Thunder Mesa was founded in 1849 when Henry Ravenswood, a Western settler, discovered gold in Big Thunder Mountain. To profit off the gold Henry established the Big Thunder Mining Company and transformed a trading-outpost for settlers and the Indigenous Shoshone peoples into the town of Thunder Mesa. Thunder Mesa went on to build Fort Comstock to force the Shoshone off of their own land while ignoring that Big Thunder Mountain was a sacred place which was home to a powerful spirit.
Henry married a woman named Martha Ravenswood with whom he had a daughter named Mélanie. The Ravenswoods came to live in a Victorian mansion known as Ravenswood Manor that Henry had built on Boot Hill, overlooking Thunder Mesa. Henry and Martha's marriage was an unhappy one as the two frequently argued and Henry cheated on Martha, most notably with their maid Anna Jones. At some point in time, Henry partook in a dirty duel outside of Ravenswood Manor and shot a man in the spine while his back was turned.
Henry was fiercely protective of his daughter, Melanie. When she became of age, many men vied for her hand. None were ever good enough for her, in Henry's eyes so he killed them off one-by-one. Amongst the dead were Captain Rowan D. Falls of the Mark Twain Riverboat, oil-field owner Barry Claude, lumber-mill owner Sawyer Bottom and dynamite manufacturer Ignatius "Iggy" Knight. Henry lead Rowan off a waterfall, lured Barry into bear territory, bifurcated Sawyer with an industrial buzz-saw and blew-up Iggy in a cavern of Big Thunder Mountain.
Years later, Melanie fell in love with a train engineer and became engaged to him, making plans to leave Thunder Mesa to be with him. Henry became furious and did everything he could to prevent this from happening. However, in 1860, an earthquake shook the whole town and many people were killed, including Henry and his wife Martha. Some people claim that it was the spirit of the mountain who caused this tragic accident, others claim it was pure mother nature.
A few months later, Melanie was getting ready for her wedding, but her groom never showed up. She waited many hours, but he never came. Guests started to leave and Melanie kept telling the butlers and maids that he would come. According to the legend, it is said that after he died, he lured her suitor to the attic, where he hanged him. To this day, it is said that the phantom still haunts the house and Melanie (now a ghost) continues to wait for her long lost love.
Henry Ravenswood was developed as part of an effort to unify the story of Disneyland Paris's Frontierland, making him both the owner of the Big Thunder Mining Company and Phantom Manor. Early drafts of the story had Henry co-owning the mine with his level-headed brother Arthur, and being a bullying womanizing scoundrel at odds with his family. He wasted much of the Ravenswood fortune on frivolous spending and died inside Big Thunder during the earthquake when inspecting the mine. Between this and Arthur's declining health, Ravenswood Manor would fall into ruin.
The Phantom's identity had been treated as ambiguous for a long time with the Henry Ravenswood's spirit story being presented in tandem with a story of the Phantom being a random dark spirit that arbitrarily chose to ruin the wedding. This alternative characterization was primarily used by Disneyland Paris's Entertainment division and treated the Phantom as a more direct "Phantom of the Opera" figure with a romantic interest in Melanie.
As part of the 2019 refurbishment to the attraction, the Phantom's identity as Henry Ravenswood would be made more clear with the introduction of new artwork and an expanded story telling of how Henry orchestrated the deaths of several other gentlemen courting his daughter before the final earthquake incident.
The Phantom was originally voiced by Vincent Price in the initial months of the Phantom Manor opening, but as a result of legal agreements that required the narration to be primarily in French and his French tracks being seen as unsatisfactory, he was replaced by Gérard Chevalier, an actor who often dubbed Price in French, though Price's laugh was the only portion retained for years until the attraction closed in 2018 for a major refurbishment. As part of the 2019 overhaul to the attraction, the Vincent Price audio was brought back, taking the form of an edited bilingual spiel where the French would now be provided by actor Bernard Alane, who previously played Clopin in the European French dub of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Henry is referenced within the queue for the Disneyland Paris version of the attraction.
The Phantom's silhouette is visible in the Main Street Station of Disneyland Paris' railroad, terrorizing a silhouette of Melanie.
In the attraction Phantom Manor, The Phantom takes over the role of the Ghost Host from the American Haunted Mansion attractions, acting as narrator while also appearing in person several times through the attraction itself.
