The Exit Crypt
Do you have room for a guest?
As the Doom Buggies enter a particularly ominous crypt, guests meet the Haunted Mansion's unofficial mascots... the "Hitchhiking Ghosts." The trio of spooks stand under a stone archway with thumbs extended, hoping for a lift. But be wary of stopping for them, as they may try to follow you home...!
According to an interview "X" Atencio gave to Storyboard magazine in 1989, the Hitchhiking Ghosts were a last minute addition: "My favorite is the exit. That's a real great topper. It was kind of an afterthought, though. It didn't come until the ride was practically put in there."
After passing the three Hitchhiking Ghosts, the Doom Buggies travel into a dimly lit crypt. Passing an ornate mirror, you glimpse into it and suddenly notice that you aren't alone in your seat! Sitting right next to you is one of the three Hitchhiking Ghosts, casting an eerie glow. Your uninvited visitor is transparent like the Grand Hall ghosts, and you can see yourself right through him. Maybe he will try to follow you home...
Here's looking at you
The Hitchhiking Ghost gag is similar to the Pepper's Ghost technique used to make ghosts disappear and reappear in the Grand Hall scene, in the sense that it involves the viewer's perception of reflected light. However, while the ghosts you see are only reflections in the Grand Hall scene, in the mirrors in the exit crypt, the ghost you see in your carriage is an actual animatronic that you are looking at through a false mirror. Due to the dim lighting in the crypt, you see yourself reflected in the glass of the "mirror," but you also see the illuminated animatronics moving behind the glass, as they follow a track that is synchronized with the Doom Buggies.
Name that ghost
More trivia: these characters have been assigned unofficial names. They are Gus (the short bearded ghost with the ball and chain), Ezra (the tall and skeletal ghost) and Phineas (the larger ghost, in top hat.) The names have become so well-known among fans of the ride that early drafts of the Haunted Mansion film used them when referring to the Hitchhiking Ghosts.
As you can see in this photo of "Ezra," the Hitchhiking Ghosts are designed in much the same way as the other graveyard ghosts: a transparent plexiglass frame is placed around the raw, mechanical innards, and semi-transparent plastic "clothes" are placed on the ghosts to give them a see-through, skeletal feel. The original sculpt for each of the Hitchhiking Ghosts was created by WED Imagineer Blaine Gibson, and it is Gibson that is responsible for the disproportionate, bug-eyed, leering "Ezra" skull that we have seen a few other times thoughout the attraction.
Pictured above: more images of the Hitchhiking Ghosts, including two rare backstage images of "Ezra," and a Marc Davis concept sketch of some characters that evolved into the Hitchhikers.
Leaving You With a Song
Buddy Baker and "X" Atencio's clever song gives the Haunted Mansion its pacing and momentum. But unlike most attractions, which aim to leave you humming the theme song while it reverberates away in your head, Baker and Atencio leave you with a different feeling as you exit the darkness of the Haunted Mansion. By recording one final track in a mournful, melanchollic form with a simple a capella quintet, the Haunted Mansion leaves you a bit disquieted, with perhaps a twinge of curiosity. Did you really just see all those amazing things? How did they do that? As Atencio's final lyric proclaims in an understated manner:
"If you would like to join our jamboree / There's a simple rule that's
Mortals pay a token fee / Rest in peace, the haunting's free;
So hurry back, we would like your company..."
Leaving the Hitchhiking Ghosts behind, you find yourself passing a sign that proclaims that you've reached the "Dead End," and will soon be rejoining the living world. Looking around as you prepare to exit your Doom Buggy, it becomes apparent that you are in a large stone crypt. Even here at the ride's end, detail aboundsas evidenced by the bronze torches on the walls, held aloft by skeletal arms (in a nod to some of Rolly Crump's designs for the Museum of the Weird.) As the eerie chorus hums the melody to the Mansion's theme, you exit the Doom Buggies and walk toward the exit.
The Ghost Hostess
But before you quite make it out, you'll be treated to a final eerie effect, as you pass a miniaturized ghostly woman with flowing robes, no more than two feet tall. "Hurry back... hurry back," she pleads. "And don't forget your death certificate! We're just... dying... to have you..."
A small prop body is positioned on a ledge of the crypt, about five feet from the walkway. Hidden fans blow its draping costume around, creating billowing robes and giving the scene a mysterious, windswept feeling. The projector, which projects only the face, is hidden out of sight as well. The face of the miniature ghost is of WED Imagineer Leota Toombs (as was the face of Madame Leota - and because of this, fans have often called this ghost by the name of "Little Leota," though that is an unofficial moniker). The voice of the "Ghost Hostess" is also that of Leota Toombs.
Be sure to bring your death certificate...
Pictured above, top left: At Walt Disney World, the Ghost Hostess appears on a ledge at the end of the crypt before guests leave their Doom Buggies. With the 2007 "re-haunting" of Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion, the Ghost Hostess was converted to a rear-projection prop, and her face is animated from a LCD projector behind the doll using a special lens to fit the high resolution image to her face. Top center: a scanned film cel from the Ghost Hostess reel. Top right: The Ghost Hostess as she appears at Disneyland. Above left: a close-up "live" shot of the Ghost Hostess, with (above center) a wider shot, as the effect appears in show lighting (live photos courtesy of Robert Miller.) Above right: detail of the Ghost Hostess doll. The face and arms are painted with phosphorescent paint, so that the light projected on them will cause them to glow in the dark, adding to the eerie effect.
Did you enjoy your visit?
We will finish our little tour with the ending of the classic "Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion" record album. So, to quote our Ghost Host: "Thank you for spending some time with us. Come back again. Bring your friends... if they'll believe the story you'll tell. I have to go now - it's midnight. Pleasant dreams..."
Continue on to learn a little about the goings-on backstage that keep the Haunted Mansion running.