- “Perhaps Madame Leota can establish contact. She has a remarkable head for materializing the disembodied.”
- ―The Ghost Host introducing Leota in the ride.
Madame Leota is a ghostly character from the The Haunted Mansion franchise. Originally conceived as a character to be featured in Disneyland's version of the attraction, Leota's character has been expanded, to be featured in multiple Disney attractions, as well a feature film. She was originally portrayed by Leota Toombs (whom she was named after) while Eleanor Audley voiced her.
Madame Leota is generally surrounded by mystery. Her motives tend to be vague, though a lot of interpretations tend to lean toward her being good or at least a neutral force. She generally favors speaking in rhyme as her incantations seem to be based around it.
Although the majority of Leota's origins remain a mystery, what is known about her past varies from park to park.
In Disneyland, Madame Leota's Vardo can be found outside of the mansion with the cart advertising Leota for having been a medium, psychic, palm-reader, potion brewer, clairvoyant, and an oracle. This added with the setting of New Orleans Square tells us that Disneyland's Leota was a (likely Romani) street magician in New Orleans during the 19th century.
At some point in time, Leota had some relation to the estate on Esplanade Street which would become the Haunted Mansion. Following Leota's death, her spirit haunted the manor within a crystal ball as the estate's resident medium who used her spells to materialize the house's 999 spectral residents. Also in the mansion was a presumed relative of hers in the form of, "Little Leota" who acted as the mansion's, "Ghostess".
Disney World's Leota's backstory is greatly expanded by the shop Memento Mori. The gift shop details how Leota was originally a witch living in the town of Salem, Massachusetts during the 1690s until she inadvertently caused the notorious Salem Witch Trials and was forced to flee the state, relocating to a village in Hudson River Valley, New York. In this village, Leota opened a store called "Memento Mori Curios and Curiosities" which sold supernatural relics, potions, and offered "spirit photography". Through unknown events, Leota became such close friends with the wealthy Gracey Family which lived in the village's large mansion, that upon Leota's death she was buried in the Gracey Family Plot.
Leota's backstory in Phantom Manor is currently unknown but what is known from a poster hung up during 2018 renovations is that Leota was a medium and fortune-teller who likely operated in the town of Thunder Mesa during the 19th century. She would have some affiliation with Henry Ravenswood whom she resided in the mansion of as a ghost.
Powers and abilities
- Mediumship: The ability to contact someone who is deceased. Madame Leota has displayed this ability while conducting séances.
Film and Television Appearances
Madame Leota appears as a clairvoyant Romani spirit, in the 2003 film, portrayed by Jennifer Tilly. Unlike many residents of the mansion, she isn't a trapped ghost, but a spirit encased within a round crystal ball and is surrounded by a pine green mist, whereas the ride version is surrounded by a clear mist.
While wandering the secret passages mansion, Jim Evers (played by Eddie Murphy) finds his way to a room occupied by Leota and asks for her help in leaving. In response, Leota forces him onto a seat and levitates him off the ground, warning him of the curse that's placed within the mansion, and how he must break it, in order to save his family. When Jim falls to the ground, Leota uses her powers to enchant magical instruments into chasing him.
When Jim learns of the dangers his wife is in, he, along with his children, Ezra and Emma, return to Madame Leota, to seek help. She shows Master Gracey's interactions with Jim's wife Sara, who he believes to be the reincarnate of his departed lost love, Elizabeth. While Leota confirms Elizabeth to be present within the mansion, she clarifies that not everything is as straightforward, as it appears to be. She informs them that in order for the curse to be lifted, the truth must be known, all of which can be revealed by a key located in a mysterious unnamed black crypt. After everyone leaves to find it, Ramsley arrives and uses Leota's crystal ball to spy on Jim and his family.
They eventually return with possession of the key, but she informs Jim its purpose is to unlock a chest, rather than a door, to his irritation. He lifts Leota from her stand, despite her protests, and the six of them, manage to find the chest, where she tells Jim to find a red object. After rummaging, he comes across a letter and learns Elizabeth wanted to marry Gracey but was killed. Upon this discovery, Ramsley arrives, and reveals his true nature as her murderer before expelling Jim from the estate. As a defeated Jim gives up, Leota appears before him, and with words of motivation, the pair successfully manage to reenter the mansion. While Jim leaves to rescue his family, he leaves Leota in the car, waiting.
After breaking the curse, Jim and family leave and decide to take Leota with them. After prophesying their ever-lasting happiness, Megan complains that Leota won't shut up.
A post-credits scene has Leota reciting the closing lines of the ride, eerily telling the audience to hurry back and reminding them to bring their death certificates.
Once one of the most powerful witches of all the realms, Leota died, and lost her physical form, but her spirit was entrapped within a crystal ball before she could move to the Other Side. Gothel eventually finds her, and chooses her, to join the Coven of the Eight.
