Walt Disney World Urban Myths People Still Believe

As one of the cornerstones of arts and entertainment for the last century, there's a lot of history and intricate detail to be found in the works of The Walt Disney Company. The movies they produce alone have spawned countless hours of research and writing by people looking for the secrets in Disney's output.

But the company's highly influential media empire aside, there is one creation of Walt Disney that has more speculation, rumors, and questions than anything else he ever made: Walt Disney World. Some of its secrets are well-known, like the Hidden Mickey Mouse symbols sprinkled throughout the park. But there are more elaborate things behind the scenes at the most popular destination on Earth.

While there are plenty of fascinating things about the park that are completely true, those have also inspired a whole host of myths and legends that are so widely repeated, many visitors mistakenly believe they are fact.

Walt Disney is interred on Disney World property

Walt Disney, the man behind the eponymous company, was beloved by many worldwide because he was one of the primary creative forces driving Disney. But he was also known to be a bit quirky and eccentric, as rich and creative people can sometimes be.

One of the most dogged rumors about Disney revolves around what happened to him after his death. There are legends that his body is located somewhere in Disney World, as though he couldn't bring himself to leave the Happiest Place on Earth. What's more, this is often tied into a related rumor that Disney actually didn't die, but was instead cryogenically frozen to be revived sometime in the future. According to legend, Disney was mysteriously "cremated" immediately after his death and his supposed burial location is unknown, which naturally means he didn't really die, according to every conspiracy theory ever.

This is a three-part myth, because Walt Disney really did die, he was never cryogenically frozen, and his remains are not located anywhere near Disney World, according to Snopes. When Walt Disney died of lung cancer in 1966, he was cremated two days later, not immediately, and his plot isn't unknown. It's in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA, and while the cemetery won't tell visitors the plot's exact location for privacy reasons, it's in a public part of the cemetery anyone can visit.

The original Haunted Mansion scared a visitor to death

Disney World's Haunted Mansion, while built with a spooky vibe in mind, is not a very scary place. There are ghosts and other supernatural creatures, but it's family friendly and very mild in terms of frights. You're not likely to run out screaming your head off. It's basically 2003's The Haunted Mansion movie but with 100 percent less Eddie Murphy.

The Haunted Mansion opened in 1969 at Disneyland, followed by Disney World's shortly after. But if you believe the rumors, neither of these was the original Haunted Mansion. Disney began to tease the attraction in 1963 and the building was completed the same year, yet the first Haunted Mansion didn't open its doors until six years later. What happened? Legend has it the attraction was finished in 1963, but in an early test, one unnamed woman was so terrified, she died of a fear-induced heart attack on the spot, according to Yesterland.

After this, Disney completely redesigned the attraction to be far less scary, and that's why it took so long to open. Except not really. According to Snopes, what actually tied things up were the 1964 World's Fair, for which Disney prepared several attractions, and the death of Walt Disney in 1966. The Haunted Mansion was just an empty building that whole time because the company had other stuff to deal with. It has only been closed for small upgrades and routine maintenance since.

Walt Disney's face can be found in The Haunted Mansion

No face is more iconic to Disney than that of Walt himself. The man who founded the House of Mouse appeared before and after several films, shorts, and even advertisements made by his studio. But during the creation of The Haunted Mansion attraction, Walt Disney passed away, and the company has admitted they made a few changes to the attraction as a result.

According to a popular legend, that's because they added Walt's face to one of the singing busts at The Haunted Mansion. Of the five, one is broken, with its head sitting just a little off from its shoulders. It's this bust that bears Disney's classic grin, and the broken bust represents the company's broken heart at his passing.

While that would be a nice memorial for the company's founder, it's not true. According to Snopes, that bust is actually designed to look like Thurl Ravenscroft, a bass singer most famous for "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." That's also him singing lead in the busts' song, "Grim Grinning Ghosts," so the park made the bust look like him. Why do people think it looks like Walt Disney instead? Because by pure coincidence, Disney and Ravenscroft looked quite similar, both with short, dark hair and pencil mustaches. While the resemblance is striking, the bust was never intended to look like Walt Disney.

Disney World has a secretive club for VIPs

Disneyland's New Orleans Square has been rumored to contain a secret for decades. A certain door, decorated with a large "33" on it, was believed to house a private club, called Club 33, with access only available to the rich and powerful. It was the only place in the park that served alcohol, and some darker conspiracy theories even claimed the club was home to a secret society, where strange and horrifying things sometimes occurred.

