Walt Disney was unarguably a pioneer in the animation industry and later in the theme park industry. As a film producer, the American entrepreneur has the most Academy Awards won by any individual person at the still large count of 22 out of a whopping 59 nominations. With his breakout character Mickey Mouse still an institution in most households with children, Disney has left a legacy that can be matched by very few American baby boomers. With the creation of Disneyland in 1955, Walt Disney had solidified his place in American royalty but he went even farther to craft Disney World on top of a swamp in Florida and eventually all the way to the world with places like Disney Paris. But this is all stuff that people know.
What most people don’t know is that there are tons of dark, seedy urban legends that surround the Disney dynasty including death, conspiracy and downright demonic Mickey videos that will have anyone squirming in their seats. Some of these tales have been proven true while others are debunked; but our favorite Disney Urban Legends are those that have never been solved. Read through these chilling tales to get just freaked out enough for the upcoming holiday.
15. The Lies of the Lemmings
Back in 1958, Disney produced a live action nature adventure film entitled White Wilderness that won multiple Academy Awards. Directed by James Algar and narrated by Winston Hibler, White Wilderness was filmed over the course of three years. One of the most popular scenes in the film was that of lemmings supposedly jumping to their deaths into the Arctic ocean in what appears as a mass suicide.
The creepy reality is that Disney played God in these popular scenes of the production and none of it actually took place anywhere near the Arctic ocean. It was said that this was actually a migration tactic and the lemmings were in fact just trying to cross the river below. In fact, Disney shipped the lemmings from their natural habitat into Calgary and the award winning scene is captured there. Even worse the lemmings weren’t choosing to jump, instead there was a paddle off camera designed to force them off the cliff. To add insult to injury, these very same lemmings aren’t even the right breed to migrate; making this adventure film a complete fiction.
14. Mouse Suicide
The monicker “Suicide Mouse” is a “lost” nine minute Mickey Mouse cartoon from the beginning days of the character, sometimes the video is called Mickey Mouse in Hell. In the film the mouse is walking through a normal scene, first to eerie piano music and then to white noise. The whole cartoon goes black until the six-minute mark when Mickey begins walking again at the same pace with voices speaking in the background. As the beloved cartoon mouse walks the music distorts into ghoulish voices and shrill screaming as Mickey’s face becomes just as distorted.
Over the next 2-3 minutes the mouse’s smile becomes ghoulish, skinless and downright demonic. The last scene of the cartoon is the usual smiling Mickey face with Russian text at the bottom of the page, this text has been translated as “the sights of Hell brings its viewers back in.” No one knows where this cartoon originated or if it has been doctored, but finding it online is a fun way to really creep ourselves out.
13. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Was A Bridge To Hell
As one of the darkest themed rides at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CA we’re not surprised to see it on the list of creepy Disney urban legends. This was the last ride left at the park that was there at the original opening of the gates in 1955 and is based on the film The Wind in the Willows. In the ride there is a scene featured that is meant to be a tongue in cheek scene styled after Hell itself. When I was a little girl I actually cried for about half an hour after going on the ride. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was finally shut down in 1998 after tons of protests from park goers. Even though his wild ride is no longer featured at the park, little parts of Mr. Toad are still littered around the cartoon wonderland. His statue is located in the pet cemetery at The Haunted Mansion and murals of the characters can still be spotted at the end of what is now The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
12. The Bell Hop That Haunts Platform D
Platform D at Disney’s famous Tower of Terror is apparently haunted by a former bellhop, or cast member, of the ride. The ride features four platforms named Alpha, Beta, Charlie and Delta that feed into two shafts with the monikers Echo and Foxtrot. As the story goes, while a bellhop was working Platform Delta, he suddenly dropped dead. In every telling of the urban legend, the cause of death has been unknown, adding even more mystery to this Disney ghost story. At the end of each night, the cast members will ride through each platform to ensure that everything is all good on the ride before closing. It seems that everyone who has worked this attraction at Disneyland parks will ride Platforms A, B, and C together and then all get together to ride Platform D. The reason all of these Disney cast members are so freaked out is because it seems that the dead bellhop never left and many hauntings have occurred.
