There are several versions of Disney’s Haunted Mansion. But this one is the original. In fact, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Disney’s dark ride. Each time I visit a Disney park, the line for the Haunted Mansion is always one of the longest and the reactions to people in the line and on the ride are always the most fun. A little bit later, I’ll tell you what’s so great about the ride and who the ride might be too scary for.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Haunted Mansion over the past several years. It all started with memorable rides on the Walt Disney World version as a child and teen, then it became an obsession with the website Doombuggies.com, and when I started working as a freelance writer for a living, I began to write as many articles about the Haunted Mansion as I possibly could.
First I interviewed Corey Burton, who provides the voice of the Ghost Host for the Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland, and recently an article I wrote about a party for the Haunted Mansion was published in Haunted Attractions magazine. As I’ve been doing even work for what I hope will end up as a feature in Geek Monthly magazine, I’m reminded of just how amazed I was when I was able to visit the original ride in 2008.
I’m still not exactly sure what the power of the ride is that it can keep people like me so focused on it for such a long period of time. It seems to be something different for everyone, ranging from the special effects all the way up to the happy memories of first rides as a child. But one thing’s for sure, Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is fascinating and original enough to have created more versions of the ride and die-hard fans like myself all over the world.
So just what exactly does the ride entail and should you give it a try? Well, of course you should definitely give it a try if you’re visiting a Disney theme park! (I’ll try to keep this ride-review as spoiler-free as possible, because half the fun of riding the Haunted Mansion for the first time is the feeling of surprise as you go from scene to scene.)
You have nothing to lose even if you don’t like haunted houses. Why? Because this is not your traditional haunted house. Over the years, Halloween haunted houses have come to be violent, bloody, and gory experiences filled with disturbing scenes and questionable content.
But Disney’s Haunted Mansion, though frightening at times, is nothing like those tacky Halloween spook-houses. Its family friendly, filled with thoughtful and high-quality illusions and fun special effects, and isn’t as much designed to scare as it is to mesmerize and make you laugh. It’s sort of like a living cartoon with just a little extra dose of creepy. Of course, if your child is particularly sensitive to frightening moments, I would not take them on this ride if they’re 7 or under. But chances are, in the context of a theme park, they’ll find this ride an absolute delight!
The Haunted Mansion is tough to explain in the sense that the experience is very different for everyone. I could give you a moment by moment run-down of what happens on the ride, but who knows which part of it will stick out as being special or impressive for you specifically?
Something else that’s great about this ride? The line is very interesting, filled with lots of visual treats, and the ride itself actually begins in the line. The main difference between the Disney World version and the Disneyland version are the line exteriors. The Disney World exterior has a much more dark and foreboding look to it. At Disneyland, the big white house that provides the exterior seems much cheerier and is less scary for kids to approach. Immediately upon entering the Disneyland Mansion, there’s a room called, “the stretching room” that really starts things off with a shot of adrenaline. Then you’re off to a shorter line that is made to feel like a haunted hallway in the mansion. You’ll be able to watch portraits change before your very eyes and see lightning flash outside the windows. These illusions, as all of them are in the ride, are very effective.
From there, you get to board your very own “Doombuggy” which is your ride vehicle. While at the Doombuggies, “Swinging Wake” in February of 2008, I actually heard ride designer Bob Gurr say in-person that the Doombuggies were designed to look like apples and created to give you the experience of floating through your very own scary movie.
As a bonus for kids, these ride vehicles feel very safe, complete with a high back and a small roof over your head. I can tell you that nothing interacts with you or touches you, so there’s no need to be scared of anything coming after you like it might in one of those crummy temporary haunted houses. Also as a bonus for the little ones, there are all kinds of funny sights as well as scary ones throughout the ride. If you notice that they’re really feeling nervous, you can point out some of the funnier looking ghosts to try to help them relax.
I would highly recommend this ride to anyone visiting the parks, except of course, kids who might be extra sensitive to some slightly frightening imagery. Each child is different, so if you know that yours might not handle it well, don’t take the risk. Outside of that, this ride is a blast for all age groups and people of all interests. For whatever reason, the ride seems to hold extra appeal to Goths, geeks, and movie buffs. I still can’t say why exactly, but it seems to be generally very true. This is definitely one ride at Disneyland that you won’t want to miss, and second only to the Indiana Jones Adventure and Pirates of the Caribbean, it was my absolute favorite!