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The Ending Of Haunted Mansion Explained

Disney once again invites fans into theaters for a trek through a big screen adaptation of its iconic theme park ride in 2023's "Haunted Mansion." The ride was the basis of the 2003 Eddie Murphy movie "The Haunted Mansion," which was slated by fans and critics alike. The Mouse House will be hoping for a better reception for this new version, which follows a new set of characters. They end up becoming haunted by spirits after stepping foot into a New Orleans mansion with a dark past and tons of devious ghouls. This group must work together to uncover the truth behind the mansion's ghostly past and the origins of a particularly nefarious ghost so they can overcome the cursed hand they've been dealt and stop an evil plan from being set in motion.

"Haunted Mansion" not only takes fans on a wildly fun trip through a haunted house with familiar-looking ghosts, but it also delivers a surprisingly robust story with interesting character arcs and an intriguing central mystery. Along with the mystery that the characters have to solve surrounding the ghosts and the mansion's murderous past, the visitors also deal with elements of personal grief and tragedy that make them more emotionally compelling and connective. As a whole, there's a lot going on throughout "Haunted Mansion," with a bunch of stuff to break down. So get strapped in, because we're taking a deep dive into the film's ending.

What you need to remember about the plot

Before we jump into the film's ending, let's do a little recap of everything that leads to the big finale. Once single mother Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her son Travis (Chase Dillon) enter the mansion and become haunted by the various ghosts that reside there, they call on some experts who sound like they belong more at the start of a bad joke. What happens when paranormal photographer Ben (LaKeith Stanfield), priest Father Kent (Owen Wilson), psychic Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), and university professor Bruce (Danny DeVito) walk into a haunted mansion? Well, a mad scramble for answers. The group tries to work together to uncover the truth behind the mansion, its ghosts, and a particularly treacherous ghost known as the Hatbox Ghost (Jared Leto).

The group eventually discovers that the Hatbox Ghost is formerly Alistair Crump — a socialite who secretly murdered many people until he was beheaded by his detractors. As the Hatbox Ghost, Alistair has been collecting souls in the mansion for decades, hoping to reach 1,000 souls so that he can come back to the world of living. Once the group learns that Alistair is only one soul away — and is targeting both Ben and Travis due to their lingering grief — they're forced to find something that belonged to Alistair so that Harriet can perform a banishing spell with Madame Leota (Jamie Lee Curtis). Unfortunately, Alistair's got plenty of tricks up his sleeve. 

What happened at the end of the movie?

The last soul for Alistair's plan can't just be any old soul — it needs to come from a willing volunteer, which is why he targets Ben and Travis. They are still dealing with their unresolved feelings over the deaths of loved ones (Ben's wife and Travis' father, respectively), so they're vulnerable to falling for Alistair's tricks. Travis nearly does when Alistair mimics his father's voice, but Ben is able to intervene and remind Travis of what his father would actually want. However, this doesn't keep Alistair from attempting to coax Ben and it forces him to make a crucial choice — either sacrifice himself to save everyone else or let Alistair's reign of terror continue.

After Alistair transports Ben, Travis, and Gabbie to a graveyard that he's turned into haunted ritual grounds, Alistair continually reminds Ben that he'll never be over Alyssa's death and that giving up his soul will be the only way to see her again. However, Ben doesn't succumb to Alistair's tricks, and with the help of his new friends — both living and dead — he ends up defeating Alistair by kicking him into the open grave below. With a new perspective and new friends to stand by his side (including an adorable cat named Tater-Tot to remind him of Alyssa), Ben has finally come to terms with Alyssa's death and is able to move forward in life.

What happened to the mansion?

Oddly enough, the other spirits don't move on or disappear after Alistair is defeated. Rather, they return to the mansion to continue their ghostly lives there, but are now in much better spirits since Alistair is no longer ruling over them. Ghosts can be seen dancing and flying throughout the dining hall and it feels like they're reliving lives that were suddenly cut short. After seeing all the spirits dance through the halls, Gabbie and Travis decide to stay and look after the spirits.

