The Hatbox Ghost is a particularly infamous and iconic spectre among the 999 ghosts of the Haunted Mansion. Haunting the attic alongside the Bride (later Constance), he is remarkable mainly for his legacy of being the "lost ghost" of the attraction, originally appearing briefly when the mansion opened 1969 and then vanishing without a trace. On May 9th, 2015, however, the character was reintroduced.
Described as "a cloaked figure with an evil, grinning face" in The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion, the Hatbox Ghost stands by with an old, kobby walking stick in his right hand and his namesake hatbox in his left. As riders look on, his head vanishes from his shoulders and reappears inside the hatbox, his top hat floating above the space where his head should be, only to have the head fade back into its original position moments later.
In the Ride
Before he makes his appearance in person, in the Disneyland version of the ride (as well as the Walt Disney World version since the "Re-Haunting"), the Hatbox Ghost's face can be repeatedly seen as some of the Family Portraits.
In 1969, the Hatbox Ghost was briefly in a corner of the attic opposite the Bride where he was implied to have been a suitor to her, his head supposedly fading and returning with each beat of the Bride's glowing, thudding heart.
The Updated Ghoul
Today, the Hatbox Ghost stands on the balcony alongside seven hatboxes as guests exit the attic before they descend to the graveyard. His head vanishes with a sinister chuckle or an occasional hiss and appears again in the hatbox, blinking and moving its eyes.
Removal and Return
Though the Hatbox Ghost was briefly in the attraction when it first opened, the intended effect of the vanishing head did not work out as planned. Rumor had speculated that the old parts for the Hatbox Ghost were used for the Sam the Eagle animatronic at the now defunct ride America Sings. This was later disproved when a manual for The Haunted Mansion was auctioned off showing that the HBG was too simple to have any moving parts to end up in the Sam the Eagle figures. Some speculate that he was removed because he was "too scary for a family attraction."
Early promotional material for the Haunted Mansion likewise heavily featured the character and, coupled with the fact that most never even saw him or the intended effect, he was not easily forgotten. The mystery of the character would persist for nearly 45 years, with all sorts of rumors and speculation floating around.This legacy has been reflected by both the company and the fans. The Hatbox Ghost continues to appear on merchandise, memorabilia and other Mansion-related items throughout the years, as well as making several cameos in various Disney media. In 2010, it was announced at San Diego Comic Con that Guillermo Del Toro's planned Haunted Mansion film would prominently feature the Hatbox Ghost. At the D23 Expo in 2013, a large animatronic figure was present at the show that was dressed to resemble the Hatbox Ghost.
In early January of 2015, following the take down of the seasonal Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, a strange wall with a holographic window depicting one of the bat stanchions appeared on the balcony in the attraction. Many assumed this masked an upcoming addition to the attraction, and most surmised that it would be the Hatbox Ghost. Disney teased this by putting the Hatbox Ghost on much of their merchandise for the Haunted Mansion's 45th anniversary, and finally confirmed in late April that the Hatbox Ghost was indeed coming back to the attraction. On May 9th, following a week-long closure, the Mansion reopened with an updated Hatbox Ghost figure in the spot where the "mystery wall" had been, using a combination of sophisticated video projection and old-fashioned stage magic to create the illusion of the ghost's vanishing head.
In the Mystery of the Manse storyline, the Hatbox Ghost is the spirit of Randall Pace, a gunrunner decapitated by William Gracey during a mutiny. He is one of the spirits summoned by Madame Leota to torment Emily de Claire on the day of her wedding to Gracey, and seems to lead the ghosts of Gracey's murdered crew in frightening her to death. The Hatbox Ghost makes several minor appearances throughout the comic as well.
Disney Kingdoms comics
The Hatbox Ghost first appears in a cameo in The Haunted Mansion #2 alongside the Captain, Madame Leota and Constance as the nature of the mansion's ghosts and their powers is explained by Pickwick. It is revealed that these four ghosts are among the few that actually died on the grounds of the mansion, thus leading to them having more supernatural power.
In the following issue, he appears to help Danny escape from the Captain in the Grand Hall. It is revealed that he has only recently returned to the Mansion after a long time traveling to different haunted places around the world magically connected together by the Endless Staircase, a vast labyrinth that only he has figured out how to properly use. Though insisting he's staying out of the fight, he urges Danny to continue on his adventure to undo the Captain's curse on the Mansion, free the Haunted Mansion's magic, and allow all the ghosts the freedom to travel. Compared to the rest of the four, the Hatbox Ghost has a more relaxed personality, believing that the dead should learn to celebrate life in their afterlife, noting that it'd be impossible for Constance or the Captain to move on because of their respective unbridled rage and insatiable greed.
The end of the story reveals the Hatbox Ghost as the new keeper of the Captain's disembodied head, kept in one of his hatboxes, away from his ghostly body so he cannot reform and return to his evil ways.
- The Hatbox Ghost makes a cameo appearance in an episode of House of Mouse.
- Although he does not physically appear in the Disney World Version of the attic, his hatboxes do. If you look to the side of the room opposite to Constance, near the picture of her and the Marquis you will see five hatboxes stacked atop one another looking nearly identical to those on the Disneyland Balcony
- He has a similar face mold as the Skeleton hitchhiking ghost, Ezra, which happens to be an exact sculpt.
- In the new version of the attic, many assume the Hatbox Ghost is one of Constance Hatchaway's deceased husbands, or, at the very least, another one of her victims. The evidence of this is based on the fact that he was decapitated and had his head placed in a hatbox (as all of Constance's husbands were) and the close association shown between the two characters,
- Certain parts of his current animatronic have been coloured in such a way that it appears as if he is semi transparent.
- After he was initially removed, he continued to be featured in Haunted Mansion merchandise and promotional content such as Vynilmation and House of Mouse.
- His dark chuckle was performed by Corey Burton who also voices the Ghost Host during Haunted Mansion Holiday.
- In the Corridor of Doors, his face appears in some of the "Family Portraits", some with his hat and some with a crown instead.
- In merchandise he is often referred to as "The Maddest Hatter of them all" as a reference to the Mad Hatter character from Alice in Wonderland.
- Strangely, he does not perform or refer to his "head-in-the-hatbox" trick even once in the Disney Kingdoms comics.
- Another popular theory is that he was the lover of the Bride and was killed by either the Bride herself or a jealous suitor.
- After he was removed, a popular myth arose which was that he was removed due to how scary he was and that he gave one guest a heart attack, in reality his effect just didn't work
- Another popular theory was that his parts were reused for the Sam the Eagle animatronic at America Sings but upon inspection of his blueprints it can be seen that his figure wouldn't have had enough moving parts for this.
- To this day it is unknown where his original figure is.
- Some identify his cane as a shillelagh.