You approach the large mansion and pass through the iron gates either in the FastPass+ side or the Standby side. A grim Cast Member maintains watch. Moving through the Standby line affords more interactive fun! “Play” instruments in bas-relief on the front of a mausoleum, or maybe the pipe organ. You travel through a small cemetery with stone busts, gravestones, mausoleums, and other haunted items that afford some time for exploration. You move back into the main waiting area just before the front doors and the FP+ line leads to this area also. One of the tombstones is in honor of Master Gracey, placed there in honor of Yale Gracey, who headed up the special affects team for Haunted Mansion. To your left you discover more tombstones. Pay attention, one of them is watching you. You are led into the Mansion through a darkened entry and keeping room complete with a fireplace slowly burning, and a portrait over the fireplace that is keeping an eye on you too. They know that YOU are here.
“Welcome foolish mortals.” You are told to enter the next room, and to stay away from the walls, moving to the “dead center” of the room. It is a room with six sides, and no windows, and no doors. The walls are solid wood wainscoting with an upper wall with Portraits. The lights tip you off that this is not your normal mansion room, if you haven’t figured it out yet. They are gargoyles leaning down toward you holding a candle in each hand, checking you out. The “door” you moved through to enter this room is gone. It is a wall like all the other walls. The room begins to stretch. You see the portraits stretch along with the walls, and they tell the story of the death of that individual. Suddenly the lights go out except for one that is overhead and you see a body swinging from the rope around its neck. (This could be very frightening to young children.)
Your group moves through the opening into a wide hallway named the Portrait Corridor. It is very dark and my least favorite part of this attraction. Those who want to chicken out may exit through a doorway guarded by a Cast Member. Everyone else funnels themselves down into a single file to move through the ride queue. There can be anything from some accidental jostling to downright shoving on the part of some guests to get into the narrow part of the queue first. Hanging back to avoid it all should help but don’t dawdle or you will find yourself in another bumping match. Notice the posts of the ropes along here, they are bats. The walls have velvet wallpaper but the wood posts look like skulls in the shadows. You move through the short queue, stepping onto a moving walkway just prior to entering your “Doom Buggy”. No need to pull down the safety bar, the Ghost Host will do it for you.
Your Doom Buggy travels down another dark hallway from which you can see eyes glowing and watching you. There are macabre scenes you pass by, loud banging from the other side of the hallway doors, dancing candelabras with no apparent holder of them, a suit of armor that begins shifting its weight makes you wonder what is next.
4. The Haunted Mansion is a favorite of many Walt Disney World guests, and at the Disney attractions all over the world. Interestingly the attraction keeps the same theme but it exists in different areas of each Disney Park across the globe. The Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World is located in Liberty Square and takes the appearance of a 19th Century Hudson River Dutch Gothic architecture representing the early 1700’s. Disneyland holds the original version of the ride in New Orleans Square where the mansion is one like you would find in antebellum New Orleans complete with iron work, balconies, and columns. Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris has a western US feel, housed in a Western Victorian era house. Paris’ Haunted Mansion is located in Frontierland. Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland is contained in a Victorian mansion in the Queen Anne style of architecture. It has a trackless ride system and is based on the tale of Henry Mystic and his pet monkey Albert. Tokyo Disneyland has their version in Fantasyland.
To create the special Holiday overlay for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, it closes during September and it takes Cast Members a couple of weeks to replace props, Audio-Animatronics, and scenes with those that reflect the “Nightmare Before Christmas” with Jack Skellington appears as “Sandy Claws.” The overlay remains through Christmas.
3. The Haunted Mansion attraction inspired the 2003 film, of the same name. There was a Haunted Mansion video game released in 2003. Did you know that it had inspired an earlier film Haunted Mansion released in Hong Kong in 1998 and some Haunted Mansion comics? Part of the video game Epic Mickey features “Lonesome Manor” and is a compilation of all the Haunted Mansion attractions.
Grandfather clock in the hallway has the number 13 at the top and bones for watch hands. The hands turn backwards, and you see the shadow of a claw move over it. You will find other uses of clocks in Disney attractions to further its story.
2. Leota Toombs– We move into a large room with floating instruments and in the center is a glowing orb with the head of a woman who is repeating an incantation, asking the ghosts to ring a bell to attest that they were present, and of course you hear clearly the sound of a bell. This woman is Leota Tombs, the same name you may have noticed on the tombstone right before you entered the mansion, whose eyes open and look around. The tombstone was created in honor of this woman who also served as the costumer for this attraction. Other tombstones carry names of Haunted Mansion Imagineers, sometimes with the letters jumbled up.
