Haunted Mansion: The History Behind The Attraction

Haunted Mansion

One of Disney’s most iconic attractions is the Haunted Mansion. This attraction was opened shortly after Walt Disney’s death, but the imagineering and planning for this attraction dates back to the opening of Disneyland itself. The Haunted Mansion is an attraction that became an instant classic. This was thanks to numerous imagineers and Walt Disney himself. So what is the history behind this famous attraction?

Disneyland Haunted Mansion
Holiday overlay on Disneyland Haunted Mansion. Photo: Bobby Asen

Planning And Imagineering

Planning for the Haunted Mansion began in Disneyland. Walt and his imagineers had the idea for a walk-through haunted house attraction. It was immediately decided that the building was not to look run-down, but rather be a stately manor home. The exterior of the attraction was completed first and ended up sitting vacant for years before its 1969 opening. After Walt’s death in 1966 the attraction had to be evolved. Many effects were implemented that Walt Disney had approved before his passing. One of these effects being entitled the Pepper’s Ghost affect. This was a way to project a 3D ghost-like figure into the room using animatronics. The attraction’s iconic theme song “Grim Grinning Ghosts” was implemented, and the attraction’s ride system known as the “Doom Buggies” were designed. The attraction opened to great reviews, and was quickly moved to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom’s version of the ride was incredibly similar, the only major differences being the ride’s exterior, the larger show building, and a slightly longer ride.

Haunted Mansion Busts
The Haunted Mansion queue and ride both feature many marble busts.

Changes Made To The Attraction

Haunted Mansion has seen quite a few changes throughout the years. Madam Leota’s ball was changed from stationary to floating. Perhaps one of the most notable changes seen was the changing of the bride character. There have been a few different versions of this character, ultimately ending with a name, Constance Hatchaway, and a projection-mapped face. In 2011, Disney World’s Haunted Mansion queue was lengthened and given several new interactive elements. In 2015, the “hatbox ghost” returned to the attraction after being removed previously for the effects not having been “convincing” enough. In 2019 a Photopass opportunity was added to the attraction as the guests pass the final portrait in the gallery.

Haunted Mansion Photopass Photo.

Other Versions Of The Ride

The Haunted Mansion has expanded to Tokyo Disneyland where it was an opening day attraction. Tokyo Disneyland’s version of the attraction is more or less an exact copy of Disney World’s. However, Tokyo’s version of the attraction has minor differences such a stretching portrait effect and a ghost with no legs in the séance room. The attraction is located in Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland.

Disneyland Paris received a reimagined version of the attraction entitled Phantom Manor. This attraction opened in 1992 and combines the original idea of a walkthrough attraction, with the classic dark-ride attraction that we know and love.

Phantom Manor
Disneyland Paris Phantom Manor. Photo: Disney

Hong Kong Disneyland received another version of the attraction called Mystic Manor. Unlike the other attractions, Mystic Manor is more lighthearted and filled with fantasy. This is due to the fact that in Chinese culture, their version of the afterlife does not involve ghosts or spirits. Mystic Manor was also one of the first trackless dark-rides, similar to that of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

Mystic Manor
Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor. Photo: Disney

The Future Of The Attraction

It was recently announced that the “hatbox ghost” would be added back to Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion attraction in 2023. Other than this, no other announcements about Haunted Mansion have been made.

Featured Photo: Emily Murray.

Written by

Megan Woodard

Contributing Writer

Megan was born into a Disney family. Her first trip to Disney World was when she was only 18 months old. Now as an adult, Megan loves to share the magic of Disney with her two toddlers. Keeping up with Disney news and Disney World knowledge is a fun hobby for Megan. Disney World is her favorite place to be and continuously brings back her childhood joy.

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