"This is Medusa, as a very beautiful girl. She offended the goddess, Athena. And as a result, Athena turned her into a gorgon. And, as you may know, if you looked at a gorgon, a gorgon will turn you into stone."
- Marc Davis (source)Medusa is one of the ghosts haunting the Haunted Mansion.
The portrait starts off as that of a beautiful red-haired Ancient Greek woman inside a temple. With a flash of lightning, she turns into a decayed, stony, terrifying gorgon (a hybrid monster with hair made of serpents).
In her backstory from classical mythology Medusa was the beautiful demigod daughter of the primordial sea-gods Phorcys and Ceto who would grow up to become the high-priestess of the wisdom/war goddess Athena. Much to Athena's anger Medusa was so beautiful and witty that the men who would come to the temple to worship Athena would make quips about how they should really be worshiping Medusa.
So one day while walking along the beach, Medusa became "courted" by Athena's arch-rival Poseidon, the Lord of the Sea who decided that he would have Medusa as his lover to spite Athena. After having found the two in her temple, Athena took the opportunity to punish the priestess Medusa by transforming her into a hideous gorgon.
As a gorgon, Medusa had snakes for hair, fangs, scaly skin, and eyes so horrifying that any mortal who looked upon her would become so petrified that they would transform into stone. After the punishment, Medusa went to live in hiding on an island and Athena sent several warriors and hunters to try and slay Medusa for glory and fame but all she sent would be killed by the tortured Medusa.
That is until a demigod named Perseus decided to hunt Medusa as he needed her head to turn the sea monster Cetus into stone. Athena aided Perseus by giving him a reflective shield which he then used to keep track of Medusa's location while not looking at her directly so that he could decapitate her with his sword. After her death, Athena mounted Medusa's severed head on her shield.
When the Mansion opened in 1969, Medusa was the third painting down the Portrait Corridor. In 2005, when a different effect was put in, Medusa was moved down the hallway to become the fifth portrait, taking up the space once occupied by Miss April-December.
When the Haunted Mansion opened at Walt Disney World in 1971, the "after" stage (the stony gorgon) was used as one of the Sinister 11. Medusa's eyes glowed and followed Doombuggies as they moved down the hallway. During the 2007 renovation, the lightning flash changing portrait of Medusa was hung up in the Portrait Hall, the Sinister Eleven verison disappearing.
At Tokyo Disneyland, the after stage of Medusa is still used as one of the Sinister 11 as was the case in Walt Disney World before 2007.
The Medusa changing portrait also hung in the Changing Portraits Corridor of Phantom Manor, morphing between the two forms. This was removed in the 2019 refurbishment of the attraction.
In Mystic Manor a mosaic of Medusa is found in the mediterranean hall where she is depicted as a beautiful young woman who suddenly turns into gorgon along with her snake hair lunging out of the mosaic.
In the Marvel Haunted Mansion comic arc, the Changing Portraits haunts do the bidding of the villainous sea captain Bartholomew Gore. When Danny Crowe enters the Mansion, they all climb out of their frames in their transformed phase, including the monstrous Medusa, and begin to chase the mortal boy.
The 2003 film's depiction of Medusa is that of the the morphing effect being applied to Sir Frederick Leighton's "Portrait of a Roman Lady". The Medusa face is based on Carvaggio's "Medusa Shield".
As with the other changing portraits from the film, the portrait wasn't originally featured in the film. They were added in as testing audiences voiced their disdain for the film so they shot certain scenes in-order to directly reference the ride as a means of trying to make the film more tolerable for audiences.
- Medusa was one of the Changing Portraits created by Marc Davis. It originally had more than two phases; as depicted on this page's image, she would go through the intermediary step of a living, flesh-and-blood gorgon before she turned to stone.
- Medusa is arguably the oldest ghost in the Mansion, followed by the Mummy, Great Cesar's Ghost, the Egyptian woman and the Roman Soldier (in the Ballroom).
- In the original concept art for Mystic Manor she was going to be depicted as a marble bust as opposed to a mosaic.
- Her human form largely resembles the Disney princess Aurora/Briar Rose from the film Sleeping Beaty. This is likely due to both Aurora and Medusa having been drawn up by animator Marc Davis.
- In Tokyo Disneyland, at one point Medusa was considered to be featured in a "Burial Crypt for Famous Villains" which would feature her tomb alongside those of Jack the Ripper, Count Dracula, Bluebeard, Nero and Attila the Hun.