For comparison, it should be noted that another big attraction that opened in 1969, Woodstock, closed after only 4 days.
The reasons for The Haunted Mansion’s appeal are many and attempting to name them all may very well bore most to, well, death.
Its mix of horror with macabre humor is wonderfully balanced—with busts that follow your every move, wooden doors that are visibly breathing, the decayed corpse hanging above the elevator, the Doom Buggies, and of course the hitchhiking ghosts that startle unsuspecting guests.
Still, two of the most memorable aspects of the ride involve the chiseled cheekbones of Leota Toombs.
As the ride ends, guests pass a small, ghostly figure, nicknamed the Ghost Hostess, whose child-like voice beckons them to "Hurry back... hurry baa-ack. And don't forget your death certificate! We're just... dying... to have you..."
The Ghost Hostess, just tiny enough to crawl up through your nose and devour your soul.
Or, about three apples high.
Disney Imagineer Leota Toombs, an animatronics designer, was chosen to be that tiny ghost.
The specter’s voice is Leota’s own and was the one thing about the ride that actually haunted me as a child. The soft, inviting voice delivering such a sinister message caused me to turn away on more than one occasion. Bravery was not in my vocabulary.
With a different pallor and a far less innocent gaze, Leota Toombs also became the face of Madame Leota, the disembodied medium of the séance room whose head floats inside a crystal ball. Here she calls forth the spirits from beyond who make their presence known via flickering candles and floating objects.
|The initial screams by guests are usually followed by, “Oh my god, I thought that was Phyllis Diller. Phew.”|
Madame Leota’s incantation is one of the more oft quoted lines by exiting guests, right after the Ghost Hostess, that is.
"Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat; call in the spirits, wherever they're at. Rap on a table; it's time to respond. Send us a message from somewhere beyond. Goblins and ghoulies from last Halloween: awaken the spirits with your tambourine. Creepies and crawlies, toads in a pond; let there be music, from regions beyond! Wizards and witches, wherever you dwell, give us a hint, by ringing a bell!"
But how can Toombs create such a hauntingly soft voice for her tiny ghost, then turn around and create a booming, authoritative voice for the medium?
The answer is simple: She didn’t.
Leota Toombs was lip-syncing to a recording by actress Eleanor Audley.
Her name may not be widely recognized, but her work with Disney definitely is. Eleanor Audley was the physical model and voice actor for two of Disney’s most famous villains.
As Lady Tremaine, the woman that forever damaged the public’s opinion of evil stepmothers everywhere, Eleanor became the domineering heavy in Cinderella. Eleanor’s mannerisms and likeness are most evident in Lady Tremaine.
|“Which of you has the nerve to pull my finger? Who will it be?!”|
|“But my real dream is to direct… YOU TO HELL!!”|
Why her face wasn’t use for the medium’s is unclear…perhaps, Audley’s face was too recognizable as her animated counterparts. Perhaps, Leota Toombs nailed the audition.
Leota Toombs was hot and photogenic, so most of the men overseeing the project channeled their inner cavemen and thought, “Leota pretty. We make her face in ball, stand near her, smell her hair. Ugh.”
|I’m sexy and I know it.|