Is Haunted Mansion Scary? – Assessing a Disney World Classic

Madame” by Eric Vaughn licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Haunted Mansion is a Disney classic, so it’s no surprise that you’re interested in visiting this ghostly manor on your next visit to Disney World. However, if you’re traveling to Disney with kids or toddlers, or perhaps an adult in your party (or you) aren’t a fan of being scared, you just might be asking yourself the following question: is Haunted Mansion scary?

Well, let’s dive in and address this question directly.

How Scary is the Haunted Mansion?

Haunted Mansion” by HarshLight licensed under CC BY 2.0

While I don’t believe the ride is designed to intentionally scare visitors, there are theatrical elements that could boost its rating on the “fear factor scale.” I’ll share these momentarily. This has been a longtime favorite ride for me, which means I’ve been riding the Haunted Mansion for over 20 years now, and I feel much differently about the attraction now than I did as a child.

The ride actually does a great job of fully immersing you in the story, and rest assured that this is not a haunted house. You do not have to worry about big jump scares, being touched, or something sneaking up behind you in the dark. This isn’t that kind of ride, and most people, including small children, generally have a great time.

At the end of the day, while this ride isn’t particularly scary to a majority of visitors, you know your own tolerance, as well as that of your children. There are parts of the ride that can be scary, and if you know any of these are triggers for your little ones, I recommend holding off until they’re older to see that the characters and special effects in this attraction are all done in good fun. 

As I walk you through this attraction, I’ll be referencing a “Scary Scale” to give you an idea of how scary a certain part of the ride is, on a scale from 0 (not scary at all) to 10 (a literal haunted house—we’re talking super frightening). 

Haunted Mansion Theme: What to Expect

Before we jump into the technicalities of the ride, let me set the stage. The Haunted Mansion is a Victorian style estate, tastefully aged with landscaped trees, iron fences and graveyard plots. You’ll enter through the carriage house and slowly make your way through the cemetery to the mansion itself. While you may get lucky and skip right to the front, if you find yourself waiting – here are a few fun things to keep an eye out for!

When you enter the queue, keep an eye out for 5 busts. You’ve just met the Dread Family, and each bust comes with an inscription describing how they died. But look closer, and see if you can spot the clues and unravel the mystery that points to how this family met their end. If you’ve got an eye for detail, see if you can spot an engagement ring hiding in the pavement…this may play into the story later!

As you enter the mansion, this is where the fun begins and you’ll be ushered through the study into a dark room with – you guessed it – no windows and no doors. The scene is dark, and you’ll make your way to your “Doom Buggy” by way of flickering candlelight in a room filled with ominous paintings and cobwebs. Throughout the ride your “ghost host” will follow you, introducing you to several of the 999 happy haunts who call the mansion home.

  • Scary Meter Rating: 4

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Haunted Mansion Storyline and Characters

Speaking of 999 happy haunts, there are a few ghosts in particular whose stories are prominent throughout the mansion. Master Gracey is the assumed owner of the estate, and you can spot his tombstone in the queue and his aging portrait in the corridor. A love triangle was rumored to be the cause of his tragic demise, which you’ll witness in the stretch room when you enter the mansion.

One of the most prominent characters is a ghostly black widow bride, who is possibly the most dangerous resident of the mansion. Remember the buried engagement ring in the queue? This is said to belong to the late Constance Hatchaway. Your “Doom Buggy” will take you through a room of wedding scenes. Pay close attention, in each scene you’ll notice the gifts become more and more lavish, and she adds a string of pearls to her neck. 

I can’t leave out Madame Leota, said to be a longtime friend of the Gracey family, and the resident fortune teller of the mansion. You’ll encounter this character as she summons ghosts from the spirit world. To learn more about her backstory and grab your favorite Haunted Mansion merchandise, I highly recommend checking out Memento Mori in Liberty Square!

There are a handful of stories behind every ghost encounter in the Haunted Mansion, and the stories are fun for older children and adults who want to piece together the different scenes and order of the rooms. While some have a more sinister underlying, these particular storylines aren’t noticeable unless you’ve done your homework or you’re paying very close attention.

  • Scary Meter Rating: 4 

Haunted Mansion Ride Speed

You’ll board your “Doom Buggy” (think an oversized acrylic armchair) via a moving conveyor belt. The belt moves slowly and allows you plenty of time to board your vehicle. The ride itself moves at a slow and steady pace, and at no point intentionally stops or picks up speed.

