Happy Hauntings: The Magic of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion

“When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls. Whenever candlelights flicker, where the air is deathly still — that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight!”

Many years ago in the Victorian Era, the Louisiana located Gracey Mansion was alive with parties and guests, with love and hope. Wealthy landowner Edward Gracey was in love with Elizabeth Henshaw and asked her hand in marriage. At a grand fete Gracey proposes and Elizabeth sends a note with her response, apparently rebuffing a love he thought they shared. Finding her body after she takes her life with poison throws him into turmoil. He ultimately decides he cannot face life without her, and hangs himself in his garden atrium. And so the Gracey manor fell into disrepair, until a hundred years later when a descendant of the Gracey family who desires to sell the home contact a couple involved in Real Estate, Mr. and Mrs. Evers. Their own marriage is on some rocky ground due to long work hours, Mr. and Mrs. Evers along with their two children, stop at the house on the way out of town for vacation.

Upon their arrival the Evers find the house is not quite what it seems, nor is the reason for them being summoned to the house, and neither is the current owner and his house staff: a butler, maid and footman. Although the house listing would read something akin to “historical sprawling manor with spacious grounds,” if it told the truth, it should say “historical haunted manor with 999 ghosts and spacious cemetery with room to grow.” Who’s up for buying one of THOSE homes?! For haunted the house is, with an old mystery and tragedy locked within its walls… and the Evers family finds themselves doomed to remain as eternal guests unless they can solve both.

Perhaps I’m the odd duck out, because I think living in a once-posh, very run-down creepy Victorian (or older) manor would be A-W-E-S-O-M-E. I love old things and places and rarely get scared. Plus, there’s this whopping big fireplace that a person can almost stand up in, kinda like the one in Citizen Kane! But my own preferences aside, please don’t take my word for how awesome the house is and how many ghosts it has. It is well worth a viewing, balancing humor and horror, haunting and heart with finesse.

But that’s not all there is to the Haunted Mansion, oh no!

“There are several prominent ghosts who have retired here from creepy old crypts all over the world. Actually, we have 999 happy haunts here — but there’s room for 1,000. Any volunteers?”

Disney extends this invitation to millions (and possibly more) guests who dare to darken the door of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion, in several of the famous theme parks around the world. I have accepted it myself at Disneyland and Disneyworld, seated in my Doom Buggy and eagerly awaiting the ghostly apparitions and their cheery song about Crypt Doors Creaking and Tombstones Quaking. There is also a back-story about a villainous bride who merrily killed several husbands upon their wedding days, a departure from the film back-story of Mr. Gracey and his lost love. Thrilling guests since its gates creaked open on August 9, 1969, the ride set a record of single-day attendance of 82,516 on August 16, after having been open for only a week! But little did guests truly know that it took from 1957 to that fateful day in 1969 for the ghosts to merrily start haunting Disneyland, years that spanned talents and tales, concepts and woes, and the tragic loss of Walter Elias Disney, who died on December 15, 1966. He never got to see his beloved Haunted Mansion in action. But with the project firmly in hand of two veterans of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride fame, the Haunted Mansion concept was refined, technologies explored and Mansion furbished for its debut. Its popularity would remain a Disney constant, sparking more rides of similar fashion at other Disney parks and even a motion picture.

Yes, there is something remarkable about a ride that seldom changes (at least at Disneyworld, for in Disneyland the Haunted Mansion turns into a Jack Skellington Nightmare Before Christmas fest prior to Halloween), where you know every note of the song, every creak and twist and ghoulish laugh. And every guest surely has a favorite part. Why my part is the section where you go through a hall of mirrors and a ghost (or two!) appears seated in your Buggy, beside you, on your head, wherever they like! A charming voice declares: “They have selected you to fill our quota, and they’ll haunt you until you return! Now I will raise the safety bar, and a ghost will follow you home!” And I must admit, the last time I went three ghosts DID follow me home, three awesome plush hitch-hiking ghosts in a tomb-stone shaped display box! They sit on my book-case, watching me through a clear window and remind me why the Haunted Mansion remains my top ride… and one of my top movies, too!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caitlin Horton is a 20-something reader, seamstress, and history buff. She lives a life blessed in the knowledge that she is God’s child, and her life has a purpose in the scope of His plan. She encourages her readers to remember, every day can be like Bilbo’s “adventure” if you’re willing to take the “ordinary” and add some “extra” in front of it!

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