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.
In just over an hour’s time, artist Noah turned a black canvas into a new painting featuring many Haunted Mansion characters and elements, to be sold to the highest bidder at the end of the night.
The entree course offered additional entertainment as the Mansion’s Graveyard Band roamed the audience, acting as a group of macabre minstrels.
Video: Live Graveyard Band plays at the “Room For One More” Haunted Mansion 40th anniversary event
Following dinner, Walt Disney Imagineers Jason Surrell, Jason Grandt, Eric Goodman, and Pete Carsillo took the stage for an hour-long presentation about Haunted Mansion history. The slide and video packed presentation featured an in-depth look at how the Mansion originally came to be decades ago, much of which the fan-filled audience already knew.
But it also included some never-before-heard tidbits about the more recent additions to Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion, particularly how the interactive queue‘s sculptures were directly inspired by old works by Disney Legend Blaine Gibson that were intended for but never found their way into the dark ride. Also of note was a detail about the recently-updated Hitchhiking Ghosts effect that concludes Orlando’s Haunted Mansion. When the skeletal ghost, often referred to as Ezra, is seen in a mirror and lifts his hat as a gag, releasing what appear to be birds, they creatures are actually flying versions of the iconic bat stanchions that line the Haunted Mansion queue. They’re small and tough to see in the ride, but Imagineers offered a closer view during their presentation.
For those details and many more, watch the entire Imagineers’ presentation about The Haunted Mansion in the video below.
Video: Walt Disney Imagineers talk Haunted Mansion history and effects at “Room For One More”
After the Imagineers wrapped up, the caretaker announced a finale surprise, as he “found” the Cemetery Singers outside. The large group of a cappella singers then took the stage and performed two songs, first “Zombie Jamboree” followed by the perfect ending to the night, an extended rendition of “Grim Grinning Ghosts.”
Video: “Zombie Jamboree” sung by Cemetery Singers at Haunted Mansion “Room For One More” event
Video: “Grim Grinning Ghosts” by Cemetery Singers at Haunted Mansion “Room For One More” event
Dinner had concluded but the evening had not, as all “Room For One More” guests were invited to attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party across the street at the Magic Kingdom. By the time the event wrapped up, only two and a half hours remained of the party, but leaving enough time for at least a few rides on a Doom Buggy through the attraction that brought everyone together.
And on the way out, trick-or-treat bags of candy were given out along with Mickey Mouse watches and Haunted Mansion-inspired posters - the same that had been offered at the previous night’s Disney Parks Blog “Trick or Meet-Up.”
The $285 “Room For One More” event was a mixture of merchandise, meet-and-greets, a meal, and many surprises. Despite some complaints about the event not taking place at The Haunted Mansion, the event gift (a tattered Mr. Toad figurine, like the tribute in the ride’s pet cemetery) only vaguely Mansion-related, the merchandise largely focused on pins and Vinylmation, and the previous night’s limited-space free event initially sounding more fun than this paid event, “Room For One More” was ultimately a hauntingly good time for the ultimate fans of Disney’s darkest of rides, The Haunted Mansion, leaving everyone after dinner with big, grim grins on their faces.
More photos of the “Room For One More” Haunted Mansion 40th anniversary event: