- “Master Gracey laid to rest. No mourning please at his request.”
- ―Master Gracey's tombstone[src]
Master Gracey is a prominent character in The Haunted Mansion franchise.
Master Gracey was a wealthy man who was a prominent member of the family which owned the Haunted Mansion (located in New York in Walt Disney World and New Orleans in Disneyland). He is frequently identified with having been the head of the family and/or the mansion, the family also often being referred to as the, "Gracey Family".
It is assumed that Master Gracey lived at some point around the later 19th century to early 20th century based off of his wardrobe and the nature of the mansion itself. He was a handsome, dignified and charming young-man but is inferred to have had his appearance or nature perversely warped in some form. Like the rest of his clan, Master Gracey died what was presumably a sudden and violent death before being buried in the family-plot burial grounds of the Haunted Mansion.
In death, Gracey was frequently still put forth as the master of the Haunted Mansion. His tombstone would receive a rose placed on it every morning by the mansion's macabre staff while portraits of the master could be found throughout the estate.
Master Gracey's tombstone was one of the original tombstones installed in the family plot of the Haunted Mansions in the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland as a tribute to Imagineer Yale Gracey (1910-1983) who was responsible for practically all of the illusions found within the ride.
The association of him being referred to as, "Master" Gracey lead the majority of cast members and guests to presume of him having been the master of the Haunted Mansion, however, it was originally intended for the title to just imply his character was too young to have been referred to as a Mister. This was escalated by how every morning a red rose is placed on Master Gracey's tombstone, this was likely started during the 1980s as a form of mourning Yale Gracey after he had been murdered in 1983.
The tombstone came to be identified with a portrait found in the foyer of the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World which transforms from a young man to a skeleton. This portrait was originally designed by Marc Davis to represent the character of Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde's 1890 gothic novels The Picture of Dorian Gray. This story having revolved around a young aristocratic man named Dorian Gray who made a faustian bargain to sustain his youth and beauty by having all of his ugliness be personified on one portrait which he kept hidden away that further degrades as he commits more and more evils.
This misinterpretation was widespread through the cast-member made unofficial backstory to the Haunted Mansion called The Ghost Gallery which not only combined Gracey with the aging-man portrait but also the character of the Ghost Host. This story went on to inspire licensed spin-off comic books, the plot of the 2003 movie adaptation, and even be frequently accepted by the continuity of the attraction.
Due to the popularity of this interpretation of the mansion's lore, Disney made Master Gracey's prominence in the Haunted Mansion as well as his association with the Aging Man, a form of canon within the franchise and several references to the Mansion's legal name being Gracey Manor, can be found in the parks.
In the attraction, Master Gracey's tombstone can be found in the family plot with a fresh rose placed atop of it every morning by cast members. His tombstone reads as, "Master Gracey, laid to rest. No mourning please at his request. -Farewell". In Disneyland this tombstone is found elevated on a berm (a common trend in New Orleans tombstones due to the rising ocean-level having a history of propelling coffins and corpses from the earth) while in Walt Disney World the tombstone is currently found in the centre of the queue. The tombstone was moved here from a berm in 2011 and is a private-plot for the master which gives guests photo-opportunities with the iconic grave.
In the Magic Kingdom, Gracey's portrait can be seen in the mansion's foyer slowly aging and decomposing until it resembles nothing more than a corpse as the Ghost Host begins his narration. Additionally, a bell for, "Master Gracey's bedchamber" can be seen in the servants' quarters which is used by cast-members and those with special-needs who require bypassing the Stretching Room. In Disneyland his portrait appears in the Changing Portrait Corridor replacing that of Ms. April December and appearing along with paintings of Medusa, the Flying Dutchman, the WereCat and Edward the Black Prince.
Sometime in 1881, Master Gracey, given the name Edward Gracey, falls in love with one of his friends, Elizabeth Henshaw, the multiracial daughter of two of the mixed-race servants in his mansion. Unknown to him, the mansion's chief servant, butler Ramsley, sees this as an acceptable relationship due to Elizabeth being a woman of color, which racially motivated him to carry out a dangerous plan to separate Edward from her, fearing that he would abandon his home and heritage all for love.
While hosting a masquerade in his mansion one night, Master Gracey discovers that Elizabeth has written a suicide note, which actually was penned by Ramsley, who confiscated Elizabeth's real letter which states that she truly loved him and ended with a promise of marriage. Desperate, he searches for her throughout the mansion before it is too late. Unfortunately, on the stroke of midnight, Master Gracey discovers the lifeless body of Elizabeth in the library. Depressed and heartbroken, he hangs himself from the estate's cupola shortly afterward. It would be later revealed that Elizabeth died after being given a poisoned drink by Ramsley.
122 years later, Master Gracey believes that Elizabeth has been reincarnated in Sara Evers, the wife of Jim Evers. Under the pretense of selling his house, he lures the Evers family in his estate and tries to make Sara remember who she really was before this life. However, Sara starts to get scared after she sees all of the ghosts in her surroundings. She locks herself in her room and finds Ramsley, who blackmails her that if she doesn't marry Master Gracey, her children would die. Reluctantly, she agrees and wears the wedding dress Elizabeth was supposed to wear that day. During the wedding ceremony, Ramsley poisons Sara's drink with iocane powder so that she will die and return as a ghost and end the curse. Jim and his children storm in and hand Master Gracey the real letter Elizabeth wrote before she died.