11. Toy Story & The Shining
Strangely enough, parts of Stanley Kubrick’s cult classic horror film The Shining can be found throughout the Toy Story trilogy. The very first accidental Shining Easter egg in Toy Story was in the scene where Buzz and Woody are trying to escape from evil tween Sid’s house. The carpet in the hallway outside of Sid’s bedroom is the exact same carpet from the hallways in the vintage horror classic. Another apparent coincidence is the number 237 constantly showing up in the third volume of the Toy Story films. This is the same room in The Shining where Jack Nicholson was making out with the hot woman who turns into a rotting corpse. That number shows up on a garbage truck, a security camera and on a computer chat Woody is having in the third movie. The only coincidence, however, is the matching carpet in the first film. But this could be what drove director Lee Unkrich to direct the third film and put in all the fun Shining Easter eggs.
10. No Long Haired Men Allowed
When the park was started in the 1950’s, none of the men that were employed by Disney were allowed to have beards, mustaches or even long hair. This was based on the common bias of the 50’s and 60’s that a beard implied a person was a beatnik and hippy which ‘obviously’ meant that they were involved in ‘un-American’ activities. In this time Disney had a philosophy that Disney park patrons preferred wholesome attendants so they also applied the rule to guests.
At one point, it even included women in halter tops and the popular 1960’s ‘Beatles style’ haircut. In 1964 Jim McGuinn, founder of the Byrds and lover of the Beatles haircut, was turned away from the park. By the ‘70’s the guest restrictions had been pretty much lifted but the same rules applied to attendants and characters. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that Disneyland relaxed their rules for park employees but only enough so that the men could sport tightly trimmed mustaches.
9. Walt Disney Froze Himself
We’re pretty sure that everyone knows this urban legend, Walt Disney was said to have cryogenically frozen himself so that he would never actually die. The legend says that liquid nitrogen was used so that he could await the day that a Necromancer could figure out how to reanimate people. This rumor was started after people noticed there was a stark lack of information about Walt Disney’s burial arrangements and funeral. Many still say that this is a false statement but those records have never been released which keeps this common Disney myth alive and well, even though there’s no basis for the story. This isn’t the animator’s only spin at playing God, he also has a very strange and substantial property in his will that goes to the very first man to bear a child. It seems that Walt Disney was very interested in the scientific anomalies that could be accomplished, including being brought back from the dead.
8. Nazi Painted Into A Mural At Disney World In Florida
In 1992 Walt Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel commissioned a Great Gatsby-style painting for their lobby featuring characters in commonly Florida-themed garb. The Disney corporation approved of the painting and it still hang in the lobby today. Much controversy surrounds this painting because in the upper quadrants of the wrap around porch we can see a soldier. This soldier looks very much like a Nazi, which would play very well into a tongue in cheek approach to what wealth looked like in the Gatsby period.
A book came out in 1992 entitled Sabotage in the American Workplace. In this book an artist referred to only as ‘Harvey’ says that he drew this very painting. He added the ‘stormtrooper’ as a little one off to his company that was forcing him to work for the Disney corp. The artist told his boss that the man was a security guard and it went to the hotel where it was hung without a care.
7. Walt Disney’s Mommy Issues
Ever notice that many of Walt Disney’s films feature a theme of motherless children? Snow White, Bambi, Pinocchio and even modern Disney cartoon films like The Little Mermaid and Frozen feature characters that have tragically diseased or just completely absent mothers. Many conspiracy theorists believe that Disney features these characters because his own mother, who was killed in a tragic accident. Flora Disney choked to death on carbon monoxide in a horrible accident with the furnace in the house that Walt purchased for her. He was absolutely crushed by his mother’s death, often described as being inconsolable. Walt frequently visited his mother’s grave and mourned her well after her death, but these films were planned and their original stories written long before the 1938 death of Flora Disney. This is actually a common theme in a lot of stories about teens and children because it works as a catalyst in crafting a coming of age type of story.
6. Suicides At Disney Paris
Just 20 miles east of the capital of France sits Disneyland Paris which boasted 14.5 million in attendance in 2010 and almost an hour of wait times for rides. These bright numbers reflected a great year for the Disney corporation but it wasn’t such a great year for the workers of Disney Paris. Two of the Disney Paris employees committed suicide in 2010, which are not very good numbers for an employer. The first was Franck who was a chef at Disneyland for a whole decade but had been on sabbatical due to illness. The night before he was supposed to return to work the chef scratched his suicide note on the wall in his native tongue which translated loosely to “I don’t want to work for Mickey anymore.” Although all of the research led to Disney not being involved, Franck’s father-in-law stated that the chef was very depressed about staff cuts and the switch from fresh to frozen foods. That same year another company chef committed suicide because of what was called “humiliating” treatment on site at work. Many describe the basis for these deaths a “cultural suicide” at the Eurodisney restaurants in a country where good food is close to God.
