Attraction Spotlight: Phantom Manor, Disneyland Paris.
Built for Disneyland Paris, the 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 make this attraction darker and with a more frightening tone than its predecessors while at the same time making the ride match its overall surroundings 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 stories for any attraction at any Disney theme park hands down. The story goes like this, 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 raised a family and had a daughter, Melanie Ravenswood.
Big Thunder Mountain was rumored by Natives to be home to the Thunder Bird, a powerful spirit possessing a treasure. According to the legend, its wrath could be materialized into a terrible earthquake. However, Ravenswood would not believe such stories. Time went by, and the gold in Big Thunder Mountain ran out, making miners 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. Henry did everything he could to stop the wedding, but his useless attempts were put to a stop when a terrible earthquake killed him and his wife Martha. It seemed the Thunder Bird had been awakened, and the family was never heard of again. After several years, the story of what really 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 where he hanged him by the neck from the rafters.
In the ballroom, the bride sat alone. Hours went by with no sign of the groom. Guests slowly filed away, 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 or dropped her bouquet, in preparation for her loved one’s return, she wandered the house aimlessly, singing melancholy songs of lost love.
The Phantom was still in the house, laughing at her human devotion to her intended husband. 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.
The earthquake that killed her parents cut a huge gouge in the west half of the property and in the crumbling ghost town of the old Thunder Mesa. 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. 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, 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 a preview of the music you can hear in the que before you enter the ride (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 imaginer’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 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 angrily to see you have survived.
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