He was a cloaked figure with an evil, grinning face. A hatbox hung from his hand. With each beat of his bride's heart, his head disappeared from his body and appeared in the hatbox.
~ Passage about the Hatbox Ghost from The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion.
The Hatbox Ghost is one of the most popular and prominent ghosts in the popular Disney Parks attraction the Haunted Mansion. He is a mischievous and creepy ghost that haunts the mansion, and is heavily tied to its history. He is one of the most popular Haunted Mansion characters, mostly due to his disappearance from the ride from the attraction's opening in 1969 to 2015, where he reappeared.
Though he does not speak in the attraction, his evil chuckles were provided by Corey Burton, who also voiced the Ghost Host in the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, and Atticus Thorn in the 2003 video game adaptation.
Release, Removal, and Return
The Hatbox Ghost was introduced to the attraction when it first opened in 1969. He appeared in the attic along with the original Bride, where every time her heart beat, his head would disappear from his neck and reappear in the hatbox he held. The Hatbox Ghost was also included in much of the merchandise at the time, including the collectable record/book The Story and Song from the Haunted Mansion. Originally, the Bride in the attic next to him was intended to be his, with the story being that she beheaded him for unknown reasons and hid the head in a hatbox, later doing the same to other men.
However, due to the ambient lighting in the attic, the effect of the Hatbox Ghost's head disappearing did not work, as both heads (the one on the body and the one in the hatbox) could be seen at all times. Disney Imagineers worked for months to find a solution, but one never presented itself. Only a few months after the attraction opened, the Hatbox Ghost was removed from the attraction, with the animatronic being sent to an unknown location.
After his removal from the attraction, stories circulated of his mystery and legacy, including a rumor that stated he was removed for being too gruesome. However, the character developed a large following as one of the attraction's most popular characters, despite not being a part of the attraction. The character began appearing in Haunted Mansion merchandise and comics again in 2005, and an audio-animatronic Hatbox Ghost was revealed at D23 in August 2013.
On May 9, 2015, the Hatbox Ghost was officially re-added to the Haunted Mansion with updated video projection technology to create the effect that failed 46 years earlier.
The Hatbox Ghost's backstory was revealed in The Haunted Mansion comic series by Slave Labor Graphis, which ran for seven issues from 2006 to 2007.
The Hatbox Ghost was revealed to be a pirate gunrunner named Randall Pace. He was a part of a pirate crew that included William Gracey. One day, Gracey performed mutiny against the captain and any loyal crew, including Pace, who Gracey decapitated with a hatchet. Gracey took up the alias of Captain Blood and terrorized the seas, though leading many of his crew to their deaths.
Pace and the rest of the deceased crew existed as wandering ghosts. When Gracey retired and moved into his mansion with his fiancée, Emily de Claire, Pace and the other ghosts began haunting them. Gracey hired Madame Leota to get rid of the spirits. However, after Leota fell in love with Gracey but was turned down, she became vengeful and contacted the spirits in the house. Pace and the others told her of Gracey's crimes, and together they conspired for revenge. Leota lied and told Gracey she cleaned the mansion. On Gracey and de Claire's wedding night, Madame Leota summoned Pace and the other ghosts again. The ghosts approached Emily and proceeded to scare her to death. This resulted in Gracey killing Leota and then himself, subsequently leading to the ghosts haunting the mansion. After killing Emily, Pace leaves the mansion (reflecting his removal from the ride and his connection to the Bride).
The Haunted Mansion
In the attraction, the Hatbox Ghost stands in the attic with Constance Hatchaway, chuckling evilly while keeping his distance. He switches his head back and forth from his shoulders to his hatbox, representing the decapitation that took his life, while also continuing the headless theme of Constance and the attic.
He also appears in several portraits in the Corridor of Doors.
During the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, he wears a Halloween pin in his hat and puts a Santa Claus hat on one of his Hatboxes.
The Hatbox Ghost is a character in the Haunted Mansion miniseries of the 2016 comic book series Disney Kingdoms by Marvel Comics. However, here he is portrayed as a more heroic character, though still keeping his mischievous and threatening edge.
The Hatbox Ghost appears to save Danny Crowe when he is being attacked by the evil Captain. He reveals to Danny that he has been away from the mansion for some time (presumably after his involvement with Emily's death and again alluding to his removal from the ride), and has just recently returned. He shows Danny the Endless Staircase, a labyrinth of stairs and tunnels that only he has been able to navigate through, that leads to other haunted locations such as Phantom Manor, Mystic Manor, and many more. He tells Danny that he has been haunting other places, but upon returning home, has been caught in the Captain's curse. Though he does not wish to participate in the journey or battles, he gives Danny moral support and urges him to keep going. He feels ghosts should embrace their existences and have fun with them, and he pities and fears ghosts like Constance and the Captain because their rage and greed will never allow them to move on.
After the Captain is defeated and decapitated by Constance at the end of the comic, the Captain's head is kept trapped in one of the Hatbox Ghost's hatboxes so it cannot ever return again.
The Haunted Mansion (upcoming film)
The Hatbox Ghost has been revealed to be one of the main characters and possibly main antagonist of the upcoming Haunted Mansion live-action movie remake, which will be co-written by Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro has not revealed much about the project, only that he is aiming for a PG-13 rating and the Hatbox Ghost to be a major character.
The Hatbox Ghost hosted Disney's online campaign Haunted Holidays.
The Hatbox Ghost appears in Disney Crossy Road as one of the rarer unlockable characters.
Disney Emoji Blitz
The Hatbox Ghost appears in Disney Emoji Blitz as a special piece, causing ghostly heads to float across the screen.
The Hatbox Ghost made an appearance on the cover of an Uncle Scrooge comic book.
The Hatbox Ghost appeared in some Disney XD station IDs. In one, he encounters and scares the titular protagonists of the show Pickle & Peanut. In another, he scares Huey, Dewy, and Louie from DuckTales, and in another, he encounters Baymax from Big Hero 6: The Series, who thinks him losing his head is a medical emergency.
The Hatbox Ghost constantly switches between malicious and friendly. He is more mischievous than anything, though with occasionally a violent side. While he was vengeful previously, he was able to settle afterwards and fully embraced being a ghost, traveling the world scaring people. He thinks all ghosts should embrace their undead forms and have fun with them, and he openly pities and shames ghosts who do not move on for selfish or diabolical reasons like rage and greed.
The Hatbox Ghost is a hunched over skeletal figure in a large black trench coat and cape with a huge collar. He wears a tall top hat and black boots, and carries a gnarled wooden cane. His skin is semi-transparent, sickly green and pulled tight over his figure. He has long green hairs coming off of his head, bright white teeth (one of them being a gold tooth), and large white eyes. He carries a black hatbox, which his head will often move into.
The Hatbox Ghost's head mold was the same exact sculpt as Ezra the Hitchhiking Ghost.
After he left the attraction, a popular myth arose that he was removed due to how scary he was and that he gave one guest a heart attack. However, this is not true.
Another popular myth is that his original model was dismantled, and its parts were used in the audio-animatronic Sam the Eagle for the attraction, "America Sings". However, his model did not have many moving parts, so it would be useless to remove them for another audio-animatronic.
A fan theory has gone around that the Hatbox Ghost is in the attic, because he was one of Constance's unlucky husbands. However, in the story, this is not true since the Hatbox Ghost never met Constance until he returned to the mansion.