Every once in a while, Theme Park Adventure comes across a haunted attraction that catches our attention for one reason or another. Such was the case with Haunted Mansion Haunt in 2012, a home haunt more than heavily inspired by the Disney Haunted Mansion attractions by a group of very talented, creative fans.
Often, home haunts take huge cues and inspiration from existing entities, such as film IPs or even other events such as Knott’s Scary Farm or Halloween Horror Nights. However, when I found out that a home haunt in Orange County, California, was solely inspired by The Haunted Mansion, I was intrigued. Most of the Mansion’s gags are fairly heavy-duty large-scale effects, from massive Pepper’s ghost moments to projections and animatronic figures. Not to mention, the Disney attractions that this haunt pays tribute to are mostly ride-through experiences; very different than a walk-through home haunt.
The team that makes up the Haunted Mansion Haunt are obviously avid Disney fans; and they do love The Haunted Mansion, along with its mythology and history. Up and beyond that, they are very creative and mechanically inclined. As we discussed Theme Park Adventure coming to check it out, we learned that the haunt isn’t merely re-created moments from the attraction, but rather, pays homage to it and then concludes with its own scary twist. We were intrigued.
Haunted Mansion Haunt is located in Trabuco Canyon; for those unfamiliar, that is fairly deep in southern Orange County, beyond Mission Viejo in the inland hills. We worked it out so we could hit several home haunts in OC in one night, and Haunted Mansion Haunt was the last stop of the evening. When we arrived, we were greeted by the very enthusiastic crew and then waited a bit in the driveway of the residence while a small group ahead of us was escorted in. As we waited, we listened to the soundtrack, which was a loop of Disney Haunted Mansion music and soundtracks, including the music box theme from Disneyland Paris’ Phantom Manor. There was also spoken narration, voiced by long-time TPAer Kevin Horton! Most of the haunt is set up in the rear and along the sides of the residence, so other than a pair of columns (each bearing the famous Haunted Mansion gate plaque), most of the show is hidden, leaving visitors (and us) wondering what to expect.
A very clever moment (and like with other home haunts, I’m going to be careful about what we reveal and show you in this review) is the re-creation of the Stretching Room scene. At Disneyland, the attraction features two identical stretching rooms that are actually large elevators used to transport guests below the park’s berm and railroad tracks, routing them to the massive show building, which is behind New Orleans Square. In Florida, the ceiling actually goes up, giving guests the same visual experience. At the Haunted Mansion Haunt, that moment is done using the attraction’s actual spiel and a very clever “stretching room” visual that ends with a surprise! From there, guests begin to interact (or be frightened by) the haunt crew members.
Moving along the side of the home, more Haunted Mansion moments are depicted, including the Attic scene, complete with a full-scale Hatbox Ghost, easily the most high-profile character from the Disney attraction, even though his inclusion in the Disneyland ride was incredibly short-lived. This team’s Hatbox Ghost looks great, and was completely sculpted and handmade from lots of reference images and many hours of elbow grease. Long-time Haunted Mansion fans ourselves (I was even a Cast Member at Disneyland’s Mansion and spent a lot of time chatting with Marc and Alice Davis about the attraction back in the day), we were very impressed by the attention to detail and hard work that has gone into not just the Hatbox character, but all aspects of this home haunt.
It is set up around a modern Orange County residence that obviously, looks nothing like any of the Mansion facades around the world. Once you kind of push that glaring reality aside and appreciate the various scenes and vignettes, it’s truly a wonderful labor of love these guys and gals have come up with.
The back yard is the Mansion’s Graveyard scene, complete with flying spooks and live monsters roaming about; it’s well done and very fun. Their neighbors are definitely very understanding and supportive, because this is no small-scale little endeavor; this is legit, and with legit home haunts comes lots of sound: music, effects, people screaming and laughing.
Entering the final part of the haunt, guests enter a very dark maze; a crypt, if you will. Here, the experience takes on its own feel, and is downright scary; the “fun” aspect of The Haunted Mansion is left behind. In the dark portion of the haunt, visitors find their way through a mini labyrinth that is both claustrophobic and more like a traditional maze than the rest of the show; it’s a strange way to end the entire Haunted Mansion Haunt experience, but it works. Guests let their guards down; they feel “safe” as they wander through this family-friendly creation, only to be tossed into blackness with monsters and even a chainsaw at the end. A total 180 degree moment that catches everyone by surprise and leaves guests screaming as they leave! Kinda funky, kinda brilliant – so my hat’s off to the team for the somewhat evil twist at the end!
Whether you’re a Halloween fan or Disney enthusiast (or both, like we are), do yourself a favor and put this unique home haunt on your list of Must See things for the 2013 season; you will have a great time and won’t be disappointed.
The cast and crew are all super enthusiastic, and we can tell they really love what they do. That comes across very well, and makes for an incredibly satisfying experience in which everyone shares in celebrating arguably the most beloved dark ride in the world – The Haunted Mansion!
– Rick West