Tabitha Walks The Wretched Halls Of The Haunted Mansion

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disneyland Resort, Features, From the Mouth of the Mouse

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Published on August 08, 2012 at 12:05 am with 5 Comments

Today, we talk to Tabitha, who was one of the very first Cast Members I befriended during my last visit to the park. Tabitha works at The Haunted Mansion, and very much loves her job. While some folks who work there put on a terribly fake British accent to play their role, Tabitha’s accent is all natural!

She was born and raised in London before moving to the United State at 19, then at 21 made her way to California. At 23, she applied to work at Disneyland. She hadn’t been working at the Mansion very long before I spoke with her.

What originally drew me to Tabitha was her commitment to her role as “Hostess” of the Mansion. It was my first night at the Park, and her acting helped set the mood for the rest of the trip. She invited us into the portrait chamber with the perfect amount of “enthusiasm” (which, as Haunted Mansion fans know, isn’t really the right word for it), and played the part perfectly.

When I went on the ride again – do I even need to mention how much I love this attraction?! – I lingered behind, against the Ghost Host’s wishes, of course, to commend Tabitha on her job. Never breaking character, her response of “I LIVED to serve…” got a chuckle out of me.


 

JEFF: Can I just mention again how fantastic you play your part?

TABITHA: Well, thank you! It’s hard, you know, because we have to be so unhappy there, and not be overly excited. It’s like the one place in the park where, if you are in a bad mood, you can let it show. But I’m usually happy all the time, so playing a little bit out of character is kind of fun for me!

JEFF: But that’s good, though, because you really make it a point to let people know “Hey, this isn’t like the other rides. This is different.”

TABITHA: (laughs) Yes, it’s like “You’re in MY house, now!” But no, it’s really great. If you think about it, the entire persona we play is so unlike Disney, so against their typical character. Because of that, I really like to make that clear.

JEFF: I won’t lie… the first time I was in there, you scared the hell out of me when you banged on the Portrait Room door.

TABITHA: Oh, good! (laughs) That’s what I was going for! The door slides shut real quickly, and no one ever really pays attention to it. So, when the Ghost Host finishes his line, I slam the door with my palm, making that really loud noise. It startles practically everyone, and then most realize they’re in a room with no doors.

It’s a nice little jolt to start the attraction, I think. My own personal addition to it, you know? But, as you are well aware, the “real chills come later…”

JEFF: I’ve spoken to someone before that worked at the Haunted Mansion in Florida, and she used to scream when the lights go out, and you see the Ghost Host hanging from the ceiling.

TABITHA: I have a few co-workers who do that, but I feel like a lot of people expect that now. A lot of Guests scream themselves before we even have a chance to do it for them! Of course, those are the die-hard Mansioniacs. They know every beat by heart, no pun intended.

JEFF: Mansioniacs… I have never heard that before. That’s a great name!

TABITHA: Thanks! I just made it up myself, actually.

JEFF: So, you start to recognize some folks?

TABITHA: Oh, yes, absolutely. Lots of them, actually. We all have our favorites, and they’re all really sweet. They love the ride as much as we do.

JEFF: Have you ever been on the one in Florida?

TABITHA: No, sadly, I’ve never been to Walt Disney World. Or Disneyland Paris, for that matter. Only the original, here. I’d love to get out there sometime, though, and see how it’s done over there. If only there was a door in our Mansion that led to a portal to the others…

JEFF: Funny you mention that, because the new Mansion movie that Guillermo Del Toro is supposedly working on is about that! 

TABITHA: Oh, good, you knew that! I was referring to that, I was hoping you would get it! Did you see the original movie? What did you think?

JEFF: It was… definitely a movie.

TABITHA: (laughs) So the same reaction I had? I give them credit for trying, but they didn’t really capture the spirit – again, no pun intended – of the ride. It was just too out there, and it could have been ANY haunted house that the movie was set in, really. I walked out thinking “Bloody Hell, they ruined their only chance at it…” But I’m glad they’re going to revisit it, and hopefully do a better job this time around.

JEFF: Did you always want to work at Disneyland, and more specifically, the Haunted Mansion?

TABITHA: Well, growing up in England, Disney was always this far off, magical kingdom, and I do mean that literally. It was across the sea, and it was sort of intangible. I’d see photos of it, obviously, but didn’t think it was someplace I’d end up. I knew the movies, of course, but never what the parks were like.

When I moved to the States, one of the first things on my to-do list was to go to Walt Disney World. That didn’t happen, but when I moved to California, my initial thought was “I’m going to Disneyland, and soon.”

And then it just happened that I wound up living close by, and applied for a job. My first time in the park was the day I applied, actually! It was kind of a surreal experience for me, but a great one.

For the Mansion, though, I’ve always loved the spookier side of things, so the Mansion seemed like a natural choice. I worked in Merchandising on Main Street first before getting moved to the Mansion. I requested it a few times before they moved me, but it was worth the wait.

JEFF: Aside from the banging on the Portrait Room wall, do you do anything else to get the guests in the mood?

TABITHA: When I’m loading the Doom Buggies, if I’m the person toward the end, right before you actually go IN, I look at everyone. Every once and awhile, you get a real smart ass, which is expected. You know them… “Ooooh, spoooooky!” That kind of person.

So, when they are a little ways past me, I run to their Doom Buggie, and give them a little scare. I love it, and it’s all in good fun. Or maybe just for me, I don’t know, but I love it.

Thank you, Tabitha, for committing yourself to the role, and for sharing!

Don’t forget come back each week to hear more of the magic directly From the Mouth of the Mouse.


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By Jeff Heimbuch

If you are, or know, a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and possibly be featured right here on MiceChat, please email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!

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5 Comments

Comments for Tabitha Walks The Wretched Halls Of The Haunted Mansion are now closed.

  1. Portals? uhgg. I hope this mansion movie never gets made…

  2. Alwyas like these articles – but I wonder why you never have a photo of the person you are interviwing?

    • Glad you enjoy them!

      A lot of the times, the people I interview are still working there, and would prefer to remain anonymous. That’s why the names are sometimes fake, and no photos are used! Other times, these folks are long gone and don’t plan on going back, so they give me tons of photos!

      • Understandable! Thanks!

  3. There is a fine line between enhancing the show and detracting from the show when you are an attractions cast member. First and foremost, you are there to ensure the safety of the people on the ride.

    It concerns me when I see cast members leave their position at the loading area so that they can scare people on the ride. The primary job of the Load 2 position is to watch for people who don’t make it onto the ride vehicles in time and to ensure the lap bars are down. If the cast member is busy scaring people, then they aren’t available to ensure the safety of the riders. Sure, scaring people might be fun. But it isn’t what Disney is paying you to do.

    I also think that the slapping of the door in the stretching room is bad show. The Haunted Mansion’s spiel, music and show elements should set the mood and tell the story to the guests. The employee takes away from the experience when they add their own elements of fright. The attraction is supposed to be spooky, not scary.

    I do appreciate it when a cast member says spooky phrases or gives menacing looks that are in character. That type of behavior should be encouraged. But I am disappointed that this article positions the negative behaviors as positive. The employee should focus her attention on the safety and well-being of the guests, not on scaring people on the ride.