(Old) Haunted Mansion FAQ
December 20, 2001
NOTE: This FAQ was originally done by Don Bertino. In 1996 I reformatted and updated the FAQ (mostly to reflect things in the WDW version which wasn't mentioned in the original hardly at all). I present it here just for anyone interested...
This list of "Frequently Asked Questions" currently covers the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland in California, and The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida. Descriptions may also be similar to the version at Tokyo Disneyland, but Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris has significant changes and will not be covered in this document.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
This document is Copyright (c) 1996, by Don Bertino, all rights reserved. It is intended for public use, and may be redistributed freely printed or electronically in its complete and unaltered form provided distribution is done at no charge to the receiver. Partial and other distribution means require the permission of the author. Send comments, suggestions, corrections to email@example.com. Portions of this FAQ have been updated, altered, changed, edited, and messed with by Allen Huffman (allen@disneyfans_REMOVE_THIS.com), mainly to add missing information and, specifically, more details about the version at Walt Disney World.
*** SPOILER WARNING ***
I do believe in Santa Claus, Tooth Faire and the Easter Bunny etc.. 8(:-) The following document is describing what is done when some of the 999 ghosts go on vacation and some of the effects have to be done with machines, smoke and mirrors....
Comments from the maintainer, and credits:
I just wanted to thank the people below, for without their help, this FAQ would not have been possible:
Just what is the Haunted Mansion.
What is the Haunted Mansion?
The Haunted Mansion is an audio-animatronic ride-through attraction which opened in 1969 at Disneyland. Another version was constructed for the 1971 opening of The Magic Kingdom in Florida. The ride takes place in vehicles known as Doom Buggies (which resemble Tilt-a-Whirl cars). Each vehicle sits up to three people and has an onboard speaker system which provides narration during the slow journey through the Mansion. The vehicles are designed in such a way to restrict vision and to rotate in order to move the rider through the scenes much as a camera in a movie would "pan" from scene to scene.
The ride taking guests through rooms in the mansion and then finally out through the cemetery. Ride time is approximately ___ minutes at Disneyland, and ___ minutes at The Magic Kingdom.
What does the Haunted Mansion look like?
In Disneyland, it's a non-scary building in New Orleans Square. Similar to the style a lot of college campuses in New Orleans, which offer, like many colleges in the U.S., an online criminal justice degree. Walt Disney rejected the original proposal for it to look dilapidated since he didn't want anything at Disneyland to look run down. At The Magic Kingdom it is a stone mansion near the riverfront of Liberty Square and looks much more "haunted". Haunted Mansion ASCII art (Disneyland) by Don Bertino:
Haunted Mansion ASCII art (The Magic Kingdom) by ________:
The following is the official attraction description from the Disneyland tour book for guests with hearing impairments:
THE HAUNTED MANSION
Filled from basement to attic with ghouls, and apparitions, and featuring "delightfully unlivable" conditions, the Haunted Mansion opened August 9, 1969. Latest population figures show that there are 999 residents at home in the Haunted Mansion, but they are looking for number 1000 -- which *might* be any human volunteer foolish enough to enter. Ghost residents are a potpourri of supernatural, occult, psychic, and historical types, ranging from Egyptian and Roman to the Napoleonic and Dickens eras. There is also an assortment of fluttering bats, talking ravens, screaming banshees, screeching owls and cats, and baying hounds. On the outside, an ominous cemetery rises just outside the Mansion's courtyard, and a mysterious orange "glow" drifts past the upper floor windows.
Our Haunted Mansion is inhabited by the most fun-loving ghosts ever to materialize. Featured are not only its floating, jumping, dancing residents, but also stretching rooms, creaking doors and other little surprises guaranteed to send shivers up the spine of the bravest guest. Disneyland supplies an official "Ghost Host" to keep you company during your trip. From the moment you enter the mansion's icy parlor to the conclusion of this chilling journey, his haunting commentary will follow you wherever you go.
Your tour begins in the gallery, a large, wood-paneled room that has no windows and no doors. Suddenly, the room begins stretching and then...a loud thunder crack and scream!
You venture down a long hallway lined with eerie paintings, and just outside can be heard the cracks of thunder from a violent storm. From here, you're silently ushered into your hooded "doom buggy" that will transport you into a world of unearthly delights never before imagined. Here, amidst creaks, groans, moans and occasional terror filled screams, you'll pass down a hallway lined with doors that seem almost alive, and then move into a seance where things really start hopping! Spirits are commanded to materialize by Madame Leota, who, strangely enough, looks not *into*, but *out of* a crystal ball! Tambourines, drums, trumpets and other musical instruments float aimlessly about the room awaiting her commands.
