In 1952, before Disneyland even opened, Harper Goff, who was part of the artistic team of Walt Disney Studios, included a concept design sketch for a haunted house at Disneyland. Construction of the Haunted Mansion began in 1961. By 1963 the exterior was finished, but ghosts did not move in until August 9, 1969.
The Haunted Mansion, inspired by the Victorian-era Shipley-Lydecker House in Shipley Hill, Maryland, quickly became a hit at Disneyland Park; within two weeks of its opening, the park saw its highest single-day attendance.
About the Ride
The Haunted Mansion, located on New Orleans Square, is a fun attraction more than it is a scary one. An ingenious pre-show serves as a vehicle to deliver guests to the ride’s boarding area, where they are seated in “doom buggies” for a ride through the mansion’s parlor, dining room, library, halls, and attic before descending to an uncommonly active graveyard. Disney employs almost every special effect in its repertoire in the Haunted Mansion, making it one of the most inventive and different of all Disney attractions. It’s Disney at its best!
The actual attraction scares almost nobody. Little tykes will naturally be apprehensive about something called the Haunted Mansion, and its “stretch rooms” are capable of frightening small children before they even board the ride.
Though this mansion is the original, the ride is somewhat shorter and lacks the interactive queue and some high-tech upgrades that the Walt Disney World version has; however, Disneyland does have the infamous Hat Box Ghost, an impressive new animatronic that “rematerialized” in the mansion’s attic in 2015, nearly 45 years after appearing briefly during the attraction’s opening days and sparking generations of urban legends. The reimagined figure employs digital projection trickery to make his leering skull vanish from his shoulders and reappear hanging from his outstretched hand, adding an effectively eerie punctuation to the ride’s second act.
13 Fun Facts About the Haunted Mansion
It is impossible to write up all the special effects and fun facts, but here are some of our favorites.
(1) The pipe organ seen in the ballroom sequence is the very same one that James Mason, as Captain Nemo, played in the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
(2) Guess how many candles there are on the cake in the ballroom scene. There are 13, of course!
(3) Disney Legend and Imagineer Leota Tombs (Thomas) is the face of the psychic medium who floats in the crystal ball in Séance Circle. She is voiced by Eleanor Audley (Zellman) who is also the voice of Lady Tremaine and Maleficent in the Disney animated movies Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, respectively.
(4) The spell book in Séance Circle, titled Necronomicon—Book of the Dead, is opened to pages 1312 and 1313.
(5) The names of the Hitchhiking Ghosts are Ezra Beane, Professor Phineas Plump, and Gus.
(6) The “Grim Grinning Ghosts” song was composed by Buddy Baker. The lyrics are by X Atencio.
(7) There are several hidden Mickeys, one being a trio of plates that have been arranged to form a classic Hidden Mickey on the dining table of the ballroom scene.
(8) Paul Frees, one of Hollywood’s leading voice artists, is the voice of the Ghost Host.
(9) The murderous bride Constance Hatchaway is adorned with pearls—one string for each of her five marriages.
(10) The names of the five singing phantom heads sitting on busts in the graveyard of the Haunted Mansion are Rolo Rumkin, Uncle Theodore, Cousin Algernon, Ned Nub, and Phineas Pock.
(11) The Master of the mansion is Master Gracey, in a tribute to Yale Gracey, the chief Imagineer in charge of special effects at the Haunted Mansion. The tombstone of Master Gracey can be found in the family plot of the mansion.
(12) The iconic stretching room at Disneyland is in the elevator that takes guests down to the loading area for the doom buggies. At Walt Disney World, the ceiling raises and guests remain stationary.
(13) As of 2001, the attraction has hosted the Haunted Mansion Holiday. Inspired by Tim Burton’s 1993 stop-motion musical The Nightmare Before Christmas, the overlay features characters such as Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie cavorting among the familiar mansion haunts to songs from Danny Elfman’s classic score. Note: The attraction closes for several weeks before and after the holiday season to install and remove the overlay. The special holiday version of the attraction runs through early January.
A visit to the Haunted Mansion should be on everyone’s to-do list. And as we all know, there is always room for one more!
For all there is to see and do at Disneyland, check out The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland by Seth Kubersky with Bob Sehlinger, Len Testa, and Guy Selga Jr. All Disneyland fans should also check out The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey.