Our DIY Haunted Mansion

mansion page logoI have discussed my love for the Haunted Mansion in our blogs thoroughly.  The conflicting visions of imagineers and the confusion in the wake of Walt Disney’s death in 1966 created a  ride that is a perfect amalgamation of wacky fun and subtle scares.  The project gestated for almost 20 year and led to contributions from imagineers legends like Harper Goff, Ken Anderson, Rolly Crump, Yale Gracey, Marc Davis, & Claude Coates all adding to a ride with clashing styles and themes that seem to work together beautifully in their randomness.  The use of classic old haunted house tricks like reflections, scrims, and pepper’s ghost suffused with Disney imagineering magic creates a timeless ride.   The ride is genuinely slightly frightening for kids, but scares them with that Disney wink and smile; making them want to turn right around and ride it again. It has some of the most beloved theming of an attraction with virtually every aspect of the ride- from the clocks, candle holders, and paintings on the wall to even its wall paper are immortalized in merchandise of every type. The ride, or versions inspired by, exist in virtually every Disney Park around the World.  Finally, the song, Grim Grinning Ghosts, with Buddy Baker’s music and X Atencio’s lyrics create the ultimate ear-worm of a ride song that I don’t seem to tire of, no matter how often I hear it.

Scratch built polystyrene Haunted mansion 1:87 Ho scale disney world
Our scratch built Disney World Haunted Mansion in 1:87 Ho scale (4″ tall)

Every year we turn our home into the Haunted Mansion piece by piece for our annual Halloween party.  We used to go to a friends adult Halloween Party but I remembered fondly going to kid Halloween parties when I was a child.  They had make shift haunted houses and games galore.  I decided I wanted that for my daughter so we decided to start holding our own parties and to make them kid themed and to fill them with the best homemade pieces around to give her the same fond memories of my favorite holiday.  When trying to decide how scary to make it I realized I did not need to reinvent the wheel.  The Disney Imagineers had already found the perfect combination of spooky fun and not to scary frights with the Haunted Mansion. 

Here is a video that serves as a simulation of the ride by showcasing our over 70 DIY budget builds. 


Most of these are static pieces, some light up, and some even use projections.  Every piece seen here was made by my family from scratch with a DIY craft store approach.  We tried to use common  materials and beginner techniques.  Most of the pieces were made for between 30-40 dollars.  I could have spend thousands on replicas and existing pieces.  But I love sculpting, painting and making things and ultimately I love making memories with my family as we do so.

Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion Memento Mori DIY shop sign prop Memento Mori Sign

The sign that hangs outside the gift shop as you enter the Haunted Mansion.

Made from Styrofoam and wood putty. Approximate cost $30

Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY Entrance Sign Welcome Sign

The sign that hangs on both sides of the antique gates as you enter the ride.  It was customized with our family name.

Made out of Masonite, a hobby store frame, cast resin leaves, super sculpey, and Smooth on Free Form Air.  Approximate cost $40.

Disney Haunted Mansion Madame Leota Tombstone Leota Tombstone

The head of the tombstone of Leota that occasionally opens its eyes as you enter the mansion.

Made out a plywood oval, a plastic female face mask, replica doll eyes, Super Sculpey, and Free Form Air.

Approximate cost $45.

paint Stretching Portrait

The portrait from the main room where the ceiling stretches up to reveal the hanging Ghost Host.

It was made from a color copy decoupaged to canvas over a home made custom frame.

Approximate cost $30.

gargoyle 9 done Gargoyle Candelabra

One of the many creepy gargoyles that holding a pair of candles as they eerily look down upon you in the stretching room.

Sculpted over a PVC pipe skeleton made of tin foil, Super Sculpey, Free Form Air, wood putty, and led wax candles

Approximate cost $35.

Imagine Ears - Haunted Mansion tomb Portraits

With just a little big of googling I found all the portraits from the ride.  I have the various portraits of the ghosts as well as the changing portraits.  They are hung around the room and framed in cheap dollar store frames.

Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion Haunted Corridor Door done Haunted Corridor Green Door

As you move down the hallway of portraits and purple wallpaper you are flanked on both sides by a series of eerie doors.  Some rattle, others knock, and some open and bulge.

This piece started off by simply picking up a cast resin replica of the snake handle on Etsy when I was buying something else.  The project started as more a “wouldn’t it be cool”  It just grew and grew.  It is made mostly out of  green house insulation styrofoam with a custom made door knocker and lion sculpture.

Approximate cost $55.

