Home » The Dark, Troubled History of Disney’s Haunted Mansion

The Dark, Troubled History of Disney’s Haunted Mansion

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“Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host, your GHOST HOST. Kindly step all the way in, please, and make room for everyone. There’s no turning back now.” Next, please step into the Doom Buggy.  “The carriage that will carry you into the moldering sanctum of the spirit world will accommodate you and one or two…loved ones. Kindly watch your step as you board, please.”  Now that you’re seated, this tour of the history of one of Disney’s most storied theme park attractions will begin.

Any true Disney fans reading the above heard the same disembodied voice in their heads, because that’s the power and the allure of the Haunted Mansion, a celebration of the macabre that pays tribute to classic haunted houses of old while delivering twisted humor that remains funny today. This dark ride is unquestionably the most novel of the signature attractions at Disney, a gothic palace of horrors that somehow pecks at your funny bone. It’s an odd amalgam of competing points of view thrown together almost haphazardly, and its story remains compelling to this day.

Image © Disney

In 1969, Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion finally debuted, 14 years after Disneyland first hosted guests. While the Haunted Mansion is intimately linked with Disney theme parks across the world, few people realize the gap between its inception and its actual public introduction. That gap represents one of the strangest, most contested internal struggles Disney’s Imagineers ever experienced. And the key to the whole affair comes down to a simple question. Should a Haunted House at a Disney theme park be funny or scary? As you know, the answer its designers eventually chose was both, and the ride is so much the better for it.

That wasn’t the original plan, though. Walt Disney himself demanded the creation of the Haunted Mansion, and his influence persists throughout several iterations of innovations at both of the company’s American theme parks. There are even variations on the theme overseas at Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland and, most recently, Hong Kong Disneyland, where it was reinvented as Mystic Manor. The ride’s evolution from conception to current styles of design underscores all the changes Disney requires to maintain supremacy as the best theme park company in the world.

How did a series of parks designed to please small children wind up showcasing a malevolent home of tormented spirits? To understand the answer, you’ll have to learn the history of one of the most troubled attractions of Disneyland, one that predated the existence of the park itself yet didn’t open until 14 years afterward. Are you prepared to read the shocking history of the Haunted Mansion? If so, step inside and prepare yourself for a ride of gothic terror. Remember that there is a limit of three mortals per Doom Buggy. I will be your Ghost Host, narrating the history of Disney’s darkest of dark rides.

A ride before Its time

Image © Disney

Let me tell you of the early days of my humble abode as well as how I, the Ghost Host, came to reside at the Happiest Place on Earth. You see, foolish mortals, back in the days when there was no such thing as Disneyland but only blueprints for an idea known as Mickey Mouse Park, the kernel of inspiration for Haunted Mansion already existed. In its original conception, its name was a bit too on-the-nose. Walt Disney and his Imagineers called it Church, Graveyard and Haunted House, and their plan for it was to celebrate the classic Haunted House attractions that were already well-established by the early 1950s.

The idea of a theme park without a Haunted House (and Church…and Graveyard) felt inconceivable to everyone involved with the creation of what would become the Happiest Place on Earth. To wit, Disney himself revealed that his first plans for the Haunted Mansion began 20 years prior to the park’s opening. Despite the universal support for the premise, when Disneyland opened its gates for the first time in 1955, there was no spooky house drawing the attention of visitors as they strolled through New Orleans Square.

In fact, there was no New Orleans Square. Most people naturally assume that this themed land has resided in Disneyland since the beginning, but that isn’t the case at all. New Orleans Square became the first ever Disney theme park expansion when it debuted in 1966, and, amazingly, Haunted Mansion wasn’t open to the public at that point. For that matter, it wasn’t even a sure thing at the time, because warring factions within the ranks of Disney’s Imagineers spent a great deal of this time battling over the substance of the attraction. As they locked horns in a constant debate about the destiny of Haunted Mansion, Walt Disney himself began to suffer from the effects of cancer and eventually died in December of 1966. In his absence, the brand new New Orleans Square expansion suffered a void due to the lack of its anticipated anchor Doom Buggy ride, the one for which the company had passed out advertising flyers…in 1961.

