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Disneyland Article
I Was On The Haunted Mansion During A Ride Malfunction And It Was The Best Experience I Have Ever Had

Haunted Mansion
Julie Tremaine
January 30, 2022
February 9, 2022
There are people who like Haunted Mansion, and then there are people who, if they spend a day at Disneyland without a visit (or three) to the park’s “999 happy haunts,” leave feeling like the day was a total failure. Given that I wrote the previous sentence, it probably isn’t hard for you to decide which category I fall into. The attraction isn’t just my favorite ride in the park, it’s my favorite ride of any park anywhere I’ve ever been (even the death-defying Velocicoaster).

When the ride malfunctioned in a totally unexpected way last time I rode, I was able to discover things about Haunted Mansion I had never seen or heard before.

Dare I say, it was, in the words of the Ghost Host narrator, “delightfully unlivable.”

Just like any other person who’s maybe a little bit obsessed with something about Disney, I’ve done my best to discover every tiny aspect of the 1969 dark ride, peering into different corners each time so as to fully absorb the tiny details. It’s the one ride I hope breaks down while I’m on it, just so I can spend more time inside. (This has happened roughly 12 of the last 15 times I’ve ridden, at least for a brief moment, so lucky for me, if not lucky for the maintenance crews responsible for getting it back up and running.)

In my fandom, I have braved a long line on the park’s opening day to ride Haunted Mansion, just like I had dreamed of doing all of the 400-plus days Disneyland was closed, only to discover a previously unannounced return of the May-December portrait that had been retired years back. Later, I got to experience the secret entrance to the ride, the one only used for crowd control during social distancing, which is decorated like the servants’ back staircase and full of Easter eggs.

I have tracked down Rolly Crump, one of the original Haunted Mansion Imagineers who worked with Walt Disney to create an even scarier counterpart to the ride (one which, to my great sadness, was eventually nixed). I’ve even stayed in the allegedly-but-probably-actually-haunted hotel room on the Queen Mary that was once Disney’s prototype room for a Haunted Mansion at sea.

So when Haunted Mansion reopened last week after the closure to remove its seasonal “Nightmare Before Christmas” overlay, I made plans to get there, and fast — because the ride reopened with changes I was eager to discover, or so I had heard.

What I found, the first time I rode that day, were a few subtle, if not exactly remarkable, changes. The recording that plays after you’ve exited the stretching room and as you’re waiting to get in your Doom Buggy ride car has been slightly modified. It looks like there are going to be some additional modifications to the part of that room where you load into the buggies because the walls are plain black and, it seems to me, still under construction.

The most interesting things I saw that looked new to me were in the attic room, where the murderous bride Constance keeps all the mementos from her dearly departed grooms. There was a miniature dollhouse-style model of the New Orleans-style mansion that houses the ride — and not only that, but just behind it, a replica of the Dutch gothic-style building that houses this ride’s equivalent at Walt Disney World. That room is always so full that I can’t tell whether the models are new or they’ve just been moved to a more prominent place on the ride track. Either way, it was my first time seeing that Disney World crossover.

Later in the day, I decided to take another ride through because I wanted to get a second look to see if there were other changes I had missed. I waited maybe 20 minutes in line and listened closely in the stretching room. (Did the Ghost Host’s voice always come from alternate sides of the elevator depending on what he was saying? That seemed new to me too.) Then I got into my Doom Buggy, and that’s when it all started.

Or, more accurately, it didn’t.

I heard the safety warning in my ride car’s speakers, and then I heard nothing else. Other cars had the Ghost Host’s narration — I could hear it faintly — but my car was totally silent. For a minute, I wondered what was going on, and then I realized that something totally unique was happening.

I started hearing all of these little sounds I had never heard before.

In the hallway, I had always thought there was only one door that made noise, the one that bulged as though something nefarious was trying to get through. On this ride, I heard distinct sounds from behind each one, some of them human (or incorporeal?) voices, and some menacing snarls.

The sounds are so faint normally that not even the Haunted Mansion ride script from Disney Parks Script Central records them. In the hallway scene, that script lists the sound effects as simply “Door knockers clang, clock ticks.”

When I got to the next room, I heard Madame Leota say, “Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat, call in the spirits, wherever they’re at!” And then I heard an enormous whoosh of ghost wind that I had never heard before. The spirits really were arriving! Kind of. Whether there are actually ghosts in Disneyland is still up for debate — though some paranormal investigators don’t discount the possibility.

Without the background noise, each time Madame Leota called on an instrument like the tambourine to play, I fully heard it for the first time ever. Before that day, I didn’t realize the horn plays part of the “Grim Grinning Ghosts” song from the graveyard scene.

It may all sound small, but for a long time I’ve felt like I had seen everything there was to see in my favorite part of Disneyland. It was kind of like reaching into your pocket to throw away what you think is a receipt and pulling out a $100 bill instead.

Without the soundtrack distracting me, I found myself noticing a lot of new visual details, too. For the first time, I paid attention to the meowing cats in the graveyard scene. I had barely looked at them before, let alone realized they were talking in their feline way to the ghosts nearby.

It felt like an entirely new ride. Or, at least, a sequel that was just as good as the original in every possible way — which we all know never happens in real life. Unless, of course, you’re talking about “Indiana Jones.”
Attractions Referenced

Haunted Mansion

Haunted Mansion Holiday

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