The Complete Guide To The Hitchhiking Ghosts in Disney’s Haunted Mansion

While there are countless Disney attractions that can be described as iconic — including Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, and Space Mountain to name a few — there is perhaps no more beloved than The Haunted Mansion.

The Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom

Since the first version opened at Disneyland in 1969, fans have devoured any and all available information about the attraction and its “Grim Grinning Ghosts.”

Three of the most famous ghouls in the Mansion’s repertoire are the Hitchhiking Ghosts – Ezra, Phineas, and Gus – who attempt to “go home” with guests at the attraction’s conclusions? So just who are the hitchhiking ghosts, how have they evolved, and where have they been seen outside the mansion? We’ve got the answers to all that and more…

Hitchhiking Ghosts ©Disney

To understand the origins of the Hitchhiking Ghosts, we first have to travel back to the early development of the Haunted Mansion itself. In a tale quite familiar to longtime Disney fans, the earliest origins of the attraction stem from drawings of the proto-Disneyland concept Mickey Mouse Park, which featured a “haunted house on a hill.”

The concept was in development throughout Disneyland’s early years, with a walkthrough initially planned. In fact the facade of the attraction was built in the early 1960s, however behind the scenes disagreements between numerous imagineers who had concepts for it would keep the Mansion nothing but an empty facade for most of the decade.

The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland

As the 1960s wore on, Imagineering legends Marc Davis and Claude Coats took charge of the attraction. The duo began sifting through the numerous ideas that her been pitched for the Mansion – including Rolly Crump’s designs for a “museum of the weird”, illusions crafted by Rolly Crump and Yale Gracey, and lore created by Ken Anderson — but couldn’t come to an agreement as to whether the Mansion should be a serious scary attraction or a fun romp.

Eventually, they compromised, with the first half of the attraction featuring the atmospheric scares preferred by Gracey, while the second half skewed toward the humor and gags championed by Davis, with the song “Grim Grinning Ghosts” by fellow Disney Legend Xavier “X” Atencio being the thematic throughline connecting the two.

Haunted Mansion

So, with that backstory established, let’s get into the Hitchhiking Ghosts. Guests first pass by the three ghosts, then their Doom Buggie turns them around, and one of the ghosts “appears” right next to them “in” their ride vehicle, all while the attraction’s Ghost Host informs them that the ghost will be accompanying them home.

The scene featuring the three occurs just at the end of the ride, and is one of the clearest examples of all the different inspirations the attraction used coming together, with the concept of a ghost following a guest home capturing Coats’ scares, the comical design and very concept of a ghost needing to hitchhike capturing Davis’s comical aesthetic, and the scene being achieved by the Pepper’s Ghost special effect perfected for theme park use by Crump and Gracey. In fact, the trio were so representative of the ride that their image was used on the official Disneyland attraction poster for the Haunted Mansion.

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.

Stand-by entrance for Haunted Mansion

The current official Disney backstories of the three are as follows:

    • Ezra Beane is the “tallest of the hitchhiking trio and lived his life as a vagabond”
    • 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 was a prisoner who “served most of his time for a crime he did not commit.”

While the versions of the Hitchhiking Ghosts in Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland’s versions of the attractions remain the same classic Pepper’s Ghost reflection effects, the scene is vastly different at the Magic Kingdom. In the early 2010s, the effect was changed to digitally animated projections featuring the three moving around guest’s ride vehicles, engaging in comical behaviors including playing with a noxious balloon and even switching their heads with a guest’s.

According to Imagineer Jason Surrell, these animated versions of Gus, Ezra, and Phineas featured characterizations inspired by Christopher Lloyd, Chris Farley, and Jim Carrey respectively. Like many changes to Disney attractions, fans were split. Some lamented the loss of the original effect, while other’s welcomed the new technological advances.

Phantom Manor’s Ticket Taker – Disney

Of note, the sister version of the attraction — Phantom Manor — does not feature the Hitchhiking Ghosts. That version replaces them in the Pepper’s Ghost scene with the visage of the ride’s main character Melanie Ravesnwood, whose beckoning guests to marry her. However, eagle-eyed Haunted Mansion aficionados will notice that the animatronic ticket taker offering guests passage to the underworld uses the same mold and design as Ezra as a nod to the original versions of the ride.

Since the Hitchhiking Ghosts are some of the most recognizable characters in the Mansion, it should come as no surprise that they’ve often been featured in other media outside the attractions, including comic books, records, and the 2003 Eddie Murphy Haunted Mansion film.

In addition, “live action” versions of the trio have appeared in two live action ad campaigns in the 2000s: one featuring the actors from their 2003 film appearance, and the other featuring Hollywood stars Jack Black, Will Ferrel, and Jason Segel portraying Phineas, Ezra, and Gus.

In addition, the popularity of the trip has led to the three being featured on countless pieces of merchandise, including but not limited to pins, t-shirts, Funko Pops, stuffed plush, statues, maquettes, action figures, and recreations of the iconic Disneyland attraction poster.

With the massive popularity and marketing of the characters, it seems likely that they’ll appear in some form in the 2023 Haunted Mansion reboot film, though it’s unclear at the time of this writing how large their potential role would be or who, if anyone, has been cast to portray them.

That’s a look at everything we know about the Hitchhiking Ghosts from the Haunted Mansion. Keep following All Ears for more Disney news!

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

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