This page is an attempt to compile all biographical information about the Ghost Host. For simplicity's sake, accounts of Master Gracey are collected here as well, as the majority of accounts which give substantial amounts of information about Gracey also posit that he and the Ghost Host were one and the same; however, it is worth noting that there is significant support for the Ghost Host and Gracey being two different individuals.
According to legends told by the butlers and maids of the Haunted Mansion, Master Gracey was George Gracey, Junior, son of of wealthy businessman George Gracey, Sr. and Mary Gilbert Gracey. He led a sheltered childhood, attending Yale and Harvard. Some of these legends placed his birth date as October the 31st, 1890. However, in another account, a bust of the stern-looking Ghost Host in his “corruptible mortal state” could once be seen to bear the date “1835”, suggesting he was born much earlier, in 1800 at the latest.
According to still other accounts, the Master of Gracey Manor's family were obscure and unknown in New Orleans by the time he purchased the house or else had it constructed on his own orders; Indeed, one account implies that Gracey was originally British, and the first of his lineage to come to the New World as a way to escape his checkered past.
Nautical exploits & return
According to a story once told by the Ghost Host to a treasure-hunter, he had once been the honorable young sailor William Gracey, first mate on the Pomona, the independent trading ship of Captain Randall Pace. However, Gracey discovered that honest Captain Pace had actually turned gunrunner without consulting him or the crew, and, in a fit of rage, beheaded him. He then took over the ship, becoming an increasingly crooked tradesman and eventually a full-on pirate, earning the alias of “Captain Blood”.
All accounts dealing with the Ghost Host as a former pirate captain concur that Gracey eventually came to New Orleans and used his money to set himself up high in its society, giving lavish balls in the Mansion he'd either bought, inherited or built, depending on accounts.[FANWORK] In one account, he had, by then, betrayed his pirate crew (leaving them to be slaughtered by the French army) and decided to retire with his treasure, while in others, he continued his frequent voyages at sea, supposedly continuing his alleged piratical ventures. Rumours circulated about the origins of his fortune, but nothing could be proven.[FANWORK]
Gracey hired the powerful psychic Madame Leota, bidding her to come live in Gracey Manor. Accounts are split on whether this was because he was himself interested in venturing into the supernatural, perhaps to contact the spirit of his father, who had been murdered when he was young by his mother, or because he wished to ensure the spirits haunting his manor would bring him no harm.
Their marriage became strained, however, by Lillian's hatred of Madame Leota, the houseguest her husband had insisted on bringing into the house. Lillian was all too aware that Leota was in love with her husband and would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. Her fears were not unfounded; trying to better her chances with Gracey, Leota hypnotized Lillian into performing her old tightrope-walking act over the alligator-infested swamp, and then leaping to her death.
According to another account, Gracey's first wife was Narcissa Devane Gracey, an unfaithful woman who took immense pride in her beauty. As their relationship deteriorated over the years, Gracey eventually sequestrated an insane Narcissa in her own home and claimed to the world that she had died, allowing him to once more pursue new romantic interests.[FANWORK]
Gracey continued to spurn the advances of Leota, although it was rumored that Little Leota, Madame Leota's daughter of an unknown father, who was the first child born in the Mansion in living memory, was actually Gracey's illegitimate daughter, an idea borne out by his habit of always turning silent when Little Leota spoke. Instead, Gracey fell in love at first sight with Emily, a beautiful and innocent young woman.
She was, according to one account, Emily De Claire, a wealthy New Orleans nobleman's daughter, whom he met in her father's house during a business dinner; the rumours among the servants instead placed her as Emily Cavanaugh, daughter of the Cavanaughs of Rhode Island and unprepared 16-year-old inheritor of the family fortune after her parents died in a carriage accident. In that account, Gracey met her at her parents' funeral, as he happened to be visiting the fresh grave of his first wife Lillian.
After a whirlwind courtship, Gracey, who had been told definitively by a lying Leota that the Mansion was now purged of all malevolent ghosts, proposed to Emily and prepared to hold their wedding in the Mansion. Notably, entirely unrelated accounts depict Emily as the Hatbox Ghost's Bride instead, with one suggesting that in this context, Emily was in fact the Ghost Host's own niece.[FANWORK]
A wedding gone awry
According to one account, Emily's father, reluctant to see his daughter marry this adventurer who was at best a commoner and at worst (if rumours were to be believed) a pirate, caused her to die of grief by bringing her false news that Captain Gracey had died at sea the day before they were to be married, causing her to die of grief.
In another, it was Madame Leota who ruined the wedding, summoning the ghosts of Gracey's old crew and of Randall Pace himself to reveal the truth to Emily about her fiancé's grisly past as she was going up to the Attic of the house to find her “something old”, causing her to die of shock and grief. In this account, Gracey, hearing the commotion, ran up moments too late and had a confrontation with the newly-minted “Hatbox Ghost”.
