Haunted Mansion’s 50th: Are There Really 999 Happy Haunts?
This month 50 years ago the original Haunted Mansion at Disneyland opened its doors. I remember that summer well as I waited in the heat along the Rivers of America for my older brothers who stood in a very long queue, too scared as a seven year old to enter. Yes, I was a wimp. But the rumor of how scary this place would be nullified any interest in entering.
Since then other mansions have been created. Most don’t know that Imagineers were tasked originally with building not one but two Haunted Mansions. The spirits for the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World were prepared at the same time, then stored while other attractions were built for the opening of Walt Disney World two years afterwards. Tokyo Disneyland would follow a dozen or so years later with a fairly similar mansion to Magic Kingdom. Phantom Manor would bring a whole new frontier-style twist at Disneyland Paris. And Mystic Manor would reinvent the genre altogether.
Fans of the original mansions will note that there are 999 happy haunts. But are there? Just how many can you find if you were to count them all? Which ones do you count if you are trying to figure out how many ghosts there actually are in the Haunted Mansion? You may recall that in the narrative, the Ghost Host shares the following:
“They have all retired here to the Haunted Mansion. Actually we have 999 happy haunts here, but there’s room for a thousand. Any volunteers? If you should decide to join us, final arrangements may be made at the end of the tour.”
Our focus today is going to be on the actual number found in The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World. But the Ghost Host in the Disneyland version says something fairly similar:
“There are several prominent ghosts who have retired here from creepy old crypts all over the world. Actually, we have 999 happy haunts here — but there’s room for 1,000. Any volunteers? If you insist on lagging behind, you may not need to volunteer.”The first thing to note in both statements is that the question isn’t quite how many ghosts, but rather, how many haunts? That opens up that number somewhat to include illusions and other creepy things. But what constitutes a haunt? For this purpose, I am assuming the following criteria (note, spoiler alert from here on out):
1. The purpose is to count those objects that are haunting or at least enchanting in some way. That means we count more than audio-animatronics. We include everything from the bat weathervane to a tomb of Mr. Toad in the pet cemetery. More than simply built by an expert craftsman, there should be “spirited” artistry involved in its execution to make it part of our haunted total. Therefore, I’m not counting chandeliers with webs, or simply ornamental vases, because those are objects you can find elsewhere.
2. Some objects appear more than once. For instance, there is not one, but two stretch rooms. So I’m counting all objects in there twice.
3. Please know, that I’m trying to be generous in my accounting of what counts. I want to see if one can truly get to 999. So you may question whether an item should be counted, or whether it may be counted more than once. Know that we’re trying to be honest but generous in getting to that number.
4. Also to be factored in is that not all haunts are present and accounted for. An attraction like this works in so many features because they know that for ongoing maintenance, or when a particular haunt breaks down, they can take it out, have it repaired, and yet still not impact the overall experience. In “it’s a small world” next door, there are usually half a dozen dolls being cycled out for ongoing maintenance at any time. The same challenge exists in The Haunted Mansion as well. So we don’t always have a perfect number. But we can still get a fairly good estimate. Moreover, we can see if we can approximate 999.
So let’s walk through this. Let’s see how many haunts are there. We’ll go room by room, and add some narrative in between. See how many you remember.
|Bat Weather Vane||1|
|Red Eyed Bench Dogs-Two Dogs on Two Benches||4|
|Ghost Horse & Hearse Driver||2|
|Passing Spirits at Night||2|
|Touch Tomb Instruments 1||7|
|Raven Above Organ||1|
|Skulls Above Organ||7|
|Touch Tomb Instruments 2||7|
|Captain Culpepper Clyne||1|
|Active books on Two Book Shelves||77|
|RIP Dear George||1|
|Dave in a Cave||1|
|Gordon Across the Jordan||1|
|Uncle Blaine Mausoleum||1|
|Friend Ken Mausoleum||1|
|Wathel R. Bender||1|
|Good Old Fred||1|
|Man Named Martin||1|
Let’s stop here, and note some things about the graveyard. First of all, there are a lot of tombs when you actually count them. And we haven’t even entered the mansion. Second, some items are simply difficult to count. The interactive books are a case in point. There are 13 books on each shelf, with 12 shelves, and two sides. That comes out to 312 books, which would be nearly 1/3 of all the haunts in the mansion. Do we count all 312? Not all are interactive. Observation and video of which ones are active would be helpful. That’s how we came to 77.
