16 Delightfully Spooky Facts About the Haunted Mansion Rides at Disney
The Haunted Mansion in both Disney World and Disneyland is a classic park staple. The ride, which is turning 50 this year (it opened in August 1969), is one of our favorites because of the meticulous details, the spooky effects, and the rich history with Walt Disney himself. Since its opening day, the ride has undergone mostly minor changes, keeping its original story and technology intact for the most part. We've dug up some of the creepiest, most interesting, and unexpected facts about this Disney icon, so keep reading to see how much you already know about the Haunted Mansion, and maybe discover something new about everyone's favorite 999 happy haunts and their eternal resting place!
The Ride Is in a Different Land in Each Park
The Haunted Mansion has a unique status among Disney park rides: it's the only one that's located in four different lands at four different parks. You can find it in New Orleans Square at Disneyland, Liberty Square at Walt Disney World, Frontierland at Disneyland Paris (under the name "Phantom Manor"), and Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland. Hong Kong Disneyland has a similar attraction, but it's called Mystic Manor and is not officially part of the Haunted Mansion family.
The Movie Based on the Ride Wasn't a Huge Success
2003 was an interesting year for Disney movies based on theme park rides. While Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a smash hit and launched an over-a-decade-long franchise, The Haunted Mansion was such a flop that only the most diehard fans will probably remember it even exists.
Each Mansion Has a Different Architectural Look
The original Disneyland attraction is based on the Southern plantation look (fitting, as it's placed in New Orleans Square), while Disney World and Tokyo feature an eerie brick estate, and the Parisian version is modeled on the Victorian style.
One Ghost Disappeared From the Ride For Decades
The "Hatbox Ghost," a figure whose head alternately vanished from his head and reappeared in the hatbox he was holding, was removed from the attraction almost immediately after opening, since the lighting inside the ride prevented the illusion from working properly. He was returned in new form in 2015.
Original Plans For the Ride Were Very Different
When the Haunted Mansion was first being developed, plans included making it a walk-through attraction, rather than a true "ride," and including a "Museum of the Weird" to explore.
The Hitchhiking Ghosts Have Names
It would be pretty tough to name all 999 happy haunts, but we know of at least three who have names! The "hitchhikers" at the end of the ride are officially named Ezra (the tall one with the hat), Gus (the one with a ball and chain), and Phineas (the one with a carpetbag).
The Building Sat Empty After Walt Disney's Death
The original Haunted Mansion at Disneyland was one of the projects left unfinished at the time of Walt Disney's death in 1966. The building itself was finished before his death, but sat empty until Imagineers could figure out the right concept for the ride, which ultimately opened in August 1969.
People Try to Scatter Ashes in the Ride More Often Than You'd Think
It's not just an urban legend: guests really have tried, on plenty of occasions, to scatter the ashes of a loved one in the ride. Inevitably, they're caught and reprimanded, and then the ride has to be closed for "maintenance."
There's a Reason You Recognize Some of the Voices
The Ghost Host in both American versions of the attraction is Paul Frees — who also voiced the Pillsbury Doughboy! You'll also probably recognize the voice of Thurl Ravenscroft during the graveyard scene: he's the voice of Tony the Tiger and the original singer of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." And as for Madame Leota? She's voiced by Eleanor Audley, aka the voice of your childhood nightmares as Cinderella's Lady Tremaine and Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent.
The Dancing Ghosts Use a Centuries-Old Effect
The waltzing ghosts in the ballroom seem like a sophisticated piece of technology, but they're actually some of the oldest special effects in the book! Dating back to the 1800s, the illusion is based on illuminating physical objects and letting them be reflected onto glass, giving them a ghostly appearance to the passing guests.
The Stretching Room Goes Different Ways Depending on the Location
In the famous "stretching room" portrait gallery, the question has always been: does the ceiling go up or does the floor go down? Turns out, that depends on which park you're in! If you're in California or Paris, the floor descends like an elevator; if you're in Florida or Tokyo, the ceiling rises up.
The Organ in Disneyland Is a Leftover From Another Major Project
The eerie pipe organ used in the Disneyland version of the ride has its own Disney history: it was originally used in the studio's adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea before being refurbished for the Haunted Mansion.
The Cemeteries Include Some Disney Easter Eggs
The cemeteries seen outside the attractions include headstones using the names of Disney Imagineers. If you're sharp-eyed, in the pet cemetery you can spot Mr. Toad — yes, that Mr. Toad from Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!
Yes, There's a Hidden Mickey Inside the Ride
One of the most popular games for Disneyphiles is finding the "hidden Mickeys" scattered throughout rides, merchandise, food, and buildings. There's at least one inside the Haunted Mansion (hint: look very closely at the plates in the ballroom scene).
Disneyland's Haunted Mansion Transforms For the Holidays
Every holiday season, the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland gets a temporary makeover incorporating The Nightmare Before Christmas. Christmas-y touches, as well as characters from the movie, appear during this time, which is called the Haunted Mansion Holiday.
The Story Is the Same Except in Disneyland Paris
All versions of the ride follow the same "storyline" about "999 happy haunts" and so on — except in Paris. The Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris tells a much darker story about an ill-fated bride haunted by a malevolent spirit in her decaying family home.