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Myths and Legends

The Bride in the Attic: A Riddle, Veiled in an Enigma

As you may know, Phantom Manor bases its storyline on the unfortunate fate of a young bride, and it does so with haunting wistfulness. But what about the Bride in the attic at the other Haunted Mansions?

There are some that say Master Gracey, the supposed owner of the Haunted Mansion and a nefarious sea merchant, murdered his young bride on the eve of their wedding, after catching her in the attic with a young man, whom he also killed viciously by decapitating him with an old sword; Gracey never had the chance to find out that the young man was merely a runner from the bridal shop, bringing a last-minute collection of veils and hats for the young bride to sample...

Disneyland Haunted Mansion Brides.

(Pictured above are images of the original Disneyland Bride, and at right, a newly costumed Bride, circa 1996. Pictured below right is the Bride from Tokyo Disneyland, which is dressed differently to reflect bridal culture in Japan.)

Tokyo Disneyland Haunted Mansion Bride.Still others claim that Gracey's young bride lost her sanity, and killed herself by leaping off of the top of the old mansion on her wedding day, still wearing her gown, causing Gracey, in a fit of despair, to hang himself from the rafters of his home. It's even been said that Gracey may have killed his bride in the attic after a fit of unsubstantiated jealous rage, and then buried her in a brick column out in the family graveyard after throwing her wedding ring out the attic window in disgust.

The Bride's Wedding Ring

In fact, some Haunted Mansion cast members from the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World even claim that to this day, you can still see the imprint of the Bride's wedding ring outside of Gracey's old mansion in Liberty Square... why don't you check out the secrets of Liberty Square and see for yourself...

Disneyland Haunted Mansion Brides.

(Pictured above are images of the newer, '90s Bride (far left: WDW and center: Disneyland), and the briefly-viewed "Bride-in-waiting," which was seen for a month in early 2006 before new animated effects were made public.)

Listen to the actual attraction sound effect of the Bride's heart beating...

The original attic Bride had a mysterious, hidden face, glowing eyes, and that famous eerie, glowing heart, which pulsed with each heartbeat. In the '90s, the bride was altered somewhat, making her facial features glow with a blue hue, and dramatic flowing flair was added to her hair and veil. At Walt Disney World, she seemed to take on a smile, though a later incarnation at Disneyland had a more somber expression. Her heart continued to glow red with each beat, however.

The Making of Myth

The truth is, no definitive story for the Bride's appearance in the attic exists. However, her existence does indicate that some type of narrative was followed as the various scenes in the Haunted Mansion were being developed. In fact, the WED Imagineers were open about the various ideas that were being considered as "backstory" for the attraction, and some of those ideas seem to have metamorphed into some of the various tales and rumors told about the attic Bride.

Disney voice talent Kat Cressida (pictured at right), whose father worked in Public Relations with Disneyland, remembers hearing tales of the attic Bride that her father heard from his interaction with the Imagineers back in the '70s. "He had the opportunity to meet some of the very special folk originally involved with the parks and their classic attractions," she recalls. The stories her father told her on their frequent trips to Disneyland really made an impression on young Kat, and she has recently recorded her recollection of the tale of the attic Bride specifically for DoomBuggies, with the cooperation of Walt Disney Records. To listen to Kat Cressida tell the tale of the Bride as it was told in the halls of WED Enterprises when the attraction was first designed, click here.

As a sort of homecoming, Cressida went on to provide the voice for the attic Bride character that was installed into Disneyland in 2006. "It's a tremendous honor to be part of such a classic attraction," Cressida said. "It's going to be hard to top that."

Hats Off: The Secret of the Attic

Hatbox GhostThere was a character in the original Haunted Mansion attic scene which was removed almost immediately after the attraction opened to the public. The mysterious Bride has always been there, waiting for guests at the atic window, with a lonely flickering candle and eerie glowing eyes. But at one time, she had a suitor, of sorts.

Standing to the right of the Doom Buggies near the attic window, where the Bride had been standing (until she was replaced at Disneyland in 2006), was an elderly ghost in a cloak and top hat, leaning on a cane with a wavering hand and clutching a hat box in the other. As the Bride's heart would beat, this "Hat Box Ghost's" head would disappear from his body, and appear in the hatbox he held in his hand.

Tony Baxter’s take on the “Hat Box Ghost”

In "The 'E' Ticket" Magazine (No. 18), Tony Baxter (Senior VP, Walt Disney Imagineering) provides some unique insight into the infamous "Hat Box Ghost:"

"...My guess is that the Bride is currently in the exact location of the Hat Box Ghost, as there would be a hole in the floor for the base frame of the figure that would be useable at this point. During the pre-opening week (August 1st through the 7th) employees were invited to ride, and during the test rides for durability, we were able to ride for two to four hours at a time without getting off."

