The Stretching Room is the the first major show scene in all versions of the Haunted Mansion.
Disneyland/Walt Disney World/Tokyo
Guests enter this octagonal room from the Foyer as the Ghost Host welcomes them. Four paintings, flanked by candle-wielding gargoyles, hang from the walls in this chamber, which are said to be "guests as they appeared in their corruptible mortal states." As the Ghost Host continues, the door through which guests enter slides closed and the room seemingly stretches upwards, the paintings on the walls elongating with it to reveal a comically gruesome end for each subject:
- A bearded gentleman holding a document is revealed to be wearing only his undergarments from the waist down and standing atop a lit keg of dynamite.
- A pretty young lady holding a parasol is revealed to be balancing on a fraying tightrope above the gaping jaws of an alligator.
- An old woman holding a rose is revealed to be sitting atop a tall gravestone, at the bottom of which is a stone bust of her husband George with a hatchet embedded in his head.
- A man in a bowler hat is revealed to be sitting on the shoulders of another man who sits on the shoulders of a third man who is waist deep in quicksand.
“...And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows and no doors... which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! A-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!! Of course, there's always my way...”
At this point the lights go out and lightning flashes above. The ceiling vanishes and gives a view of the mansion's cupola, where the skeletal corpse of the Ghost Host sways from a noose tied to the rafters. After a few seconds, the room becomes pitch black and a dreadful scream is heard, followed by the sound of bones shattering.
When the lights come back up, the ceiling has returned to normal. Another panel slides open, letting guests exit into the Portrait Corridor.
Guests file into an octagonal room with four portraits of a young Melanie Ravenswood. The Phantom comments on the paintings, and asks guests if they have noticed that the walls are stretching. The room actually appears to stretch, and the portraits grow taller — revealing some haunting situations the young girl is in, including:
- picking flowers above a gravestone where a skeleton emerges from the ground.
- holding a parasol while in a boat above a vertical waterfall.
- stepping through a stream as a water monster reaches for her foot.
- having a picnic with her fiancé as ants raid their food and a snake, scorpion, spider and beetle approach.
After the Phantom offers a challenge of finding a way out (to which he adds that there's always his way) the ceiling turns invisible in a flash of lightning, revealing the Phantom emerging from a secret panel high above in the cupola, holding on to the rope he used to hang the groom from the rafters as he laughs sinisterly.
The new Stretching Room portraits are all of Mélanie and her former suitors who were all killed by her father Henry. These portraits utilize digital effects to not only make the Portraits stretch, but to also make Mélanie disappear from the portraits, leaving the men alone to their eternal fates.
- Barry Claude: A man who was chased up a tree by a bear and her cub then mauled to death shortly after.
- Captain Rowan D. Falls: A steamboat captain who was sent off a waterfall in a rowboat. His portrait reuses the perspective from the original painting of Mélanie in a row-boat.
- Sawyer Bottom: A suitor of Mélanie's who Henry murdered with an industrial buzz saw made for lumber.
- Ignatius "Iggy" Knight: A man who was blown up by a ludicrous amount of explosives set by Henry. His portrait mirrors the Dynamite Guy portrait.
The Stretching Room portraits are changed to "Twas the Night Before Christmas" style portraits in stained glass, and the ceiling appears as a green wreath with a yellow bow surrounding a blue area. As the lights go out, the Ghost Host says a dark version of the "Twas the Night Before Christmas" poem, the glass "shatters", and portraits of Halloweentown's version of Christmas are revealed underneath:
- The outside of a house decorated for Christmas changes to Jack Skellington as "Sandy Claws" with lots of ghosts behind him.
- The Christmas tree with presents underneath changes to a massive, carnivorous snake.
- The stockings in front of a fireplace changes to the evil toys emerging from Jack's sack.
- The children sleeping in their bed changes to a large monster wreath.
Also, the wreath goes dark indigo as well as the glass, and the bow turns orange. Once the Ghost Host finishes speaking, the wreath "shatters" into a Jack-o-Lantern face, before completely breaking to reveal Jack Skellington leaning forward in his "Sandy Claws" outfit with his ghost dog Zero in the cupola, obscuring the Ghost Host's hanging corpse. Jack says "Happy Holidays, everyone!" to the guests before he cackles and vanishes into the darkness, accompanied by the same scream from the regular Haunted Mansion, and then the bone shattering noise is heard after the room goes black and the ceiling flashes in the style of the Jack-o-Lantern face from earlier. When the lights come back on, the only trace of Jack and Zero are the shattered glass, the cupola, and its hanging occupant.
Portrait Character Identifications
- In 2006, the character of the Black Widow was made a composite character with the Attic Bride who was rewritten to have a definitive backstory in which she was a murderess named Constance Hatchaway who had married and murdered a total of five men for their wealth and status.
- The Groom whose tombstone Constance is resting on was canonically identified as Constance's fifth husband George Hightower, who shares his last name with the Disney Parks character Harrison Hightower III, implying that they are likely related.
- The Tightrope Walker's name is canonically Sally Slater. It was revealed in 2011 with the refurbishment of Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion queue where there is a poetess ghost named Prudence Pock who has a poem which reads, "In the swamp, poor Sally Slater was eaten by an alligator." This was officially identified with the Tightrope Walker in the Ghost Post interactive game where she was played by voice actress Hynden Walch.
- In deleted Ghost Host dialogue, the dynamite guy was identified as Ambassador Alexander Nitrokoff, "an anarchist who came to us with a bang one night".
