Franchise / The Haunted Mansion

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Welcome, foolish mortals.

"When hinges creak in doorless chambers,
When strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls,
Whenever candlelights flicker though the air is deathly still,
That is the time when ghosts are present,
Practicing their terror with ghoulish delight..."
Opening lines

The Haunted Mansion is a franchise that has grown around the long-running attraction at the various Disney Theme Parks, having spawned two movies (a critically disappointing feature with Eddie Murphy and an upcoming film by Guillermo del Toro), a videogame, two comic book series (a shortlived anthology series by Slave Labor Graphics and a miniseries at Marvel Comics under the Disney Kingdoms imprint), and an upcoming animated television special headed by illustrator Gris Grimly, in addition to appearances in various Disney media.

The ride spent a long time in Development Hell, having even been first thought of in the earliest plans of Disneyland. Various stories were considered and rejected, so Walt eventually decided for a minimalist approach on story and made the house a simple retirement home/boarding house for the spirits. Of course, this hasn't stopped many from speculating and creating their own interpretations about the nature of the house and its inhabitants, sometimes even being played with by Disney themselves through the mansion's assorted incarnations.

Trope Namer for Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts and Silly Spook.

Each Magic Kingdom-style Disney park has a version of this ride:
  • Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland have the "classic" version, though specific scenes and details vary from venue to venue.
    • From 2000 onward, the Anaheim and Tokyo parks give the original version of the ride a special Christmas-season overlay each year: Haunted Mansion Holiday, in which Jack Skellington and company have decked it out for the Yuletide.
  • Disneyland Paris has a Darker and Edgier version of the ride known as Phantom Manor, located in Frontierland, in which a malevolent phantom torments a widow into old age.
  • Hong Kong Disneyland has the Lighter and Softer, ghost-free Mystic Manor, in which a magical music box is monkeyed around with by...well, a monkey, the pet of the manor's world-explorer owner. Now the exotic relics on display in the house are going ape!


