Disney Theme Parks Wiki
The Haunted Mansion
WDW - Haunted Mansion


October 1, 1971


Liberty Square


WED Enterprises

The Haunted Mansion is a dark ride located at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The attraction features a ride-through tour of a haunted house in Omnimover vehicles called Doom Buggies, preceded by a walk-through show in the queue. The attraction showcases a number of age-old tricks, advanced special effects, and spectral Audio-Animatronics.


The attraction's roots date back to even before Disneyland was built, when Walt Disney had just hired the first of his Imagineers. The first known illustration of the park showed a main street setting, green fields, western village, and a carnival. Disney Legend Harper Goff developed a black-and-white sketch of a crooked street leading away from main street by a peaceful church and graveyard, with a run-down manor perched high on a hill that towered over main street.

While not part of the original attractions when Disneyland opened in 1955, Disney assigned Imagineer Ken Anderson to make a story around the Harper Goff idea and the design of his new 'grim grinning' adventure. Plans were made to build a New Orleans-themed land in the small transition area between Frontierland and Adventureland. Weeks later, New Orleans Square appeared on the souvenir map and promised a thieves' market, a pirate wax museum, and a haunted house walk-through. After being assigned his project, Anderson studied New Orleans and old plantations to come up with a drawing of an antebellum manor overgrown with weeds, dead trees, swarms of bats, and boarded doors and windows topped by a screeching cat as a weathervane.

Despite praise from other Imagineers, Disney liked the idea of a run-down building in his pristine park, hence his well-known saying, "We'll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside." Despite this, Disney journeyed out to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California and became deeply captivated with the massive mansion with its stairs to nowhere, doors that open to walls and holes, and elevators. Anderson came up with stories for the mansion, including tales of a ghostly sea captain who killed his nosy bride and then hanged himself, a mansion home to an unfortunate family, and a ghostly wedding party with previous Disney spooks like the Lonesome Ghosts. Some of the Universal Monsters also appear.

Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey, two Imagineers put in charge of the spectral effects, recreated many of Ken Anderson's stories. Disney gave them a large studio at WED Enterprises; they studied reports of hauntings and Greek myths and monster movies, eventually making quite a show in their private studio. Some of these effects frightened the cleaning crews that came in at night to such an extent that the management eventually asked the crew to leave on the lights and to turn off the effects after hours. Defying this, Crump and Gracey connected all the effects to a motion-sensitive switch that, when passed, would turn everything on. The next day when the two returned to work, all the effects were running with a broom in the middle of the floor. Management told them that they would have to clean the studio themselves, because the cleaning crew was never coming back.

The duo made a scene where a ghostly sea captain appeared from nowhere. Suddenly a wretched bride emerged from a brick wall and chased the ghost around in circles. The frightened pirate melted into a puddle and flooded the entire scene only for the water to mysteriously vanish with the bride. "A ghost haunted by a ghost!" Rolly told Walt between chuckles. Walt and the Imagineers were amazed, but Walt still didn't like how the project was coming out. That put the mansion on hold for quite some time.

The decision was made to place the attraction in the New Orleans Square section of the park, and thus the building was themed as a haunted antebellum mansion. In 1961, handbills announcing a 1963 opening of the Haunted Mansion were given out at Disneyland's main entrance. Construction began a year later, and the exterior was completed in 1963. The attraction was previewed in a 1965 episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, but the attraction itself would not open until 1969. The six-year delay owed heavily to Disney's involvement in the New York World's Fair in 1964–1965 and to an attraction redesign after Walt's death in 1966.

Many Imagineers such as Marc Davis, X Atencio, and Claude Coats contributed ideas after the fair and after Ken Anderson left the project. Rolly Crump showed Walt some designs for his version showing bizarre things like coffin clocks, candle men, talking chairs, man-eating plants, tiki-like busts, living gypsy wagons, and a faced mirror. Walt liked this and wanted to make the proclaimed "Museum of the Weird" a restaurant side to the now named Haunted Mansion, similar to the Blue Bayou at Pirates of the Caribbean. Although the idea was never realized, some aspects of it lived on in the final attraction.

