The Hatbox Ghost is a character from the Haunted Mansion that was removed from the attraction shortly after it opened. Despite this, he has appeared in various media related to the attraction. He officially returned to the attraction on May 9, 2015.
The Hatbox Ghost's mortal name and identity are unknown though he is known to have been alive in the latter half of the 19th century. The Hatbox Ghost was active in America and is most often identified as having been a milliner in life though this has yet to be explicit in the attraction itself. He had a golden tooth replacing the central incisor on his left-hand side and also carried a shillelagh in his right hand, potentially implying a walking disability centralized on his right leg.
In life, the hatter had some unknown affiliation to Constance Hatchaway, a serial-killer from California who targeted wealthy men to marry and murder. Hatchaway's modus operandi was to kill men with an ax, decapitate them and keep their severed heads within hatboxes; hatboxes, which at some point, the Hatbox Ghost came in possession of. Constance is known to have killed at least four wealthy men in this fashion between 1869 and 1876; seemingly all in the state of California.
In 1877, Constance married the wealthy George Hightower and moved into his estate in New Orleans which overlooked the Mississippi River. Constance stored away the many trophies of her past four killings within the attic of this manor and killed George with an axe blow to the skull before adding his head to her collection. Through unknown means, the hatter died via decapitation and had his own head stored within a hatbox before becoming a ghost. Constance herself lived in luxury and wealth until her death in the 1920s at which point her own murderous ghost inhabited the attic.
The Hatbox Ghost was designed as the primary gimmick of the attic scene, appearing just to the right of the exit, across from the Bride. A trick lighting effect would make it appear that his head would disappear off his shoulders and reappear in a hatbox he held in his hand, timed to the beat of the Bride's heart. While this trick worked perfectly during testing, when the ride opened, it became apparent that it was far less effective when viewed from the different angles and lighting that the ride created.
As a result, the Hatbox Ghost was removed from the attraction within a few weeks of opening. The bride was then moved to the spot where he formerly stood, but she was moved back to her original spot in a 2006 update. 46 years later, he returned to the Disneyland attic as part of the Diamond Celebration.
The new Hatbox Ghost figure has more movement than the 1969 version: the original figure's only moving part was his trembling hand holding his cane. The 2015 figure moves all parts of his body due to improvements in technology over the 46 years since the original figure disappeared. His signature gimmick is now achieved by a new means that have proven successful: a face is projected onto a blank head. With a chuckle, the projection vanishes and the head drops into the body. At the same time, the head is projected into the hatbox. After a few seconds, this projection vanishes and his head reappears on top of his shoulders.
The Hatbox Ghost appeared in the Attic scene in the first few days of the attraction's run before being removed.
It was announced April 10, 2015, on the Disney Parks Blog that the Hatbox Ghost would return to the attraction on May 9, 2015, as part of Disneyland's 60th Anniversary Celebration. The new Hatbox Ghost appears at the end of the Attic scene, just past the location where he originally stood, and lets out an evil chuckle before his head switches places through the use of rear-projected face technology. The set-dressing around him also includes a cart holding four hatboxes with him holding the fifth, possibly suggesting he was an accomplice of Constance's before she "axed" him off, or that he was one of her five unfortunate husbands.
The Hatbox Ghost appears in the seasonal update to the Haunted Mansion, based on The Nightmare Before Christmas. During the ride, the only changes made to his balcony scene are that mostly unchanged, except for a decorative Halloween pin in his hat, and a giant Santa hat on the nearby pile of Hatboxes.
In the episode "House Ghosts", the Hatbox Ghost joins the Hitchhiking Ghosts, the Bride, and the Executioner in singing "Grim Grinning Ghosts" along with the Lonesome Ghosts and the Skeletons from The Skeleton Dance to scare Pete out of the club.
Fozzie Bear appears in the role of Gauzey the Hatbox Bear in the special, using his head trick in his comedy act.
In Disney Kingdoms: The Haunted Mansion, the Hatbox Ghost appears as a friendly guide character in the third issue of the book. Rescuing Danny from the Sea Captain in the Grand Hall, he takes him through the Endless Staircase, which is revealed to be a network connecting the Haunted Mansion to haunted locations around the world (a detail possibly inspired by Del Toro's "spider at the center of the web" quote); he says that he has spent some time away from the Mansion traveling on these routes. He also reveals to Danny that the Sea Captain's curse has not only trapped the resident ghosts but the magic that allows the ghosts freedom to travel to these other locations. After advising Danny, he leaves him in the Library as this is a fight he is staying out of.
In the Slave Labor Graphics Haunted Mansion comics, the Hatbox Ghost plays a part in the Mystery of the Manse storyline. He was once Randall Pace, a gunrunner on the ship that William Gracey was captain. After discovering what they were shipping, Gracey decapitated Pace and became a pirate. When Gracey eventually settled down outside New Orleans, a scorned Madame Leota would call upon the spirit of Pace and the rest of Gracey's long-dead crew, and the Hatbox Ghost would play a part in the death of the bride. After murdering The bride he leaves The Mansion, referencing his own removal from the original attraction.
He also makes minor appearances in other stories of the comic usually as a background character.
The Hatbox Ghost appeared in the Story and Song from The Haunted Mansion record, which was published when the ride opened, hence his inclusion in the book's attic scene.
As the Hatbox Ghost's cult following grew, Disney recognized his popularity in various merchandise and media and utilized him in a Haunted Holidays online campaign as the host, with Corey Burton providing his voice using the same voice that he uses for the Ghost Host.
- The Hatbox Ghost and Ezra the Hitchhiking Ghost share the same head design, with the face mold also being used for certain pop-up ghosts and photographs in the Corridor of Doors.
- There was an urban myth that the Hatbox Ghost's original animatronic was repurposed for the character of Sam the Eagle in the Tomorrowland attraction America Sings (an animatronic later used for Br'er Fox in Splash Mountain). However, the blueprints of the Hatbox Ghost's figure disproved this, and the original animatronic's fate is a mystery.