Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Today, I’m going back and revising yet another topic I covered in the past, but not as well as I would have liked. One of my earlier videos was about tourist attractions that you might not have known were haunted, and the Disney parks are some of the biggest, both in terms of size and sheer volume of stories. There are plenty of creepy ghost stories and urban legends about the two major U.S. Disney parks — Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. Let’s talk about some of the biggest ones.
You probably know all about Walt Disney and the Disney company, so I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s start with a brief history of the parks. Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California on July 17, 1955, and was extremely successful — so, of course, another park was bound to come. Disney purchased land for Walt Disney World in 1965, but died the following year. His brother, Roy Disney, took over supervision of the park, which opened in 1971. By the 2000’s, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom got 17 million visitors every year. The popularity of the parks led to Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992. I couldn’t find any reported hauntings there, but I’m sure there out there, so feel free to let me know in the comments.
(There’s also apparently a Disneyland Hong Kong, which I stupidly didn’t know about until I was finalizing this The day I’m filming this — December 2, 2020 — it’s due to shut down temporarily due to the current pandemic.
While we’re on the subject, Disneyland Paris is also closed until February 2021. Both Disneyland and Disney World seem to be operating in a limited capacity.)
So just to keep things organized, I’m going to talk about legends by ride, area or ghosts, not necessarily by park. I’ll try to clarify when a legend comes from Disney World or Disneyland — though you’re probably just here for the creepy stories and not too concerned with that.
Let’s start with a somewhat unsettling Disneyland legend. There’s
Brigham Young was one of the early leaders of the Mormon church, served as governor of Utah for awhile and founded Brigham Young University. He died in Salt Lake City in 1877, but there’s no historical evidence a hearse was used at all in his burial. This is probably because his casket would have only had to be transported a few blocks to the private cemetery where he was buried. So while this story is interesting, it’s probably just that — a story.
The next story I want to share isn’t really an urban legend, and it’s not supernatural, but it is kind of unnerving and has actually been proven true. At one point, Disney World cast members had to share every part of their costumes — including underwear. The underwear was supposed to be washed in between every wear, but workers who shared it complained of things like stains, bad smells and even pubic lice! Fortunately, a new contract in 2001 allowed them to wear their own underwear.
There are plenty of legends about the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, most of them involving the idea of real human bones being used for some of the displays. I couldn’t find any solid confirmation or denial of these stories, but most of them revolve around a skull obtained from a UCLA medical lab.
But another well known Pirates ghost is that of George, who haunts the Disney World ride. George was reportedly a construction worker who fell to his death during the construction of the ride. Cast members are said to tell him good morning and good night on their way in and out (some sources just said they only tell him “good night.”) If this isn’t done, he’ll cause ride malfunctions. There are reports of guests saying they don’t believe in George, then having the ride break down while they’re on it or right before they want to go on, delaying what is probably already a long wait time. Guests have also claimed to feel a chill in the air around the spot where he supposedly fell. However, I couldn’t find any evidence that this “George” guy even existed.
A Disneyland ghost is the Woman in White. She’s been spotted on Main Street after dark, dressed in 19th century clothing, and reportedly helps lost kids find their parents. I talked more about her on my video on Women in White, which you can watch here. It's one o fly earlier videos, so the quality's not that great...but it's there i you want to watch it.
Unsurprisingly, both Haunted Mansion locations have their own share of reported ghosts. There’s a Disneyland story about a test rider who died of a heart attack on the ride, though Disney has denied this.
There’s also the story of a dead boy whose mother snuck his ashes into the ride. Disney employees told her she couldn’t scatter his ashes at his favorite ride, but she did it anyway. Now the boy is spotted inside the attraction, crying. Someone will report seeing a child by himself, but employees can never find him.
The subject of ashes at the Disney parks is an interesting one. Scattering ashes on the premises is illegal, and you can get kicked out if you’re caught doing it. But how much does it actually happen? In a 2019 L.A. Times report, Disney officials claimed they were “unaware of any confirmed ash-scattering incidents in the park.” But just a year earlier, a Disney employee was quoted as saying "The Haunted Mansion probably has so much human ashes in it that it's not even funny.” Ash scattering supposedly happens at the parks as frequently as once a month.
Over in Disney World, their Haunted Mansion has its own ghost boy. There’s a photo circulating the internet, reportedly taken by a guest and showing the ghost of a little boy in the Mansion’s first hallway. Decide for yourself if you think it’s real.