Half-architect, half-animator, 100% imagineer

Ken Anderson

You foolish mortals are presumably wondering whose poison pen drew the gruesome blueprints for my pernicious plantation. Those of you who are longtime Disney followers are likely familiar with the work of Ken Anderson, an animator and writer whom the company honored in 1991 with the Disney Legends award for Animation & Imagineering. Like so many of the employees who worked side by side with Walt Disney himself, Anderson was a renaissance man at the company. He had a hand in classics such as Cinderella, Jungle Book, and Aristocats, all of which he wrote. He also sketched drawings that would become the unofficial blueprints for eventual rides and attractions at Disneyland.

Image © Disney

Most notable of those is Haunted Mansion, which Walt Disney personally assigned Anderson in 1957. Disney wanted the attraction prioritized, because he felt the park was lacking without it. In many ways, Anderson was perfect as the driving force behind the Haunted Mansion. He wasn’t an animator by intention but rather an architect who wound up working at Walt Disney Studios starting in 1934. Over time, he perfected his craft as an illustrator and content creator.

By the time Walt Disney tapped him on the shoulder and suggested he draw mock-ups for the ride and surrounding area, Anderson possessed a combination of architectural understanding of building design and animator’s knowledge of how to tell a story through visuals. The dutiful employee had only recently transferred to Walt Disney Imagineering (WED) from the animation department, so he had one foot in both phases of business development. Equal parts showman and pragmatist, Anderson began accumulating spirits for the enterprise that would eventually spawn spooks like me.

The two towers (well, mansions)

Haunted Mansion

Image: Disney

Anderson’s attention to detail was on full display when he selected a property as a guideline for his artistic renderings. He chose a building that was already over 150 years old, the Shipley-Lydecker
in Baltimore, Maryland, as his odd inspiration for an antebellum New Orleans plantation-style mansion. While he explicitly modeled the look from it, he adopted some of the style from the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. It was symbolically fitting as the residence of the widow of gun-making legend William Wirt Winchester. Sarah Winchester herself claimed that the ghosts of all the people killed with Winchester weapons haunted her home, so the duo’s residence fit the broad strokes outline Anderson had for Haunted Mansion.

The Imagineer visited the popular tourist attraction, which remains in operation to this day. He took meticulous notes about not just the housing details but also the operation of the business. They influenced many of his architectural decisions, as his intention was to create an attraction that could host a lot of people in a single day. In order to achieve that goal, he’d want Haunted Mansion to set new standards in the genre. The Winchester Mystery House includes a treasure trove of obscure arcana and oddities such as doors to nowhere, stairs whose path is a circle, and a Séance Room. All of these ideas eventually wound up as features in my ghastly home.

Captain Gore vs. the Blood Family in the voice of Walt Disney

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Anderson’s ideas were profound, and the seeds of them still percolate through many of the harrowing moments of the Doom Buggy experience. Do you know the moment in the ride when you exit the attic through the window? If you pay careful attention, you’ll notice that the shingles are different from the Haunted Mansion building itself. The explanation is that you’re re-living the horror of a character and story invented in 1957. Here’s how that’s possible.

The original vision of the backstory for the Haunted Mansion involved a happy fiancée named Priscilla, whose wedding day bliss ended the moment that she unearthed the truth about her potential husband. After he warned his young betrothed to stay out of the attic, she couldn’t resist opening Pandora’s Box and entered the top floor of their decadent mansion. Hidden there were the vestiges of his days as a dread pirate fittingly named Captain Gore. Since the man had taken on a new identity to hide his treacherous past, he couldn’t risk the locals discovering that he was a murderous letch. When the sea captain realized his soon-to-be wife had found out about his past life, he threw her out the window, and she died in the fall.

To drive home the heartbreaking reversal of fortune, Anderson drew pictures of a dead woman in a wedding dress. This theme evolved into the driving force of the entire story of Haunted Mansion as an attraction. The idea is that after her death, Priscilla haunted Captain Gore until he could no longer take it. He committed suicide by hanging himself in the rafters, which explains the dead body above you at the start of the ride. You know Gore better as me, your Ghost Host. The concept is that my Bride and I have such a passionate relationship that even in death, our spirits attract others. To date, 997 other souls have found themselves drawn to our mansion…but there’s always room for one more.

Image © Disney

As a second concept, Anderson visualized a building and surrounding area named Broodmere Manor. It was to be a run-down establishment, with abandoned land once owned by a powerful pirate. Nobody else would willingly buy the parcel of property or even approach the surrounding terrain for fear of the obvious. The house is notoriously haunted by yours truly and friends. Of course no one would go there! All of this exemplifies sound reasoning as well as a wonderful ability by Anderson to open up his imagination as if the Sea Captain and the Bride’s plantation were real.