5. Disney Theme Park’s Underground Tunnels
When Walt Disney created Disney World in Florida in 1971, he built a very complex tunnel system underneath the park so that characters could take their breaks without traumatizing young children. Disney had the idea when he watched a cowboy walk through Tomorrowland to get to his post in Frontierland. The creator of the park realized that this really took away from the park’s mission and thought up the Disney utilidor system of tunnels beneath the park. The tunnels cover up to 9 acres with makeup rooms, dressing rooms and a cafeteria among other rooms. They also serve as a great way to take out the trash without freaking out guests. The eerie reality is that every time we’re enjoying a Disney park there are characters with out heads riding golf carts around right beneath our feet. There aren’t any urban legends about what goes on down there but we’re sure we’d be surprised by some of the not so Disney activities.
4. The Death of Debbie Stone
Debbie Stone was born in Santa Ana, CA in 1956 and grew up participating in athletics and making excellent grades. In the ‘70s she got a job with Disneyland Parks to raise money for her education at Iowa State University and was worked as an hostess on America Sings, which features automated stages that shift and move to display various musical acts. Around 10:30 pm on June 28, 1974, a scream was heard as the final stage shift of the night was taking place. A guest and fellow operators went to figure out the origination of the shriek and found the body of Debbie Stone fatally crushed between the stationary and rotating stage. Disneyland closed the ride for two days and kept the stage where Stone was killed clear for a year. The ride remained operating until 1988 and sensory lights were installed to inform an attendant or hostess if they’re too close to the stages as they moved. Many attendants that worked the ride in it’s last years spoke of haunted stages and phantom voices warning them to ‘Be Careful.’
3. Suicide On The It’s a Small World Ride
It was 1999 when the classic ride It’s A Small World was inexplicably and very hastily evacuated for an unspecified amount of time. As attendants wearing red overalls were ushering people out of the ride a mom snapped a couple of photos so that she could finish off her roll, remember in 1999 we used box cameras still. There were ambulances outside of the ride and a police car blocking the main walkway which was an obvious confusion for guests at the Magic Kingdom. The last photo of the reel that was taken before leaving the ride was of the ceiling, probably just to finish off the roll quickly.
What was seen after the film was developed was shocking, it seems very clearly that a red overall wearing attendant is hung, lifeless from the rafters in this NSFW photo. There has never been any proof or contesting to this urban legend but the eerie picture kind of speaks for itself.
2. Disneyland Sex Crimes
Back in 2014, people became aware that the Florida Disney park had harbored quite a few workers that later turned out to be child sex offenders. A news article came out that established 35 Disneyland employees had been arrested for sex crimes involving children since 2006. It went further to identify that 32 of the 35 arrested had also been convicted of crimes like intending to meet a 13-year-old-boy, sending nude photos to a 13-year-old-boy and soliciting sex with a 14-year-old girl. These vile crimes are bad enough by themselves but the fact that they were carried out by people who work, sometimes masked, with children. This year, two years later, two Florida Seaworld employees were arrested in an 18 man sex sting telling us that this could be a “Florida Man” thing or it could be an issue with theme park background checks, which should all look into illicit sexual history with children.
1. A Real Skull In The Pirates Of The Caribbean Ride
This ride marked the very beginning of the entire genre theme park experience-based rides, and the level of Disney’s hope to provide a realistic experience verged into downright creepy territory. The entire project of building this ride cost $15 million between wardrobe, animatronics, etc., which was an astronomical amount of cash at the time. The ride was built in 1967 and was the very last ride that was supervised by Disney himself. These real life human remains were taken from the UCLA medical center and anatomy department because “imagineers” were not happy with where fake bone technology was at in the late ‘60’s. As the technology improved new fake skeletons were placed where real human ones were. Imagineers insist that each of the bones were returned to their homes for proper burials but we’re wondering how they’d even pull something like that off. As rumor has it there is still one human skull left on the ride, right above the captain’s head on his headboard.