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Welcome Foolish Students: Lessons From Disney’s Haunted Mansion For Penn State Students

Welcome foolish mortals! As Halloweekend spooks up Happy Valley, it’s once again time to review a quick classic: Disney’s Haunted Mansion. A new story from the original 2003 film, Disney’s Haunted Mansion (2023) is an inventive reimagination of everyone’s favorite attraction. Led by an all-star cast of Jamie Lee Curtis, Owen Wilson, and Rosario Dawson, the film is bound to spark both belly laughs and jump scares for audiences across America.

Set in modern-day New Orleans, the movie features Ben Matthias, a disillusioned astrophysicist who has traded developing paranormal detection technology for giving walking tours around the seemingly “haunt-less” city. When widowed mother Gabbie and her son Travis move into a historical home, it all becomes quite clear: not only is the dusty mansion quite haunted, it is home to 999 happy haunts. 

And there’s always room for one more!

If you haven’t yet had the chance to see this masterpiece, ‘tis the season to enjoy the film. So grab your popcorn, kick your feet up, and log into Disney+. Here are seven lessons from Disney’s Haunted Mansion for Penn State students to remember, far beyond Halloweekend.

It Takes A Village

When Gabbie and her son Travis first arrive at the mansion, it seems as though the duo is completely out of luck. With candles floating down a seemingly endless hallway and windows blown shut, Gabbie cannot solve the mystery alone and calls upon the eclectic Father Kent, medium Harriet, and astrophysicist Ben to investigate the paranormal activity. 

For students facing the ghastly group project, a clear lesson emerges: In the hardest of times, sometimes it does take a village. While the horrors of the Haunted Mansion may be far less scary than a semester-long group assignment, banding together for the long haul is often the only way to defeat this nightmare.

Heroes Are Made After Halftime

When Father Kent, the crass but lovable preacher, shows up on the doorstep of Matthias, he explains Gabbie’s predicament at the Haunted Mansion. Leaving out some details, like the fact that Matthias will be forever haunted from entering the mansion once, Kent asks a simple question: “You wanna be a hero?”

While an exhausted Matthias first serves up a hard “pass” to Father Kent, he eventually overcomes the hesitancy and saves the day. For college students run down by a challenging semester, take note of Ben’s initial reaction and final result. While exhaustion may haunt you at the halfway point this semester, it’s never too late to change your mind and rally as a second half hero. Crack a book this Halloweekend or at the very least, before Thanksgiving break! 

Aim High

When the floor of the world-famous stretching room traps Matthias and Travis with quicksand and a crocodile-infested lake, the team has no option but to switch up its escape plan. Grabbing onto antique fixtures and scaling the growing walls, the duo finds its way through the ceiling and onto the roof of the Haunted Mansion. 

In a room with no windows, no doors, and no way out, there’s only one way to go: up! Coincidentally, that’s the only way grades should be going as well. While exhaustion begins to permeate the chilly State College air, it’s time to finally settle down, climb back toward the almighty A, and become an academic weapon. With graduation around the corner, it may also be your only option.

Lovers May Not Last A Lifetime

A classic figure in all depictions of the Haunted Mansion is Constance Hatchaway, the bride. Decapitating all five of her husbands, the bride now resides in the attic of the dusty home and threatens all who enter the space with a glowing heart and swinging ax.

Let this be a lesson to the lovers of Happy Valley: young love may not last a lifetime. While the bride may have had quite the hand in cutting short her own relationships, five failed marriages means one cautionary tale this breakup season. While there’s no shortage of couples costumes in State College this weekend, there may be far fewer matching holiday sweaters come December. Y’all stay safe out there, though.

But Ghosting Isn’t The Answer

Ah, I shamelessly couldn’t resist. While the hauntings of the Haunted Mansion do make for an excellent cinematic experience, they only cause chaos for both the living and dead of the film. Made uncomfortable by the presence of the other group in the mansion, both sides suffer from the ghostly activities.

Looking at today’s practices of Gen Z, a clear comparison comes to mind: while we all do plenty of things for the plot, our version of ghosting is honestly just as foul as the activities of these 999 tortured souls. Have some courage this spooky season, folks, and send that clear text defining the relationship or peacing out. This way, you can either go the distance to make your house a home or at the very least, ensure it’s not as spooky as Crump Manor.

Know When To Ask For Help

When tasked with hosting a seance for the spirits of the Haunted Mansion, Harriet the psychic is up for the challenge. While better known for charging tourists via PayPal than delivering accurate readings, Harriet does right by her friends and wakes up the spirit of the iconic Madame Leota, a glowing psychic from the 1800s now trapped in her own crystal ball. 

Knowing her strengths and the task at hand, Harriet makes the wise decision to work with Madame Leota and embrace the wisdom of the expert. For Penn Staters this semester, giving it the old college try may not always be enough. Knowing when to ask for help is a key skill, and a quick email to your TA may be the difference between a pass or fail come December.

Have A Little Faith In Your Professor

Playing the lovable Professor Bruce Davis of Tulane, Danny DeVito represents the kind of professor we wouldn’t mind hosting an extra office hour or two. With a love of happy hour at the hibachi house and endless knowledge of ghost sightings in New Orleans, Professor Davis would be sure to have at least four stars and glowing comments on

The group recognizes the value Davis brings to the team and is proven right when he plays a crucial role in saving the day. For students seeking advice or a Hail Mary extension, you may be similarly rewarded for putting faith in a beloved professor. Send that email, hand that raise, and be sure to connect with faculty during your four years at State.

But first, read the darn syllabus. A quick scan here could be the difference between your funeral and a letter of rec. Happy Halloween to you, folks!

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a senior majoring in Marketing and Psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 19-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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