The party really gets under way in a Victorian grand ballroom, where ghost who have missed the passing of time are still enjoying a banquet...still performing graceful waltzes...still celebrating as they did in a prior life. You'll visit other happy haunting grounds too, from musty old attics to a very lively graveyard, where our fun-loving ghosts are engaged in a song-filled celebration.
As mentioned earlier, the inhabitants of the Haunted Mansion are always on the lookout for new residents, and Little Leota, the small "ghostess" at the exit of the Haunted Mansion, extends this cordial invitation:
"Hurry back...hurry back! Be sure to bring your Death Certificate if you decide to join us...make final arrangements now...we've been DYING to have you..."
What are the differences between Disneyland's and The Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansions?
Most will be pointed out in the FAQ where appropriate.
Basically, The Magic Kingdom contains a few extra scenes (the hallway of paintings with eyes that follow you, the library, passing through the tomb with Little Leota on the ledge). Disneyland has the hallway you walk through before boarding the ride vehicles (with changing paintings and windows showing a storm outside), a revamped attic, unabridged soundtrack, and Little Leota by the exit ramp. Which one is better is up to debate, but it is easy to see that Disneyland has more enhancements overall. Those who have visited Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris seem to think it's reworking of the attraction to be better than either of the U.S. originals. Here is a more detailed list of differences:
The Disneyland Mansion looks like a nice grand scale manor in Louisiana due to it's location in New Orleans Square. It's not scary on the outside at all. You enter the mansion through doors at ground level after, during crowd season, queuing around the side of the Mansion past a pet cemetery and, near the back, some gravestones up on a hillside. The foyer is a small and plain room where the first narration is heard, the a door opens into the familiar stretch room. From this point on, the only real difference is the loading area. You go down a corridor with "windows" to the left with rain and lightning effects outside, and changing pictures on the right. At the end of the hallway are two busts in the wall (one male, one female) that follow you. Then, where the Doom Buggies roll out is a background of moving clouds (which is a very neat effect but doesn't seem to make sense in a house).
At The Magic Kingdom in Florida the mansion is off on it's own near Liberty Square and has a much more menacing appearance. It's stone and up on a hillside. You enter around near a graveyard and go through doors which would seem to lead into a basement level. The foyer area is a room with a fireplace and changing (aging) photograph above it. Doors lead into the stretch room from here. The loading area is a hallway and the Doom Buggies ride past a mansion wall.
TMK goes under the stairway with floating candles, then through a short hallway with pictures on both sides. They eyes follow you. Then it goes past a library room with a bit of narration about the books being by the greatest "ghost writers" who ever lived, and mentions that they are all "ghost stories" (of course). There are a number of busts on the wall that follow you as you pass. The male and female ones (from DL) are seen duplicated, with a few others.
The attic scene is much different at DL. DL's was recently rethemed with a phantom piano player with a morbid version of the wedding march being played by a shadow. The heads scream "I Do!" and the Bride is now more spooky looking. At TMK it's the "classic" screaming head room, and a photograph now stands next to the Bride. The photo is of the Bride when she was young, with her father (a picture from Euro's Phantom Manor).
After exiting the attic, the raven is directly above you at DL, and off
to the right at TMK.
Most everything else is very close from DL to TMK.
What resources are there detailing the differences in various Mansions?
Steve Ziolkowski has put together two great web pages at:
It includes a complete walk-through description of Phantom Manor. Hopefully, he (or someone else) will do the same for the other versions.
What is a doom buggy and what is the capacity per hour?
Doom Buggy is the show name for Disney's OmniMover system. It was initially developed for the "Adventures in Inner Space" attraction by a team led by Bob Gurr. (They resemble Tilt-a-Whirl cars.) The cars, linked together, move forward via a 12-volt electric drive train. The vehicles themselves have no means of locomotion. They are driven by a series of ten motors located throughout the ride. Each car can also be rotated 180 degrees--from facing forward to facing backward. This rotation, combined with scalloped design of the car, allows the designers to control what the guests see at any given time. Each car is also equipped with 3 speakers. The sound (which is not stereo, as commonly reported) is transmitted to odd-numbered cars via a narrow band transmitter. The signal (once received) is then passed on to the even-numbered car behind it.
