The Names and Origins of Disney’s Haunted Mansion’s Hitchhiking Ghosts

For well over 60 years, The Haunted Mansion has been one of Disney’s most beloved – and studied – attractions. Guests have long been fascinated with the backstories of the “Grim Grinning Ghosts” featured in the ride.

Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom

Three of the best known of these ghouls are the Hitchhiking Ghosts — Ezra (the tall, dapper skeletal phantom), Phineas (the plump, hunchback character adorned with a top hat), and Gus (the short, gnome-like bearded prisoner with the ball and chain attached to his leg) – who attempt to “go home” with guests at the attraction’s conclusion.

So just who are the hitchhiking ghosts, and how have their backstories evolved over the years? Let’s find out.

Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion

First off, just in case we need to jog your memory, the scene featuring the three hitchhiking ghosts occurs just at the end of the ride. Guests first pass by animatronics of the three ghosts. Next, their Doom Buggie turns guests around and they stare directly into mirrors where a reflection of one of the ghost animatronics appears right next to them “in” their ride vehicle — or, at the Magic Kingdom, an animated digital projection of one of the ghosts begins playing pranks on the guests — all while the attraction’s Ghost Host informs them that the ghost will be accompanying them home.

Over the years, numerous backstories have been developed for the three ghosts. Initial backstories were conceived by Magic Kingdom cast members, and while these were unofficial, and frankly not nearly family friendly enough for Disney to ever actually use, the names Ezra, Gus and Phineas did originate from these “Ghost Gallery” portfolios.


The first official backstories for the three appeared in the early 2000s run of Haunted Mansion comic books produced by Slave Labor Graphics. Their three origins in those comics were as follows:

Gus, the bearded prisoner with the ball and chain on his leg, was actually a shepherd. Tired from a lack of sleep due to the noise of his sheep, he accidentally tumbled into a wedding and knocked over the wealthy groom, leading to his arrest. Initially he enjoyed napping in prison, however his slumber was interrupted by cannon-fire as the prison fortress he was held in came under attack by pirates. Gus was able to escape and use a cannon to launch himself on a pirate dinghy, however his his ball-and-chain ended up falling overboard, causing him to drown. He’s attempting to leave the Mansion through hitchhiking because the raucous guests of the Mansion still won’t allow him to sleep.

Haunted Mansion entrance in Disney World

Ezra was a “mischievous prankster” who started Gasser Novelties, a practical joke shop business. After getting his fingers caught in an unbreakable finger-trap, Ezra literally laughed himself to death. His spirit eventually found his way to the Mansion, however his practical jokes on other ghostly residents led to him being kicked out, hence the hitchhiking.

Phineas, or Dr. Phineas Q. Hackenbush, was depicted in the comics as a self-proclaimed doctor who would travel the country attempting to sell his questionable wares. Eventually, he began hocking “Dr. Phineas Q. Hackenbush’s Patented and Healthful Reptile Lubricant”, a literal snake oil. However, after angering the townspeople, he chased by an angry mob. Phineas makes a run for it, but ends up falling off a cliff to his death. Eventually, Phineas moves into the Mansion, but is quickly chased out after angering the other residents, hence his hitchhiker status.

Haunted Mansion graveyard in Disney World

While these SLG Comics were officially released by Disney, they were never directly integrated into the Haunted Mansion attraction itself. In 2019, the official DisneyParks blog released newly revised official origins for the trio, all of which were similar, yet simplified versions of the tales told in the aforementioned comics. These were as follows:

Ezra is the “tallest of the hitchhiking trio and lived his life as a vagabond. Some would consider him the leader of the three.”

Phineas Plump “traveled the country (hawking) snake oil at train depots. He crossed over to the spirit realm while experimenting with a new miracle concoction and still keeps his trusty carpet bag by his side, eager to make another sale.”

Gus “served most of his time for a crime he did not commit. Upon encountering this pint-sized phantom, it is easy to tell he is no criminal mastermind. His playful innocence is apparent as he always looks at the bright side of the afterlife.”

Haunted Mansion Stretch Room

The Hitchhiking Ghost trio does briefly cameo in the 2003 Haunted Mansion film, first in their traditional hitchhiking pose before appearing inside of hearse with Eddie Murphy’s Jim Evers, mimicking the way they appear in guest’s vehicles on the attraction. The trio are portrayed by Deep Roy (Gus), Jeremy Howard (Ezra), and Clay Martinez (Phineas) in the film. As of the time of this writing, it has not been confirmed if they’ll be appearing in the upcoming 2023 Haunted Mansion film, or who’ll be playing them if they do.

The Complete Guide to the Hitchhiking Ghosts in Disney’s Haunted Mansion

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What do you think of the Hitchhiking Ghosts backstories? Do you prefer the comic version, or the simplified modern? Or, would it be better of they had not official backstory at all and were simply left mysterious? Let us know in the comments below.

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