You enter the queue under a large black awning, the imposing brick structure perched on a hill to your right. As you move closer to the entrance, you pass a cemetery. It’s all very imposing at first. Then you begin to read the epithets on the tombstones. They say things like, “Dear departed brother Dave, chased a bear into a cave” or “Rest in peace, cousin Huet. We all know you didn’t do it” and you realize that the Haunted Mansion isn’t an attraction meant to terrorize so much as mesmerize.
Once inside the lobby, guests are drawn to the aging portrait over the fireplace before being invited into a round windowless, doorless, room and advised to move their bodies “toward the dead center of the room.” Once the door is closed, guests realize they’re not just in any room when, like a scene straight from Alice in Wonderland, the walls begin to grow. Are the walls going up or is the floor moving down? Guests must decide for themselves. The answer is a Disney secret that isn’t revealed in the course of the attraction. As the walls grow, paintings of conveying similarly comical scenarios as to those hinted at through the epithets on the cemetery tombstones begin to reveal themselves. The as of yet unseen ghost hosts draws visitor’s attentions to suspicious lack of doors and windows before inviting them to try his way out. The lights go, there is a flash of lightning, and a secret panel opens. On to the doombuggies…
Once guests are seated in their doombuggy, the unseen ghost host returns and guides them through a positively mesmerizing and only slightly creepy tour of the mansions library, music room, past a ghost part taking place below, and into the attack before venturing into a massive graveyard scene that requires literally hundreds if not thousands of visits to the Haunted Mansion in order to take in everything. The tour finishes with a hitch hiker and an invitation for interested parties to join the 999 “happy haunts” at the Haunted Mansion because “there’s room for a 1,000.”
Yes, it’s a haunted house, but more people exit the Haunted Mansion smiling than crying…and promptly get back in line for another go.