The actual rides includes examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Three notable examples.
    • The animatronic raven was originally going to be the "narrator" of the ride, which ended up being much better implemented with the "Ghost Host" being piped in through the Doom Buggy's individual speakers. The ravens, however, are still situated throughout the ride, flapping and beaking as if they were saying something, possibly because it looks creepy.
    • Around 2003, various signs began to appear in the park that a monumental Canon Welding operation tying together The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Tom Sawyer's Island was going to take place, centered around pirate Jean Lafitte. Due to the idea's creator being sacked for other reasons before the project's completion, a few clues (such as a walled crypt) can still be seen in the Mansion and the other two attractions, but do not lead anywhere.
    • The character of the Hatchet Man was going to be prominently seen in the ride, as part of the same "refurbishing" as Constance Hatchaway's creation. A few clues, such as the character's face appearing briefly during Madame Leota's séance, and the Imagineers systematically removing from sale any item referring to the old backstory (with the Ghost Host as Master Gracet), began appearing, but once more, the idea's creator's departure stopped the project.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Lord Henry Mystic is one, and he displays the fruits of his travels inside his Mystic Manor.
  • The Artifact: The heartbeat in the Attic soundtrack no longer makes sense. Originally, it was associated with the mournful Bride character who had a visible glowing heartbeat, but ever since she was replaced by the murderous Constance, it doesn't seem so appropriate. The Disneyland Mansion dropped it altogether sometime before reinstating the Hatbox Ghost.
  • Ascended Extra: The Bride became more important once Constance took over the role.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In Paris, "Phantom Manor" appears to give off this implication, as the Phantom successfully got his revenge, only failing in killing the riders.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: The Trope Namer comes from a scene where your cars are spun to face a mirror revealing the reflection of ghosts riding along in your car with you.
  • Big Bad: The Phantom in Paris's version, who torments Melanie the Bride and then sets his sights on you.
  • Big Boo's Haunt: The ride is a classic haunted house, with the ghosts inside celebrating and having fun.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The mansion's exterior, in all versions, couldn't possibly contain the long, winding passages one sees on the ride. The ride actually takes place in a giant warehouse-style show building, hidden from within the park by trees and other scenery.
  • Bilingual Bonus: WDW's gift shop, Memento Mori, is named after a Latin phrase that means "remember that you will die".
  • Black Comedy: This is how most of the ride is played.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite all the implied violence, there is virtually no blood.
  • Buried Alive: A portion of Phantom Manor when you go underground into the crypt.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: There has been at least one instance of a family attempting to scatter a loved one's ashes within the halls of the ride, causing Disneyland to purchase a HEPA vacuum cleaner to clean up any remains dumped in the ride.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: In the Walt Disney World Mansion, the eye-patterned wallpaper glows and has animation.
  • Canon Welding: Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris is subject to this as it and Big Thunder Mountain share the same backstory, which is tied in with the rest of Frontierland (themed as a mining town called Thunder Mesa).
  • Christmas Episode: During the holidays, the Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland versions of the Mansion get decorated up in a The Nightmare Before Christmas meets Haunted Mansion theme.
  • Comic Trio: The Hitchhiking Ghosts are generally portrayed like this in Fanon with Ezra (the skeletal one) as the schemer, Gus (the bearded convict) as the dumb one and Phineas (the carpetbagger) as the powerless one.
  • Creepy Twins: Wellington and Forsythia Dread of the Florida version's new queue extension.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: One of the most iconic elements of the Mansion are the changing paintings, which transform from unassuming portraits to more macabre ones with a flash of lightning.
  • Creepy Ravens: Ravens are placed throughout the ride to add to the creepy atmosphere, as noted in Aborted Arc.
  • Crusty Caretaker: An old caretaker appears before the Graveyard, and he's the only mortal character in the ride.
  • Cultural Translation: One thing you'll notice is that no two versions of the ride are the same. For instance, the external mansion visible from within the park (the actual ride itself, in all versions, takes place in a giant warehouse hidden from sight by trees) differs from park to park, and each version is situated in a different land depending on what park you're at. For example:
    • In Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion is located in New Orleans Square, and thus the exterior mansion has the appearance of a plantation house.
    • In Walt Disney World, the Haunted Mansion has a Gothic appearance to its mansion, owing to the location in Liberty Square.
