When We Had Dinner Inside Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion

by SharonKurheg

We pull out this moldy oldie (originally written in 2017) every couple of years, in celebration of Halloween. It truly was unique, fun experience. Enjoy, travel friends!

Way back when, Joe and I were at a time in our lives when we went to just about any Disney-sponsored event that came down the pike (unless it was pirates or princesses. We were never into pirates or princesses). During that time frame, Disney offered a dining program called “Disney’s Dining Experience” where, for $50 a year, you got 20% off your bill at most WDW table-service restaurants (hey, it paid for the tip – and with the cost at some of Disney’s restaurants that could wind up being a pretty penny) and you had the opportunity to dine at some special-made Members Only hard ticket events.

Over the years, Disney’s Dining Experience changed names and turned into “Tables In Wonderland.” The program’s essence stayed the same, although the type of dinners they’ve offered has varied considerably over the years. But “way back when,” this is the sort of stuff they used to do. Here’s a report of when we had dinner inside the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World:

Disney’s Dining Experience Presents Dinner at The Haunted Mansion
Wednesday, September 25, 2002, 7:15pm – 11:00pm

The weather was warm and humid (welcome to Central Florida in September), with a threat of more rain (which never came while we were outside). We all met at Guest Relations to check in and to get our seating assignments. The seating assignments were written on 5”x8” parchment-like paper, with hand-made burn marks (they smelled like burnt toasted marshmallow and yes, I did smell a burn mark [to see if it was real] to come to that decision). Our paper said:

You have been doomed to join us
for a swinging wake as a
special guest of honor at the
Haunted Mansion

You will be dining at
Ambassador Xavier’s
Table Number 1
‘Sharon & Joe’ Party of 4

When all seventy of us attendees had arrived, we followed the half-dozen Suits and the two or three people who carried “crowd control” blinky red flashlights and walked as one big group towards the Haunted Mansion…from under the right side of the train station, up Main Street (it’s so cool when it’s empty), around the left side of the Hub, over the wooden bridge to Liberty Square, and onto the Liberty Belle Riverboat.

Empty Main Street at dusk
Our hors d’oeuvres & adult beverages await

Some of the hors d’oeuvres served on the Liberty Belle

Upon stepping onto the dock, we were offered small plastic cups of Guenoc Chardonnay. We were then encouraged to go to the top deck of the boat. You could see the Mansion in the distance from the boat, but it was slightly difficult to make out because it was already dark outside. However because of the bright lighting behind it, the scaffolding that was around the atrium at the time was simple to see ;-). Once the boat took off around the Rivers of America (without the usual prerecorded spiel), we were treated to more bottle-poured wine, several Coca Cola products, as well as a variety of hors d’oeuvres (salmon sushi, baby peeled potatoes filled with sour cream and topped with chives, prosciutto and cream cheese (?) on crackers, salami rolls and stuffed cherry tomatoes).

Following the end of the riverboat ride, we were led to the restrooms in Fantasyland that are next to Peter Pan’s Flight (a good choice of facilities since those particular restrooms have LOTS of stalls) (MODERN-DAY NOTE: those restrooms no longer exist. They were closed when the restrooms to the left of It’s A Small World opened). Once everyone was done and a male and a female Suit confirmed that the restrooms were empty, we were led to the Mansion.

We were gathered into the HM’s queue area, where an old, creepy woman was waiting to greet us. She told us to gather ‘round her and once we had, she introduced herself as Madame Carlotta, the mistress of the Mansion.


Madame Carlotta

Carlotta was dressed in black, white and maroon with lace trim and she looked like she hadn’t seen sunlight in several decades. She asked if any of us had been in the Mansion before & it looked like all of us raised our hands. She then asked if any of us were trivia buffs & several of us raised our hands. She explained that we couldn’t see it now because it was too dark but the next time we visit the Mansion, to look at the roof of the building. Across the top of the HM there are all the pieces of a chess set except for one. Which one is it? A guest said she knew the answer – it’s a knight. Carlotta said she was correct, the knight IS missing, because it’s always night at the Haunted Mansion :-).

She went on to explain that there would be samplings of 5 different types of wines with our 5-course meal and that each one was just a sampling…so don’t expect more and don’t ask for more, because it was just too bad (she said this so it sounded very lighthearted…as it turned out, you could have as much wine as you wanted – and several attendees DID get pretty hammered).

