One of the most popular attractions at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland is the Haunted Mansion. One of Walt Disney’s favorite ideas from the earliest development of the original park in California, the old-but-elegant outside hid one of the top technological operations inside, making ghosts and haunted features so scary, early workers were reportedly terrified not just by the special effects but occasionally by real haunted events, like motion detectors being triggered when no one was around. While there are many ghost stories associated with the Haunted Mansion (more on those later), the version in Florida has recently been beset by problems that have forced the ride to be mysteriously shut down, with visitors needing to be rescued, at least twice, with puzzling causes forcing repairs to take days. Design problems, hardware gremlins … or real ghosts?
“The attraction is down but it isn’t on scheduled refurbishment so it must be some sort of technical issues.”
This was on March 3rd, when the Haunted Mansion was reported down by employees, who had no more info from the always-secretive company. On March 4, the Haunted Mansion was closed, along with Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which are in the same vicinity as Haunted Mansion. Jokes about the ghostly characters in the mansion causing the problem spread, but most suspected technical breakdown – even worse for the perfectionist organization. The Haunted Mansion was down for four days, reopening on March 7, but several days, but it broke down again on March 9 and guests had to be evacuated from it. Before the Haunted Mansion could open again, the coronavirus shut down the entire park until at least the end of the month. Coincidence? Does Disney have that kind of power to cover-up a mysterious and potentially embarrassing problem with a mass shutdown?
While you ponder one organization having that kind of power (not far-fetched these days), let’s look at some real ghost stories from the Haunted Mansion.
While the park generally denies it and looks down upon the practice, a number of visitors have scattered ashes of loved ones who loved the ride throughout the Haunted Mansion. There are rumors of the ghost of a small boy, whose mother did this, roaming the mansion. Both the California and Florida rides have versions of this story. Are there others? In addition, real images of deceased former employees are hidden on the ride. Madame Leota, the Mansion’s floating head in a crystal ball, has the face of Leota Toombs, one of Disney’s first female Imagineers. The cemetery in the Orlando ride has a tombstone for Claude Coats, one of the original designers. Coats wife was said to have been spooked by it.
For real ghosts, visitors and employees often report seeing the spirit of a man who was believed to have crashed his small plane in the 1940s in the lake drained to build the park. After the ride opened, deaths have allegedly occurred inside of it. there’s the story of a man so scared during the ride that he suffered a heart attack and died – this was during the early days when the ride was even scarier. Then there’s the story of a teen who stepped out of a car and fell 15 feet, breaking his neck. Both ghosts have been reported by visitors. These and other tales are said to be urban legends by Disney, but the rumors persist, as do Haunted Mansion ghost sightings.
Urban legends? Real ghosts? Mechanical gremlins? A mysterious disease? Former employees attest to the secrecy of Disney and the control the company puts on their lives and comments about their jobs, even after they leave. And don’t forget the rumor (denied by the company, family and others) that Walt himself is cryogenically preserved somewhere. Is he haunting his greatest creation out of frustration that he hasn’t been thawed yet?
For now, the parks are closed until at least April. Will the gremlins be gone by then? Will the ghosts?