When I was a kid, we took a family trip to California, and I experienced the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.

And then I went through five more times, in a row, until the park closed. I was instantly obsessed.

The Haunted Mansion was the very first haunted house I ever went to. And when I think about it, out of all the other haunts I’ve attended since then, none had quite the same flavor. The expanding-ceiling room, the dancing holograms, the grandfather clock chiming 13 times, the pastel colors glowing in the darkness and smoke of the cemetery: these unique images have lasting impact. And the moving-tram seat (which visitors ride, rather than walking) had a very effective and creepy inevitability about it. Once you were in it, you relinquished all control: there was no turning back.

Well, did you know that when Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion first opened in 1969, it included a very creepy figure that was never seen again after one short year? It was called the Hatbox Ghost.


Thanks to special lighting effects, the Hatbox Ghost’s head would disappear and then reappear in the box. Here’s what the prop looked like in the mansion.

Disneyland seemed proud of this prop. They created promotional Hatbox Ghost toys and released some amazing press photos of the ghost with a Disneyland employee.

Yale Gracey, Imagineer and special effects designer

Then why did the Hatbox Ghost disappear less than a year after its debut? Was the prop too scary for the ride? Did its lighting effect fail?  The true answer is a mystery. Some say it was recycled into an Uncle Sam Eagle figure in a patriotic 1974 ride. Others say the Hatbox Ghost’s head can still be seen today on a pop-up ghost near the exit of the cemetery.

Regardless, it’s such a shame that the original ghost is no longer in the ride, because it was a beautifully scary piece of work.

I highly recommend the well-written, informative article here for more information.


3 thoughts on “Hatbox Ghost

  1. Wow…did we actually just post Hatbox Ghost articles on the same day at random?? I’m rather obsessed with all things Haunted Mansion.

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