8 Things You May Not Know About the Haunted Mansion
1. Ghoulish Beginnings
The Haunted Mansion was originally intended to reside on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A., at the end of a small, winding path that would lead Guests to a mysterious old house on a hill. The location was soon changed to the New Orleans Square section of the park, and the original design was retooled to make it fit in with the early 19th-century plantation style of the haunted house’s new home. Though Imagineers envisioned the house as being run-down and decrepit, Walt Disney disagreed. He wanted the exterior of the mansion to look nice, to match the pristine look of the park. He didn’t want people to think that Disneyland wasn’t taking care of its attractions. Walt famously said, “We’ll take care of the outside, and let the ghosts take care of the inside.”
2. Oh, We Didn’t Mean to Frighten You…
Imagineer Rolly Crump once told a story about how they knew they were on the right track with the effects they were developing when they received a call from personnel saying the janitors requested that they leave the lights on at night, due to how creeped out they were getting every time they went into the building to clean. The Imagineers agreed, but they decided to have a little fun, and they outfitted the building with motion sensors. When the janitors tripped the sensors, the lights turned off, and all of the ghostly effects came to life! The next morning, the Imagineers came in to find all the effects still running and a janitor’s broom in the middle of the floor. The janitors said they wouldn’t be back to clean anytime soon.
3. The Raven
It was originally thought that a black cat would be our guide through the mansion, popping up at various times to show us the way. After that, a raven was proposed to do the job. This idea actually got so far along in the process that the raven does show up in the mansion in a few scenes. Be on the lookout for him in the conservatory (near the skeleton trying to claw his way out of the coffin), perched on Madame Leota’s chair, and toward the end of the ride, just before you meet up with the Hitchhiking Ghosts. Eventually it was decided that an unseen presence would work best for the mansion’s theme, and X Atencio created the memorable character of the Ghost Host to help us find our way.
4. Breathing New, um, “Life” Into the Mansion
In 2007, the Walt Disney World version closed for a major refurbishment. Aside from general maintenance and upkeep for the attraction, several new effects were added to liven up the place (so to speak). The gigantic spiders and their webs were replaced with an M.C. Escher-esque staircase, where ghostly footsteps could be seen going up, down, sideways, and upside down. The creepy wallpaper that looked as if it was staring at you can now be seen blinking its eyes as you pass. The attic received the most drastic changes in order to flesh out the ghostly Bride’s backstory (whose name is now known to be Constance Hatchaway) and to show that she is truly a “black widow.”
5. The Hatbox Ghost
The holy grail for most Mansion fans is the Hatbox Ghost, a long-lost citizen of the Disneyland attraction. This effect, intended to be located in the attic, had the Hatbox Ghost’s head disappear from his shoulders and reappear in the hatbox he was holding. This illusion proved to not work as well as the Imagineers wanted, and it was quietly removed shortly after opening day.
6. The Stretching Room
But back to the attraction of today…and the answer to a long-standing question. Is the stretching room stretching up or down? Well, it depends on the park. In Disneyland, you’re actually going down, the reason being that Guests need to make their way down and through a tunnel leading underneath the railroad and to the attraction building. When building the Walt Disney World version, there was no need for such shuttling about since there weren’t’ any space constrictions on the new park. However, the effect was so well known that it was decided to replicate it in the Florida version. However, since Guests didn’t have to travel down, in the Florida version the ceiling is actually rising.
7. From the Jungle to the Mansion
The frightened caretaker, who greets you speechlessly just before you enter the graveyard, looks very familiar, doesn’t he? He should! His face also appears on the Jungle Cruise as the low man on the totem pole getting chased by the rhino. I guess he didn’t get the point…
in the end.
8. Chess Pieces?
A popular story is that you can see various chess pieces scattered amongst the architecture on the roof. And indeed, there are some features that resemble the classic bishop and rook from your standard chess board. The only missing piece is the knight. Why? Because it’s night INSIDE the mansion! (Get it?) It’s a cute story, but in reality that’s all it is…a story. The resemblance of the architectural ornaments to chess pieces was purely happenstance.