I grew up in Southern California, so naturally I’ve made quite a few treks to Disneyland in my life. I don’t know if the Haunted Mansion has always been my favorite ride; I know I really loved the Jungle Cruise when I was a little kid, and when I got a bit older I thought Pirates of the Caribbean was pretty great. I love rides that have a whole atmosphere to them, and I think Haunted Mansion has the rest of them fairly beat in that respect. Standing in line is almost half the fun — reading all the funny tombstones and admiring the spooky decor. Once, when I was getting ready to board the ride at Disney World, we ended up being right at the beginning of the group, so when the attendant closed the doors on the people in front of us he chanted, “No more bodies, no more bodies.” We waited until the next run, at which point he swung open the doors with a flourish and shouted, “NEXT!” It scared the pants off me but I remember loving it. Then once they let you in there’s the elevator ride — which never feels like an elevator ride, because you’re so distracted by the voiceover and the incredible stretching paintings. One part of the ride that did terrify me in a not-so-fun way — and still does, to some degree — is at the end of the elevator, when all the lights go out and there’s a flash of lightning (and something else which I won’t spoil for you Disneyland virgins), and then they just straight-up leave you in the dark with a whole bunch of strangers for about two minutes. I didn’t like the dark and I definitely didn’t like not knowing where my mommy was, but eventually after going on it several times I finally could predict when it was going to happen and could remember to firmly grab hold of my mother’s hand just before.
I guess what I love most about the Haunted Mansion is that it lets you feel that Halloween spirit no matter what time of the year you go, and with this song, which is the theme that plays throughout the ride, I can recapture that feeling somewhat at home. If I haven’t heard this song for a while and it starts up, sometimes I get butterflies in my stomach remembering how excited this song used to make me, because it meant my favorite ride had just begun. It’s a little piece of my childhood reborn. Disney can take away my Submarine Voyage, my Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse; they can even taint my precious Pirates of the Caribbean with a stupid Johnny Depp puppet. But as long as they keep “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” which has been the Haunted Mansion theme song since the original ride opened in 1969, some part of the magic Disneyland used to symbolize for me as a child will live on.