Over time, Anderson modified his original premise with a few key variations. At one point, Walt Disney himself performed the role of the Ghost Host, narrating all the macabre elements of the journey through the Haunted Mansion. Another take featured Disney providing an introduction to the doomed domicile at the start of a walking tour. These ideas unfortunately fell by the wayside. Wouldn’t it be great if you heard Disney’s voice every time you rode one of his greatest attractions?

Image © Disney

Another theme that was explored but eventually discarded was a retelling of Disney’s animated classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Guests would re-live the events from the perspective of the Headless Horseman and his intended victim, Ichabod Crane. There are a lot of drawings and plans for this version of the Haunted Mansion, but Anderson eventually deduced that the attraction should operate without the need for back story. The amount of exposition required for a Sleepy Hollow introduction would have bored active children and frustrated their parents.

The most intriguing variance of the Haunted Mansion was unquestionably the Bloodmere Manor iteration. Disney would claim that they moved a century-old Louisiana mansion to Disneyland, only to discover that its supernatural reputation was quite true. It seems that the former hosts of the opulent residence, the Blood family, were all too well named, and they demonstrated their reluctance to leave their home by tormenting its new guests. An entire mythology was plotted wherein various Disney contractors would claim phantom injuries during the transport and renovations of Bloodmere Manor. Disney would have admitted defeat once an especially unfortunate worker wound up walled in, leaving the doomed project abandoned right in the heart of New Orleans Square. As your Ghost Host, I wouldn’t have had a detailed role in this iteration, but this Blood fellow sounds like my type of ghoul.

The winning pitch

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There was only one real flaw with Anderson’s innovative, almost prophetic ideas for the Haunted Mansion. Think about everything you just read from the perspective of a theme park operator. What Walt Disney heard was something different compared to what his Imagineer intended. Disneyland, the culmination of all Walt’s ideas for the future of entertainment, would have a decrepit building right by the entrance to the park. It was the ultimate non-starter of an idea as far as he was concerned. As much as his facilities are renowned for their personal touches and attention to detail, he wasn’t about to spend a small fortune building a mansion in disrepair to stand out like a sore thumb at his otherwise beautiful masterpiece of an amusement park.

For this reason, Anderson’s ideas percolated under the surface and behind closed doors at the offices of WED rather than moving forward as a detailed plan for the building of the Haunted Mansion and its surrounding area. Had Anderson demonstrated slightly less attention to detail, this attraction might have appeared a decade sooner. Walt Disney was fully on board with what he later described in a BBC interview as a “retirement home for ghosts,” but it would have to be one that suited his impossibly high standards as a theme park entrepreneur. He squashed the hope for the desolate look once and for all when he emphatically stated, “We’ll take care of the outside and let the ghosts take care of the inside.” Fittingly, Bloodmere Manor fell into an ideological kind of disrepair, lingering for years as a premise but not a reality.

In a rare misstep for the company, the marketing team failed to receive the message. In 1958, Haunted Mansion appeared on an official Disneyland map for the first time, over a decade before its actual inaugural ride. This announcement was so early that New Orleans Square itself wasn’t ready for a groundbreaking ceremony yet. That part of the park wouldn’t open for another eight years, which must have confused their map-carrying guests a great deal. It’s the type of behavior that park visitors would never tolerate today, and it clarifies why even the oldest Disneyland fans think of the Haunted Mansion as being there right from the start. Three years after the park opened, its name was already bandied about on Disney’s marketing materials.

Skeleton House

Image © Disney

The 11-year delay is the weirdest part of this story. The explanation for the early announcement of a project that wouldn’t debut until 1969 is equal parts easy and difficult to comprehend. Since the concept of Church, Graveyard and Haunted House predates Disneyland by several years, the plan already existed for a spooky residence of some sort. The issue was always the implementation of this pending paranormal place. Given all the triumphs occurring at Disneyland, nobody worried about whether the Haunted Mansion would debut in a timely manner and to lavish praise. That was a given. Even the rare Disneyland issues that occurred, especially during its notoriously traumatic opening day, were quickly addressed and corrected. Why wouldn’t the upcoming New Orleans Square and its linchpin attraction not also quickly achieve such acclaim?

