Literacy 2021: Book 8: The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion

Book
The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion by Jeff Baham

Synopsis
A history of the early concept and lengthy, tumultuous design of the Haunted Mansion attraction in Disneyland, along with a tour of the ride, and an overview of its associated collectibles and promotional events.

Pros
Fairly exhaustive but accessible, with enough details that many theme park nerds might not have already known about, but still broad enough an overview for normal people. Baham seems to have consulted or interviewed anyone who might know anything about the Mansion, including interviews with Imagineers conducted by himself and compiled from various other park historians like the E-Ticket magazine. Includes several photos I’ve never seen before, contributed by fans and researchers, from the opening of the attraction and many rare collectibles. Rigorously updated, containing sections about the recent Ghost Post subscription box, the restoration of the Hatbox Ghost to Disneyland, and the somewhat new Escher room in Walt Disney World’s version. Baham’s description of the ride itself doesn’t feel like a dry, detailed overview, but captures the fun of actually being on the attraction.

Cons
I wish there’d been more focus on the Walt Disney World version (and the Tokyo Disneyland one, which is almost identical), since as it is they’re mentioned more or less in passing, and the differences between them are interesting. I didn’t see any mention of the recent-ish interactive queue addition to the Walt Disney World version, the family crypt. The pictures included are fantastic, but I wish the book included more, to give context for what was being described. The downside to its being rigorously updated is that it feels a little less cohesive — some minor typos and repetition are a little distracting.

Verdict
The first book to read by anyone who’s interested at all in the Haunted Mansion; even if you think you know it all, you’ll probably learn at least one piece of new information here.

One Thing I Learned
The phrase “Grim Grinning Ghost” is originally from the Shakespeare poem Venus and Adonis.

Related Resources
Baham is the creator of the excellent site Doombuggies.com, probably the best — or at least most exhaustive — place on the web for deep dives into the history of the attraction.


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