Everybody knows about the Haunted Mansion right? A fun attraction where guests visit a retirement home for ghosts and ghouls. 999 residents, but always room for one more. Well what if I told you that there was a version of this classic attraction that was very different? No I’m not referring to Music Manor at Hong Kong Disneyland. I mean something that is actually terrifying. Something definitely not suitable for small children. This my friends is Phantom Manor, Disneyland Paris’ twisted version of the classic ride.
The ride was one of the opening attractions at EuroDisneyland, now known as Disneyland Paris, in April of 1992. Then executive of Imagineering, Tony Baxter, wanted a number of classic Disney attractions modified for the European audience, and the Haunted Mansion was one of them. The name was changed to Phantom Manor since Phantom is easier to translate for a non-english speaking audience. The ride was to have a much darker theme and story, taking inspiration from the French novel The Phantom of the Opera. The idea was to have a story for the ride would be tied to Frontierland and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
The original story goes that Henry Ravenswood, a profitable frontiersman, founded the town of Thunder Mesa. Become extremely wealthy he built a mansion on the top of a large hill overlooking the town as a symbol of his status. His daughter Melanie was the talk of the town, being one of the most beautiful young women the west had ever seen. Eventually Melanie had fallen in love with a train conductor and wished to marry him. Her father objected due to his background, but an earthquake hit Thunder Mesa, taking almost half the town and Henry Ravenswood himself with it.
Free to marry her lover Melanie was dressed in her wedding dress awaiting her groom, but her groom never came. Her lover was found mysteriously hanged in the rafters, in such a way that it could have only been murder. Melanie fell into a state of despair and remained at the house, seemingly awaiting her groom until she herself disappeared. The town of Thunder Mesa was abandoned, but the Manor at the top of the hill remained. Whispers of a mad phantom and the ghost of a young bride still haunt that old decaying house.
The ride itself is more haunting, the Ghost of the young bride is seen throughout as well as the laughing Phantom. Guests make their way across the old house, visiting similar but slightly altered sequences. Where the ride differs the most is the ending, where the Phantom standing above a hole in the ground has you enter into an underground cave where crosses rise from their graves. At the bottom you make it to the half of Thunder Mesa that was lost in the earthquake, inhabited by the ghosts of all who perished. At the end a now zombie-like Phantom entices you to enter an empty casket, while a skeletal bride points the way to safety, saving you from damnation. Quite the different experience.
The ride would have veteran actor Vincent Prince play the role of the Ghost Host as well as the evil laugh of the Phantom. Prince’s original recordings were not used however when the park officially opened. But in a recent 2019 refurbishment his ghostly narration finally returned, accompanied by a French narrator as well.
The ride received a refurbishment in 2019 that altered a few segments of the ride, removing some of the more morbid details such as the skeleton bride and the zombie like Phantom. They also changed a few details to the story, saying that Henry Ravenswood murdered every suitor of his daughter because he thought nobody was good enough for her, in addition to some smaller lighting and music changes.
The ride is considered to be one of Disneyland Paris’ most unique attractions. Though legendary Imagineer Marc Davis disapproved of the attraction, saying that Walt Disney would never approve of it due to how dark it differs from the original.
This ride would definitely be the perfect place to be during the Halloween season. It is definitely something for Haunted Mansion fans that are looking for something a bit more on the spooky side. I honestly think the story would be the perfect setting for a potential Phantom Manor film.
If you ever take a trip to Disneyland Paris be sure to stop by, that is, at your own risk.
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