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Haunted Mansion ending explained, with full backstory for iconic ride characters

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Warning: This story contains spoilers from Disney's Haunted Mansion .

Disney 's new Haunted Mansion movie doesn't end with room for just one more unlucky spirit; it concludes in a dining hall filled with several jovial attendees of a ghostly jubilee, not unlike the one riders encounter at versions of the classic ride operating at parks around the world. Fans of the Walt Disney -devised attraction, however, will similarly rejoice after seeing the film, as director Justin Simien and writer Katie Dippold finished the film with a fleshed-out backstory for two fan-favorite canon characters: William Gracey — whose identity is sometimes confused with that of the "Ghost Host" ride narrator in certain attraction lore, including the 2003 Eddie Murphy movie — and Jared Leto 's endlessly creepy Hatbox Ghost.

"How can you not make the movie about Hatbox Ghost and Gracey?" Simien — a former Disney parks employee and full-time Disneyland aficionado — asks during an interview with EW. "I'm a real fan of the ride. I probably would be classified as a Disney Adult if I wasn't making movies for a living. Those are the faces you're immediately drawn to."

Riders might easily recognize Gracey and Hatbox Ghost from the attraction, but the movie takes their stories one step further, expanding their personal lore far more explicitly than anything in versions of the experience operating at Disneyland , Disney World , and Tokyo Disneyland.

Walt Disney Studios Jared Leto's Hatbox Ghost in 'Haunted Mansion'

The film's central plot follows a grieving widower and paranormal tour guide, Ben ( LaKeith Stanfield ), who's hired by a single mother ( Rosario Dawson ) to help her banish invading ghosts from her newly purchased Louisiana estate (modeled for the film exclusively after Disneyland's iteration of the ride). Along the way, he teams with a ragtag group of supernatural sleuths, including Father Kent ( Owen Wilson ), Professor Bruce Davis ( Danny DeVito ), and a New Orleans psychic named Harriet ( Tiffany Haddish ). Together, they uncover a crystal ball inhabited by the head of legendary medium Madame Leota ( Jamie Lee Curtis ), another legendary staple from the ride, who informs them that most of the ghosts aren't actually nefarious in nature. Here's where Gracey's story comes in.

Leota tells the group that she once worked with Gracey, the prior owner of the mansion, to help him contact his deceased wife, but a dark spirit latched on to his grief, promising to reunite him with his former spouse. Believing the force's word, Gracey commits suicide (as the Ghost Host/Hatchet Man, a separate character, does at the top of the stretching room in the Haunted Mansion ride queue, indicated by the corpse hanging from the rafters). It's later revealed that Hatbox Ghost is actually the spirit of a man named Alistair Crump, who's on a mission to collect 1,000 souls (his current total stands at 999 happy haunts) in order to set him free from a sort of supernatural purgatory.

Crump's origin story is far more sinister. It begins with his father kicking him out of Crump Manor — which is also depicted in the film as a modern-day haunted museum populated by wacky tour guides played by Dan Levy and Winona Ryder — for grieving his deceased mother too deeply. After his father died, Crump returned to the manor and threw lavish parties for the same social circle who previously excommunicated him; in an act of revenge, he began murdering them, until his staff revolted and decapitated him (thus, explaining why his head manifests inside a hatbox, just like it does on the California iteration of the ride). In his final moments, Crump also vowed revenge and became entangled in the 1,000-soul plot.

Disney Owen Wilson, Rosario Dawson, LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish. and Danny DeVito in 'Haunted Mansion'

"Hatbox Ghost, this character, fans of the ride co-created with Disney. They started calling one guy Gracey, and another Hatbox Ghost — now they're canon characters. They pulled Katie and I's attention," Simien explains when asked why he expanded the legacies of both characters.

He adds that, thematically, there was clear motivation to parallel their experiences with Ben's.

"It also was kind of beautiful, because Gracey provided such a Ghost of Future's Past interpretation of Ben's character. Gracey does everything Ben is doing at the start of the story, and it felt like Crump is doing everything if Ben were to keep going on [the] hating people, misanthropic journey he was on. They were these two sorts of things we were watching this character try not to become," Simien observes. "Gracey, the way he confronts his grief, and the way Crump confronts his grief, they're really logical, they're what most of us would do in those situations. Ben has to choose something in the middle to be the hero the movie wants him to be. I thought that was a perfect way to put the audience in the literal seat of the riders, where you're not really of the mansion, but you're a visiting guest, and to give you the candy of what the actual haunts are up to up in there."

Haunted Mansion is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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Ghost Mansion (2021)

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Haunted mansion ending explained.

Justin Simien's Haunted Mansion is full of ghosts, deep themes, and a terrifying villain. We break down the details of the Disney remake's ending.

Quick Links

Alistair crump’s plan to escape the haunted mansion explained, why the haunted mansion’s ghosts don’t move on after they’re freed, the deeper meaning of alyssa’s message to ben from the beyond, what madame leota’s choice to return to her crystal ball means for her future, how haunted mansion compares to eddie murphy’s 2003 film, the real meaning of haunted mansion’s ending.

Warning: This post contains MAJOR spoilers for Haunted Mansion

  • Alistair Crump's goal was to trap 1,000 souls and use dark magic to exact revenge and cause chaos, aiming to obtain full power and untether himself from the Haunted Mansion.
  • The ghosts in the Haunted Mansion chose to stay even after Alistair's defeat, wanting to reclaim their space and find closure, as they were no longer terrorized by him.
  • The ending of Haunted Mansion highlights the theme of overcoming grief and the power of love and support, showing that life is worth living despite loss and allowing the characters to move forward.

