When the crypt doors creak, and the tombstones quake
Spooks come out for a swinging wake
Happy haunts materialize
And begin to vocalize
Grim Grinning Ghosts come out to socialize
Welcome, Welcome, Well Come In To The… Haunted Mansion
Hello fellow riders and welcome back to the podcast! Tonight we conclude our special month of exploring Walt Disney World’s spookiest rides. Last week was one of my all time favorite podcast as we covered the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. However, I think we have saved the most ghoulish ride of them all for tonight. This ride oozes Halloween. It’s a little spooky and a lot of fun, it is the Haunted Mansion!
Before we begin, let’s introduce you to the know before you go essential facts:
- The ride is located in The Magic Kingdom
- Fastpass + is available
- The fright factor is 4 out of 5
- There is no height requirement
- Guests must transfer from a wheelchair/ECV
- The ride opened with the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971.
Those are the facts, now time to step inside.
You are about to enter one of the most iconic rides in all of Disney history known as the Haunted Mansion. This is the culmination of Walt Disney’s love for haunted houses. His dream to have a haunted ride in every theme park has materialized in a most fun way in the Magic Kingdom. The ghostly home was built in the English Tudor style, commonly seen in the Hudson River Valley in New York. It sits atop a hill overlooking Liberty Square. By day it looks like an unassuming run down house. By night it takes on a truly creepy character. Once you step through the wrought iron gates you are in for a ghoulishly good time!
As you wind your way up the hill to the house it won’t take long to discover that this haunted house doesn’t take itself too seriously. Back in 2010 the queue was updated to include several interactive elements. If you haven’t visited the Haunted Mansion since then you will have some new fun awaiting you. As you enter the outer courtyard you will be greeted by a family of 5 marble busts. Each character has their own epitaph below the sculpture. While all five are worth stopping to read, let me share just one with you right now. My favorite comes from the twins, Wellington & Forsythia, “Departed life while in their beds, with identical bumps on identical heads.” This playful nature of the rather grim material is what runs throughout the Haunted Mansion, and what makes it so unique. Moving on, you will come to a series of crypts.
I really like the Sea Captain’s Crypt! His final resting place is one of the more fun interactive elements of the Haunted Mansion queue. Only the captain’s arm, leg, and hat are visible as they hang over the tub tomb. However, you can hear Sea Captain sing, and he occasionally sneezes, shooting water at unsuspecting onlookers. For those daring enough to approach the crypt, try plugging one of the holes on the Captain’s leaky tub and see what happens. While you are there you can also read how he came to his untimely demise. The inscription on his crypt reads, “Here floats Captain Culpepper Clyne, allergic to dirt so he’s pickled in brine. He braved the sea and all her wrath, but drowned on land while taking a bath.” Another fun spot is the Composer’s Crypt. As you walk by be sure and touch the different instruments on the outside. Each one will respond to your warm blooded fingers with a note or melody from that instrument. Pay attention to the tune they ring out, you may recognize it later on. Finally, the Library Crypt is home to books like those found inside the mansion. The books are marked with ghostly symbols and a fun game to decipher a hidden message awaits those with a curious mind. This process can take a little more time than you may have in line, so I will attach a link in the show notes with some helpful clues. You can check it out in advance and then help other riders in your party unravel the mystery in time.
After meandering through the crypts you will come to mansion’s graveyard. The tombstones here have been entertaining guests since the ride opened, but the hillside graveyard was updated in 2010 when the interactive queue was installed. Today, you can enjoy a multitude of witty inscriptions. Here are a couple of the more memorable ones:
Here lies good ole’ Fred, a great big rock fell on his head. R.I.P.
At peaceful rest lies brother Claude. Planted here beneath this sod.
The graveyard has been home to a total of 13 different tombstones, each with a rich story that the sayings only begin to tell. You see, the names on these tombstones are actually tributes to the Disney Imagineers that worked on the Haunted Mansion. If you want the full story behind all 13 check out this fun article from the Disney Dispatch that covers the Tales of the Tombstones in great detail. The one tombstone I will talk about today is that of Leota, better known as Madame Leota. Her tombstone is unique as it contains her portrait, which occasionally comes to life! If you watch closely enough you will see Leota open her eyes and look around. This creepy effect is short lived making you question what you just saw. The tombstone and the ghostly version of Madame Leota found inside the mansion, are both a tribute to the Disney Imagineer Leota Thomas. Believe it or not, her maiden name was Leota Toombs!
