"When hinges creak in doorless chambers, when strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls, whenever candlelights flicker and the air is deathly still, that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight!" With these words, we are welcomed into the Haunted Mansion's chilling embrace.
The attraction is shrouded in the supernatural, but it's been like that before the doors even opened. Since its beginning, the ride was draped in ghostly tales. Some were part of the manor's marketing, but others are eerie occurrences seen by Imagineers and cast members. Join us as we call in the spirits and uncover the eerie legends of the Haunted Mansion.
10 Ghosts Wanted
Near the entrance of the original attraction in Disneyland, there is a sign that welcomes all ghosts to enjoy active retirement in the halls of the Haunted Mansion. It might seem like a clever use of decor, but there's more to it than meets the eye. This welcome was inspired by an ingenious marketing campaign, which in turn inspired an urban legend.
The story says that Walt went around the world inviting ghosts to fill his haunted attraction. 999 Happy Haunts is a large number and only a man of Walt's genius could tackle it. Though a clever campaign, we can't help but indulge in this legend.
9 I Put a Spell On You
One of the mansion's most iconic scenes is the seance room, hosted by the enigmatic Madame Leota. This scene acts as the catalyst to our supernatural interaction with the rest of the mansion's spirits, but what if Leota's seance wasn't just part of the attraction?
There's a legend involving the spellbook on Leota's table, stating that the prop is, in fact, a genuine book of 14th-century witchcraft. There have been stories of cast members finding the book off the table or moving on its own. A strange and unusual story, but ultimately false. Still, we found it creepy enough to add to our list.
8 Happy Hauntings
Prolonged exposure to creepies and crawlies might affect the imagination, especially if you're an Imagineer. There were some strange goings-on during the ride's conception, and even stranger ones during construction.
During the days of the mansion's construction, Disney Imagineers claimed strange occurrences happened at night when they were working on the attraction. Reports of eerie sounds, screams, and haunted happenings arose even before the gates opened. We can neither confirm or deny the claims, but it makes sense for an attraction like the Haunted Mansion to have a slightly sinister reputation.
7 Grim Grinning Gore
Before we got the 999 Happy Haunts we know and love today, the original Haunted Mansion was much more terrifying. One concept involved a murderous pirate named Captain Gore, who murdered his bride on their wedding night. Another involved the vengeful spirits of the Gore family. Both were considered too intense to use in the final product.
Many of the concepts hatched by Marc Davis, Rolly Crump, and Yale Gracey were more horrifying than humorous. Legends of these designs said they scared people to death before the ride opened, resulted in a delayed debut. Fact of fiction, we can't deny the creativity of these creepy concepts.
6 Head Games
One of the mansion's most famous residents is the mysterious Hatbox Ghost. This ghastly grinning ghoul has been a fan-favorite for years, but not without a legend or two, specifically concerning his profession.
One would assume the Hatbox Ghost's occupation would be a hatmaker or seller, but upon looking at his location and nearby companion, something more sinister emerges. The ghost is located near Constance, the Black Widow Bride, known for decapitating her husbands. What if those aren't hats inside those other hatboxes, but remains of Constance's victims? Still only a theory, but not one we can rule out.
5 Scared to Death
We've already mentioned how intense the original ideas for the Haunted Mansion were, but what if there was a sequence that literally scared someone to death? Was this a real occurrence? Or just something to spark talk about the upcoming ride?
The story says that when the ride was previewed in 1966, several visitors were absolutely horrified by what they saw, resulting in the delayed opening in 1969. There was talk of a terrified elderly gentleman having a heart attack mid-ride. Factual? Probably not. Sensational? Absolutely.
4 The Haunting of the Hatbox Ghost
Those familiar with the ride's history will know that in 1969, the Hatbox Ghost animatronic mysteriously disappeared from the ride. It's most likely because his illusion didn't always work, but fans and Imagineers have their own ideas. Even after he was removed, some people still claimed to see him lurking.
Cast members reported seeing the mysterious ghost in the mirror in the attic scene, looming in the shadows in the hallway, and even in the ballroom scene. The Hatbox Ghost has since returned to the mansion, now finally at peace in the home for happy haunts, and no more sightings have been reported. Coincidence? Perhaps not.
3 Brigham Young's Hearse
One of the most iconic symbols of the Haunted Mansion is the horseless hearse outside of the grounds. The original hearse in Disneyland has been subject of two prominent urban legends. The more prominent, and persistent, of the two states that the hearse belonged to Brigham Young.
The white hearse is said to be the exact same one that carried Young to the grave, but this has been disproven by Disney Imagineers. Though the hearse did reportedly come from Salt Lake City, it was a movie prop more than anything else. The myth still persists, though.
2 Bobby Driscoll's Bones
One of the more disturbing legends on our list states that the Haunted Mansion's hearse contains the remains of Disney actor Bobby Driscoll. Though not as popular as the previously mentioned story, it's a dark tale for something connected to Disney.
The legend says that after a falling out with Disney, Driscoll traveled to New York and mysteriously disappeared for years. His body was reportedly found sometime later by two boys in an abandoned apartment building before somehow winding up in the Haunted Mansion hearse. Though Driscoll's death is shrouded in mystery and legend, his body was ultimately identified and buried. Still, it does make for an enticing story.
1 Ashes to Ashes
Perhaps the most famous legend about the Haunted Mansion surrounds the numerous attempts to scatter a loved one's ashes on the ride. This is, of course, illegal, but a few guests have still attempted it. One such attempt resulted in a very famous cast member ghost story.
The story says that after the ride has been closed for the night, staff have seen the ghost of a little boy riding one of the Doom Buggies. They have heard him giggle in the endless hallway, as well as uttering the phrase "hurry back" towards the exit. Perhaps the mansion has acquired its 1000th ghost? Either way, it's still an eerie idea.