Phantom Manor of Names

Jilted bride Melanie from the start of the Phantom Manor ride, via flickr (peterpanfan)

I mentioned Chatsworth House earlier on this week, and now it’s time  for a completely different direction even if I am somewhat sticking to big house theme – but this time incorporating my recent Disney trip into it. Those who can see where I’m going with this, bear with me because you may be wondering why a certain ride has changed it’s name.

I’ll get back to that later, but first, a statement from me about me. I hate ghost rides, as a general rule. The one at Blackpool Pleasure Beach is noted as being one of the first Ghost Trains (and indeed first to call itself as such) in the world, and I’ve been on it. Several times. Why? Because it isn’t actually that scary, it’s just skeletons painted in luminescent paint. There’s an Alice in Wonderland ride opposite it which has exactly the same concept of luminous-ly painted animatronics in dark rooms, I kid ye not.

Aside from the relatively unscary Blackpool Ghost Train, the only ghost ride I’m happy to go on frequently is Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris. The different name indicates a different storyline, even if several key moments in the ride remain similar. It does seem odd that I’m so content with going on the Phantom Manor ride, thinking about it, since it was intentionally designed to be darker than the Haunted Mansion versions in other parks. I did go on Haunted Mansion whilst at the Florida park, but I found myself not enjoying it as much as the Phantom Manor, but maybe that’s because I spent most of it confused as the bride went from a weeping mess of the Paris version to a axe-wielding maniac. My sister was particularly not impressed.

In the Phantom Manor version of the ride, the plotline revolves around a young Melanie, rather than a Constance. The plot goes that she fell in love with a train engineer from the town, Thunder Mesa, below the manor (aka Frontierland), and her father, Henry, disapproved of this. Henry tried to stop the wedding, but tragically died in an earthquake along with his wife, Martha. On Melanie’s wedding day, a phantom lured her groom to the attic and hanged him from the rafters. Melanie spends the rest of her days roaming the manor waiting for her groom to return.

All rather sad, really. Infact, it all seems rather apt that Melanie means dark. She comes from the Greek melaina, which means either black or dark. Before you start wondering why the bride doesn’t have a French name, you’d best hold your horses. The name Melanie was popular in the Middle Ages in France, and was later brought to Britain by them. Of course, the French like to spell her Mélanie.

I will grant that the bride names in Magic Kingdom, Florida are far more fascinating. At the Florida version, the emphasis is on what they liked to call happy haunts, with references to dear Constance who killed all five of her husbands. It is from her fifth – George – that she came to presumeably own the Haunted Mansion. When we went on the ride for the first time, my sister and I were confused as to why there was no bride crying in the ballroom scene or in her boudoir, and indeed why she turned up in the attic with an axe and a manic grin since we did not realise the extent to the plot change between Paris and Florida until Google informed us that night.

Not just Constance was mentioned, however. When you leave the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World, you see the tomb of a man named Bluebeard, which lists his seven wives:

  • Penelope
  • Abigail
  • Anastasia
  • Prudence
  • Phoebe
  • Eugenia
  • Lucretia

Certainly an interesting selection of names, but wait, it gets even more interesting from there (more interesting than Lucretia? No!), since there is a man from French folklare called Bluebeard who took several wives himself; however, they weren’t given the above names. The French writer Maurice Maeterlinck certainly wrote extensively on Bluebeard, giving the name of at least six former wives with suitable fascinating French names:

  • Sélysette
  • Alladine
  • Ygraine
  • Bellangère 
  • Mélisande
  • Ariane

But he’s not the only one to name a wife of Bluebeard, two more men have notably named two other wives:

  • Anatole France gave us Jeanne (naming her as Bleubeard’s last wife)
  • Bela Bartók gave us Judith (he numbers her as Bluebeard’s 4th wife)

I certainly struggle to fault Disney when it comes to the names they choose, that’s for sure. There’s plenty of names there to sift through, and plenty I could see myself happily using – even with the association of the ride because it’s a pretty decent, well-though out ghostie. Both sides of the atlantic.

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Categories: Disney Names | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Phantom Manor of Names

  1. The first list of seven wives are all very lovely, elegant and highly usable names, but I find myself drawn particularly to the second list. I adore Melisande and Igraine/Ygraine, and can appreciate the lyrical quality of Selysette and Alladine.

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  2. I never knew that people had named all Bluebeard’s wives – sister Anne always rather stole the show, name-wise.

    Maeterlinck’s list is nothing short of enchanting.

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  3. Melisande is so lovely. It is one of my favourites. Although I would never personally use Lucretia, I do love it. It reminds me of other names like Lavinia and Letitia, which are also favourites of mine.

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  4. Small Child adores Phantom Manor. I lost count of how many times she went on it, and she went around singing the theme for weeks afterwards. She also insisted on dressing up as Melanie for Halloween!

    Sélysette is intriguing…

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