Phantom Manor: The Haunted Mansion's Darker Counterpart?

Phantom Manor: The Haunted Mansion's Darker Counterpart?

A look at the European take on Disney's classic ride.

There are two things that I doubt I will ever lose any love for in my life: Disneyland, and a good ghost story. You'd think a place based on stories meant to bring kids joy wouldn't feature anything meant to scare them, but Disney does not disappoint (and when does it ever?)The Haunted Mansion, a tour through the decaying, ghost-infested grounds of an abandoned estate, is a Disney classic. I have been on the Haunted Mansion countless times; however, in the past year, I finally visited the Mansion’s variants not only in the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, but in Europe’s version of the park in Paris, too. Walt Disney World's version is practically a high-tech replica of Disneyland's, though the addition of the library and twisting staircases, as well as an in-ride version of the gallery that exists only in the line in the original does grant it some extra points. The real marvel of the three, though, was Paris' Phantom Manor, a ride where the similarities to its predecessors basically end at its track.

Before visiting Paris, I was told to expect a pleasant shock upon visiting Phantom Manor. The ride would be a darker, scarier version of the Haunted Mansion, based on "The Phantom of the Opera" and centered around the relationship between their equivalent of the Ghost Host and bride, two of the original mansion's most mysterious residents. (So, basically, a ride I would only think could exist in my dreams!)

From the moment I stepped into the part of the park Phantom Manor calls home, I could tell it was going to be a completely different experience from the Haunted Mansion. Not only is it in Frontierland, as opposed to New Orleans/Liberty Square, but it creates and is completely ingrained in the story of "Thunder Mesa," the American Old Western-style town surrounding it. It is so much a part of its surroundings that it gives new meaning to seemingly plotless rides, like Big Thunder Mountain just across the river. But as important as it is to Frontierland, the Manor grounds are built so that as soon as you step through the gates, the land's area music and the sound of the crowds passing through the town fade so completely that by the time you reach the gazebo in front of the Manor, you have been met with eerie silence.

The fact that this version of the ride is going to be something completely new, despite how familiar its foyer and stretching room may appear, becomes fully apparent during what are normally the Ghost Host's opening words to his guests. The Paris editions of the foyer and stretching room are narrated by a being known only as the Phantom and, though he speaks the exact same lines as the Ghost Host once you enter the stretching room, he completely warps their meaning. Anyone who has been in the Haunted Mansion at either American park is familiar with a few of the Ghost Host's most chilling lines, particularly from the moments following the reveal that he has led you straight into a haunted trap room with no way out: "Of course, there's always my way.” The line is followed by the ceiling giving way to a view of the cupola and the revelation that your charming host was actually driven to suicide while he was still living, presumably after being trapped in the Haunted Mansion himself. Flashes of lightning reveal his corpse hanging from the rafters above you, and your Ghost Host quickly becomes the most intriguing character in the Mansion. Across the Atlantic, Paris' Phantom Manor features the same exact line, but uses it as a means of revealing its murderous antagonist, the Phantom. He stands above the audience, hanging a man above them as Vincent Price's iconic laugh echoes through the room.

Even more uniquely, we are actually allowed to know the story of this hanging man. In fact, guests are introduced to an entire history and plotline inside the manor, which is mind-blowing to someone like me, who has only ever experienced the Ghost Host’s vague hints as to the story of the Haunted Mansion, forcing you to invent your own explanation for its 999 inhabitants. However, the story is not truly centered on the Manor's version of the Ghost Host. Instead, it follows the star of one of every Mansion's most intriguing scenes: the bride in the attic. A heartbeat echoes through the room as guests wind through piles of cobwebbed portraits and dust-covered knickknacks until they finally find the beat's source in the veiled figure at the attic window, watching them pass. In both versions of the Haunted Mansion, the bride is one of the only ghosts you are not accompanied by the Ghost Host in meeting, as he leaves you once you enter the ballroom and seems to have been looking for you since you wandered into the bride's crowded lair, making her a bit of a mystery since her first appearance in the Mansion. The creators of Phantom Manor clearly understood the fascinating presence the bride has had, and centered their entire attraction on the story of their manor’s bride: Melanie Ravenswood, a girl haunted by the Phantom who lured her fiancé into the cupola and hanged him on their wedding night, drove her into madness, and continued to shadow her even after her death. (A fuller version of the story and the Mansion's relation to Thunder Mesa invented by the Imagineers can be found here).

