The following article is from a 1998 issue of the now-defunct Disney Magazine. Castmember Tina Michael is now an active member of the DoomBuggies.com community.
Spirit at the Haunted Mansion
By Kim Wright Wiley
When she was in junior high, Tina Michael immersed herself in Edgar Allen Poe stories. Halloween is her favorite holiday. Ten years ago Michael found her dream job as a servant at Master Gracey's Haunted Mansion. At this spooky Walt Disney World attraction, she greets visitors in her maid's uniform of long black skirt, frilly apron, and hat-with-a-bat.
DM: What are your duties in Master Gracey's house?
Tina: Well, I have two sets of duties: As a servant, it's my job to maintain proper decorum and dignity at all times. As a Haunted Mansion cast member, it's my job to intimidate the guests.
Tina: Through eye contact, tone of voice, and occasionally sneaking up behind them.
DM: How do you choose your victims?
Tina: Victims always choose themselves. We have some people who enter the mansion and they might as well have "Pick on me" painted in neon on their foreheads. Like, we'll stand very still at times and pretend we're not real, and every now and then we'll have a guest walk by and poke us. We poke back. But we're never intentionally scary.
DM: So you don't go after the five-year-olds?
Tina: Of course not. As a mistress of the manor, it's beneath my dignity to jump out and yell "Boo!" at anyone. Our spiel is funny. We tell people, "Drag your wretched bodies to the dead center of the room."
DM: What's the best scare you ever got off?
Tina: A woman came in late at night, took one look at me, and screamed. When I came in behind the group and shut the parlor doors, I was right behind her, and this time she practically jumped into her husband's arms. I was trying hard not to laugh, and went into a broom closet to hide so I wouldn't break character. I waited a few minutes until I thought the room had cleared, opened the closet and stepped out - and there she was again, right in front of me. I wasn't trying to scare her, she was just everywhere I went.
DM: How do you keep yourself from cracking up?
Tina: It takes practice. When they opened Disneyland Paris, we had a group of French cast members here observing how we did our jobs. A guy named Philippe was paired with me all day long, and I told him, "If you have to laugh, go stand in the corner." He spent the entire time with his face to the wall, giggling.
DM: Is the mansion scarier at night?
Tina: I think so. When it's dark on both the inside and the outside, a guest's imagination doesn't have to work so hard.
DM: Does a Victorian maid's uniform become unbearable in the heat?
Tina: This one is a lot better than the last. We used to wear these tight, high-necked polyester clothes. I surveyed the other women and we agreed a loose-fitting blouse, skirt, and apron would be tolerable. I drew up a sketch and took it to costuming, and it was the prototype for what we're wearing today. The only thing from the original costume is the hat-with-a-bat. Everyone loves this hat.
DM: Who likes the mansion best?
Tina: We tone ourselves down for little kids, and always reassure them that the ghosts are friendly. Teenagers love it and get into the special effects.
DM: Who was Master Gracey, and how did he meet his Maker?
Tina: One of the Imagineers who designed the mansion was Yale Gracey. They used the names of other people who worked on the attraction on the tombstones outside. The story goes that Master Gracey hanged himself from the rafters.
DM: Does each of the ghosts have his or her own story?
Tina: Yes. We have a book called Ghost Gallery, full of one-page stories about every ghost in the mansion, all written by cast members who've worked the attraction. The people who work here take such pride in the details that they've filled in the stories themselves.
DM: Is the mansion really haunted?
Tina: Some cast members swear that they've seen a man dressed in white, and that he only shows up after hours. They say it's Master Gracey or a retired maintenance man. I've never seen him, but a kid from the college program was taking pictures of his fellow cast members one night, and when the pictures were developed, there was this white blob standing beside the tombstones.
Article from Disney Magazine, Spring 1998, pages 66-67. Photo taken by Michael Carroll.