The Haunted Mansion
An 11-minute ride-through attraction, the Haunted Mansion offers plenty of silly mixed with a little bit of fright and a whole bunch of “how did they do that” special effects. There are plenty of moments spent in the dark and a few moments with pop-up ghosts that have startled adults. This is a Disney classic, though, and should not be missed.
Theme Park: Magic Kingdom
Land: Liberty Square
Type: Omnimover, Dark Ride, Disney Classic
George’s Rating: 5 Ears
The spooky house on the hill sits in its own little corner of Liberty Square. As you approach the Haunted Mansion, there are quite a few details to take in: the Hudson River Valley architecture; the line forming under the deep red, tent-like queue; the horseless carriage; and the unkempt forest that seems to cradle the building. There is always a castmember stationed near the carriage house, if you need directions or special assistance.
An interactive queue debuted in 2011 that provides two ways to get into the Mansion. The left side takes you through the cemetery and the interactive additions. The right side goes directly to the entrance foyer. Both sides of the queue empty in the space right in front of the doors. Logic dictates that the right side is quicker and the left side is more entertaining.
A Note From Imaginerding
The addition of the interactive queue in 2011 has been (and probably always will be) a heated topic among Disney nerds and geeks. Most die-hard Mansion fans consider the queue to be an affront to the original intention of the Haunted Mansion. It seems rather comical at times, which ultimately makes it a much more lighthearted experience for the younger set. It is hard to argue that the queue is a mistake when the Imagineers have offered ways of trying to nail down a story for the Mansion. Many people don’t understand the history of the attraction and the queue does offer tributes to the artists that created it and tributes to the various story incarnations.
Into the Darkness
You will spend a few moments waiting at the entrance (actually, this is the mausoleum entrance to the house) waiting for a castmember to open the doors and invite you in. They will lead you into the foyer with a fireplace and a portrait of the Ghost Host. The castmember will direct you to one of two octagonal rooms and ask you to move into the dead-center of the room. Once the doors are closed, the Ghost Host introduces himself and the pre-show begins.
Tip If this is your first time, do your best to stay in the dead-center of the room in order to get the full effect.
The Ghost Host explains that you are in a room with no windows and no doors. How are you going to get out? Notice the paintings? Is the room stretching? When the lights go out, make sure you look up. This can be a rather morbid sight for a first-timer, but most kids will not notice the effect. If this is not your first visit, then head to the wall (with the pink lady) that opens in order to get slightly ahead in the queue.
You enter the Doom Buggy load area, which funnels you from a large area to a cattle-call style load. Make sure you are with your party; it is very easy to get separated. When you approach the Doom Buggies, you will have to walk onto a moving belt and then transfer into the ride vehicle. The Doom Buggies will fit two adults comfortably and a family of three tightly.
A Note From Imaginerding
The castmembers that work at the Haunted Mansion are referred to as Maids and Butlers. Most of the time, the Maids and Butlers do not break character inside the Mansion–their morbid and deadpan presentation can be as unflappable as the Queen’s Guard
The first part of the ride is often remarked as being the most frightening. There are breathing doors, turning doorknobs and a corpse trying to escape from a coffin. After Madame Leota’s Seance Circle, you will have about 30 seconds to view one of the most fantastic effects that Disney has ever done–the ballroom scene. This scene requires several ride-throughs to take it all in. Make sure to pay attention to the ghosts at the table as well as the portraits and the ones on the chandelier.
A Note From Imaginerding
The addition of the Bride into the attic was part of the 2007 refurbishment. It is generally understood that the Haunted Mansion (debuted in 1969 at Disneyland) does not have a story. Adding the Bride has been seen as the Imagineers trying to force a story onto a series of tableaux and mood-based scenes.
You turn a corner and enter the attic scene. This part can be a little claustrophobic and frightening on a psychological basis. You do meet the bride and if you pay attention to the portraits, you just might see what happened to her husbands. After the attic scene, you head down with the Doom Buggies facing backwards. it is a strange angle, but adds to the overall feel.
The final, major scene takes place in the graveyard. This is where the Grin Grinning Ghosts song comes into full play. There are a few, standard pop-up ghosts that could frighten adults. There are a lot of details in this area, like tombstones, ghosts enjoying tea and some frightened animals. Pay attention to the singing busts–one of them is the late Thurl Ravenscroft. He was also the voice of Tony the Tiger.
As you reach the end of the ride, you will be warned by the Ghost Host that a few playful spooks will follow you home. This area was refurbished in 2011 and new computer generated ghosts were added. This lends even more playfulness to the ride and often will leave you laughing.
The Haunted Mansion is considered a Disney classic and has remained mostly unchanged for 40 years. Younger children could be frightened by it and you will need to judge for yourself how your children might react. My kids have been riding the attraction since before they were three. But then, they are Junior Imaginerds.