Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion may be just under 40 years old but its history is older then even the Disneyland park itself. Walt had planned to have a haunted house attraction even before Disneyland park had any backers, a location, and long before the ground-breaking ceremony. Early concept art work was done for this Haunted Mansion at the same time as the other early concept art was being done for the rest of the Disneyland park. Originally Walt had intended for the Haunted House to be located off of Main Street, he had figured that all small towns had a big scary house that the kids all told stories about and thought was haunted and his small town would have one that actually was. Walt did not want it to be directly on Main Street though he wanted to be connected to Main Street by long and winding side street.
The earliest concept art shows a stereotypical haunted house. The decrepit look was not at all what Walt wanted and he told his Imagineers so and told them, “we will take care of the outside, and let the ghost take care of the inside.” The reason Walt did not like the old look was that he took pride in his park and wanted it to be kept up nice and felt that such a old ugly building would make the guests think that Disney did not take care of its park.
As things went there was not enough money or time to do all the things that were planned for the initial opening of Disneyland. In fact there was not enough time or money to the things that got done, on the first day the park was opened the cement had not even dried on Main Street, and all the plants had not arrived or been planted either. The Haunted House of Walt’s would be a casualty of money and time.
Disney still wanted to make a Haunted House attraction though and let his Imagineers continue to work on the project. The project went through many ideas. At first it was planned that at the end you would come face to face with the Headless Horseman. With the New York’s World Fair the Imagineering team had no time for other projects so the Haunted Mansion got put aside. After the World’s Fair new technology changed how many of the attraction that had been under construction would be made. Pirates of the Caribbean that had originally been planned as a walkthrough wax museum was turned into a ride and all other projects were put aside until Pirates was finished. Pirates of the Caribbean was opened just a couple months after Walt’s death.
The Haunted Mansion had no directing force with the loss of Walt. Many ideas competed against each other. For instance many wanted it to be a walkthrough so the effects could be improved because of the added control. Another fight raged over whether the ride would be funny or scary. Ultimately the ride got a mix of all things with some minor elements of the walkthrough that did not do the original concept justice and a mix of scary and funny scenes.
The Pirates of the Caribbean was the last ride that Walt had complete control and say on. Because Walt was not there to give direction to the Haunted Mansion the Pirates would go onto be considered by many theme park fans as the best dark ride while the Haunted Mansion would have to be considered the best Haunted House ride.