A lot of the problem was bad timing. Disney employees started listing 1963 as the date of arrival for their ghoulish endeavor. Confident in their track record, Disney’s advertising branch distributed flyers for the Haunted Mansion beginning in 1961, and construction at New Orleans Square started soon afterward. During the interim period, Disney Imagineers built the outer facing of the Haunted Mansion building in the style of the Shipley-Lydecker House. Even though the inner concepts remained in flux, Anderson’s vision for the exterior maintained its popularity within the organization. So, developers completed the outside of the edifice while disagreements continued about how to populate the interior of the attraction. There was even a sign posted on the gate outside the attraction from the “Ghost Relations Dept. Disneyland.” It read: “Notice! All Ghosts and Restless Spirits, Post-lifetime leases are now available in this HAUNTED MANSION!”

Image: Disney

So yes, Disney really did have the structure of the Haunted Mansion ready as planned in 1963, and they fully intended the ride to debut then. The problem was that there was nothing in it. Behind-the-scenes issues occurred over several years due to the continued schism regarding the overall tone of the ride. With the matter unsettled, Disney himself pulled away his best Imagineers in anticipation of stealing the show at the upcoming and now legendary 1964 New York World’s Fair that would become a hallmark engineering achievement for the Disney team. As they shocked the world with their excellence in New York, the Haunted Mansion remained sadly spirit-free.

People holding flyers for the debut of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion were left wanting for several more years. Walt Disney’s directive made clear the trajectory for a Haunted Mansion attraction. No matter how destitute the interior would appear, the outside would remain impeccable, as was true of all his Disney theme park creations.

Also, he created additional difficulty for the attraction designers, because Disney favored the idea of a walkthrough rather than a ride. This sentiment wasn’t overruled until the time near his death, and the only reason common sense eventually won the day was due to the design of the now-synonymous Doom Buggy vehicle, technology that was an outcome of the New York World’s Fair Imagineering creative process. There was also one additional tragic cause for delay. Walt Disney died in December of 1966, and the void created by his absence left his employees without a single voice to guide them in bringing his vision for the Haunted Mansion to life.

Clash of the titans

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Intense internal debates about how to build the inside of the mansion grew heated in Disney’s absence. The Imagineers working for the company in the 1960s universally agree that in the wake of the company founder’s death, there was turmoil about how to proceed with most projects. The Haunted Mansion itself proved particularly divisive since Disney himself was ambivalent about the best implementation.

Many Imagineers wondered aloud if a scary theme fit with the overall tone of Disneyland. After all, Snow White and Her Adventures, an original attraction at park launch in 1955, proved divisive due to its too-scary witch, and that was merely one element of the dark ride. If the witch upset small children, how would they react to an entire journey through a spooky estate? Proponents of fear factor were blunter with their point of view. How could Disney, a company trying to revolutionize the theme park industry, build a silly Haunted Mansion in lieu of a thrilling one? This debate was the tastes great/less filling of 1960s Disney employees.

There were leaders of both camps. Company stalwart Marc Davis, an anchor member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, led the charge for funny, while eventual Disney Legend Claude Coats insisted on scary. To put these names in perspective, Walt Disney personally selected Coats to paint the sets for the company’s most important project ever, its first full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. For his part, Davis stood as one of the most creative and revered minds at the company after Disney himself. It was the company equivalent of picking sides between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

Both arguments hold merit. In order to claim the title of greatest Haunted House in the world – and nothing less is acceptable for a Disney attraction – there have to be some frightening elements. Otherwise, what’s the point? For a family-friendly theme park, however, an attraction that scares small children is a non-starter. Satisfying each camp’s philosophy required an illogical marriage of competing ideas, and yet that hodgepodge of scary with silly is exactly what makes the Haunted Mansion great. However, in order to reach the point of compromise, one key invention was still needed.

A doomed Omnimover

Image: Disney

The answer to everything fell into the laps of Imagineers thanks to the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Thanks to transportation innovations crafted for the show-stopping attractions there, a new ride was developed. You know the one I mean and you love it. So, how did my evil Doom Buggy solve the ongoing problem with my iniquitous mansion, you ask? It achieved the effect of a haunted house walkthrough while assuring steady traffic all day, a serious issue that neither Ken Anderson nor Walt Disney solved on their own.

