There is the genuine idea of a ghost house; it involves animated skeletons reaching out in the dark, fluorescent matter dropping on your face, taped laughter and of course the never ending rolling barrel. But all of those were replaced 40 years ago by a stretching room, a pepper ghost banquet, Mrs. Leota, and some carriages called Doom Buggies. For all of those who once stepped into one of those 4 Kingdoms, the genuine idea of a ghost house changed forever.
This article, is about the 4 Haunted Mansion attractions of the 5 Magic Kingdoms.
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Three of them are named Haunted Mansion to denote the impoverished usual haunted houses. Because those are big, lavishly decorated and quite neat from the outside, they are truly mansions after all! Only Europe got a different name: Phantom Manor. Again in a worry of international understanding the word “Phantom”, recognizable by many non-English speakers (Fantomes, Fantasmi, Fantasma etc…) was chosen so people could associate it with ghosts easily. And “Manor” was preferable to “Mansion” which for the untrained tongue can be quiet a hassle to pronounce.
The pictures speak better themselves, but we can talk about the antebellum original Mansion, in sync with the feel of New Orleans Square. Its outside looks brand new for Walt only wanted her rotten inside.
Further east, Walt Disney World’s and Tokyo Disneyland’s shared Mansions are built as a Dutch inspired manor that echoes Liberty Square historical inspiration, as well as the storybook castle atmosphere of Fantasyland. Again their red bricks look freshly cemented.
Disneyland Paris’ Manor bears a younger design reflecting more recent popular shivers: the movies (think Hitchcock). That one is not made of the freshest timber. For this residence, Disney dropped the Neat Outside/Spooky Inside rule to let Phantom Manor look morbidly worn out and abandoned.
As soon as guests are done scrutinizing their front yard, Haunted Mansions all swallow them through the process of a stretching room… The gallery of eye candy art pieces and heavy drapery are also very similar throughout the Kingdoms, but in Disneyland where the attraction, being the first one, didn’t get the lavish double stairway and its supersize window. Instead, you board the buggies in an extravaganza of chandeliers.
Once you’re riding the buggies, every Mansion is split into 4 main acts.
First, the house’s hallways where wallpaper eyes glow in the night, after which corridors stretch to infinity (unless you’re visiting Florida). There before the endless corridor, you lose yourself into a maze of Escher-esque stairways. Lots could be said about this Floridian exclusive but such a green addition shall not be spoiled.
Then, Mrs. Leota welcomes her guest with her own little performance. Objects are flying all over but only since the 2000s is the famous fortune teller floating high in her orb. Only in Paris she doesn’t because there, the effect is not a projection on a globe, but a projection from within the globe. This powers the illusion but grounds the orb on its wobbly table.
After that lays down below the most striking haunted scenery. The buggies are always riding way above the banquet room, which gives it all its grandeur. Even though the room layout is always the same, many differences emerge even though you would have to do the 4 Mansions within one week to catch any of them.
Away from the banquet and the buggies will rotate and let you glide reverse into the Mansion’s final act; the bouquet finale of ghouls and illusion tricks. In the 3 Mansions it’s one big cemetery inhabited by ghosts and skeletons, but in the Manor this final scene has been split into two. Therefore, only there do you conclude your journey in a western style ghost town which extends the ride length to an all Kingdoms record. All the killing effects and morbid gags of the previous mansion have therefore been reused and ‘westernized” to better match Manor’s Frontierland theme.
And so one recently got the best technical remake ever, another one gained from the grand splurging days of EuroDisney, both get Skellingtonized once a year and one even got to be part of the dreamy facades of Fantasyland — but they all share this prevailing excellence of effects, theme and storyline.
For since the earliest of fairs and amusement parks very few of them didn’t include a “haunted place”. And so when Disney had to add its own version to this used and abused market, guests didn’t expect much amazement, especially after having been told about some museum… And yet, after the very first years haunting their locations they established a new and still unmatched standard that would redefine and somehow kill the once unchallenging business of ghost houses.
Or Haunted Mansions as we more commonly call them these days…
CREDITS & RESSOURCES
Dan Gibson for his very helpful grammar check.
Grimghost for those amazing layouts