Unless you’re three years old and riding for the first time (like my little brother who screamed his head off years ago), the Haunted Mansion is a fan favorite at Disneyland. The “Doom Buggies” offer a comfortable place to sit when you need a break from all of the walking that the park requires, and it’s one of the longer ride experiences that you can choose from. It’s a little spooky, plays catchy tunes and has a massive array of tiny details to keep you on your toes.
The Haunted Mansion houses quite a cast of characters, ranging from live beings to supernatural creepers. The roster varies at the various different version of the attraction, but here’s a roundup of the most iconic of Disneyland’s cast:
- Ghost Host – This is your tour guide as you get started on the walk-through portion of the Haunted Mansion. He remains virtually invisible, but his voice follows you as enter the stretching room and he reveals that he hung himself in the cupola. When the lights go out and lightning flashes, you see a hanging man high up above. Imagineers have also revealed that this Ghost Host appears in a painting in the Corridor of Doors. Keep an eye out for the painting of a man with white stringy hair and a noose around his neck.
- Servants – Random Disney Cast Members act as house servants within the mansion.
- Stretching Portrait Characters – There are four stretching portraits in the stretching room. The Haunted Mansion comics granted us an inside look at the names of these unfortunate souls depicted on canvas.
- Daisy de la Cruz – The young woman standing on a tight rope above a hungry alligator while gripping a pretty parasol.
- Alexander Nitrokoff – The bearded man standing upon a keg of dynamite.
- Hobbs, Big Hobbs, and Skinny Hobbs – These three men, sitting upon each other’s shoulders, find themselves dreadfully sinking in quicksand.
- Constance Hatchaway – This old woman holds a pink rose and sits on her husband’s tombstone, and is also seen in the attic within the attraction.
- Changing Portrait Characters – As you leave the stretching room and enter the hall leading to the Doom Buggies, you pass a wall of portraits that change from seemingly normal to absolutely frightening. They include a princess who turns into a werecat, the Black Prince and his horse who transform into skeletons, a young man who becomes a corpse, a galleon which transforms into a ghost ship and finally Medusa who becomes a Greek Gorgon.
- Madame Leota – Riders enter a darkened chamber and circle a crystal ball containing Madame Leota’s head during a séance. She attempts to resurrect the spirits of the mansion with incantations and succeeds in getting them to levitate several objects which include pieces of furniture and musical instruments.
- Ballroom Ghosts – Upon leaving Madame Leota’s chamber, guests find themselves in the grand ballroom. Looking down, you’ll notice a “death-day” party with numerous ghosts who are either dining or dancing. We can safely assume that Madame Leota summoned these spirits! These ghosts include the “Ghostess” herself at the end of the table, an Egyptian Lady and Medieval Soldier who drunkenly sit and swing together from the chandelier, Great Caesar's ghost, an old king, a blacked-out drunken ghost and a few others who fill the scene.
*Take a look back at the Pepper’s Ghost Effect to learn more about the haunted ballroom!
- Bride – Constance Hatchaway, the old woman in the portrait from the stretching room, is the “black widow” bride who resides in the attic. There was always something ultra scary about her appearance, in my opinion! Her glowing red heart and reverberating heartbeat was unsettling.
- Caretaker – The shivering caretaker and his scrawny dog, located at the gates of the cemetery, are the only “living” characters in the Haunted Mansion (aside from the Disneyland cast members who act as servants, of course!). Interestingly, they are lit with incandescent light as opposed to fluorescent or black light which is used on the ghostly apparitions.
- Hitchhiking Ghosts – At the end of the ride you happen upon three glowing hitchhikers: Gus the prisoner, Ezra the skeleton and Phineas the traveler. With their thumbs held out, begging for a ride, they mysteriously find a way into the guests’ Doom Buggies and ride out with them! A look at the mirror in front of you confirms this, although which ghost you pick up is always a surprise!
- Hat Box Ghost – Lastly, there’s the elusive Hat Box Ghost! With a dingy gold tooth and top hat, this ghoul resides in the attic along with the bride. Scratch that – he used to reside in the attic. Rumor had it that the Hat Box Ghost was too scary for riders and, after many complaints, was removed to make the attraction more kid-friendly. In all actuality, this ghastly character’s reign lasted very briefly as Imagineers struggled with the effects. After tweaking the effects several times, the ghost still didn’t meet the high standards of the Imagineers and was removed the very same year that the ride opened in 1969.
There are plenty more Haunted Mansion characters, but listing them all in one article would leave you reading into the wee hours of the night! I will have to touch on the others soon!