The Imagine Ears - DIY Haunted Mansion Monster Clock Monster Clock

One of the most iconic pieces in the Haunted Mansion is the Monster Clock with 13 hours.  Its frightning face and demonic tail truly strike a memorable impression as you curve past it in the darkness.

It was made almost entirely out of green house insulation styrofoam sheets.  The tail is PVC pipe and the clock face is plexiglass.

Approximate cost $45.

Haunted Mansion Imagine Ears Organ Haunted Organ  (part 1 / part 2)
The ominous haunted organ with the never-ending procession of ghosts escaping its pipes stands at the end of the ballroom scene with the dancing ghosts.More of a conversion than a total build.  I added pieces to our piano.  The pipes are plastic tubes used to protect florescent light bulbs.  The ghosts are plastic skulls and plastic grocery sacks.  The bat music stand made of foamcore.Approximate cost $50.
Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion - finished projection  Leota Seance Crystal Ball Head
One of the real showstoppers of the ride is the disembodied head of Madam Leota as it floats above the table in the seance scene.  Our head features actual video projected on a blank.  It is made from a low end projector, 16″ acrylic light globe, Styrofoam mannequin head, a blue wig, a candle stand, a decorative table cloth/blanket and some wax led candles.Approximate cost $70.
The Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY Hatbox Ghost prop  Light-up Hatbox Ghost head

One of the most iconic characters of the mansion had slipped into trivia and lore until he returned in 2015.

Made out of a house planter, styrofoam, and a custom sculpted head over a cheap mask.

Approximate cost $40

brideghost Leota Ghost

Article coming soon…

Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion DIY arm torch wall sconce Wall Arm Sconce

Used at numerous places throughout the ride the emaciated arm that holds a torch lights your way towards the exit.

Made from plywood, a PVC pipe skeleton, a vuvuzela, Smoth On Free Form Air, and Super Sculpey.

Approximate cost $20.

DIY Haunted Mansion coffin out of foam Light Up Conservatory Coffin with Rising Lid

Early in the ride you come across a coffin who’s occupant seems to want out.

Made from XPS foam, an idea lighting kit, and odds and ends.

Approximate cost $100

Haunted Mansion Tomb Sweet Tomb Frame Tomb Suite Tomb Stick Frame

In the Hallway of green doors and family portraits you see the quaint cross stitched sign

Made from XPS foam and foam core.

Approximate cost $5

Imagine Ears Haunted Mansion Wallpaper painting 36″ x 36″ Hand Painted Canvas of Wallpaper Face with Glow in the Dark Eyes.

In the hallway of green doors and portraits a unique wallpaper lines the corridors.

Made with acrylic paints and a canvas

Approximate cost $15

DIY Haunted Mansion Stretching Portraits for $30 a piece 36″ Stretching Portraits

As you enter the doorless chamber you notice there are 4 paintings that seem to stretch.

Made in paint and word using images online and frames from Michaels.

Approximate cost $30 each

DIY Haunted Mansion Skull Wall corbel details Wooden Skull Corbel Details

As you enter the ride and walk down a long corridor towards you doom buggy ornate and creepy wooden skulls adorn the walls.

Made from XPS foam and acrylic paint.

Approximate cost $5

DIY Haunted Mansion ghost piano urn vase Replica Piano Urn

In the musical parlor you find a piano that is played by a ghost who is visible by his shadow on the floor.  On the piano sits a candelabra and an ornate urn.

Made from a Hobby Lobby vase, sculpey circle and cast resin filigree.

Approximate cost $30

We have a few other pieces related to the Haunted Mansion or our party.

mansion title 1:87 Scratch built, light up, Haunted Mansion  (work in progress post)

Finished diorama with base post

This was build from scratch in the HO Model Scale for a train table town we were custom making.  The entire thing was made out of sheets of polystyrene.

Imagine Ears - Lego Micro Haunted Mansion Lego Microscale Haunted Mansion

We have an ongoing attempt to recreate the Magic Kingdom in a Lego Microscale Each piece was designed and built by us from scratch using Google Earth, personal photos, and online blueprints.

Imagine Ears Nightmare Before Christmas Sally Jars Potions Night Shade Worms Wort Frog's Breath Jack Skellington Pumpkin Funkin Jack Pumpkin

A pumpkin made in the likeness of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King.

Made out of fake pumpkin, or funkin and painted black interior.

IImagine Ears Nightmare Before Christmas Sally Jars Potions Night Shade Worms Wort Frog's Breath Nightmare Before Christmas Ingredient Jars

Made out of cheap craft store glass jars and a PVC pipe.  Covered with spray on wall texture and custom labels made of of Super Sculpey.

Until next time…

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The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.