At DL, they are changing out the old Radio Frequency receivers on the cars to new digital chips and adding the "missing script" back in. TMK in Florida still uses the radio transmitters.
Disneyland's Haunted Mansion has 131 cars, with a guest capacity of 2,618 guests per hour, granting 2.25 guests per car, assuming no ride stops (wheelchairs or slow guests). A typical hour at full capacity is 2000-2400.
WDW's Haunted Mansion has 160 cars, due to its longer track, with a guest capacity of 3,200 guests per hour.
What is the script and who wrote it?
The original script was written by Xavier Atencio, and goes as follows:
// in the lobby at Disneyland, and the changing picture/fireplace room
When hinges creak in doorless chambers and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls, whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still, that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight. Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host, your Ghost Host. Kindly step all the way in please, and make room for everyone. There's no turning back now.
// sliding doors open and guests are led into a round room with four
Our tour begins here in this gallery, where you see paintings of some of our guests as they appeared in their corruptible, mortal state.
// the room begins to "stretch", revealing humorous portions
Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination? And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows, and no doors. Which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! Of course, there's always my way.
// lights go out and a flash of lightning reveals an attic up above where
Oh, I didn't mean to frighten you prematurely. The real chills come later. Now, as they say, "look alive," and we'll continue our little tour. And let's all stay together, please. There are several prominent ghosts who have retired here from creepy old crypts all over the world. Actually, we have 999 happy haunts here, but there's room for a thousand. Any volunteers? If you insist on lagging behind, you may not need to volunteer.
// The following two paragraphs alternate, depending on which expanding
The carriage that will carry you into the moldering sanctum of the spirit world will accommodate you and one or two loved ones. Kindly watch your step as you board, please. We spirits haunt our best in gloomy darkness, so remember, no flash pictures, please.
And now a carriage approaches to take you into the boundless realm of the supernatural. Take your loved ones by the hand, please, and kindly watch your step. Oh yes, and no flash pictures, please. We spirits are frightfully sensitive to bright lights.
// you are escorted to your Doom Buggie
Do not pull down on the safety bar, please; I will lower it for you. And heed this warning: the spirits will materialize only if you remain quietly seated at all times.
// at The Magic Kingdom, you pass under some stairs where a floating
We find it delightfully unlivable here in this ghostly retreat. Every room has wall-to-wall creeps and hot and cold running chills. Shhh, listen.
// during the last rehab in Sept 1995, these two paragraphs where added
All our ghosts have been dying to meet you. This one can hardly contain himself. Unfortunately, they all seem to have trouble getting through. Perhaps Madam Leota can establish contact. She has a remarkable head for materializing the disembodied.
// you enter the seance room. musical instruments, tables, lamps, and
Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat.
The happy haunts have received your sympathetic vibrations and are beginning to materialize. They're assembling for a swinging wake. And they'll be expecting me. I'll see you all a little later.
// you enter a balcony area overlooking a large banquet room down below.
GRIM GRINNING GHOSTS:
When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake
Ah, there you are. And just in time. There's a little matter I forgot to mention: Beware of hitchhiking ghosts!
// as you exit the graveyard, three hitchhiking ghosts are in front of you
They have selected you to fill our quota, and they'll haunt you until you return.
// you pass in front of a series of mirrors and one of the three
Now I will raise the safety bar, and a ghost will follow you home.
// and eerie version of Grim Grinning Ghosts plays, very slowly, as you
GRIM GRINNING GHOSTS:
If you would like to join our jamboree
// at The Magic Kingdom you pass under a Little Leota statue while you
Hurry back, hurry back. Be sure to bring your death certificate if you decide to join us. Make final arrangements now. We've been dying to have you.
What are some of the lines cast members use?
You will note, at least at TMK, the cast member name badges often have home towns such as "Tombstone, AZ" and sometimes even the names are more "show" than, likely, real.
Credit where credit is due... Who is who and who did what?
Who is Master Gracey?
Cast Members will often greet you (at The Magic Kingdom) with "Master Gracey will see you now..." or similar. If anyone knows the story of Master Gracey, it would be a nice addition here. There is a tombstone at TMK before entering the Mansion about Master Gracey.
Who does the voice of the "Ghost Host"?
The narrator's name is the late (and much lamented) Paul Frees. He was not only a well know Voice Over artist in the industry, but had also done several jobs for Glenn Larson (creator of Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers.) His distinctive voice can also be heard in several other Disney attractions such as "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln" (narrator), and the now defunct "Adventure thru Inner Space" (narrator). Frees is perhaps best known for providing the voice of Boris Badanov, the villain of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. You can actually see him in "The Thing", the original.
