By Galaad Spectre
Phantom Manor is one of the most mysterious, beautiful, and beloved attractions of Disneyland Paris. Opened in 1992, and located in the Frontierland section of the park, this unique version of the classic Haunted Mansion ride features an original storyline that ties it with the rest of the land. The manor belongs to the Ravenswood family, who became rich by striking gold in Big Thunder Mountain, and the western town of Thunder Mesa flourished thanks to this discovery. But their future was less glorious, as they were cursed for the disturbance of this sacred place. Henry and Martha Ravenswood died in a massive earthquake that destroyed the town in 1860, and even their daughter, Melanie, was doomed to a cruel fate on her wedding day, despite surviving the disaster. The attraction is brimming with details that give more depth to its story, and it went through some relevant changes during its 2019 huge refurbishment.
I am Galaad from the Phantom Manor Legends crew, a fan website dedicated to Disneyland Paris’ most iconic attraction, and all different versions of The Haunted Mansion around the world, and I will be your guide. Without further ado, here are 10 secrets and fun facts you may not know about Phantom Manor.
1. NON OMNIS MORIAR
As you approach the gate of the Ravenswood estate, you can see a plaque with the attraction’s name. Designed to resemble The Haunted Mansion’s iconic plaque, Phantom Manor adds its own twist to reflect its darker tone. In the lower part of the plaque, you’ll find the Latin motto « Non Omnis Moriar ». This line comes from the Odes of Latin poet Horace (Book III, Ode 30) and means ‘I will not die completely’. A sign of the Master’s great culture or a sinister omen? That’s yours to decide. In any case, it’s a good quote to kickstart a ghost story.
2. The Hearts
Since the 2019 refurbishment, the portrait of Melanie Ravenswood that greeted guests in the Foyer was replaced by another painting, where she is pictured with her father, Henry. They stand in front of the ramshackle manor, and the garden around them is dead and grey... only to transform in front of your eyes, revealing a happier vision of the past. The most intriguing detail of this portrait are the hearts engraved in the tree trunk. In the gloomier version of the picture, there are four hearts with damaged letters etched inside of them. Even if the letters are difficult to read, by zooming to the max we can distinguish an M within all of them. A link is then easily made to the four unlucky suitors who courted Melanie. When the portrait changes, only one heart is preserved, maybe representing the first and true love of the young Bride.
3. A Vanishing Groom
From 1992 to 2018, flashes of lightning used to reveal a ghastly murder scene in the ceiling of the stretching room as the Phantom could be seen hanging a man from the rafters. This poor soul was Melanie’s fiancé. In the new version, the noose is empty, and the groom was removed. The current meaning of this scene is that the Phantom is now directly threatening the guests. To find a way out, there’s always... his way!
4. The Haunted Gallery
The classic changing portraits of Marc Davis have been replaced by new exclusive pictures created by Disney Artist, Greg Pro. Their goal is to enhance the storytelling and western theme of the ride. However, they still pay homage to The Haunted Mansion’s original paintings: the knight and his steed transforming into skeletal ghosts are repurposed here as a cowboy and his horse. Likewise, the portrait of the Phantom is an equivalent of Master Gracey’s "the aging man." There is also a tribute to the classic Ballroom duellists, one of them being replaced by Henry Ravenswood himself, while the ghost ship on fire is an exact replica of The Flying Dutchman from The Pirates of the Caribbean movies. At the end of the hallway, the Bride’s portrait, painted by Julie Svenden, stayed the same, but a new detail was added: the shadow of her overprotective father can now be seen over her shoulder under black light or when taking flash pictures. He’s always near, and always watching.
5. Barry Claude
In the Music Room, mortuary flower crowns with the four suitors' names are arranged around the piano. The picture of one of the suitors, Barry Claude, can be seen on top of the instrument itself. This poor guy is also the one whose skeletal hand bursts through the mausoleum’s slab in the last scene, still holding the ring he wanted to offer to Melanie. There’s definitely something special about him: he was the last suitor to die, and probably the most insistent in asking for the young lady’s hand.
6. The Gargoyles
In Phantom Manor, Madame Leota’s seance circle is adorned with griffin-like gargoyles similar to those you can see in the Evil Queen’s dungeon scene in Snow White’s ride in California. Another set of griffin statues, also originating from Snow White, can be spotted next to the fireplace in the Ballroom. In Disneyland Paris, the same statue is holding the spell book with the poison apple recipe in the queue of the Fantasyland ride.
7. Music changes
When the attraction reopened in May 2019, the Ballroom scene’s soundtrack had been changed to that of The Haunted Mansion. During the three days of soft opening, numerous fans complained about this change on social media, insisting that this tune didn’t fit the dark and melancholic atmosphere of the scene. Disneyland Paris listened to their complaints, and brought back the original score by John Debney. For only three days in its history, Phantom Manor featured the Haunted Mansion Ballroom’s music.
8. The Boudoir Letters
Phantom Manor doesn’t include the attic set-piece, replacing it with the Bride’s Boudoir instead. Melanie is crying over her lost lover in front of her mirror. Many details are hidden in this room and one of the most interesting is on her dressing table, just beyond the guests' reach. There we can find some handwritten letters that have been a recurrent subject of discussion, theories, and questions for the fans over the years. Some seem to be love letters, but an apology letter from a son to his father can also be found. Here’s one, translated from french : « Lady Melanie, It is now time to confess to your father the love you have for me, I can't stand anymore to see your beauty blended with (unreadable) of beasts who keep under glass your sweet and voluptuous position. So it is time to offer yourself to me. I kiss desire. »
9. Dead Pets
The undead dog that accompanies the Phantom in the graveyard scene does in fact have a name! He’s called Goliath. In an early draft of the attraction’s storyline, which ended up being scrapped during the development process in the late ’80s, he was the faithful dog of the Ravenswood family, belonging specifically to Henry’s brother, Arthur Ravenswood. Goliath was supposed to have his own grave in Boot Hill cemetery near the ride’s exit. There is also another dead pet who can be spotted in the attraction. The dry mummified corpse of a cat used to lay on the Catacomb’s floor. He was later moved to the train station scene. Rumors say it’s a real dead cat since he looks very realistic and Cast Members insist in keeping our questions about it unanswered. Real or fake? It’s up to you to decide.
10. Family Affairs
Boot Hill cemetery is the final resting place of the Ravenswood family. You can pay a visit to the Master of the house and his wife Martha, but judging by their epitaph, their marriage wasn’t that idyllic: « Quarreled and Fought as Man and Wife, Now Silent Together beyond this Life ». Another tombstone sheds more light on what was going on. Indeed, if you look at the servants' graves, you can read that « Jasper Jones, Loyal Manservant, Kept the Master Happy » and « Anna Jones, Faithful Chambermaid, Kept the Master happIER ». Yes, if Mrs. Ravenswood was fighting with her husband, it’s because he was cheating on her with the maid. And that’s probably the dirtiest secret in Disneyland Paris!
Of course, there are plenty of other fun facts about Phantom Manor, but the list would be too long for one single article. If you want to learn more about this amazing ride, check out our website. All of our content is available in English. You can also follow us on Facebook. We’re just dying to have you...
Huge thanks to Creepy Kingdom for this collaboration and to Mal’, Kou’, Thomas, and Romain for their corrections!