One Disney attraction took 15 years to finalize but quickly became iconic. Its macabre theme has tantalized guests half a century now. They can’t get enough of its quirky jokes and sleek presentation. Meanwhile park planners love the ride so much that they’ve copied it at most of their theme parks. Which one of them is the best? This is a question that deserves an answer. Here’s a guide to the best and worst versions of Haunted Mansion around the world.

5. Haunted Mansion – Tokyo Disneyland

Image: DisneyLet’s start with an oddity. One of the quirks of the Haunted Mansion concept is its difficulty to define. Imagineers have struggled with their approach to the ride since the very beginning. In fact, an argument could be made that they’ve experienced this Imagineering schism since BEFORE the ride’s beginning. At one point, Haunted Mansion wasn’t supposed to be a Doom Buggy-driven dark ride. It was drawn up by some as a Museum of the Weird instead.

This internal debate has evolved into a running joke at the various theme parks. All of the Haunted Mansion attractions reside in different themed lands. Currently, five iterations exist, and you can find them at Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Mystic Point, and New Orleans Square. The supernatural refuses to be defined by our human rules of symmetry! The Haunted Mansions live where they want to live, damn your mortal expectations!

At Tokyo Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion has chosen the realm of Fantasyland as its abode since its arrival in 1983. Any expectation of a more fantastical iteration of the ride will leave you disappointed, though. This particular version is a generic copy of the one ranked #2 on this list. I won’t spoil it quite yet, but I will say that for all the wonders at Tokyo Disneyland, its Haunted Mansion is frustratingly uninspired.

4. Phantom Manor – Disneyland Paris

Image: DisneyPerhaps the best example of creative license is at Disneyland Paris. The fact that Phantom Manor resides at Frontierland is a hint about its style. The premise here ties back to a detailed project that never got built, Western River Expedition. The story involves a successful land baron who led the Thunder Mesa Mining Company.

This wealthy gentleman, Henry Ravenswood, had a daughter named Melanie Ravenswood, and she was his pride and joy. When Melanie grew up, she fell in love with a train engineer who wanted to move away from Thunder Mesa. He would take his new bride with him if Henry failed to stop them. While the overprotective father tried, it was a mysterious Phantom who ruined the prospective wedding. He may have started with the impending Bride’s parents. They died during an earthquake that may have had a supernatural slant.

The details of both these events are murky, but we do know something important. The man hanging from the rafters of this particular Haunted Mansion didn’t take the Ghost Host’s way. Instead, he was killed by the Phantom. This tidbit alone signals that Phantom Manor takes a side in the funny/scary Haunted Mansion debate. It’s terrifying and decidedly creepy. You’ll realize this from the moment you see the building off in the distance.

Phantom Manor’s physical appearance seems at least somewhat inspired by the Psycho house where Norman Bates lived. The French style inside the attraction reflects the culture in the architecture and the fashion. Fans of the Haunted Mansion will see lots of familiar portraits and other visuals, but something is…off. The Imagineers play with your expectations and knowledge of the standard attraction by toying with its concepts.

Image: DisneyThe Doom Buggy entrance is much different, taking place in front of a set piece at a large stairway. It gives a better view of Haunted Mansion and builds suspense. Then, you’ll meet the Bride right away, appreciating her eternal torment. She lives in the place where the Phantom took everything from her, including her prospective groom and parents.

The mood at Phantom Manor is somber, and the gothic underpinnings tie everything together in a moody ambience. Alas, this Haunted Mansion goes too far. The shaky dog you love from most versions is a Resident Evil-esque monster here. The Bride lacks modernity, too. She’s a damsel eternally in distress. Plus, the Madame Leota scene is lackluster. Somehow, Phantom Manor is interesting but less satisfying than most others around the world.


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