WHO IS THE HATBOX GHOST ?
The Hatbox Ghost (your host for your tour of his website) is a hunchbacked old skeleton wearing a large black coat and a top hat. He haunts the Attic of the Haunted Mansion. As you ride past him in your doombuggy, his head disappears from his shoulders and reappears in his hatbox, grimly revealing to you his manner of death.
Thomas Ernest Hatter was born in a poor family of Scottish decent in New Orléans. His whole family line had been composed of hatters, hatters, hatters and more hatters ever since the Middle-Ages (hence their rather specific family name), up to and including his father Gregorius Abel Hatter. Thomas was a lonely, studious, hard-working child, very much unlike his rebellious younger brother Ezra, who kept trying to hitchhike his way out of town. He studied the job, and when the time came (that is, after his father mysteriously disappeared — Thomas would not find out before joining him in undeath that he had been murdered and stuffed in a trunk), took the position over. He grew quite fond of his upper-class clients, the Graceys, who’d buy him many fancy hats for their parties — starting with Master Dorian, the young dandy of the house, who loved top hats almost as much as Thomas did.
The circumstances of his meeting with Emily Gracey remain shady. Thomas fell madly in love with the lovely young girl somewhere in his fifties, unaware that an evil third party wished but to break their couple apart. The Graceys hosted the wedding in their mansion, Gracey Manor. But on their wedding night, Hattie was done in by the malevolent character, beheaded and his head hastily hidden in one his own hatboxes, and Emily — depending on reports — either committed suicide upon discovering her groom’s disappearance, or was murdered as well.
Thomas woke up a skeletal ghost, next to his bride, reduced to a mere material shadow still wearing her wedding gown and forever holding her bouquet, her heart glowing red from within her ectoplasmic chest with her broken love. Although their first years of afterlife were not easy, Thomas, who’d come to be known as the Hatbox Ghost, and Emily, the Beating Heart Bride, eventually learnt to accept their fate and have fun in the afterlife with the other ghosts who haunted the walls of Gracey Manor.
Things went on for a little less than a century, until 1964, when the Haunted Mansion ghosts were contacted by Walt Disney and his Imagineers — they wished to move the house to California, along with all of its ghosts, so they could have astounding numbers of mortals visit it daily (for a price, which they, the Imagineers, would pocket). Things dragged on until 1969; the slightly obsessional Hattie had not been too enthusiastic about the changes that were to be performed to the Mansion to make it “safe and efficient” as a ride (such as the adding of rail tracks on which ectoplasmic vehicles, designed by Madame Leota and nicknamed “Doombuggies” by the Ghost Host, would be set).
So he left his usual spot in the Attic to do one last tour of the Mansion “as in the good old days” before everything would change forever. During this tour, Hattie discovered a door he’d not seen before. Behing that door, a corridor, and at the end of the corridor… stairs. But not just any stairs. Magical, glowing, endless, gravity-defying, ever-growing Escherian staircases filling up a space greater than he thought even the vast Gracey Manor could hold. This sight fascinated him. He was quickly called back to reality — the Mansion was going to open to mortals for the very first time, and everything had to be ship-shape. Thomas made quite an impression (some would say too much of an impression; he scared some children really bad) that day. Except for one thing. His mind was not on his trick — it was on the Endless Stairways. He got tangled-up, and accidentally made his head appear in two places at once, somehow. Of course, no one but the Imagineers knew what he was supposed to do; most people just assumed his trick was to make his head appear in two places at once, and didn’t question it too much. Still, the following days, he tried to get better, but it was to no avail, his spirit kept drifting back to the hidden magical room.
After a week or two, he couldn’t bear it anymore. He deserted the Attic and explored the mysterious Stairways for weeks without giving, so to speak, a sign of life. When he finally got back, having learnt all the secrets of the stairways, which were actually passages to other supernatural places all over the world, he was quickly called by the Ghost Host, Madame Leota, Little Leota, Dorian and mortal Imagineer Mr Gool (who officiously led the Haunted Mansion as the “Ghost Council”) to their office. The problem with the head trick might have been acceptable — but outright leaving, this could not be tolerated any longer. He was banished from his haunting grounds, to wander alone forever, far away from his bride and his friends.
But the Hatbox Ghost couldn’t cope with the loss of his home, his job and his bride. He did not resign himself. For fifty years, he kept pestering the Ghost Host, trying to get back inside the house, claiming they had no right to fire him like that (a claim that could neither be acknowledged or denied, since laws concerning ghosts are worryingly scarce). Thanks to his knowledge of the Staircases (which he kept exploring to keep himself busy whenever he wasn’t pestering the Ghost Host), it was a child’s game for him to get back inside the building; however, he could never stay there for long, since he could not afford to be seen during the mortals’ tour until he was officially allowed back in.
Finally, after half a century of pestering and thanks to the Disney directors’ insistance (which was ignited by the large amount of fans the Hatbox Ghost had gained in the meantime), Thomas came back to the Mansion, where he took his usual spot back and resumed haunting, in spite of his enmity with the new Attic Bride, Constance Hatchaway.