If you’re anything like me and love Disney and horror, then the Haunted Mansion is your favorite ride at Disneyland. Especially going there as a child, the illusions of ghosts dancing in the main hall, a party in the cemetery, and of course, those stretching paints always captivated my mind. So when I was reviewing the schedule for ScareLA and saw that there was a Lost Haunted Mansion panel, I couldn’t miss it.
This panel was put on the Captured Aural Phantasy Theater (@CAPTLA). If you aren’t familiar with CAPT, they are part vintage radio show and part variety show, or as they describe on their website: it “is what would happen if Garrison Keilor, John Waters and Stan Lee all hooked up after a night of hard partying.” They have a great love for comics and are a blast to watch on stage.
They had done this performance once before for the Ghost Hunters of Urban Lost Angeles, but that was in a tiny cafe with about 20 people, so it totally doesn’t count. So now, this was the world premier performance of the original 1957 script for Disneyland’s The Haunted Mansion. It was pieced together from many different sources, so it’s a real treat to hear.
So sit back, and let’s imagine what the ride could have been.
The year is 1957: gas was 24 cents a gallon, stamps were 3 cents, and Disneyland was 2 years old. The idea of a ghostly mansion atop a hill was conceived for the yet to be built New Orleans Square. This ride was meant to be a walkthrough of the mansion (no Doombuggies). Walt Disney’s voice greets us, informing us of the Mansion’s history. It was transplanted here and some deities may have came along for the ride.
This mansion was owned by the Gore family. A beautiful young lady, Priscilla Blood, meets the handsome Captain Gore, and soon they are to marry. However, before this can happen, she finds his sea chest and uncovers his secret: he is the infamous pirate Black Bart! He finds out, strangles her, and dumps her body in the mansion’s well. He then realizes his anguish, and hangs himself to join her. Every year on the anniversary of their death, the ghosts come out to try and lift the curse on the mansion.
We enter the mansion, and locked doors surround us–suggesting dangers lie beyond. Paintings line the walls and they appear to follow us as we move along the hallway. A butler named Beauregard guides us into the library. Beauregard is a servant of the Gore family. In the library, a lonesome ghost eagerly tells us of the upcoming wedding. This is done fantastically by a performer in a box, only his head showing, and he illuminated by a blue light. The ghost tells us he sure loves human company, and invites us to join! Ohh, weddings. I love weddings. I hope there is an open bar!
As we continue a female ghost greets us, but she’s missing something–a head! We soon arrive at a bedroom. A storm rages outside, rain pounding at the window, lightning sounding in the distance. A four post bed sits in the center. A werewolf howls in the distance. We hear a commotion outside and gather around the bay window. The spirits have begun to rise from the cemetery outside, heading towards the house. The guest of honor arrives: the headless horseman, and we move deeper into the house.
We reach the main hall and the party begins. Before us are all of the famous monsters: the phantom of the opera, king tut, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, and many more. The wedding continues until the spirits grow restless and usher us out.
“Hurry Back… Hurry Back”
It’s easy to see how much of this original concept still survives to this day. Aspects of Captain Gore’s hanging appear in the Ghost Host character, and his pirate nature in The Mariner. The party in the great hall is still the most lively room, with the ghosts in the cemetery rising from their graves to join the festivities. However, the silly names of the characters didn’t survive (apart from being placed on tombstones at Walt Disney World in 2011) and the invention of the Doombuggies meant they didn’t need to pay multiple guides.
In my opinion, what survived is the best amalgamation of multiple ideas refined over time. But there is something wonderful about thinking of walking the halls of the haunted mansion. Taking your time to really appreciate the decor, see that famous wallpaper up close, and maybe stop to listen to the ghosts sing to you on repeat. However, all I know is one thing: the haunted mansion is not the haunted mansion without it’s famous stretching paintings.