Who is the head in the crystal ball and the small woman at the end?
Both "Madam Leota" and "Little Leota" use the face of Disney Imagineer Leota Thomas. Leota Thomas (her maiden name was Leota Toombs) mainly worked in the model shop and could be seen in the Small World pictorial guide, now out of print, which showed several "making of" photos. Thomas is the voice of "Little Leota" at the end of the attraction. Unfortunately, she passed away two or three years ago. (1992/1993)
Eleanor Audley is the voice of Madam Leota (also Maleficent and Lady Tremain). Leota Thomas's daughter, Kim Irvine, is also an Imagineer and works in Show Quality at Disneyland.
Who are the five singing busts?
Firstly, Leslie Nelson is NOT one of the singing busts. Neither is Walt Disney. "Grim Grinning Ghosts" is sung by the Mell-O Men, a barbershop-type Quartet (Max Smith, Bill Cole Stevens, Bill Lee and Thurl Ravenscroft).
The 5 Singing Busts were rumored to be the Mell-O Men also, but at this time, we are not sure who they are... Except for the broken head is Thurl Ravenscroft, also known as the voice of Tony the Tiger. We will try to straighten it who is who in future versions.
The secrets of the Haunted Mansion ...
How does the ceiling disappear in the stretch room?
The ceiling is actually painted on a thin cloth, called a scrim. The area above the ceiling is dark, so all light reflects back from the scrim giving the appearance of a ceiling. When the lower room lights are turned out and the scene above lights up from the lightning, the scrim isn't visible. (The same technique is used at the Disney/MGM Studios presentation of Muppet Vision 3-D to make "holes" in the walls appear near the end of the show.)
How are the images of Leota and the singing busts done?
These effects were originally done through 16mm projections onto the blank busts. A special company creates lenses which are "warped" at ertain angles to keep the image in focus around the edges of the surface, giving a three dimensional effect when viewed from the sides. During a rehab at Disneyland, all the projections were replaced with laserdisc imaging. Madam Leota (in the crystal ball) was changed from front projection to a rear projection system involving fiber optics to get the image up to the face mask. This effect isn't quite as clear as the original, but it did allow the seance table to be made to mysteriously wobble.
At The Magic Kingdom, the images were still 16mm film, but during a rehab early in 1996 the singing busts were changed to laserdisc. Unfortunately, the images don't quite line up as well as the originals do, possibly due to no longer being able to use the special custom designed projection lenses to "smooth" out the image on the non-flat surface. Also, after a few months of this rehab, the lyrics audio STILL doesn't sync with the background music. :(
How does sound get transmitted to the Doom Buggies?
The original system, which is still in use at the Magic Kingdom, involves a series of short range transmitters throughout the ride. The narration is transmitted to an even numbered buggy which is also wired into the speakers of the odd numbered buggy behind it. This system is very out of date and is potentially going to be replaced by a digital chip based system. At least one group of vehicles at Disneyland now uses this system.
How do they get the busts to follow you? (as seen at the end of the hallway after exiting the stretch room at Disneyland, and as they appear on the walls of the library at The Magic Kingdom)
The busts are actually inverted. Like they actually took a mold of a bust, made a thin material that lets light through. They sold under the name Living Image. I have only found the small one (the box being 4 x 5 inches and the bust being 1"x1 1/2". There is a small mirror in front near the bottom that you need to use to reflect as much light as you can on the face. There is a male face (Lincoln's) and a female face (??).
They sell for $7.99 and can be shipped. Their address is:
They sell this effect in the Toontown Gag Factory around Halloween.
How do they do the ballroom?
The ghosts in the ballroom is probably the nicest (and simplest) effect known as "Pepper's Ghost" and has been popular since the turn-of-the-century.
All you are looking at is a reflection in the clear reflective "windows" that cover the entire balcony that you are looking through. (You can see the windows if you look closely enough.) Both above and below you, there is a reproduction of the space you are looking forward into; so the actual audioanimatronics are going through their motions ABOVE, BELOW AND BESIDE you. Since the space you are in is dark, you can see both what is lit through the window (the ballroom set) and what is REFLECTED in the window (the audioanimatronics.) To give you an example: when you walk toward a sliding glass door at night, you see yourself as well as what is outside. The amount you see of either depends on how much light is falling on you or what is outside. Disney makes the ghosts appear to fade in and out by simply dimming and fading the lights on the actual audioanimatronics above and below your "doom buggy".
