Mesa is prospering from the Gold Rush, and the wedding of the
century is planned. In this woeful tale of young love, this is a
wedding like no other. Melanie Ravenswood (below left), the
daughter of a wealthy patriarch has fallen in love with a
railroad engineer from the Big Thunder Mining Company. Her
father, Henry Ravenswood invited the couple to wed in his
glorious manor house overlooking Thunder Mesa atop Boot Hill.
by his generosity, the young couple graciously accepted and were
to wed on a dark, stormy winters evening. Ravenswood Manor
became haunted by a mysterious and illusive Phantom who fell in
love with Melanie. On the night of her wedding, he hung her
husband to be leaving her to wait in vein for her young suitor.
in her wedding dress, the bride still awaits, the
once-magnificent manor now decaying, her very presence ever
haunted by the malevolent Phantom.
Disney (right) died before the first Haunted Mansion in America
could open. Even so, he had much to do with the design process
of the ride, and many – if not most of his ideas where
honoured. Most notably, the architecture of Phantom Manor does
not adhere to Walt’s philosophy that the outside of the
mansion should be serene and assured as opposed to Phantom
Manor, whose foreboding appearance can be likened to the house
in the film Psycho.
the whole ambience of Phantom Manor is far more macabre and
theatrical than the older versions in America. Enhancing the
poignant tale of the jilted bride with a beautifully reworked
soundtrack throughout giving the whole attraction a near
operatic quality to it.
Ravenswood’s once glorious estate is now an overgrown mess of
weeds and deadwood, with a crumbling perimeter wall. Despite the
unkempt presentation of Ravenswood’s gardens, a sense of the
former majesty of the estate is still maintained, with the
once-beautiful house overlooking Boot Hill.
secluded gazebo stands deserted in the garden. The haunting
notes of a music box are still carried through the wind as you
climb the hill up to a garden pavilion to the left of the house.
queue continues under the veranda of the decaying timber house
before entering through the open front doors. Once in the dimly
lit entrance hall, hung from a wall of rotting wood and peeling
wallpaper, an image of the beautiful bride fades in the mirror
before the doors slam shut and you are grimly welcomed by the
voice of a host.
next room is dimly lit by wicked looking gargoyles clutching
candles, panelled in wood, finished off with a bleak blue and
white striped wallpaper. The bride is pictured in more
felicitous times; picking roses in a garden; enjoying a gondola
ride down a river; paddling in shallow water and enjoying a
summers’ afternoon picnic with her adored fiancé.
within this doorless chamber, you are warned things are not what
they seem. Slowly, the room stretches – the ceiling slowly
disappearing into the bleak darkness above. The pictures are
being stretched to reveal more ghastly circumstances for our
troubled bride; an undead skeleton claws its way from the ground
in her rose garden; her gondola perched upon the peak of a
treacherous waterfall; a wicked beast clawing at her feet from
beneath the water, and ants, snakes, spiders... all encroaching
on the happy couple.
crack of thunder and flash of lightening reveals the attic high
above, the corpse of the husband to be hanging from the rafters
with the mysterious silhouette of the Phantom clasping the noose
with his cape blowing in the wind, his haunting laughter sending
shivers down your spine.
into this elegant home, an ornately furnished gallery has
beautiful oil paintings on display. On a second glance, many
adopt a somewhat sinister appearance, fading back to their
original beauty in the blink of an eye.
huge candlelit marble staircase draws your attention up to three
arched windows, the stormy skies silhouetting a flailing branch.
Lightening harshly lights the room on occasion, with an endless
stream of doombuggies parading through the centre of this
doombuggies were created by WED and manufactured by Arrow. These
two person vehicles form part of a continuous loop of such
‘buggies’, and are capable of turning up to 180-degrees in
either direction, therefore directing your gaze with pinpoint
seated in the black doombuggy, your lap bar lowers and you pass
under an archway and begin ascending into the darkness of the
the peak of a landing, Melanie in her full bridal outfit
clutching a bouquet of flowers curtsies as if to welcome us.
