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 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. And 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 has 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 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.
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 probably 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 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.
The Haunted Mansion (upcoming film)
The Hatbox Ghost is planned to be the pivotal character of the film, described by Guillermo del Toro as the "spider in the center of the web" of a whole network of Haunted Mansions located around the world.
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.
- When the Hatbox Ghost was reinstalled to the attraction in May 2015, he uttered a small evil chuckle before his head appeared in the Hatbox. The voice actor of the chuckle is unmistakably that of Paul Frees, the original voice actor behind the Ghost Host until his death in 1986.
- This had been done prior with using the Ghost Host's voice for Hatbox Ghost during the aforementioned "Haunted Holidays" online campaign.
- His head is molded off of Ezra's head which turns out to be a ghoulish sculpt that acts as a hologram that appears in the hatbox. Ezra is one of the Hitchhiking Ghosts who appears in the Doom Buggy during the ride's ending.