Some time later, Ben and Travis help fulfill Sea Captain Ghost's final wish to be brought back to the sea, where he promptly and hilariously steals a boat. After that, Ben is seen giving Kent Alyssa's belongings and preparing to start a new chapter in his life. However, before he leaves, he spots a cat sitting on the porch with the name Tater-Tot on its collar –- which is tied to a story that Ben told the group about Alyssa's love of unhealthy food. It's a reminder of Alyssa, and it fits with something Harriet told Ben about little signs in life that remind us of people even when they're gone. The film ends with everyone reuniting at the mansion for a Halloween party and the spirits singing and dancing through the end credits.

What does the end of the movie mean?

One of the biggest running themes of "Haunted Mansion" deals with grief and how people live on in memory — which is pretty fitting for a movie about ghosts. Ben, in particular, is plagued by grief over Alyssa's death and it's something that affects him throughout the film. In a deeply heartfelt and emotional scene, Ben talks to the group about his unresolved feelings and how Alyssa's death still haunts him. He almost breaks down in tears talking about how Alyssa died in a car accident and how he's unsure that Alyssa knew he loved her — the key reason behind his continual suffering.

For Harriet, she's reminded of a lost loved one by the sounds of train whistles because of their love of model trains. She tells Ben that he too will find something to fondly remember Alyssa by and that will help him move on. Not only is that thing for Ben this entire experience, since he recognizes that he can't hold onto Alyssa's memory anymore, but also Tater-Tot the cat. Ben's arc in "Haunted Mansion" is meant to remind viewers that even when someone is gone there are ways for their memory to live on. The biggest takeaway from the ending of the film is that people can overcome grief without forgetting the person they're missing.

Why didn't the ghosts all vanish at the end of the movie?

Once Alistair is pulled back into the ground to spend the rest of his undead existence in a ghastly nightmare, most viewers likely expected the rest of the spirits to disappear and move on, since Alistair was the main thing keeping them in the mansion. However, instead of vanishing, the ghosts move back into the mansion and begin celebrating Alistair's demise. Alistair might have been the key reason that the ghosts were haunting everyone that entered the mansion, but he's not the reason that they haven't been able to move on. Like the Sea Captain Ghost, every spirit that remains in the mansion still has something they're holding onto in the real world that's likely keeping them from going into the afterlife. 

As Harriet explains, every soul will be caught in an in-between ghost world if they still have regrets or things left unresolved when they leave the world of the living. So, while they would understandably want to party in the mansion that they've called home for so long after Alistair is dealt with, there's still some unresolved aspects in their stories -– which is why they can't leave yet. Perhaps Gabbie, Ben, and the group can take on new roles in granting these ghosts their final wishes when they're ready to move onto the afterlife.

What the end of the movie means for the franchise

Despite Disney always trying to turn their new films into robust ongoing franchises, "Haunted Mansion" features an ending that pretty much closes the book on this story without hinting at a future storyline. The end of the film doesn't tease any potential for Ben and the group's story to return, nor a way for the spirits of the mansion to have their stories be further fleshed out. There isn't even a post-credit scene hinting at the possibility of Alistair returning from his new grave. So, it seems like "Haunted Mansion" could be a one-and-done story for Disney, a rarity in Hollywood nowadays.

However, there are still some avenues for a potential sequel story should the Mouse House decide to go down that route at a later date. A sequel could easily see Ben and the group deal with another haunted mansion they become aware of, or start to become acquainted with some of the ghosts still lurking around the mansion. Given the mansion's murder-filled history, there could even be a new antagonist that rises to gain the same power that Alistair couldn't. A strong box office performance and positive critical reception could entice Disney to do more movies in this world. However, with Disney CEO Bob Iger's recent comments about downsizing some of their already established franchises, it's probably more likely that this will be the only "Haunted Mansion" movie for quite a while.

What has the director said about the franchise's future?

Although there hasn't been an announcement of a sequel to "Haunted Mansion," director Justin Simien has stated that the door is open for more stories in this world. While talking with SFX Magazine, Simien mentioned that he believes the film's world-building creates tons of potential for a sequel. "It's definitely in the realm of possibility," said Simien, adding that a lot of thought went into fleshing out the world that the movie takes place in. "We certainly set up a lot that I think a lot of other stories could derive from and continue from. Not really up to me, but I definitely think there are possibilities there."

