The Not-So-Secret Secret Elevators of the Haunted Mansion

The Not-So-Secret Secret Elevators of the Haunted Mansion


And now for something completely different When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and
strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls. Whenever candle lights flicker where the air
is deathly still. That is the time when ghosts are present. Practicing their terror with ghoulish delight. The Haunted Mansion is a beloved attraction
found at Disney parks around the world. The original version of the attraction opened
on August 9, 1969 at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Now, lest you worry that I’m getting all
Disney-nerd on you here and am ignoring the channel’s focus on technology–well I assure you we’re
talking about a very clever bit of engineering that seems somewhat of an open secret and
yet no one really talks about. That, foolish mortals, is the stretching room. All versions of the Haunted Mansion, except
for Mystic Manor in Hong Kong, begin with a pre-show in a portrait gallery. GHOST HOST: [Our tour begins here in this gallery, where
you see paintings of some of our guests as they appeared in their corruptible, mortal
state.] This large octagonal room is lit dimly on
all sides, and features 4 portraits. After asking you to kindly step all the way
in please to make room for everyone, our Ghost Host reminds us that– [there’s no turning
back now.] As you look back towards the door you entered,
you notice that it is closing. And as soon as it’s closed, our Ghost Host
makes the following observation: [Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis.] As you look around the room, you notice that
the ceiling is getting farther and farther away from you, and the portraits themselves
are growing taller, revealing the humorous downfalls of their subjects. GHOST HOST: [Is this haunted room actually stretching?] Yes. Yes it is. And for very good reason. The stretching room does not exist simply
to serve as an intriguing pre-show to the ride. Its original purpose is actually quite a bit
more functional. You see, the stretching rooms at Disneyland
(there are actually 2 of them) aren’t just an illusion. In fact, they are perhaps the world’s most
elaborate and unique elevators, or lifts. Once the doors have closed, you may notice
a very slight movement. The stretching room floor is beginning to
descend. It moves very slowly which makes it hard to
notice. I’d say it feels like little more than a
tremble in the floor. The ceiling of the stretching room, on the
other hand, does not move, instead you are descending farther away from it. But why does this need to happen? Well, Disney has always had an obsession with
sightlines and illusion. When you are walking along the Rivers of America
and see the Haunted Mansion, you see a quaint antebellum structure that can’t possibly
contain the attraction itself. If you’re unfamiliar with the ride, it’s
an omnimover system where you travel through many elaborate show scenes, including the
massive graveyard scene. There’s no possible way that that attraction
is in that little building, and it’s not. All of the ride takes place in a separate
show building on the other side of the railroad tracks. The Disneyland Railroad sort of defines the
boundaries of the park, at least the boundaries of what guests are supposed to see. It’s built on a berm, and with the aid of
trees and shrubbery, guests inside the park generally cannot see anything outside of the
railroad perimeter. While great for immersion, the railroad sort
of encapsulates the park and means that any expansion must be done outside its boundaries. If you look at satellite imagery of the park,
you can see the mansion itself and the railroad immediately behind it. It’s a little hard to see, but it is following
this curved path through New Orleans Square, behind the mansion, through Splash Mountain,
and then you can see the tracks again here in Critter Country. You’ll notice that the railroad slips between
the mansion’s facade and another building. That large warehouse-like building is where
the actual ride of the Haunted Mansion takes place. Now when you’re waiting in line, you have
no idea that that building is even there. You can even see the area behind the mansion,
and as far as you know there’s no connection between the mansion facade and the show building
out of view to the left. Somehow you as a guest need to get from this
side of the railroad to the other, and yet there’s no apparent path to take. That’s because the path you take is a tunnel
heading under the railroad tracks and into the show building. Somehow guests need to be brought fairly far
underground to the level of that tunnel. One fairly seamless way to do so is to use
an elevator and lower guests into the ground, just like you would a casket. But that might ruin the illusion that you’re