How do they make the graveyard look so spooky?
Throughout the graveyard are strung long thin mesh drapes from the ceiling. These give everything a more spooky appearance, and also gives the projectors something to show "flying ghosts" on.
How do they project a ghost into your doom buggy to "follow you home?"
The mirrors that you are looking into are one-way mirrors or 50% mirrors. They are the ones security use to check shop lifters or police use in interrogation rooms (I know I have been watching too much TV :-) The ghosts are in sync with the doom buggy going by and have a weak light put on them. This allows you to see both your reflection and the ghosts through the mirror.
Things that make you go ... huh?
Why is there a spider web on the ballroom "glass" at Disneyland?
As you're going through it look and you'll notice what's supposed to look like a spider web on one of the sheets of glass. (It's on one of the last ones you see) The story I heard behind this (from a HM Cast Member and a good friend of mine) is that one night somebody actually shot through the glass, leaving a bullet hole.
This was confirmed by Mark Keiser (Retlaw 72-76 Security 77-81) Summer 1974 "The guy that shot there presumably also shot the hole in the last or second to last window of the Primeval World diorama. Later investigation determined the hole to be .22 caliber (in both places), and bullet fragments matched (courtesy of Anaheim PD) the holes in Adventures in Inner Space (he shot up the snow flakes)."
There is another bullet sized hole beneath the duelist on the right, so perhaps a deranged guest was shooting at "the man with the gun". They knew that to replace the glass they'd have to take the roof off the building first, so they decided to simply disguise it as a spider web. BTW, there is a spare pane in the back lot.
Why is there a bride in the attic?
The bride was a character from one of the earliest treatments for the mansion who "made the cut." At one point, the whole ride was going to revolve around the bride's story. This idea was revamped for EDL's Phantom Manor.
Regan B. Pederson (firstname.lastname@example.org) posted about the Phantom Manor:
The Groom (I'll call them the Groom, the Bride and the Phantom because I don't know what their real names are supposed to be) owns most of Frontierland. He falls in love with the Bride, and they are engaged. Before they are married, though, she wants to return back east to visit with her family. While she is gone the Groom has a lavish, extravagant, beautiful house built on a hill at the edge of the Rivers of the Far West. The site overlooked Frontierland and could be seen from all around.
The house is no sooner built than it is haunted - by the Phantom. Unfortunately for the Groom, the Phantom has fallen in love with the Bride as well. The Groom plans a magnificent wedding party for the night the bride would return. She promised him she would arrive in her wedding gown, ready to go. The magical night arrives. The Groom dresses up, the guests arrive, the cake is made, and the Phantom was there. Just before the Bride arrived the Phantom hung the groom from the tower of the house.
The Bride arrived at the house and couldn't find her fiancee. After searching the entire place (but never looking up) she sits at the edge of the ballroom and cries as she watches what should have been her wedding party go on. Then, she looks behind her, and outside the Phantom is there laughing. She realizes what he has done but there is nothing she can do about it, and the Phantom condemns the Bride to live with him for the rest of their eternal lives in the house.
Okay, well, that's pretty much the story as I know it. One of the disadvantages of Phantom Manor is that due to budget constraints the Imagineers had to work the story into scenes that have existed at the storyless Haunted Mansion for years. Everything has been updated and improved and worked into the story as much as possible, but it's obvious that the Imagineers struggled here. Another problem is that the story had to be made visually apparent so that you could understand it no matter which language you speak. There is no narration in the "doom buggies", the Phantom only speaks to you in the foyer and stretch room. It's in French anyway, so if you don't understand it you're out of luck. Incidentally, Vincent Price did the original Phantom narration.
THe floor plan of Phantom Manor is almost identical to the Haunted Mansion. The intercoms, emergency exits, break area, etc.. The vehicles were modified so that there instead of the front of the "clamshell" lowering down, there is just a bar. There must be some minor modifications, though; because there are only 130 vehicles in Phantom Manor.
At TMK, there is a wedding ring embedded in the concrete where the exit gates are. It's worn down and barely resembles the ring it was, but it's still there. The significance of this is unclear.
Why do they ask you to step away from the walls in the stretch room?
At Disneyland, it is likely that they don't want anyone leaning against the sliding elevator doors. At The Magic Kingdom, which doesn't use an elevator, it's probably just so everyone can see things better and so that the cast member can make his way around the room. Anyone know for sure?
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