“Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion!” There are few other lines from a theme park attraction as iconic as those seven spooky words. This is the greeting of your “Ghost Host” as you enter one of Disney’s most beloved attractions. For five decades, the 999 happy haunts of this classic dark ride have welcomed guests to join their swinging wake. In that time the attraction has expanded across the globe with versions in California, Florida, France and Japan. With its charming mix of spooky and silly, it’s not hard to see why the ride remains a headlining attraction all these years later.
The idea for the Haunted Mansion stretches back to the earliest concepts developed for Disneyland. Walt Disney and his Imagineers were inspired to create a newer and more elaborate version of classic haunted houses found in traveling carnivals. The idea sat in development for years as delays occurred and changes to the design were hashed out. In 1969, The Haunted Mansion opened its doors to guests in Disneyland and has since inspired versions of the ride in Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland. Please join us as we run down some chilling facts about this fan-favorite attraction. There’s no turning back now!
- The first concept sketch for the Haunted Mansion was drawn by Imagineer Harper Goff. His black and white sketch featured a run-down and spooky manor sitting atop a hill. Walt Disney eventually rejected the idea of a run-down looking building in the park, as he felt it wouldn’t fit in properly. Walt is quoted as saying “We will take care of the outside, but let the ghosts take care of the inside.”
- The finalized idea for the attraction was inspired by the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose California. The massive mansion was designed by Sarah Winchester after a medium told her she must construct a house for the spirits who had passed from the Winchester rifles her departed husband had made his fortune on. To confuse the spirits, the house was constantly added to with stairways leading nowhere and doors that opened to walls.
- The Haunted Mansion was originally planned as a walk-through attraction. After Walt’s death in 1966, Imagineers decided that a walk-though would have too low of capacity, and even floated the idea of having two separate attractions to move guests through faster. In the end, they decided on the use of the newly designed “Omnimover” system that would constantly move guests through the attraction in enclosed vehicles called Doombuggies.
- The original plans for the ride also included a “Museum of the Weird” restaurant connected to the ride much like Blue Bayou at Pirates of the Caribbean. The museum/eatery was to feature strange items like man-eating plants, coffin clocks and a mirror with a face. The idea was ultimately scrapped after Walt’s death.
- The Haunted Mansion is the only Disney attraction that can be found in four different parks. The classic versions of the ride can be found in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square and Walt Disney World’s Liberty Square. Disneyland Paris has its own version, Phantom Manor, as does Tokyo Disneyland.
- Marc Davis and Claude Coats, two of Disney’s lead Imagineers tasked with designing the ride, couldn’t agree on a tone. While Coats believed the attraction should be scary and foreboding, Davis thought it should be silly and joke-filled. In the end, a combination of the two ideas resulted in the charming mix of silly and spooky guests have come to love.
- The Hatbox Ghost was designed to be included as one of the original characters in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. He was created as a ghostly gentleman who’s head would magically disappear and relocate to inside the hatbox he carried. The character only appeared in the first two days of the rides opening though, due to technical difficulties in creating a convincing effect, and was quietly removed. The character then became part of Disney parks lore until his return to the ride almost five decades later in 2015.
- Disneyland’s version of the mansion opened in 1969 and Walt Disney World’s in 1971. Although the attractions didn’t debut at the same time and feature a few differences, most of the ride aspects were developed at the same time. Imagineers were aware that the two-year difference wouldn’t be enough time to create a whole separate version, and so combined their efforts to expedite the development.
- The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland get special holiday overlays each year featuring scenes and characters from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Haunted Mansion Holiday occurs from Halloween season to Christmas and tells the story of Jack Skellington as he visits the Haunted Mansion on Christmas eve, in an attempt to spread holiday cheer to the 999 haunts in residence.
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Some Photos Courtesy Disney