in the mansion itself. And so the stretching room was born. Now for those that hate it when someone spoils
the magic, the following is my best guess at how this effect is done in Anaheim. There are some blueprints you can find online
and there are some other explanations, and what follows is my most complete amalgamation
of these sources and my best understanding of what’s going on. I may not be completely correct, and please
chime in below if I’ve gotten something wrong, but just know that I’ll be spoiling
this beloved scene. When you enter the stretching room, pay close
attention to the gap in the floor. This is pretty much the only sign that you
are boarding an elevator. Once inside, well that’s when things get
weird. The stretching room is simply a large, octagonal
hydraulic elevator with a very elaborate cab. The floor sits atop the piston of a hydraulic
cylinder, and when fluid is released the floor descends. The walls are stacked, sort of like a telescoping
antenna, and are key to the illusion. The stretching rooms at the Haunted Mansion
are perhaps the only elevators in regular passenger service that don’t really have
a ceiling. The wood paneled walls that lie below the
portraits are able to slip behind the upper half of the stretching room. The cornice that the gargoyles sit atop is
attached to the wallpapered portion and hides the gap between the two. As the stretching room stretches, only the
false ceiling is stationary. Everything else is moving. You yourself, in the bottom half of the stretching
room, are descending at full speed. The top half descends at only half speed,
and as it does so it stretches the portraits. The tops of the portraits remain next to the
stationary ceiling, but the bottom is being pulled down by the gargoyles. Only when the portraits are fully extended
do their tops pull away from the ceiling. Having been transfixed by the illusion, you
may not have noticed what our ghost host is about to tell us: [This chamber has no windows, and no doors. (sinister laughter) Which offers you this chilling challenge;
to find a way out! (tormented cackling) ] In perhaps the most grim, un-Disney like fashion,
our Ghost Host informs us that his way out of this chamber? Well, exit by hanging. [Of course, there’s always my way.] (Thunderclap) The lights go out, and the ceiling (which
is really a cloth scrim) disappears to reveal the skeleton of our host dangling by a noose. (Screaming, followed by a crashing noise) That’s right, it’s the happiest place
on Earth. Anyway, that thunderclap is timed with the
stopping of the elevator which again makes it very hard to notice, and once the lights
come back on, a second door opens revealing the path to the ride. It’s at this point that you are in a tunnel
walking under the railroad tracks. What makes this illusion so disorienting and
hard to nail down is the use of vertical stripes in both the wallpaper and the wood paneling. This is very effective at hiding the fact
that the walls are moving. The only really obvious thing is that the
paintings are being unrolled as you can clearly see the curve at the bottom. But everything else is really, really difficult
to grasp. Unfortunately, the wallpaper tends to get
damaged over time, but the upside is that it reveals what’s happening. You can see that the walls are descending
away from the ceiling because you have this point you can focus on. This also reveals that the portraits are on
a separate piece that’s not yet moving –otherwise they wouldn’t stretch– but once they’re
extended, they too descend with the wall on either side. To hopefully help illustrate what’s happening,
I made this little mockup in tinkercad. The yellow octagon is representing the stationary
ceiling scrim. Notice that the walls are both extended above
the ceiling. Now, unfortunately I can’t make this move
smoothly like it should, but I can move it in steps. You stand in the brown portion, and both it
and the upper tan portion descend together, but for every length you drop, the tan walls
fall half as much. The combination of an enclosed space, the
vertical design elements, and the dim lighting almost perfectly disguise the fact that you’re
only here because you need to descend into the basement. Now, it’s very hard to see on video because,
well, it’s hard to convey scale this way, but the stretching rooms at Disneyland stretch
a TON. The room becomes much, much taller, almost
to a frightening degree. That is after all kind of the goal, it disorients
you, makes you feel small, and in general is just sort of creepy. By the time the stretching is done, you’ve
descended almost 2 stories into the ground. The blueprints I found, linked below, suggest
the descent is a little over 18 feet. A somewhat humorous side-effect of the scale
involved here is that the doors to the chamber are comically large. The low light makes them near impossible to
