Haunted Mansion History Part 4

Bonjour TMSM fans! We’ve come full circle, or better yet; full séance circle. In this installment of the Haunted Mansion series, I take you to explore the first of two Manors. I like to think of these Manors as the cousins to the Haunted Mansions of the other three Disney properties worldwide. The Manors are different with stories and legends that somewhat tie into the history of the Mansions, but architecture and experiences that set them both distinctly apart. So, without further ado, let’s start our journey West to discover the history of Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris.

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Everything in the Disney-sphere has a history, and deep seeded roots. Phantom Manor is no exception. The original Haunted Mansion in Disneyland California was initially supposed to be incorporated into Frontierland. However, fate did not play out that way and the original story concepts of Imagineer Ken Anderson that tied the Mansion to Frontierland were buried until the opportunity to create Disneyland Paris emerged in 1984. Much like Frankenstein, Imagineers were tasked with piecing together and creating attractions for the Parisian Park that had elements of the American resorts, but were not exact replicas. This allowed Imagineers to revisit some of the earliest ideas for the Mansions and resurrect them to appeal to a different culture. After looking at the new park’s layout, the location for the Paris version of the Haunted Mansion took it “home” so to speak. The original concept of Ken Anderson to have the Mansion in Frontierland was finally realized, and the Mansion evolved to Phantom Manor.

For the first time in Disney Park history a land was created to tie in all of the attraction elements in one elaborate interconnected setting. Phantom Manor had a story that would rope in Big Thunder Mountain and literally build a town called Thunder Mesa to establish the backdrop. The legend Imagineers began to weave like a spider web centered around Henry Ravenswood, a baron who struck it rich on a gold mine, namely Big Thunder Mountain. Having found the gold, he built a beautiful Victorian manor overlooking the town that sprung up to house everyone working at the mine. Ravenswood had a wife, Martha, and a daughter, Melanie, who lived in the home with him. He spared no expense to spoil them rotten. Living that way caused the family’s money to run dry over time, much like the wealth from the mine. The day Melanie was to be married a devastating earthquake struck Thunder Mesa and both Henry and Martha died. Their daughter Melanie was never seen again, rumored to also have died in the quake, and no sign of her groom either. The Victorian manor, once opulent and well maintained fell into disrepair causing those who stayed behind in Thunder Mesa to dub the manor “Phantom Manor”.

Imagineers continued the storyline of the Ravenswood family explaining the legend as told by the locals, and the domestic staff which opened the Manor’s doors to tell the story of what is believed to have happened to Melanie and her betrothed. Legend has it that Henry Ravenswood did not approve of the man Melanie was to marry, because he wanted to take Melanie far away from Thunder Mesa. After Henry perished in the earthquake, before his soul departed to the afterlife and before his daughter could continue on to be married that day; his ghost murdered Melanie’s beloved. Melanie did in fact survive the quake but upon learned of her betrothed’s fate by finding his body hung in what is known as the stretching chamber. Henry Ravenswood’s ghost never left the Manor and he became the Phantom haunting the halls. Melanie never left the home either, she remained in mourning wearing her wedding dress, and aimlessly roaming the home as it fell apart around her until her dying day. Her ghost remained as well forever in an eternal struggle with the ghost of her father, The Phantom, who never wanted her to leave. It’s a classic story of good versus evil when you visit the Manor. The Phantom and his ghostly brigade of ghouls try to lure guests to the other side, while Melanie, still dressed in her wedding gown wishes to help guests stay alive and tell the tale of the Ravenswood family demise.

If all of that sounds awfully haunting, a fellow Disney fan and friend of mine, recently visited the manor in Paris with her husband, and was gracious enough to share with me her firsthand account of the experience. Shannon Ruscitto shared; “Phantom Manor is tucked away at the back of Frontierland in Disneyland Paris. The design reminded me of the Amityville Horror house. The queue takes you through the gardens, up onto the wrap around porch, and right through the front door. As you enter the parlor you can hear the mesmerizing singing of a woman and you see a lone portrait of Melanie, the rides focus, hanging in the corner. The stretching room features similar portraits to those in the States. As you walk to your carriage (no Doom Buggy’s here) you see the familiar portraits that are seen hanging as you walk to the ride at Disneyland and in the first hallway in Walt Disney World. The ride music is hauntingly beautiful. Don’t worry, you still get to sing along to Grim Grinning Ghosts later! The ride follows the story of a bride but is different from the others. Most of the ride is in French but you can definitely understand the story, even if you have never experienced any of the Haunted Mansions. The ride as a whole is creepier than the others. I really enjoyed it.”

Both Shannon and I are big Haunted Mansion fans in general, and if she gives it three hitchhiking ghosts’ thumbs up, you can bet it’s worth the trek to Paris. Notably, there are some Disney favorites involved in the magic behind the ghostly Manor. Vincent Price who supplied the iconic cackle at the end of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, was brought in to voice the Manor’s Ghost Host, but before Disneyland Paris opened in 1992, it was re-recorded in French. There is still a little bit of Mr. Price’s work if you listen closely, his cackle emanates from the Phantom himself. If you’re a fan of the memorable tune mentioned above, you will surely enjoy the rendition of Grim Grinning Ghosts in the manor. Composer John Debney who has worked generally within the horror genre and supplied the music for the movie Hocus Pocus brought in a whole orchestra to give the track an eerier more robust undertone which plays out more like a song you would hear in a super spooky movie. The song can be heard played throughout various parts of the manor as your carriage takes you through the ride, once in a music box type of tone and then a piano version is played in the saloon like you would hear in a honkytonk in the late 1800s. Before you exit your carriage, the mayor of Thunder Mesa, voiced by none other than the original Ghost Host, Paul Frees, tips his hat to bid you Au Revoir and your journey through Phantom Mansion comes to an eerie end.

Much like the Haunted Mansion attractions and the lives of those who once inhabited the dwellings, this journey into the history of one of the most popular rides at Disney parks worldwide must come to an end. For the 5th and final installment of the series, I will take you East to a land of mysterious and mystic adventure, and I’ll introduce you to a few eccentric characters with a collection of oddities to die for.

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Author: Erika

Erika Krystle has been a Disney kid for as long as I can remember, but my love of visiting Disney Parks started after just one ride in a Doom Buggy. I couldn’t run to guest relations fast enough to offer up my soul in return for an Annual Pass. Since then Disney has taken all my money, but has given me the most cherished memories; from watching my Nona’s face light up with happy tears as we strolled down Main Street on her first visit (she was 84 at the time), to my very own engagement on Halloween in front of the Haunted Mansion.

I’m excited to be on the TMSM team and where Disney Parks are concerned, you won’t catch me dead on It’s a Small World. If I ask to ride that, this is a clear indication I am in danger and you must send help. You will however catch me performing Random Acts of Disney (R.A.D’s), park hopping with my amazing group of impressively talented and kind friends (usually in some themed attire), hanging out by The Haunted Mansion, and ugly crying during Wishes… then begging for a Mickey Premium Bar to eat my feelings…don’t judge me.

Otherwise, I work for the State of Florida and I am actively involved in my community. I believe in empowering others and spreading kindness to people from all walks of life. I also make custom designed Disney inspired ears, etched glass, gifts, and accessories. You can check out, like or follow my work on FB, which also links to my shop’s Instagram and Etsy page: www.facebook.com/imagineering.emporium. I look forward to getting to know everyone and sharing the magic of Disney!

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