The Imagineers had many different concepts of what the story behind the Haunted Mansion should be, ranging from a bloodthirsty sea pirate's murdering his new wife to a wedding gone awry when a ghost steps in and kills off the groom. Every time a new idea surfaced, the question was asked: is this too scary? Not scary enough? That, and the 6-year gap from conception to opening day, caused the Mansion's many legends and myths to blend into one another and become impossible to distinguish from each other. In any case, the bride is consistent with most of the stories; she symbolizes a wedding that met with a tragic end. The man hanging from the ceiling in the attic is named Phinneas Pock; in some tales he is the bride's husband, but in some stories they are of no relation. The people in the stretching paintings, Madame Leota, the birthday party, and all the other unrelated scenes are representative of the multitude of other ideas that the Imagineers came up with. So the Haunted Mansion does not have any one story or theme.
Kind of disappointing, isn't it? It would be so much more fun if the Mansion really did have a story. I guess it would be possible to tie all the stories together somehow, to make them relate to one another.
REPORTED: Meg 29 JUL 96
CONFIRMED: Jed 31 JUL 96
Was there a Mr. Gracey? A ghost that was deemed too scary and removed because little old ladies had heart attacks? Yes and no. If you look at the 1969 Haunted Mansion LP as well as the early 80's hardbacked Disneyland guide and the Winter 1994 issue of the Disney Magazine, you will see Mr. Gracey aka the Groom aka the hatbox ghost. He is a skeletal figure in a cloak and top hat and holds a hatbox. (He slightly resembles skeletal hitchhiker. Is Mr. Gracey beating it from his bride?) As the record says, "With each beat of his bride's heart, the Groom's head disappeared from his body and appeared in the hatbox." The Hatbox ghost has been confirmed to me by David Mumford, Imagineer and fellow Haunted Mansion fanatic. But was he deemed too scary? No. Actually, the effect of the disappearing/reappearing head never worked to the Imagineer's satisfaction, so he was removed from the attraction. (If he was ever in it at all... I'm not sure on this point...) I'd personally love to see the groom finally re-united with his bride after all these years...
UPDATE: Scott A. Rogers 31 AUG 96
I can confirm the existence of the "Hatbox Ghost", at least in planning and development. There's a book at my library called "Disneyland, the First Quarter Century". It includes a picture of a skelton-like ghoul, holding a hatbox. Floating inside the hatbox was a skull, which a technician was adjusting. The ghost appeared to be a reflection like the ones in the ballroom, as the tech's arm is right "through" him. On the floor by the technician was a rectangular board, which corresponded with the ghosts feet, which, from where the tech was, he needed so he could tell where the feet of the ghost "seemed" to be.
CONFIRMED: Rob Steere 15 MAY 97
The "Mr.Gracey" some of the stories referred to as the Groom Ghost was obviously a tribute to Yale Gracey, the Imagineer in charge of the project.
UPDATE: Rachel and Elizabeth 12 JUL 97
Regarding the background story of the Haunted Mansion, the Imagineers had three main characters in the Haunted Mansion: The Bride, the Groom, and the Phantom. The Phantom killed the Groom and the Bride committed suicide, which explains the Bride in the attic and the hanged man in the stretch room. This story was later revived and used in Disneyland Paris.
UPDATE: GraveyardGirls 14 JUL 97
The specific, true story behind the Haunted Mansion is that a sea captain built an antebullum mansion for his new bride. But after they were married, the well-off young woman found out her new husband was a blood thirsty pirate. He killed her in a jealous rage, but her ghost returned to haunt him. It got to the point where he couldn't take it any longer, so he hung himself in the attic rafters, which is where he is seen now. :)
UPDATE: Brittany S. 14 JUL 97
The article is from the Spring 1992 Disney News (now called The Disney Magazine). The article refers specifically to the Disneyland park. Even though there are many variations of the Haunted Mansion story, I've always heard that Disneyland and Walt Disney World share the same plot. As far as I understand it, it wasn't until Phantom Manor that the plot was rearranged.
As you will see the story presented in the Disney news is pretty short and to the point. This may be because of limited printing space, but what if the actual original story really isn't as detailed and complex as some of the versions floating around. I just think that it would be pretty funny is there is an imagineer sitting back at his desk chuckling in awe at how Disney fans have evolved what may have begun as a simple, straightforward plot. I know what your thinking. Imagineering is famous for their attention to detail. However, I sometimes wonder how many of those details are actually conjured up by park cast members and Disney fans.
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UPDATE: Jorge Hernandez 21 NOV 97
Just writing to confirm, we got the inside info on the REAL story of the Haunted Mansion from several cast members. A "merchant" bought the mansion and decorated it in "ship-style" (notice the weather-vane, the telescope, and other ship equipment on the second floor outside). He got engaged, then had to leave on business. The girl found a trunk (remember that haunted trunk in the ride?) and discovered he was, in fact, a pirate. She confronted him with this when he returned, and he axe-murdered her to keep her quiet. (Hence, the bride and the mocking wedding march). She haunted him, and in his remorse, he hung himself (that ghost you see in the "stretching room"). The two haunted the mansion, and several other ghosts saw it as a haven and joined them. The raven was supposed to be the narrator, but if you'll notice, the "ghost host" only speaks when there is a raven present. (Only exception - when you're going backwards in the buggy, the raven crows). Walt ditched the idea when he realized it was too scary for children.
