Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom

One of my all-time favorite rides at Disney World is the Haunted Mansion. Located in Liberty Square, the mansion looks over the square from a hill. The atmosphere is just spooky enough to be fun and the cast members are to die for. Each Disney park around the world has a Haunted Mansion ride themed to the area of the park. The exterior of the Mansion in Disney World is styled after the Gothic mansions of the northeast.

The queue for the Haunted Mansion was always fun, but the new interactive queue is wonderful. You approach the mansion through wonderfully Gothic gates, adorned with bats. A horse-drawn hearse, with an invisible horse, has been parked in front of the Mansion, as if waiting for a funeral. As you near the entrance to the Mansion, you have a choice of paths. One leads directly to the Mansion, a good idea if you're in a hurry. The other leads to the cemetery, full of crypts and headstones to play with. I know it sounds kind of morbid, but I love the cemetery! All of the headstones from the old cemetery have been moved to this new area, including the Madame Leota stone. The old headstones, including Leota, are all references to the original Disney Imagineers who created the Haunted Mansion. When you find Leota, be sure to watch her face closely for a slightly creepy surprise.

There are several new busts in the cemetery, each alluding to the death of a member of the family who lived in the Mansion. As you continue on, you'll pass a giant crypt covered in stone instruments. Be sure to touch them as each one changes the music coming from the crypt. At the end of the crypt is an organ keyboard, a Ravenscroft. Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger, is the main singer of the classic Disney song "Grim, Grinning Ghosts." Play a few notes on the organ for a soggy surprise. On the other side of the crypt, the instruments have been warped. Touching them will make the music sound strange and off-key. Next up is the grave of Master Gracey, one of the original ghosts. As you round the corner, you will see the massive watery tomb of Captain Culpepper Clyne. Beware touching his dismal grave! The final tomb is that of a poetess who's tomb says "Her plaintive pleas can still be heard 'O Muse, provide the perfect word!'" You can hear her trying out different words as she attempts to complete her final poem. Both sides of her tomb are covered in books that pop in and out and can be pushed. As you pass the back of Captain Clyne's tomb, be sure to peak over the fence and see if you can spot the Bride's ring in the pavement. The ring used to be a fun Disney myth, but when they built the new cemetery section, they added a real ring to the concrete.

The Bride's ring can be difficult to spot.
Upon exiting the cemetery, you will enter the Mansion and a cast member will direct you into the antechamber. The antechamber features a fireplace with a changing portrait on the mantle. When the next door opens, you will move into the dead center of the Stretching Room. Your "Ghost Host" will give you a glimpse of what's to come. the room begins to stretch, revealing the true nature of the portraits and a spooky surprise. The Stretching Room can be rather frightening for young children. The darkness and screams can be quite shocking if you're not expecting it. Bean would always close her eyes and cover her ears in this room until she was about 7 years old.

As you exit the Stretching Room, you will enter a very crowded area that funnels down to single file as you enter your Doombuggy. Be sure to keep hold of your  party as it is easy to become separated in this room. Each Doombuggy can holdup to two adults and one child comfortably. Once safely inside, sit back and enjoy the ride, and be sure to turn off your camera as bright lights frighten the ghosts.

The evil Bride herself
There are 15 rooms in the Haunted Mansion, including a portrait gallery with changing pictures, a library, a room full of MC Escher type stairs, long hallways of creaking doors and spooky eyes, and a funeral parlor. A giant, demonic grandfather clock, with clawed hands and 13 hours, winds backward as you glide by. You pass through Madame Leota's seance room, which I think is one of the best in the Mansion. Leota's head appears in a crystal ball that floats above the table as she conducts her seance. The special effect of her floating head is absolutely fantastic! As you glide past the Ballroom, be on the lookout for hidden Mickeys. You'll find one on the table of the birthday party. In the past, if you rode through with the Pal Mickey doll, he shivered and said something about there being ghosts over by the organ.

After you exit the Ballroom, you'll enter the Attic, home of Constance, the black-widow Bride. This is probably the creepiest part of the ride as Constance seems truly evil with her smirking comments, glowing heart, and magically appearing hatchet. The last room is the most fun: the Cemetery. Here the music changes to "Grim Grinning Ghosts" and the mood is lighter. Keep an eye out for the groundskeeper Dick O'Dell and his frightened dog, and the singing busts. the broken bust is Thurl Ravenscroft. As you exit the cemetery, your Ghost Host will warn you to "Beware of hitchhiking ghosts." There are new hitchhiking ghost effects with several different possibilities. These include a ghost that swaps the heads of the passengers in your Doombuggy. That one is Bean's favorite. Once you've acquired a ghost, you'll see a mini Leota waving and calling out "Hurry Back! Be sure to bring your Death Certificate!"

After exiting your Doombuggy, be sure to take a moment to view the crypts outside to your left. All of Bluebeard's wives have been entombed together, which is rather funny if you know the story. We love the epitaph, "Six of them were faithful, but the seventh did him in!" Just past Bluebeard's tomb is the pet cemetery. Be on the lookout for Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, a reference to a ride that no longer exists at Disney World. And there's a fun new photo opportunity, too. As the epitaph says, "These stately headstones represent two friends lost by accident. Side by Side their heads repose. Where's the rest? No one knows."

The Haunted Mansion is always fun, but some special magic occurs during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. You can have your photo taken near the hearse. After some Disney PhotoPass magic, a ghostly driver will be added to your photo. This is the only time of year that you can get this special photo. Also during the party, one of the ghosts will sit on the lawn near the queue and tell stories of her life and death. It's a fun, spooky twist on Disney storytime.

The Haunted Mansion is a great not-too-spooky ride. With the new interactive queue, it's a great place for a little ghostly fun. And remember, the Haunted Mansion is home to 999 Happy Haunts, but there's always room for one more...

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