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The Hatbox Ghost is an animatronic character that appeared originally in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland but was removed shortly after the attraction's debut. Located formerly in the ride's attic scene, the figure is described as "an elderly [male] ghost in a cloak and top hat, leaning on a cane with a wavering hand and clutching a hatbox in the other." 
The idea behind The Hatbox Ghost figure was for its head to vanish from atop its shoulders and reappear alternately inside the hatbox, in time with an adjacent bride figure's beating heart. According to Imagineer Chris Merritt in an interview with DoomBuggies.com, the effect was never completely successful due to the illusion's close proximity to the ride vehicles:
"The gag was based purely on lighting. The ghost's head was illuminated by black lighting. A light inside the hatbox he held would rhythmically illuminate and hide the head in the hatbox, while, in tandem, the actual head on the ghost's shoulders would be hidden by extinguishing the black lighting."
Implementation and decommissioning
The Hatbox Ghost figure was installed inside The Haunted Mansion and in place for cast member (park employee) previews on the nights of August 7 and 8, 1969. Almost immediately, it became apparent that the effect had failed, as ambient light in the attraction's attic scene prevented the specter's face from disappearing fully, despite its designated spotlight going dark. Attempts were made to remedy technical problems, but the effect wasn't convincing enough, and the ghost was decommissioned after a few months. A photo of the figure in situ is featured on the Doombuggies.com website. And on the DVD, "Disneyland Resort: Imagineering the Magic," Senior Vice President of Creative Development at Walt Disney Imagineering Tony Baxter displays an attraction maintenance slip that lists the original Hatbox Ghost.
While a definite record of what became of the Hatbox Ghost figure has not been published, there are speculations as to its fate. One report claims that its parts were recycled into one of the Eagle Sam audio-animatronics used in the America Sings attraction which opened at Disneyland in 1974. But this seems unlikely, in view of the simplicity of the design and construction of the Hatbox Ghost figure. A second Hatbox Ghost figure was produced for but never installed in Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion. The whereabouts of this figure remain a mystery as well.
In 2009, the Hatbox Ghost appeared repeatedly in art and souvenirs created for the 40th anniversary of The Haunted Mansion, in response to fan interest in the character. Artists Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily crafted their version of a life-sized replica of The Hatbox Ghost that was auctioned for $9,400 at the first D23 Expo, held in September of the same year. In addition, The Hatbox Ghost was the official "spooksperson" for Disneyland Resort's 2009 O-pin House pin trading event and Haunted Holidays celebration.
In July 2010, director Guillermo del Toro, participating in a panel discussion at Comic-Con, announced his involvement as cowriter and producer in a new film based on The Haunted Mansion attraction. He stated that, in his version of the ride's story, The Hatbox Ghost will be a pivotal character.
In August 2013, at the 2013 D23 Expo, a new Hatbox Ghost animatronic was displayed at the "Journey Into Imagineering" exhibit. Contrary to the original figure's hunched over appearance, this figure stood straight and tall, and did not hold a hatbox. There had been no word from Disney on whether the figure was built solely for the D23 exhibit, or whether the figure would make an appearance in the attraction at some point.
On April 10, 2015, it was officially confirmed that the Hatbox Ghost figure would return to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion in May 2015. It was later announced that the first day of the character's return would be May 9, 2015.
The 2015 installation of the Hatbox Ghost figure is a new animatronic, designed to resemble the original. The new version's face is an animation that is projected onto the figure, similarly to the "Constance the Bride" figure. The character looks back and forth and narrows his eyes before his head dissolves into mist and vanishes. As the head vanishes, a chuckle can be heard. The head then appears inside the hatbox before disappearing again, but without an accompanying chuckle, and the head vanishes into the shadows without any mist.
- Hats Off: The Secret of the Attic - DoomBuggies.com http://www.doombuggies.com/myths2.php
- "Daveland Hatbox Ghost Movie". Davelandweb.com. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
- Jason Surrell, The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (2nd edition; New York: Disney Editions, 2009), p. 86; History of the Haunted Mansion - Doombuggies.com http://www.doombuggies.com/history6.php
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- Glover, Erin (April 10, 2015). "Legendary Hatbox Ghost Comes Out to Socialize in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park in May". Disney Parks Blog. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
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