Marc Davis and Claude Coats, two of the mansion's main designers, were in a constant argument over whether the ride should be scary or funny. Claude, who had a life of a background artist, made moody surroundings like endless hallways, corridors of doors, and characterless environments, and wanted to make a scary adventure. Marc, who designed most of the characters and zany spooks, thought that the ride should be silly and full of gags. In the end both got their way when X Atencio put all the scenes together.

After Disney's death in December 1966, the project evolved significantly. The Museum of the Weird restaurant idea was abandoned, and the walkthrough idea was replaced by the Omnimover system used in Adventure Thru Inner Space, renamed the Doom Buggy, a promising solution to the problem of capacity. Imagineers had been fighting the low-capacity nature of a walkthrough attraction for years, even going so far as suggesting building two identical attractions to get double the number of guests through.

On August 12, 1969, the Disneyland version of the attraction was officially opened to guests. At the time of its release, the original Haunted Mansion was considered somewhat of a disappointment. Many of the Imagineers were upset with how the attraction turned out, one being Ken Andersen who was responsible for many of the mansion's early concepts and storylines. Another was Marc Davis who claimed that "too many cooks" were making the soup. Park guests were a bit disappointed as well after going through years of anticipation and hype. Pirates of the Caribbean had set a new level for following attractions and the Haunted Mansion met that level. Many wondered why the attraction wasn't scarier. Today the attraction is one of the most popular in the park, continuing to reel in thousands of guests every day. A humongous fan base has evolved. Die-hard mansion fans continue to support and research the attraction to this day.

The Haunted Mansion was an opening-day attraction at the Magic Kingdom, opening in 1971. This attraction was developed at the same time as the Disneyland version, resulting in a very similar experience to the Disneyland version, though the slightly larger show building allowed the addition of several new scenes. The attraction was placed in Liberty Square, a small land that was a tribute to colonial America, as the Magic Kingdom did not have a New Orleans Square. Thus, the Mansion was given a Dutch Gothic Revival style based on older northeastern mansions, particularly those in older areas of Pennsylvania and in the Hudson River Valley region of New York. The mansion is surrounded by large oak trees adorned with Spanish moss, red maples, and pines, all of which are native to Florida.

Recent Changes[]

At Walt Disney World Resort, the Haunted Mansion closed for refurbishment on June 8, 2007 and reopened September 13, 2007.

Changes to this version of the attraction during the refurbishment included the addition of a new audio system for the Ghost Host that makes it seem as if the spirit is circling above visitors' heads, new red, blue, and gold wallpaper, different and enhanced lighting throughout the attraction, and new stretching sound effects for the stretching room. The gargoyles in the stretching room now whisper with messages of "Stay together," and emit child-like giggles after the stretching room sequence. An exclusive Escher-esque staircase scene has replaced the empty dark banister area covered in cobwebs and the giant orange spiders. After the staircase scene, there are all-new ghoulish eyes that glow while monstrous sounds echo through the halls. The foyer music has been changed to a lower key, as well as taken out of the corridor hallways, and the attic scene was completely renovated. Now, when the visitor enters the attic, the pop-up ghosts that shout "I do!" are gone. This is to make room for the current effects. As the visitor enters the attic, the first new things seen are an amber-glowing glass lamp, various treasures and china, and multiple portraits of different grooms, each with the same bride. An axe-like sound echoes from the pictures throughout the room, and in each portrait the groom's head disappears.

Near the end of the attic, an ethereal glow is seen and a sweet but sinister voice is heard. It is the bride, Constance, in her wedding gown. She repeats her vows in a menacing tone ("I do...I did", "You may now kiss the bride", "And we'll live happily ever after", "As long as we both shall live", "For better or for...worse", "Here comes the bride", "'Till death do us part", "In sickness and in...wealth"). Every few sayings, she raises her hand and a hatchet appears in it.

The bride is basically a white mannequin in a white wedding gown. When the lights go off, a projection illuminates the entire body, showing her as a wispy but realistic spirit. Her face and her entire body are projected, very similar to the Leota effect in the Seance Room and the Little Leota effect at the end of the ride. Constance also floats mysteriously above the floor (made possible through use of a pole and a fan).

