Disney’s Haunted Mansion – Man in the Spiderweb: Real or Hoax?

For years I’ve heard this story about the Haunted Mansion staircase scene at Walt Disney World that I wanted to dig into. Like many legends regarding Disney’s mansions, you often never know fact from fiction.  In this particular yarn, the story goes that when the Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion first opened in 1971, there was a skeleton trapped in a spider web as you climbed the grand staircase.

First, a little history. When Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion opened in 1969, they already knew they would be building a similar version for Walt Disney World. Thus, the majority of the props, animatronics and scenic pieces were duplicated so Florida’s version of the ride would be ready for opening day two years later. Anyone who has been to both the California and Anaheim attractions knows that Florida has a few extra scenes that were not included in Disneyland due to design and size limitations.

Thus, in Disneyland when you travel up the staircase and into the ride, it is the first scene you experience. However, in Walt Disney World the staircase for decades served as a transition from the music room to the endless hallway… and very little else. In 2007, this scene was completely re-imagined the way we see it today. A tribute to the Escher Staircase where ghostly footsteps appear walking upside down and candelabras flicker.

Prior to that, from the early 1970s until 2007, an enormous spiderweb hung on the other side of the staircase in the darkness. Perched in the center was one lonesome spider, which is most definitely a cousin of the ones seen in the Walt Disney World Jungle Cruise temple. Below the doom buggies, a motor would systematically shake the entire spider web with an actuator. As riders slowly passed the arachnid in the darkness you would hear this “click… click… click…. click….”  Not very exciting, but I had always heard this was a replacement scene for what was originally there, but it’s not easy to find proof of how this scene looked when Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion opened in 1971.

According to legend, there was a man that was trapped in the web and rotted into a skeleton. His remains were left snarled by the web just beyond the staircase. Seen in the concept art in the picture above, this was clearly designed for Walt Disney World, but any actual pictures don’t seem to exist.  If you’ve got a photo or two? By all means, please send them to me!

However, there is source audio of this “spider man” in the audio clip below. Someone managed to piece together the actual audio soundtrack from the Haunted Mansion from 1971. If you fast forward to the 4:20 mark you’ll hear a man moaning as the audio track progresses from the music room to the hallway scene.  Thanks to Strange and Frightening Sounds for the link!

So there you have it. Was this “spider man” figure real or a hoax? All signs point to the fact that he was indeed a part of Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion. Surely someone… somewhere has an actual photo of this figure. If you do, send me an email!

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Images Copyright: Flickr, The Walt Disney Company

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