Justin Simien’s Haunted Mansion remake ends with a final showdown between the living characters and Alistair Crump, the dark magic-using ghost who aims to claim his 1000th soul during the full moon. Alistair, otherwise known as the Hatbox Ghost, had attempted to lure Ben to death, preying on his grief. What Ben, Gabbie, and the others didn’t know was that Alistair was also writing to Travis as his deceased father.

Alistair’s influence on Travis, who was also still raw from grief, nearly got him what he wanted, but Ben intervened. LaKeith Stanfield’s character pretended to agree to being Alistair’s final soul, but he was simply a decoy. Alistair, excited about getting what he wanted after so long, didn’t notice that Harriet and Madame Leota were using magic to send him to the other side. Using his hat, they were able to succeed, and Alistair was banished once and for all. The remaining ghosts within the Haunted Mansion remained, however, though the residence was no longer a volatile one. The closing scene sees the ghosts and humans living in harmony together.

Alistair Crump not only haunted the mansion, but he haunted the ghosts who were stuck inside with him. His goal was to trap 1,000 souls — who came willingly, but not without being heavily influenced by Crump — so that he could be free of the Haunted Mansion. Without constraint, Alistair could do what he pleased with no limits. He could also go back to using dark magic freely, while also being able to assert his power in the world of the living. Crucially, Alistair Crump wanted to continue the work he was doing before, using dark magic to exact revenge and otherwise cause chaos.

Alistair was a terror alive and dead, and he wanted to maintain the same power he had during his initial reign by untethering himself from the mansion. Manipulation, scare tactics, and greed pushed him forward. Alistair may have been hurt by his father shunning him, but his use of dark magic and his evil plans created harm that touched everyone around him. Alistair needed 1,000 souls as a blood sacrifice of sorts; without them, he wouldn’t have been able to obtain full power. His plans were as insidious in death as they were in life.

After the Hatbox Ghost’s defeat, the Haunted Mansion’s ghosts didn’t move on like Ben, Gabbie et al. expected they would. After all, who would want to stay behind if they had the chance to leave a place with such horrible memories? But Alistair being gone meant the ghosts were now free to do what they wanted within the mansion. They likely felt they still had much to do before moving on, and they finally had the opportunity to do it now that Alistair would no longer be terrorizing them every night.

The Haunted Mansion was as much a part of them and their histories as it was to Alistair, and the ghosts stuck around because they wanted to reclaim their space and the lost time they spent in fear. Remaining within the Haunted Mansion was the ghosts’ own form of closure; they could finally be at peace, though there was still plenty left for them to do before they decided to move on. What’s more, the ghosts are no longer feared by Gabbie and Travis, which means they can live together, sharing the space they all called home without the shadow of Alistair’s plans.

Ben was skeptical of the paranormal, but he was also missing Alyssa. He became a paranormal tour guide to be close to her, but Harriet’s revelation regarding the dead being able to communicate from the beyond gave him hope. At the end of Haunted Mansion , Ben finally receives a message from Alyssa via a dog’s collar, which reads “Tater Tot.” The message was a nod to one of Alyssa’s favorite foods, but it was deeper than that. Alyssa was trying to communicate to Ben that she was still with him in spirit, and that he wasn’t alone. The message was a nudge for Ben to move forward with his life.

Madame Leota was trapped in her crystal ball by Alistair Crump, and she only emerged briefly to help Harriet rid the mansion of his ghost. At the end of Haunted Mansion , Madame Leota chooses to return to the crystal ball, claiming that it’s not so bad. This decision is similar to the rest of the ghosts’ choice to remain within the Haunted Mansion rather than move on. Madame Leota became accustomed to her crystal ball, and it seems she’d rather spend eternity in there than move on.

Madame Leota could continue to assist Harriet in her work. There is much to teach the younger psychic. With Madame Leota’s book, Harriet could become an even more highly sought after psychic, and it’s likely Leota’s knowledge will help Harriet understand the Haunted Mansion’s ghosts all the more, perhaps aiding them in moving on when they’re ready. Either way, Madame Leota is still free of Alistair, and though she’s still confined to one particular space, she’s able to use her abilities without being held back.

2023’s Haunted Mansion is a remake of the 2003 Eddie Murphy film , The Haunted Mansion . Both films are adaptations of the popular Disney theme park attraction, but there are only a few similarities between them. The characters in Simien’s Haunted Mansion are different. Murphy’s film was primarily about the Evers family, who come to the Haunted Mansion for some time away, only to find themselves in the midst of a plot to reunite William Gracey, the dead owner of the mansion, with his beloved Elizabeth.

2023’s Haunted Mansion takes an entirely new path, the film's narrative more focused on grief and the support of friends. The antagonists of both films also have disparate motives that fuel them. That said, both iterations include aspects of the theme park attraction they’re based on, including characters such as Gracey and Madame Leota, who appear in each film, the latter with the same skill set. While the films each have their silly moments, the Haunted Mansion remake is scarier than the original and has deeper themes.

Haunted Mansion deals a lot with grief, and the ending — which sees both Ben and Travis rejecting Alistair’s offer to be reunited with their loved ones in the beyond — purports that life is worth living despite overwhelming grief. Ben and Travis deeply missed their wife and father, respectively, but the love they shared continues to live on in spirit. Ben wanted to be reunited with Alyssa, and his guilt surrounding the last thing he said to her exacerbated his grief.

But Haunted Mansion posits that once surrounded by love and support, the overpowering sense of grief ebbs. It’s still deeply felt, but the loss of a loved one should not stop one from continuing to live a full life. Ben and Travis aren’t the only ones who have felt and experienced loss within the group, and the realization they aren’t alone, and that Alyssa and Travis’ father are at peace in the beyond allows them to move forward, no longer paralyzed by their sadness.


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