The Phantoms presence is first made aware just inside the gates of the attraction, where a plaque states "The Phantom Awaits". His next appearance is when his voice becomes audible, welcoming the guests as they enter through the front doors of the manor. He talks about the beauty that once lived in the house, and how it still remains, before ushering the guests into a portrait room. As he comments about how the guests should try and find a way out, as the room stretches, lightening strikes, and the Phantom, a skull faced man is visible from the rafters, hanging the groom.
After the guests exit the stretching room, the Phantom bids his farewell to them, and promises to "meet up at the party". The Phantom is next seen in the manor's conservatory only as a shadow, invisibly playing the piano. He is later seen in the ballroom, standing in a shattered window obscured by darkness, laughing at the crying bride.
A few rooms later, He makes himself fully clear to the guests, as a skeleton faced man. He is standing outside the window of the Brides Boudoir, with a grave he dug, for the guests to fall down into. The Phantom is next seen laughing and gesturing to the coffin of his daughter, the bride, Melanie Ravenswood. He is finally seen as the Doom-Buggies glide past a window, with the face of the Phantom looming over the guests, before finally disappearing.
He appears one last time outside the ride, staring down at the visitors from a window on the second floor of the manor.
The Phantom makes most of his same appearances in the post-refurbishment version of the attraction. However, there are some significant departures.
- The Phantom in his mortal life, as Henry Ravenswood, is in the foyer portrait. At first, he is clutching onto his daughter's shoulders, but the picture fades to them during happier times, with one arm on her shoulder while smiling.
- A portrait of Henry Ravenswood sits in the changing portrait gallery. When lightning flashes, his face changes into the Phantom.
- He is looming behind Melanie in the Endless Hallway and is moved behind her in the ballroom. His face can be seen in the mirror in Melanie's boudoir.
- The zombie Phantom next to the coffin was replaced with another figure of the skeleton Phantom, doing the same thing he did as before.
The Phantom appeared in the live show, C'est Magique in the early years of Disneyland Paris. He appeared in the Frontierland segment of the show, carrying Melanie down the stage and dancing with the rest of the dancers.
The Phantom appeared on the Illusion Manor float in Mickey's Halloween Celebration, joining the parade in 2018. He stood on the front porch, alongside Melanie and Mickey Mouse, dancing with them and talking to them about the celebration. During the showstop, he left the float and danced with Melanie and the zombies on a platform in the hub. He appeared in the 2018 and 2019 Halloween parades, dancing on the parade route with Melanie and a group of dancers.
The Phantom has begun to make sporadic meet and greet appearances at Disneyland Paris, usually at special events. He is usually dressed in his Mickey's Halloween Celebration costume.
The Phantom used to appear as a meet-n'-greet character in Frontierland outside Phantom Manor. He was seemingly retired as a meet-n'-greet character in the early 2000s, as he has not appeared in many years. Rumour has it that he scared kids too much due to his appearance.
The Phantom appeared in the "Grim Grinning Ghosts" segment of Let's Go to Disneyland Paris. He appears alongside the Bride and other Disney Villains. He, alongside the other villains, are frightened away by Donald Duck dressed as a ghost.
- The Thunder Mesa Daily Messenger brought up Thunder Mesa having had several, "Founding fathers" not limited to Ravenswood.
- Henry is not the only owner of the Big Thunder Mining Company to be featured in the attraction's story. The other is one Barnabas T. Bullion, a member of the Bullion mining-family and the Society of Explorers and Adventurers who ran the company in the latter-half of the 19th century. The exact nature behind the company's switching hands is unknown.
- Some imagineers have behind-the-scenes claimed that Disneyland Paris exists outside of continuity however virtually every version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad appears to reference and be directly referenced by it in an expanded continuity, making this claim moot.
- It's possible that Barnabas Bullion took control of the mine after Henry's death.
- Some of Henry's clothes are strikingly similar to those worn by Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective, a character who was also voiced by the late Vincent Price.
- In Disneyland Paris, Ravenswood is quoted as saying, "From the first nugget discovered in its heart, to the booming economy that Big Thunder Mountain ensures for the town of Thunder Mesa, we, at Big Thunder Mining Co., are forever grateful for Nature's Wonders." This is an allusion to the attraction Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland which preceded Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Disneyland.
- The way Henry peers out the window in Phantom Manor parallels an identical-effect which was used in Snow White's Scary Adventures with the character of the Evil Queen.