In an attempt to resurrect Leota, Gothel lures Robin to Memento Mori, a curio shop, frequented by witches and wizards, in order to use her as a sacrifice, for Leota's resurrection. While the medium is attempting to perform a séance with Gothel, they are interrupted by Zelena and Hook, who wish to find Robin. The pair demand for her whereabouts, so they can leave, but Leota eliminates their means of escaping, by removing all windows and doors, in response to Hook's threats, before attacking him with a blast. When the two leave, Gothel begins the ritual, before Zelena and Hook return. Zelena volunteers herself as a sacrifice but before Leota can be restored to her living state, she is thwarted by Robin, who prevents the ritual from being completed, by disarming Gothel from the Resurrection Amulet with an arrow. Outnumbered, Leota and Gothel disappear.
Madame Leota's status past this point is uncertain and it is unclear if Mother Gothel managed to resurrect her and ultimately initiate her into the Coven of the Eight.
Miss Piggy plays Madame Leota in the special Muppets Haunted Mansion.
The Ghost Gallery
In the 1990s, cast-members of the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World created a backstory for the attraction as a means of answering guest questions. All of this backstory was recorded on paper and while unofficial, has since influenced both the original Haunted Mansion's official and semi-official features as-well as adaptations based on the Haunted Mansion.
In this story, she was the live-in clairvoyant and mistress of Master Gracey Jr. who he met in New Orleans. He would later marry a tightrope-walker named Lillian O'Malley but continue his affair with Leota, even getting her pregnant with a daughter called Little Leota. Eventually, Leota murdered Lillian in a jealous rage by using magic to have her perform a tightrope act over the Hudson River but have her fall into the jaws of an alligator.
Years later when Gracey started running low on money due to his reckless spending on the arcane and occult, he went about trying to seduce a young heiress named Emily Cavenaugh. On their wedding day however, Leota lured the young bride to the attic and locked her inside of a wooden chest where she suffocated to death. Following this, Master Gracey took his inheritance and became a recluse with Madame Leota remaining a resident while working to use the Mansion's dark power to open a portal into the realm of the dead.
Master Gracey eventually discovered this and objected, in doing so finding out that Leota was responsible for the murder of both his brides. Angered, Gracey decided to cut off his relationship with Leota only for the madam to try and use magic to trap George's soul inside of her crystal ball. Before she could do this, George commit suicide by hanging himself resulting in Leota's spell back-firing and trapping her own soul in the crystal ball.
In the Slave Labor Graphics Haunted Mansion comic book, Madame Leota is unaware that she has died. She first came to the house as a mortal, that fell in love with William Gracey, who had hired her for assistance with the ghosts that haunted his new home. Her advances shot down as Gracey was in love with another, Leota set a plan in motion to call more spirits in spite of Gracey, including the captain that Gracey murdered when starting his pirate career. Furthermore, a curse was placed onto the house that a terrible thing would happen when the Mansion was occupied by a thousand ghosts. In the middle of her incantations to bring more spirits in, Gracey killed her by snapping her neck, having already discovered her hand in the death of his bride. Leota's spirit would inhabit her crystal ball, unaware of what had happened. Gracey then proceeded to hang himself in the stretching room. With Leota continuing her séance as a ghost, it amplified the effect, calling spirits from around the globe.
Leota appears as a supporting character. She catalyzes the events of the story by summoning Danny Crowe to the Mansion by claiming his grandfather's spirit is trapped with the other imprisoned souls by the Sea Captain. To help Danny, Leota provides him with the ability to see the ghost themselves.
However, she is forced by the Captain to admit Danny's grandfather is not at the mansion; Leota is then shattered after. Leota regenerates after the Captain is defeated, where she shows Danny that his actions have given the ghosts their freedom back. Leota chooses to stay at the mansion but is shown to still communicate with Danny.
Madame Leota appears in "The Insider" (where her full story is told to Maybeck by Charlene), in two different forms. Coming from the Haunted Mansion attraction she resides in the basement and is most likely its ruler. Madame Leota was in love with Master Gracey and killed Constance, his blonde bride, hoping that Gracey would love her once Constance was gone. Leota's plan backfired and Gracey committed suicide. Leota was later rumored to have died of old age. She attacks Charlene and Maybeck until they show her her reflection, which gets rid of her since she hates being reminded of what she did and what she's become. She scared patrons during park hours but was tasered and left badly burnt.
Madame Leota appears as the titular character in the second book Midnight at Madame Leota's.
Thunder Mesa Daily Messenger
This fictitious newspaper handed out in Disneyland Paris' Frontierland contains advertisements for Madame Leota's services.