Other major enhancements were implemented, including a floating version of Madame Leota with a much clearer projection. The Sinister Eleven (the portraits with the following eyes) were replaced with the changing portraits from Disneyland's portrait gallery. Seven of the Sinister Eleven are now located in the loading area of the ride (these include Jack the Ripper, Arsonist, Mariner, Vampire, Witch of Walpurgis, and the Ghost Host), while the other four are located in various parts of the mansion. The graveyard ghosts minus the deaf old man, the singing busts, and the mummy audio tracks now seem to come from the singer when near them. The once blue/purple ghosts are now green as well. A sharp-eyed guest will also notice that the Hitchhiking Ghosts now have empty sockets for eyes. The Doom Buggies have been fixed to a much more quiet sound than the high squeaking sound before the refurbishment.

In early October 2010, construction walls went up in the queue area of the Haunted Mansion, blocking the view of the small graveyard just outside the entrance. A new effect was also been added to the ride: a hand points to the left on the back of the doombuggies as guests exit.

On March 14, 2011, the new interactive queue area was revealed, featuring such elements as a murder mystery, a sea captain's grave that spits water, a musical crypt, a pipe organ, a library with moving books, and a book that writes itself. Many of the original graves were moved.

On April 6, 2011, changes to the "Hitchhiking Ghost" section of the ride were completed and debuted to park guests. The original Audio-Animatronics have been replaced with updated, more fluidly-moving versions. The mirror effects have also been extensively updated, using technology that simulates the ghosts physically interacting with riders. All three Hitchhiking Ghosts can now be heard for the first time, voiced by Disney voice-over artist and recording vocalist Kurt von Schmittou.

Attraction Description[]

The queuing area leads guests past a graveyard featuring humorous epitaphs, and a black carriage hearse, led by an invisible horse, out of which sounds can be heard. The path leads guests to the Mansion entrance, where they are led into the foyer by somber maids and butlers. Inside the foyer, a portrait of the master of the house rests above the fireplace and slowly transforms into a portrait of a rotting corpse.

The guests are then ushered into an octagonal portrait gallery and encouraged by the staff to move into the "dead center" of the room. As the wall behind them slides closed, the Ghost Host (voiced by Paul Frees) introduces himself with an eerie voice:

“Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host – your ‘ghost host.’

…and taunts them:

“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, hmm…?”

As the voice speaks, the guest's eye is drawn up to four portraits on every other wall of the octagonal room. The ceiling begins to rise, elongating the paintings and revealing the morbidly comedic fates of previous guests:

  • A bearded man is seen in the dress of minor nobility and red and white striped boxer shorts while standing on a keg of dynamite with a lit fuse.
  • A demure young woman holding a parasol and calmly balancing on an unraveling tightrope above the hungry jaws of a waiting crocodile.
  • An old lady sits atop a tall gravestone which features the bust of a man with a hatchet in his head. This is a portrait of the late Constance Hatchaway.
  • A man with sideburns sitting on a fat, mustached man who is sitting atop a lean, pale-looking gentleman who is chest-deep in quicksand.

“...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...”

The lights go out, lightning and thunder effects fill the gallery and, in a rare instance of Disney dark humor, a glimpse of the earthly remains of the Ghost Host is shown hanging from a noose high above in the cupola. A dreadful scream is followed by the sound of bones shattering. The Ghost Host apologizes for the premature scare, then a wall mysteriously opens, leading the guests further into the mansion.

Guests then step into a dark loading area, where they are guided to their carriages, or "Doom Buggies". The Ghost Host lowers the safety bars, provides the safety speil, and the journey begins. The Doom Buggies glide through a room containing a stairwell leading up to a landing, where a candelabrum floats above. The Doom Buggies then take guests down a long portrait corridor with paintings that depict seemingly innocent scenes. With every flash of lightning from the storm raging outside, the paintings flicker with ghastly images, including a demure young woman sprouting snakes from her scalp (Medusa), a magnificent sailing ship at sea that becomes a tattered and ghostly version thereof in a storm, a man who changes into a decrepit corpse, a knight and horse who both turn into terrifying skeletons, and a woman sitting upon a sofa who is revealed as a were-tiger.

