- "Here comes the bride... As long as we both shall live... For better or for... worse, (chuckle) I do. I did, In sickness and in... wealth, You may now kiss the bride, We'll live happily ever... after, Till death... do us part..."
- ―Constance Hatchaway
Constance Hatchaway, better known as The Black Widow Bride, is one of the ghostly characters within The Haunted Mansion, which appears in Disneyland in California, and in Walt Disney World in Florida. She is arguably the most villainous and/or most dangerous presence on the ride, being the ghost of a bride with a murderous past life.
She is a revamped version of the original Bride character that was introduced in 2006. Also in 2006, the Attic area she can be found in was also redesigned to reflect the new character interpretation and darker tone.
Her performance model is Julia Lee, and she is voiced by Kat Cressida.
The original attic area featured black lights and blast up ghosts that would occasionally spring out to scare visitors. The Bride would be swaying in the corner with a beating red heart seen within her.
In May 2006, the show scene was redesigned to include new effects and introduce a darker storyline. This included scattered and stacked wedding gifts along with portraits of the redesigned Bride and her husbands. However, in each portrait, the husband's head would disappear and the Bride's voice would admit to beheading them. The Doom Buggies would then head for the window, where the Bride would be standing, reciting her wedding vows while a hatchet materialized and vanished in her hands. The Doom Buggy then goes out the window to the Graveyard, implying escaping from the ghost.
Part of Constance's character originates from the Marc Davis designed Stretching Room portrait of the old woman on her late-husband's tombstone. In a deleted 1968 script by X. Atencio the portrait is referred to as being "Widow Abigail Patecleaver" but this history was discarded.
In the photos found in the Attic, Constance (in life), was a beautiful woman with pale skin and blonde hair. In her later years, as seen in her Stretching room portrait, her hair became grey and her stature shrunk.
As a ghost, Constance can be seen in her wedding dress holding a hatchet. Her entire body and clothing is blue and opaque, and she has a permanent evil grin on her face.
While her full backstory purposefully remains a mystery, many details are revealed in the Attic scene.
Constance Hatchaway was a beautiful woman who sought to obtain wealth and luxury. She accomplished this by marrying several rich men, including bankers, businessmen, farmers, and barons. However, each was murdered after the wedding by the deadly bride, decapitated with a hatchet so that she could claim their inheritance. Despite her crimes, she was never punished (likely due to lack of evidence), though the public did dub her "The Black Widow Bride".
Her husbands were:
- Ambrose Harper: The naive but good intentioned son of successful farmers (married in 1869)
- Frank Banks An eastern banker and community pillar (married in 1872)
- The Marquis de Doome A foreign diplomat with a military past (married in 1874)
- Reginald Caine A celebrated railroad baron, gambler and world renowned gourmand (married in 1875)
- George Hightower A (possible) relative of the wealthy hotel owner/explorer Harrison Hightower III (married in 1877)
It was her final husband who was one of the many owners of the titular mansion. After murdering Hightower, Constance decided that she was satisfied with the wealth she had accumulated and settled down in her newly inherited mansion. She died later of unknown causes, though most speculate that it was old age.
After her death, Constance's spirit became enveloped by her sadistic, homicidal side. She became a permanent resident of the mansion's attic, standing among her hordes of past wedding gifts and admitting to her crimes.
While her personality in life is never fully revealed, it can be assumed that she was greedy and cold towards her victims. It is unknown if she felt any remorse, but due to her repeated murders, it is highly unlikely. Somewhere down the line, she began to enjoy the killings and became a sadist, openly loving killing her husbands.
After death, her ghost was completely consumed by her murderous side, as she gleefully admits to her murders and threatens to kill the visitors.
The Haunted Mansion
At the Liberty Square Mansion Constance is first alluded to in the newer interactive queue, a realistic looking engagement ring is embedded into the ground. This was put into the new queue as previously there had been a cut off stanchion that resembled a diamond ring in the cement outside the Mansion, and fans speculated that it belonged to the original Attic Bride. Some stories say that she threw the ring to the ground in some kind of fit of rage.
According to Jason Surrelll's book "The Haunted Mansion, Imagineering a Disney Classic" the Bride's silhouette can be seen in the upper right window of the Liberty Square Mansion, watching guests from behind the curtains. However the legitimacy of the effect is somewhat disputed with it being possible that the effect doesn't truly exist, doesn't work well enough to notice, or used to exist but was shut down.
Constance then appears as a portrait in the Stretching Room. In this portrait she is shown as an old woman sitting down while holding a red rose, as the room stretches it is revealed that she is sitting atop the tombstone of her late husband George whose bust she had plunged a hatchet into. This portrait is associated with Constance due to it's similarities to the picture she took with George in 1877 as in both images; there is a husband referred to as George, both husbands share the same moustache, in both images the Heiress (Constance) is holding a red rose, and both husbands were implied to have been murdered with a hatchet by their bride.