So let’s get a bit more serious for a seance and talk about ghost stories involving real people who actually died at the park. In 1974, Deborah Stone was working at the America Sings attraction. It featured a rotating stage, and Deborah was crushed to death between two walls as they rotated. How she got caught between them isn’t clear, but it’s one of the more gruesome deaths in the park’s history. Until the ride closed in 1998, employees would report hearing disembodied voices telling them to be careful if they got too close to a wall.
In 1984, Dolly Young was killed on the Matterhorn at Disneyland when she fell out of her bobsled and was struck by another one. The place where she died is known as “Dolly’s Dip” and cast members report hearing strange sounds or feeling Dolly’s presence when walking in the area at night. Now let’s talk about the man behind all of this: Walt Disney. There are quite a few legends surrounding Disney himself. First, let’s talk about his apartment. Disney had an apartment over the fire station on Main Street, and a light in the window is still on at all times today. But this wasn’t always the case. The rumor is that it’s left on because it just stayed on — nobody could turn it off! Every time someone tried, it would just be turned back on again. Did Disney have trouble leaving his old home, even after death?
Another story involves a security supervisor at the building, who would frequently smell smoke in the staircase behind Disney’s apartment. He would hide out there and try to see who it was, but he never found the person — just a bunch of cigarette butts. He eventually concluded it was Disney’s ghost smoking out there - this was where he smoked in life because his wife didn’t want him to be seen smoking around all the kids in the park. And there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen the footage of Disney’s ghost caught on camera. It’s been circulating for awhile now on various website and YouTube channels, and reportedly shows Disney wandering the park after hours. But the most well known urban legend about Disney is that he was cryogenically frozen after his death, with the intent of reviving him later. Other stories suggests his body and/or head were buried under the Pirates of the Caribbean ride or that he was cremated and his ashes were scattered around Disneyland.
Disney died on December 15, 1966 of “circulatory collapse,” after years of suffering with several health problems, including lung cancer. A few weeks after his death, a tabloid reporter claimed to have snuck into St. Joseph’s Hospital, where Disney died — and saw his frozen corpse. This might have been where this rumor got started. In 1972, one of his daughters denied it, saying she didn’t think her dad even knew about cryonics. In reality, Disney was cremated and his ashes are at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in California. Another famous ghost, known as “Mr. One Way,” reportedly likes to hitch a ride on Disneyland’s Space Mountain, then disappear before the ride is over. Personally, if I was trying to get on a ride for free I’d want to stay the whole time — but maybe after years of doing just this, he’s kind of sick of it. Another Space Mountain ghost known as “Disco Debbie” reportedly glows in the dark. There are also stories about someone being beheaded on the ride, but I don’t think they’re true.
In one story, a visitor claimed to sit on a ride next to an old man who didn’t react to the ride at all. Later on, when they saw photographs from the ride, they noticed the man had no eyes.
Other ghosts include: The ghost of a boy who drowned in the river by Tom Sawyer Island, a boy who was hit by a monorail in the 1960’s, a teenager killed on a former ride called The People Mover in 1967 (and reportedly likes blondes), a former cast member who died at the Tower of Terror, an old man with a cane who was believed to have crashed his plane into a lake in the 1940’s and even Roy Disney himself, who died in 1971.
There are also reports that the dolls from the It’s a Small World ride come to life and start singing even when the ride is closed. I know a lot of people find these dolls creepy anyway, so maybe that’s where these stories have their roots — or at least why people would find them believable.
If you’re interested in reading about more ghost sightings in Disney parks, as well as documented accounts of real deaths at the park, I suggest checking out Death in the Tragic Kingdom. Author Keaton Moll discusses the legends in a pretty straightforward way, with very little bias or sensation surrounding the discussion of the tragedies documented. You can get it here. (affiliate link; I earn a commission from each sale)
So that’s all I have for you today on the hauntings and urban legends of the Disney parks. These parks are so big, both in physical size and cultural impact, that I’m not surprised these stories have cropped up over the decades. I tend to think a lot of them are based more in rumors and, when it comes to the videos, tricks of the light. But, of course, I’d love to know what you think in the comments. I haven’t been to Disney World since I was a kid, and I know there are lots of people out there who are much more well versed in Disney lore than me, so any additional insight is welcome.