If you’re a fan of the Haunted Mansion, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the infamous Hatbox Ghost. This mysterious figure was originally intended to be a part of the ride, but he was removed shortly after the Haunted Mansion opened to mortals like you and me. His brief appearance caused some confusion and also gave rise to a rather intriguing legend. Had anyone really seen this ghoulish Hatbox Ghost or was he a mere hallucination? For a ride revolving around a haunted estate inhabited by 999 “happy haunts”, it was all the more chilling for one of these ghosts to have seemingly vanished without a trace. To this day, they say that no record remains of what became of the original Hatbox Ghost figure. Of course, that’s not the end of the story, nor is it quite the beginning.
You may or may not already be familiar with the legend of the Hatbox Ghost. His story has been covered plenty on the Internet over the years, but allow me the pleasure of recounting this chilling tale for you now. The Haunted Mansion opened in August 1969, but it was not with the ride itself where the Hatbox Ghost began. No, rather, he was originally mentioned in, and depicted in artwork for, the album telling the story of Mike and Karen, two teenagers who had the misfortune of entering a creepy, seemingly uninhabited mansion, to avoid the rain. You can find this story on Youtube with ease, and if you’ve heard it, you’ll recognize a great deal of details from the ride, along with a few things that didn’t make it into the final attraction. One of these is the talking raven, though I must admit that it’s not entirely accurate to say that it’s not present at all. The raven does indeed appear in the ride several times. It simply doesn’t talk.
Video from Youtube User: tvshow1701
One more thing that may seem out of place is the mention of a ghost who appears alongside the bride in the attic, a “cloaked figure with an evil grinning face”. What’s more, his head would disappear from his shoulders and appear inside the hatbox he was holding. Interestingly enough, the disappearance of his head was supposedly in time with the beating of “his bride’s heart”. Note the wording. His bride, not the bride, implying that in the original story, the Hatbox Ghost was married to, or engaged to, the bride, who still resides in the attic to this day. Now, whether or not you are of the mindset that this bride is the same person as the modern, more sinister, version we see today, or if the “beating heart” bride, as she is sometimes called, is a different person entirely from Constance, the “black widow bride”, I still find it to be a rather interesting detail that could easily be missed if you didn’t listen to the album.
Things grew even more mysterious once the ride opened. It is said that the Hatbox Ghost was indeed present in the attic scene of the Haunted Mansion, along with his bride, for a short while, but then he was removed, with no record of what became of him. Why did this happen? Well, some say that the Hatbox Ghost was much too frightening. That’s the story I prefer, even if it’s not the truth. The simple fact of the matter is…he didn’t work. You see, to create the illusion of a disappearing and reappearing head, the Hatbox Ghost figure actually had two heads, and the effect would be achieved by illuminating the correct head at the proper time. While this simple trick worked just fine in theory, it was not effective on the ride, and I have heard two factors cited as the reason for this failure. One, guests passed by too closely to the Hatbox Ghost, making the effect less…eh, effective. And two, ambient lighting (possibly from the bride herself) meant that both of his heads were visible at once. What a confusing effect that must have been.
What became of the original Hatbox Ghost, no one knows. Fortunately for us Haunted Mansion fans, however, the Hatbox Ghost was returned to the ride after his 46-year absence in May 9 of 2015. I had the pleasure of seeing him for the first time on April 22, 2017, and he was amazing indeed, not to mention assuredly more advanced than his original appearance nearly 50 years ago.
He now stands on the balcony just after the attic, though it seems his relation to the bride has since changed. Some people think he is one of the bride’s five deceased husbands (considering her penchant for decapitating them, it provides an explanation for his bizarre ability). People say that you can see four hatboxes stacked up to the left of the Hatbox Ghost, while he is holding the fifth. This is all well and good, until you look the other way and note that there are several more hatboxes to his right (well, technically, it’s his left, but you get the idea). Maybe he is indeed one of her unfortunate victims, but counting the hatboxes is no clear indication of this. I, personally, would prefer it if the bride and the Hatbox Ghost retained the same relation as the album, but I no longer know if this is the case. And yet, even if the Hatbox Ghost’s original role has changed, it matters not, because he’s finally back where he belongs, in the Haunted Mansion with his 998 fellow haunts. All is right in the afterlife once again.
And if you’re interested in watching the video where I initially learned about the background behind the Hatbox Ghost, please check out the video below. It’s a pretty interesting one.
Video from Youtube User: Disney History Institute
As usual, don’t forget to comment, dear readers! I’m just dying to hear from you!
The Duck’s Own Personal Trick is My Uncanny Ability to Make Food Disappear…