The attraction was known as the Ford Magic Skyway, the highlight of Ford Motor Company’s presentation at the 1964 World’s Fair. Its implementation sounds eerily like a current Epcot experience, Spaceship Earth, with a bit of Ellen’s Energy Adventure thrown in for good measure. The rider boarded a Ford vehicle that moved forward on a platform. There was an automatic propulsion system rather than any driving capability. The Ford Magic Skyway took guests on a journey through time, first stopping at the age of dinosaurs before hurtling forward into the future. You can watch a video of the Ford Magic Skyway here, but the narration isn’t quite as polished as your humble Ghost Host’s offerings.

The reason why the ride has such a strong Disney style is that the company’s Imagineers built it for Ford. The car company trumpeted the news that Walt Disney himself had a hand in the design, although that was overstated. He was more actively involved with the Carousel of Progress, but his team of brilliant minds learned a great deal from their interactions with Ford. One of the critical observations gained by their work on Ford’s World’s Fair offering became a hallmark of many future Disney attractions. The Ford Magic Skyway featured a uniform-speed transportation system, and the primary benefit from it was that ride engineers controlled the guest throughput as well as the visual perspective of each visitor. It’s the technology you know today as the Omnimover.

When Disney Imagineers returned from the World’s Fair, they tested several variations of this transportation strategy, delayed only by the chaos of Walt Disney’s death. In a moment of extraordinary innovation, Disney employees intuited that they could fulfill the company founder’s wish of a walkthrough haunted house experience while still directly determining ride capacity. From this inspiration, the Doom Buggy was born. The genius of Omnimover systems is that they move at a set pace, which allows Imagineers to manage the perspective of riders, thereby offering a sort of motion picture experience.

Disney Imagineers even improved on their Ford Magic Skyway premise by rotating the carts at times, thereby changing the set piece. By employing a swiveling Doom Buggy, every interior element of the Haunted Mansion suddenly became available to ride developers. They could move guests into each part of the building in a timely manner while still giving them plenty of opportunities to enjoy all the detailed elements. It was the tipping point that pushed Haunted Mansion out of its decade in purgatory, a place that should remain reserved for your friendly Ghost Host and his friends.

Accessorizing evil

With one of two main problems regarding the Haunted Mansion solved, Disney Imagineers agreed to disagree about the direction of the building interior in an oddly satisfactory manner. Davis and Coats and their co-workers decided that there was no point in choosing between funny and scary. After all, the guests were likely to have the same internal monologue on the subject. So, why not do both? That’s exactly what transpired, which explains the current setup of the attraction. The ride starts by introducing the guest to all the wonders of the Haunted Mansion, which is a tribute to Walt Disney’s desire to have a walkthrough. Then, it provides the scarier elements and set pieces such as the attic and Madame Leota’s prophecies. Finally, the Doom Buggy tips backward and proceeds to the graveyard, where the sillier gags rule the landscape, although some people maintain that it’s Madame Leota herself who signals the change in tone. All the originally contested elements (walkthrough, ride, silly, and scary) wind up included thanks to the brilliant employment of a three-act structure for the story, with everything tied together thanks to witty narration by yours truly.

All that was left was to populate the interior of the building, and the realism of the Haunted Mansion was again impacted by the 1964 World’s Fair. Although audio-animatronics first appeared at Disneyland at the Enchanted Tiki Room in 1963, the company’s greatest advancements came during preparations for their New York showing. Attractions such as General Electric’s Carousel of Progress and Pepsi/UNICEF’s “It’s a Small World” led to profound advances in realistic motion for inanimate objects. By employing this technology, Disney Imagineers could build an entire world of the occult in their long empty mansion at New Orleans Square.

Two Imagineers battle Pepper’s Ghost

Image: Disney

Imagineer Rolly Crump deserves special mention for his character design work. He joined Anderson in populating an entire series of sets at Disney headquarters, and his odd caricatures are legendary. He drafted illustrations of anthropomorphic chairs, voodoo curiosities, and a half-man/half-candle creature. Other ideas such as statue busts that follow you as you move and paintings that change into more malevolent imagery also proved popular. Another Imagineer, Yale Gracey, joined him during the ghoulish creations phase of the process, and their work proved extremely divisive, at least partially because Gracey and Crump also couldn’t quite decide whether their works should tilt toward scary or silly. Still, their imaginative ideas proved fruitful in myriad ways.

One feat Crump and Gracey achieved that changed the way Disney Imagineers viewed their attractions involved a pipe organ. In recreating the ideas of Anderson at their set at Disney’s production office, the two men turned to illusions to bring his vision to life. Their crafty innovations caused Disney to refer to them and other employees working hard on the Haunted Mansion as Illusioneers, for the attraction required numerous tricks to pull off the most special of effects.