Carlotta led us to the main entrance of the Mansion and said she had a special surprise for us, because the doors had a new, mystical, special way of opening. She told us to say “Oooooh! Ahhhh!” and that would open the doors. We did it once and nothing happened, so we repeated it and the doors slowly opened…by way of the person behind them ;-).

This person introduced himself as Broome, the head butler. Broome was a very tall man in a gray and black butler’s uniform, with dust and cobwebs all over him (Modern Day Note: for those “in the know,” I could easily see him telling puns at the Adventurers Club, once upon a time. May he, and it, R.I.P.). He explained that his job was to tell everyone about the meal they would be eating, but that first he would tell everyone where to go. After laughter, he explained that he would inform people where their assigned tables were, if they needed such assistance.

We all filed into the Mansion, where our tables were ready. Each table held up to 8 people. There were 2 tables in the pre-show room (where Master Gracey’s changing portrait hangs over the fireplace. This is the room we sat in). The stretching rooms’ doors were all open and there were 2 tables in each of those spaces. The pre-boarding area had another 3 tables, with a movable privacy wall between it and the actual loading area.


Dinner in the Stretching Room

Each tablecloth was black and red in a snakeskin pattern, with a matching covering on each chair. The centerpieces were made of intertwined “live” plants and “dead” twigs, with 3 candles each, to light up the relatively dark room. Each place setting included a black serving plate, 1 glass for water and 5 glasses for wine. On each place setting was a copy of our menu on the same burnt parchment paper as our seating assignment. It said:

HM06Welcome Foolish Mortals to a Spooky
Evening at the Haunted Mansion

For your dining pleasure

Roasted Squab on a Confit of Leeks and Asparagus

Creamy Seafood Soup with Squid Ink and
Seared Halibut

Chicory, Radicchio, Frisée Salad, and Micro Greens on a
Foie Gras Tombstone with Truffle Vinaigrette

Raspberry Sorbet on Ice Skull

Grilled Beef Tenderloin topped with a Freshwater Prawn, and
served with Root Vegetables and Fingerling Potatoes

Blood Orange Mousse and a Spooky Crème Brûlée

A selection of ghoulish wines will be served during the wake

Rest In Peace

On the back of the menu were printed descriptions of the “haunted” wineries that supplied our spirits for the evening (spirits, get it? spirits!). It said:

Guenoc Winery
The original owner of the land where the Guenoc Winery stands today was a famous Stage Actress named Lilly Langtry. The original house that Lilly built is still in full use today by the current owners of the estate, the Magoon Family. Countless guests of the home have seen Lilly’s ghost over the years and strange occurrences happen there on almost a weekly basis.

Valley of the Moon
The Valley of the Moon is the name given to the Valley by the Native Americans that once roamed the valley. The chants of their past songs still haunt the Valley to this day.

Kenwood Jack London Vineyards
The famous author Jack London, started building a very large home in Sonoma overlooking the Valley of the Moon in 1935. A catastrophic fire burned down the house before it could be finished. There was no apparent explanation for the fire and attempts to re-build were thwarted by constant accidents and thus the home was never finished. The frame and basic structure of the house still stand today and reports of weird and unexplained occurrences are common in and around the original Jack London home site.

Back to our evening…


Our ghoulish place settings

The HM theme song (slow organ version) quietly played in the background throughout the evening. The stretch rooms “stretched” and “unstretched” during the event, complete with lights going off and quiet thunder/lightning at regular intervals.

Our servers for the evening were originally scattered around the rooms in various zombie-like poses. Once we were all seated, Carlotta explained that the servers were under a spell that made them unable to speak. True to her word, they could not speak but could grunt, gesture and point well. The servers were dressed in drab green and looked ghoulishly pale and unkempt.

Someone suddenly LOUDLY banged at the front door of the Mansion, so Broome went to answer it. Outside was Abner, a scary but funny magician. Abner was tall, in a gray, black and white outfit that included a maroon turban.


Broome & Abner

Carlotta, Broome and Abner made several rounds of all the tables…Carlotta had a funny/scary persona and Broome had several puns readily available. Abner intermixed jokes with sleight-of-hand card tricks. For Joe and I, he also mentioned that he was friends with someone we knew named Annelle. (Modern-Day Note: Another Adventurers Club reference. Again, for those “in the know”: at the time, we had NO IDEA of who Abner was in real life was until he said that. As opposed to later years where we could almost play a version of “Name That Tune” when it came to select Disney performers – “I can name that CM after he speaks 4 words in a funny voice!”…”Oh yeah? Well, *I* can name that CM with 3 layers of makeup AND a fake nose!”)