We are then moving into the top of a large Dining Room with a scene below our balcony view that includes a well set table with a birthday cake, guests dancing in front of the grand fireplace, one of them playing a large pipe organ, others placed at the table, on the chandelier or emerging from wall paintings of themselves having a gun duel. We then enter the Attic filled with vignettes of wedding portraits and keepsakes. Watch the portraits as they change. The bride may remain but the groom’s head has been chopped off. You soon realize that all these brides are the same person. She gains a string of pearls with each marriage. As we reach the end of the attic the bride’s ghost appears and she is holding a hatchet. It is time to get out of here! We exit through a window to the “outside” of the Mansion. It is very dark and we see several ghosts flying through the air. We can hear a giant ruckus going on and as our Doom Buggy finds land again we find ourselves inside a large graveyard. Before turning the corner into the ghoulish place we see a frightened gravedigger and his terrified dog visibly shaking at the scene before them.
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In the graveyard scene you will see ghoulish heads appear suddenly from behind their tombstone, a band of dead men playing their instruments, a song creeps into your consciousness and you see glowing busts of men singing “Grim Grinning Ghosts”. These faces are very animated and can be recognized as some of the Imagineers who worked on this attraction.
1. Contrary to a common legend which says that it is Walt Disney’s face on the broken bust, it is not, Walt had passed away prior to the filming for this scene. Actually that is the face of the lead singer who just happened to bear some resemblance to Walt Disney. The song is written by a Disney Imagineer named X. Atencio who began in the animation department but then Walt Disney moved him over to song writing when he saw this talent in him. He also wrote “Yo-ho,Yo-ho, a Pirate’s Life for Me.” Many other ghosts, ghouls, and a mummy join in the song all over the graveyard. To complete the show there is a large woman ghost singing with a headless knight, an executioner wearing a mask. Just before leaving this scene your eye catches movement on a crypt, there is a skeleton arm holding a trowel, apparently trying to repair the crypt with it inside.
We hear our Ghost Host again warning us of “hitchhiking ghosts”, whom we then see and we passed by the trio, thinking we were safe. The Doom Buggy turns and we see ourselves in a series of mirrors and we also see one of those last three ghosts either sitting in the buggy with us, sitting on top of it, or maybe jumping in and switching the heads of the people riding in the buggy—you may even see your name appear thanks to the Magic Band technology. We are at last exiting through a large mausoleum. Look up and you will see a small Ghost Hostess encouraging us to “Hurry baaaaack…be sure to bring your death certificate if you decide to join us. Make final arrangements now. We’ve been dying to have you.”
Other facts about the attraction:
The weathervane on the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion features a bat. In Disneyland it is a screeching cat.
Walt Disney did not want anything that looked “run down” in his park, so he rejected anything with that outward appearance.
Ride Vehicle: “Doom Buggy”, seats two or three, has on-ride speakers, and the safety bar is lowered and raised by the Ghost Host. It is an Omnimover dark ride.
Track: ride vehicles move along a track, similar to old timey carnival rides. Guests begin with a walk-through show, through the Stretching Room, down the Portrait Corridor, board the ride, which rides on a track up and down and through dark halls, through a Conservatory housing a coffin whose inhabitant is tirelessly trying to get out of it, surrounded by dead plants and a Raven, with red glowing eyes, balcony scene over a party with ghosts, séance scene, past attic vignettes of a hatchet bride, graveyard scene complete with singing, hitchhiking ghosts overlay of guests, exit through mausoleum. Outside is a phantom horse and black hearse. Interactive standby queue.
1953 Walt Disney began his ideas for having a haunted house in his park.
August 9, 1969-the first Haunted Mansion opens in Disneyland.
October 1, 1971-HM opens in Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Liberty Square
April 15, 1983-HM opens in Fantasyland, Tokyo Disneyland
1992-Phantom Manor, a unique take-off on HM opens in Disneyland Paris, without a graveyard scene
2001 Leota Toombs’ tombstone was added near the entrance
2013-Mystic Manor, based on HM, opens in Hong Kong Disneyland
October 2001, Haunted Mansion in Disneyland received a Holiday overlay featuring characters from Disney’s Night Before Christmas 1993 film.
October 2005-Haunted Mansion comic books began being published bimonthly by Slave Labor Graphics
2014: The Memento Mori shop opens just outside the Haunted Mansion exit. Here you can find all sorts of Haunted Mansion souvenirs and collectibles, and you can pose for your own “changing” portrait like those found in the portrait hall inside the attraction.