Book review: The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion


As some of you may know, there is an official Disney book about the Haunted Mansion. Published in 2003, the title is “The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies”. With a lot of pictures, this book was about the famous attraction, but also a way to promote the movie made with Eddie Murphy at that time (which did not make the box office results hoped for by Disney).

11 years later, a new book takes a detailed look at the Haunted Mansion. As the title implies, “The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion” it is not an official Disney book, but one written by Jeff Baham of the website. This book shares his knowledge and the history about one of Disney parks most acclaimed dark ride. It’s not a coffee table book with a lot of images, however, the story (well) told in those pages is fascinating. Baham obviously did very serious research (his sources are noted) in order to give us a front row seat on how the Haunted Mansion came to be. A serious research work, but a very easy reading: even if you are not a Disney history buff, Baham always gives the “keys” and background that allows you to follow the story. And it is a fascinating one, as this attraction was in “development hell” for some years and that many talented imagineers worked on it, maybe too much as the chapter titled “Too Many Cooks” explains.

Walt Disney’s own experience when he was a boy, a picture of a house in Baltimore used as an inspiration to the Haunted Mansion in California, the influence of Hollywood movies such as “The Haunted” and many other fascinating facts are documented and their real importance for the final attraction weighted. Of course, you will learn a lot about the legendary Hat Box Ghost, who Madame Leota is or about the “Museum of the Weird” that should have been a part of the attraction. This Museum came out of the mind of imagineer Rolly Crump and Walt Disney himself liked a lot the concept. The fact that Rolly Crump writes in his foreword that “I even learned some things I wasn’t aware of” tells a lot about Baham’s book qualities.

And more, this is not only about the creation of the ride, but also about the ride itself with a description of it (with the full transcipted dialog from the ghost host) and of its different versions in the Disney parks as well as the changes made over time.
Independent, serious Disney books are important for Disney fans, as they put a new perspective on the subject. Publishing companies like Theme Park Press allow such books to be professionally published and that’s a good thing.

The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion
By Jeff Baham
$ 17.95 (list price) – 164 pages – 8.9×6 inches
Published by Theme Park Press

This book was a gift from my wife.

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