Lee and I took the new Disney's Happiest Haunts tour at Disneyland/DCA last Friday. There hasn't been much information on this tour so we weren't sure exactly what to expect.
We met our group (there were 13 of us!) at 6:00 p.m. in front of the Tower of Terror, where a representative from Guest Relations (Christina) checked us in. Spoilers later, so this will just be a basic description. We went through the Fastpass line at the Tower of Terror, and eventually they put us on our own elevator, though we rode it without our guide. After we got off the ride Christina gave us all these really cool green glow-tube "necklaces" - with an old-fashioned key at the end. The necklaces turn on and off and have three settings - fast blink, slow blink, and solid. (We got lots of envious looks from other guests the rest of the evening!) Then we met our *real* guide, who took us over to Disneyland. We stopped along the way so she could point out the jack-o-lanterns on Main Street and tell us the legend of the jack-o-lantern, and near the castle we heard the *real* story of Sleeping Beauty, and in Fantasyland we got the *real* story of the Abominable Snowman.
In Frontierland she told us about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, and then we learned about the runaway trains of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and then went in through the exit and rode it. I must say we looked pretty cool on the ride with all of our green necklaces! In front of Pirates of the Caribbean we heard about the cursed pirates of the Black Pearl, and then she took us into New Orleans Square where we could hear the voodoo priestess chanting.
Our last stop was the Haunted Mansion, where we rode Haunted Mansion Holiday. After we got off and exited there was one last surprise...
Our tour actually started about 6:15 and was over at 8:00, so it was a little less than two hours. It was ok, but not a great tour - most of the stories we heard that were related to Disneyland attractions were made up for the occasion and had nothing to do with the *real* backstory of the attraction, so we didn't get any interesting insider information. Though I found some of the stories much more entertaining than the "real" ones. :-) I was expecting it to be a little spookier, but there were two kids (~6-8) in our group, so maybe the guide toned it down a little. To get the most out of it you have to get into the "spirit" of the thing with the guide...I think each tour is going to be a little different depending on which guide you get - different guides assume different characters.
For additional information on the tour, including cost, restrictions, when it's offered, how to book, etc. please see the page on AllEars.Net: Disney's Happiest Haunts Tour
**** SPOILERS AHEAD ****
Before the tour started, Christina told us that there were four rules:
1) No consorting or interacting with ghosts or spirits at any time.
2) Absolutely no seances.
3) Stay out of sacred burial grounds.
4) Do not enter any alternate dimensions.
Since we knew what rides we were doing (Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain, and Haunted Mansion) we knew we were doomed. :-)
Our guide, Rachel, was clearly a no-nonsense schoolteacher-type - with her hair in a tight bun, wearing half glasses and a prim outfit, and she was carrying a ruler and a notebook. She immediately told us to ignore the rules, since we were going to break all of them. (And at that point we'd already broken rule #4.) Though we were following behind her and couldn't see it, she clearly had a rather forbidding expression when leading us through crowds - because people would look at her and get out of her way. :-) She warned us about all of the small "goblins" that infested Disneyland, and to watch out for them because they like to attach themselves to adults and they become a tremendous waste of time and money. Ahhh...a woman after my own heart. :-) (When we entered Fantasyland she warned us that the goblin infestation was especially bad there.)
Lee and I got into trouble - Rachel was holding her ruler up like a flag as she led us along, and at one point she said "Follow me", and Lee and I put our arms up in the air and she turned around and saw us. :-) She wrote our names in her notebook and told us to report for detention after the tour, where we'd have to write "I will not mock the teacher" 100 times. (Lee was only assigned 50 lines, though!) And one of the other men on the tour was chastised because Rachel asked a question and he answered it without raising his hand first and waiting to be called on.
Did you know that Maleficent was actually a very kind and generous woman? And the CEO of her own company: E.V.I.L (which stands for Enchanted Villages I[something] Limited.) She offered Princess Aurora an internship when she turned 16, but her father would hear nothing of it, and didn't want his daughter working in the textile industry. Instead he wanted to marry her off to someone she had never met. Well, spoiled brat that she was, Aurora pitched a fit and pretended to be asleep for years and years. But it was Malficent who got the blame for the whole thing.
Rachel pointed out the Queen in her window above Snow White's Scary Adventures, calling her a "lovely woman" who was killed by a poisoned apple. I told her that I'd heard that a bunch of dwarves pushed her off a cliff - Rachel was shocked. :-)
As for the Abominable Snowman - he was accused of luring all of the children of the village away one night. The villagers chased him and drove him up the mountain, where he caused an avalanche that blocked the trail. In the end it turned out that it was the Ice Demon that had lured the children away to his ice palace, where he bound their feet to the floor and made them sing the same song over and over and over...
Big Thunder Mountain was actually the site of the US's largest gold strike (bigger than Sutter's Creek!). But it was the site of a sacred burial ground...and eventually strange things started happening, and the mine trains started moving all by themselves.
When we were listening to the voodoo priestess in New Orleans Square Rachel actually revealed the truth - that she was one of the 999 "happy haunts", who love this time of year because they get to come out and interact with the living.
Rachel said goodbye to us as we went into the Haunted Mansion...but we were to see her one last time. :-) After we came out the exit and our group met Christina under a tree near the souvenir stand, Christina told us to look behind us. From there we could see along the side of the Mansion to the hillside behind it, and there was Rachel, in a luminous white dress holding a parasol and waving her ruler at us - she even had green glowing eyes!
And I know this is a really horrible picture - but do you know how hard it is to take a picture of a ghost? :-)