by Caitlin Corsello
“Welcome foolish mortals…”
Every time I hear those words, I get a small chill and a smile on my face. The Haunted Mansion has long been my favorite attraction in Walt Disney World, mostly due to the memories that I have made surrounding it. I can still remember the first time I was coaxed by my family onto the attraction. I think I was around seven or eight, and I remember the inner conflict I experienced between being terrified to ride but also being desperate to see what actually went on behind those foreboding brick walls. Admittedly, I was frightened, but in the best way possible. I loved it from the moment I stepped into the parlor and was greeted by the aging picture of Master Gracey, accompanied by the slow mournful first notes of music. I wanted to experience it over and over until I could recite the dialogue and was familiar with every scene and haunt residing inside…but only during the day. Somehow I had come up with the notion that once night hit the Magic Kingdom, the attraction would transform and become much more terrifying. Weakly coming up with excuses to ride at night, this went on for a few visits until I finally worked up the courage to ride after dark. Once I realized that the ride did not magically transform itself for late night guests, my obsession existed at all times and my love for the mansion continued to grow.
Despite being twenty-four, I still get goose bumps in the stretching room. My heartbeat still speeds up when I first hear the Ghost Host’s voice. I am not ashamed to admit that I am downright terrified of what I refer to as the “pop-ups.” I’m referring to the ghosts and ghouls lurking behind tombstones and other objects in the graveyard scene that pop up on either side of your Doom Buggy and yell. I hold my breath in that room and try to concentrate on every detail of the scene except the tombstones right around my Doom Buggy. Yet still, I am always startled and jump enough to make the Doom Buggy shake a little. (I’ve at least gotten to the point where I usually don’t yell back in fright!) This started when I was little, and it continues today. While I’m scared of them, I also actually love the pop-ups. They help me to still maintain a small fear of the Mansion. While working through each room, my anticipation builds. I start bracing myself for the scare to come, and secretly I’m looking forward to it- that little bit of the attraction that can still genuinely frighten me.
With that combination of love and fear, I cultivated my obsession with the Mansion over the years by learning everything I could about it. Learning the history and stories of what went into creating, developing, and operating the attraction has given me a brand new outlook and appreciation of the attraction as I have aged. Some of my favorite parts of the attraction are now small facts or details which have rich back stories. For example, I love taking in the exterior of the attraction and noting the decorative pieces atop the roof which resemble chess pieces. Why this architecture choice? Because much of the exterior was designed by Imagineer Claude Coats who was an avid chess fan. The tombstones in the graveyard each pay homage to key figures in the history of the Mansion, and I love to be reminded of the great minds that were behind my favorite attraction each time I enter. I love the subtle Hidden Mickeys within the attraction, in particular my favorite is the grim reaper one hidden in the graveyard scene. See if you can find it! Perhaps most of all, I love the ambiguous back story of the bride. Depending on who you ask, you can receive completely different back stories on what actually happened involving her history in the Mansion.
I literally could go on for days talking about my favorite things concerning the Haunted Mansion, but I like to remember back to it all starting with a scared little kid refusing to ride in the dark. Thus, the Haunted Mansion will always be my favorite attraction, especially since there’s no turning back now….
What is your favorite thing about the Haunted Mansion? Do you have any special memories surrounding the attraction? Let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.