Passing under an archway, guests enter a library with staring busts, moving ladders, flying books, and an unseen ghost rocking in a chair reading a book by candlelight. After this is a music room where a shadow plays a mellow version of Grim Grinning Ghosts on a rundown piano. A stormy forest is shown in the window behind the piano. The Doom Buggies then ascend a room full of staircases that defy the laws of physics, much like the art of M.C. Escher. Green footsteps stomp across the upside down and sideways stairs, which creates a very disturbing sense. At the top of the stairs thousands of blinking eyes look around and fade into demon-faced wallpaper.

Guests come across a living suit of armor, a chair which is embroidered with a hidden abstract face, and a long, narrow corridor down the center of a parlor. Partway down the corridor is a candelabrum, floating eerily down the hallway.

As guests pass through the conservatory, the Doom Buggy is spun to face backward. On the side of the room is a glass room. Dead flowers adorn the whole room with a coffin in the center. A raven sits perched atop a wreath with a banner that reads "Farewell." The coffin's lid is being raised by a pair of skeletal claws while a green glow radiates from the inside. The coffin seems to be nailed shut, which explains why the corpse inside is screaming for help.

After leaving the conservatory, guests travel through a dimly lit corridor. Portraits of family members, all of which resemble zombies and skeletons, hang upon these walls while monstrous voices echo through the halls. Many doors are seen here; their handles are jiggling and door-knockers are knocking with no one in sight. A cross-stitched sign reading "Tomb Sweet Tomb" hangs crookedly on the wall. A portrait of the Ghost Host wearing a hangman's noose and holding a hatchet is seen to the left of the corridor. Next to that, a door seems to be breathing as if it were human. Two reliefs resembling a smiling and a snarling demon are found here as well. At the end of the corridor is a door with a pair of skeletal hands trying to open the door with an eerie green glow from inside. A demonic grandfather clock chimes 13 as the hands spin wildly backwards, the shadow of a claw passing over it.

Guests enter a dark séance room full of floating musical instruments. Madame Leota, a medium whose disembodied head appears within a crystal ball, summons the mansion's spirits while levitating above her table. Madame Leota says the following:

"Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat/Call in the spirits, wherever they're at./Rap on a table, it's time to respond/Send us a message from somewhere beyond./Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween/Awaken the spirits with your tambourine./Creepies and crawlies, toads in a pond/Let there be music from regions beyond./Wizards and witches wherever you dwell/Give us a hint by ringing a bell."

After leaving the Seance circle, guests arrive at a balcony overlooking festivities below in a ballroom, with a number of ghosts dancing and making merry. Ghosts are seen entering the room through a broken door, where a hearse is crashed with its coffin sliding out. Eerie wraiths are seen flying in and out of the windows above. A merry ghost is seen sitting atop the mantle of a fireplace, with his arm wrapped around a familiar bust. An elderly ghost is seen rocking back and forth in a chair while knitting a sweater. Many ghosts have gathered around a dinner table, where a birthday ghost is blowing out thirteen candles on a cake. A ghost can be seen at the far end of the table. A massive chandelier hangs above the table where a couple of drunks are swinging about, hanging on with their canes. Another balcony is seen across the room, where a curtained doorway is situated between two portraits of duelists. From time to time, the ghosts of the two duelists appear and shoot each other with their firearms. A number of elegantly dressed couples are seen below, waltzing to a haunting version of the song "Grim Grinning Ghosts," played on a large organ. The organ is played by a ghostly gentleman while skull-like banshees fly out of the organ pipes.

The attic is an irregularly shaped room that the Doom Buggies enter immediately after the ballroom scene. It features a collection of gifts, personal items, mementos, and wedding portraits. In each portrait, a common bride is featured with a different groom, whose heads disappear to the accompaniment of a hatchet sound. Just before the Doom Buggies leave the attic, the same ghostly bride from the pictures is seen floating in the air, intoning twisted wedding vows. As she raises her arms, a hatchet appears in her hands.

The Doom Buggies drift out a window, turn around, and tip backwards down a fifteen percent grade surrounded by dark, ghoulish trees with knotted expressions. On a branch overhead, a raven caws at the guests.

The Doom Buggies reach the ground, and turn towards the gate of the graveyard. There stands a caretaker, one of the few living characters in the entire attraction, his knees shaking in fright and an expression of terror on his face. Beside him is his emaciated dog, whining and whimpering. Around the corner, a ghostly band of minstrels plays a jazzy rendition of "Grim Grinning Ghosts."