    • To the Japanese, ghosts are a major element of myths and legend, so the Haunted Mansion in Tokyo Disneyland is in Fantasyland. Gargoyles outside were added to help connect it to the surrounding area.
    • The French, meanwhile, have a thing for the American Old West, and so Phantom Manor is in Frontierland. As a result, the backstory and setpieces are changed to reflect the setting (Phantom Manor's backstory is incidentally tied in with Big Thunder Mountain), which includes replacing the graveyard sequence from the other rides with a trip into a literal ghost town.
    • Chinese culture has immense respect for ghosts and ancestry, which means that Hong Kong's Mystic Manor doesn't include any spirits. Instead, it's located near Adventureland and owned by Lord Mystic, whose artefacts come to life thanks to an enchanted music box.
  • Dances and Balls: The big ballroom scene.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • A common interpretation of the Happy Haunts. This is more expressed in the spin-off materials.
    • The Ghost Host is nothing more than a harmless Troll that loves getting a rise out of mortals — but not in the Paris attraction where he's the main villain.
    • Constance Hatchaway in the recent refurbishment of the U.S. rides is a notable exception.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The Disneyland Paris version, Phantom Manor, is much scarier and tells a story of macabre gothic/western horror. It even has an impact on other rides, because Phantom Manor shares a backstory with Big Thunder Mountain, Frontierland's roller coaster and anchor ride.
    • The Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion's exterior was designed to be gothic and angular to send a better message about the scariness of the ride, since there were complaints that the New Orleans plantation house facade used for the Disneyland Mansion fooled parents into thinking that it was suitable for very young children, but it scared them too much, prompting a redesigned building for WDW.
    • Even the "classic" Haunted Mansion was this compared to other attractions in Disneyland. Most of its jokes are about people experiencing rather horrifying deaths, including some suicide jokes, one joke about a character begging to be let out of its coffin, and let's not forget Constance Hatchaway, a Gold Digger who has killed several men for their money (a fact they don't gloss over).
  • Dem Bones: Most prominently, the dancing skeletons in Phantom Manor's underworld, which were directly inspired by the Silly Symphony The Skeleton Dance.
  • Downer Ending: Completely subverted and Played for Laughs. "Now I will raise the safety bar...and a ghost will follow you home, ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
  • Driven to Suicide: The Ghost Host.
    The Ghost Host: Of course, there's always my way (cue hanging corpse).
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In Disneyland, the plantation house representing the exterior of the mansion just sat around in New Orleans Square for a few years before the attraction opened. The only sign something was brewing was an advertisement on the door asking for ghosts to apply for residency.
  • Endless Corridor: One such set
  • Everyone Is Related: George Hightower, one of Constance Hatchaway's many former husbands and victims (seen on the tombstone in her gallery portrait), is a relative of Harrison Hightower III, the owner of Hotel Hightower from the Japanese version of the Tower of Terror.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Mystic Manor involves Lord Mystic's mischievous monkey Albert as the cause of its supernatural occurrences.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • While he might not be evil, the Ghost Host provides a rather good one.
    • While also presumably not evil, the lead singing bust has one as well.
    • The Phantom in Paris — who, unlike the original Host, is truly evil — gets one too, courtesy of Vincent Price.
    • The Hatbox Ghost does this before his head vanishes.
  • Expanded Universe: The original ride had no real storyline other than the mansion being a "retirement home" for ghosts. However, spinoff materials such as comics, a video game, and the Memento Mori gift shop have given the mansion's characters more elaborate backstories.
  • Gold Digger: Constance the ghost bride in The Haunted Mansion.
  • Grave Humor: The queue line and exit areas for the Mansion are all either puns or shout-outs to Imagineers. Even the otherwise Darker and Edgier Phantom Manor has a few in its Boot Hill.
  • Haunted House: A defining example, though Mystic Manor is a noticeable aversion.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: The grim "Bridal Chorus" in the Attic is underscored by a heartbeat. Before the music, the heartbeat (and the screams of pop-up ghosts) were the only sounds in the attic.
  • Hellevator:
    • Each of the Haunted Mansions starts with a "stretching room," where the walls seem to stretch. In the Disneyland and Disneyland Paris versions of the ride, the effect is achieved by lowering the floor and raising the ceiling. The scene has a practical purpose though, as it lowers guests from park level to an underground passageway containing the changing portraits corridor. This underground passageway takes guests under the park railroad and over to the actual ride, which takes place in a giant warehouse show building hidden from within the park by foliage.