Simien went even further in talking about how the film's depiction of the Hatbox Ghost can be applied to other ghouls within the lore. "It was really just about expanding what we know and what we can see around the story just a bit further, but not filling in every blank," said Simien. "We're pulling from what has been established, what really has been rumored, and tried to flesh him out and flesh that story out too. I think it's really satisfying. But it also leaves the door open for a lot more." While the decision lies with the higher-ups, the director clearly sees potential for the lore of "Haunted Mansion" to be further explored.

Other ways the franchise could continue

Even if a direct sequel doesn't happen, there are other ways that Disney could continue the story of these characters and this world. Spin-off films focusing more specifically on the stories of the ghosts might end up being discussed, kind of like what The Conjuring Universe does with its spooky characters. Disney could even make a villain-focused origin movie for the Hatbox Ghost, just like they did with "Maleficent" and "Cruella." And if they wanted an alternative to the big screen in order to keep costs down, Disney+ would be a great place for "Haunted Mansion" content.

An animated series focusing on the film's characters and ghosts could be an absolute blast and deliver some fun, family-friendly horror content that audiences of all ages would enjoy. Another "Haunted Mansion" crossover could also be worth looking into — it happened not too long ago with "Muppets Haunted Mansion," which most critics loved. Imagine how fun it would be to see Mickey Mouse or other Disney characters going through their own terrifying journey in the "Haunted Mansion" franchise. Frankly, it sounds like a perfect recurring Halloween special for the streamer. Another great idea is an anthology series based on the ghosts of the mansion, with a new ghoul's past fleshed out every week in a new episode.

If Disney genuinely isn't interested in continuing the franchise on the big screen, so be it. However, there are still plenty of ways to give "Haunted Mansion" fans their spooky fun. We're hoping that we get to go back to the mansion before too long.

What the ending reveals about Disney's other attraction adaptations

"Haunted Mansion" is far from being the first of Disney's theme park rides to get its own movie adaptation, and it definitely won't be the last. Along with a sequel to 2021's "Jungle Cruise," Disney is set to develop more "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, as well as movies based on rides like "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" and "Space Mountain." While it's clear that Disney isn't pumping the brakes on trying to bring their most famous rides onto the big screen, the lack of franchise building in the ending of "Haunted Mansion" could be a sign that Disney's other ride adaptations could be just one-offs, too.

Aside from "Pirates of the Caribbean," none of Disney's ride adaptations have been remotely as successful or garnered a big enough fanbase that could keep them afloat for multiple pictures. If "Haunted Mansion" does well, maybe that would change. However, the ending of "Haunted Mansion" makes it pretty obvious that Disney doesn't intend on churning out multiple movies unless they determine there's an appetite for them. So, the upcoming "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad" and "Space Mountain" films — as well as any other ride adaptations Disney decides to make in the future — will likely be standalone adventures.

Could Eddie Murphy reprise his role in a future project?

As we touched on earlier, the idea of other franchises crossing over with "The Haunted Mansion" isn't all that strange since it happened not too long ago. "The Muppets" had their fun with the franchise in the 2021 Halloween special "Muppets Haunted Mansion," so the door is open for virtually any franchise to trek through the ghost-filled mansion. From Mickey and his friends having an animated horror adventure to Marvel characters maybe taking a trip to the iconic horror site, there are plenty of cool crossovers that could be incredible to see. But you know what crossover would be really amazing? A crossover with the 2003 "Haunted Mansion" movie Disney did.

While it would be tough to believe that these movies take place in the same world, there's surely a storyline involving a spectral connection that could bring the two universes together. The idea of seeing LaKeith Stanfield and Eddie Murphy (who starred as real estate agent Jim Evers in 2003's "Haunted Mansion") on the big screen together sounds like an absolute treat, and watching the horrors of those two worlds blend would undeniably please genre fans. Sure, it's a wildly ambitious task, but a request that Disney could certainly fulfill. This is just one of the many enticing potential crossovers that could make the "Haunted Mansion" franchise something truly special.