Finally realizing the truth, the enraged Master Gracey confronts Ramsley, who reveals. However, Ramsley summons evil spirits to kill the group, but this backfires when a fiery dragon emerges from the fireplace and drags Ramsley to damnation for fifty years for his actions. Sara succumbs to the poison, but a ghost orb arrives and possesses her body, revealing itself to be Elizabeth's ghost. Elizabeth and Master Gracey kiss, and Sara is revived. In gratitude and seeking redemption, Master Gracey gives the Evers the deed to the house, allowing them to do what they want with it as long as they remain happy. The ghosts all depart the mansion and move on to Heaven.
The Ghost Gallery
Master Gracey is the most prominent character in the Ghost Gallery storyline which was created by Disney World Haunted Mansion Cast-Members in order to give the ride more backstory. Although non-cannon and having several inconsistencies, the storyline inspired many story elements that would later be incorporated into comics, the 2003 film, merchandise, and even the ride itself. Most notably, this was the first recorded example of Master Gracey and the Ghost Host being incorrectly combined into the same character.
In this version of the story, Master Gracey was once a mortal man named Master George Gracey Jr. who was born in 1890 to George Gracey Sr. (based on George Hightower) and Mary Gracey (who was based on elderly Constance Hatchaway). Throughout his youth, George Jr. was sent to high-end boarding schools by his distant mother and as such he never really knew his father. George Jr. finally moved back into the mansion after his father was murdered by his mother and his mother fled the country, leaving George Jr. as the Lord and Master of the Mansion.
Obsessed with death, George used his wealth and power to obtain occult artifacts and relics from ancient religions while also often traveling to circuses in order to meet mediums and clairvoyants. It was at one of these circuses where George met a tightrope walker named Lillian O'Malley who he fell in love with and became engaged to. However, behind Lillian's back, George was having an affair with his personal clairvoyant Madame Leota, who he had impregnated with a daughter that Leota had named Little Leota. In 1937, Lillian had tragically died during a tightrope performance when her tightrope snapped and sent her falling into the jaws of a hungry alligator, which only added to George's madness and obsession with the supernatural.
By 1941, George had wasted away the majority of the Gracey fortune in his pursuit of the occult, prompting him to marry an incredibly wealthy 16-year-old orphan named Emily Cavenaugh. However once again on the night of their wedding, tragedy struck when Emily was found dead inside of large chest in the attic, having apparently suffocated to death leading George to shut himself off from the outside world with no-one but his mistress Madame Leota and his illegitimate daughter Little Leota who would die a couple of years later. By 1943, George had learned that Madame Leota was responsible for the deaths of both of his brides, which lead Leota to become enraged and try to trap George's soul in her crystal ball so he could be hers forever. Faced with no other options, George hung himself before Leota could bind his soul, resulting in her own soul become trapped in the crystal ball. Following this, George's ghost became the Ghost Host of the Haunted Mansion.
Following the lead of the Ghost Gallery, the Ghost Host and Master Gracey are once again combined in the SLG Comics, although this time they also incorporate elements from the unused Captain Gore backstory, creating the composite character of Captain William Gracey. This version of the character was once the first mate of a merchant ship called the Pomono during the early 19th century, which was being captained by a man named Captain Randall Pace (the comics' version of the Hatbox Ghost) who was an overly stubborn and determined man that often put the well being of himself and his crew aside to meet deadlines on time.
Captain Pace's actions lead William to become so enraged that he leads a mutiny in which he murdered the captain be decapitating him with his cutlass and taking over the ship and it's crew under the alias of Captain Blood, becoming a pirate and killing any of the ship' crew that refused to join him. Years later, William retired in New Orleans where he became haunted by the ghosts of the victims of his mutiny, who were apparently being lead by the ghost of Captain Randall Pace. In an effort to silence them, William hired a Romani clairvoyant woman named Madame Leota to perform rituals that would aid in silencing the spirits of the manor. Leota, however, was in love with William and made several efforts to romance him only to have her advances rebuffed by the former pirate who was in love with a beautiful woman named Emily DeClaire (the comics' version of the Attic Bride), a woman who Leota came to hate. Due to this hatred on William's wedding day to Emily, Leota chose to perform a séance to summon the ghost of Captain Randall Pace and order him to murder Emily before the wedding while she was looking for something old, something borrowed and something blue in the Mansion's attic. Following the discovery of Leota's betrayal, William barged into her Séance chamber while she was still conducting her rituals and strangled her to death for having been responsible for the death of his bride. After this murder, William decides to end his life and he goes to the manor's cupola where he commits suicide by hanging himself to death.
As a ghost, William is unable to properly materialize in any location that is not the Stretching Room so he is rendered a disembodied spirit until the Mansion finally acquired 1000 ghosts and his corpse falls to the floor properly and finally manifests as a ghostly version of Gracey.
- A common misconception popularized by the Ghost Gallery which is abundant in the Mansion's spin-off adaptions is that Master Gracey is the same character as the Ghost Host, however, they are entirely separate characters.
- In Walt Disney World, the design of Jack Skellington's face can be seen on Master Gracey's forehead when he turns into a skeleton. This was one of many hidden tributes to the Nightmare Before Christmas made in the Magic Kingdom's mansion due to them not performing the annual Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay.
- The Phantom/Henry Ravenswood from Phantom Manor shares many parallels and influences with Master Gracey. In 2018 a portrait of the Phantom inspired by the Aging Man portrait was even added to the ride.