraction. Its placement was guaranteed for ten years and will remain as a permanent exhibit.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the opening bid of $750 was placed by horror novelist Clive Barker. Sharp, who had only visited Disneyland once before, placed the bid in good faith as a way to entertain his friends and never expected to win. The tombstone, with the name of "Jay" on it, is located in the finale and can be seen just as the "Doom Buggy" enters the graveyard gates. The money was donated to the Boys and Girls Club, with half of the monies raised going to the local Anaheim chapter of the main charity and the other half going to the Baton Rouge chapter.
With few exceptions, the Disneyland attraction has remained largely unchanged since its 1969 opening. When the 2004–05 "Haunted Mansion Holiday" overlay was removed, two significant changes were made at the same time. The first was to the portraits in the gallery scene. The portraits were originally backlit and "morphed" from normal to haunted scenes. Today, they are darkened and the morphing occurs in stroboscopic synchronization with the simulated thunderstorm outside. One portrait, that of a young woman who morphs into an old hag (occasionally referred to as the "April–December" portrait), has been replaced by that of an aristocratic gentleman (often incorrectly identified as Master Gracy) who morphs into a skeleton, arguably a more frightening change.
This is actually a change back to a very early version of the effect as originally implemented in 1969. Examples of this effect can be viewed on the March 22, 1970 episode of "The Wonderful World of Color" titled "Disneyland Showtime." The episode featured Kurt Russell, E.J. Peaker, and the Osmond Brothers, and featured an early glimpse at the newest addition to Disneyland. Another change is to the seance room. The disembodied head of fortuneteller Madame Leota which spoke from within a crystal ball mounted to the table now hovers and moves around the table still within its ball. The effect was one of the attraction's most sophisticated from the onset and involved a complicated projection system invented and patented by Disney specifically for the Haunted Mansion.
Similarly updated effects have been added to the Walt Disney World version's Hitchhiking Ghosts scene, with the work being replaced by CGI versions of the three ghosts. The new Hitchhiking Ghosts are intended to be more expressive then their older counterparts in the mirrors.
- The Haunted Mansion in Florida and Japan
- Phantom Manor, a similar attraction in Disneyland Paris
- Mystic Manor, a similar attraction soon to open in Hong Kong Disneyland