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Phantoms are a type of ghost. In Monster High, phantoms too are a type of ghost, although a conclusive definition is lacking. The two recurring traits are reclusiveness and disfigurement, though. The phantoms are among the types of ghosts who gain matter in the Monster World while they are intangible in the Ghost World, where most ghosts live.
The Monster High phantoms are Operetta and both her parents as well as Dr. Boolittle. Mr. Rotter is not confirmed to be a phantom, but since his design is based on Lon Chaney's Phantom of the Opera from the 1925 movie adaptation, it follows he is one too. Based on Operetta and Rotter, who are the only phantoms with visual presence in Monster High, phantoms can have purple skin, green skin, and blue skin. Both Invisi Billy's New Scaremester diary and River's Haunted - Student Spirits diary state that white skin is also an option.
Not unlike folklore, phantoms in Monster High are part of the overarching ghost collective. They are among the classes of ghosts that are non-physical in the Ghost World, but solid in the Monster World. Both source creatures who are phantoms in Monster High, the Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Boolittle, are humans in the source material, though the Phantom of the Opera has a tradition of being ranked as a monster due to his inclusion in the Universal Horror lineup and the source character of Boolittle goes by the name Dolittle, putting a distance between the two doctors that is open to interpretation. As humans, the Phantom and Doctor Dolittle have in common a pessimistic view on humans and a preference to be away from most of them. As well, both have experience with opera, this being the entire plot of The Phantom of the Opera and the subject of the sixth Doctor Dolittle book, Doctor Dolittle's Caravan. Neither Boolittle nor his non-phantom adopted daughter Jane have opera-affinities, though, leaving the reclusive nature as sole omnipresent state. Operetta, her parents, Dr. Boolittle, and Jane all have a tendency to minimize either their frequency or range of social contact. Rotter does not share this trait, although it was the point of a small running gag in "Ghouls Rule". Both Operetta and Rotter, the only phantoms visually present in Monster High, are disfigured to a degree. As such, disfigurement and reclusiveness appear defining characteristics for phantoms in Monster High.
Operetta was one of the four characters originally designed for Monster High, but during the three-year development period, her role was given to the mummy Cleo de Nile. Operetta was given her first fictional presence in Holt's 'Basic' diary, but didn't make a personal appearance until late in Volume 2 of the cartoon and wasn't fully incorporated until the 'Campus Stroll' line. She, Howleen Wolf, and Jackson Jekyll make up the tail end of the extended starter cast. In Operetta's case, this presumably was done because the Phantom of the Opera is not a monster in the source material and most of its adaptations, meaning Operetta would fit better as a building stone of the franchise than a foundation pillar.
As the primary phantom of the franchise, Operetta is the most thorough representation of the species. She is also one of the most elaborate reworkings of the source creature, the Phantom of the Opera, of the entire cast. An operetta is a form of opera that is lighthearted and contains spoken dialogue between songs, making it close in design to a musical. While Operetta's father is the Phantom of the Opera, she is the Phantom of the Opry. An opry is an establishment that features live country music—from which rockabilly descends—and the term originated as a diminutive form of the word "opera". According to Operetta's student file, Operetta and her parents moved from France to New Orleans, a former French colony, when Operetta was still a little girl. Her father took a job on a riverboat opera house, likely on the Mississippi River, which presumably brought Operetta in contact with Nashville, Tennessee, the "City of Music" where the Grand Ole Opry is located, and rockabilly. These days, the Phantom is a night teacher of Haunted Music at Monster High, after having earlier provided private music lessons for upcoming talent. In the novel, the Phantom also provides voice lessons. Concurrently with his teaching job, he manages his own independent label, Music of the Night, which is a reference to the song of the same name from the 1986 musical adaption.
Design-wise, Operetta is a more aestethically pleasing adaption of the 1986 musical version of the Phantom, which itself is already a more aestethically pleasing adaption of the novel's Phantom. Instead of a half-mask on the right, Operetta wears hers on the left. In most cases, it doesn't hide the scar that covers the left side of her face (and goes down her neck and onto her left arm) at all, but Operetta does not aim for that either. She likes the scar and has augmented it with a tattoo catacombs into her domain similar to how the Phantom made the cellars under the Palais Garnier his.and she does not have reasons to hide her appearance like her father's source character has. Though her own interest in opera music is limited, music and musical performances are important to her and she can play the organ. Singing is a more difficult matter for Operetta, because her voice has three special properties: her screams can break various materials and if she sings live, she either disorients the people listening to her for a long time or she gains mind-control of them. The latter trait fits the culture created by Trilby, which Svengali partially inspired the Phantom. This, as well as the spider theme shared between Operetta and Svengali, is likely a non-deliberate match, though. Alternatively, it is possible Operetta's supernatural voice is inspired by the unearthly voice her father possesses in the source material. She's also a good rower and has made part of the
Operetta's relationship with Johnny Spirit is a twofold reference. Two instruments are associated with the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera: the organ and the violin. Operetta plays the organ and substitutes the violin with a guitar, while Johnny is a skilled violin player. Johnny is based on the song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", which fits the bluegrass genre or more broadly the country genre, on which rockabilly is in part based.
Prior to Operetta, the cartoon introduced Mr. Rotter. He is notably not one of the original teachers as introduced in the Fearbook and does not appear in any fiction but the cartoon with the exception of one dismissive mention in Lagoona's 13 Wishes diary and some presence in A Night in Scare-adise: Prom 2014, yet has grown to be one of the most prominent members of the Monster High staff due to frequent appearances. As aforementioned, he is designed after the Phantom of the Opera as the character appeared in the 1925 movie The Phantom of the Opera. In "Ghouls Rule", he even displayed a preference for using secret passageways like the Phantom of the Opera is known for. He is not the Phantom himself though, who is a separate character but coincidentally also a teacher at Monster High. Along with Where, Rotter is one of the teachers with two Flash models: one with green skin and one with blue skin. The one with blue skin was only used twice, in "Idol Threat" and "Ghostly Gossip", but is also the one the CGI model is based on. The webisodes consistently use the green skin version, so Rotter has two "true" appearances.
Doctor Boolittle entered the franchise late in 2013 with the introduction of Jane. Designed after Doctor Dolittle of Doctor Dolittle fame, he has mastered many animal languages. He is the lead scientist at a research station in an unspecified South American jungle, given that jaguars, ocelots, and sloths are part of the local fauna. His only identified colleague is Doctor Moreau,the Monster High version of Dr. Moreau from the 1896 novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, who in the novel turns animals into human-like creatures. Given that Jane has an English accent, Doctor Boolittle can be assumed to be an Englishman like the source character.
"Phantom" descends from the Ancient Greek word "φάντασμα" ("phántasma"), which can be translated as "apparition", "vision", "dream", and "fantasy". It comes from the verb "φαίνειν" ("phaínein"), which meaning comes down to "to (visually) make the presence known of".
The word appeared in the English language around 1300 as synonym for "apparition", "vision", "dream", and "fantasy". It became a synonym for "ghost" one to two centuries later, differing at most in meaning in that "ghost" refers to content and "phantom" refers to the perception of content. The meaning of "something having the form, but not the substance, of a real thing" is from the early 18th century, following from the same mindset change that also affected the meaning of "simulacrum".
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- Before the Phantom – Literary Influences on Leroux's Novel
- Welcome to the Wonderful World of Hugh Lofting's "Doctor Dolittle"
- Hugh Lofting Facts at Your Dictionary
- What Effects Books can have on Children... at Judy's Ramblings
- Porridge Poetry at CurioBooks
- The Twilight of Magic at GoodReads (reviews)