The surprises don't stop at Phantom Manor's unique plot. The ride also features a full orchestral soundtrack throughout the entire tour. In the Haunted Mansion, music is only heard if there is a source for it (the organ in the ballroom, the piano in the attic, etc). In the Manor, sweeping violins, Melanie's melancholy voice, and a children’s choir accompany the ride, turning it into something close to a cinematic experience. Fans of the original ride will be glad to hear that the Manor doesn't stray so far from its roots that it omits "Grim Grinning Ghosts," though. The busts are still singing, even accompanied by strays of music reminiscent of the Haunted Mansion's theme as well as a cameo by the Ghost Host's voice in the body of a headless mayor, which brought a huge smile to my face. However, these references to the original ride actually exist within one of the largest differences found in the entire Manor. Rather than a graveyard as its final scene, Phantom Manor brings its guests through the supernatural underworld of Thunder Mesa, a rift in the Earth called Phantom Canyon, filled with smiling skeletons and ghoulish town residents. It's definitely more eerie than the jump scares and animated spooks of the Haunted Mansion's finale.

That isn't to say Phantom Manor is any better than Haunted Mansion, though. The rides are so different from each other its even a bit hard to truly compare them. People insist on it, though, and compare them so often that it is hard to find any article, even one meant to be unbiased, that does not call Phantom Manor a "darker" version of the original mansion. When I first got on the ride, this seemed to be true to me. Phantom Manor is surrounded by a rich past filled with deaths and madness, carried by the menacing presence of the Phantom throughout. Where the Haunted Mansion is a little more comedic, treating itself as a tour through a sort of potential retirement home for ghosts, Phantom Manor is a tour through history. But, at its core, that's just what it is. The Manor is a trip through an animatronic story, about as dark as the other dark rides found in Fantasyland. Its skeletons could come straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean, its residents from their very own fairytale. The feeling that Phantom Manor is darker than the Haunted Mansion doesn't come from the history it has been given. If anything, it comes from the role you as a guest of the Manor must fill as a character in the ride, interacting with the Manor and its ghosts. It is the story of you, tricked and trapped inside a seemingly inescapable mansion until, somehow, you manage to find a way out. To that end, the Haunted Mansion and Phantom Manor really aren't that different. The secret to understanding which ride is "darker" may lie in uncovering your role in the ride as a character and guest to the house a little further. In one version, you escape the stretching room after the Phantom threatens to murder you and venture deeper into the house, where you learn the story of the girl who once lived there. As you leave her bedroom, the Phantom who trapped both you and her here appears. You fall into a pit as you try to get away and find yourself in a Wild West Underworld. The Phantom follows you and appears before you can escape the canyon, holding an open casket for you. His once smooth, skeletal face is now covered in ragged, hanging flesh. The ghostly, skeletal form of Melanie appears and points you toward the exit. You escape, but not before the Phantom makes one last appearance, holding to the back of your carriage, cackling.

The Haunted Mansion is a bit harder to figure out, since it has no real coherent plotline, but once you think about the path you take as you go through the Mansion, more than a few ideas of what your role in the ride might be come to mind. In the ride, you are allowed from the stretching room by the Ghost Host and follow his disembodied voice as he invites you on a tour of his home, though the fact that he himself is only in the mansion because he was trapped there like you hangs in the back of your mind. He never threatens you as he shows you what life after death in the Mansion is like, but he never loses the slight smile in his voice as he asks you repeatedly to join him and the rest of the inhabitants of the Mansion. It all seems tame enough, until you realize that he is basically calling for your suicide. His calm and kind manner as he leads you through the Mansion does not make it seem like he means to kill you himself at all, but his continued suggestion that you join him, tempting you with promises of endless song and dance, is, essentially, a polite way of asking that you die.

Your host leaves you on your own after showing you the ballroom, giving you to the mercy of the house's iconic attic. You meet the bride, just before the ride does something entirely odd: the carriages turn completely backwards and send you from the attic to the graveyard facing the night sky, as if your doom buggy fell from the attic window (or, rather, the attic balcony, since the inclusion of the Hatbox Ghost). Some people believe that this is meant to signify that the character you play in the mansion was so desperate to escape that they chose to jump from the attic window/balcony, fulfilling the Ghost Host's wishes and bringing home the idea that the only way out of the Mansion is to die. It would explain why the Ghost Host lets you leave so easily in the end once he finds you in the graveyard (and makes you wonder how many of the "999 happy haunts" in the mansion were also convinced to "stay" by your host.)

