My Walt Disney World obsession is relatively new. Like most people my age I grew up watching the nascent Disney Channel, and the Wonderful World of Disney was appointment viewing. But, my trips to the parks didn't start in earnest until about 10 years ago.
I think I had been the Magic Kingdom at least twice as a kid. I have some old home video of the park from the late 70's, but I was honestly too young to have any recollection of the trip. However, I vividly remember a trip around age 11 or 12.
I somehow weaseled my way on to a trip to Walt Disney World with one of my cousins. The trip itself was a bit of a whirlwind, I was a hyperactive 11 year old at Disney World, I'm sure I was a sugar powered maniac. However, two things stand out, I remember putting butter in my hot chocolate (I thought it was whipped cream??) and I remember being too scared to ride the Haunted Mansion. I should add, I was a pretty cowardly kid. I had a very active imagination, and a knack for working myself into a crying mess, seeing ghost and goblins behind every corner.
We entered into the Stretching Room and the Ghost Host began his introduction...
Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination — hmm?
And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows and no doors… which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out!
Of course, there’s always my way.
I was DONE. I went full throttle coward, and lost my mind. I was crying, and quickly informed my aunt that there was no way I was going any further on this ride, I wanted out of that house and I wanted out immediately. Thankfully, the cast members are well versed in dealing with those kinds of outbursts, and we were whisked safely away through the exit and back out into the Florida sunshine (well, rain, but it's Florida). I honestly can't remember if my butter incident was before or after the Haunted Mansion, however I'm going to contend that I was so distraught with fear that it must have been after. Otherwise, what kind of dum-dum puts butter in their hot chocolate? (In all honesty, it didn't taste bad!)
Fast forward a few decades and I'm making my first trip back to WDW, and I realize that I have to go back to the Haunted Mansion. The Ghost Host and I had a date with destiny, my trip would be incomplete if I couldn't go back and face the thing that scared young Sean so much.
I stood in the queue and marveled at the upgrades. It had been long enough, and there had been enough changes, that I was practically experiencing the entire ride for the first time. I stood in awe as the room began to stretch, how would we get out?? There were no windows, and no doors!! Then, suddenly, the wall moved and we were directed to our Doom Buggies. The entire ride was magical. Immediately, the Haunted Mansion went from a childhood nightmare to my favorite ride in all of Walt Disney World. The storytelling throughout that entire ride is like nothing I had ever experienced before, it was well worth the 20+ years I had waited to return.
Even now, after riding it hundreds of times, I still find something new, some previously overlooked element, or a better understanding of the story. I remember learning that the final stage was designed to mimic falling out of the attic window. You tumble backwards into the graveyard, where you're finally able to communicate with the ghost directly. You have crossed over into their world, and joined the swinging wake. No sooner do you join in the chorus of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" than you hear the proverbial "fat lady," and are introduced to Gus, Ezra, and Phineas, the Hitchhiking Ghosts.
Ah, there you are; and just in time.
There's a little matter I forgot to mention: beware of hitchhiking ghosts!
They have selected you to fill our quota and they'll haunt until you return. Now I will raise the safety bar, and a ghost will follow you home!
Ryan and I became friends over our shared love for this ride, and I fell in love with Jennifer almost immediately after she told me her dream to run away and live in the Haunted Mansion. It's a ride that holds a very special place for all of us at Theme Park Alchemy. It's a ride experience we couldn't wait to memorialize, and, with 999, I think we nailed it.
It is a wonderful scent crafted for foolish mortals and happy haunts alike. It's a scent that reminds me of being a scared little kid, and an excited adult. I'm happy to count myself as a resident of the Haunted Mansion, and one of the 999.