We've had two of them. First of all, there's the original 1969 model, the legend, he concerning whom there is still a lot of misinformation bruited about. Here are the facts. Clip and save:
- He was there for the soft opening on August 7th, seen only by Cast Members.
- He was immediately pulled out because you could still see his face after it had "disappeared."
- He was still missing two days later at the unofficial official opening on August 9th, which is why so many people who rode the Mansion on that first day reported later that he was not there, and that's why the story got set in concrete that he was never seen by the public. It took a long time and a lot of jackhammering for that concrete to get broken up, but the claim still crops up now and then.
- There is a credible report that he was already reinstalled by the very next day, the 10th. Whether he remained there over the next few days we don't know, but he was certainly there on Thursday the 14th. (That's the day I saw him, kids.)
- For the next several weeks (not days) Hattie either stayed in continuously or was in-and-out while they tried to get him to work successfully, unsuccessfully. (I think the latter scenario is the more likely.) No one knows for sure when the plug was finally pulled for good, but probably in September.
And then there's the brilliant 2015 rediscarnation. Of course, we know all about him.
(Since ghosts are not incarnate to begin with, having no flesh, they technically can't be reincarnated, can they? Now, if you're not incarnate, what you are is discarnate. That's the correct term. So if you're a ghost and you cease to exist but are subsequently brought back into existence, you've been rediscarnated. Don't look at me like that. You think I don't know what I'm doing?)
Jolly good, but what about the Hatbox Ghost that almost, but never, was?
Ah, how quickly we forget. *puffs pipe wistfully* It's a historical episode that for some of us seems almost too recent to merit a Long-Forgotten post, but when I consider that (1) these things need to be chronicled before memories start turning hazy (which doesn't take long) and that (2) there are oodles of young doombugs running around and chattering away at the HM fan sites, some of whom were in kindergarten when this all happened, it becomes obvious that someone needs to put together a record for posterity.
Because yes, we came THISCLOSE to getting a new Hatbox Ghost at Disneyland in 2009.
We could begin the story back in the 90s, when the whole "bring back the Hatbox Ghost" movement felt its first stirrings, especially with the publication of photos of the original HBG in 1999, but the real beginning of this particular chapter in Mansion history is in 2004, when the first plans were being drawn up for Disneyland's 50th anniversary the following year. Among the ideas proposed at WDI for enhancements to the Haunted Mansion was bringing back the Hatbox Ghost. This was also when plans for Constance and her five hubbies were in development, and originally Hattie was going to be George, Connie's fifth husband, the poor sap with the hatchet in his head on the widow's stretching portrait. (I have to wonder how they intended to deal with the fact that the HBG has no handlebar mustache.) As if to test the waters, a Hatbox Ghost "big fig" was released by WD collectibles in 2005 and was a smash hit. If you're a HM fan at all, you've no doubt seen these figures or pictures of them. They command high prices these days, if you can get one at all.
One particularly interesting feature was the certificate of authenticity that came with the figure.
It including some tantalizing tidbits of backstory information about this particular ghost.
Other Disney souvenirs featuring the Hatbox Ghost trickled out over the next few years, and he sometimes
appeared in Disney artwork in various venues. Hmmm. Were they trying to tell us something?
The Constance version of the attic debuted in May of 2006 with Hattie nowhere to be seen, but a month earlier, at the beginning of April, word had already begun leaking out that the Hatbox Ghost may be coming back. Something must have happened 'round about April 24th, because a number of reports came out over the following couple of days confirming that a new Hatbox Ghost was definitely on the drawing board. According to one source, an early prototype was rumored to have already been built in Glendale. At this point he was still identified with George, Connie's fifth husband.
In 2007 a completely different concept was proposed, and according to a reliable source it almost made it to reality. The idea was to forget about the attic and bring back Hattie somewhere else in the Mansion, like the Ballroom or Graveyard. He would be hidden in the darkness somewhere and would only make a sort of cameo appearance when briefly lit up. No time for the vanishing head gag. Not only that, but only Annual Passholders would see him, and even then only once per visit. During the regular part of the year, when the HMH was gone and the Fastpass area was idle, a special sticker on a Fastpass ticket would be dispensed for AP holders only. The sticker would be read by a sensor as they got in their buggies, telling the ride to light up the HBG when that buggy went by. Whether this idea survived into 2008, I can't say, but needless to say it was scrapped. The one good thing about it was that it would have preserved a sort of mystique about the character. He'd still be "missing" to most people. On the other hand, it smelled like a dirty trick to get more people to shell out $$$ for the AP.
In preparation for the Mansion's upcoming 40th anniversary, the Merchandizing division and WDI began working in coordination with each other. This is EXTREMELY rare. Normally these guys can't stand each other, but sources are adamant that this time they did indeed work together. In truth, I don't think the input from Imagineering went much beyond tipping off the Merch guys that they were planning on bringing back the Hatbox Ghost for the 40th, and that it was a big deal. That was enough. The Merch guys went bonkers, especially the Pin people. When 2009 arrived, they were ready to pounce.
And pounce they did! Suddenly, Hattie was everywhere. The overexposure was nauseating. They made him a "real estate agent," the host and mascot for the whole 40th celebration.
Note the triptych, with Hattie on left and Connie on right. And these are just some of them. A box set of pins was marketed with Hattie standing right in the doorway of the Mansion, and he's even listed as one of the characters "found inside the attraction," as if his comeback were a fait accompli. Subtle as a hand grenade.
As if all of this weren't enough, Disney put together a "Haunted Holidays" website featuring a CGI Hatbox Ghost, voiced by Cory Burton, doing his best Paul Frees "Ghost Host" impersonation. Say what? So...the Hatbox Ghost is now the Ghost Host? Never mind. Once Merchandising gets ahold of things, nothing needs to make sense. He isn't the GH any more than he's Cousin Huet (see that gravestone prop above). Some of the Connie pins jumbled characters around in impossibly silly ways, too. This sort of thing is why I suspect the "coordination" with WDI was rather limited.