So, Phantom Manor's plotline as it relates to you, the rider, may be a bit more frightening while you are on the ride, but the Haunted Mansion's is just as haunting once you give it more thought afterward. Even if you don't believe that you died on your way from the attic window to the graveyard below, the idea of the Ghost Host taking you through the Mansion, urging you down the same sad path toward escape that he took as he shows you the fun you can have in the afterlife is pretty eerie. The Mansion hides tragedy behind humor where the Manor displays the tragedy of its past as essential to its existence, making it seem darker than it may be.

Honestly, though, both rides come from places that are both dark and tragic, and fun and exciting, and as someone who loves stories, I loved the new element that the Paris version of the ride brought forward. I definitely prefer Melanie over the frankly poor effects and forced plotline that accompany the current bride of the Haunted Mansion, Constance. If you love the Haunted Mansion, or just Disneyland in general, and have the chance to go to Paris, you should absolutely take the opportunity to see its darker side. Phantom Manor is so different from the Haunted Mansion that Americans are familiar with that I can't possibly capture it in words. To understand it, you truly need to be trapped there yourself.

Cover Image Credit: getnews

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One Year After..

A take on my experience dealing with the death of a sibling. 

          As a young impressionable girl, you always looked up to your older brother in many different aspects of life. Mostly, learning what you can and can’t get away with. An older brother is someone who gives you Indian burns on your arm until you scream but will take you out for an ice cream date afterward. He will teach you how to ride a dirt bike and take the blame when mom gets mad. An older brother is someone who was born with a main goal of protecting his little sister and loving her more than she could ever know. He teaches his little sister to not take sh*t from anyone and that it’s okay to be stronger than the boys she plays with on the playground; “because if they push, you better push back.” He teaches you to love sports because you grew up watching him play baseball. He prepares his little sister for pain, for the many heartbreaks he knows that she is going to have to live through. Your parents are there to keep you on a straightened arrow but your brother is there to make sure fun can be included in that plan. Unfortunately, what all of these lessons he relayed over the years don’t teach you, is how to live without him. 

It is impossible for others to understand what was going through your mind when you found out. One second you were sitting in your apartment, trying to get your already crazy life together and  then, at the blink of an eye, everything changes. Life as you knew it was broken. Anger, confusion, and sadness suffocate you until you completely black out and just stare, emotionless at the lights going by as you’re traveling down the highway to your childhood home that you shared with your brother who, you now realize is never coming home again.

 “Why did this have to happen?” is the never ending, never answered question that races through your head. I eventually learned you can’t ask why because it will absolutely tear your sanity to shreds. 

When you lose a sibling, you lose a piece of you. The biggest part of your childhood is gone and it’s hard to actually face the fact that you will never get to see this person again, hear their voice that one last time, see their smile again and at this point, you’re begging for one last Indian burn. Only being able to see him in your dreams is this uncontrollable feeling of constantly wondering if he is going to visit you tonight while you’re sleeping. He has become the angel you never knew you needed, until now. 

In your darkest hours is when he will show the most love and protection. 

When you walk down the street, you see someone that reminds you of your brother and for a second there’s a sense of hope that this entire mess was just a bad dream. But, then you must come to terms with the fact that this isn’t a dream, its your new reality. Your new reality will become more real with time and you’ll start to get back into a routine. As one year passes by, you notice your brother in your actions and through your words and that’s kind of scary because you know and can feel that he is smirking at you for making the same dumb mistakes that he did in the past.

Of course you wonder what it would be like to have never lost your big brother. To have never experienced such an immense loss that spins your world upside down. There’s not a day that goes by that you don’t think about him, but there is so much more to him than just his death and what has happened as a result of it. 

When the day that I had to burry my big brother came, I somehow muddled up enough strength and composure to read the poem that got me through his death in front of 2,000 people. The outpouring of love from his friends and my friends who drove over 2 hours to support me on this terrible day will never be forgotten or unappreciated. I didn’t quite know how to act or what to think. No one ever gave me a handbook on “What to do when your brother passes away while you’re in college.” I was given this poem by one of my brothers friends, who lost his older brother as well and this poem is truly is one of the most special things in the world to me. This poem was a light that was meant to lead me to where I am today. I would love to share it. 

If Tomorrow Starts Without Me…

Author: David Romano 

If tomorrow starts without me, and I’m not here to see,

If the sun should rise you find your eyes all filled with tears for me;

I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today,

While thinking of the many things we didn’t get to say.

