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9 Spooky Disney Secrets You Have to Read to Believe

Ballroom cadavers and a ride that goes to hell? It’s all in a day’s work for Disney.

When you think of Disney parks, you probably think of kiddie rides, smiling kids, and Mickey Mouse. We’d venture to guess you probably don’t think about rides where an evil queen tries to literally crush you with a boulder or medical conventions that involve bringing dozens of cadavers into Disney’s hotel ballrooms. Not to worry, we’re here to show you the more sinister side of Disney, along with a few tales to add to your scary story repertoire.

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The Disneyland Ride That Takes You to Hell

WHERE: Anaheim, California

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is an opening day attraction at Disneyland based on the 1949 Disney animated film, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, specifically the Wind in the Willows segment. Disney World also opened with a version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but it was closed in 1998 and replaced by The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. In the ride, you board a vintage motorcar for a madcap drive through an English village, all while the police are hot on your little toad tail. Eventually, you drive into a courtroom where you are swiftly pronounced guilty and sent to jail. On the way, you are hit by a train (spoiler alert) and sent to “the bad place,” presumably for all the destruction and that pesky police chase. It’s fiery and full of cartoonish demons, and we hope it never changes.

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The Disneyland Ride Where the Evil Queen Tries to Crush You

WHERE: Anaheim, California

Walt Disney’s first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered in 1937. It was considered a huge triumph for the studio, but it also scared the pants off lots of little kids who had never before sat through nearly 90 minutes of an evil queen attempting to poison a young girl. When Disneyland opened in 1955, the park’s Snow White’s Scary Adventures ride was similarly terrifying to kids. That same evil witch made many appearances throughout the ride, attempting to lure you in with her poison apple. It has since received a name change and a happier ending, but in the original version, the witch attempted to push a boulder off a cliff onto the riders below. The ride is now known as Snow White’s Enchanted Wish and ends with the true love’s kiss that wakes Snow White from her poison apple-induced slumber.

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Hong Kong Disneyland and Its Actual Haunted House

WHERE: Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Though the U.S. Disney park’s Halloween celebrations are known for being not-so-scary, Halloween at Hong Kong Disneyland has haunted houses that may actually make you jump. During Disney’s Haunted Halloween, the park builds temporary walkthrough mazes with real, live scare actors. This video from Disney Magical Kingdom Blog gives a good picture of just how twisted these houses are, most notably the scene where Pinocchio is on a stage with his arms and legs in shackles while an ominous version of I’ve Got No Strings plays in the background. The houses haven’t returned since the park reopened after a temporary COVID shutdown, but we hope to see them again in the future.

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Walt Disney's Ghost at Disneyland

WHERE: Anaheim, CA

Disneyland was arguably Walt Disney’s greatest accomplishment, so it makes total sense that he would choose to haunt the place after his death in 1966. Over the years, Disneyland guests and employees have experienced a variety of paranormal phenomena. According to this 2020 story, people have seen a figure they believe to be Walt standing on the drawbridge outside Sleeping Beauty Castle. The area is said to smell of tobacco late at night in an area near his Main Street apartment, where he was known to sneak a cigarette out of public view. The O.C. Register has recorded similar reports, including one of a cast member who heard Walt’s voice inside his apartment. We can’t imagine a more memorable Disney vacation than running into Walt inside the park.

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The Time Disney Snuck Live Actors Into the Haunted Mansion

WHERE: Anaheim, California

If you’ve ridden Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion a few times over the years, you have a good idea of where the 999 ghosts who inhabit the mansion are and what the experience will be like. So, imagine how frightened you would be if one of those familiar ghosts suddenly lunged at you when you rode by. You might scream or jump or even get into a spooky scuffle with the offending ghost. Well, according to a post on the Disneyland subreddit, Disneyland briefly added a live knight in shining armor that would jump out and scare guests as they rode by. The knight was removed due to guests “lashing back at [the knight] or complaining to employees.” However, the knight (along with a few other live actors) did make a special appearance for the attraction’s 50th anniversary, as seen in this video from Walt Disney World News Today.

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The Original Version of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion

WHERE: Anaheim, California

Before Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion opened in 1969, it went through a bit of an identity crisis. Some team members thought it should be light-hearted and family-friendly, while others had a more macabre vision for the attraction, which was initially intended to be a walk-through rather than a ride. According to the Haunted Mansion episode of the Disney Plus show Behind the Attraction, Imagineer Rolly Crump’s ideas for the Haunted Mansion were so scary they kept Walt Disney himself up with nightmares. Walt planned to relegate Crump’s creepy concepts, like a melting “Candle Man” and a “Beast Man” made up of different animal parts, to a Museum of the Weird. According to this interview with Crump, the Museum of the Weird would have been “attached to the Haunted Mansion” and serve as an extension of the ride that you could “explore after the ride was over.” Walt died before his plan for the Museum of the Weird ever became a reality, but you can see some of the concept art. 

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Disney World's Space Mountain Gets Scarier at Halloween

WHERE: Orlando, Florida

Even on a regular day, you can’t see much of anything inside Space Mountain. Aside from some stars and a couple of dimly lit tunnels, it’s pretty dark in there (as any ride set in space should be). During the park’s annual Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, though, it gets even darker. That’s right, guests who attend the after-hours event can experience Deep Space Mountain, a pitch-black version of Space Mountain with foreboding music to boot. You can find videos on YouTube, but, you know, it’s completely black, so there isn’t much to see.

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People Spread Loved One’s Ashes in Disney

Rumors about guests sprinkling loved ones’ ashes inside a Disney Park have swirled around the internet for years. It’s probably no surprise that the Haunted Mansion is the most commonly named culprit, but in 2007, a woman was caught on camera “sprinkling a powdery substance” in the water on the Pirates of the Caribbean, according to ABC news. The woman denied the substance was ashes, claiming instead that it was baby powder, but the Disney Cast Member who was interviewed for the piece did mention that the park gets, on average, “two requests a year from guests eager to spread a loved one’s ashes on the grounds of the park.” It’s not much of a stretch to assume some people who are told “no” find a clandestine way to do it anyway.

Photo credit to Disney Photoblography

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Doctors Bring Dead Corpses to Disney World Hotels

WHERE: Orlando, Florida

OK, it’s not as salacious as it sounds. It’s all in the name of research. According to a 2017 Reuters article, doctors rent out large ballrooms at popular hotels, including some at Disney, to practice their craft on cadavers. The article explicitly cites Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort as a location for one of these “cadaver labs,” where medical practitioners can practice surgery. Don’t worry–the article also mentions that floors and walls are covered with plastic to avoid any fluids or bone fragments left behind on the hotel carpet to potentially ruin any upcoming weddings or parties.

StefersonAirplane October 29, 2021

And I thought Disney's animatronic puppets were creepy...