see on video, but the doors themselves are probably around 15, maybe even 20 feet tall. After all, they got almost 10 feet longer
during the stretch. Going back to our model, you can see that
even the entry door must be as large as the exit, even though the actual opening from
the foyer is no larger than your average door. What I love most about the stretching rooms
is that they were born out of necessity. The imagineers could have chosen any number
of ways to get guests under the railroad tracks, but they went with this. And that my friends, I think, is just beyond
cool. The stretching room effect is so well liked
that it was copied for future iterations of the attraction. However, except for the Phantom Manor at Disneyland
Paris, the other versions of the stretching room are not elevators. Specifically at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando,
the park was designed without space constraints and the entire attraction is within the boundaries
of the railroad. There was no need to move guests underground,
but the stretching room was still replicated. In these versions, the ceiling simply moves
up and away from you. One unfortunate side-effect of going this
route is that the scrim tends to visibly move when the ceiling stops, which somewhat ruins
the illusion. And I’m pretty sure it doesn’t stretch
quite so much as the Disneyland version. And now for some trivia. I had a hunch that the stretching rooms at
Disneyland may very well be the world’s largest passenger elevators. To satisfy my curiosity, I googled “world’s
largest elevator”, which is actually for boats at the Three Gorges Dam in China, but
I sad Passenger Elevator, and found that to supposedly be in Japan. This elevator carries 80 passengers and its
floorspace is 11.15 feet by 9.2 feet. That would give it an area of 102.58 square
feet. That seemed a lot smaller than the stretching
rooms, and to assure myself I wasn’t wrong, I used my friend Google to find the area of
an octagon with sides of 6 feet, which seemed about right. That would be 173 square feet! That’s much bigger. But I wanted to find out how many people could
fit, and thanks to the wonders of YouTube, someone was able to ride the stretching room
back up, and the cast member told them that the elevator is only strong enough to bring
12 people up, but it can handle bringing 90 people down. 90 is bigger than 80, so ladies and gentlemen
I do declare that the world’s largest passenger elevator by both size and capacity is not
in Japan, but rather is at Disneyland. At least when going down. Apparently riding the stretching room back
up isn’t that out of the ordinary–guests in wheelchairs often go this route to exit
the attraction. Although the attraction didn’t open until
1969, after Walt Disney’s death, the mansion facade was built years earlier. One source, linked below, says that the mansion
itself was completed by 1964, and that the stretching rooms were built with the facade. The attraction was originally conceived as
a walk-through attraction, and although Walt Disney died in 1966, nearly three years before
the attraction eventually opened, he may very well have seen the stretching rooms. However, other sources disagree, so we’ll
call that a firm maybe. The really awesome link down below has pictures
from 1964, showing the backside of the mansion and the tunnels under the railroad. I highly encourage poking around down there
if you’re interested. And I’d like to leave the video by giving
credit where credit is due for the existence of this attraction. There are lots of great links down below if
you’d like to learn a little more about the history of the Haunted Mansion, but specifically
for the stretching room, we have Rolly Crump to thank for its concept, Claude Coats for
his woodworking skill, and Yale Gracey who made the mechanics. And the Ghost Host was voiced by the legendary
Paul Frees. Thanks for watching, I hope you enjoyed this
look into the fascinating stretching rooms of the Haunted Mansion. A few months ago I made a different theme
park-related video about blocking systems in roller coasters, so if you haven’t seen
that and are looking for something else to watch, look for it in the end screen. Of course, thank you to everyone who supports
this channel on Patreon! Patrons of the channel have made a huge difference
for the future of this channel, and starting this week it’s officially my full-time job. Thank you for making that possible. If you’re interested in supporting the channel
as well, please check out my Patreon page. Thanks for your consideration, and I’ll
see you next time! GHOST HOST: [Our tour begins here in this gallery, where
you see paintings of some of our guests as they appeared in their corruptible, mortal
state.] CAST MEMBER: [Ladies and Gentlemen please step away from the walls to the dead center of the room.] WOKE DUDE: Dead. Center.