Travelling unhurried through the sinisterly decorated corridors
of the manor, a candelabra shines from the darkness, with a
momentary vision of the bride clutching the candelabra appearing
out of the darkness for a fleeting moment.
piano plays the haunting melody as we pass, under a shrieking
raven’s piercing glare whilst a clock perpetually chimes the
the next stately room, doombuggies circle a tattered table with
a vision of Madame
Leota uttering the words of a séance, summoning all
present evil into this house most haunted.
of the most harrowing tone sets the scene for the next hall, a
cavernous ballroom. Mysterious characters dance, the former
majesty of the room a fading memory as the paper peels, the wood
rots and the curtains thrash in the wind.
bride stands weeping at the top of a staircase, whilst looking
down on the banquet from an open window the mysterious Phantom
dressed in top hat and a cloak blowing in the wind.
the boudoir, weathered by years of torment and anguish, the now
elderly Melanie, still in her wedding dress, sobs into her
mirror, which catching the light is in the shape of a skull.
through an open door out into the manor’s cemetery, a
hauntingly realistic animation of the Phantom stands in the
eerie darkness next to the grave of her husband to be, and an
open grave, presumably for the jilted bride.
car descends down further into a crypt with grisly scenes of
scant skeletons clawing their way out of rotting coffins. This
graphic and macabre scene alone shows that this ride can be
genuinely creepy without relying upon cheap scares.
this grim atmosphere, a quartet of busts (below) sing a cheerful
rendition of Grim Grinning Ghosts. These animated characters are
singing of ‘happy haunts’ materialising, which whilst it
sets the pretext of the American versions of the ride, I can’t
help but think that these busts are only there for the sake of
debunk urban legend, Walt Disney is not one of the projected
singers, either, instead it’s that of Thurl Ravenscroft, which
provides a tenuous link to the story of Charles and Melanie
Ravenscroft in Phantom Manor.
this point, Phantom Manor goes way off piste, and is all the
worse for it. We enter Phantom Canyon, a western township
devastated by a recent earthquake.
an emancipated stationmaster selling ‘one way’ tickets, we
are welcomed by the mayor of Phantom Canyon – he lifts his
hat... and head... as he welcomes us to this devastated town of
many tacky scenes of games of poker, foolhardy residents
drinking lethal potions and jovial scenes in run-down bars, the
Phantom, traumatisingly real for young riders, stands over an
you approach the final scene, the storyline is once again picked
up with the bride, her skeletal remains still dressed in the
tatters of her wedding dress in front of a whirlpool of swirling
light as the car turns to follow a wall of mirrors, the Phantom
clasps onto the hood of your car as the car turns back and you
are free to escape this cursed house.
exit takes you out onto Boot Hill and the manors’ neighbouring
cemetery. Amidst the weeds and decay, and next to the bubbling
geysers on the banks of the river, gravestones mark the final
resting places of many Thunder Mesa residents, such as Lead Foot
Fred (he danced too slow, and now he’s dead) and various
parodies of Disney films and characters.
attention to detail throughout makes Phantom Manor simply one of
the most polished, remarkable dark rides in the world.
Using John Debney's moving orchestral sound track
(pictured left), lavish sets and a tear-jerking story
throughout, Phantom Manor works on setting a harrowing – and
often creepy atmosphere, building upon the story of the bride
and the obsessive Phantom.
story of Phantom Manor is told throughout the ride, but with
such subtlety that those who are no au-fait with Phantom Manor
the complexity of the plot may elude them.
main problem with Phantom Manor is that the ride has built an
identity of its own, but still seems to have problems getting
away from the original Haunted Mansion rides. The Phantom Canyon
part of the ride with the singing busts is a real intrusion on
the otherwise polished story line for example.
sense of drama and theatre accomplished by Phantom Manor is one
that only a few of the worlds greatest rides have managed to
accomplish. Scares and indeed even the most expensive of effects
only have a certain level of longevity to them, but as Disney
have managed time and time again, Phantom Manor has a relentless
re-ridability to it.
that the ride could have been a carbon copy of the American
Haunted Mansions, it’s great to see that the ride has been
given a more European character to it. Overlooking the somewhat
off-topic jaunt through Phantom Canyon, Phantom Manor is an
example of Disney at it’s best.
With thanks to the following sources of information/artwork:
Fans website (Inge) | Urban