There are plenty of differences between Tokyo’s Haunted Mansion and the other Mansions around the world - some of them major and some of them fairly minor. But ultimately, I think the differences that result in perhaps my favorite mansion experience boil down to main areas: Tone and Presentation.

The first differences in tone come long before you enter the attraction, with the fact that the ride is placed in Fantasyland. One would suspect this would lead to a lighter, more comedic tone. You’d be dead wrong. This mansion is darker and scarier than it’s siblings. In the queue the first instance that something is amiss are the classic tombstone gags (Master Gracey, Laid to Rest, etc.). There are just a few present in plain view, and here, rather than being overgrown, they mark fresh burials with mounds of dirt in front of the tombstones. Whereas before the focus of the gag would be on the humorous epitaph, the eye is now drawn to the much more immediate reminder of death.

Inside the first few rooms, not much is different, other than that the stretching room narration (and all following) is in Japanese. As a non-Japanese speaker, this does perhaps remove some of the humor from the attraction, though all of the visual gags with the stretching portraits are well in place here. The next change is the lack of any of the “Sinister Thirteen” portraits in the doombuggy loading area. This is important as we board and move on to the ride.

Once we start the ride proper our doombuggy often turns almost immediately to one side in other versions. This always struck me as odd due to the fact that the doombuggy was originally conceived to mimic a walking tour of a haunted house; in Tokyo, this is rectified by having the doombuggy proceed straight forward through the first room, home to all of the Sinister Thirteen portraits, all watching you at once. The result is immediately visceral and overwhelming, contributing both to a different presentation of the mansion, and for our discussion here, a more sinister tone. The portraits all facing you as you face a foreboding entryway you are inevitably moving toward feels like a second welcome after the stretching room, but this time from the mansion itself, rather than the Ghost Host. This is the only time you can see where you are headed in the mansion and it is used to great effect.

The next several differences in tone also focus on creating a foreboding experience through the use of darkness. The first of these is the spiders section which Tokyo has in lieu of the Escher stairways. Aside from the spider webs and spiders themselves, the area is pitch black before reaching the endless hallway scene. While the Escher stairways read as hinting at the spirits within the mansion to come, the spiders read as the mansion itself toying with you, forcing you to confront creatures that - the longer you look - appear to be moving unnaturally. Of course, this section forces you to look at them by being otherwise dark and putting the spiders quite close to the doombuggy.

The second section that shapes tone with darkness is the attic. Whereas in the stateside mansions the attic is home to chatty Constance and is lit enough for guests to see what objects are, this is not the case in Tokyo. This mansion retains the older attic scene featuring pop up heads and the beating-heart bride, pictured above. This attic only features back lighting, and almost all objects are cast in darkness, with guests only able to see the outlines of many of them. As you try to make out what you are seeing, pop up heads jump up to surprise you, accompanied by screams. The effect here is much scarier than I anticipated and much more effective than it is in the graveyard scene. Besides screams, the attic is scored by the heartbeat of the bride. So in a sense, the attic is sonically dark as well. While darkness by itself is not inherently scary, the way it is utilized to draw the guests’ eyes to certain areas and highlight figures who have ambiguous intentions toward riders certainly contributes to a more sinister tone. One more factor - the attic is an area where the Ghost Host never has a presence, and in other versions where the bride talks, one might assume she is the one who has control of your tour in the attic. That is not necessarily clear in this version, and with the tonal similarity to the earlier spider scene I would argue this is the mansion itself once again controlling the tour and attempting to scare you.

One last area that features differences in tone is the Corridor of Doors. While the lighting here in generally is weird and creepy, here the lighting is more sinister with it being blood red. There is also the addition and/or retention of effects that add to this tone. One is a unique portrait to Tokyo that is not a traditional changing portrait, but rather one who’s occupant stretches out to meet you. It caught me off guard, and is quite frankly, disturbing. The other notable effect is the monster claws/skeletal hands breaking through the top of a doorway. Something in this hallway does not like you, and does not want you to get away.

While these tonal changes do not take place in every room of the mansion, they do place the unaltered rooms and scenes into a new context. With aspects of the mansion being truly sinister, can you really trust the man asking to be let out of the coffin? Can you really sleep easy knowing a ghost has followed you home? In other mansions, Little Leota is one last invitation gag to join the after(life) party - in Tokyo these invitations seem more like a threat.

Aspects of humor still permeate this mansion, but the atmosphere and tone are heightened and the tension is at times palpable. And frankly, I absolutely love it. These aspects would elevate the mansion experience to a new level on their own, but there is also the sheer quality of Tokyo’s presentation, which I will discuss in a follow-up post.


Achilles Drags Hector:  Black-Figure Hydria C. 510 BC

Greek vase-painters often used subjects from Homer’s great epics the Iliad and the Odyssey in their work. On this hydria - a vessel with three handles for carrying water - the Attic painter depicted a scene from the Trojan war in which Achilles ties the body of the Trojan hero Hector, killed by him, to a chariot. He goes on to mock his enemy’s body publicly by dragging it along the ground before the very walls of Troy.

Attributed to the Antiopa Painter, Leagros group, Attica.


I like to call this “Parts of Disneyland rides that scared the shit out of me as a kid.”

