Disney’s Haunted Mansion is an iconic attraction drawing visitors to its gates year-round. As fall is rapidly approaching, the Haunted Mansion witnesses an increase in its wait times. But how did this well-know attraction come to be, and what makes it so popular? The Haunted Mansion has many secrets waiting to be discovered that will give you a new love for its eerie corridors and happy haunts.
Created for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World simultaneously, the Haunted Mansion is the work of some of the original Imagineers, including Walt Disney himself. At the time the Mansion was being built, Walt already had Disney World in mind. The creators of this spectral magic include none other than Marc Davis, Claude Coats, Yale Gracey, Ken Anderson, Leota Tombs, and many more. (Fun Fact: Look for some of their names in the graveyard before entering the Mansion.) As you can already tell by their names, Yale Gracey is the infamous Master Gracey, and Leota Tombs is Madame Leota who can be seen floating in her crystal ball. The ride also has two distinct themes. In the first half of the ride, up until the graveyard, the ride has a spooky motif. This was the idea of Claude Coats who thought the Mansion should be a scary experience like a real haunted house. The graveyard scene and onward is the work of Marc Davis who thought haunted houses should be fun. You can see this in many of the ghosts in the graveyard along with the hitch-hiking ghosts you encounter towards the end of your otherworldly journey.
The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland officially opened in the year 1969, while the one in Walt Disney World opened in 1971. Many people consider the Haunted Mansion to be an original ride to the parks (that it has been there since the park opened). This isn’t true in Disneyland’s case. However, it is an ‘original’ ride in that Walt was still alive when it was designed. Unfortunately, he passed away before the Mansion was completely built.
As you walk up to the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland or Walt Disney World, notice the architecture of the Mansion itself and how it matches the area it’s in. For example, in Disneyland, it matches New Orleans Square with its plantation-style home. In Walt Disney World, it reflects the architecture of New England and colonial-style homes.
While you are waiting in line, try to figure out the mystery located on the five busts. (Hint: one of the ladies has matches in her hairdo.) When you come to the musical instruments, try pushing them all at the same time… you might hear a special song! Once in the stretching room, try to figure out if you’re actually stretching. In the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, you are! The stretching room is an elevator that takes you underneath the Railroad above! At Walt Disney World, the ceiling is actually moving. The Imagineers have used forced perspective on many different aspects of the parks; be on the lookout!
As you ride along in your Doom Buggy, make sure you are on the lookout for the 999 Happy Haunts. Be sure you’re looking at the wallpaper too! If you notice a raven every so often, then you might be curious as to why he’s there. In the early days of the ride, the raven was the narrator of the Haunted Mansion. Nowadays, you have a Ghost Host riding with you in your Doom Buggy.
If you can’t figure out how those ghosts are dancing in the ballroom, you’re not the first! (No, it is not a hologram.) In fact, magicians couldn’t even figure it out when the Imagineers introduced them to the ride. Have you ever heard of Pepper’s Ghost? It’s an old magician’s trick used for hundreds of years. But now you’re wondering, “If magicians use it, then why couldn’t they figure out how the trick was done?” The Imagineers told the magicians that they were using Pepper’s Ghost for the scene, and the magicians confessed that they had never seen Pepper’s Ghost done on such a large scale. It’s so large, that if the glass broke, the whole roof would have to be taken off, and a new piece of glass would have to be air-lifted into place! The mirror in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is slightly shattered. However, it looks like a giant cobweb, so the Imagineers decided to keep it.
If you want a laugh while in the Mansion, think about this: The Imagineers used to play tricks on the custodians who cleaned up the Haunted Mansion at night. They would occasionally play a trick, and the custodians would threaten to not clean up. One night, the Imagineers put a motion-sensor on the ride that would turn the ride on… needless to say, when the Imagineers saw the mop and bucket on the floor the next morning, they knew that they would be cleaning up the Mansion from then on!
The Haunted Mansion has been an iconic and popular attraction for all ages. The Happy Haunts and hitch-hiking ghosts seem to keep bringing guests back for generations! Next time you visit the Haunted Mansion, look for its hidden secrets, and think about the creative masterminds who made it all possible.