    • In Tokyo Disneyland and the Florida version, where there was more room, the loading area for the ride takes place at the same level as the main mansion. Since the show building and the visible mansion are on the same level, the stretching room is not an elevator, but the effect is achieved simply by raising the ceiling.
  • I Will Wait for You: The original backstory to the ghost bride in the Haunted Mansion, taken further in the French version.
  • Jump Scare: There are pop-up ghosts hiding behind various tombstones in the graveyard. If one is paying attention, it will become clear that they all go off at the same time, at the end of every verse of the song. They're sort of like a visual exclamation point.
  • Karma Houdini: The Phantom in the Paris version, who torments the bride to her death.
  • Lightning Reveal:
    • The ceiling in the elevator goes to black, and the Ghost Host is revealed to have hung himself in life. The Phantom Manor instead reveals the corpse of the groom.
    • The original Stock Sound Effect for this was "Castle Thunder" (which many pre-1988 Disney animated features and shorts used), but in 2007, the Disney World version replaced it with newer, more realistic thunder sound effects.
    • And several paintings show monstrous views of their subjects, which reveal the monstrous side in time with the lightning flashes "outside" the mansion.
  • Lighter and Softer: Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland, which has artefacts coming to life via a mysterious music box and no ghosts. See for yourself here. It's also recommended to watch the preshow first to understand the story completely,
  • Long Runner: The original mansion's been housing spirits from all over the world since 1969.
  • Losing Your Head:
    • The Headless Knight in the Graveyard, seen singing beside his executioner.
    • The Hatbox Ghost from Disneyland's ride has a head that tends to disappear from his shoulders, fly into his hatbox, then re-appear on his shoulders again.
    • Emphasis on "Your" regarding the Magic Kingdom's version of the ride. The Hitchhiking Ghosts will literally mess with your heads. The illusion is given off of them making your head disappear, as well as taking your head off and either then swapping their head with yours, or swapping your head with the head of the person riding with you.
  • Multiple-Choice Past:
    • The Haunted Mansion's back story is pretty much whatever the ride operators decide it is that day, the only solid thing being that the house is a retirement home/boarding house of the spirit world.
    • One of the original story lines was about a blood thirsty pirate captain who built the manse for his wife who found out his secret. He then killed her, after which she came back to haunt him, which caused him to kill himself. Remnants of this story can still be seen in the mansion. Another one of the original stories was that it was the home of a murderous family known as the Family of Blood. The original record had this story on it.
    • Only Phantom Manor has an official backstory, which is tied to the theme of Big Thunder Mountain and the rest of Frontierland, but even this story is not totally concrete.
  • Mythology Gag: Disney Parks' "Attractionistas" dolls includes the HM doll Gracey, named for the alleged character named on the tombstone/the Imagineer who helped to create the ride.
  • No Antagonist: In the classic rides, there doesn't really seem to be a "villain" per se even though the majority of the spirits appear to be malevolent.
  • Off with His Head!:
    • The Headless Knight sings next to his executioner.
    • In Mystic Manor, a laughing samurai suit of armor tries to slice off Albert the monkey's head. There are three medieval suits of armor in a castle-themed display case, with separate singing helmets and weapons. Also, a Mongolian suit of armor holds aloft some helmets on a spear.
    • Played with the Hatbox Ghost.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ:
    • The Ballroom scene. The Disneyland organ is the actual prop from Disney's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea movie. Everywhere else, a replica is used.
    • The foyer, where a slow funeral-dirge version of Grim, Grinning Ghosts plays, is much eerier. Unlike the ballroom scene, where the organ is in plain view, the source of the foyer music is left up to the guest's imagination.
    • The WDW Mansion has a pipe organ headstone in its queue. It plays Grim, Grinning Ghosts when interacted with.
  • One-Woman Wail: The Bride's singing throughout Phantom Manor.
  • Only Six Faces: The grinning skull face is seen on Ezra, pop-up ghosts, pictures in the Corridor of Doors, the Hatbox Ghost, the Grim Reaper in Leota's spellbook, and the ticket-booth zombie in Phantom Canyon.
  • Oracular Head: Madame Leota, who appears as a head inside a crystal ball.
  • Overprotective Dad: Henry Ravenswood of Phantom Manor. After discovering his daughter was to leave town after getting married, he was determined to stop the wedding at all costs. He died in an earthquake that ravaged the whole town (on Big Thunder Mountain, when your train is going up the lift hill through the blasting tunnel), but his spirit goes on to murder his son-in-law to be from beyond the grave and decides to make his now depressed daughter suffer for the rest of her life in the abandoned house.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: The ballerina in the stretching paintings, to help the contrast with the grim situations in the full paintings.
  • Punny Name:
    • Constance Hatchaway, the Bride. Her marriages involved her constantly using her hatchet.