(PIctured above, left: Imagineer Yale Gracey adjusts the head in the Hat Box Ghost's box for a publicity photo; above right: Imagineer Collin Campbell's illustration of the Hat Box Ghost for the official "Story and Song" album. Inset, above left: The Hat Box Ghost as he appears in a 1070 children's record.)

Imagineer Tony Baxter talks about the original attic scene, as it was installed in Disneyland when the Haunted Mansion first opened.

Tony Baxter continues: "The Hat Box Ghost was installed and running during this period. It is possible that guests also rode in this time frame and saw the figure. The gag was to have his head become invisible, and then appear in the hat box and constantly reverse back and forth. Unfortunately, they couldn't get the head on the body to vanish effectively in this location. My theory is that it was designed to work in the same way as the ballroom and they tried to adapt the effect to this more conventional location, and it wasn't convincing. "The bride stood in front of a bunch of props that were also later removed. It seemed like alot of drapery material made from transparent plastic. The original soundtrack from September 1969 shows tracks that have later been removed and others that are curently buried by noise..."

Haunted Mansion Ghost Head.Well, this was excellent conjecture, and pretty close to being right on the money... except for the explanation of the magic behind the illusion. DoomBuggies.com talked with Imagineer Chris Merritt, who is also a Haunted Mansion historian. After hours of study and research through piles of negatives and materials in the WDI archives, Merritt made some interesting discoveries about this short-lived attic character.

(Pictured, left: One of the heads from the Haunted Mansion attraction. This particular sculpture was used both as the head of the proposed Hat Box Ghost and the head of the skeletal Hitchhiking Ghost.)

Chris Merritt ’s take on the “Hat Box Ghost”

In "The 'E' Ticket" (no. 32), Merritt provides some updated explanation regarding the infamous "Hat Box Ghost:"

The short-lived Haunted Mansion Hatbox Ghost.

"...The early Yale Gracey photos [such as the one above] picture an early mock-up - not the production figure installed in the show. I spoke with Imagineer Wayne Jackson, who built the figure in early 1969. He recalls, "...After a few months, we decided to change it out, because the gag wasn't as successful as we hoped." I followed up with Marc Davis, who designed the character. "Walt never bought what they had come up with. I don't recall why we took this out, but we were no longer trying to tell a story about the bride. Walt's attitude was that he didn't want a story, but a series of experiences and situations. Perhaps this figure didn't lend itself to this."

DoomBuggies has since spoken with Merritt about the technical aspects of the illusion. "It wasn't a "Pepper's" illusion at all," Merritt discovered. "The gag was based purely on lighting. The ghost's head was illuminated by black lighting. A light inside the hatbox he held would rhythmically illuminate and hide the head in the hatbox, while, in tandem, the actual head on the ghost's shoulders would be hidden by extinguishing the black lighting."

Apparently, due to the effect's proximity to the Doom Buggy track, the head could never be darkened enough to seem to completely vanish, so the gag was scrapped fairly quickly.

A DoomBuggies.com exclusive: The Hat Box Ghost in the Actual Disneyland Haunted Mansion Attic Scene!

You saw it here first: a vintage photograph of the actual Hat Box Ghost figure as it appeared in the Disneyland Haunted Mansion attic! In this photo, contributed by Haunted Mansion fan Paul Clemens, you can even see the ghost's gleaming gold tooth! This figure is estimated to have been on display for a month or less, and this is the only known photo of the display as it was viewed by riders.

The Triumphal Return

On May 9, 2015, WDI unveiled a completely new Hat Box Ghost character (after much fanfare from Disney itself.) Created by Imagineer Dan Joseph and a talented team of Imagineers, the new ghost leers at you with bright, dilated eyes that shift back and forth as he glares at you. Suddenly, with a deep laugh, the ghost seems to "ingest" his own head in a strange bit of black magic as his skull appears to fall and dissolve into his rib cage, while the head simultaneously appears in the hat box hanging from his hand.

With great inspiration from and admiration for original WED "illusioneer" Yale Gracey, Joseph is very pleased with the result. "Many challenges were overcome" to create the newly-designed character, Joseph said. "It's been a dream to be the lead Illusioneer to bring him back." Watch the effect in action below, in a moment captured by Haunted Mansion fan Rebecca Dimmick when her Doom Buggy stopped at an opportune time.

Imagineer Patrick Simmons, who was responsible for scultping the body, shoes, hands and top hat, agrees with Joseph. "I think we've done Marc and Yale proud," he said. "This was such an honor for me to work on. Every day I came into work and faced 'Hattie' with enthusiasm and the knowledge that it was a big responsibility to get right."

Davelandweb has a fantastic review of the opening day for the return of the Hat Box Ghost, and also an extensive gallery of images of the character.

As part of the coverage of Disneyland's 60th anniversary "Diamond Celebration," the Arizona Republic published an article on the return of the Hat Box Ghost on July 15, 2015.

More Mysteries from the Manse

Continue reading to learn more tales from the Haunted Mansion, including stories about ghostly characters that would follow your Doom Buggy through the haunted halls...


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