Well, one of my favorite holidays (Halloween) has come and gone. This means a couple of things — one is I'll be enjoying lots of candy for the next few weeks and another is it's time to put away all of the spooks. I know one place that is spooky year round, though! And it's only right we say goodbye to the scariest time of year by including the spooktacular ride of Haunted Mansion in our brand-new "The Secret History of Disney Rides" series!
The Secret History of Haunted Mansion
Not only is the history of the Haunted Mansion pretty awesome, but the facts are even cooler. Before we leap to the interesting facts, let's discuss the secret history of Haunted Mansion.
The idea of a haunted attraction at Disneyland was first thought of in the 1950s. DoomBuggies.com reports that Walt Disney was in the midst of designing Disneyland and in the design, an "Old House on the Hill" was to sit right off Main Street. He then discussed the idea of a "ghost house" with Imagineer Ken Anderson and conceptual artist Harper Groff; instead of the ride we know it as today, the attraction was actually planned to be a walk-through! According to Mental Floss, the walk-through would consist of maids and butlers acting as guides and leading guests, while revealing the story behind the mansion involving a sea captain and his bride. It was later decided to be made a ride (using the Omnimover system to direct riders' where to look) for the sake of capacity.
The first sketch of the Haunted Mansion showed it as an old, run-down house, and matching the New Orleans theme of the Disneyland area it would be set in. Disney, however, wanted it to still look properly maintained, so Anderson used inspiration from a Victorian house in Baltimore. Via DoomBuggies.com, the backstory of the mansion continued to go through several revisions until Imagineers decided that it didn't necessarily need an official beginning and end - that was left to the guests!
After construction of the Haunted Mansion's exterior finished in 1963, the attraction sat unused during the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. After Disney's death in 1966, Imagineers went back to deciding what to do with the Haunted Mansion. Some of the Imagineers on the project included Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey. Taking in what they learned at the World's Fair, the Imagineers included Audio-Animatronics, "doom mobiles" and more. Gracey was responsible for creating a large amount of the mansion's special effects, including giving a see-through effect to my personal favorite ghost, Marc Davis' Hatbox Ghost character!
The official opening of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion finally happened on August 9, 1969. People absolutely loved the Haunted Mansion! Soon enough, plans for a Haunted Mansion at Disney World were in the works. It opened in Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971, with the park. Today, there's a Haunted Mansion version in every Disney Park with the exception of Hong Kong Disneyland. Hong Kong has a mansion ride, but with a total different theme and concept! Disneyland's Haunted Mansion even celebrates the holidays beginning every fall with "The Nightmare Before Christmas" overlay; Jack Skellington takes over the mansion with Halloweentown's version of Christmas. That was a long secret history of Haunted Mansion! Let's hop on over to the cool facts now.
- At Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion, you'll see tombstones in the graveyard honoring Imagineers Marc Davis and Claude Coats! The tombstones read "Brother Claude and Grandpa Marc." The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness reports that you'll find many other honored Imagineer and artist names, including Imagineer Tony Baxter as "Brother Dave," Yale Gracey as the one-and-only "Master Gracey" and X. Atencio, who scripted the ride and lyrics of "Grim Grinning Ghosts," as "Francis Xavier." Watch Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion ride video.
- Madame Leota's face is actually Leota Toombs, who created designs for many other Disney attractions. The voice of Madame Leota, however, belongs to Eleanor Audley, who is also the voice of Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent! You can hear Toombs' voice at the end of the Haunted Mansion ride when you see the "Little Leona" bride.
- The voice of your Ghost Host belongs to Paul Frees; you might have also heard his voice portraying Ludgwin Von Drake, Boris Badenov from Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon series and even the Pillsbury Doughboy!
- The translucency of the ballroom dancing ghosts are the result of the Pepper's Ghost Illusion. This effect is created by illuminated objects reflecting onto a pane of glass! You can even try it at home. (I have and it was crazy awesome!)
- The pipe organ in the ballroom scene of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is the same organ used by Captain Nemo in Disney's "20,000 leagues Under the Sea." The organs in the other park's Haunted Mansion are all replicas.
Hope this post on the secret history of the Haunted Mansion didn't spook you too much! Make sure to check out our Haunted Mansion wait times, ride details and more. Got any interesting stories or experiences on the Haunted Mansion? Share 'em in the comments below and stay tuned for more "The Secret History of Disney Rides" posts!