According to the legend of Ravenswood Manor, the Phantom first appeared just after the fateful 1860 earthquake that devestated Thunder Mesa, on the day of Melanie's wedding. He murdered the unfortunate groom by hanging him from the rafters in the attic, and his dark presence remained in the house to keep Melanie there. Some speculate that the Phantom is in fact the ghost of Melanie's father, Henry Ravenswood, who returned to make sure his daughter would never leave Thunder Mesa (which was actually the original intent of the Imagineers, although it was eventually left ambiguous in the finished attraction); similarly, other stories say the Phantom is somehow the result of a curse on Big Thunder Mountain. Regardless, the Phantom is a terrifying and malignant force, and seems to command many other ghouls and goblins that haunt the grounds.
During the attraction, guests encounter the Phantom many times. His disembodied, seemingly polite voice greets the guests as they enter the foyer and delivers a speech about the manor, insisting that "beauty once lived in this house… and beauty lives here still", and prompting the mortals to take a tour of the Manor to see by themselves this alleged beauty. Unlike the Ghost Host, whose role the Phantom's voice fills in both the Foyer and the Stretching Room, the Phantom is not heard again during the rest of the tour, as he has left the guests on their own, attending to other ghostly matters throughout the manor instead.
He is first seen in the Stretching Room, where the murder of the groom by his hand is revealed as the ghost manically draw on the rope, making the corpse of his victim dangle, while laughing evilly. He also mockingly watches over the ghostly reenactment of Melanie's interrupted wedding, cackling like before. However, the Phantom's major entrance comes as riders enter the small graveyard behind the house. He stands with a shovel in hand and cackles at guests before their doom buggies tip backward into an open grave and descend into the catacombs.
The Phantom makes an appearance near the end of Phantom Canyon, appearing as more of an decaying corpse with tattered clothes (which has been interpreted as his spirit repossessing his own corpse instead of appearing in his more clean-cut spectral form as before). He continues to laugh manically as he gestures to an open coffin (which might be his own, from which he just escaped, or an invitation for the guests to accept their demise and die). Escaping this, guests encounter the Phantom one last time in the crypt: similar in effect to the Hitchhiking Ghosts, the Phantom appears reflected in the mirrors the guests pass, looming over the top of the doom buggy.
Outside of the manor, sharp-eyed onlookers may spot the Phantom lurking behind one of the windows of the house.