Ghouls pop up from behind tombstones, a king and queen balance on a teeter-totter, a young princess swings back and forth from a tree branch, and a hellhound howls from behind them. The Doom Buggies travel down a hill and turn to see five singing busts continuing the song of "Grim Grinning Ghosts."

Next, guests encounter a tea party of ghosts surrounding a hearse stuck in the mud. An arm protrudes out of a crypt with a wine glass in its bony hand, while banshees ride bikes in the distance. Nearby, the ghost of an old bearded man struggles to understand the words of an awakened mummy via hearing horn.

The Doom Buggies turn to face two phantoms of the opera, blasting their voices up into the night. Beside them are three other ghosts--a decapitated knight, his executioner, and a prisoner--who also join in the song.

Guests pass a spook bricking himself into his own tomb and enter a crypt where they encounter the attraction's unofficial mascots, the three hitchhiking ghosts. Passing by three large mirrors, guests discover that one of the trio has hitched a ride in their Doom Buggy.

The last apparition guests see as they exit the mansion is a tiny spectral figure—Little Leota—who encourages them to:

“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…”

Behind the Scenes[]

Building Layout[]

Backstage Areas[]

Because of the Magic Kingdom's layout, the Haunted Mansion show building is located next to the one that houses it's a small world. This attraction differs from the original in that the ride takes place at the same level as the mansion itself. In addition, no berm separates the façade from the show building; the back of the mansion has a visible, above-ground connection to the main warehouse. To avoid exposing backstage to the guests, WDI uses trees and other rides to hide the building from view.

Special Effects[]

Rotating busts[]

The bust effect, patented by Disney, was achieved by creating inverted busts: they actually recede into the wall. A combination of dim lighting and optical illusion makes the busts appear to stare at the passing guests. (A similar effect is used in the Hollywood Backlot section of Disney's California Adventure.)

Endless hallway[]

The endless hallway has a mirror placed at the end of it that fools the guests into thinking they can see twice as far down it as they actually can. The mirror has a scrim over it which serves two purposes: first, to make the corridor appear to stretch away into the mist, and second, to deaden the reflection of the candelabra--the back of which is painted black--in the mirror.

The seance circle[]

The Leota effect is accomplished through digital projection of an actress Leota Toombs' face onto a head sculpture with features of the actress. The projector is located inside the crystal ball. The other floating objects in the room are held up by fishing lines.

Constance Hatchaway, the singing busts in the graveyard, and Little Leota are also created using the same projection technique as Madame Leota's.


The ghosts in the ballroom are commonly believed to be holograms. However, all the ghosts in the ballroom scene are created using a clever variation of Pepper's Ghost, an illusion invented in the mid-19th century. The version of the illusion in the Haunted Mansion works like this: a row of columns in front of the mezzanine are supporting gigantic panes of glass, which are nearly invisible to the guests. The "ghosts" are merely the reflections in the glass of Audio-Animatronic figures, located in rooms above and below the mezzanine, where the walls are painted entirely black. The Audio-Animatronics for the ghosts that appear on or near the floor are located below the mezzanine, while the Audio-Animatronics of the ghosts which appear near the ceiling are located above the mezzanine. None of the reflections are at the guests' eye level, since that would require the Audio-Animatronics to be located in a place visible to guests.

This scene was designed for the most part by Marc Davis, who designed all the humanoid spooks and portraits. It is the largest example of the Pepper's Ghost effect in the world.

Other ghosts[]

Disney used other techniques to make the graveyard ghosts appear to be ethereal. They are made of mostly translucent or transparent materials, which glow in the ultraviolet light that is used to light their scenes. They are made to appear blurry and indistinct through the use of scrims mounted between the guests and the ghosts.

The crypt[]

The mirrors in which guests see the hitchhiking ghosts are actually two-way mirrors. The ghosts are Audio-Animatronics in a room behind the mirrors. They move along in sync with the Doom Buggies, and weak lights shining on them allow them to be seen through the mirrors.


See: List of Haunted Mansion characters


In February 2007, an 89 year-old woman fell and broke her hip while exiting a ride vehicle.

Sources & External Links[]