With Halloween quickly approaching we thought it would be fitting to do a Haunted Mansion themed “Fun Facts” post. The ride is incredibly popular with many listing it as their favorite ride or in their personal top 10 ride lists. Here are some frightfully fun facts about the Haunted Mansion.
Located in 4 parks.
Walt Disney World
Paris Disneyland (Called Phantom Manor)
1- The Birth of Death
The original Haunted Mansion in Disneyland reportedly cost 7 million to develop and build (approximately 45 million today.)
The concepts for the Haunted Mansion changed a few times. Originally it was meant to be a walk through attraction. They also considered making it a boat ride though an old plantation house that had become partially flooded by the bayou.
There was also once a plan to have a Museum of the Weird in the ride. The art from those designs done by Rolly Crump became the inspiration for the chair in the Haunted Mansion and he with Claude Coats designed the famous wallpaper.
The building housing the ride was actually built in 1963 but it remained empty until the late 60’s opening in 1969. The ride was delayed due to Disney’s work with the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. Then Disney passed away and it was redesigned into what the final ride became.
2- My Other Car is a Doom Buggy
The omnimover ride cars in the Haunted Mansion are called Doom Buggies. The design for these particular vehicles was first used on the ride Adventures Through Inner Space, and then the Haunted Mansion. Each car will fit up to 3 people. You enter and wait for the Ghost Host to lower your bar for you. “Do not pull down on the safety bar please. I will lower it for you.”
3- Topsy Turvy
The Stretching Room in the Haunted Mansion asks the question “Is this haunted room actually stretching, or is it your imagination?” The answer depends on which park you are riding the attraction in. If you are in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion or the Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris, you are moving down in an elevator type platform. If you are visiting Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion or the one in Tokyo Disneyland, the floor is stationary and the walls move upwards.
Also, if you stay behind in the room as everyone else clears out you can hear the gargoyles whispering, telling you to get out.
4- Taking a Spin
One of the favorite rooms in the Haunted Mansion is the Ballroom scene. Here was can see the dead waltzing the night away, but how are they and the other translucent figures created? They are ghost. Or in this case, ghost images created by using the Pepper’s Ghost effect. This effect has been used in magic and theater since the 1800’s. Named after John Henry Pepper, objects are reflected onto glass to make them appear holographic and see through. The figures are behind a large pane of glass under where the cars pass.
5- The Ghost of Captain Nemo’s…..organ?
In the Disneyland version of the Haunted Mansion, the ghost organist plays a tune on a stunning pipe organ. This organ was used in the film 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Disney is great at re-purposing items so the organ was modified to work in the ride. The ones at the other parks are replicas of the original.
6- RIP Mr. Toad
Both American versions of the Haunted Mansion feature a small pet cemetery. Originally it was in the Disneyland version in a hidden area, accessed only by people leaving the ride early. In 1993 they moved it to the front lawn. In Walt Disney World, there is a small statue/ head stone commemorating J. Thaddeus Toad, aka Mr. Toad. It was placed after Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was closed September 7, 1998 and replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
7- Summoning an Imagineer
Madame Leota is a fan favorite from the Haunted Mansion and to play her they cast one of their own. Imagineer Leota Toombs Thomas. Leota started out at the Disney company in 1940 in the ink and paint department. Then she transferred to Animation where she met her husband Harvey Toombs. She quit to raise their children but returned to Disney in 1962 to join WED Enterprises, now known as Disney Imagineering. She helped create and design several of the pieces for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, including: Small World, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and Ford Magic Skyway. Later she would assist on Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion.
During her work on the Haunted Mansion fellow Imagineer Yale Gracey asked her to pose for the head so they could make sure it worked properly. After the trial they decided to keep her and named the character Madame Leota. They brought in actress Eleanor Audley to do a voice over for the effect. Audley had a more menacing voice than Leota, she played both Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty) and Lady Tremaine (Cinderella) in previous Disney films. But Leota’s voice can be heard from the bride at the end of the ride “Hurry back. Hurry back. Be sure to bring your death certificate.”
Mrs. Toombs Thomas continued to work for Disney and she moved to Orlando in 1971 as part of the team brought in to maintain the new attractions. She returned to California and Disneyland work in 1979 and passed away in 1991.
8- Designing a Legacy
The Imagineer that designed the Pet Cemetery for The Haunted Mansion is Kim Irvine. Kim, is the daughter of Leota Toombs Thomas. When they redid parts of the Haunted Mansion and they needed some new Madame Leota footage they turned to her daughter, who looks a lot like her mother.
9- What’s In a Name?
When you enter the Haunted Mansion you will notice several tomb stones with fun epitaphs on them. Pay close attention to the names. They are named after different Imagineers that worked on the ride.
Wathel Rogers “Here rests Wathel R Bender -he rode to glory on a fender”
Wathel was an animator who worked on Pinocchio, Bambi, Alice in Wonderland, and Sleeping Beauty. He helped Walt create “Project Little Man” which was the first audio-animatronic for Disney. He even helped create the walking Benjamin Franklin for the American Adventure in Epcot.
Cliff Huet “Rest in peace cousin Huet – We all know you didn’t do it”
Mr. Huet was the lead interior designer for the Haunted Mansion.
Fred Joerger “Here lies good old Fred- a great big rock fell on his head”
Fred was a set designer and model builder. In fact, he designed all the rock work at Walt Disney World. He also worked on the miniature models before construction.
