The catacombs are a subterranean system located underneath of the Boot Hill Cemetery and Ravenswood Manor in the town of Thunder Mesa. In 1860 an earthquake struck the town which caused much of it to collapse into the literal ghost-town which would become known as Phantom Canyon to which the catacombs were connected.
As the Ravenswood Estate was haunted, the corpses buried on its ground would awaken after being buried within the catacombs.
Upon exiting Melanie’s Boudoir, the Phantom waits in the boot hill, holding onto a shovel and laughing. His dog growls, as the doom buggies descend into the freshly dug grave below. The dead are coming to life. A pair of bony hands try to pry open their coffin. A skeleton helps another escape their casket. Others are slowly reaching out towards the doom buggies, as they pass by.
The doom buggies turn around, and the skeletons are joined by the singing busts, partying to the tune of “Grim Grinning Ghosts”. The skeletons sway and move to the music, while another plays the xylophone with bones for sticks and skulls for keys. A crashed hearse sits at the end of the catacombs, while ghosts fly around it. The doom buggies emerge from the underground catacombs into Phantom Canyon.
Behind the Scenes
Based on concept art and models, the catacombs scene was intended to be bigger, with more skeletons and more elaborate sets. There was going to be an old crypt in the background being consumed by dirt and roots. In one piece of concept art, the crypt was labeled “Phantom”.
The singing busts in concept art and models are different than the ones from the Haunted Mansion. One of them even featured a woman in the quartet. This suggests that they might have intended to film new footage for the busts and create new characters, rather than just recycling the ones from the mansion.
The Skeleton BrideIn the original version of the attraction, one of the skeletons appeared to be a bride, dressed in all white. Later, a veil was added to the figure. Some fans interpreted this to be the skeleton of Melanie, due to the similarities to this and the ‘pointing bride’ near the end of the attraction. The figure was changed for the 2019 refurbishment - the veil was removed and the hair was changed.
- The skeletons dancing to Grim Grinning Ghosts is a reference to Ub Iwerk's The Skeleton Dance, the first Silly Symphony.
- Coincidentally, the scene of a skeleton playing the xylophone with skulls and bones resembles ascene from Ub Iwerks' Skeleton Frolic, a cartoon made for Columbia Pictures that is essentially a color remake of the Skeleton Dance.
- Only four of the five singing busts are included - Cousin Algernon is absent.
- Uncle Theodore's bust is not broken, but leaning sideways.