Broome announced each of our courses, with some editorial comments thrown in for good measure. In order (with my own editorial comments), they were:

–Roasted Squab on a Confit of Leeks and Asparagus (the squab leg still had its claw attached)

–Creamy Seafood Soup with Squid Ink and Seared Halibut (it was described as “eyeball soup” by Broome and it DID look like eyeballs with red irises, floating in a black liquid)

–Chicory, Radicchio, Frisée Salad, and Micro Greens on a Foie Gras Tombstone with Truffle Vinaigrette (the foie gras DID look like a tombstone, which was a nice touch, but it’s hard to otherwise make a salad look scary)

–Raspberry Sorbet on an Ice Skull (Now THIS was cool. As the description said, the “bowl” for the sorbet was made of ice, in the shape of a skull, with the sorbet sitting in a small indentation on the top. On the bottom of the skull was a red disc, about 3” in diameter, that glowed red. When I took my disk out to examine it further, one of the servers threw a handful of disks at our table so we all had one)

–Grilled Beef Tenderloin topped with a Freshwater Prawn, and served with Root Vegetables and Fingerling Potatoes (again, not a particularly scary course, but it tasted DELICIOUS)

–Blood Orange Mousse and a Spooky Crème Brûlée (this had a dark chocolate bat and spiderweb decoration, with a white chocolate background)

Roasted Squab on a Confit of Leeks and Asparagus
Creamy Seafood Soup with Squid Ink and Seared Halibut
Chicory, Radicchio, Frisée Salad, and Micro Greens on a Foie Gras Tombstone with Truffle Vinaigrette
Raspberry Sorbet on an Ice Skull
Grilled Beef Tenderloin topped with a Freshwater Prawn, and served with Root Vegetables and Fingerling Potatoes
Blood Orange Mousse and a Spooky Crème Brûlée

Each course had a beautiful presentation and everything tasted delicious. I’m not a huge wine person (MODERN DAY NOTE: I am now. But in 2002, not so much) and purposely didn’t drink much because I wanted to really enjoy and remember this event, but the pairings (2 whites, 2 reds and a dessert port) seemed appropriate.

After the end of the last course, we were bid farewell by Carlotta, Broome and Abner and were gestured by the servers to leave our seats, go into the pre-load area and board our Doombuggies. There were no pre-planned surprises on the attraction, but as the attraction has just been down for rehab for 3 weeks (the motors than moved the stretch rooms were changed, and several lighting and sound aspects had been fixed – back then, I knew someone who knew such things) I was able to notice many effects much more so than in the past.

Although there were no PLANNED activities, it WAS the first time that I ever saw the Mansion filled with an inordinate amount of drunk people, LOL! There were many more adult human shrieks and screams than usual, as well as a significant amount of flash photography. I also noticed that many folks had significant problems with the moving sidewalks when getting on and off the ride, LOL! Some people were noted to try to hit Madame Leota’s crystal ball with their “souvenir” red glow things in the Séance Room, using them as frisbees (Modern-Day Note: I didn’t throw mine and although it’s now over 20 years later, I still have my red glow thing. before anyone asks, nope, it doesn’t glow anymore.).

After we had all finished our ride, we were led to the area just in front of the Columbia Harbor House, where we were offered another restroom break in the restaurant’s facilities. This time it was noted that the Men’s Room had a line just as long as the Women’s Room, and the men just had no clue of how to handle that, LOL!

Once everyone was out of the restrooms, they brought us to the southern part of Liberty Square. They lined us up into the 2 nearby walkways, facing the Hall of Presidents. Once they were sure we were far enough back “for our own safety,” the headless horseman on his steed came whizzing by. He made 2 passes in front of us and then vanished into the night (my pictures of him were the only disappointing ones I took the whole evening…he was just too fast).

We were ushered to Main Street from Liberty Square where they offered us the “Goodnight Spiel” that they usually play when the MK is closing. Finally, we were loaded onto a waiting monorail (I saw one lady who needed the assistance of not 1, but 2 CM’s to go up the ramp because she was so plastered) and whisked back to the TTC.

It was a perfect evening. I really, REALLY hope they do it again someday (Modern-day note: Alas, to date, they never have. And they undoubtedly never, ever will.).

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Terry B Ward April 21, 2017 - 10:08 pm

Great article, one of my favorite conventions.

sharonheg April 21, 2017 - 10:11 pm

Us too! 🙂 (and we really DID have NO idea of who you were at first LOLOL!)

