There are so many vignettes at Disneyland. I don’t know about you but I often find myself creating backstories for them. I assume that’s part of the intent, to evoke a history and draw interaction from guests’ imaginations. To the Imagineers responsible for these scenes — mission accomplished. It’s crazy to stop and consider how much these parts add up to and how many there are in making the whole experience.
I’m a big believer in finishing strong and I couldn’t imagine a better way to end our Haunted Mansion series than with the hitchhiking ghosts. Phineas, Ezra and Gus comprise one of the biggest takeaway moments—if not the biggest—from the attraction. Are the hitchhiking ghosts really a little matter the ghost host forgot to mention?
I don’t think so.
I remember being so freaked out as a kid, thinking I needed to look over my shoulder because one of these “playful spooks” was going to tag along. They never actually did, of course, but the idea of it was haunting just the same. It sort of still is, isn’t it? The mirrors that follow and have them magically appear in your doom buggy do wonders to reinforce it.
No matter how many times I ride The Haunted Mansion, the reveal of the hitchhiking ghosts is always so epic and always too fleeting. You go from “Ah, there you are…” to “…there they were” in a few thrilling moments. Capturing a halfway decent picture of them certainly isn’t an easy task. Shooting something that moves in lowlight from a moving vehicle is kind of like trying to catch the bouquet at a wedding. You flail about wildly in hopes of capturing something good but the odds are just not in your favor. Not that I’ve ever done that or anything…
You may notice that I haven’t included the full resolution image for this one. We don’t share many on-ride shots because we’ve been hoarding them away for a special project but we wanted to do something special to end our series. The uploaded image is still high-definition so that it will work for most people to use as a desktop background. Just remember that if you share it to please give attribution and a link back to our site so that people can find us! This image will also be available in our shop (starting tomorrow) along with the other Haunted Mansion shots from this series for a limited time. Did I mention we now offer FREE SHIPPING? Sorry to yell but free=exciting.
Doom buggies. Their appearance has always seemed coffin-like to me. They are the carriages that carry you into the boundless realm of the supernatural, the moldering sanctum of the spirit world within the Haunted Mansion. Once you board, you are at the mercy of your host, your… ghost host.
One of my favorite parts of the experience is the way the doom buggies jerk too and fro as though they have a mind of their own. Challenging for taking pictures. Brilliant for enhancing the haunted part of the Haunted Mansion. It elevates the attraction from something you can observe as a passerby by bridging the gap to make you feel a part of it. Not so different from the way the darts shoot at you in Indiana Jones Adventure or the way errant cannonballs splash water on you in Pirates of the Caribbean.
In The Haunted Mansion, that extra step is what breaks down the barrier of comfort just enough for you to wonder if a hitchhiking ghost will really follow you home…
Tomorrow’s post will be the 13th and last of our Haunted Mansion series celebrating its 45th anniversary. We hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have!
The Haunted Mansion gargoyle candelabra is my favorite lighting fixture of the attraction. Not just for its unique character but for the menacing way the lot of them look down upon you as your tour really gets under way. While the queue outside and even the Haunted Mansion foyer have elements that evoke a creepy atmosphere, the gargoyle is the first that is truly disquieting. Before you notice that the portrait room is a chamber that has no windows or doors and before the room undergoes its metamorphosis to reveal the stories of the stretching portraits, you see the gargoyles, looking down at you in decidedly candid nefarious anticipation. Statues they may be, but their lack of movement can only suggest their willingness to wait.
The Haunted Mansion pet cemetery at Disneyland is another one of those rich areas that you know has more to it than meets the eye. One of my favorite resources to consult on such matters is the Long-Forgotten blog, which is full of Haunted Mansion history, conspiracy, theory and everything in between. The pet cemeteries article over there has some interesting thoughts on the influence behind some of these tombstones. Like one of the commenters there, I view this area as a sort of transition from the romantic charm of New Orleans Square to the more sinister storyline that awaits inside the Mansion.
I took this picture on the same evening I took yesterday’s picture. Disneyland’s normal operating hours were ending and the gates to The Haunted Mansion were closed. Thanks to the graciousness of a couple cast members, we had this area to ourselves for a few minutes. That’s always when the atmosphere becomes the creepiest.
The Haunted Mansion is full of secrets. Some of them true. Some of them not. It is the mystery and the blurred line between the two that piques our curiosity and draws us in deeper. When I heard about the secret graveyard on the back side of the Mansion, I had to ask if it was real and see it for myself. It’s not one of those secrets that only a select few know. It’s more like one that the average visitor doesn’t know.
When I finally managed to make it, I was delighted to have the experience. What impressed me more than the pet cemetery plots was the light emanating from behind The Haunted Mansion. As the song goes, weird glows gleam where spirits dwell, right? I know it’s just light, but it was pretty darn creepy. Again, the thoughtfulness of Disney theming shone through. The only (park approved) way to get to this area is to be escorted by a cast member. To be escorted by a cast member, one has to know about it to ask. Once you’ve asked, you have to hope that there is a cast member available (don’t ask when it’s busy, it’s just bad manners). For an area that’s obviously not intended to be seen by many, this seems an unnecessary feature, which is what makes it so fantastic.
People can feel what’s poured into something, whether or not they can (ever) see it. If you pour the fire of passion into something, people will feel the heat even if they can’t see the flame. Disneyland is the perfect example of this (most of the time). No matter how seemingly insignificant a detail might be, it deserves the same level of attention, planning and execution.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t dare round the corner. Sometimes it’s best to leave the mystery alive!
This evening, we continue our 13 post tour celebrating The Haunted Mansion’s 45th anniversary beneath the chandelier in the foyer… where the air is deathly still. The chandelier is a statement piece and makes for such a grand entrance that one hardly ever notices the spiderweb inlaid to the floor. I find that the light fixtures in the foyer are my favorites unless we’re including the gargoyles in the stretch room. Then it’s a little more difficult to decide, partially due to my concern that the gargoyles look hungry. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m a sucker for candles. Even semi-convincing fake ones. Am I the only one going around picking out my favorite light fixtures while I’m at Disneyland?
The Haunted Mansion will be closing next week to make way for the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay installation. It’s always a bittersweet transition for me because despite how much I enjoy Jack Skellington and the scent of gingerbread taking over, I miss my classic Haunted Mansion.
Lighting is the key to atmosphere. This Haunted Mansion sconce addresses that not only with its light but with the vessel it delivers that light from. What better way to light a crypt than with a torch held by a dark skeletal arm? It reminds me of the scene in the graveyard that has an arm bricking itself in its crypt. It’s a morbid thought but I have always appreciated the balanced tone that the Haunted Mansion strikes.
I was very fortunate to have the help of a cast member to capture this sconce. I’m not sure I would have been able to get it otherwise. The Haunted Mansion exit is always a tricky area—so much to see, so many people behind you. She allowed us to hang out to the side of exit ramp so that we would be out of the way to take a few pictures. It was amazing to have the time to really look at all the details packed into this space. Big thanks to her for being so awesome!
I mentioned in last night’s post that we would have Haunted Mansion pictures in our shop starting today. Unfortunately, we had a few things come up that prevented us from setting that up, so they will be available starting tomorrow.