Francies Xavier “Requiescat Franies Xavier- Not time off for good behavior”
Francies Xavier best known as X. Atencio was an animator at Disney before joining WED to work on attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. The voice begging to be let out of the coffin in the conservatory, that’s him. He also is 1/2 the reason we have the amazing Grim Grinning Ghosts song as co-writer with Buddy Baker.
Leota Toombs Thomas “Dear sweet Leota- beloved by all- in regions beyond now-having a ball”
As we mentioned above Leota worked in Ink and Paint, Animation and then in WED.
The tomb stone for Leota is amazing and she even opens her eyes and “looks” at you.
Bill Martin “Here lies a man named Martin-the lights went out on this old Spartan”
Bill Martin helped design and build Disneyland. He was made the Vice President of Design at WED in 1971 and he was responsible for the design of the Utilidors and some of the riverboats.
Dave Burkhart “Dear departed brother Dave- He chased a bear into a cave”
Mr. Burkhart was originally a model maker for Disney. Later on he worked as a field art producer and show designer. In 1974 he was named the Superintendent of Decoration at Disneyland and then in 1984 he was assigned to the Tokyo Disneyland Project.
Gordon Williams “RIP Good friend Gordon- Now you’ve crossed the river Jordan”
Gordon Williams was an audioanimatronic and sound expert. He did most of the sound effects you hear in the Haunted Mansion ride.
Claude Coats “At peaceful rest lies brother Claude- planted here beneath this sod”
Mr. Coats was a background artist for Disney animation. Then he was a show designer and helped design the Haunted Mansion‘s interior.
Chuck Myall “In memorium Uncle Myall – here you’ll lie for quite a while”
Myall was one of the planners for Disney World and a project designer for WED.
Marc Davis “In memory of our patriarch – dear departed Grandpa Marc”
Mr. Davis was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men. He was the concept artist for many of the scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.
Bob Sewell “RIP Mister Sewell – the victim of a dirty duel”
Bob became part of WED in 1955 and was the head of the Model Shop at WED.
Yale Gracey “Master Gracey laid to rest – no mourning please at his request”
Yale Gracey was the driving force behind almost all the Haunted Mansion‘s special effects.
Supposedly if you look at the dirt on this “grave” it’s different and always looks like it was a recent burial.
Here’s a quick little walk through of the queue area.
Missing from the graves is one for Rolly Crump. He and Gracey worked for a year on ideas for the Haunted Mansion, but Crump left the project.
10-The Servants’ Secret
Another tribute to the Imagineers behind the Haunted Mansion is at the Walt Disney World version of the ride. There’s a door labeled “Servants Quarters No Entry.” This will lead you to a hallway in the Servants Quarters that exits out into the queuing area for the ride. In this “secret” hallway are a set of bells. Each bell corresponds to a location in the building. By ringing the bell servants would know where they are needed. The bell locations are:
Ambassador Xavier’s Lounging Lodge, Madame Leota’s Boudoir, Grandfather McKim’s Resting Room, Uncle Davis’ Sleeping Salon, Master Gracey’s Bedchamber, Colonel Coats Breakfast Berth, and Professor Wathel’s Reposing Lounge
There is also a clock siting on a wooden shelf. Supposedly the shelf is a piece from the original Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.
We were lucky enough to get into that room. Thanks to Chris, our tour guide (if you can we recommend using a Disney guide and we give a two thumbs up for Chris. Ask for Chris!)
11- Knights Out
For a short time Disney hired actors to play Knights in Armor, that would jump out and scare guests. This was a very fun but short lived idea. Apparently a knight has his nose broken when he got too close to a woman and she punched him in the face. There were also new rules implemented that they must stay six feet away from the guests and the couldn’t scare the elderly or children. The actors were also given a device that resembled a garage door opener that could stop the ride in case of an emergency. On the site Doombuggies.com they interviewed someone who worked as one of these knights. He said:
“I only needed to shut the ride down once. This was due to a woman jumping from her seat and throwing her purse at me. It was necessary to stop the ride so I could give her the purse back and get her to sit back down.”
You can read more first hand stories on the article linked above.
12- The Disappearing Hatbox Ghost
Like the Hatbox Ghost’s head, the animatronic itself disappeared for a time. When the ride opened the Hatbox Ghost was a part of the attraction, but it was removed not long after. The effect where his head would disappear from his shoulders and reappear in his hatbox and then return, didn’t work properly. But he was so popular that although he was dead, his legend never died. In 2015 he was returned to the ride for the 60th anniversary of Disneyland.
13- Famous Voices From Beyond
The Haunted Mansion ride features a few famous “voices from beyond” in addition to Leota Toombs Thomas, and X. Atencio. For this attraction guests might recognize the voice of Paul Frees as the Ghost Host. He was also known for being the voice of Professor Ludwig Von Drake. Another voice people might recognize is Thurl Ravenscroft. He’s the voice of the lead singing bust in the graveyard scene. He was most famous for being the voice of Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes “They’re Grrreat!”
Just for fun here are some Happy Haunts portraits of our own. Phineas, Ezra, Gus, and the Hatbox Ghost (all drawn by Thom Pratt)
Do you love the Haunted Mansion? What’s your favorite part? Comment and let us know!
Wanna go to Disney?
We recommend Mickey Vacations by Academy Travel, a Disney Platinum Earmarked agency. Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Universal Orlando Resort and more -- they can do it all, and at no extra cost to you! CLICK HERE for a FREE no obligation quote
or call 609-978-0740 today!