Constance's only spectral appearance in the attraction is in the Attic sequence. Guests see it littered with wedding gifts and other expensive items Constance amassed over the years. In the background a somber, minor key version of the wedding march can be heard being played on a piano (with or without the Attic Pianist, depending on which park one is visiting) along with the faint noise of a beating human heart. Alongside the mementos are five wedding portraits each one of Constance and a different husband whose head disappears and reappears. Finally, guests see the ghost of Constance standing beside a portrait of her and George along with an old wedding cake, and the Bride brandishes her hatchet from thin air while making darkly humorous remarks at her past life of crime.
In the unofficial Ghost Gallery Storyline (which was created before the merging of the Attic Bride and the Black Widow Portrait) the woman in the stretching room portrait was said to have been the Ghost Host/Master Gracey's mother, Mary Gilbert Gracey and that she murdered her husband after learning he had an affair.
Meanwhile the identity of the Bride character was referred to as Emily Cavenaugh, the 16 year old second bride of Master Gracey who was murdered Gracey's former lover Madame Leota who locked Emily in the chest she was hiding in during a game of hide-and-seek, resulting in Emily suffocating to death.
The Haunted Mansion Comic Book Series
Constance is a minor villain in the comic book series The Haunted Mansion by Slave Labor Graphics, which ran for seven issues from 2006 to 2007. She only appears in the first issue.
The Haunted Mansion: The Black Widow Bride
Constance reappears as the main antagonist of the online game based off the ride. Here, the player must guide the 998 other ghosts, including Constance's former husbands, to safety from her.
In the video game Epic Mickey, Horace Horsecollar asks Mickey Mouse to help him solve a mystery in the Lonesome Manor, another haunted mansion. Here, he wants to find evidence that the former mistress of the manor, Constance Hatchaway, killed her previous husbands, implying that Lonesome Manor either belonged to one of Constance's husbands or that it was a parody of the original Haunted Mansion with a different name. Her hatchet is found by Horace in the Library.
Haunted Mansion 40th Anniversary
Constance appears in a short stage show at the Disney Parks that was held as a hard ticket event for the Haunted Mansion's 40th anniversary. The show was about her demise and shed some light upon the subject, but was gleefully inconsistent with the Stretching Portrait, since it featured her dying pretty young. It is generally considered non-canonical due to this.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Constance appears as the final boss in the Haunted Mansion minigame.
Constance appears as a major antagonist in the miniseries, a looming threat avoided by the other ghosts. She tries to get the main protagonist Danny Crowe to marry her when he enters the attic, claiming she committed her past crimes simply because she loved weddings. It is also revealed that because she was one of the few spirits to actually die on the property, she has a certain authority and power on the grounds; most notably, the ability to permanently destroy other ghosts by decapitating them with her spectral hatchet. Ultimately, it is Constance who is able to defeat the villainous Captain, cutting off his head.
As revealed in a flashback, Constance was prepared to marry a sixth husband after George in 1879, despite rumors of what really happened to her previous five. Constance's mother - who bears a striking resemblance to the woman in the "Abigale Patecleaver" stretching portrait - was on hand for the preparations, and seems to believe Constance is innocent, if unfortunate. The Captain believes Constance died at the hands of that sixth husband, but is unsure if this is actually true.
Though Constance never makes a direct appearance in the Ghost Post interactive game, her presence is felt in the greater story. A wedding invitation (for her marriage to the the Marquis de Doome) was among the first set of artifacts sent to players, which when chilled transformed into invitation to the diplomat's funeral. She is mentioned in a conversation heard between the Hitchhiking Ghosts over the Phantom Radio (with Gus wildly swinging around a hatchet as they do). It is also very heavily implied that Constance is behind the "Aunt Agony" advice section of the Grim Gazette, since the author makes frequent allusions to having had multiple husbands who died under unusual circumstances.
Disney Crossy Road
Constance was one of the rarer unlockable characters in a brief weekend challenge.
Disney Emoji Blitz
The Bride is an unlockable emoji character in the mobile game, whose power up feature is to eliminate a horizontal row of emojis from the game board with a sweep of her axe.
Beating Heart Bride
Due to unofficial stories such as the Ghost Gallery and the SLG Comics, there has been some dispute regarding whether Constance and the original "Beating Heart Bride" are the same character or in fact two separate ones. The Arguments typically being for each respective side of the argument:
-One Bride Theory
- The original Beating Heart version of the scene and the Tokyo Version of the scene both show the Bride having the decapitated heads of grooms stored in Hatboxes around the attic who would pop out and say "I Do". In the Modern Disney World version of the scene there are five Hatboxes piled up across from Constance nearby a coatrack holding the hats associated with each of Constance's husbands implying that the hatboxes contain their decapitated heads similarly to the original scene.