While this flew under the radar for many years, once the internet came about, it was hard to keep the secret any longer. Disney is now somewhat more open about Club 33's existence, though it's not strictly for the rich and powerful. It just has a limited number of members at a time, and they very rarely open up new applications, according to Snopes.

After Club 33 started to be publicly acknowledged, however, rumors of yet another club, this one even more secret and exclusive, began to appear. Allegedly, Disney World has a secret Club 21, and that's where all the conspiratorial stuff claimed about Club 33 really happens. But, there is no Club 21 at Disney World. It seems the internet, disappointed Club 33 wasn't a place where the President hung out with Bigfoot and Walt Disney's frozen body, simply took all the old Club 33 myths and repurposed them for the imaginary Club 21.

Toy Story characters will drop if someone yells 'Andy's coming!'

If you're unfamiliar with the Toy Story series (and if you are, you must be very cozy under your rock), the premise of the original movies is a boy named Andy has toys that come to life and have adventures, but only when humans are not around. Otherwise, they go still and pretend to be regular toys. The toys keep an eye out, and whenever Andy is nearby, one or more will shout, "Andy's coming," signaling the toys to freeze.

According to a common legend about Disney parks in the last decade or so, this works on the Disney cast members dressed up as the characters as well. Shouting "Andy's coming" will cause them to go limp and drop to the ground, a fun little Easter egg for series fans.

Except not exactly. It seems this may have happened unofficially a few times, thanks to a combo of clever guests and quick-thinking performers, but once the idea went viral, Disney quickly had to put a stop to it. Not because they hate fun, but because they don't want performers to accidentally hurt themselves or others, according to Snopes. Heavy costumes, limited visibility inside the masks, and guests expecting performers to suddenly drop to the ground is a bad combo. It's a pretty safe bet stunt falls aren't part of the typical cast member training.

No one has ever died on Disney property

Theme parks are not, despite appearances to the contrary, all fun and games. They can sometimes be dangerous. People can get injured, sick, or even die. No park wants that to happen; it's bad for business. No one is going to want to go to the place where terrible things happen to people who visit. It could even get them shut down.

Rumor has it, Disney skirts this through a very morbid, yet clever, process. It is said Disney will never declare a guest dead in the park, instead transporting their body off of park property and only then having a physician declare them dead. That way, no one ever actually dies at Disney World/Disneyland. It's foolproof!

Of course, this doesn't really happen, according to Snopes. People do die at Disney World sometimes, typically due to circumstances far outside of Disney's control, like prior health conditions, and the company has never made a secret about it, as they're required by Florida state law to make quarterly reports on deaths and injuries at the park. Also, moving a corpse around is not exactly legal, as tampering with a body is a good way to get in way more trouble than from someone dying in the park. It's hard to fathom any way such a scheme would go unnoticed or be quietly accepted by the law, even if Disney is a huge corporation with deep pockets.

Cinderella's castle can be deconstructed for hurricanes

The Cinderella castle in the center of Disney World's Magic Kingdom is so iconic, they made it part of the company's whole identity. Naturally, they would want to protect that any way they could, especially considering Florida and hurricanes are practically synonyms.

Thus, the legend emerged that Cinderella's digs have a secret power. When a storm is coming that might threaten it, the castle's spires can be removed or somehow disassembled to keep them from breaking apart or flying away during a large hurricane. It sounds plausible, right? A photo of a trashed Cinderella castle wouldn't exactly be good publicity.

Plausible it may sound, but it's just a myth, according to Snopes. It's not even clear where this myth originally started or why it's so popular. It would be neat if it was true, but no part of the castle can be deconstructed like a reverse Voltron. It is built to sustain winds up to 90 miles per hour, though, and it's worth keeping in mind Orlando is pretty far in-land, so there's very little chance a hurricane would still be that powerful by the time it got there. Disney World has only closed for a hurricane six times ever, and none did any major damage to the castle.

River Country was closed due to brain-eating amoebae

Disney World's first water park, River Country, opened in 1976, and is sometimes alleged to be the first water park ever. While water slides and similar things existed before River Country, it was certainly the first and biggest water park as we think of them today. It was an immediate hit, and attracted visitors from all over.

