Alexander: There’s no Disney ride quite as well-loved as Haunted Mansion. Lightyears ahead of its time, Walt Disney’s home for 999 happy haunts was a showcase for experimental optical tricks that lent themselves marvelously to spectacular specters – little did they know they’d lead to the most cult-obsessed amusement park ride in the world.
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This was not an easy Top 5 to curate – first of all, it goes without saying that there technically aren’t five Haunted Mansions to rub together (though we do have a couple of Manors to assist), and, more importantly, all of these rides are excellent. Whether its Manors or Mansions, there’s not a bad one in the bunch – which mean splitting some hairs to shake out a pecking order.
5. Haunted Mansion – Tokyo Disneyland (Arayasu, Chiba, Japan)
Kicking off our countdown is Japan’s Haunted Mansion, whose position is largely due to its unoriginality – it’s the only Haunted Mansion that serves as an aesthetic copy of an existing installation (in this case, Magic Kingdom’s). Not only is Tokyo Disney’s ride an unapologetic repeat of the Florida ride in terms of looks and experience, but worse yet, the ride lacks the accompanying Liberty Square that makes Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion look so stately – the Japanese version was matter-of-factly wedged into Fantasyland (the ride deserves credit, however, for its Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, but we’ll discuss that further in a moment).
4. Haunted Mansion – Disneyland Park (Anaheim, California, USA)
For better or for worse, the original Disneyland Haunted Mansion is not the best (just think of it as high praise for the Imagineers who improved on the concept with subsequent installations), but of course it still holds a special place in our hearts for being the one that Walt himself worked on. A multi-year project that began in the early 60s and was then put on hold for Disney’s involvement in the 1964 World’s Fair, the first Haunted Mansion eventually made its debut in 1968 – over a year after Walt Disney’s death. The New Orleans aesthetic remains a special characteristic of the Anaheim ride, but updated scenes and improved usage of space would follow in The Florida Project. Like Japan, California Haunted Mansion’s most marketable characteristic might be its Nightmare Before Christmas-themed overlay, Haunted Mansion Holiday, which elevates and reinvents the classic Haunted Mansion every October-December.
3. Haunted Mansion – Magic Kingdom (Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA)
With the real New Orleans just a stones throw away on the Gulf of Mexico, Magic Kingdom’s follow-up to the smash hit Haunted Mansion at Disneyland would need a new location – Liberty Square, a unique colonial village in the heart of Magic Kingdom, would be the perfect stage for the park’s top-billed attraction. A slightly larger showbuilding added space for new scenes and additional storytelling, and the Mansion‘s location on the far banks of Rivers of America made the ride a framed focal point in an otherwise attractionless corner of the park.
2. Mystic Manor – Hong Kong Disneyland (Lantau Island, Hong Kong)
A new audience with different cultural relationships with ghosts and death meant that Disney’s 5th resort would feature the most dramatic departure from the Haunted Mansion formula yet – the 5th and final installation would still be a Mansion for all intents and purposes, but it wouldn’t be Haunted. Rather, Henry and Albert Mystic’s Mystic Manor would be an enchanted drift through a stately estate-turned-museum possessed by the magic of a mysterious music box. While Mystic Manor is more or less a spiritual successor to Haunted Mansion, it’s clear to anyone who rides it that it belongs in the Haunted Mansion conversation – even though similarities between rides have been reduced to tongue-in-cheek references and Imagineering winks.
1. Phantom Manor – Parc Disneyland (Chessy, France)
The first Haunted Mansion to take a different name rounds out our top 5 with top billing – Disneyland Paris’ terrifically terrifying Frontierland-themed Phantom Manor is best-case-scenario for taking a beloved classic and catapulting it to maximum potential. Set in Goldrush-era Western America, Phantom Manor and Big Thunder Mountain both play roles in a larger Frontierland folklore, with Manor getting just the right tweaks to make everything feel natural and deliberate – from the wild west stylistic choices to the fissure-cracked boomtown scene that serves as the rides “Graveyard Scene.”
Everything, top to bottom, was question, elevated, and reconfigured for Disneyland Paris, but of course the best gags and your favorite happy haunts – including Madame Leota and the singing busts – are still quite at home in Frontierland, eagerly waiting to make you happy haunt number 1,000.
And so conclude our Mansions and Manors countdown. Do you agree with our picks? Be sure to weigh in on our social media platforms and check out some of our other recent articles: