As one of the attractions my grandfather worked on, Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion has always been close to my heart. It’s spooky fun has drawn to it millions of fans from around the globe who complete the pilgrimage as often as ghostly possible.. While the attraction has changed slightly over the years, it, and versions of it around the world, continue to make new fans with every visit.
A new story in the LA Times looks into the recent changes to the mansion along with what changes, if any, they make to the attraction’s storyline. In fact, there appears to be some debate as to whether there is any intended story at all.
“It’s always been a mystery to me,” Rolly Crump said. Crump was one of the Imagineers invited by Walt Disney to work on the earliest versions of the mansion. Crump and Yale Gracey, the other primary Imagineer involved early in the project, did make some attempt to put a story line (you’ve probably heard about the Sea Captain and his wife), but they also added enough other whimsical elements to the final version of the attraction that guests could really interpret the attraction each in their own way.
One of the more recent additions to the Mansion is the “Black Widow” bride. There had always been a ghost bride in the attic, but the current version is a ‘cut’ above the others and brought her own addition to the mansion. We do get to learn a little bit more of the story behind the ‘Black Widow’ bride thanks to Kat Cressida who provides the figure’s eerie voice.
“She’s a black widow bride. She kills off her husbands and moves on to the next. She would keep trying for more wealth. That was the motive,’ said Cressida.
But even though Imagineers provide many hints as to the Black Widow’s reason for being in the attic (portraits of her decapitated former husbands and the new hatbox ghost all provide clues), they don’t really explain how she is part of the story.
Again, it’s left up to the imagination of the guest. That may help explain why the Haunted Mansion is so popular, even 46 years after its opening.
Ironically, if you went to the park right now you would miss out on much of the updates due to the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay (itself beloved by a cross-over group of fans of the Tim Burton masterpiece movie).
Which begs this question, is it time for Jack Skellington and his Halloween town army to get a full-fledged attraction of their own? Certainly, I’d like to visit Holidayland all-year round, wouldn’t you? Also, it would be nice to have the original Haunted Mansion back for the entire year. We fans can have it both ways, right?