Under the name Madame Leona, the character appears in Lonesome Manor's Library. She is upset at one of the Lonesome Ghosts for not returning a book of hers. Mickey can assist the ghost when visiting Bog Easy by getting the book for her before heading off to the Manor.
Leota appears in the Haunted Mansion mini-game, taking on a more sinister-looking appearance and playing a more antagonistic role.
Madame Leota appears in the 2003 game as a secondary main protagonist, acting as a guide for the player. She helps the main character, Zeke Holloway, on his mission to save the mansion from the darkness that has fallen over it and is one of the few ghosts who rebelled against the antagonist, Atticus Thorn, who in turn, he imprisoned her in her crystal ball. While this incarnation of Madame Leota retains her Romani/Romani heritage and background, a trait found in the entire franchise, the character speaks with a Southern accent, which implies that the 2003 video game's Leota was born and raised in the Southern United States (also known as the American south).
A backstory for the 2003 incarnation reveals that she arrived to the mansion in 1855, shortly after the owners felt an evil presence. While the owners were away, she was ambushed by and imprisoned by Atticus, with her afraid to think of what had happened to the original owners. In the opening sequence of the game, she gives Zeke the Beacon of Souls, his only weapon against evil spirits. She then travels with him through the mansion while giving him (and by extension, the player) advice and helpful hints. At the end of the game, she stays behind in the mansion with the other friendly ghosts and guides Zeke in pursuing his dream of being a writer.
Along this trail in Disney Springs are advertisements for, "Mme. Leota's Music Lessons from Regions Beyond". The posters show candles and Leota's crystal ball with the request that customers bring their death certificates.
Madame Leota appears in the Séance Room. She conducts an otherworldly séance in an attempt to summon spirits and assist them in materializing. Using a spellbook (which has the spell from Blackbeard's Ghost written on its open page) she repeats the following incantation over and over:
- “Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat; call in the spirits, wherever they're at.
Rap on a table; it's time to respond. Send us a message from somewhere beyond.
Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween: awaken the spirits with your tambourine.
Creepies and crawlies, toads in a pond; let there be music, from regions beyond!
Wizards and witches, wherever you dwell, give us a hint, by ringing a bell!”
- ―Madame Leota's incantation
Musical instruments make noise, furniture levitates and one by one ghost start to physically materialize. When guests enter the Ballroom all of the ghosts in the mansion are finally revealed.
In 2002, Madame Leota got a tombstone in the cemetery outside The Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World. Her epitaph reads: "Dear sweet Leota, beloved by all. In regions beyond now, but having a ball." Madame Leota's face appears on the front of the tombstone and it periodically opens and shifts its eyes.
Madame Leota recites her own take on a Christmas classic with her "Thirteen Days of Christmas" incantations. Her séance room is filled with tarot cards featuring numerous characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas and in recent years, her crystal ball takes on the appearance of a floating ornament.
Madame Leota's part in the attraction is similar to her role in the classic Haunted Mansions, but her incantation is more focused on inviting the spirits to Melanie Ravenswood's wedding party.
Madame Leota makes a cameo in Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. She appears on G2-9T's luggage scanner in the queue, alongside several other Disney and Star Wars characters, apparently being smuggled onto a flight by a Star Tours passenger.
In Walt Disney World's Main Street U.S.A., this building holds an area themed to a dressing-room used by Mickey Mouse for magic performances. On a shelf with books and Yen Sid's hat, is a glowing green crystal-ball labelled, ""Leota" Crystals Model 1969".
Memento Mori is Madame Leota's former abode and she stops by for a visit from time to time. Many of her belongings can be found in the shop. When Madame Leota is present guests can hear her humming a tune or they can catch a glimpse of her face in a mirror.
- A séance circle in the attraction goes back to Ken Anderson's drafts for the story. Marc Davis expanded on the idea with a character called Madame Z.
- Leota Toombs also provided her face for the character of Little Leota, who she voiced in addition to performing.
- The "Leota effect" was discovered by Ub Iwerks, using a wig stand. He discovered how to put footage on a continuous loop without needing a reel change, as well, which made the effect possible. With that said, Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey did find the projection effect independently of Iwerks.
- Madame Leota appeared in a stop-motion promo for Disney XD, where Star Butterfly, Marco, and Pony Head from Star vs. The Forces of Evil interrupt her séance.
- Leota's spell-book as seen in the ride contains the ghost summoning spell, "Kree, Kruh, Vergo, Gaba, Kalto, Kree" which was notably documented by Aldetha Teach in the film, Blackbeard's Ghost (1968) to summon the spirit of the titular captain.
- The episode "Vigor the Visionary" of Tangled: The Series might briefly reference Madame Leota when the Romani soothsayer Madame Canardist announces, "Regions beyond", while fortune-teller Vigor's crystal ball glows green.