The Dread Family was a family of six which owned the Haunted Mansion before they all killed each other.
The Dread family was made up of six family members who all murdered one another to gain the family fortune through inheritance. The family members in order of death were:
- Uncle Jacob Dread:"Greed was the poison he had swallowed. He went first, the others followed. His killer’s face he surely knew. Now try to discover who killed who". A wealthy aristocrat who was poisoned by Bertie for his wealth.
- Bertie Dread: "Avid hunter and expert shot, in the end that’s what he got". A big game hunter and expert marksman who was shot by Florence with a pistol as revenge for killing Jacob. He used the venom of his pet serpent to kill Jacob.
- Aunt Florence McGriffin Dread: "Never did a dishonorable deed, yet found face down in canary seed". Jacob's honourable wife who was suffocated in canary seed by the twins for her inheritance.
- Wellington and Forsythia Dread:"Departed life while in their beds, with identical bumps on their heads". The twins who were killed in their sleep by Maude with a mallet for the fortune.
- Cousin Maude:"Our sleeping beauty, who never awoke the night her dreams went up in smoke" after being left the last living member of the family and sole heir to the Dread fortune burned to death as she slept due to her use of matches as hairpins.
They are presented as busts in front of the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion as part of the 2010 interactive queue installation and work as a mystery game where guests use clues hidden on the busts and epitaphs to solve the mystery of who killed who. Each member of the family's plaque is decorated with symbols that represent their murder weapon (all but Jacob who died before he had the chance to murder) the twins have a dead bird, Bertie has a bottle, Florence has a pistol and Maude has a mallet. There are also items hidden on the busts to help figure out who killed who, Bertie has a pet serpent wrapped around his neck that he would have milked for the poison, the twins have a bag of canary seed behind them and Maude has matches holding her hair in a bun.
In the Exit Crypt, the Traveller Hitchhiking Ghost has an open case which contains a portrait of Cousin Maude holding a lit match as a fire rages on behind her. This is likely included to provide a cannon ending to the guests who attempted to figure out the Dread Mystery on their own.
In the testing phase of the attraction the Dread family would have also included a Whitfield Tarkington Dread and Ruben Dread. Along with this, the epitaphs were different for the characters who did make it into the final attraction and the busts were originally intended to include voice-acting that would whisper clues to the guests.
- Jacob Dread's tomb originally would-have read "Where my fortune was hidden, I never revealed. Though to find it, my relatives wheeled and they dealed. That none of them found it should come as no news. Now in their ghostly whispers, perhaps you’ll find the clues." This gave more backstory on the murders as the final incarnation never mentioned Jacob having hidden the fortune. His tomb also never mentions his cause of death.
- Aunt Florence McGriffin Dread's epitaph would have said "Got a taste of her own medicine" implying that she would have died via poisoning rather than suffocation, a fate which wound up being used for Jacob. It's also possible that the epitaph implied she herself also poisoned someone to death. She is seen holding a pastry of some sort.
- Wellington Dread would have received his own separate epitaph and cause of death from his twin-sister's as opposed to in the final attraction where they share the same tomb, epitaph and cause of death. Here it would have read "He was reigned in". He is shown with a sling shot in hand.
- Forsithia Dread was the original draft's take on Forsythia and who had a differently spelled name (with the final version being the correct spelling of the name). Her epitaph would have read "She went down in flames" . She is shown mixing a tea.
- Governess Maude Sweeney was this draft's incarnation of who would go on to be known as Cousin Maude and here would have been the governess to the children rather than a direct-member of the Dread Family. Her description would have read "She found a Snake in the Grass". Is seen with a rope around Wellington's neck.
- Bertie Dread's epitaph read "His tea-time turned toxic" implying that just like Florence and possibly Ruben he was poisoned albeit here with the poison being found in his tea. He is shown with a boa constrictor around his neck, rather than the serpent of unknown origin he now sports.
- Ruben Dread would have been a larger, Boris Karloff inspired man wielding an axe and a candle with an epitaph which read "He got his just desserts" which would be a pun on "Getting one's just deserts" (an expression used to say someone received deserving punishment) and which could mean he was intended to have been murdered by dessert food.
- Whitfield Tarkington Dread would have been what appears to be an older apothecary, scientist or physician of sorts who carried a mortar & pestle as-well as a syringe within his pocket. His epitaph would have said "Suffered the slings of an outrageous youth", implying that he was murdered by Wellington Dread who is pictured with a slingshot.
From this it can be found that the original draft of the murder plot is almost paradoxical, as there are no surviving members and the first to die seems to have killed the last. It is unknown how Jacob died, as nothing is indicated on his bust, however, it is likely his old age that killed him, as, without a will, panic would ensue as to who receives his inheritance. Regardless of who killed who first, it would seem Forsithia was killed by Ruben as exhibited by his candle flame, and Ruben was killed by Florence, proven by the dessert she holds. She was likely killed by Whitfield, who appears to be mixing a medicine. Whitfield was then murdered by Wellington with his slingshot, and Wellington was essentially lynched by Maude. Maude was murdered by Bertie(or at least his snake), and Bertie was poisoned by Forsythia.
- In the original testing artwork, Bertie's pet serpent was very distinctly a snake (likely a contractor or a viper) but in the actual bust the serpent is showed to have fins on it's head and tail, a trait which no known species snake has on Earth, not even sea-snakes. Due to this it is very likely that Bertie's pet might be an amphibian rather than a reptile as the animals it most closely resembles are the Two-Toed Amphiuma and the Siren Reticulata, both of which are species of Salamander. It could also however simply be a fictitious species of snake.
- If the pet which Bertie has is in-fact an Amphibian that would mean that the poison used to axe off Jacob would likely be a tetrodotoxin which is a neurotoxin created from the skin of Salamanders. This would mean that Jacob would have died by losing control of his nervous system, being paralyzed and his brain losing the ability to make his lungs move causing him to die from a lack of air.
- In the testing phase of the attraction, Maude was referred to as being Governess Maude Sweeny rather than Cousin Maude. While it could be a coincidence, this name sound shockingly similar to the character of "Mad Sweeney" from dark-fantasy author Neil Gaiman's best-selling novel American Gods. The name could also be an allusion to the 19th century penny-dreadful character of Sweeney Todd who was a serial-killer that went on to receive a musical stage-adaptation of his story.
- Bertie's design resembles a character designed by imagineer Marc Davis for an unused trophy-room sequence in the Haunted Mansion.
- The family has only been referred to as the Dreads in the testing phase of the attraction but it is still used as their official family name.
- The name Dread is comes from the word "dread" which means to anticipate with fear.
- Imagineer Pete Carsillo said that he wanted to call them the Dreads so that it could open the door for families other than the Graceys to have lived in the Mansion and that it creates a lot more possibilities.
- In original concepts for the instalment the busts would whisper clues to the guests.
- Cousin Maude bears a strong resemblance to the Aunt Lucretia bust.