The Phantom Manor is the Disneyland Paris version of the Haunted Mansion my favorite attraction in Disney Parks. This ride – while similar to the other attractions has a different storyline and a very different look from the others and you walk in through the front door. The exterior and area around the attraction were more in line with what someone might think a haunted house would like vs. Anaheim or Orlando. The overall ride design is very similar and many elements are the same but it is different enough to require a different name and a slightly different expectation. And just like Orlando – there is no Hatbox Ghost.
The story of Phantom Manor was inspired by the never-built Western River Expedition, which was a Pirates of the Caribbean-style attraction designed by Marc Davis for Walt Disney World’s Frontierland.
Henry Ravenswood (born 1795) was a Western settler who struck gold in Big Thunder Mountain and founded the Thunder Mesa Mining Company, thus creating the city of Thunder Mesa (Frontierland as a whole). Ravenswood became rich and built himself a Victorian manor high on Boot Hill overlooking Big Thunder Mountain, where he raised a family and had a daughter, Melanie Ravenswood (born 1842).
Big Thunder Mountain was rumored by natives to be home to the Thunder Bird, a powerful spirit possessing a treasure. According to the legend, its wrath could be materialized into a terrible earthquake. However, Ravenswood would not believe such stories. Time went by, and the gold in Big Thunder Mountain became scarce, making miners dig deeper into the mountain.
Melanie grew from a young girl into a beautiful young woman, and became engaged to a train engineer who planned to take her far away from Thunder Mesa, much to the dismay of Henry. Henry did everything he could to stop the wedding, but his useless attempts were put to a stop when a terrible earthquake killed him and his wife Martha (born 1802). It seemed the Thunder Bird had been awakened, and the family was never heard of again. After several years, the story of what really happened came out from underneath the rubble:
On Melanie’s wedding day, a mysterious Phantom unknown to anyone appeared in the house. While Melanie was preparing in her room, the Phantom lured her groom up to the attic where he hanged him by the neck from the rafters.
In the ballroom, the bride sat alone. Hours went by with no sign of the groom. Guests slowly filed away, leaving Melanie alone in the house with the staff of maids and butlers. “Some day”, she told herself, “he will come”. And so, having never taken off her wedding dress or dropped her flower bouquet, in preparation for her loved one’s return, she wandered the house aimlessly, singing melancholy songs of lost love.
But the Phantom was still in the house, laughing at her human devotion to her intended husband. One after one, he invited his dead, demonic friends from the afterlife to fill the house in an eternal party. A dark curse fell upon the house, and the shape of the house was slowly transformed by the evil forces. No one ever set foot in the house ever since.
Inside and outside, the house was decaying with age. Dusty cobwebs covered every inch, the disheartened staff not caring, for it was rumored that Melanie had lost her mind. She wandered the house for years and years, singing softly to her groom, while all around her demons and ghosts reveled and danced. Everywhere she went she was reminded of the wedding. The Phantom’s eternal laughter still carried through the walls of the house. Outside, the once beautiful grounds were falling apart and crumbling. The gilded staircase and structure were dotted with mold and trees and every plant on the grounds died. As if sensing the evil inherent in the house, nothing living ever trod there. Even so, Melanie kept her hopes, waiting for her love’s return, and never figured why he didn’t show up at the wedding.
The earthquake that killed her parents all those years ago cut a huge gouge in the west half of the property and in the crumbling ghost town of the old Thunder Mesa. The deserted buildings were rumored to be called Phantom Canyon, the dark supernatural version of the town, and anyone who entered the ghastly old town at night never came back.
Today, no one knows if Melanie Ravenswood is still alive in that old house on the hill. If she is, then she is well over 100 years old. Her beautiful voice still carries over the town at night though, through the walls of the house and night air. And sometimes, people still see lights in the house.
Some nights, when the moon is full and the sky is clear of clouds, you can still hear the lonely mourning of the bride, the maniacal laughter of the Phantom, and the faint tinkle of glass and the laughter of party guests. Whether she is alive or not, what is well known is that poor Melanie never really left the crumbling mansion. She waits for her groom until Judgment Day.
Many people believe the Phantom to be Melanie’s late father, Henry Ravenswood, seeking vengeance from beyond the grave. Others believe that it is the pure spirit of evil, and that a curse was upon the young girl.