UPDATE: Beauty and the Beast 23 JUN 98
The raven seen so often in the Haunted Mansion is there for a reason. It was planned that he would narrate the story as you proceed through the house. This idea fell through, but the raven still remains.
UPDATE: Amy Vickery 24 JAN 99
Walt Disney wanted the story to be told by the ravens in the attraction, although a few of the imagenieers decided and convinced Walt thayt children would remember a story rather than than objects popping up at them., and it would scare them too much. So then story starts out.....There was once a pirate who long ago in his era it was not to be heard or know of it you were a pirate and consquenses would follow if anyone had found out. So being this fact the pirate had met this young woman and they eventually fell in love. All along the woman did not know he was a pirate she belived that he was a sales merchant because that was what she was told. Now tragidy strikes when on their wedding night the woman finds out that her love is truly a pirate after all. The pirate knowing that she had to face the consiquence of knowing the truth... the pirate kills his love with a knife. He then in saddness could not live with the pain of killing her true love and so the ONLY WAY OUT was to hang himself. Now throughout the attraction you will see ravens scattered throughtout and as you go down the hallway of the knocking doors on the left hand side you will see a small table with a book on it and above the table is a full length potrait of the pirate. He is holding a bloody knife in one hand and a noose in anouther! Now the bride in the attic is his bride to be. As you exit the attraction look up at the house and you shall he a pirate ship on top resembling that this was the pirates house and you were just through his haunted house!
UPDATE: anon 28 FEB 99
The Haunted Mansion was originally had a plot. The plot was that a sailor built the house for his soon to be wife. But he murdered her. This is obvousily un-disneylike and the plot was killed (No pun intended). But you can still see the props, the weather vein is a ship a top the house, the bride with the glowing heart, and the heads that pop up in the graveyard and attic say "I do" taunting the otherwise would be bride.
UPDATE: Joey (Future imagineer) 14 MAR 99
One of the actual blueprints of the Disneyland Haunted Mansion confirms the existence of the infamous HatBox Ghost.
UPDATE: Foxx 16 JAN 00
The story of the Haunted Mansion is supposedly a true story. Here it is as I've heard it from a couple of Cast Members: The ghost host fell in love with a women, who then moved into his house, which is now the haunted mansion. They were to be married the day after the man was to return from a 12 month trading expedition. The woman was instructed to prepare the house for the wedding (it was a bit run down for the man was never into cleaning) and when she finished, to wait for him to return. He also told her that she could anywhere in the house except in the attic, because that was his own private area. So the wife did clean the house, which took 11 1/2 months to do, and then her curiousity got the better of her and she went up into the attic, where her fiance forbid her to go. When she got up there, she found trunks full of gold, silver, jewelry and other treasures, and finally came to the assumption that he was not a merchant, as he had said, but he was a pirate. She was so distraut that she threw herself out of the window, and landed approximately where the graveyard in the queue is today. When the pirate returned home, he found his wife lying, dead in the garden. He went into the house and went up to the attic, and found his treasure strewn around the room and the glass broken in one of the windows. After many months, he started to go crazy. He was so mad at what he had done to her, that he started to have many mood swings, and kept to himself for many months in his home. He eventually hung himself in the attic. That is why on the ride, in the stretching room, he says that there are no windows or doors and there is not was to escape, which is true of him when he went crazy; there was no way to escape. That is also why we see his skeleton hanging in the top part of the room after he says that you can always escape my way, which is to hang yourself.
UPDATE: Brandon 22 OCT 01
The Ghost Host in the elevator is Master Gracey, who is said to have hung himself. I can prove that if the stories are true. They say he hung himself because he wanted to get out of problems in his life, and when you hear "Of course, there's always my way.", it shows somebody being hung. Which I think is Master Gracey.
UPDATE: Haunted Mansion Freak 15 MAY 02
To add to the "Raven narrates the ride" theory: If you buy the Haunted Mansion CD from the Disneyland or Disney World stores, you will hear the recording track for Madame Leota. In her recording session, she reads a piece saying "The coward's way! He chose the coward's way! Lived in forevermore! Forevermore! Forevermore! Beware the raven evermore! Beware of hitchhikers, beware of hitchhikers! Forevermore! Forevermore! Beware the raven evermore!!" So yes, it appears that the raven was our original host.
CONFIRMED: Jeremy Wilcox 10 JUN 02
I've heard a lot of speculation as to who Phinneas Pock is. I don't think that Phinneas Pock & Willie the Wisp are actually in the Haunted Mansion. They were characters created for the old radio ads Disney used to promote the Haunted Mansion back in the 60's!
UPDATE: Jaycub 11 JUN 02