It is the spookiest time of the year for both The Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World! When it comes to spookiness, Disney’s Haunted Mansion takes the cake, no matter which park you experience it in. But which version of the attraction is best? Let’s break it down to decide once and for all. Magic Kingdom vs. Disneyland: Which Haunted Mansion is Better?

Haunted Mansion


Walt Disney wanted to build a haunted house-style attraction at Disneyland long before the park even opened. It wasn’t until the end of his life that the development of the Haunted Mansion actually began. Even so, Walt would not live to see the attraction completed. With that said, after Walt’s passing, Imagineers struggled to figure out what the ride should be like. Without Walt’s final say in the matter, it was difficult to decide what should be and what should not.

For example, one of the biggest conflicts came from differing opinions on whether the ride should be genuinely “scary” or more lighthearted and fun. The side headed mostly by Imagineer Marc Davis aimed for lightheartedness with sight gags and hilarious puns. But the opposing side captained mostly by Claude Coats wanted real jump scares and creepy things instead. Eventually, the Marc Davis camp won out, as we see today in the ride’s more jovial theming. Some spookier elements can still be found though, particularly in the Stretching Room and during the first couple of scenes. So really, both sides got to add their own pieces of Disney Magic to the final product.

Imagineers Yale Gracey and Rolly Crump are most famous for their work on the development of this ride. Yale Gracey was nicknamed “the father of illusions.” And that title was well deserved. It was Gracey who came up with many of the effects that still amaze guests of the Mansion today. He learned about the Pepper’s Ghost effect in a book he read as a young boy and was able to create it (beautifully, may we add) in the attraction. His outstanding work on the attraction likely inspired the name of Master Gracey in the 2003 Haunted Mansion movie.

The Queue

The exterior of the Haunted Mansion building in Disneyland is based on the real-life Evergreen Mansion in Baltimore, Maryland. It is set in the era before the United States Civil War.

The exterior of the Haunted Mansion building in Magic Kingdom is based on the Harry Packer Mansion in Pennsylvania. This version of the ride is set during the Colonial period of American history–right around the United States Revolutionary War.

The outdoor queuing area is perfectly subtle in its theming. It is unusually quiet for a Disney Park line. Some might say it portrays an aura of foreboding. A black hearse that is being pulled by an unseen ghost horse sits in front of the queue. Morbid gags and jokes can be found with a keen eye throughout the surrounding graveyard.

The Pre-Show

Upon entering the dimly lit mansion, the iconic attraction theme music plays as the famous Ghost Host speaks. Eventually, we enter the Stretching Room. In Disneyland, this room not only functions as a storyteller but also helps transport guests to the loading dock. Since the building we see outside is technically too small to house the entire attraction, it’s mostly decorative. The Stretching Room takes guests underground.

After that, the portrait hallway takes guests underneath the berm and into the sound stage where the ride itself takes place. The Stretching Room in Florida is slightly different because it does not take guests underground. Under the ground in Florida is a ton of water and swamp. Instead, the ceiling actually does move. It is not your imagination, this haunted room is actually stretching.

The Ride

Depending on the size of your party, 1-3 guests hop inside a black Doom Buggy. You need not lower the safety bar because the Ghost Host lowers it for you. In Disneyland, the vehicle climbs up the stairwell and into a dark hallway. In Magic Kingdom, we pass by it in our Doom Buggy. There are three extra scenes in the Magic Kingdom version.

First, we venture into the library. It is stacked wall-to-wall with books on bookshelves and several items moving of their own accord. Then the Ghost Host introduces us to the piano room where a shadowy figure is playing hauntingly beautiful music. Perhaps the most confusing room of all is the stairwell room. Glowing, ghostly footprints walk all over the various upside-down, sideways, and winding staircases. Several chandeliers hang from not only the ceiling but also the walls and floor!

Once in the dark hallway, mysterious knocking sounds can be heard. Some of the doors seem to be breathing. Most terrifying of all, a man is trying to escape his coffin before being buried alive, shouting “Let me out of here! Let me out!”

Next is the Seance Room with Madame Leota. Madame Leota is the name of the floating female head inside the crystal ball. She is summoning more spirits. Musical instruments are suspended in the air around her, and they obey her every command. On the table in the middle of the room sits a giant spellbook. The Raven can be found sitting on top of the chair behind Madame Leota.