Keep in mind that because the vehicles are moving on a continuous circuit, delays happen in boarding that could cause the ride to stop at any time. You may find yourself momentarily delayed in a dark scene, but that’s the extent of the thrill factor here.

  • Scary Meter Rating: 1

Does Haunted Mansion Have Drops?

So, if you’ve never been on this ride, I have complete sympathy for you if you’ve ever wondered aloud the following question: is Haunted Mansion a roller coaster?  Well, let me lower your anxiety level a bit here.  No, Haunted Mansion is not a roller coaster of any sort.  And, on top of that, there are absolutely no drops in this ride. 

Now, at one point in this attraction, your vehicle will turn around and descend backwards down a semi-steep incline, but it happens at the same slow pace as the rest of the ride. It is not a drop. You will not be tossed, turned, jerked or spun in any direction.The ride is pleasantly smooth.

  • Scary Meter Rating: 0

Haunted Mansion Special Effects

There are so many special effects that bring the magic to life on this attraction, but I’m going to focus on a few that could help you determine whether or not this ride is too scary for people in your party.

The stretch room can be scary primarily because it’s dark. When the lights go out it can be disorienting, and you’ll hear voices and not know where they’re coming from. There is no visible exit, and shrieking that can alarm little ones. You’re only in this space briefly, but I can’t tell you how many times the narration has stopped and a crying child can be heard exiting the space.

Keep in mind that most objects in the mansion appear to move on their own. Take a floating candle in a dark hallway for example, coffins creaking as they open and gravestones shifting in place. Madame Leota’s room is packed with floating objects, not to mention her head illuminated in a crystal ball in the center of the room.

At the end of the ride, a simple mirror trick will bring you face to face with a hitchhiking ghost, who has comfortably situated himself in your buggy. In my experience, this can be a fun trick of light that kids will get a kick out of, or it can be genuinely terrifying depending on the ghost that’s selected for your vehicle. As part of this year’s “Halfway to Halloween” celebration, Disney rolled out a fun new photopass feature that will let you bring your memories home with you. Learn more about using the My Disney Experience app to capture a photo of you and your “hitchhiking” ghost.  

  • Scary Meter Rating: 5

Best Age for Disney’s Haunted Mansion Ride?

What's the Best Age for Disney's Haunted Mansion Ride?

There are no Haunted Mansion height requirements for this attraction, and as I mentioned earlier in the article, Disney is not intentionally trying to scare guests. When my nephews were 2 and 3 years old, we rode this attraction without many issues. They didn’t like the stretch room (it’s dark), but enjoyed the rest of the ride and the characters. We rode again when my oldest nephew was 5 – and it was tears the entire time. It’s likely he was more aware of what was going on. My other nephew is now 4 and still loves it.

You know your children best, so I recommend being cautious of things that may trigger them such as dark spaces or sudden loud noises. Everyone is different and things that are scary for one person may not be for another, so please use your better judgment and research the ride beforehand.

Unless a member of your party is extremely sensitive to dark spaces, or is 100% opposed to anything “haunt-like” in nature, I don’t see this experience being scary at all to teenagers or adults. 

Conclusion

Now it’s time to make a decision—is Haunted Mansion scary? 

Well, in my opinion, no—it’s not. I hope that in learning more about the history behind the attraction and the backstories behind a few of the beloved characters, you’ll see that the Haunted Mansion is meant to be a fun, family friendly portrayal of a haunted house. 

Are there special effects that could be scary for younger guests? Yes. But by no means terrifying.
The ride has all the makings of a haunted house – ghosts, spirits, magic, you name it. But you’ll be serenaded by the Grim Grinning Ghosts upon your departure, and there’s so much to see inside of the mansion itself that if you pay close attention, you’ll realize that you’re actually a part of the story. This grew to be one of my favorite parts about this attraction as I got older.

If it helps, let’s revisit the “Scary Scale.” I’d say the elements of this attraction are comparable to classic Disney movies such as Casper, Hocus Pocus, Nightmare Before Christmas…the effects are comical and friendly in nature. If you know your kids will get scared by anything I’ve mentioned, it’s not a bad call to wait until they’re older. This may end up being their favorite ride when they’re ready!

  • Overall Scary Meter Rating: 3

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