100 Replies to “The Not-So-Secret Secret Elevators of the Haunted Mansion”

  1. For those who have never seen this attraction, there's an excellent ride-through with a great low-light camera. This is probably the best way to see it aside from experiencing the attraction firsthand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXO8rt92BIA (I replaced this link with an older version–the last version was much brighter than the attraction is in person)

  2. – Video starts with "And now for something completely different"
    – I press Like

    I applaud in your general direction, sir.

  3. During my first visit to the Orlando park, I found myself in the very same Stretching Room that you are describing here.

    I was around the age of 12 and had already noticed the push button on a wall section behind me. The black, plastic push button was all alone in that section and I thought it odd being there, all by itself.

    Upon hearing the challenge to find our way out, quickly followed by the lights going dark. Moving by pure instinct, I reached over and pushed the button!

    A lady that I seen behind me tried to do the same. When she found my hand there, she quickly batted it away so she could push it again.

    I laughed, of course, but the lights turning back on revealed that she a bit perturbed with me! Lol

    So fun!!

  4. No wonder I always feel so "off" when in the stretching room. Because I'm being lowered two stories into the ground. Lol! Cool video.

  5. Omg my dad made me ride this ride when we went one time when I was like 7 and the portraits scared the freaking frack out of me and I was already terrified so I started freaking out. The one portrait that’s burned into my memory was the girl in the swing above the lake with the alligator about to eat her. My dad made me ride so many rides that I was scared of as a kid(something I still resent him for) but this was one of the few that was burned into my memory

  6. The ghost host is paul freeze?? I'd know that voice anywhere, that's Tony fucking Jay man, am I wrong??? Hail Legacy of Kain, Soul Reaver! Hahah

  7. so that japanese elevator consistently carries 80 people, both up and down? Means it can probably carry a lot more than 90 on its way down…

  8. Its an elevator wow are you serious ? I never would have figured it out without this video LOL just kidding I've been to both of them when i was a kid just never realized about the haunted mansion was in two buildings. Have a great day everyone.

  9. when i was little my grandma was in a wheel chair so we couldn’t leave the haunted mansion the traditional way so the way we had to leave was going back up the elevator when going up it’s fully lit it’s really interesting and fun i highly recommend trying it for any big disney fans

  10. Not sure about the largest elevator comment. IF I remember correctly, Radio City Music Hall uses a hydraulic elevator for part of the stage so I’d imagine there might be larger ones not counted

  11. 5:55 You can see an employee in period costume, walk towards a mirror to look at her reflection as the doors close, but she's really watching in the mirror to make sure no one is obstructing the elevator doorway.

  12. I've only been in once, during a nightmare before Christmas themed haunted mansion. But I didnt catch the stretching illusion, I casually thought "oh! Guess were being sent down." Kinda thing

  13. When I was little, this was the only part that scared me. Same with when the lightning would go off and the hanging body on the ceiling. (Look up during the part where the lights turn off). But what I like to do in the haunted mansion is this.
    1. Buy a few packs of cheap glo sticks
    2. Hand them out to terrified kids in the line.
    I feel these kids pain, and giving them these glo sticks makes them feel better, and helps these parents calm down their kids. So invest 2 bucks in glo sticks, and help these kids!! (Same with pirates of the Caribbean) 💕💕

  14. Could somebody explain to me please how the wallpaper stretches on the side with the entrance door to the elevator? If you’re stretching down shouldnt there be marks on the wallpaper indicating that the entrance door is there, once you have fully decended? How does the entrance door hide behind the wallpaper?

  15. I went to disneyland paris as a kid and went to this ride and it fucked me up. The ride had to stop halfway through due to some trouble and my mum just told me "theyre never gonna let us out" and I immediately started crying

  16. I was absolutely crushed when one time the door for the stretching room here at Magic Kingdom didn't close, and I found out it wasn't an actual elevator at all. It was just moving the top of the room upward. Kind of ruined that magic for me. I had always assumed it was an elevator.

  17. you didn't spoil it for me. I grew up in South California and would make yearly trips to Disneyland 2 times a year. I've know everything about what you mentioned for years. learned about it years ago and I still enjoy the ride.

  18. I remember going on this when I was 5, and not being able to understand what the narrator was saying, I just thought it was a really dumb, slow elevator.

  19. Takes me back to 1980-ish in Florida. I loved the Haunted Mansion as an 8 year old – it was amazing! I vividly remember the stretching room and then the main hall with all the ghosts, they were 3D, real…how did they do it?!

  20. I've been to the one in Orlando and I was about to say, there's no way it could have taken guests 2 stories underground but you clarified that it doesn't do that at Magic Kingdom. For anyone that doesn't know, it's not possible to dig that deep in Florida, we sit too close to the water table (in other words, if you dig too far, you'll hit water. That's why there's no basements in Florida.)

  21. The Sydney Opera house has a roofless elevator (normal passenger service, regular passenger hydraulic elevator)

  22. Otis elevator! One of my favorite attractions to work. It was so easy to scare the "Bleep" out of people!

  23. Thank you for this video, the Haunted Mansion is my favourite ride at Disneyland! The first time I experienced the "stretching room" was at Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris, which operates exactly like the one in California. I was five years old when I first went on it and always knew it was an elevator because I recognized the feeling of descending as the room begins to stretch. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I learned about the practical purpose of the stretching rooms and have since been amazed by the ingenuity of these rides.