Image: Disney

The two Imagineers knew that a pipe organ would prove key to the attraction, whether it were a walkthrough or ride. So, they called on an old parlor trick to craft a signature moment. It’s called Pepper’s Ghost, an illusion that causes objects in a person’s line of sight to move in and out of existence. The catch is that there are two rooms, each of which contains slightly different objects. Through the use of reflections and light, the items in the second room suddenly materialize as if from nowhere, a useful concept for a haunted house attraction. By employing Pepper’s Ghost, Crump and Gracey could elevate the ghostly residents and curiosities in each room into lively, mercurial ghosts capable of appearing and disappearing at will. This premise is on full display during the ballroom dance sequence. So, if you enjoy it, you fittingly have a ghost named Pepper to thank for the entertainment.

Virtually everyone involved with the Haunted Mansion admired the verve and bravado of Crump and Gracey, but the inventions themselves were on the intense side. In fact, they were so scary that the overnight cleaning crews at Disney refused to perform their assigned duties in such a creepy workspace. The two men were told they’d have to clean up after themselves.

Rather than muddle the main event with such a terrifying set-up, Disney himself favored a side attraction known as the Museum of the Weird that would stand inside the Haunted Mansion. The work of Crump and Gracey would highlight what was effectively Disneyland’s answer to a wax museum. These plans were disrupted by Uncle Walt’s untimely death, and they collapsed completely once Imagineers settled on the Doom Buggy technology. Still, the work of the two men lived on in the Haunted Mansion itself. Their drawings and ideas influenced many of the renderings, statues and accoutrements that still exist today. Of special note is the séance chamber featuring Madame Leota’s Cart, but even a variation of the living chair wound up in the attraction.

Hatbox Ghost

There was one final illusion Crump and Gracey built that rather famously failed. You’ve no doubt heard of the Hatbox Ghost, a classy gentleman who held a cane in one hand and a hatbox in the other. The two Illusioneers wanted to provide a lingering callback to the Sleepy Hollow mythology once explored for the Haunted Mansion. Their ghastly creature would literally lose his head as the Doombuggy approached, and the rider would receive a shocking surprise when the head reappeared in the hatbox.

Alas, the technology the gentlemen employed for this particular trick failed them. Even before opening day, there were a slew of problems with the lighting, and the lighting was what guaranteed that the head would appear in the box. The Doombuggy came too close to the Hatbox Ghost during its journey, ruining the intended effect. For this reason, this particular character disappeared from the Haunted Mansion after a few months of failed attempts to correct the issue. Disneyland guests wouldn’t see the Hatbox Ghost again until May of 2015, roughly 45 years after he faded from existence.

Welcome home

Image: Disney

In August of 1969, my eternal dwelling, the Haunted Mansion, finally opened its doors to the public in hopes of finding the proverbial 1,000th resident. Its debut came 18 years after Walt Disney originally came up with the premise for a haunted house at Disneyland. It was also 11 years after the initial blueprints and character designs were built by Ken Anderson, eight years after the first promotional flyers were distributed, and six years after the building itself was constructed. Of course, when you’ve been dead for centuries like me, the Ghost Host, time is an arbitrary concept anyway.

After so much build-up, audiences were understandably discriminating about the Haunted Mansion. They expected a ride that would dazzle them, and that’s why the initial reception was mixed. There were technical problems with several parts of the ride, most famously the Hatbox Ghost. Also, some Doombuggy riders complained that it wasn’t scary enough, which proved that no matter which way Disney’s Imagineers chose to go with the attraction, a part of the population would feel disappointment. Had the ride been scarier, others surely would have complained about the Haunted Mansion being unfit for small children.

Over time, people grew more comfortable with the amalgam of funny and scary bits intrinsic to the attraction. The Haunted Mansion eventually became one of the most beloved attractions first at Disneyland and later Walt Disney World and the other Disney theme parks across the globe. Its popularity has translated into a modestly successful Eddie Murphy movie as well as an upcoming Guillermo del Toro project. Filmmakers have even discussed a Museum of the Weird movie in recent years. People never seem to get enough of those 999 scary and funny ghosts.  Perhaps I, your Ghost Host, will return one day to tell the stories of some of the most beloved of them, and maybe even the making of Grim Grinning Ghosts, my favorite song. Until then, beware of hitchhiking ghosts.