8 Urban Legends About Disney Parks, And Where They Came From
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a large, multi-national company in possession of a good fortune must be in want of some really, really weird rumors that just refuse to go away, no matter how many times you tell people they’re not true. Or at least, that’s the case if you’re Disney — and as these creepy urban legends about Disney parks that absolutely aren't true demonstrate, those kinds of rumors can be incredibly hard to quash, regardless as to how outlandish they are. And, I mean, seriously— when I say outlandish, I mean outlandish. Like, there’s no way they could possibly be true… and yet an awful lot of folks still can’t help but think, “BUT WHAT IF THEY ARE?”
I mean, in all honesty, that’s kind of fair; I love a good spooky story as much as (and, indeed, possibly more than) the next gal, and wondering “What if…?” is one of my favorite pastimes. That said, though, there comes a point where you also just have to face the facts: Sometimes, stories are just stories. That’s the case with most of these Disney urban legends; although some of them are based on things that did actually happen, most of them are just the result of people connecting a bunch of dots that don’t actually belong to the same picture. Some of them are even straight-up fictions made up by some extremely creative storytellers.
So, since we’ve already examined a few ghosts that allegedly haunt Disney parks, let’s do a little more myth-busting, shall we? These eight stories and rumors aren’t actually true — but they’ve managed to fool people for a good long while anyway.
1. MYTH: Scatter My Ashes At The Haunted Mansion
There are so many stories of people allegedly scattering the ashes of deceased love ones at the Haunted Mansion at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Sometimes, they result in ghost stories, with the people to whom the ashes belonged allegedly haunting the ride ever after. The same is also said of Pirates of the Caribbean.
But the official word? Is that it doesn’t happen, with or without Disney’s permission. While it’s true that a woman was caught scattering what ABC News called “a powdery substance” while riding Pirates of the Caribbean back in 2007, she said that it was just baby powder, not ashes — and we’ll have to take her at her word, since the “substance” dispersed in the water and was unable to be gathered for testing. What’s more, a Los Angeles Times article about that same story noted that “Disney officials said they were unaware of any of any confirmed ash-scattering incidents in the park, and they didn’t believe it to be a problem.” Guests do ask about it from time to time, but Rob Doughty, then a spokesperson for the Disneyland Resort, said that the answer is always no.
Also, let it be known that it’s illegal to scatter human ashes on private property without permission; according to the LA Times, if you don’t have permission, it’s a misdemeanor. Specifically, it violates the state Health and Safety code.
2. MYTH: Mowgli’s Palace
This one is my favorite one: According to a story that circulates a lot online, there were allegedly once plans to open a Disney resort in North Carolina inspired by The Jungle Book. Reportedly called Mowgli’s Palace, the resort allegedly had a difficult time getting off the ground; it’s said that the locals weren’t terribly happy with the idea of this resort opening up in their hometown. It did allegedly open — although according to the story, it also closed up quickly and abruptly, with all personnel dismissed and the property locked up and abandoned.
But it’s just that: A story. In fact, it’s a creepypasta, a classic written by Christopher Howard “Slimebeast” Wolf. As the story itself progresses, it becomes readily apparent that, yes, Mowgli’s Palace and its alleged reasons for closure are fictional — but the fact that there are a few abandoned areas at Disney Parks lends believability to the setup: River Country, the first water park opened at Walt Disney World in 1976, closed permanently in the early 2000s and still remains visible from boats on Bay Lake passing by; and Discovery Island, opened at Walt Disney World in 1974 as a sort of nature preserve attraction, closed in 1999 and also remains visible from boats on Bay Lake. Spooky.
3. MYTH: Why The Skyway Closed
I remember hearing this one a lot in the early 2000s: Rumor had it that Disney closed its Skyway ride — a gondola lift attraction that gave guests a bird’s-eye view of the park — because someone had died after falling out of it. The truth is, though, that at both Disneyland and Disney World, the ride was closed purely for economic reasons; the hardware was getting old and the money that would be needed to repair it was determined to be better spent elsewhere. There were incidents on both rides, one of which was fatal, around the time that they closed; however, these incidents were coincidental.
At Disneyland in California, the Skyway closed in November of 1994. About six months earlier, in April, a 30-year-old man jumped out of the ride — on purpose! — and landed in a tree. He was rescued and treated at a local hospital for minor injuries. He did try to sue Disney, claiming that he had fallen out of the ride… but after he admitted that he actually jumped out of it on purpose, he was, uh, advised to drop the lawsuit. He complied.
At Disney World in Florida, there was also an incident that occurred the year the ride closed; unfortunately, though, this one resulted in a death. In February of 1999, a custodian was cleaning the station platform at the Fantasyland tower when other Cast Members who didn’t know he was there turned on the ride. The gondolas were coming right towards him, so he instinctively grabbed onto one; he tried to climb inside, but lost his hold and fell. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. The Skyway closed in November of 1999, although again, it was for unrelated reasons.
4. MYTH: The History Of The Haunted Mansion’s Hearse
Not going to lie: This one didn’t creep me out. It actually made me laugh, because it’s so far-fetched that I have a hard time understanding how it might be construed as true. The myth is this: That the ghost horse-drawn hearse located outside the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland was used to carry Brigham Young to his place of burial after he died in 1877.
