I’m delighted to say that Tales from the Haunted Mansion, Volume IV: Memento Mori is the final book in this dastardly series. What should’ve been a whimsical collection of backstories for some iconic happy haunts from the Disney Parks attraction ended up being modern “scary” stories that had little or nothing to do with the ride. If you’ve read any of the previous installments, you’re likely not interested in hurrying back.
Mansion Librarian Amicus Arcane is ready to move on and is looking for a new librarian, which he announces at the start of the book. As in the past, he also interjects unfunny and deathly wishes upon the readers in a series aimed at ages 8 to 12. Sticking to the formula, a character ends up being told a series of scary stories, but this time the reader is not Amicus Arcane.
Prudence Pock is a resident at Shepperton Sanitarium being visited by a Psychologist named Dr. Ackerman. Once inside her padded cell, the once famous author pulls out a blank book with ink only she can see and reads him a series of spooky stories, one of them hers. She bookends the story, with half of her story at the start and the other half told after telling the doctor two irrelevant tales.
The first filler story is “Class Brain,” a teenage rip-off of Frankenstein where the main character is named Shelley (after author Mary Shelley). In this story, the young science enthusiast reanimates the corpse of her school love interest. The other is “A Pirate’s Death For Me,” full of familiar modern pirate ghost tropes and borrowing more from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series than the attraction. And once again, these stories have no similarity to the Haunted Mansion attraction, continuing this series’ best efforts to rip-off R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps under the guise of a familiar Disney brand.
Prudence’s story is the only one that really connects back to the Mansion, although it’s not in any meaningful way. Volume IV makes several attempts to interconnect many of the stories from the first three installments, but I’ve found these books to be so forgettable that it all felt forced coming in the final chapter. It feels like DC trying to force an expanded universe rather than Marvel strategically planning and setting up interconnecting plots through a lot of hard work and dedication.
The best thing I can say about Tales from the Haunted Mansion, Volume IV: Memento Mori is that it brings about the conclusion of a book series that completely misunderstands the appeal of the attraction it was “inspired” by. There’s no wit, no charm, and no whimsical views of the afterlife. It’s just dark, sometimes gory, and cryptic. The real mansion inside Disney Parks is asking for a volunteer to fill the occupancy it has. The book instead informs readers at the end that their own death will be scarier than anything they’ve read here and that they have been chosen to fill that vacancy whether they want it or not. I can’t stress it enough, this is aimed at a young audience and is published by Disney Press. The concept of a Haunted Mansion book series has an audience, but the execution failed on all accounts.
Past Books in the Series
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.