Disney is billed as The Happiest Place On Earth, but just like many clowns, there are dark, disturbing secrets lurking beneath the cheerful facade. Whether it’s a possible hanging on It’s a Small World, the continued presence of birds thought to be extinct, or a 14th century witchcraft book with a mind of its own, welcome to the Creepy World of Walt Disney.
14. Dolly the Ghost
Of the many ghosts that reportedly haunt Disney properties, Dolly has the saddest backstory. A young woman named Regena Young fell off Disneyland’s Matterhorn and was hit by an oncoming bobsled. She died. Her seatbelt was unbuckled, which caused the fall, and there is some speculation that she may have done it herself. However, we will never know if she intended to take her life. Cast members on the old Matterhorn said that the felt they were being watched during their walk-throughs of the ride, which are safety checks done at the end of each day. The area she died is ominously called “Dolly’s Dip.”
13. The Seance Table
There are many ghosts – fake and real – living in Disney World’s Haunted Mansion. However, one story about the Mansion sticks out. Walt wanted authentic items throughout the parks, which is how bones and a skull ended up in the Pirates ride. In the Haunted Mansion, a real 14th century witchcraft book is displayed prominently on the seance table. Cast members report struggling to prop the book up in an upright position, since it seems to have a mind of its own – a mind that wants to lay flat. Cast members report seeing shadows or ghostly visages around the seance table. When employees clean the ride at night, they do not touch the seance table, nor do they mock it. One employee didn’t believe the hype so he mocked the table and smacked it with his hand, which then started to burn.
12. A Hanging on It’s a Small World
There’s a photograph on the internet of a child hanging from the rafters of Disney’s most innocent ride: It’s a Small World. There is something inherently creepy about a ride that plays “It’s a Small World After All” hundreds of times a day, and this alleged incident makes the entire thing seem more sinister. The ride malfunctions a lot, requiring riders to be escorted off. During one such breakdown in 1999, a family was leaving the ride when they looked up in the rafters and saw a child hanging there. No one knows whether it was a suicide or accident. Some believe the hanging person is one of the animatronic dolls that are placed throughout the ride, and others have said those dolls move even when the ride is turned off. So did a child die on the ride, or is it just urban legend? Only Disney knows for sure, and they aren’t saying!
11. River Country of Nightmares
Disney’s River Country was the first true themed water park in America. The waterpark was located at Fort Wilderness and it was a big hit with visitors when it opened in 1976. However, darkness descended on River Country when an 11-year old boy died of a brain-eating amoeba virus. Although some believe this is in the realm of an urban legend, it was confirmed by the Associated Press in 1980, which reported that the “New York Health Department pinpointed River Country as the source of the amoeba after the New York child’s parents reported that the amusement park was the only place where he went swimming recently.” Gruesomely, “the child died after the amoeba entered his nose, went through the nasal passage and attacked the nervous system.” This tragedy did not lead to the park’s demise. It closed in 2001 after Florida law changed, requiring some parks to be shut down because of non chlorinated lakes. However, the remains of the abandoned park have been explored by some videographers and they describe feeling as if they entered the set of a horror movie. Two other boys died at River Country, one drowning in 1982 and the other in 1989.
10. Colonial P***
Disney Parks are famous for their attention to detail. There are hidden Mickeys throughout all the parks, Walt Disney’s original welcome speech is tapped out in Morse Code at the New Orleans Train Depot, and artificial vanilla scents are piped into Main Street. But some details are not cute or touching. At Liberty Square, there is brown pavement winding through the red concrete. As it turns out, the brown represents the sewage drainage patterns that existed in colonial times, back when everything – and we do mean everything – ran downhill. Dear Disney, there is such a thing as TMI! Wait until you read this next weird Disney fact….human remains in a Disney attraction!
9. Human Remains Exist – But Not Where You Think
If you are a Disney Parks aficionado, you have no doubt heard about guests breaking Disney’s rules by leaving the cremated ashes of their family members inside the Haunted Mansion. The dark ride is the perfect venue to do so, but little of the ashes remain. Every night the cleaning crew vacuums up the ashes. (A very creepy job!) However, you may not have heard about the other place where human remains exist – Pirates of the Caribbean! Disney wanted to make its rides as real as possible, so they contacted UCLA Medical Center for bones and skulls. Although most of the human remains, have been removed and buried in their countries of origin, some poor soul’s skull is on display on a headboard in the Captain’s Quarters.