So, if you make it this far and haven’t been frightened off, then it is time to enter the Haunted Mansion…
As you enter the house you are escorted into the foyer for a very short stay. Keep an eye on the portrait in this room, it will look very different when you leave than when you first entered. The next room is my favorite spot in the Haunted Mansion. This odd room with an octagon shape is known as the Stretching Room. It contains dark wood paneling on the lower walls, topped with vertically striped wallpaper. When the door from the foyer is shut, you are surrounded by four intriguing portraits above. Next, the voice of your Ghost Host begins to speak…
While the voice of the Ghost Host is chilling, it is arguably the best part of the whole ride. His deep echoing timber sets the mood at the very beginning and follows you along your tour. The man behind the voice is Paul Frees, and his connection with Disney rides runs so deep we could spend a whole podcast just on him. For times sake, we won’t do that today but you can check out this article titled “10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Haunted Mansion.” This story illustrates the talent of Paul Frees and offers some fascinating outtakes as he recorded the Ghost Host voice.
Despite what the Ghost Host would lead you to believe, there is a way out of the Stretching Room. Opposite from where you entered, the walls will open to reveal the final passageway leading to your Doom Buggy. This reminds me of a tip: if you are riding for the first time, try to position yourself as close to the center of the Stretching Room as possible. The Cast Members will ask you to move all the way across the room but you can subtly maneuver your way back to the center as the room fills up. This vantage point will give you the best view to see the 4 portraits once the room comes to life. It is called the Stretching Room for a reason, and you will want to be able to see everything. Now, if you are a Haunted Mansion pro, then you will know to quickly move all the way across the room. Doing so will put you next to the secret doors once they open. You won’t be able to see all 4 walls above as the room stretches, but you will be the first to leave the room and hop on your Doom Buggy.
So, what is a Doom Buggy? Well, the Haunted Mansion operates on an omnimover ride vehicle. We covered this system all the way back in Episode 02 when we talked about Spaceship Earth. If you haven’t listened to that episode I encourage you to do so since we won’t go into detail about the omnimover system here. What is important to know is that this is a slow moving dark ride. The thrill of the Haunted Mansion does not come through hurling you down a 13 story elevator shaft like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. No, the thrill of this ride comes from an active imagination.
Your tour of the Haunted Mansion will take you through many haunted spaces. First up is a pass through the Library. The Library is home to some enchanted marble busts of the greatest ghost writers the literary world has ever known. These busts seem to follow you as you move past them. I won’t spoil anything here, but the technique used, while rather simple, is executed brilliantly. This is true of most things in the Haunted Mansion. While, some of the effects have been updated in recent years to incorporate newer technology, most of the mansion operates on tricks dating back to the 1950’s or earlier. The ability of the Disney Imagineers to incorporate these tricks with detailed storytelling is what brings the ride to life (no pun intended).
Perhaps the best illustration of this point will be found when you come to the Grand Hall or Ballroom. Your Doom Buggy will have you perched high above the large room below. As you look down you will see the Ballroom come to ghostly life as waltzing couples materialize and de-materialize. The effect used here is an old magicians trick known as Pepper’s Ghost. If you are the type that has to satisfy your curiosity, you can google that now and learn how this incredible scene is pulled off. If you are like me, just forget I said any of that and wonder in amazement at how the dancing ghosts are magically appearing before your eyes. Other ghosts in the ballroom gather around the dining table to throw a birthday party. My favorite in this room are the two portraits that come to life to have a deadly pistol duel. All of this and more make the Grand Hall a feast for the eyes. This scene alone makes the ride worthy of multiple visits just to try to catch everything going on.
The other famous room in the Haunted Mansion is the Seance Room. This room comes right before the Grand Hall and is the home to Madame Leota that you first met in the graveyard. Here, her head floats inside a crystal ball as she chants incantations to the 999 spirits of the house. It seems she is successful in reaching the spirits and they are all gathering for a swinging wake.
The rest of your Haunted Mansion tour will feature a variety of grim grinning ghosts. The attic tells the story of Constance Hatchaway. This poor widow was married five times, but unfortunately could never find a husband that wouldn’t lose his head! Don’t feel too bad for her though. She gained a string of pearls with each marriage and picked up some first class lumberjack skills along the way.