|Ghost Host Voice||1|
|Portrait with Six Aging Versions||6|
|Bells in the Early Exit Hallway||7|
|Four Portraits with 7 Characters Times 2 Rooms||14|
|8 Gargoyles Times 2 Rooms||16|
|1 Hanging Host Times 2 Rooms||2|
|Portrait of Traveling Man with Sack||1|
|Portrait of Man With Dagger||1|
|Portrait of Mariner at Sea||1|
|Portrait of Man with Hatchet||1|
|Portrait of Pensive Bearded Man||1|
|Portrait of Woman With Cat||1|
|Portrait of Dracula||1|
|Bats on a Rope Chain||15|
In the foyer, there is only one portrait, but there are six aging versions, so we count all six. We mentioned two stretch rooms earlier. There are only four portraits, but there are seven characters (including a gator) in the portraits. There are also gargoyles surrounding each. They all help to push up the number of residents.
We now head toward the Doom Buggies:
|Woman in Portrait||1|
|Upstairs Couple Portrait||2|
|Portrait of Cat Lady & Version with Lighting||2|
|Portrait of Ship at Sea & Version with Lighting||2|
|Portrait of Horseman & Version with Lighting||2|
|Portrait of Medusa & Version with Lighting||2|
|A Rocking Chair||1|
|Books Moving on the Shelves||2|
|Ladder Moving Back & Forth||1|
|Piano Playing & Shadow of Pianist||2|
|Griffin at the Foot of the Stairwell||1|
|Two Stair Step Sets on the Right||2|
|Two Stair Step Sets on the Left||2|
|Eyes Flashing in the Darkness on the Right||12|
|Eyes Flashing in the Darkness on the Left||16|
|Man in Coffin||1|
|Shaking Doors on Left||4|
|Shaking Doors on the Right||4|
|Miscellaneous Pictures on the Left||18|
|Miscellaneous Pictures and Portrait on the Right||14|
|Clock Ticking 13||1|
|Shadow Over the Clock||1|
The magical footprints in the stairwell is one of those illusions that isn’t always working consistently. It seemed at one time that most every stairwell had a set of footprints (I’m counting each set as one haunt). But recently, there haven’t been as many sets of foot prints. For our purposes here, I’m counting two sets on each side of the vehicle path.
Of course, not every haunt or illusion is animated. The pictures in the hallway are one example. Yet they are creative drawings. So we count each one.
The eyes flashing in the darkness give way to the wallpaper. We will discuss that facet at the end.
Let’s move on to some of the most enchanting parts of the Haunted Mansion:
Madame Leota’s Chamber
|Guests Entering Through Door||6|
|Guests Entering Through Window||5|
|Rocking Chair Grandmother||1|
|Man on the Fireplace Mantel||1|
|Guests Around the Chandelier||3|
|Guests at and Under the Birthday Table||6|
|Duelists Paintings & Ghosts||4|
|Skulls Rising From Organ 10 Spindles Times 4||40|
|Final Portrait Upstairs on Left||1|
Most were fairly easy to count. Skulls rising up from the organ are the trickiest, but a behind-the-scenes photo showed ten spindles with four skulls on the edge of each set, creating a total of 40 skulls rising. The exercise also brought to my attention a portrait at the very end of the ballroom on the wall that transitions you to the attic. Creating this post was the first time I noticed the picture, which is very difficult to see in the dark.