8. Mr. Toad in H***
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is one of the few attractions at Disneyland Park in Anaheim that was there on opening day in 1955. Those who have ridden it may have wondered about the way the ride ends: with Mr. Toad getting clobbered by a train and arriving in h***. That scene wasn’t really in Wind in the Willows, was it? Definitely not. In the Disney version of the ride, the riders arrive in h***, which happens to be a heated room. Small devils bob up and down upon your arrival, scaring the c*** out of those who thought this was a family ride. But that’s just the beginning of the end. A demon appears. A dragon breathes fire at the passengers. The sounds of someone choking fills the ride. Finally, the passengers get away from h*** and the ride ends. Disney didn’t adapt this scene from the book, nor from their own movie of the novel, so what gives? Well, it seems an imagineer thought it would be a fun gag to have Mr. Toad go to h*** for being a bad driver. It stands as the only example of a ride where Disney changed a happy ending to a sad one.
7. Disneyland Paris is a Popular Place for Suicide
Disney Parks are supposed to be “the happiest places on earth” but not everyone sees it that way, especially in France. A chef working at Disneyland Paris wrote “I don’t want to go back to Mickey’s house,” on his wall. He then committed suicide. That was in 2010, but three years later another Disneyland Paris employee tried to set himself on fire, but thankfully the fire was put out quickly.
6. Dark Moments in History
It often seems like Disney stands outside of history, and the parks go to great lengths not to let the outside world intrude on all that fun. The parks have only closed for three days in their history: the day President Kennedy was assassinated, the day of the Northridge Earthquake, and on September 11, 2011. But Disney has also been a surprising location for historical events. John Lennon was a guest at Disney World’s Polynesian Resort in 1974 when he finally signed legal documents disbanding The Beatles. He was killed before they could reunite. President Nixon gave his infamours “I Am Not a Crook Speech” at Disneyland. He was later impeached.
5. Walt Disney Was Watching You
Walt Disney was the cofounder of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. With that properly Orwellian title, it comes as no surprise that the Alliance Disney founded was responsible for reporting on people it thought might be secret communists, leading them to be persecuted by Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. This lead to hundreds of artists being blacklisted, their careers ruined. Disney famously built himself an apartment at Disneyland, that he used to watch guests. Later, Disney World became famous for its huge security staff, some visible, most not, which has its eyes on the parks – and you – at all times. Walt’s efforts to spy on his fellow citizens make his later actions at the Disney parks a little less charming and a lot more creepy.
4. Club Illuminati
Some people claim that Disney had links to the Masons, who are believed to be linked to the Illuminati. Before his death, Walt had plans to build an exclusive club at Disneyland. The club was completed and is known as Club 33. To belong to Club 33, you must pay a $25,000 initiation fee and annual dues of $10,000. Membership is limited. Some have speculated that the “33” stands for the proposition that Walt was a 33rd Degree Mason. A mason named John Glick said Walt was sometimes at Masonic meetings in Hollywood, and those who have seen pictures of the club say that there are many references to the mysterious group in the design of the space. Many of America’s founding fathers were also Masons and they incorporated Masonic symbols into the design of many buildings and the layout of Washington D.C., so the idea of architectural references at Club 33 is not that far-fetched.
3. The Wizard of Bras
For all the talk about how wholesome Disney is supposed to be, there are a surprising number of risque incidents. The most notorious is Hollywood-Maxwell Intimate Apparel, a bra shop that was located at Disneyland when it first opened. The shop featured a display of women’s lingerie from the 1800’s to the 1950’s. The idea of women buying fancy bras as Disneyland is weird enough, but don’t worry, it gets weirder. The shop had a mascot – a male robot dressed in a corset and women’s stockings. The mascot was on a revolving stage and introduced himself as “The Wonderful Wizard of Bras.” The shop is long gone, but no one knows what became of the cross-dressing animatronic.
2. Extinct Birds
Discovery Island was the other Disney park that had to be closed because of the Florida law banning parks with natural water that had not been chlorinated. The ruins of Discovery Island have been explored by urban naturalists who were daring enough to face the wrath of Disney by trespassing. Discovery Island was called Treasure Island when Disney World opened in 1974 and it was originally a place to showcase wildlife. The Island was known for its program of breeding rare birds. An animal went extinct on Discovery Island when the last-known dusky seaside sparrow died in 1987. The bird was officially declared extinct in 1990. When the park was closed down, the animals and birds were shipped to other parks. However, their descendants remain. Urban explorer Shane Perez found many creepy artifacts: old photographs of Disney employees hanging in abandoned offices, snakes preserved in jars, angry baby vultures, and many other rotting artifacts. Perez reported many colonies of loud, unusual birds.
1. The Dead Bellhop on the Tower of Terror
Perhaps the most persistent report of a ghost in Disney World surrounds the Tower of Terror. Staff reported strange things happen around the ride, like lights suddenly snapping off leaving people in darkness. When staff checked the video of the dark rooms, the video showed the rooms bathed in light, as if the lights never went off. Music would sometimes go in and out. And then there was the human-like figure that would stand just behind the machinery. This is believed to be the ghost of one of the bellhops who died of a heart attack. The current bellhops swear that this is his ghost and none of them will work the area alone.