The following scene is set inside the notorious ballroom. This is likely what most people first think of when they hear the words “Disney’s Haunted Mansion.” There are many people–well, ghosts–in attendance. They can be seen inside the moving portraits on the wall, sitting at the dining table, dancing together near the organ, swinging from the chandelier, etc. This scene is incredibly impressive and dynamic.

Another popular Mansion scene is next: the attic. The attic is cluttered with different relics that likely belonged to some of the former homeowners. As we slowly glide through the area, you see five different wedding portraits. They display seemingly happy couples, just before the groom loses his head–literally. Just before leaving the attic, we see her: the bride. She is holding an ax while reciting some creepy wedding vows. It is not hard to figure out that she is responsible for all five deaths of all five of her husbands.

The final scene is that of The Graveyard. If the Ballroom Scene is not the first to pop into your mind when you think of the Haunted Mansion, this scene probably is. All of the ghosts have come out of their graves to socialize with one another. Some are having more fun than others though. A few of these spirits like to jump up from behind their tombstones to give guests a little scare.

Lastly, we drive right by the three Hitchhiking Ghosts. We soon learn that these hitchhikers did not need our permission to jump into our Doom Buggy with us. You can see them riding with you in the mirror reflections just in front of you!

Disneyland’s Version

Now let’s take a deep dive into the differences between each version of the Haunted Mansion attraction. We will take a look at the “pros” and “cons” of each because each nuance can make or break the outcome of this competition.


  • It has The Hatbox Ghost, while Magic Kingdom’s version does not.
  • It has the Nightmare Before Christmas Holiday overlay.
  • Disneyland is technically the original, even though they were built around the same time.


  • There are fewer scenes than Magic Kingdom’s version.
  • It has the Nightmare Before Christmas Holiday overlay (yes, this is both a “pro” and a “con”). Sometimes you just want to ride the original attraction during your holiday vacation.

Magic Kingdom’s Version


  • There are three more scenes (or rooms) than Disneyland’s version has.
  • Thre isn't a Holiday overlay, so you can always ride the original version no matter when you visit.


  • There is no Hatbox Ghost, whereas Disneyland’s version displays him just after the attic scene.
  • No Holiday overlay (remember this is both a good thing and a bad thing).
  • It is not the original.


Since we are comparing two versions of the same ride, we anticipate a lot of ties in these categories. However, those categories that have a winner will help us decide which version of the Haunted Mansion is best.


The “atmosphere” category encompasses the overall feeling of the attraction based on the music, decorations, etc., and how immersive they are.

There are very few differences between the atmospheres of each attraction. However, we will argue that the queue for Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion is far more immersive. There are also more scenes to help guests feel more immersed as well. So, Magic Kingdom wins this one.


The “story” category is pretty self-explanatory. How creative is the story? Is it interesting enough?

The two stories are the same. So this one is a tie.


For the “experience” category, we look at how people react to the attraction and whether it is generally liked.

This one is a tie, as well. Both versions of the attraction have cult followings.


The “thrill” category is self-explanatory. Which was the most exciting?

Unless you consider more scenes or the Hatbox Ghost ‘thrilling’, we think this one is a tie.


The “technology” category covers how up-to-date and innovative the technical elements of the ride are: the projections, the ride system, etc.

The Hatbox Ghost is a technological marvel. In fact, it took decades to finally get the technology right before it found its home next to the attic. For that reason, Disneyland takes this category.


“Show” is all about the literal show itself–including the queue, pre-show, and ride show.

As we mentioned before, the queue for Magic Kingdom’s version of the story is highly immersive and interactive. However, that doesn’t really change the overall story. So, this is a tie.


For this category, we look at how well the attraction has or will age after several years.

No matter the reason, there will be a massive uproar if The Walt Disney Company ever removes either version of this attraction. However, removing the original would be considered unforgivable by some Disney fans. For that reason, we think Disneyland wins in this category.

So, Which is Better?

Based on the amounts of pros vs. cons, as well as the category winners, Disneyland’s version wins overall. Disneyland is my home park. So I can’t say that I am completely disappointed. However, I did expect Magic Kingdom to win out in the end because of the extra scenes. So, I am a little surprised.