By now, it must be ever so obvious that the Duck is a big fan of Disney’s Haunted Mansion. I’ve got Haunted Mansion pins and figures and all manner of other cool goodies. Heck, I even attended the 50th anniversary! More recently, my obsession has leaked over into books, more specifically the four-part Tales from the Haunted Mansion series. I bought them for the obvious reasons…and because they are an exceptionally attractive set of books, and I’ve always fantasized about having a grand library filled with beautiful tomes.(Now I just need about a bijillion more.)
Having read all four books, it’s about time I reviewed them. First of all, they are truly lovely hardcover books, with fabric spines and the Haunted Mansion wallpaper pattern adorning the blank pages between stories. It is also important to bring up a less positive observation, which is the fact that these stories very rarely focus on the Haunted Mansion’s ghostly inhabitants. I mean, everyone who meets their demise in these stories is supposed to be one of the 999 happy haunts, but they are not the more well-known ghosts, with the exception of the tea-drinking mummy. With that said, many characters from the attraction do get cameos, at least. I was simply expecting the books to give more insight into the Haunted Mansion and its more famous ghostly residents, so I was rather disappointed that they did not.
The premise of each book, more or less, focuses on a character or characters who visit the Haunted Mansion, meet the mansion librarian, Amicus Arcane, and are told three or four stories that revolve around one of the 999 haunts that inhabit the mansion. Sometimes these stories directly relate to the main plot, which continues between stories, and sometimes they are unrelated. One interesting aspect of the series is that all four books tie together and reference each other, so it is more rewarding to read all of them rather than just one or two. But the main reason for getting these books is for the individual stories themselves, and that is what I’m going to spend the rest of this review discussing (in a spoiler-free fashion).
First of all, the first book, The Fearsome Foursome, is easily the worst one. While it’s still good for some relaxing and vaguely spooky reading before bedtime, that doesn’t change the fact that these four stories are definitely the weakest and cheesiest in the entire series. Each story focuses on one member of The Fearsome Foursome, a group of middle school students who enjoy scary stories. With the exception of the fourth story, which focuses on being buried alive, the other stories are not scary in the slightest and are, frankly, kind of dull. With that being said, I should point out that I am older than the books’ target audience, which is 8-12 year-olds, according to Amazon. Even so, I think this book is pretty tame, even for kids. The other three volumes, however, are actually pretty creepy, even for readers who are older than the intended age group.
With that said, volumes 2-4 are actually pretty good and had their fair share of chills. I believe volume 2, Midnight at Madame Leota’s, is actually my favorite of the bunch. This book had the best balance of spooky, without being too creepy. The first story, which takes place in a carnival, was easily one of my favorites from the series, while the third story, revolving around Uncle Rory’s theater, had a bit of a Twilight Zone feel to it.
Volume 3, Grim Grinning Ghosts, and volume 4, Memento Mori, were pretty good, as well, though I would not consider them as good as volume 2. Volume 3 revolves around three items and the stories behind them, a piano, an Egyptian sarcophagus, and a living, breathing door. While the stories were pretty good in this volume, I really did not like the third story at all. It revolved around witches and was, frankly, creepy. But not in the fun kind of way. I didn’t like that one at all.
Volume 4 is an interesting one, as it actually takes place in an insane asylum (and a few other locations) between stories rather than the Haunted Mansion itself. This volume has the same issue for me as volume 3. While the stories are largely pretty good, the third and final story was, once again, a bit too unpleasant for my liking. The premise of this particular story could actually happen to someone and was a bit too upsetting to actually be a fun read.
In general, Tales from the Haunted Mansion is good, spooky fun. Nothing too intense (they’re intended for a younger audience, after all), but they still have a great creepy vibe that’s entertaining to read before bedtime without being scary enough to disturb one’s dreams. While you may get more out of the series as a whole if you read every book, I would say volume 1 is the only book that wasn’t very good. Aside from a few…more unpleasant stories and the lack of content on more well-known Haunted Mansion ghosts, I would highly recommend these books. And if you’re interested in reading them for yourself, they’re available on Amazon for some pretty low prices, too!