Halloween is quickly approaching and it’s the 50th Anniversary of the attraction this year, so it’s fitting to do a fun fact article on the Haunted Mansion.
13 Fun Facts About the Haunted Mansion
Inflation is Crazy
The original attraction in Disneyland cost about $7 million, which would be around $45 million today.
2. It Was Originally Planned as a Walk-Through Attraction
The concept for the Haunted Mansion changed a couple of times though out it’s inception. It was originally meant to be a walk-through. A boat ride attraction through an old plantation house in the bayou was also considered.
Imagineer Rolly Crump had concept art the the idea to give it an almost side show element with a “Museum of the Weird.” Later that artwork would become the inspiration for the famous chair, and with Claude Coats, the wallpaper print that we all love so much!
3. The Attraction Was an Empty Shell for Years
The building that holds the original Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyland was actually built in 1963, but it remained empty until the ride was added and then opened in 1969.
Originally the ride was delayed due to Walt Disney’s involvement in the 1964-1965 World’s Fair and then when Walt passed away in late 1966, it was redesigned into the ride we have today.
4. Is This Room Actually Stretching?
Those familiar with the popular attraction know of the “Stretching Room.” This is the portrait room that “stretches” to reveal the four painting in their entirety. During this part of the ride the Ghost Host asks “Is this haunted room actually stretching, or is it your imagination?”
Well the answer to that question depends on which Haunted Mansion you are in. If you are in the Disneyland, or Paris’s Phantom Manor version, the room is actually an elevator platform that moves you down to the entrance of the ride.
Walt Disney World’s version stays stationary but the ceiling moves up to give the same illusion.
5. The Stretching Room Gargoyles will Whisper to you.
A fun little touch is the gargoyles in the stretching room. They hold the candles around the room. If you stay behind, let everyone leave ahead of you, and listen, you can hear them whispering for you to “Get out!” Most people rush to get into line and they miss this.
6. The Ballroom Uses An Old “Magic” Effect
One of my favorite parts of the entire attraction is the ballroom area. There are ghosts appearing all over for the “swinging wake.” Through doorways, on the chandelier, at the organ, at the table, in chairs, having a duel and dancing around the floor.
But how does Disney accomplish this?
By using an old magic trick from the 1800’s called “Pepper’s Ghost.” Named after John Henry Pepper, objects are reflected onto glass that make them appear translucent and holographic. Under the platform the cars travel on are figures moving. The large pane of glass reflects them back to us and we see them as “ghost-like” figures.
7. The Famous Ballroom Organ Actually Belonged to Captain Nemo
If you are on the Disneyland attraction, the organ that Victor Geist, is playing actually was once on the Nautilus. It’s the same organ used in the film 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. As we know, Disney is always re-purposing items and the film organ was modified for the attraction. Of course the organs in other attractions are replicas.
8. Madame Leota Was An Imagineer
Fan favorite, Madame Leota was actually modeled after Imagineer Leota Toombs Thomas.
Leota started working at the Disney company in 1940 as a member of the ink and paint department. Later, she transferred into Animation where she met her husband Harvey Toombs.
She stopped working at Disney to raise their children but returned in 1962 as a member of WED Enterprises, which is now known as Disney Imagineering.
As part of WED 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 assisted on Pirates of the Caribbean and, of course, The Haunted Mansion.
While working on the Haunted Mansion Imagineer Yale Gracey asked her to pose for the head to make sure it worked properly. After the trial ended they decided to keep her likeness and named the character “Madame Leota.”
She is the likeness but not the voice. For Leota and Disney brought in Maleficent voice actress Eleanor Audley to do a voice over for the effect. But Leota’s voice can be heard in the last scene of the ride. She voiced the small bride figure that says “Hurry back. Hurry back. Be sure to bring your death certificate.”
9. Leota’s Daughter Also Became and Imagineer Working on the Haunted Mansion.
A well known part of the Haunted Mansion attraction is the Pet Cemetery. The Imagineer behind that was Kim Irvine, who is the daughter of Leota Toombs Thomas.
She also posed for the updated version of the seance room as Madame Leota, due to the likeness to her mother.
10. Mr. Toad Lives on in Walt Disney World
Both American Haunted Mansion attractions feature a pet cemetery, but the one in Walt Disney World holds a little Easter egg homage to Mr. Toad.
In 1998 the attraction was closed and replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Fans were not happy about it’s removal. So in remembrance of J. Thaddeus Toad, a small statue was placed in the pet cemetery.
11. The Tomb Stones Are Named After Imagineers:
When you get into the queue for 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.”
12. The Servants Area Secrets
There are several “hidden” call backs to various Imagineers hidden in the attraction. One example is at the Walt Disney World version.
There is a door that is labeled “Servants Quarters No Entry” in the attraction. Through that door cast members can exit into the queuing area for the ride. Hidden in that hallway is a set of bells. Each bell corresponds to a location inside the Haunted Mansion.
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
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.
13. The Attraction Once Had Live Actors
Back in the day Disney hired actors to play suits of armor knights that would jump out and scare guests. This didn’t last long as actors got punched and hit. Once an actor had his nose broken when he got too close to a woman.
They did try initiating a 6 foot rule where the actors has to stay 6 feet away from the guests and couldn’t scare children or the elderly. Disney even provided the actors with a device to stop the ride if necessary. One actor even talked about how he had to stop the attraction when a woman got up and threw her purse at him.
Disney stopped using the actors after a short time.
There you have it! 13 fun facts about the Haunted Mansion!
What do you think? Comment and let us know!
Sources: Myself from a previous article, Inside The Magic, Long Forgotten Haunted Mansion, Mentalfloss, Disney Wikia, Disney Dispatch, Doombuggies, Buzzfeed, Disneyland, Disney World, D23, The Theme Park Guy, Tumblr, Doombuggies