  • Indiana Jones Adventure- snake striking at you
  • Alice in Wonderland- the Queen of Hearts getting angry
  • Haunted Mansion- the bride in the attic scene
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures- the whole ride basically
  • Pinocchio’s Daring Journey- appearance from Monstro the Whale
  • Pirates of the Caribbean- the shipwreck scene

For a moment their mouths pressed hotly together, Will’s free hand tangling in her hair. Tessa gasped when his arms went around her, her skirts snagged on the floor as he pulled her hard against him. She put her hands lightly around his neck; his skin was burning hot to the touch. Through the thin wet material of his shirt, she could feel the muscles of his shoulders, hard and smooth. His fingers found her jeweled hair clasp and pulled at it, and her hair spilled down around her shoulders, the comb rattling to the floor, and Tessa gave a little cry of surprise against his mouth. And then, without warning, he ripped his hands from her and pushed hard against her shoulders, shoving her away from him with such force that she nearly fell backward, and only stopped herself awkwardly, her hands braced on the floor behind her. 

She sat with her hair hanging down around her like a tangled curtain, staring at him in amazement. Will was on his knees, his chest hitching up and down as if he had been running incredibly fast and far. He was pale, except for two fever splotches of red across his cheeks. “God in Heaven,” he whispered. “What was that?”

Tessa felt her cheeks turn scarlet. Wasn’t Will the one who was supposed to know exactly what that was, what wasn’t she the one who was supposed to have pushed him away?

“I can’t.” His hands were fists at his sides; she could see them trembling. “Tessa, I think you had better go.”

Go?” Her mind whirled; she felt as if she had been in a warm, safe place and without warning had been cast out into a freezing, empty darkness. “I…I should not have been so forward. I’m sorry–”

A look of intense pain flashed across his face. “God, Tessa.” The words seemed dragged out of him. “Please. Just leave. I can’t have you here. It’s–not possible.”

“Will, please–”

No.” He jerked his gaze away from hers, averting his face, his eyes fixed on the floor. “I’ll tel you anything you want to know tomorrow. "Tessa. I’m begging you. Do you understand? I’m begging you. Please, please leave.

"Very well,” Tessa said, and saw with a mixture of amazement and pain that the lines of tension went out of his shoulders. Was it that much of a horror having her there, and that much of a relief that she was leaving? She rose to her feet, her dress damp and cold and heavy, her feet nearly slipping on the wet floor. Will didn’t move or look up, but stayed where he was on his knees, staring at the ground as Tessa made her way across the room and down the stairs, without looking back.

“Will?” she said. “Who are you talking to?”

“Back are you, Sophie?” Will replied without raising his head. “I told you if you brought me another one of those infernal pails, I’d–”

“It’s not Sophie,” Tessa said. “It’s me. Tessa.”

For a moment Will was silent–and motionless, save for the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. He wore only a pair of dark trousers and a white shirt, and like the floor around him, he was soaking wet. The fabric of his clothes clung to him, and his black hair was pasted to his head like wet cloth. He must have been freezing cold.

“They sent you?” he said finally. He sounded incredulous, and something else, too. 

“Yes,” answered Tessa, thought this was not strictly true.

Will opened his eyes and turned his head toward her. Even in the dimness she could see the intensity of his eye color. “Very well, then. Leave the water and go.”

Tessa glanced down at the pail. For some reason her hands did not seem to want to let go of the metal handle. “What is it, then? I meant to say–what am I bringing you, exactly?”

“They didn’t tell you?” He blinked at her in surprise. “It’s holy water. To burn out what’s in me.”

It was Tessa’s turn to blink. “You mean–”

“I keep forgetting everything you don’t know,” Will said. “Do you recall earlier this evening when I bit de Quincey? Well, I swallowed some of his blood. Not much, but it doesn’t take much to do it.”

“To do what?”

“To turn you into a vampire.”

At that, Tessa nearly did drop the pail. “You’re turning into a vampire?" 

Will grinned at that, propping himself up on one elbow. "Don’t alarm yourself unduly. It requires days for the transformation to occur, and even then, I would have to die before it took hold. What the blood would do is make me irresistibly drawn to vampires–drawn to them in the hopes that they’d make me one of them. Like their human subjugates.”

“And the holy water…”

“counteracts the effects of the blood. I must keep drinking it. It makes me sick, of course–makes me cough up the blood and everything else in me.”

“Good Lord.” Tessa thrust the pail toward him with a grimace. “I suppose I had better give it to you, then.”

“I suppose you had." 

Did you know that during Halloweentime there is an extra animal in the Pet Cemetery?
During the first year of the Haunted Mansion overlay, the attic was home to 20 cymbal clanging monkeys. Only problem was that these were just regular off the shelf toys and they were constantly breaking! As a tribute to all the monkeys that died in the attic scene, every Halloween they have a cymbal monkey gravestone. Keep an eye out for it next time you’re in line!
Also paying tribute to the original cymbal monkeys in the attic is a cymbal clanging Oogie Boogie.

Rant: The Infernal Devices

Alright, so I’ve read many posts and rants about The Infernal Devices and the Wessa/Jessa situation and “who Tessa really loved” and so on; and I do agree with much of what those posts say, though not all. 
 So here is my own Wessa/Jessa/Heronstairs rant

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Stage Fright  - Unscripted by Emily Kinney

Stage Fright….Eeek!!…I suppose every actor deals with stage fright at some point.  Whether it’s opening night of a big important show or just getting nervous for an audition, stage fright is no fun!!  I get Stage Fright the most when I know a cute boy I like is going to be watching me!!  

For the most part, I’ve been able to keep it together every time I experienced those crazy nerves sneaking up on me, but Opening Night in Portland,  I found out about a whole new kind of Stage Fright!  This kind of Stage Fright had me scared for my life!!

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