But it’s absolutely not true. According to Glen M. Leonard, director of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Museum of Church History and Art, “historical evidence shows no hearse was used” to move Young’s body. Rather, it was carried on a platform by clerks and employees.
So how did the rumor get started? Well, according to a 2001 report from 2News, a man named Dale Rickards bought the hearse in 1973 from a Las Vegas collector allegedly who told him not only that the hearse had come from Salt Lake City, but that Young's descendents had confirmed with him that the hearse had carried the church leader. Rickards offered to sell it to the Church of LDS, but they weren’t interested, so he sold it to Disney instead.
5. MYTH: The Disney Villains Park That Never Was
Periodically, posts pop up on Disney-themed internet forums and rumor mills asking about “Dark Kingdom,” a villain-themed Disney park that’s either allegedly in the works, or was allegedly planned and scrapped some time ago. According to the rumors, Dark Kingdom would have been full not of heroes, but villains, with Maleficent’s Castle at the center of it all.
However, as cool as it sounds, Dark Kingdom has never existed in any way, shape, or form — not even conceptually. Said Disney historian Jim Hill to Thrillist recently, “The idea of the Dark Kingdom seems to have basically come from the internet, with no basis on anything concrete” — while a former Imagineer said somewhat more bluntly, “An entirely villain-centered park is complete b*******.”
But the origins of the Dark Kingdom rumors are fascinating — and that’s what the Thrillist piece delves into. There are bits and pieces, you see — things floating around in Disney’s history that either did exist, or did make it to at least the conceptual stage before being abandoned— that seem to hold the seeds for the idea of Dark Kingdom. One of them was a spooky walk-through attraction called Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour, which existed inside Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland from 1986 to 2006; one of them was a land originally planned for Animal Kingdom in Orlando called Beastly Kingdom, which was axed for budget reasons; and yet another was Villain Mountain, a flume ride pitched for the Magic Kingdom that never made it beyond the concept stage.
Head on over to Thrillist to read the full piece; it’s well worth it.
6. MYTH: Nobody Dies At Disney
One enormously persistent myth posits that, should a fatal incident occur at a Disney park, all victims must be removed from the premises before they’re declared dead — reportedly so that the company can legitimately claim that no one has ever died on Disney property. It’s a story that’s based primarily in hearsay; there are a lot of sentences like, “Former Cast Members have confirmed that this is, in fact, company policy,” floating around out there, but I haven’t been able to find any actual interviews that directly quote people confirming the rumor. There’s a book called Inside The Mouse that claims to have proof, but the reviews I’ve found seem to indicate that most of what’s featured in the book are, again, rumors and urban legends without much in the way of solid evidence to back it up all up, so take it with a grain of salt.
And besides, there are facts that directly contradict the idea that “no one dies on Disney property” could even be an actual policy, realistically speaking. As Snopes points out, in some places, “once paramedics begin life-saving efforts they cannot discontinue those efforts until the patient has been transported to a medical facility”; in these cases, it’s possible for someone to die onsite, but not be declared dead until they reach the hospital — not because “no one dies on Disney property,” but because that’s just the way that emergency care works.
Furthermore, news reports of incidents that have occurred at Disney parks have often included victim status; for example, a piece in the New York Times about a plane that crash landed in the EPCOT parking lot at Disney World notes that “a man was pronounced dead at the scene.” I’d say that puts the kibosh on that myth.
7. MYTH: Walt Disney Was Cryogenically Frozen
You’ve heard this one before, right? That Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen so that he can be reanimated when the technology to do so exists? Welp, I hate to break it to you, but that’s a big ol’ NOPE. After Walt died of lung cancer, he was cremated and buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif.
Snopes notes that it’s not known who started the cryogenics rumor or why; however, the myth-busting site believes it was likely “the privacy Disney maintained concerning his personal life” combined with “the lack of details available about his funeral and burial arrangements” and “his reputation as a technological innovator” that helped perpetuate it. And, honestly, I’d argue that all that says more about us than it does about Walt — consider this your reminder that no one owes anyone their privacy, their stories, or their life or death details, even if they’re public figures.
8. MYTH…?: Andy’s Coming!
This one isn’t super creepy, but it’s proven to be extremely popular in recent years, thanks to the meme-ification of, well, everything — so let’s take a look: Rumor has it that if you shout “ANDY’S COMING!” within earshot of any character actors at Disneyparks who are playing characters from Toy Story, they’ll immediately drop to the ground and go limp. But while this real-life Easter egg is definitely a myth now…it wasn’t always.
In an interview with Temporary Tourist, a Cast Member revealed that the “Andy’s coming!” trick did used to work; however, they said that the policy was discontinued for safety reasons. Additionally, a Cast Member wrote to Snopes and said that the policy was discontinued due to the “Andy’s Coming!” meme having gone viral:
“The characters USED to drop to the ground when someone yelled ‘Andy’s coming.’ As of the last week or so, however, they no longer do this. This is because EVERYONE found out about it at the same time (when that meme went viral) and now people are shouting this about 50 times per hour and a half, as opposed to hearing it once or twice a day, like before.”
But, hey, you know what? Even though none of these myths or legends are true, they're still weirdly enjoyable to read about. So go ahead. Indulge your love of fiction. Everyone's gotta have something spooky to talk about around the campfire, right?