By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Haunted Mansion

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

both by Jason Surrell.

The Disney theme parks around the world have attractions that share the same name but have significant differences. Not only are the it’s a small world facades and ride systems completely different at Disneyland and Walt Disney World but they also have subtle little other different touches as well.

For instance, the attraction at Disneyland has a figure honoring Imagineer Mary Blair, the original designer. At Walt Disney World, that figure is replaced with one for Imagineer Joyce Carlson, who supervised the installation of the one in Florida and at the other Disney theme parks.

The Haunted Mansion appears at every Disney theme park worldwide, but in different lands, and that affects not only the exterior show building but also how it relates to its surrounding area. Jason Surrell’s books provide a good deal of information not just about the WDW version but also a similar overview of the other incarnations around the world.

While there is certainly enough material to write a book just about Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion, it probably would not attract as wide an audience as one devoted to all the different versions.

One of the challenges in building a personal Disney library is that a book may be revised and updated and released with a slightly different title. In the process, it is not just new information that is added but older information may be omitted as well.

For instance, the 2003 book version devotes almost a third of its text to the underwhelming 2003 Eddie Murphy film based on the attraction, in order to promote the film. Those pages of material are completely missing from the 2015 version and in its place is information on Hong Kong Disneyland’s Mystic Manor and new additions completed at both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions.

However, the second book does include much of the same text and illustrations as the first one. I always make sure both versions are in my library but if you can only purchase one, then the most recent edition is usually the recommended choice.

Both books are written by Imagineer Jason Surrell, who was a long time show writer for the Disney Company until he left just a couple of years ago to become a creative director at Universal Creative. Among his many credits were enhancements to the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

As a Disney writer, Surrell’s text is lively and informative, although there are occasional hints that he may have been constrained in some places in telling the whole story because this is an approved Disney narrative.

Not only his direct involvement in the Haunted Mansion, but also his access to proprietary Imagineering material about the history and development of the attraction, brings new stories and illustrations, and also a new perspective to things we all thought we already knew.

Which character other than Madame Leota is referred to by a specific name in the original Imagineering documentation? It is Pickwick, the ghost swinging atop the chandelier in the ballroom and holding a glass. Why is he named Pickwick? The answer is in the book.

For me, one of the delights of the book is the second half where it goes through the attraction section-by-section (with sidebars of differences at the other parks) as a virtual journey through the experience.

Surrell went on to write books about the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and the Disney mountains  and I am sure he had many, many more stories to share.

If you are particularly interested in the original Disneyland version of the Haunted Mansion, I highly recommend The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion (Second Edition 2016) by Jeff Baham, an acknowledged expert on the attraction who includes some facts and insights not in the Surrell books.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, More Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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