Magical Monday: Haunted Mansion

hey there everyone! It’s another Monday and summer is finally coming to an end, so that means fall and all things spooky is upon us. Since last week Thursday, August 9th was the 49th birthday of the spooky house, I decided we should really dive into the Haunted Mansion and its cult following.

As most of you know by now I worked at Disneyland, and I had the honor of working as a maid for the haunted mansion. While it is a dream of some to be able to put on those itchy and uncomfortable iconic costumes, I wasn’t quite sure if I was in love with this costume or just the character I was able to play in it. Let’s start with the history of this place, During Halloween you can take a paid guided tour and learn all about the history and concept of the haunted mansion, you get a cookie and even a ride on the ride without waiting its pretty cool and informative, if you really like the Haunted Mansion it’s definitely something to look into.

History

The Haunted Mansion wasn’t always going to be a big stately manor in the heart of New Orleans square, originally Walt had the idea of an old run down, scary looking house at the end of Main Street. It was supposed to be a walking tour of the house, where maids and butlers would show you the house and discuss the previous owners who are as some may know as the sea captain and his wife. After many revisions and ideas thrown out they decided on a ride rather then a walk through museum tour. During all of Walt’s turmoil of trying to find consistent theme for his dream he didn’t like the idea of anything in his park not looking clean and family oriented. Once all the imagineers decided on where they were going to put the attraction they decided on an old plantation looking house, it was clean like Walt wanted, but still had a spooky feeling.

In 1963 the imagineers were able to put the facade of the mansion up, but the actual attraction it self sat empty from 1964-1965 because Walt and the imagineers were busy with the New York’s World Fair. After Walt’s death in 1966 everyone returned to the Mansion, including Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey, to finally finish this project. They were able to take ideas from the Worlds Fair like audio animatronics, and the ride vehicle system later named, “doom buggies” and implement them into the attraction. After years of hard work the Haunted Mansion finally opened on August 9, 1969 astonishing guest with all the ghostly mischief it has to offer. The Mansion was such a  big success that the imagineers had already started working on a Haunted Mansion for the Magic Kingdom in Florida. Today every Disneyland around the world has a Haunted Mansion attraction, they’re all different in their own unique ways.

My Experience

Whenever you learn a new attraction at Disney, your training lasts 3 days, that includes every position of the ride, and reading the Operating Guide (OG). At the Haunted Mansion there can be anywhere from 6-14 people working the attraction at any given time, and you need to be able to preform every position efficiently and safely. Once you finish all your training, and you pass your PA, you’re ready to start working alone at all these positions. While some positions you’re surrounded by other cast members, like at load you always have at least one more person with you making sure guest are safe and following the rules. But when you work unload you’re all by yourself while this might not sound too safe because guest don’t always follow the rules, Disney gives you a mirror so you can see if a guest hops back into a buggie while you’re helping other people.

The Haunted Mansion is supposed to give off an eerie feeling like someone is always watching you, or cold chills. This same feeling is very much present walking in the back stage areas in the house as well as when all the working lights are on and you’re doing a final or opening check list of the ride. The one position I absolutely hated was unload, and this wasn’t until my 3rd or 4th shift in the mansion. One day we had to stop the attraction because a guest dropped their cane in the graveyard scene, everyone that was able to get off the ride had already past and the lead had already ran through the ride to get the cane. I’m standing by the buttons to re-start the ride, when something grabbed the back of my cape I was wearing. I looked at the mirror in front of me to make sure no one ran down the exit ramp, and I walked over and checked all the empty buggies by me, and no one or anything was there. I started up the ride and went about the rest of my shift pretending like nothing happened.

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(me sitting at the Oregon from the dance scene in the mansion)

While I wish that was the only time I had an experience at the Mansion, I had 1 more that really sort of scared me. There is a position in almost every long dark ride called Tower, this person sits at a desk a watches all the monitors for the ride. During high peak times or grad nights, you’re constantly hitting a button to spiel into the ride, such as:”please remain seated,” “No flash Photography” “shut up” you know the usual things to make sure all guest are safe and enjoying the ride. Most of the time next to the Tower area there is a Lead desk so if anything unusual happens you can tell the lead and they can handle it, also this is a safety position, you’re not aloud to leave the monitors unattended. This one time I was cycling the cameras and I stopped on the grave yard scene because a lot of people like to stand up and knock on there friends buggie in front of them to give them a good scare. Inside the graveyard the track of the ride is lined with pressure mats that if stepped on or someone drops something the whole ride will stop and it’ll pop up on the monitors. I was watching the monitor when I saw a child jump out of his buggie and ran into the buggie on the next camera. So I immediately hit the ride stop button and switched cameras to see the buggie the kid had jumped into, once I switched cameras their was only 2 adults in the buggie no child. Then I realized the ride didn’t automatically stop from the pressure mats being  stepped on, That’s when I started yelling for a lead or anyone to come help me, I had no idea what to do, that’s when the calls from load and unload started coming in asking if everything was ok. I was so in shock that I just said yeah, pressed the spiel button and started the ride back up like nothing happened.

When I finally had the courage to tell some of my co workers what had happened they said, “Oh yeah, that’s the little boy who’s always here, sometimes he’s crying. But he just likes to play tricks on people.” so nonchalant like they’ve seen it all the time. Apparently their is also an old man in the mansion that likes to hangout at unload as well and play with the girls hair.

I never really believed that people dump ashes of their loved ones at Disneyland, until I started working at the Mansion. The most common places that ashes are scattered in are Fantasyland, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and believe it or not The Winnie Pooh Ride. I have encountered ashes a handful of times while working for Disney. Once inside the Winnie the Pooh ride while I was doing a walk through, and a few times in the mansion. Ashes look like white sand with big clumps, but seeing it in person if you’ve never seen it before looks sort of like when you dump a pixy stick out, I know I’m sorry I just ruined that candy.

One of my favorite parts about working at the mansion has to be the iconic costumes, maids and buttlers. I loved dressing up everyday, putting on red or dark lipstick, winged eyeliner, as long as you were in character you could break the Disney standard of dress code, but just for that attraction. My favorite part of the costume was my bat hat, that was my favorite costume piece I had ever had while working for Disney, like everyone else I named my bat buddy Lillian, but not after Walt’s wife, after Lillian Munster from the family sitcom The Munsters. I absolutely loved that show so it was fitting to name my partner in crime bat Lillian.

being in character was not that hard for me when it comes to sarcasm and dark humor, although it was sometime hard not to smile when it came to little kids, but with all the stupid comments from older men it became easier to just roll my eyes and look the other way when they would say, “you’d look prettier if you just smiled.” one of the sayings I’ve learned to hate so much.

I absolutely love my fellow cast memebers, there was never a moment I doubted if they had my back when it came to irate guests. That’s something I’ll never forget about Working at the mansion, the sense of family and community, if you were ever having a bad day someone was always there to talk to, and I was always there for someone when they needed something. When my husband was deployed they would always ask me how I was or how he was. Some of them would make plans to go to Disney or just out to keep my mind off of not being able to talk to him. It was so nice and reassuring to have so many people by your side.

I hope that this post is something you really liked to read about when it comes to Disney I know there’s a lot of stories and misconceptions especially around the Haunted Mansion and why it’s a fan favorite. I also hope you liked reading about my own experience working in the infamous mansion. till next time, like Madame Leota  says,

“Hurry Back.”