On the evening before Walt Disney World was to celebrate its 40th anniversary, Disney hosted an event commemorating one of the Magic Kingdom’s most popular opening day attractions. Having marked its own 40th anniversary at Disneyland in California just two years ago, The Haunted Mansion was given another night in the spotlight as the classic dark ride turns 40 in Florida. And for die-hard Mansion fans, the “Room For One More” dinner event offered a chance to seemingly step through the graveyard and onto the ballroom floor for a few hours of entertainment and fiendish fun.
The event took place at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, where its Fantasia ballrooms had been decked out in dastardly decor. Over dinner, attending foolish mortals witnessed “live” characters, performances, and musical acts inspired by The Haunted Mansion.
Video: Highlights from the “Room For One More” Haunted Mansion 40th anniversary event
In the “mourning” hours before the dinner event began on Sept. 30, 2011, guests had the opportunity to purchase and pick up a variety of new Haunted Mansion-inspired merchandise, take frightening photos, and bid in a silent auction, meeting many of Disney’s most popular artists throughout the cemetery space.
A highlight of the auction was a new work by Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, who recreated in sculpture Colin Campbell’s famous two-dimensional Hatbox Ghost artwork from the old Haunted Mansion record. It sold for thousands.
When night fell, “Room For One More” guests were invited into the main ballroom, welcomed in by the Haunted Mansion’s lantern-carrying graveyard caretaker (minus his dog).
Inside, the Contemporary ballroom had been transformed into that of The Haunted Mansion, complete with the jaw-dropping sight of the dark ride’s ghostly organist come to life.
He entertained the audience over dinner, playing mostly somber songs with an occasional wretched rendition of a classic Disney tune like “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Video: The Haunted Mansion organist plays at the “Room For One More” dinner event
The three-course dinner began with a salad, fairly standard greens and vegetables garnished with stuffed olives. The entree course presented tender short ribs over velvety mashed potatoes with seasoned vegetables. For dessert, cheesecake was served with fruit, whipped cream, a white chocolate skull, and dark chocolate spiders.
Throughout the meal, a ghost host and the caretaker occasionally inserted a few laughs by way of cryptic comedy on stage, and with each entrance came flickering lights, thunder, and lightning – the perfect ambience for a Haunted Mansion dinner.