The Haunted Mansion is the first attraction featured in our series on WDI’s hits and misses. What makes the attraction a hit? There are so many things, it is hard to know where to begin.
Unlike the haunted houses that spring up like mushrooms each year in October, The Haunted Mansion is not designed to simply scare the heck out of you. No strobe lights, no blood scenes, no amateur hour here. The Haunted Mansion is designed to entertain you, using the ghostly world in a slightly sinister, slightly humorous way. The entire “999 happy haunts, but there’s room for one more” theme subtly tells you that you are merely a visitor, and that no harm will come to you. You can relax and enjoy the show.
And what a show it is! The tone is set in the queue where you see tombstones with humorous, pun-ny epitaphs. The stretching rooms are usually the first time we can hear our Ghost Host clearly (his opening lines in the foyer are usually drowned out by talking guests). The voice of Paul Frees, a legendary voice actor, is perfect for the role. The humor continues as the portraits stretch to reveal the way that some of the guests met their fate.
From there, you board your Doombuggy and head out on the tour. Ghost stories fill the library alongside terrific busts that follow you as you go through. Things try to escape: coffins, doors, all accompanied by creepy wallpaper.
One of the best visual illusions ever is featured: a head in a crystal ball. Yes, Madame Leota conducts her seance, followed by a view into the ballroom with dancing ghosts. A trip to the attic followed by a visit to the graveyard leads to a close encounter with a ghost who will “follow you home.”
Ghosts and the supernatural have been themes in literature and storytelling for centuries. People like to be scared a bit. Macbeth dealt with the ghost of his murdered father (or was it?). Edgar Allen Poe masterfully told tales of terror. Even Mickey Mouse had to take on ghosts in one of his shorts. All of those experiences, however, are two-dimensional. Even when viewing Macbeth on stage, there is typically a “wall” between the audience and the players.
The Haunted Mansion breaks through that wall and takes us into the world of ghosts, and you can’t help but chuckle along the way. What’s not to like?