After a close encounter with Constance, your doom buggy will take you outside to the graveyard. Well, not really outside. I mean it looks like you are outside at night with ghosts in a graveyard, but you are actually still inside the mansion. You are meant to be in a graveyard outside the mansion, even though you are still inside the mansion. I promise it isn’t this confusing on the ride, I just have a talent for making things complicated. Anyway, the graveyard scene is a lively one. There are more marble busts, this time all singing the ride’s theme song, Grim Grinning Ghosts. Their tune provides the backdrop for ghosts of all sorts to pop up in the dark night as they attempt to scare you.
Finally, you move back into the Haunted Mansion and into the crypt before unloading. There is one more warning before you go, beware of hitchhiking ghosts! As your Doom Buggy faces a wall of mirrors, one of three happy haunts materializes inside or on your ride vehicle. Originally known just as the prisoner, the skeleton, and the traveler, these 3 have grown so famous we now know their names. Either Gus, Ezra, or Phineas will try to grab a ride back to the mortal world and mess with you a little in the process. This is either a fun or terrifying way to end the ride depending on your level of sensitivity.
In any case, the ghosts are very friendly and no tour of the Haunted Mansion is complete without an invitation to return. As I said before the mansion is home to 999 ghosts, but they are always looking for one more to make it an even 1,000…
As you leave this chilling hilltop retreat, remember the words of the Ghost Host:
When hinges creak in doorless chambers
And strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls
Whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still
That is the time when ghosts are present
Practicing their terror with ghoulish delight
So, now the question is, does this sound too scary for you or your family to ride? The answer is not a simple one. This ride is a wonderful blend of haunting horrors and charming comedic characters. There is no height requirement and there are no physical constraints or warnings to worry about with this ride. It can be a great ride for the whole family, if you feel everyone is ready.
If you have young riders and are a little unsure, here is my advice. Test their enjoyment on some other dark rides first. Maybe start with Peter Pan’s Flight and work your way up to Pirates of The Caribbean. If they find the dark portions of those rides to be too much, then you definitely want to wait on the Haunted Mansion. If they have a hard time separating pretend from reality, you definitely want to wait on the Haunted Mansion. There are a number of ghosts that can be frightening to young children or even impressionable adults. If anyone in your party finds the queue of the ride overwhelming, you definitely want to ask a Cast Member to show you the exit before entering your Doom Buggy.
If you answered no to all the above then I say give it a go! This is one of the most beloved rides in the greater Disney fandom. Many, many riders rate this as their favorite ride in Walt Disney World. In fact, it has such a cult following there are a number of websites dedicated solely to the Haunted Mansion. If you want to learn more about the ride I would recommend checking out doombuggies.com. This site has been celebrating the ride for over 15 years and has just about everything you can imagine in terms of the Haunted Mansion. If you fall in love with the ride in the park, I highly recommend checking out the nearby Memento Mori shop after you exit the ride. This stand alone shop has some of the most unique souvenirs in Walt Disney World. You can even commemorate your trip to the Haunted Mansion with your own ghost portrait. I don’t have one myself, but they are really cool looking! Also, don’t forget that if you are staying on property you can have items like this delivered right to your resort room. That way you don’t have to figure out what to do with it when it is time to go on Splash Mountain!
Speaking of staying on property, I have had the privilege of helping 3 families plan and book their next Walt Disney World vacation this week. It has been so much fun! I just love it! I can’t wait to hear about their experiences, favorite rides, and magical memories when they come back. If I can help you, a friend or yours, or someone in your family that is thinking about a Disney vacation, please let me know. Seriously, I love this stuff and I want to help you love it too. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 210-853-2488. You can pick my brain and get a free vacation quote. All of my services come at no cost to you and are the best way to make sure you have the most magical vacation possible!
Well, that is going to wrap up our special October look at Walt Disney World’s spookiest rides. I saved the Haunted Mansion for last because I think it still edges out the others on pure nostalgia alone. I’m curious, what is your favorite of the bunch? For me, it was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. If you want to share your thoughts on any of this month’s rides you can drop us a line by e-mailing email@example.com or leaving a comment on our Facebook page. Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you had a great time. Have a wonderful week and make each day a ride worth taking!
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