Road to the Ride: The Haunted Mansion’s Reappearing Ghost
October is upon us, a time when the spookiest creatures come alive. As Halloween nears, ever ghosts’ favorite holiday, let’s look back and celebrate a ghost who made a name for himself at the Haunted Mansion. By not existing and yet still haunting the mansion’s halls.
1000 Happy Haunts
For many years, we were told that there were 999 happy haunts. But there was indeed one more. Created by Marc Davis and Yale Gracey, the Hatbox Ghost had a skeletal figure, with a gold tooth and an oversized coat. He carried a cane in one hand and a hatbox in the other. Gracey, being ever the master of illusion, planned to use lighting to have the head disappear from the body and reappear in the hatbox. The problem was that it didn’t really work.
He was to be placed across from the bride in the attic, suggesting that there might have been a relationship with the two spirits. But the placement of the figure and the placement of the ride vehicle added ambient light to the scene which prevented Gracey’s lighting trick from working.
After less than a month of the ride’s operation, the Hatbox Ghost was quietly removed from both the ride. Still, he existed in the original promotional material and, strangely enough, future merchandise. He had developed quite a fan base, which was fueled even more by his sudden disappearance.
The Hatbox Ghost’s Narrative Continues
One of the strangest pieces of merchandise was created before the Hatbox Ghost’s removal. An album that tells the story of two teenagers were find themselves in the Haunted Mansion was timed to be released when the ride opened in 1969. “The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion” told the stories of all the inhabitant but it featured the Hatbox Ghost and even had him on the cover.
The album reinforced how the bride and the Hatbox Ghost were connected, implying that they are indeed lovers. Was he one of the husbands she killed? The full story is unknown. All the album does say is, “With every beat of his bride’s heart, his head disappeared from his body and then reappeared in the hatbox.”
Merchandise continued to come out, confusing Disneyland guests all the more. Rumors swelled. He was removed because he was so scary, he gave someone a heart attack. The Hatbox Ghost scared every journalist that came to review the ride. He was still there but the figure itself was haunted so he kept disappearing. Many people swore that they still saw him on the ride.
The Hatbox Ghost Returns
The Hatbox Ghost was revealed for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary. On May 9, 2015, guests were greeted by the ghoulish figure in all its glory. The simple lighting affect was now done by cutting-edge technology, making the face far more menacing than it ever could have been before. Its eyes shift with you. Its mouth is open in a terrifying grin before he laughs at you, its body quaking with the movement. It’s a quick, but shocking effect. Blink and you’ll miss it, but, once you’re looking at him, you’re too afraid to blink.
His presence is now felt again throughout the ride. It’s his figure playing the piano in the attic. His portrait can be seen in the gallery with the other happy haunts in their “corruptible mortal states.”
But Who Is He?
We still don’t have that answer, though we do have some clues and a lot of theories. For one thing, right before we see the Hatbox Ghost in his new placement, we see five hatboxes, with the hats outside the boxes. They suggest that its the heads of Constance’s husbands that are taking up residence in there. Many suggest that the Hatbox Ghost is one of her husbands.
This theory fit better before the Bride was given a more specific backstory and became Constance. Constance Hatchaway had five husbands: Ambrose Harper, Frank Banks, the Marquis de Doome, Reginald Caine, and George Hightower. All of these men’s portraits appear in the attic. None of them look much like the Hatbox Ghost. Perhaps he was a sixth victim we do not know about? A suitor she never wed? Or maybe her lover throughout all her marriages? The story remains untold, but perhaps we will be let on to their secrets one day.