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The Real Reason Disney Removed The Hatbox Ghost From The Haunted Mansion Ride

With the release of Disney's "Haunted Mansion" fast approaching, it's understandable that the original, classic Disneyland ride is also receiving a bit of extra attention. Frequently held up as one of the best and most popular attractions at Disneyland, Haunted Mansion originally opened in 1969 and takes attendees through several rooms of ghosts, a levitating psychic medium, a demonic clock, and other spooky fare.

Given the ride's enduring popularity, it is perhaps inevitable that the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland would end up accumulating its own myths and legends. One involves the ghost of a little boy named Timmy, whose mother scattered his ashes around the Haunted Mansion after he died in the 1990s. Guests have reported seeing Timmy's apparition many times over the past 30 or so years.

Then there are the legends that are of a far more mundane variety. Enter the Hatbox Ghost. Appearing toward the ride's end, the Hatbox Ghost is characteristically dressed in vaguely Victorian garb, wears a top hat, and carries a hatbox in one hand. As guests roll by, they see the ghost's smiling visage disappear and reappear in the hatbox itself, all while his top hat continues to float above where his head once was.

Originally one of the many ghostly characters that inhabit the Haunted Mansion, the Hatbox Ghost disappeared not long after the attraction opened. Though he eventually returned to the Haunted Mansion — nearly 50 years later, in 2015 — rumors still swirl about what was behind his disappearance, prime among them being that the character was just too scary, prompting complaints from attendees.

The original technology of the Hatbox Ghost wasn't up to snuff

Alas, the actual story is far less titillating. As it turns out, the Hatbox Ghost was so quickly removed because, within days of the Haunted Mansion's opening, it became very apparent that the technology behind him wasn't working correctly. In order to understand why, readers will need a tiny bit of background on the concept that the Disney Imagineers were trying to pull off.

Many of the ghosts in the Haunted Mansion are rendered with an effect known as Pepper's Ghost, which essentially requires a mirror and lights to project the reflection of an animatronic figure into an attendee's sight line as it moves or speaks, hence how the ghosts appear eerily translucent. After the opening of the Haunted Mansion, it was discovered that the ambient light in the attic scene was preventing the Hatbox Ghost's head from completely disappearing from his shoulders.

Meanwhile, rumors took root regarding what had become of the figure used for the Hatbox Ghost, including that it had been used for another animatronic attraction. None were ever really confirmed or denied until the 2015 return of the Hatbox Ghost, whose disappearing and reappearing head could now be aided by better technology and precise lighting.

It has also been confirmed that the Hatbox Ghost, played by Jared Leto, will appear in Disney's "Haunted Mansion," out July 28.