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Hidden Magic of the Haunted Mansion



A few days ago, I wrote a post about the history of the Haunted Mansion. Today, I’m writing about the hidden magic of the Haunted Mansion. These are essentially details and fun facts that enhance the story of the mansion, pay tribute to people or characters relevant to Disney history, or are just really cool to know. For this post, we’ll go in order of the attraction, starting before you ever enter the queue line. Just a note, this post is specific to the Magic Kingdom version of the Haunted Mansion located in Walt Disney World. Some of the information will translate over to the Disneyland version, but this post is specific to Walt Disney World. With that out of the way, let’s begin, shall we? In the words of our Ghost Host, “There’s no turning back now.”

The Haunted Mansion makes an incredible impression before you ever enter the queue line. Look at the roofline of the building. Don’t those look suspiciously like chess pieces? Disney officially states that they’re not, but Claude Coats was one of the co-art directors of the mansion, and he was an avid chess fan. You be the judge. If you happen to be around the mansion after dark, be sure to stand and watch it for a few moments. You might just see a ghostly figure pass by a window. See if you can spot the weathervane above the belfry. Does that look like a bat to you? Since we are located in Liberty Square, the mansion was placed by the river, and done in the Hudson River Valley Dutch Gothic style. It certainly looks imposing!

As you enter the queue line, look at the iron work on the gate. There is a bat-like creature placed in the center. Also, there is a murder mystery in the queue line. It’s toward the front, so keep your eyes peeled. Look for the semi-circle of suspicious looking busts early on in the queue line. If you don’t have time to stop and read them all, take pictures of all the busts and plaques to solve the mystery later. Be sure to look at the back when you pass that side. There might be clues back there, as well. Know that 13 is the number of the mansion. How many references to the number 13 can you find? I’ll mention a few as we go. The raven is a recurring character throughout the attraction. Your first encounter with him should be in the queue line. How many times can you spot him? When you get to the graveyard, be sure to look at the tombstones. Each one represents Imagineers who worked on the attraction. Here are some of the most famous:

· Brother Claude – Claude Coats – he was a co-art director on the mansion

· Grandpa Marc – Marc Davis – he was also a co-art director

· Master Gracey – Yale Gracey – he was a special effects wizard who created the effects seen in the mansion

· Madame Leota – Leota Toombs – Beware! She might wake up and open her eyes!

· Francis Xavier – X. Atencio – script writer and lyricist for the mansion

We are now entering the mansion. Look at the pillars on the front door. They look like coffins, don’t they?

We have now entered the foyer of the mansion. The portrait hanging above the mantle inside is that of Master Gracey. He is the phantom of the manor, so does that make him the Ghost Host? The Ghost Host was voiced by legendary voice actor Paul Frees. Disney fans may recognize him as the voice of Ludwig von Drake, but did you know that he also did the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy? Look at the portraits in the Stretching Room carefully. The woman sitting on the headstone holding a rose is Constance Hatchaway. The headstone belongs to her final husband, George. We’ll meet and discuss more about her later. Listen closely when exiting the Stretching Room. You might hear the gargoyles talking. They are reminding you to stay together. As you proceed through the mansion, look at the moldings around the doors. They look like stylized skulls. Also, pay attention to the weather throughout the ride. There seems to be a storm that comes and goes. The weather sure is strange here at the Haunted Mansion!

You’ve now gotten a ride aboard your Doom Buggy, and you’re making your way through the mansion. Just what have you gotten yourself into? Look at the grandfather clock at you pass it. It actually shows 13 hours, and the hands on the clock look strange. That’s because they’re gnarled fingers. The sounds in the Corridor of Doors is inspired by the 1936 film The Haunting. Look up what the film is about if you would like to know specifics. I don’t want to detract from the intended feeling of this part of the ride if you’ve never ridden before. When you get to the Séance Room, notice the large book underneath Madame Leota. It’s a spell book, and it’s open to page 1313. Now that Madame Leota has conjured up the spirits for us, let’s move on to the second half of the attraction.

The ghosts in the ballroom are created using an effect called Pepper’s Ghost, which was created in the mid-1800’s by John Henry Pepper. It’s a simple technique that uses lights and mirrors. If you’re dying to know more, Google it. The cake on the table in the ballroom has 13 candles on it. The pipe organ on the far end of the ballroom is a replica of the one used in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The original one from the film is located in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. When you enter the attic, you’re face-to-face with Constance Hatchaway, the bride. You can see photos of all 5 of her poor, deceased husbands along with marriage certificates in the attic. She seems to be preparing for marriage to husband number 6, but who’s the groom? Have you noticed that you turn backwards to exit the attic through the window? It seems as though you fall out the window. Was it an accident, or were we pushed? The caretaker in the graveyard looks a little spooked, but look, he’s not looking at the other ghosts. He’s looking at you! You’ve symbolically become the 1,000th ghost. Does the caretaker’s dog look familiar? His name is Rover, and he can also be found in the Carousel of Progress and Pirates of the Caribbean. One of the singing statues in the graveyard might sound familiar. That would be Thurl Ravenscroft, known for being the voice of Tony the Tiger, and for singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” The Hitchhiking Ghosts are named Gus, Ezra, and Phineas, and they are to follow you home until you return. You have been chosen to be the 1,000th soul to join the mansion, so they are anxiously awaiting your return. The mini Leota figure at the end of the ride is the only one to feature the voice of the real Leota Toombs. She urges you to “Hurry back!” The Madame Leota in the Séance Room is voiced by Eleanor Audley, who is known as the voice of Maleficent and Lady Tremaine.

You have now completed your journey through the Haunted Mansion, but we’re not done yet! Look closely at the pet cemetery after you exit the attraction. Mr. Toad is forever memorialized here. He’s toward the back, but fairly easy to spot. He was added here after his attraction, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, was closed to make room for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Did you enjoy your trip through the Haunted Mansion?

This is only a fraction of the hidden magic located in and around the Haunted Mansion. It is by far the attraction with the most hidden magic. If you want to know more, I highly recommend watching the Haunted Mansion episode of the Behind the Attraction on Disney+. I also love The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World books by Susan Veness. There are also some great blog posts by WDW Magazine about the Haunted Mansion. These are the resources that I personally used when putting this post together, but there is so much more than what I have written here. I hope that you enjoyed this post, and hurry back for more Disney fun in the near future.

As always, follow me on Instagram and Facebook for even more Disney. Subscribe to the blog to keep up with all the latest posts.

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