I know how much you love me, as much as I love you

And each time that you think of me, I know you’ll miss me too.

But when tomorrow starts without me please try to understand,

That an angel came and called my name and took me by the hand.

He said my place was ready, in heaven far above

And that I’d have to leave behind all those I dearly love. 

But as I turned and walked away a tear fell from my eye.

For all my life I’d always thought, I didn’t want to die.

I had so much to live for, so much left yet to do.

It seemed almost impossible that I was leaving you.

I thought of all the yesterdays the good ones and the bad.

I thought of all the love we shared, and all the fun we had.

If I could relive yesterday, just even for a while,

I’d say goodbye and kiss you and maybe see you smile.

But then I fully realized that this could never be,

For emptiness and memories would take the place of me.

When I thought of worldly things I might miss come tomorrow

I thought of you and when I did my heart was filled with sorrow.

When I walked through heavens gates I felt so much at home.

God looked down and smiled at me from his great golden throne

He said, “This is eternity and all I’ve promised you”

Today your life on earth has passed but here life starts anew.

I promise no tomorrow, but today will always last

And since each day is the same there’s no longing for the past.

You have been so faithful so trusting and so true.

Though there were times you did some things you knew you shouldn’t do.

You have been forgiven and now at last you’re free.

So won’t you come and take my hand and share my life with me?

So when tomorrow starts with out me don’t think we’re far apart,

For every time you think of me, I’m right here in your heart.

If my brother never passed away, I’d probably still just be a girl selfishly enjoying college and making mistakes without a care in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still do those things, but my outlook on the world has definitely changed. 

This whole situation as a whole sucks but it just forces you to become a stronger person. You become a different person after the death of your sibling and are eager to live life in honor of them. You’re eager to do things that you have never done before because you know you have an angel looking out for you. You become brave because your older brother embodied that characteristic. You become obsessed with bettering yourself because you now have a bigger reason to live.

Now, one year later, you live every single day to the fullest since you really don’t know when your last could be. Valuing relationships you never thought you needed to take a second to be thankful for, being closer with your parents because you aren’t the only one who lost part of your life, and cherishing life in a different light are just a few of the many things that this whole experience encouraged me to do. You really find the simple things in life that are often overlooked and appreciate its presence in the world. 

I hope anyone going through anything similar can read this and have hope that it will get better. Yes, there will be days that you want to scream but the better days, where he shows you that he’s with you are worth it. Im forever grateful for the twenty five years I was able to spend with him, even though it doesn’t seem like its enough time. We beg for more time and thats something that we always cant salvage.

 Thank you for the lessons you’ve taught me and thank you for the strength you have given me, My sweet angel. I live everyday for you. 

I’ll always love you Dylan. Xoxo. 

Gracie, your little sister. 

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What I Learned From The Absolutely True Diary of a Part - Time Indian

My opinion about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part - Time Indian

Everyone wants to make decisions that will not disappoint, betray, and harm the people they care about. In the novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part - Time Indian, Arnold has to make tough choices, but does not want to deceive his tribe, friends, and family. Arnold is displayed as an emotional and tough character which leads to him landing at crossroads often. The bold choices Arnold makes change his relations with the members of his tribe, his best friend Rowdy, and some of his family members. Arnold’s choices shape his character and his affiliations throughout the book.

When Arnold is at crossroads he makes decisions that disturb his relations with his tribe, his best friend, and his family members. These conflicts surface when Arnold decides to enroll into a rival school (Alexie 51). This event befouls his relationship with most of his tribe members, as they hate on him for betraying their trust and not meeting their expectations. Arnold also loses his best friend my enrolling into Reardan High School. Rowdy yells, “WHITE LOVER” and then punches Arnold in the face and walks away (Alexie 52-53). This indicates that Rowdy abandoned all trust and faith in Arnold for seducing him. Arnold also breaks the morals of his tribe and his personal morals by joining Reardan. Arnold’s tribe was always rivals with Reardan as it states in the text, “We all got really mad and vowed to kick their asses the next game” (Alexie 50). This suggests that Arnold and his teammates hated Reardan and wanted to get revenge. Transferring to Reardan breaks all his morals, as he is going to the school that demolished him and his friends. This quote also shows that it was wrong of Arnold to join Reardan because of the long scarred history between the two rival schools. All in all, Arnold’s choices put him at odds with his tribe, best friend, and personal morals.

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