Disneyland Secrets: Haunted Mansion

Secrets of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion  

Ever wonder how a long, spooky ride fits into a modest Southern mansion?  

Did you know that crews were once too frightened to clean parts of the Haunted Mansion?

Opened to guests on August 12, 1969,  the Haunted Mansion was envisioned by Walt Disney and his “Imagineers” even before the park’s opening in 1955.  They originally planned a crooked street leading away from the Disneyland Main Street, beyond a carnival, past a peaceful church and graveyard, to a ruined old mansion. 

Run-down House Doesn’t Have a Ghost of a Chance in Disneyland

Walt Disney objected to a dilapidated house marring the neat appearance of the park, famously saying, “We’ll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside.” 

A well maintained Southern mansion would ultimately be styled to match its surroundings in the New Orleans Square section of Disneyland.  

Photo of Disneyland Haunted Mansion

Long before the Haunted Mansion was built, there was fundamental disagreement among Disneyland “Imagineers” about whether to make the attraction funny, with zany spooks and gags, or scary, with grim hallways and foreboding props.  In the end both elements were incorporated.

Doom Buggy

Designers at first planned for guests to walk through the Haunted Mansion as they would through a museum.  Due to the low guest capacity of the walk-through scheme, there was even discussion of having two parallel rides, like the Matterhorn. Ultimately, Imagineers settled on using a conveyance called a Doom Buggy, a variant of the Omnimover system previously used in the Disneyland ride, Adventure Thru Inner Space.

Scared Cleaning Crews

As the ghostly artwork and audio animitronics for the Haunted Mansion were being developed in an off-site studio, these “spectral effects” frightened cleaning crews that came in at night.  The studio building management asked that the lights be left on and the effects turned off after hours.  Instead, the Imagineers defiantly installed a motion sensor to turn the effects on!  The next day they found the spooky animatronics effects running along with  broom abandoned in the middle of the floor.  Management told the Imagineers that they would have to clean their own studio since the cleaning crew was never coming back.

Disappointed Fans

Believe it or not, right after it opened the Haunted Mansion was considered a disappointment.  The recently opened Pirates of the Caribbean had raised the bar for scary and funny attractions, and Haunted Mansion advance publicity raised expectations.  Some wondered why it wasn’t scarier.  Today the Haunted Mansion remains one of the most popular attractions in Disneyland.

Clones with Their Own Personality

Copy-cat Haunted Mansion attractions opened at Florida’s Magic Kingdom in 1971, Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and Disneyland Paris as Phantom Manor in 1992.  Each version uses slightly different ride mechanisms and effects.

Photo:Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World, Florida for Disneyland Secrets

  The version of Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World in Florida 

French (and Californian) Underground

The Octagonal Room where guests began the ride on foot at Disneyland and the Phantom Manor in Paris, is actually a large elevator, which gives the impression that the room is stretching as the guests descend.  In the Magic Kingdom in Florida, abundant space made an elevator unnecessary.

At Disneyland, due to limited space in the park, much of the Haunted Mansion ride, like that of the Pirates of the Caribbean and other rides, extends underground beyond the outer berm that surrounds the park.  Unaware that they are leaving Disneyland though a tunnel beneath the Disneyland Railroad, guests enter a 35-foot-tall,  37,000 square-foot “show building” located outside the park. 

Hall of Portraits in the Disneyland Haunted Mansion Disneyland Secrets

When the wall of the Octagonal Room opens, guests are ushered on foot into the museum-like Portrait Corridor, where normal paintings are revealed as gruesome scenes when illuminated by flashes of lightning from outside the windows. 

Where Do They Fit All Those Ghosts?

Outside the park and painted a drab green like most Disneyland support buildings, the structure that secretly houses the Haunted Mansion can be glimpsed while riding the tram from the Mickey and Friends parking structure.  You also can spot it by boarding the Disneyland Railroad at the New Orleans Square station and facing backwards.  The Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain external “show buildings” are in fact only a few yards apart.

Despite its secretive location and deceptive design, it’s no secret that the Haunted Mansion stands among Disneyland’s most beloved and visited attractions.

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Photos and references courtesy Wikipedia.

Bonus:  An amazing site dedicated to the Haunted Mansion

8 thoughts on “Disneyland Secrets: Haunted Mansion”

  1. I visited the Haunted Mansion at Halloween several years ago and it scared me out of my skin. They had live props strategically placed in the home that jumped out to scare people. No one including us expected real people but that night, I could have had a heart attack. Since then, I think they discontinued it. Someone must have complained or died.
    Anyways, could you do me a favour? Can you go to rateopenhouse.com and submit a rating for the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland? By submitting a review, you update the Move-In ready score that tells other ghosts how ready the home is to move into. Thank you!

  2. i wonder why disney has never thought of making the haunted mansion scarier at halloween. it would bring lots of visitors and get lots of attention since many disney lovers agree that the ride is not really scary at all. i came up with this idea after hearing about how they change the ride during holiday season for the nightmare before christmas. Just my thoughts.. i will be going to disneyland for the first time next month and i am really looking foward to riding this ride and expriencing the disney magic. thanks for this great post!


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