Attraction Spotlight: Phantom Manor, Disneyland Paris.
Phantom Manor opened in 1992 and was placed in Frontierland across Thunder Mountain. When building Disneyland Paris Tony Baxter knew that the certain major staple attractions would need to be modified for the park in order to create a new experience for guests. The overall goal was to take this classic ride and make this attraction darker and with a more frightening tone than its predecessors while at the same time making the ride match its environment s as it would be placed in Frontierland. So in order to accomplish this, the Imagineer’s looked back to the golden days of Disney World and came up with the idea to fuse the never built Western River Expedition theme with this attraction.
Thus the story of the Phantom Manor was born, and let me tell you this ride has one of the best plots for any attraction at a Disney theme park hands down.
The story goes like this, (Give this a listen as you read it’s the queue music for the attraction Phantom Manor Music Box) “Henry Ravenswood was a Western settler who struck gold in Big Thunder Mountain and founded the Thunder Mesa Mining Company. Thus creating the city of Thunder Mesa (Frontierland). Ravenswood became rich and built himself a Victorian manor high on Boot Hill overlooking Big Thunder Mountain, where he married his sweetheart and soon they gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Melanie Ravenswood.
Big Thunder Mountain was rumored by Natives to be home to the Thunder Bird, a powerful spirit protecting the untold treasures that laid deep within the mountain. According to the legend if invoked its wrath could be materialized into a terrible earthquake. However, Ravenswood would not believe such stories and decided against warning to mine for gold. To his surprise Big Thunder Mountain was indeed filled with gold so much so that Ravenswood became rich from the land as he continued to defile it. Time went by, and the gold in Big Thunder Mountain soon ran out, forcing miners to dig deeper into the Mountain.
Melanie grew from a young girl into a beautiful young woman, and became engaged to a train engineer who planned to take her far away from Thunder Mesa, much to the dismay of Henry. Ravenswood did everything he could to stop the wedding, but his useless attempts were put to a stop when a terrible earthquake struck the land killing him and his wife Martha just days before the wedding. Yet even so the wedding never happened, in fact no one ever heard from the Melanie or her fiancee or even anyone involved with their estate ever again. It seemed the Thunderbird had been finally awakened and claimed it’s revenge. The family simply disappeared, or so it would seem.
After several years, the story of what actually happened came out from underneath the rubble. On Melanie’s wedding day, a mysterious Phantom unknown to anyone appeared at the manor. While Melanie was preparing in her room the Phantom lured her suitor up to the attic. In a an act of pure hatred he lunged at the suitor with a freshly tied noose and threw him to hang by his neck from the rafters.
In the ballroom, the bride sat alone. Hours went by with no sign of the groom. Guests slowly filed away gossiping, leaving Melanie alone in the house with the staff of maids and butlers. “Some day”, she told herself, “he will come”. And so, having never taken off her wedding dress and still clutching her bouquet, in preparation for her loved one’s return, she wandered the house aimlessly, singing melancholy songs of lost love.
Yet the Phantom was still in the house, laughing at her human devotion to her intended betrothed. One after one, he invited his dead, demonic friends from the afterlife to fill the house in an eternal party. The shape of the house was slowly transformed by the evil forces. Years passed.
Inside and outside, the house was decaying. Dusty cobwebs covered every inch, the disheartened staff not caring, for it was rumored that Melanie had lost her mind. She wandered the house for years and years, singing softly to her groom, while all around her demons and ghosts reveled and danced. Everywhere she went she was reminded of the wedding that never came to be, and her love that never returned.
The earthquake that killed her parents cut a huge gouge in the west half of the property that revealed a deserted town filled with empty buildings during the day. The deserted buildings were rumored to be called Phantom Canyon, the dark supernatural version of the town, and anyone who entered the ghastly old town at night never came back.
Today, no one knows if Melanie Ravenswood is still alive in that old house on the hill. If she is, then she is well over 100 years old. Her beautiful voice still carries over the town at night though, through the walls and night air filling those who hear it with sadness and longing. And sometimes, people still see lights in the house. Some nights, when the moon is full and the sky is clear of clouds, you can still hear the lonely mourning of the Bride, the maniacal laughter of the Phantom, and the faint tinkle of glass and laughter of party guests. Whether she is alive or not remains a mystery. What is well known is that poor Melanie never really left the crumbling mansion. She waits for her groom until judgment day.”
Talk about dark right? Beyond the amazing storytelling at work here (which was influenced by the phantom of the opera and many other gothic European tales with a western take) the soundtrack to this attraction is also simply astounding and hearing the bride sing is well, hauntingly beautiful. Here is the amazing soundtrack in english with the most haunting narration provided by Vincent Price (x) and here is an actual ride through (x).
If you go to Melanie’s Grave after the ride you can hear her heart beating. The imagineer’s did this as a reference to the Bride in the Disneyland and Magic kingdom version of the ride as well as a reference to the story of the Tall Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe.
If you look at the windows when you leave the Manor you might catch a glimpse of the Phantom himself peering out in disgust to see you have survived his reckoning.
When the Ride first opened it was entirely in English and the role of the phantom was done by Vincent Price, which of course angered the French people who actually went to Disneyland paris. So it was changed to French shortly after it opened about a year in, however you can still hear the English Narration here (x).
Beware the Phantom folks.
There is 1 reason I want to go to Europe.
It is this ride.
I am a horrible person.