Walt Disney World has announced where the Hatbox Ghost will be located in the Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom when he finally materializes later this year — but the location seems to mess with the ride’s narrative.
Hatbox Ghost History
In case you aren’t familiar with the legend of the Hatbox Ghost, he’s a creepy audio-animatronic who wears a black cloak and tall top hat. He uses a twisted wood cane and carries a hatbox. His ghostly face disappears from between his shoulders and hat, only to reappear inside of his box.
When The Haunted Mansion first opened at Disneyland in 1969, the Hatbox Ghost was there, across from the Bride to imply he was one of her beheaded husbands. At the time, technology hadn’t quite caught up to the effect Imagineers were trying to achieve, so, despite being heavily featured in promotional materials, he was removed within a few weeks.
The Hatbox Ghost did live on as a small portrait on the ride (wearing a crown instead of a top hat) and in legend. Over the years, he also appeared on merchandise.
Finally, in 2015, a new Hatbox Ghost was constructed and installed on The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. He is now just past the Bride, on the balcony at the edge of the attic. See him in our video POV below.
Hatbox Ghost at Magic Kingdom
Disney announced last year that that famous ghost would make his home at the mansion in Magic Kingdom, too. Fans assumed he would be in a similar location on the ride, but the latest announcement proves this false.
In the words of Disney, “The Hatbox Ghost will appear to guests as they pass the Endless Hallway, welcoming himself inside from the swinging wake in the cemetery and grinning at the Doom Buggies as they set off deeper into the mansion.”
The Endless Hallway is a scene relatively early in the attraction. It comes after the M.C. Escher-inspired staircases and just before the Corridor of Doors. Doom Buggies turn guests to face the Endless Hallway as they round a corner. A candelabra appears to float by itself some ways down the hallway.
Coincidentally, the Endless Hallway is also the location of another infamous short-lived Disneyland Haunted Mansion character: a knight portrayed by a live actor. That’s another story.
The Endless Hallway is a fine location for an animatronic. It has ample space. Putting the Hatbox Ghost there makes the experiences of the two American Haunted Mansions a little more different. It also may be Disney wanted to put the Hatbox Ghost near his portrait in the Corridor of Doors, to draw the connection between the two.
But it doesn’t quite make sense with the Haunted Mansion’s story.
See, before Madame Leota (and it’s debatable what kind of spirit she is) at the end of the Corridor of Doors, no ghosts are actually seen in the Haunted Mansion. There is only the suggestion of ghosts, with objects moving on their own, busts appearing to watch you, and the like.
In the Seance Room, Madame Leota is reaching out to ghosts, asking them to appear — and as guests exit that room and enter the Ballroom, the Ghost Host states, “The happy haunts have received your sympathetic vibrations and are beginning to materialize.” The Ballroom full of ghosts is then revealed for the first time.
Before that moment, ghosts aren’t supposed to be visible. It’s only thanks to our “sympathetic vibrations” and Madame Leota’s help that they decide to appear. It won’t make sense for the Hatbox Ghost to be there, unless he’s, well, not a ghost. But that’s clearly not the case.
Disney could change the Ghost Host’s narration, though it still doesn’t work well with the narrative of Madame Leota summoning the spirits a few moments later.
There’s also the point of the Hatbox Ghost’s portrait now appearing after him. On the one hand, if it’s visible before the ghost himself, the portrait could be considered “spoiling” his upcoming appearance. On the other hand, it’s interesting to have a portrait that teases a future ghost — implying he may have had the portrait done while alive and maybe even living in the mansion.
Putting the Hatbox Ghost in the Endless Hallway also disconnects him from the story of the Bride. When he’s near her, there is the strong implication that she’s the one who removed him from the mortal world. Otherwise, he doesn’t have a clear backstory. Admittedly, not every ghost in the mansion does, but more connected stories enhance the experience.
There is one more reason Disney may have decided to place the Hatbox Ghost in the Endless Hallway — it’s where he appears in at least one scene of the new “Haunted Mansion” movie. Clips of the scene have been used in trailers, with the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto) chasing LaKeith Stanfield’s character. Still, “Haunted Mansion” is in theaters now and the new animatronic won’t be installed for at least a few weeks, so it’s not the most seamless synergy.
What do you think of the Hatbox Ghost’s location in the Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion? Do you agree with our opinion or think the Endless Hallway is the perfect spot — or maybe that somewhere else entirely would be better? Let us know in the comments.