Disney World’s Haunted Mansion attraction is closing, and that’s not the worst part of the news about the theme park resort’s iconic spooky ride.
A haunted house attraction had always been part of Walt Disney’s plans for Disneyland Park, but the development of the attraction was not complete when the time came for Disneyland to open to eager Guests in Anaheim, California. Contrary to popular belief, the experience was not among the Opening Day offerings at the Southern California Disney Park, but Walt never gave up on his desire to bring such a ride to Disneyland.
The structure for the attraction was erected before the plans for what would go inside the structure were even completed. Disney’s Imagineers, including Rolly Crump, X Atencio, Marc Davis, Yale Gracey, and others, were hard at work, creating just the right balance of spooky and silly within the attraction, as Walt was clear that his desire was for a family-friendly haunted mansion-style attraction. But as the opportunity for Walt to partner with General Electric to create attractions for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair presented itself, progress was once again halted at the Haunted Mansion and shifted to attractions like the Carousel of Progress and it’s a small world, both of which were part of Disney’s offerings at the World’s Fair.
As a result, the creepy old mansion at Disneyland remained empty, stoic, and eerily quiet for years. Walt’s untimely death in 1966 only added to the delay of the ride’s completion. Work eventually resumed on the now-iconic attraction, a version of which exists at every Disney theme park resort around the world, though not all are called “The Haunted Mansion.” On August 9, 1969, the Disneyland Haunted Mansion finally opened to Guests, many of whom had wondered if the creepy old mansion at New Orleans Square at Disneyland would ever recruit any ghosts.
It’s as popular as the Walt Disney World Resort version of the Haunted Mansion, located at Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom. According to The Unofficial Guides, the number of “doom” buggies at the attraction and the use of a continuously moving sidewalk and conveyor belt-style loading method allow approximately 2,000 fans to tour the creepy old mansion every hour, barring any complications, of course. That means that on an average day at Magic Kingdom with 13 operational hours, approximately 26,000 Guests can see Madame Leota and the grim grinning ghosts and experience hinges creaking in doorless chambers.
But news about the attraction closing soon means that as many as 26,000 Guests per day will be ripe for disappointment, and the most recent news means that those 26,000 fans are on their way to a total letdown at Liberty Square. Scott Gustin with Nexstar Media tweeted about the closure but told fans not to get their hopes up about any new additions to the ride.
Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World will be closed for routine refurbishment from Aug. 7-9. The first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is Aug. 11.— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) July 10, 2023
The closure is not to add Hatbox Ghost to the attraction. Disney previously said it will happen “this year.” No specific date. pic.twitter.com/mDFruZT9W8
The closure at the Haunted Mansion is scheduled to last only three short days: August 7, 8, and 9, but when it comes to the refurbishment of Disney Parks rides and attractions, things can often be completed right on time, but they can also be delayed. The first Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is scheduled to take place on August 11, 2023, and any delays in the reopening of the Haunted Mansion ride would certainly put a damper on the festivities, which take place throughout Magic Kingdom Park.
During the Parks Panel presentation at the 2022 D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s Parks, Experiences, and Products president, announced the addition of the eerie Hatbox Ghost to the Haunted Mansion attraction at Walt Disney World, saying only that the addition would take place sometime during 2023. As such, upon hearing about the planned closure and refurb at the haunted attraction in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom, some fans will understandably be hopeful that part of the refurbishment will include the installation of the creepy character from the iconic ride, but alas, the installation will not take place during this closure.
Per Collider, the Hatbox Ghost debuted at the Disneyland version of the Disney-style haunted abode as a glorified disappearing head trick. The illusion itself was largely the work of Disney Imagineer Yale Gracey, whose contributions to the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland live on in every version of the spooky attraction at Disney Parks around the world.
“The Hatbox Ghost first made his debut in the Haunted Mansion during the ride’s initial opening at Disneyland with a vanishing head gimmick, which would then reappear in the hatbox. However, shortly after the debut of the theme park attraction, Disney quickly removed the character due to the vanishing effect not functioning very well during its sequence of the ride. Despite his brief appearance, The Hatbox Ghost gained a cult status among the theme park community due to his striking character design, appearing in various merchandise and other forms of media related to the attraction.”
As of the time of this publication, Disney World has yet to release a specific date for the installation, and no further details have been shared.