- In the same 1968 script, the Black Widow, who has since become Constance Hatchaway, was given the name Widow Abigaile Patecleaver "who was preceded by her husband."
The Ghost Gallery
The Ghost Gallery was an unofficial backstory made for the Haunted Mansion which was created by Walt Disney World cast members and which has since influenced several elements of the official and semi-official lore.
- The Dynamite Gentleman: This character was given the name of Ambassador Edward Gracey, a wealthy diplomat in Burma who was the paternal uncle to the mansion's Ghost Host (made into a composite character with Master Gracey), George Gracey Jr. Edward died during a revolutionary attack in Rangoon where the embassy he was in got blown up.
- The Tightrope Walker: The Tightrope Walker is given the name of Mistress Lillian Gracey (née O'Malley) and is identified as the Ghost Host's first wife. Lillian was born into a wealthy and doting family but ran away from home at the age of 15 to pursue a relationship with her true love, who was a circus performer. Before she could reunite with him, Lillian's lover died in a freak accident involving a lion and Lillian joined the circus as a tightrope walker as it made her feel closer to her lost love. Despite still being consumed by grief, Lillian married the wealthy George Gracey Jr. only for him to frequently cheat on her with his clairvoyant Madame Leota who killed Lillian out of jealousy by convincing the woman to do a tightrope act for the family then summoning an alligator to kill her.
- The Black Widow: The black widow was made into the Ghost Host's mother Mary Gracey née Gilbert who was manipulated into marrying his father George Gracey Sr., who was a lackluster lover and absent husband that left his wife to effectively be a single parent. Eventually Mary sent George Jr. away to Yale and George Sr. returned to their home. George Sr. revealed to Mary that he had cheated on her with a woman named Mrs. Patterson, which Mary happily took as an opportunity to murder her husband with a hatchet and legally get away with it by claiming it was a crime of passion. Using her inheritance, Mary fled the country to never be heard from again, leaving George Jr. as the new master of the Gracey Estate.
- The Quicksand Men: Each of the three quicksand men in this story is revealed to be an illegitimate member of the Gracey Family who was kept around as a servant by the Ghost Host but who prior to that worked as a cast member at the same circus as Lillian O'Malley. The man on top was the mansion's liveryman Daniel Patterson and was the illegitimate half-brother of the Ghost Host, born to the Host's late father and his mistress. The man in the middle was mansion handyman Asa Gilbert who was the half-brother of the Ghost Host's mother, the Black Widow, who had chased him away with death threats. The man at the bottom was mansion gardner Eddie Foster, the illegitimate son of the Ghost Host's uncle Ambassador Edward Gracey. All three men were in love with Mistress Gracey and after her death they all became melancholy. George Jr.'s illegitimate daughter with Madame Leota, Little Leota, attempted to seduce the men, but after they rebuked her affections she tricked them into getting trapped in the mansion's "quicksand" pit where they all died.
- Tightrope Walker: The tightrope walker is given the name Daisy de la Cruz (a name which was once used for Meet & Greets). Daisy was a sorceress who worked as a tightrope walker at a travelling circus which got stranded in the Bayous of New Orleans. She used her beauty and grace to seduce men and lure them away to exploit them for their gifts and money only to use magic to transform them into pet alligators to use in her act. It is implied that her death was caused by the alligators seeking revenge.
- Dynamite Gentleman: In the story A Dynamite Party, the character is named Steven who was a wild eccentric in New Orleans who got invited to a party at Gracey Manor which he accidentally forgot both his glasses and pants while travelling to. At the party, while looking for the food pantry, he unknowingly stumbled upon a food pantry where he lit a fuse, believing it to be a candle.
- Quicksand Men: The three quicksand men here are presented as gamblers named Big Hobbs, Hobbs and Skinny Hobbs who were chased out to the bayou behind Gracey Manor where they played a game of cards to determine who would carry whom across the quicksand, which they believed was simply mud.
- In the Disneyland original, as well as Phantom Manor, the Stretching Room is actually a cleverly disguised elevator designed to take guests down so they can pass through a corridor that takes them to a separate show building. The scene became so iconic that it remained in later versions of the attraction, though in these the floor does not move down at all and the ceiling simply moves upward, taking the walls with it.
- The Stretching Room is referenced in the prologue of the 2003 film when Edward Gracey hangs himself in the cupola and a woman's scream is heard.
- In Disneyland a tribute can be found to the stretching room on Main Street U.S.A. as outside of the Penny Arcade there is a fortune-teller machine with a fortune teller named "Esmerelda" whose cards feature the stretching room portraits on them.
- A popular gimmick in Disney Parks merchandise is to parody the stretching room portraits with other Disney characters. One example with the cast of the Nightmare Before Christmas has Oogie Boogie on a barrel of worms, Boogie's Boys (Lock, Shock and Barrel) in the quicksand, Sally on a tightrope above a giant snake, and Jack atop his ghost dog Zero's tombstone. Another more popular variant uses Disney Villains and has Captain Hook on a tightrope above the Crocodile from Peter Pan, The Queen of Hearts standing atop a barrel of red paint beside her red painted roses with the Cheshire Cat smiling below due to a red paw print on her dress, Cruella DeVille sitting atop the shoulders of her henchmen Horace & Jasper as they sink into Quicksand and Maleficent with her pet raven Diablo sitting atop the tombstone of a henchman who failed her.