Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Mystery of the Hat Box Ghost

If you've ever been to either either Disneyland...

or Disney World,

 you're probably aware of a little attraction known as the Haunted Mansion. A place where 999 happy haunts inhabit the grounds...but there's always room for one more. Here you will find a cavalcade of creatures and a a gaggle of ghouls ready to make your stay a bit more, ahem, unpleasant. There are many iconic elements to the mansion. From the stretching room...

 to the Doom Buggys...

 and the interactive cemetery, you're sure to find something that sticks in your mind after your visit. Along with these are several kooky and creepy characters who will see on your tour of the mansion. Beginning with the servants who work in the mansion all the way down to Ezra, Phineus and Gus...the Hitchhiking Ghosts who try and follow you home after your visit.

 But one character in particular is a bit more intriguing them all the rest. Sure, the floating head of Madame Leota and Constance the Gold Digging, Axe Murdering Bride who resides in the Mansions attic are both interesting and creepy, but there's another character who trumps all of that...I'm talking about non other than The Hatbox Ghost!

Now, if you've ever been to Disney, or done a bit of digging, I'm sure you've come across an image or two of the Hatbox Ghost. He's the one with the walking stick, a top hat, and most noteably, a hatbox. But if you've ridden the ride anytime in the last 40 plus years, you'd be surprised to find out that you have never seen him inside the ride. Sure he's all over the place on their merchandise...but up until May of 2015 he hadn't been seen in either mansion since it's opening in 1969. "Why in the world is this?" You may ask. Well, to be honest, no one really knows. There are a few theories as to why.

One theory is that he was just too scary! Now that sounds a little ridiculous, considering the title of the attraction is the HAUNTED mansion. I mean, l will admit, he is more menacing than most of the residing ghouls, (Seriously, look at that ugly mug...)

but still it's hard to imagine how something could be dubbed "too scary" in that ride. The answer to that is that when the ride was being built, there were three different art directors. Each one having his own take on what the ride should be. One thought it should be creepy and scary, another thought more on the funnier side, ala the Munsters and The Adams Family, while the other was probably somewhere in the middle. The result it turns out is a mosh pit of all three directions. So Hatbox made it into the ride, with the intention of being scary, but I guess someone overdid it and within a few weeks of the ride opening, he was gone. At least that's one theory.

The other theory is that he just wasn't working quite right. As you make your way through the mansion, you will find a ton of state of the art visual effects, designed to make you think you are really seeing ghosts right in front of your eyes as you pass by. The Hatbox was no different. The idea was, that as you rode by him, he head would disappear from his neck, and reappear in the hatbox he was holding, and the vice versa. Rumor has it that depending on which way you were facing when the transfer took place, the illusion either would or wouldn't work. Sometimes it looked a bit wonky or out of place, and if you know anything about Disney, you know that that's not acceptable. So he was taken out of the mansion and replaced by another visual effect. That theory would hold up except for one thing...Why didn't they fix him? I mean, we are talking about Disney! The company that has been on the forefront of innovation. I just can't buy the idea that they scrapped him after only a few weeks and have only recently returned him to his post. 

So what's the real reason behind the Hatbox's disappearance? I believe the answer lies deeper than just mechanical issues and artistic direction. For such an intriguing character there has got to be more to the story. I believe the real answer lies down a path that most "foolish mortals" would stray away from...but not this one. For to find the answer to the Hatbox Ghost, we must first discover who he is...or was. And to do that, we're going to have to take a journey to a time long forgotten. We will have to travel to a place where the walls still cry with the unfortunate souls who inhibit them. We will have to trudge past the ruins of a once joyful place, that now only acts as a prison to all those affected by the acts done there. Yes, we're going far back to unravel a tale of mystery, matrimony and murder. So join me next time as we travel down memory lane and unravel the mystery that is the Hatbox Ghost.

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