Being the fan of Disney’s The Haunted Mansion ride—and of ghost stories for all ages—that I am, I was ecstatic to hear from my aunt that she saw this collection at Costco.
These four books each showcase short tales from the narration of the mansion librarian (who occasionally breaks the third wall and inserts his own ghost-punny comments here and there within each story). For fans of the haunted mansion ride at Disneyland and the movie with Eddie Murphy, there are little Easter eggs here and there of things you may have seen on the ride or in the film.
I’ve rated my opinion of each book from 4 to 1 (4 being least-liked to 1 being most-liked):
4. Volume I: The Fearsome Foursome
This one kind of shocked me that *spoiler* there were such violent deaths for the four kids in this story. I understand that they are four of the mansion’s ghosts, and it was a creative twist that they were already dead, but the fact they met such violent ends (most of them being “good” characters) turned me off. I kept reading, though, hoping the stories would get better, and luckily, they did!
3. Volume III: Grim Grinning Ghosts
This book contained subplot tales that revolved around things in the mansion versus the ghosts that inhabit it, which, although still entertaining, made it feel more like a filler book rather than one that drove the series plot like the rest of them did.
2. Volume II: Midnight at Madame Leota’s
I thought this one was sweet since it was focused on a family member of one of the kid ghosts missing his sister. It shows the grieving process in a way that anyone can relate to and his desire to see her again and see if she is at peace. I’m glad it ended happily instead of with another death.
1. Volume IV: Memento Mori
This was a good wrap-up of the series since it epitomizes the themes of many ghost stories: that ghosts’ memories are subjective, ghosts seek to either help or seek revenge, and that scenes of tragedy tend to replay in the hope of a ghost completing their unfinished business.
- No swearing. In the true spirit of Disney (or what Disney used to be), I’m happy to read tales that refrain from profanity and instead focus on the genre in which the tales are written.
- Bad Guy Karma. “Bad (or selfish) guys come to bad ends.” When this trope comes into play, it usually lessens the blow of reading about gruesome deaths.
- Genre. I think that ghost stories should be written for children to teach them something, and most of the tales in these volumes do just that.
- Journal Included! It’s nice the authors invite the reader to contribute their own creative writing skills.
- Good guys dying. I know that it’s not always the bad guy who bites it in horror/thriller movies and books, but it’s sad to see it happen…especially in a middle grade series.
- Breaking of the third wall. This usually bothers me in books or in TV; I understand the authors probably did this to disturb the reader further (which is an effective tactic on their part) but once the reader is invited into the story, it sometimes tends to detach them from the tales. Readers usually want to observe, not be a part of the story…or is it just me? However, using it does seem to complete the tone of the tales when the narrator invites the reader to contribute their own tale, since a blank journal is accompanied in the set.
Experiencing The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland was one of the things that influenced my interest in gothic tales, so it was a real treat discovering a book series that spins off on the mansion’s history and “untold stories”. I recommend this series to middle-grade and adult readers who may be fans of Goosebumps, Mary Downing Hahn stories, and the thriller films of M. Night Shayamalan.