    • The elderly woman in the stretching gallery, now retconned to be Constance, used to be known as "Abigale Patecleaver", referencing the gruesome tombstone showing George's head being split open (or, his pate being cleaved) by an axe.
  • Quicksand Sucks: As we see in one of the stretching paintings.
  • Retcon:
    • The Attic scene evolved several times and each change was treated like the only version of the scene ever there.
    • Upon his return, the Hatbox Ghost's original brief backstory no longer works with the current Bride. This is actually to the hatbox effect's advantage, since he's no longer required to sync his head trick to the heartbeat, and now has time to perform more animations.
  • R-Rated Opening: Downplayed, but the Walt Disney World version's Gothic exterior was done in response to complaints that the plantation house used for the Disneyland mansion misled parents into thinking the relatively frightening attraction was fine for kids of young ages.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Look closely at Madame Leota's book. At Disneyland, that's the incantation from Blackbeard's Ghost on its page.
    • A Victorian era attired ghost can be seen in the ballroom, drunkenly swinging from the chandelier by his cane. He was inspired by the character Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
    • The organist is a shout-out to the 1925 film adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera.
    • The one-eyed black cat that appears on the tomb of the composer at Walt Disney World's mansion (itself taken from an earlier draft of the attraction), is inspired by the gruesome Edgar Allan Poe tale, The Black Cat.
    • Outside of the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion is the tomb of the murderous Bluebeard (died 1440) and his wives. The inscription reads, "Six of them were faithful, but the seventh did him in."
    • At Walt Disney World, in the back of the pet cemetery, there is a headstone of Mr. Toad in tribute to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which closed in 1998, to be replaced by Winnie the Pooh.
    • The Corridor of Doors is a shout-out to The Haunting (1963) (based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson), which a bunch of the WED Imagineers, and Walt Disney, went to see together.
    • The human arm sconces in the crypt were inspired by the 1946 film La Belle et la Bête, the French film adaptation of the Fairy Tale "Beauty and the Beast". La Belle et la Bête was one of Rolly Crump's favorite films.
    • The Endless Staircases in the Walt Disney World Mansion is a shout-out to M.C. Escher's "Relativity".
    • The pharmacist in Phantom Manor is a shout-out to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.
    • Also at Phantom Manor, the final act's dancing skeletons reference Disney's classic 1928 short The Skeleton Dance.
    • The claw coming out at you in the clock hall is a shout-out to Nosferatu.
    • The drummer of the graveyard band is based on the folk story of the Drummer of Tedworth.
    • Mystic Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland has plenty of shoutouts to the Haunted Mansion. In the Mediterranean Antiquities Room, there is a painting of Medusa that transforms into her monstrous Gorgon form complete with red eyes, a conservatory with huge Venus Flytraps, and in the Armory, three knight's suits of armour singing cheerfully.
    • Phantom Manor's mansion facade is clearly based on the Bates' residence from Psycho.
  • Special Effects Evolution: Evident in several updates of the ride, including the "floating Leota", Constance, and the updated Hatbox Ghost.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Adventure Thru Inner Space, also narrated by Paul Frees.
  • Tightrope Walking: The pretty young lady with the parasol in the stretching room. If only she were performing over a net.
  • Troll:
    • The Ghost Host, with mortals as his targets.
    • The Hitchhiking Ghosts in Magic Kingdom's version of the ride, with the riders also being their targets.
  • Tuckerization:
    • Madame Leota is named for Leota Toombs, who provided her visage.
    • Several tombstones are named after the Imagineers who worked on the ride, the most famous being Master Gracey after special effects designer Yale Gracey. Other ones include Grandpa Marc (Marc Davis), Brother Claude (Claude Coats), Francis Xavier (X. Atencio), and Brother Dave (Dave Schweninger). The WDW queue also has one for Mister Frees (Paul Frees, the voice of the Ghost Host) and features a Ravenscroft brand organ.
  • Unfinished Business: Constance seems to hang around in the Mansion because she was never brought to justice; the Hatbox Ghost seems to tell visitors where some incriminating evidence can be found in the attic. All of the other ghosts, however, are hanging out in the mortal world for the fun of it.
  • Vader Breath: A door bulges out and breathes heavily.
  • Visual Pun:
    • The opera singers are a visual pun on The Phantom of the Opera, and the fact that they're placed very near the end of the ride means "It's not over until the fat lady sings."
    • The Grand Ballroom scene contains a ghost of Caesar, as in "Great Caesar's ghost!"

"There's a little matter I forgot to mention... Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts!"

The video game contains examples of:

  • Degraded Boss: Every enemy is introduced as part of a big battle. After being defeated, more show up as regular enemies.

"Hurry baaaaack...hurry baaaaack...be sure to bring your death certificate, if you decide to join us. Make final arrangements now. We've been...dying to have you..."
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