Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who Is The Hatbox Ghost?

Me, in all of my para-abnormal (and pantless) splendor.

The following is the current (at the time of this writing) Wikipedia entry for yours ghoully, a listing for which I am partly (largely?) and proudly responsible:

THE HATBOX GHOST is a character that appeared originally in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion but was removed shortly after the attraction's debut. Located formerly in the ride's attic scene, the figure is described as "an elderly ghost in a cloak and top hat, leaning on a cane with a wavering hand and clutching a hatbox in the other."

The idea behind the Hatbox Ghost was for his head to vanish from atop his shoulders and reappear alternately inside his hatbox, in time with an adjacent bride figure's beating heart. According to Imagineer Chris Merritt in an interview with, the effect was never completely successful due to the illusion's close proximity to the ride vehicles:

"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."

The Hatbox Ghost was installed in The Haunted Mansion and in place for cast member (park employee) previews on the nights of August 7 and 8, 1969. Immediately, it became apparent that the effect had failed, as ambient light in the attraction's attic scene prevented the spectre's face from disappearing completely, despite the turning off of its designated spotlight. Although The Hatbox Ghost was removed before the ride's public opening on August 9, 1969, a number of attraction visitors claim to have seen the figure in the attic scene during the weeks following, suggesting that attempts were made to remedy technical problems before permanent uninstallation. A photo of the figure in situ is featured on the website. And on the DVD, "Disneyland Resort: Imagineering the Magic," Senior Vice President of Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering Tony Baxter displays an attraction maintenance slip that lists the original Hatbox Ghost.

Although no one knows what became of The Hatbox Ghost, there are speculations as to his fate. One report claims that its parts were recycled into one of the Eagle Sam audio-animatrons used in the America Sings attraction which opened at Disneyland in 1974. But this seems unlikely, in view of the simplicity of the The Hatbox Ghost's design and construction. A second Hatbox Ghost was produced for but never installed in Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion. The whereabouts of this figure remain a mystery as well. However, the head on the pop-up ghoul that is seen as guests depart the Disneyland Haunted Mansion's interior cemetery scene is identical to that of the original Hatbox Ghost.

Because The Hatbox Ghost featured prominently in the artwork and narration for popular Haunted Mansion record albums sold for many years at Disney parks, he has never been forgotten and has become somewhat of a legend, complete with cult following. Many fans of the ride wish to see him returned and await that day eagerly. In 2009, The Hatbox Ghost appeared repeatedly in art and souvenirs created for the 40th Anniversary of the Haunted Mansion, a reflection of fan interest in the character. Artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily crafted their version of an afterlife-size replica of The Hatbox Ghost that was auctioned for $9,400.00 at the first D23 Expo, held in September of the same year. In addition, The Hatbox Ghost was the official "spooksperson" for Disneyland Resort's 2009 O-pin House pin trading event and Haunted Holidays celebration.

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  1. You need to go back to the Haunted Mansion where you belong!!!!!

  2. With all the hi-tech technology in the 21st Century, why the Hatbox Ghost isn't part of the attraction is baffling; and that's stating the opinion mildly. Hattie, your time has come!

    the Q

  3. In case there's any doubt as to what I mean by "partly" responsible, the final rewrite and numerous edits of this Wiki listing are my handiwork. In fact, the listing came about because I called for its creation from my Twitter page.

    My Twitter follower, HitchhikinGhst, wrote the initial short entry which a few others contributed to and I polished. Then, some time later, MiceChat Member HBG2 rewrote the stub into a much more elaborate article which I rewrote again and reformatted, keeping HBG2's added facts. The listing has been tinkered with a little, since then. But, all in all, its main contributors have been HitchhikinGhst, HBG2 and myself.


My head wanders. What are your thoughts?