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Tower of Terror vs. Haunted Mansion: Which is Better?

Tower of Terror vs haunted mansion
Credit: Disney / Canva

It’s an age-old question. Well, maybe not. But it’s a few decades old. Which is a better ride at Walt Disney World Resort, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or the Haunted Mansion?

disney world haunted mansion

Credit: Becky Burkett

Related: New Haunted Mansion Expansion Coming Soon to Disney Park

They both attempt to scare riders through a ghostly backstory, special effects, and unsettling buildings. But let’s compare the two iconic attractions by examining the queue, pre-show, and the ride experience.

The Ride Queues

If you happen to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios at a busy time of the year, you may find yourself with the unique experience of thoroughly enjoying the Tower of Terror queue. It’s a gorgeous path that winds through a lush and overrun garden in front of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Throughout your wait in the garden, old-time music sets the stage as you inch your way closer and closer to the hotel’s entrance. Once inside, you are presented with an abandoned hotel lobby covered in cobwebs. It provides a sense of uneasiness – the kind you’d feel walking into an abandoned building uninvited.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Credit: Disney

At Magic Kingdom, the Haunted Mansion pathway guides you through a graveyard with an interactive music wall and a bookshelf where books mysteriously jut out. It sets the stage for the classic Disney ride, combining creepy imagery and ideas with playful mischief. However, you may have a much scarier experience if you visit the queue at nighttime.

Haunted Mansion busts

Credit: Disney

Related: Fans Have Had It With Haunted Mansion’s Holiday Overlay: PETITION Started to End It for Good

The Ride Pre-Shows

The Tower of Terror’s preshow begins as you step into the hotel library. While instructed to peruse the room, suddenly, the lights shut off, and a TV flashes on.

Guests are introduced to the opening of The Twilight Zone, and the late Rod Serling introduces the Hollywood Tower Hotel. We are given the backstory of hotel guests who checked in one day and, upon riding the elevator, were struck by lightning and vanished.

Then BAM! The lights return, and you are instructed to head into the boiler room…where you prepare to board the ride vehicle.

tower of terror elevator

Credit: YouTube/Disney Parks

Related: ‘Thor’ Director Taika Waititi Working With Scarlett Johansson on New ‘Tower of Terror’ Movie

The Haunted Mansion’s pre-show is classic Disney. The ghost host narration, combined with the stretching room effect, is one of the most famous introductions to a ride in all of Disney history. Like the Tower of Terror, it uses a light-cutting effect, and once the lights pop back on, you are instructed to move into another room.

Although similar to the Tower of Terror, it takes you into a hallway where you are directed to your assigned Doom Buggie.

Stretching Room Haunted mansion

Credit: Disney Dining

The Ride Experience

Some may consider the experience more critical than the queue or pre-show. And when it comes to most rides at your standard theme park, I may tend to agree. But when talking about Walt Disney World Resort, every moment of the experience is equally important. This element sets Disney apart from Six Flags or other standard amusement parks.

tower of terror interior

Credit: Disney

Related: Almost 30 Guests Trapped in Tower of Terror Ride at Disney World, Now Freed

The Tower of Terror smoothly lifts you a few levels right away. The initial “lift” is a thrilling moment (despite not being a drop) because Disney has worked to perfect the art of anticipation on its rides. Following the lift, you are presented with a haunting scene of the family from the pre-show.

Again, you watch lightning destroy them. Then, the hallway fades into a field of stars (from The Twilight Zone), and a shattering window reminds you that you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Tower of Terror

Credit: Disney

Related: Tower of Terror “Level 13” Ride Variation Experience Available Through April 7

You rise another couple of levels again, and the elevator leaves the shaft. As you move, you are presented with dozens of icons from The Twilight Zone as you move forward into absolute darkness. Then…anything can happen. You may go up, you may drop down. And whatever sequence happens after that is always a surprise!

Hitchhiking Ghosts

Credit: Disney

Related: Demolition Begins on Haunted Mansion: Iconic Attraction Turned to Rubble

On the other hand, the Haunted Mansion doesn’t provide you with the same pit in your stomach. Honestly, not many other Disney attractions do (maybe Space Mountain). But what the Haunted Mansion lacks in high thrills, it makes up for with a long ride time and dozens of audio-animatronics.

And, of course, we cannot forget signature Disney scenes and characters like the Pepper’s Ghost effects in the ballroom, Madame Leota, the Hitchhiking Ghosts, and so much more.

Madame Leota

Credit: Disney

Related: Haunted Mansion Reopens at Walt Disney World, Still No Hatbox Ghost

The Verdict?

All things considered, I have to go with the Tower of Terror. As soul-destroying as it is to write those words, I can’t deny that it is one of Walt Disney World’s best attractions ever built. Although a fan of both rides, I view the Tower of Terror as a “plus-ing” of the Haunted Mansion.

It utilizes many of the same story-telling elements and top-of-the-line Disney Imagineering. However, I struggle to find a single component of the Haunted Mansion I don’t like. So, I could probably be pretty easily persuaded to change my mind…

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

About Steven Wilk

Steven has a complicated relationship with Disney. As a child, he visited Walt Disney World every few years with his family. But he never understood why kids his age (and older) were so scared of Snow White or Alien Encounter. He is a former participant of the Disney College Program (left early…long story), and he also previously worked in Children’s publishing, where he adapted multiple Disney movies and TV shows. He has many controversial opinions about Disney…like having a positive view of Michael Eisner, believing Return of the Jedi is superior to The Empire Strikes Back, and that Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge should have never been built (at least not at Hollywood Studios). Every year for the past two decades, Steven has visited either Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or went on a Disney Cruise. He’s happy to share any and all knowledge of the Disney destinations (and he likes using parenthesis a lot…as well as ellipses…)

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