At-Home Imagineering: DIY ‘Haunted Mansion’ ride delivers hot and cold running thrills at one fan’s home

in Artwork, Disney, Magic Kingdom

We’re delighted that Dan Schmidt reached out to us when he saw our At Home Imagineering post about Patrick Fragale’s Peter Pan ride simulator.  Dan, you see, also built a Disney inspired ride in his home.

As an entry to the “Haunt Your Disneyside” contest, Dan turned his garage into a working, small-scale version of the Haunted Mansion.

His initial inspiration for creating the small ride stemmed from seeing online videos of PVC based backyard roller coasters.  An initial test track was completed and the adventure began.

A design director for Great Wolf Lodge by trade Dan, his “very patient wife” and their two children reside in Madison, WI.  There, the family moved into a new home with a rather large garage.  Seeing a perfect opportunity to expand his test coaster into a full ride experience, a plan was hatched.  Leaning on the “Haunt Your Disneyside” contest for thematic inspiration, Dan creatively crafted a Haunted Mansion themed roller coaster experience.

As fabricating the clamshell design of the classic Doom Buggy didn’t fit with plywood building material, the ride vehicle was modeled after the ones at Mystic Manor.  With a plywood track and amazing ride vehicle, which accommodates one adult and one child, theming was next.

Enlisting the help of creative kids, spooky walls were made and terror-ific tombstone planted.  Aside from lenticular changing portraits of his children, obtained from Memento Mori at Walt Disney World, everything in the experience is handmade.

The at-home attraction even features its own pop-up ghost. Dan describes his favorite show element, “I cobbled together a “pop up tombstone” replica that I trigger with my shop vac. Again, very simple and crude. Wood, PVC, and a shop vac. I purchased the little ghoul head from a Walgreens clearance rack for a couple bucks. Here is a video of us making that. It works pretty much the same way it does in the mansion. (well, minus the shop vac and person operating it.)”

The creepy cool coaster was a Halloween hit.  Lines all the way down the driveway were filled with trick-or-treaters eager to ride haunted house roller coaster.

“It’s just been a fun thing to work on. A great way to get my kids involved in building, helping to create the art and to having something a little unique to offer trick-or-treaters on Halloween. There are some great haunted houses in our neighborhood but they can be pretty scary. I wanted to have something that the little Buzz Lightyear’s and Princess Elsa’s could enjoy as well. One little guy started crying because he didn’t want to go trick-or-treating anymore, he just wanted to stay and ride. Mission accomplished!” –Dan Schmidt

At the moment there are no plans for additional attractions at the family’s home.  However, Dan is hopeful that someday he’ll be able to craft a home version of “It’s a Small World,” but does not think his family will give him the go-ahead for that.

We’re grateful that Dan shared his home and at home Imagineering accomplishment with us.  More of the homemade thrill ride can be seen at his Garage Haunted Mansion blog.

Do you have a passion for Disney décor?  Have you turned all or part of your home into a tribute to your favorite attraction?  We’d love to share your creation(s) with our readers.  Please send an email to

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