Halloween is fast approaching, and there’s no better time to go behind the scenes at The Haunted Mansion on both coasts. From Disneyland to Walt Disney World, we’re covering the backstage details only insiders know!
We’ve done our research and created a list of six facts you’ve likely never heard.
From origin stories to failed plans and reimagined experiences, Perfecting the Magic is prepared to awaken your spirits just in time for the holiday and help you fall in love with the Mansion all over again.
Be sure to ‘look alive’ and keep those death certificates in hand. You never know when you’ll need them!
THE BLOOD FAMILY
To conduct our ghoulish research and reveal the secrets of The Haunted Mansion, we looked to The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham. This book served as the ultimate resource.
We learned of The Blood Family, a fictional household said to have lived (and died) after meeting dreadful ends, and the backstory intertwined with their home, Bloodmere Manor. The estate, said to be in disrepair, would be moved to Disneyland for restoration due to its historical significance and raw beauty.
Disney planned to restore it, as it would lend authenticity to New Orleans Square. However, the narrator would explain that things didn’t go as planned! As guests approached the house, Walt Disney’s voice would greet them and tell them of all the chilling experiences that had happened since the home arrived.
Disney would explain that they investigated the origins and learned of the dark depths of the tragic Blood Family story. In this iteration of The Haunted Mansion storyline, Disneyland would have a ‘real’ haunted house on its hands and a family with the compelling dark history needed to haunt it! This plot ultimately was scrapped, but we can’t help but wonder what could have been!
SKELETON DANCE AND HORSEMAN
The sounds and sights of The Haunted Mansion set out to be very different. Could you imagine “The Skeleton Dance” from Silly Symphonies instead of “Grim Grinning Ghosts” playing through the speakers? It nearly happened!
Disney, notorious for blending their intellectual property with rides and experiences, looked to blend many creepy characters with their ‘ghost house.’ From the Headless Horseman of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to narration by the Lonesome Ghosts, Disney planned to pack as many references into the attraction as possible. While these references would have been welcome at the time, the fresh take on The Haunted Mansion is what made it iconic for generations!
Rolly Crump, whose brilliance is felt throughout The Haunted Mansion, was an essential part of its creation. However, the death of Walt Disney led to roadblocks for Crump. The administration didn’t think of Rolly as fondly as Walt had, as many were jealous of their relationship.
To quote legendary Imagineer Tony Baxter on the topic, “Rolly was in a really difficult situation because Walt really liked him, and when Walt died, the others were jealous, because he was younger, and he was sort of Walt’s son, in a way.”
Rolly, nonconformist, young, and wildly talented, was removed from projects aligned with The Haunted Mansion at that time. While Crump’s genius fills the halls of the Mansion to this day, it’s saddening to learn that he had this experience.
THE KNIGHT IN FRIGHTENING ARMOR
Did you know that The Haunted Mansion used to employ live characters within the attraction? Imagine an armored knight coming to life while you sit in your Doom Buggy. Did we mention the fact that the knight in question has a battle axe that’s six feet long? Okay, good!
Of the role, a former cast member is quoted in The Unauthorized Story, stating, “we were supposed to slam [the axe] on the floor to add to the guests’ experience, but other creative uses soon popped up. Hooking it around the Doom Buggy before the car swung around to reveal you to the guest was a popular move, as was slamming it on the back of the car!” In the end, they removed the physical contact element of the ride for obvious liability reasons!
A NIGHTMARE WITHIN A NIGHTMARE
The Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion overlay is a fan favorite. But, many don’t know the struggle that surrounded it coming to Disneyland. Creator Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman were vehemently against the mashup, but Disney owned the rights and pushed ahead anyway. Eventually, both Burton and Elfman became involved with the polarizing overlay, but it’s hard to imagine what would have happened if they hadn’t. We couldn’t imagine the holidays at Disneyland without it!
MADAME LEOTA’S LAST RESIDENCE
It seems fitting to close this piece at Walt Disney World. Legend says that Memento Mori, the Haunted Mansion-themed gift shop located in The Magic Kingdom, was Madame Leota’s last living residence before her death.
Leota made her permanent home next door in the Mansion séance room, of course, but this Easter egg is sure to delight anyone who appreciates a backstory! If you look around, you’ll be able to sense her presence. We’re sure she’s been dying to see you.
Are you the ultimate Haunted Mansion fan? Did you know everything on this list, or did you learn something new? Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to follow Perfecting the Magic on socials as we’ll be keeping you up-to-date on everything Disney style, food, and entertainment throughout the holiday season and beyond!
Larry Nikolai, Instagram