Holly Bush July 26, 2023 - 9:09 pm

I was also there with my now ex husband. It was the best night of our lives. I’m kind of glad they don’t do it anymore because it wouldn’t be the same. I took pictures as well. I think I have one of Geekydweeb

joeheg April 21, 2017 - 10:23 pm

I think my comment was along the lines of “that guy is really good!”

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[…] to get a reservation for the Pan Am Experience. • A #TBT, looking back at September 2002, when we got to eat dinner inside the Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney […]

Holly September 28, 2018 - 8:05 pm

I was there as well! And that’s exactly how I remember it. We were seated in the stretching room. It’s one of my fondest life memories. I still have photos as well.

SharonKurheg September 28, 2018 - 11:03 pm

How VERY cool! I never “met” anyone who had been there, aside from the friends/family I was with that night 🙂

Richard Wegman October 28, 2019 - 2:47 pm

I was there too with my wife! It was incredible. I would love to see additional photos if you care to share?

SharonKurheg October 28, 2019 - 2:54 pm

Who woulda thunk?

Those are the only photos I have that are “things.” I’ve got one of my husband and I, the friend we went with, etc. But nothing else of the actual dinner. Sorry.

Holly Bush January 11, 2021 - 12:21 am

I have a few pictures. Not too many good ones though. And I still have the original DDE mailer that advertised it. I kept my glowing red disc that was under the ice skull for the longest time and eventually tossed it. Unfortunately I left my menu under my dinner plate and when I realized I ran back to get it and they had already cleared the table. Sharon, do you also go by “geekydweeb” ? From a haunted mansion site I used to belong to. I can’t believe that was 20 years ago.

SharonKurheg January 11, 2021 - 12:46 am

Yes, that was me.

Chris October 30, 2019 - 5:36 pm

I was there as well and may have additional photos from that evening. It ended poorly for me, however. If you remember, the Headless Horseman passed and at the end threw his “pumpkin” head. He was supposed to throw it over the crowd, but it hit me in the chest and I fell back, hitting my head on the sidewalk. I blacked out for about 30 seconds. Then Disney staff spent the evening having me sign papers swearing I wouldn’t sue them. To this day the night was one of the best of my life, except for the unfortunate ending. (I never had intention to sue Disney, and I hope the Cast Member was not fired. But their aggressive management was off-putting.)

SharonKurheg October 30, 2019 - 5:49 pm

Hi crap, Chris! What a sucky way to ruin the evening! I hope you didn’t have any long term issues from that? (well, besides Disney worrying that you might sue them)

Marlene Vodola November 1, 2020 - 3:02 pm

My husband and were there as well and it was just as you described. Sadly I left my Cameron there and it was never found. All I have are the menu and great memories. Thanks for sharing your pics.

SharonKurheg November 1, 2020 - 3:17 pm

Oh no! I’m so sorry you lost it! Hope our pictures helped a little, then. It was indeed a great night!

Joanne November 24, 2018 - 2:12 pm

What an amazing experience! Disneyland used to offer experiences like that as well. I ate breakfast on the African veldt of the Jungle Cruise ride. That was spectacular! Followed by a chance at doing the Skipper speil as we cruised through the jungle. I, too, wish Disney would bring these kind of experiences back.

Nancy October 30, 2019 - 4:05 pm

Sounds like a great experience!

SharonKurheg October 30, 2019 - 4:06 pm

It was awesome! Best themed dinner we ever attended!

Deb October 31, 2019 - 9:36 am

Do they have this dinner any more??

SharonKurheg October 31, 2019 - 9:43 am

Afraid not. As far as I know, they never did it again.

Robert L Crow November 1, 2020 - 11:44 pm

Sounds incredible. If they ever did that today, though, they’d probably charge $500+/tickets.

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[…] When We Had Dinner Inside Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion […]

Michele Hand April 13, 2020 - 7:33 pm

This was the best dining event I have ever attended. I wish they would make this an annual Halloween event. Hint, hint, hint …….

SharonKurheg April 13, 2020 - 7:51 pm

Alas, they won’t.

dennis smith November 2, 2020 - 3:09 am

I worked the very first Mansion dinner with Chef Lenny.

Holly Bush January 11, 2021 - 12:27 am

I was looking through YouTube for the Haunted Hayride that they used to have at the camp ground. Well, I found one in its entirety. We would go every year and sometimes twice. Well low and behold I’m watching it and I hear myself laugh. And I’m like oh my god. Then I heard myself again. And it was just so cool. It was like being there all over again.


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