On August 9, 1969, the doors of the Haunted Mansion first creaked open to ghoulish ghosts (and guests) looking for an unlivable home. Today, all foolish mortals are able to visit this “spirited” attraction in New Orleans Square at Disneyland park.
The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland was the first major Disney attraction to open without the direct supervision of Walt Disney. Although Walt reviewed many early concepts and vignettes, he never saw the completed show. Construction for the Haunted Mansion attraction began in 1961 and the exterior of the attraction was completed in 1963. It was unoccupied until 1969 while Walt Disney participated in the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair and his Imagineers were re-tasked to work on those timely projects. The World’s Fair experience made way for some of the technology that’s used in the Haunted Mansion.
During the early period before the attraction opened, a tantalizing, witty sign was displayed outside of the Haunted Mansion, which read:
“Notice! All Ghosts and Restless Spirits. Post-lifetime leases are now available in this Haunted Mansion!… For reservations, send resume of past experience to: Ghost Relations Dept., Disneyland. Please! Do not apply in person!”
As you enter the Haunted Mansion, you are taken into the Portrait Chamber featuring some of the ghosts in their “corruptible mortal state.” Suddenly, the chamber begins to stretch and, once you stop, you are led into a hallway filled with eerie lighting and transforming portraits. Shortly thereafter, as you enter your “Doom Buggy,” the Ghost Host greets you and prepares to take you on your haunting journey. Your tour of the Mansion offers a ghastly glimpse into the “after life,” including a séance conducted by Madame Leota, a ghostly party in the Grand Hall, complete with dancing and a birthday cake, followed by a trip up to the abode’s attic where a far-from-blushing bride and the Hatbox Ghost reside, all before ending up in the graveyard where the ghosts of the Haunted Mansion have gathered for a “swinging wake.”
Take a look back at this beloved attraction in the video below:
Here are some frightfully fun facts to celebrate the 50th anniversary:
- The idea for a haunted house at Disneyland was included in an early concept design sketch by Harper Goff dating back to 1952, when Disneyland was still being conceptualized.
- Within a week of the Haunted Mansion’s opening, Disneyland celebrated what was then its highest single-day attendance.
- 20 tombstone tributes exist both inside and around the exterior of the attraction. The epitaphs on the tombstones were written to honor several Disney Legends and Walt Disney Imagineers who created and maintain the attraction.
- The final exterior concept for the house is heavily influenced by the Victorian-era Shipley-Lydecker House in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Thurl Ravenscroft is the voice of “Uncle Theodore” who leads the “Phantom Five” quintet of singing headstones. His voice can also be heard at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room as the voice of both Fritz and Tangaroa.
- The pipe organ seen in the ballroom sequence was featured as Captain Nemo’s pipe organ in the Disney film classic, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” For more details, check out George’s story here.
- Leota Toombs, a former Walt Disney Imagineer and Disney Legend, served as the famous face of Madame Leota.
- The Hatbox Ghost was featured in Haunted Mansion when the attraction first opened. Then, he mysteriously vanished, only to reappear in 2015 in time for the 60th anniversary of Disneyland.
So, foolish mortals, make your way to the Disneyland Resort to celebrate 50 years of ghoulish delights and happy haunts. The ghosts of the Haunted Mansion are just “dying” for you to join them – as there is always room for one more!
This is a great story! The pictures are particularly good. I am intrigued to see windows/doors open on the upper stories of the Mansion in the photo from its construction period–I have never seen that occur in all the many times I’ve been to Disneyland. The sign looking for “leasees” is brilliant!