10 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Haunted Mansion Ride
Welcome, foolish mortals! If you’re anything like us, then no trip to Disneyland (or Disney World) is complete without at least one visit to the Haunted Mansion. The Mansion’s 999 happy haunts have been scaring and delighting park guests since 1969.
If you’ve always wanted to take a peek behind the scenes of this classic ride, these 10 terrifying facts are sure to fill you with ghoulish delight. Read on…if you dare!
The Singing Voice of The Grinch Haunts the Mansion
Many well-known voice actors can be heard throughout the Haunted Mansion. Chief among them is Paul Frees, the voice of the Ghost Host. Frees was also the voice of Ludwig Von Drake, Boris Badenov and others on ‘Rocky & Bullwinkle’ and countless characters in the Rankin/Bass specials.
Another Disney regular, Eleanor Audley, played Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and the fearsome Maleficent from ‘Sleeping Beauty’ before lending her distinctive voice to the Mansion’s resident medium, Madame Leota.
Another voice you may recognize belongs to Thurl Ravenscroft, best known as Tony the Tiger and the singer of ‘You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch.’ Ravenscroft can be heard and seen as the deep-voiced member of the marble bust quintet that sings ‘Grim Grinning Ghosts.’ (He’s the one who often gets mistaken for Walt Disney.)
The Names on the Tombstones Are Real
Waiting in line isn’t anyone’s favorite part of a trip to the Disney parks, but the Haunted Mansion is one of the more enjoyable lines to wait in thanks to the entertaining gravestones beside the queue area. The names on these tombstones are those of Disney Imagineers who helped to create the Haunted Mansion.
The dear, departed patriarch “Grandpa Marc” is Marc Davis, a major figure in the design of Disneyland and the Haunted Mansion. Set designer and sculptor of plaster rocks Fred Joerger became “Good Old Fred,” appropriately killed when “a great big rock fell on his head.” Yale Gracey created most of the Mansion’s special effects and became “Master Gracey,” after whom the Mansion — a.k.a. Gracey Manor — is named.
The animatronic tombstone of “Dear Sweet Leota” is named for the Imagineer who performs the face of Madame Leota. Her full name? Leota Toombs. Really!
Going Up…or Down
In both Disneyland and Disney World, the actual Haunted Mansion ride is preceded by the famous Stretching Room, where portraits of the Mansion’s inhabitants stretch to reveal their unfortunate fates. Is the ceiling going up or does the floor go down? As it turns out, it depends on which park you’re in.
In Disneyland, the bulk of the ride is below ground level, so the Stretching Room acts as an elevator lowering guests down to the ride. In Disney World, the ride is housed in a hidden building behind the facade you see from the queue area. Since there’s no need for an elevator, the ceiling just goes up.
One of the first rooms you visit in the Haunted Mansion is the library, where marble busts of the world’s most famous ghost writers watch the Doom Buggies as they pass by. Like many effects in the Haunted Mansion, this one is surprisingly low tech.
Imagine taking a big slab of clay and smashing your face into it. (We said “imagine!” We are not cleaning that up.) You’d be left with a reverse impression of your face, where the tip of your nose is the deepest point. That’s what the ghost writer busts actually look like. When correctly lit, it gives the illusion of a normal statue that seems to turn its head and watch each rider go by.
The semi-transparent ghosts that disappear and reappear throughout the ride are another example of an old and simple visual trick used extremely well. In this case, it’s the effect known as “Pepper’s Ghost,” which uses strong lighting and glass to create a ghostly reflected image of a brightly lit object or person. It’s the same principle that results in colored reflections in a glass window or door. So the ghosts are reflected images of the real animatronics, which are hidden out of sight.
Something Old, Something New
Next to the Ghost Host, the mysterious Bride is the most iconic character in the Haunted Mansion. The Mansions in Disneyland, Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland all have their own Brides and she is a central character in the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris.
Both the Disneyland and Disney World brides started out as an eerie bluish creature with a glowing red heart. They’ve both been recently updated into a more sinister, hatchet-wielding figure — named Constance — uttering grim twists on traditional wedding vows. Portraits around the attic show Constance and her ill-fated husbands, whose heads disappear from the portraits as the Bride gains a new string of pearls.
The Hatbox Ghost
One of the Mansion’s ghosts didn’t stay very long. The original Disneyland ride featured a spectre known as the Hatbox Ghost, who stood in the attic not far from the Bride.
As guests rode past, the ghost’s head was supposed to disappear, then reappear inside of a hatbox he was holding. Unfortunately, the effect never worked well enough for the ghost’s real head to disappear completely. The Hatbox Ghost was quickly removed from the ride and never seen again, though Haunted Mansion fans still hold out hope that he’ll return someday.
Picking Up Hitchhikers
One of the most popular scenes in the Haunted Mansion comes at the end, when your Doom Buggy gets one of three additional passengers: Ezra the tall skeletal ghost, Gus the short bearded ghost, or Phineas the stocky mid-sized ghost. The original effect was kind of a “Pepper’s Ghost” in reverse, since you’re seeing the real animatronic figure sitting next to your reflection in the glass. Recently, the sequences has been upgraded — the ghosts now move around and interact with guests from either inside or atop the Doom Buggies.
R.I.P. Mr. Toad
As you’re leaving the Disney World Haunted Mansion, there’s a small pet cemetery off to your left. If you look way in the back, you’ll notice a newer addition to the gravestones: Mr. Toad. The Disney World version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was closed and reworked into The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, so the repurposed Toad figure is a tribute to a lost ride. Though it’s impossible to see, there are rumors of a poem on the base:
Here lies Mr. Toad.
Sad but true.
Far less popular
Mansions Around the World
All five of the current Disney theme parks have their own Haunted Mansions, none of which are exactly alike. Tokyo Disneyland’s Mansion is more overgrown and ramshackle, with a few Japanese touches in the decor and characters. Disneyland Paris is home to the Phantom Manor, which focuses on the story of its resident Bride, Melanie Ravenswood. The newest version of the Mansion is Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor. As you can see in the video above, it’s a completely different ride, about a music box bringing a collection of art and antiquities to life.
Bonus: Ursula Would Make A Great Ghost Hostess
This isn’t really a Haunted Mansion fact, as no one is looking to replace the Ghost Host anytime soon. Still, Pat Carroll — the voice of Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid’ — did a phenomenal reading of the Stretching Room narration at Spooky Empire’s May-Hem, a horror convention in Orlando. So if the Ghost Host ever needs a partner, he knows who to call.
For even more about the Haunted Mansion, check out the excellent DoomBuggies.com. Be sure to bring your death certificate.