Two separate accounts suggest Emily died suffocated, her body stuffed in a trunk: according to one, she and Gracey played a game of hide-and-seek throughout the house as a bit of fun before the wedding, and after she hid inside the chest, Leota locked it; according to another, Emily went to the Attic to meet the future Hatbox Ghost (a haberdasher's aide in this account, rather than a sea captain), an unlucky admirer of hers with whom she had remained friends, and who had sought this last opportunity to convince her that Gracey was an evil, evil man. The two were confronted by Gracey, who, in a jealous rage, beheaded the hatter, stuffing his body in a hatbox, before strangling Emily and hiding her body in the trunk.[FANWORK]
Learning from Randall Pace's ghost that she was the cause of all this, Gracey ran to the Séance Room and strangled Leota mid-trance in his anger.
According to one of the accounts where Gracey had continued to lead piratical operations throughout his life in New Orleans, rather than having long ago sold out his old comrades, Emily's death drove the buccaneer in a murderous frenzy.
He blamed his partners-in-crime for having kept him in the business and ruined his life; taking to sea one last time, he murdered all of his crewmates and left his vessel a ghost ship, before returning to Gracey Manor.[FANWORK]
A portrait in the Corridor of Doors in the Haunted Mansion depicts a middle-aged Ghost Host as an emaciated murderer wielding a bloody hatchet. Gracey was believed to have gone mad following the death of Emily, and eventually had himself walled inside the Mansion from the outside.
In the end, deciding he had nothing left to live for, and seeing it as the “only way out”, Gracey decided to commit suicide, hanging himself from the rafters of the cupola of the house, where his corpse would only be found many years later; in a bitter irony, what he had hoped would be release proved instead to tether him to the house and its memories as he became not only a ghost, but the first among the ghosts, the true Lord and Master of the House for the first time in his existence. The legends circulating among the servants by the 20th century, in which George Gracey had been born in October of 1890, gave the date of his death as February the 29th, 1941.
His maid Michelle decided to pledge herself, and, in time, a whole congregation of Maids and Butlers, to maintaining the abandoned, cursed house and the pirate treasure it still harbored; she decided to leave his corpse there, as the “ultimate warning” to trespassers. The Ghost Host's painting as one of the Sinister Eleven, as well as his full-body portrait in the Corridor of Doors, depict what appears to be the undead physical form of the Ghost Host, his skin already discolored, having cut himself down from the rafters using his infamous hatchet. However, this is likely artistic license, as the Ghost Host's hanging skeleton in the Cupola remains there to this day, being used by its former occupant to scare guests.
How all this relates to the presence of a perpetually-fresh-looking grave for “Master Gracey” in the Mansion's Family Plot, with the epitaph “No mourning, please, at his request”, is somewhat unclear within accounts where the man who hanged himself in the Cupola and became the Ghost Host was not only a Gracey, but the “Master Gracey”.
Haunting Gracey Manor
Waking up from his death almost instantly, the ghost of the Master found that he had the ability to travel throughout the Mansion in a form invisible even to the other spirits, his presence only perceptible thanks to the “candlelights flickering where the air [was] deathly still” and other such subtle manifestations.
He was able to become aware of just how haunted the house really was, with the ghosts of Gracey Manor soon numbering the dozens and then hundreds. He decided to adopt the role of a benevolent Ghost Host to these guests, notably trying to invite entertainment in the form of Baroness Harriet Elda, a renouned opera singer, whom he invited to the Manor for a special performance, keeping his undead state under wraps in his official letter. The Ghost Host had miscalculated the Baroness's reaction to the discovery that she was to perform before an assembly of ghosts and ghouls, leading to her dying in the Mansion and haunting it forever after.
Notes & References
- According to the Ghost Gallery.
- According to concept art by Marc Davis.
- The Haunted Mansion (1969).
- Better Haunts & Graveyards (2000).
- Nuptial Doom (2006).
- Blueprint for Murder (2005).
- Mystery of the Manse: Part Two (2006).
- Mystery of the Manse: Final Chapter (2006).
- Mystery of the Manse: Part One (2005).
- Mystery of the Manse: Part Three (2006).
- Mystery of the Manse: Part Four (2006).
- The Story and Song of the Haunted Mansion (1969).
- The Misadventures of Miss Ghast (2016).
- Mystery of the Manse: Part Five (2006).
- The Haunted Mansion (post-re-haunting Walt Disney World version).
- The Haunted Mansion (pre-rehaunting Walt Disney World version).
- Doom of the Diva (2006).