When Walt Disney opened his amusement park Disneyland in 1955 he created attractions that would draw people from all over the world. It’s a place people go to for safe, innocent fun and joy. With adorable princesses staying in character, to beloved Mickey and Minnie, packing on the PDA, this park is full of excitement. But it’s also full of secrets. You’d be surprised to know this park is a carefully constructed experience with a dark side. It might be creepy to some people, but these facts do have an allure that makes you want to visit just to see if they’re true!
REAL SKELETONS ARE USED AS PROPS
Did you know that the movie franchise Pirates of the Caribbean was actually inspired by a popular boat ride in Disneyland? Another unknown fact about the ride is that for years it featured real human skeletons as props. Apparently the Imagineering team felt the fakes ones were too, well, fake so they used real ones instead from the UCLA Medical Center. Eventually they were replaced with fake ones—except for the real human skull that still resides over the bed in the Captain’s Quarters.
UNDERGROUND SECRET TUNNELS
While thousands of visitors pound the pavement every day at Magic Kingdom in Orlando, there’s a bustling world right underneath. According to legend, when Walt Disney was strolling in Disneyland he saw a Frontierland cowboy walking through Tomorrowland. He felt that ruined the magic of the park, so when Magic Kingdom was built he made sure that underground tunnels were made for staff to travel and to hide unsightly things like garbage and stock.
THE WIZARD OF BRAS
When Disneyland first opened it had a lingerie store called Hollywood Maxwell Intimate Apparel that sold bras. It’s not clear why they had it at a family theme park, but it seems odd there was a male robot on display modelling stockings and a corset. He introduced himself as “The Wonderful Wizard of Bras” through a pre-recorded tape. Say it with me, “Seriously, what the heck?”
Not everything in Disneyland is pretty and fun. In fact, there are two creepy abandoned theme parks that haven’t been touched in years. In 1999 Discovery Island was closed forever, and now it’s an overgrown island with rundown buildings. In 2001, River Country, a popular attraction that happens to be close to Discovery Island, was also shut down. Apparently the surrounding water is very unsafe, likely due to the many fireworks that polluted the water. In 2016 photographer Seph Lawless snuck onto the island and took pictures that instantly went viral—and caused him to be banned from Disneyland. Spooky!
HAUNTED TOWER OF TERROR
If you like ghost stories, you’ll like this one about the Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The ride was inspired by The Twilight Zone and had an eerie backstory, but there’s an urban legend that’s just as creepy. According to the story a bellhop had a heart attack and now his ghost haunts the ride. Staff members claim that mysterious things have happened like lights shutting off, and a dark apparition appearing and disappearing. The ride has now been retired and will soon be resurrected as a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction.
SUICIDES IN PARIS
Even though Disneyland Paris is the most popular tourist attraction in Europe, it isn’t as joyful as you’d expect. In 2010 there were two suicides committed by employees. First, a 37-year-old restaurant manager who had scratched on a wall a message that translated to “I don’t want to work for Mickey anymore.” Before that another restaurant worker had thrown himself in front of a train.
TOAD IN HELL
Remember the children’s book The Wind in the Willows? Well, Disney made a ride loosely based on it, with the emphasis on loosely. Disney’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride ends with Mr. Toad crashing into a train and then going to hell. In “hell” there are devils and even heat, which was meant to make you feel like you were really in hell. The creepy part is that nowhere in the book does Mr. Toad go to hell. Disney just decided it’d be a good selling point, but ended up shutting down the ride anyway in 1998.
USING COLOR TO CONTROL
Walt Disney had a vision of how people should experience his parks, to the point that he even used colors to control and influence visitors’ experiences. For example, some buildings are painted certain colors in order to guide guests. Disney created colors called “Go Away Green” and “No Seeum Gray” that’s supposed to help hide in plain sight certain buildings or elements.
Aside from the walking, talking stuffed animal characters that wander around, Disneyland is also home to about 200 feral cats. Their presence is tolerated because they kill mice and rats at the theme park. However, they can be a problem and employees have to make sure no one gets scratched by a cat.
After hearing all of these creepy (and some disturbing) facts about Disneyland and its other parks, are you really surprised to find out that there’s a Disney jail? Not everyone is on their best behavior there, and the jail is a place for the staff to put people who are unruly or have been caught stealing. So if you want to be a bad boy in Disney, you better have the chops to put up with a night in jail!