Now on to the most difficult part, the cemetery:
|40 Spirits Rising Vertically Times 3||120|
|Heads Popping Out Throughout||6|
|20 Spirits Rising Cyclically Times 2||40|
|Hand For Tea Out of the Grave||1|
|Tea For Two at a Table||2|
|Two By a Hearse||2|
|Sitting on the Ground For Tea||1|
|Sitting on a Grave For Tea||1|
|Spirits Circling on Bikes||3|
|Pouring Tea into a Grave||1|
|Tomb Bricks Busting||1|
|Man with Hearing Aid||1|
|Apparition From Tomb||1|
|Accompanying Male Singer||1|
|Man Digging Out From Grave||1|
The most difficult thing to count are rising spirits. There appears to be two types. One is a cyclical sort that seems to move in circular rotation. There seems to be two of these with roughly 20 per set. The other is a set of rising spirits. There seems to be three different sets of these, with a complete cycle of approximately 40 spirits per set.
Let’s exit the attraction:
|Accompanying Hitchhiking Ghosts Variations||12|
|Torches Gripped by Hands||2|
|Torches Gripped by Hands||3|
|Dust’n T. Dust||1|
|Hail N. Hard||1|
|Pearl E. Gates||1|
|Asher T. Ashes||1|
|M T Tomb||1|
|I. M. Ready||1|
|Love U. Trudy||1|
|I Trudy Dew||1|
|I Ial Lusinashun||1|
|Hap A Rition||1|
|C. U. Later||1|
|Wee G. Bord||1|
|I. Emma Spook||1|
|Puppy with Basket||1|
Note that there is a rotation of effects done with the Hitchhiking Ghosts riding with you in your Doom Buggy. There were originally a set of 12 mannequins that rotated opposite in alignment with your vehicle. Now they are digitally done, but there seems to be about 12 variations of that. Note that I also added to the count one of my favorite features, the torches held up by hands.
Finally you exit the attraction, and count the individual mausoleum pieces there. With a pet cemetery, to include Mr. Toad, we now come to a conclusion.
So What’s the Grand Total?
According to the way we have counted, the number comes to 787. Many of those numbers come because of counting every possible headstone, and each of the many rising spirits. Still, make no mistake, this is a lot of haunts! Try counting them next time you visit. Your head will spin!
Are we missing more? Let’s hear what Imagineer Tony Baxter had to say about the 999 count. Tony talks about how faces are worked into the set. The chair in the endless hallway is an example of just that. But then he goes on to talk about the wallpaper:
“When I’m asked, ‘Well, count out the 999 happy haunts.’ We’re going to come up short if we’re talking about audio animatronics and illusions. So, then I tell everyone, ‘Well have you counted all the faces in the wall paper?’ And they go, ‘Well, no.’ And I say, ‘Okay, there are your 999.’”
In truth, the math is very difficult for determining how many haunts appear in total on the wallpaper all while riding the attraction. But here are some rough estimates, giving you a good sense of where the total number goes. There are some 10 haunted faces in a pattern that is roughly 2.5 square feet. Rough out the number of feet in the hallway where that particular wallpaper appears, and then figure that floor to ceiling is about 12 feet. Putting all of those figures together gives you a number well into the thousands. Even if my estimates are way over, that would actually make the number of haunts way beyond the 999.
Here’s what the math might look like:
|100 Feet of Hallway On One Side||120|
|80 Feet of Hallway On Other Side||80|
|Total Feet of Hallway on both sides||180|
|Times 12 Feet in Height For Total Square Feet||2160|
|Divided by 2.5 Square Feet||864|
|Times 10 Ghosts in Print For Total||8640|
In truth, you don’t need to count the wallpaper to get close to 999. With nearly 800 haunts already counted for, all you need is another 200. There are 160 Doom Buggies in operation at any moment. There are also twinkling candelabras, lightning and special lighting FX. Add them up and you pretty much have your number there.
The purpose of this exercise is not so much to get a perfect, accurate number, but to gain a greater appreciation of just how much detail is packed into the Haunted Mansion. Imagineers have created an amazing experience, and the attraction represents the epitome of what one imagines as a haunted house. It is a timeless experience and worthy of visiting again and again. One can’t help but notice something new every time you visit. It is worthy of its founder, Walt Disney, who conceived the idea, and who insisted that Imagineers labor on it—even after his death–until it was the very best. Of course, nothing is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. As they say,
…there’s always room for one more.