  24. As a 6 year old the girl on the tightrope with the crocodile below her haunted my dreams. Even at 17 and 32 I found it unsettling

  25. I still remember my fist time going on this ride as a young kid and being very disappointed by the end because I was told we would see a ghost in our carriage but I looked around for it and didn't see anything not realizing I was supposed to look at my reflection outside of the carriage.

  26. The ceiling isn’t stationary.. it moves up as the lower half moves down.. the ceiling only moves about 18 inches or so.. my friend works maintenance at disneyland.. I’ve seen pirates space mountain etc with the lights on too

  27. I remember when that skeleton was actually a “person”. I was scarred for life haha and was scared of the ride until my teens. I’m glad they changed it.😩

  28. I knew the disney world stretching room didnt go down and then last time I was there the cast member got to many people so the door never closed and the room still streched.

  29. A little trivia,the same day The Disneyland Mansion opened was also the same day Sharon Tate and her friends were found murdered by The Manson Family

  30. Ah ha. I thought the stretching room in Orlando wasn’t an Elevator but an Illusion. I never felt myself moving,

  31. What about articulated character heads?

    https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Disney_Characters'_Articulated_Heads

  32. You're amazing! I never knew about the extra room, and we've been getting season passes for 25 years. I look forward to seeing more of your videos. Respect to you sir, just subbed.

  33. I worked in the Mansion in Anaheim for quit a while and it’s called the “Expanding Room” and yes it is designed to carry weight down and less weight up on one side of the room also to get from one end of the attraction inside it has about 4 stories to traverse. As a cast member you get your exercise there and on the conveyor belts. Best job I ever had.

  34. Share another secret and tell us why the ticket prices are so dam high?

    I actually know because I work with Disney from time to time and the answer would shock you. Making money yes but the "real" reason is a punch to the gut.

  35. Actually you’ve only made it more magical for a room/elevator I’ve never been in and probably never will be. I like this video.

  36. mmmm to the right side of my view of your office,

    you have a copy of the painting on your left, with the person from the quicksand

  37. Having lived in Florida most of my life (over 30 years here now!) and having been on WDW version of the Haunted Mansion literally countless times, I hope to someday get to ride Disneylands version to experience a real stretching room!

  38. Went to the Anaheim CA one in 1998. Went into the haunted mansion and got a little suspicious in the room when I could just make out the name OTIS on the floor in the doorway …

  39. Great video and I fully understand everything, well nearly everything. As an Englishman I have to ask? What the bloody hell is a 'scrim'? Thank you my American cousins.

  40. Vincent Price is the voice in the elevator! Scared me when I was 6 years old with my dad. I think I closed my eyes holding his hand through the whole thing. I went back when I was older (Florida) and loved it. Such a magical place. Great Vlog, Thanks Dad.. I miss you.

  41. Disney can accommodate a lot of people going down in a creepy fashion.
    Well, that explains the current fate of Star Wars!

  42. The HM stretching rooms unlike their DL siblings are NOT elevators. The ceiling raises up, creating the illusion you’re descending. Learned this on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour at WDW.

  43. This smoke and mirrors reminds me of the original Metal Gear Solid, where the elevator vibration animation is a clever loading screen

  44. That was fun.
    Then there's also the OTHER way Disneyland gets guests "under the berm" to a show building – Pirates of The Caribbean, with it's waterfalls.

  45. As someone who visited Disney land when I was about 5 and was more interested in how the dumbo ride goes up and down than enjoying the ride itself, I love this video. I'm glad to know I'm not the only nerd who appreciates how Disney does things,

  46. Hmm, more like largest and highest-capacity passenger lowerer.

    If it can't elevate that many people, then it's not an elevator of that passenger capacity.

    C'mon, we're all used to the pedantry of this channel's comments.

  47. dont think you would be able to have something like that in the UK, or at least not without DDA regulations ruining the effect (as it would have to make announcements like "doors closing", "doors opening")
    (for those wondering, DDA stands for Disability Discrimination Act)

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