- When the Hatbox Ghost originally appeared in the attraction he was implied to have been decapitated by the Bride and to have been associated with her in life, most likely as a suitor. In the modern Disneyland scene the Hatbox Ghost once again appears in the attic only this time alongside the Black Widow model who is famously known for having decapitated at least five different men (all of whom were her suitors) and was implied to have stored them in hatboxes which appears to have been the exact nature of the Hatbox Ghost's death.
- The Modern iteration of the Hatbox Ghost is shown alongside five hatboxes which appear to be nearly identical to those found in the Liberty Square Mansion which were implied to contain the decapitated heads of Constance's husbands, showing that the Hatbox Ghost was most likely associated with Constance in life similarly to how he was associated with the Beating Heart Bride.
- From a story standpoint it would make little-to-no sense how the attic would be filled with the belongings and spirit of a completely different woman in the year 2006 while in Mansion canon Constance would have taken up residence in the attic in 1877 and as shown in her portrait would have died roughly around 1910-1930 as an old woman
- Concept art of Constance depicted her with a beating red heart in her chest
- Imagineers always intended for the Beating Heart Bride to be interpreted as a villainous figure but they always left her past ambiguous enough it could be taken otherwise, Constance could have been an intentional choice by imagineers to cement the Bride's past as being villainous
- Official Merchandise almost always depicts Constance with a beating red heart in her chest
- The Beating Heart Bride was never given an official name or definitive backstory
- In the last surviving Beating Heart version of the attic scene in Tokyo, the Bride is heavily alluded to have been evil shown in part be her expression
- Both bride figures are portrayed women who murdered their husbands by decapitation and hid their heads in hatboxes
- In the attic sequence the Beating Heart noise is still heard in the background
-Multiple Brides Theory
- The Beating Heart version of the Bride was never given a definitive backstory or official name, all that is known is that she had several husbands who died, a suitor who was decapitated and had his head stored in a hatbox, and that she herself eventually died
- Although the Beating Heart Bride was intended by imagineers to be a villainous figure they left her past ambiguous enough that she could be interpreted as a tragic figure and as such, different than the villainous Constance
- In a miniature model layout of the attic, the April-December portrait can be seen in the background possibly implying the two women were intended to be the same. However the portrait was never put in the actual attic scene.
- Constance's lack of a heart could be seen as a distinction between the two women implying that Constance could never love but Emily could.
- Phantom Manor's bride Melanie Ravenswood is canonically a tragic character and serves as the counterpart to the Bride from a time before the Black Widow model was implemented in any park, possibly hinting that the role of the bride is intended to be one of tragedy to counter the Ghost Host's role as a villain and Madame Leota's role as a neutral figure.
- In a deleted 1968 X. Atencio script Constance's stretching portrait was referred to as "Widow Abigail Patecleaver who was preceded by her husband"
- It has been suggested that Abigail Patecleaver was an alias chosen by Constance to marry one (or several) of her husbands to avoid him/them finding out that she'd already been married before. However this theory does not make sense if you consider that Constance is mentioned by name on the frame of the Marquis' wedding portrait, George's wedding portrait, Reginald's wedding portrait and a banner dated 1872 which reads "Love Forever Frank and Constance".
- As well as the changing wedding portraits, the attic is filled with smaller, subtler nods to Constance's crimes such as; the topper of the groom on the cake is missing a head and one shelf holds porcelain figurines of a bride and groom where the groom has fallen over and had his head broken off.
- When deciphered, her name means "Constantly Hatching Away", hatching referring to the use of Constance's hatchet.
- Considering Constance's approximate age in the photographs taken from 1869-1877 and her elderly age in her Stretching Room Portrait, it can be assumed that Constance would have died around 1910-1930.
- According to an appearance at a 2017 DVC event at Walt Disney World, Constance married Ambrose when she was 18, meaning she was born in 1851. In this event she stated that she passed away in 1927, at age 76. The canonicity of this is unclear due to it being a live-event.
- In the Attic there are several framed wedding certificates stating the names, and original homes of the husbands, these being; Ambrose Harper of Secret County California, Frank Banks of Bulfor's Isle California, The Marquis de Doome of Peking, China, and George Hightower of Newport Beach California; Constance is said to have come from Money County, California.
- In the 2003 film's continuity, the parents of Master Gracey were said to have been named Abigail and George Gracey, referencing the couple however sadly in this version Abigail never "axed off" her husband
- It is very possible that Constance was loosely based on real life American murderess Lizzie Borden, who was proved to have murdered her father and step-mother with a hatchet but was never punished for her crimes as the jury couldn't believe that a beautiful, upper-class woman was capable of violent murder.