But just four years later, in 1980, an 11-year-old boy from New York died from amoebic meningoencephalitis, caused when a waterborne amoeba goes in through a subject's nasal passages and enters the brain. He wasn't the first boy to die in the state of Florida from the disease that season, either, but where he contracted it was big news — he was infected by swimming in the water at River Country, according to Yesterland.

Today, River Country is closed to the public. But not because of the child's death. In fact, River Country didn't close until 2001, two decades later, due to low attendance after 9/11, not any sort of health issue. It turns out, the amoeba that killed the unnamed River Country guest can be found in pretty much any freshwater source when it gets hot enough. It wasn't anything Disney did, and authorities never indicated the company did anything wrong, though Disney did later ban swimming in lakes on their property, probably to prevent a potential repeat of the situation.

Visible tattoos are not allowed at Disney World

In April 2016, the internet lit up with news that Disney was no longer allowing visible tattoos on guests at Disney World or any of their other parks, wanting to protect their family-friendly image, thus implying tattoos were inherently off-putting and not something of which The Walt Disney Company approved. Untold numbers of tattoo owners were naturally very unhappy and vocal about this change.

There's just one other thing worth mentioning about the story: Its publication date. The article in question was posted on Inked magazine's website on April 1, 2016, according to Snopes. Nowhere in the post was it explicitly stated, but the whole thing was an April Fools' Day prank, and Disney had made no such rule. As of 2020, the original story still makes no mention of it being a joke, which might be further leading people to believe the whole thing is actually true.

This hoax may have such long legs because it's also a common myth Disneyland Tokyo bans tattoos (they only ban "inappropriate" tattoos), which itself stems from the fact a great many public places in Japan do ban visible tattoos for cultural reasons, such as tattoos being frequently worn by members of the Yakuza. It seems this myth, which is an easy misunderstanding when considering Japanese cultural attitudes to tattoos, has combined with the Inked prank to create a Frankenstein urban legend that continues to confuse people.

A guest tried to sue Disney for injuries sustained on a non-moving ride

One of the oldest attractions at Disney World's Epcot is The Living Seas (today known as The Seas with Nemo & Friends), which opened in 1986, promising to take visitors down to the ocean floor to visit Sea Base Alpha, where they could view marine life swimming all around them. This was achieved via the hydrolator, an underwater elevator that submerges guests far below the park.

According to legend, the hydrolator was the focal point of a lawsuit brought forth by a guest who claimed their eardrums were damaged due to the pressure change going from ground level to the ocean floor. Purportedly, Disney's lawyers took the jury to Disney World and propped the doors on the hydrolator open while it ran, proving it was actually just an illusion and the hydrolator didn't go anywhere at all, thus exposing the lawsuit as a frivolous claim.

While it is true the hydrolator is just an illusion (and not a terribly elaborate one, either) leading into an aquarium located on the park's ground level, there's just no evidence this lawsuit ever actually happened, according to Yesterland. There are no news reports or court documents showing a guest ever tried to sue Disney for purported injuries sustained on the hydrolator. What's more likely is someone came up with a funny scenario, which later turned into a myth passed around for the last several decades.

Disney World's Skyway was closed after someone was killed

Both Disneyland and Disney World once had gondola-style lift rides known as the Skyway. It was a simple affair. A guest would climb into a Skyway car, then was taken across the park by an elevated track, not unlike a ski lift. It wasn't meant to be thrilling, just a way to see the parks from above. Both closed in the 90s. Disneyland's was first in 1994, and Disney World's soon followed suit in 1999. But why?

A popular legend says both Skyways were closed after grisly deaths occurred. It is true that in 1994, a guest did jump out of a Skyway car, and in 1999, a Disney custodian was killed in a Skyway accident, and then each ride shut down later those same years. But context is important.

According to Snopes, Disneyland's Skyway didn't shut down because someone jumped out of a car. In fact, he didn't die. He landed in a tree and was hurt, but he survived. Disney World's Skyway really did kill a custodian when it was accidentally turned on. In both cases, these events weren't what closed the rides, though. It was actually due to new safety regulations that would require expensive upgrades to each ride. These events may have hastened those decisions, but in both cases, Disney had already made plans to retire the Skyway.

Disney World guests scatter the ashes of loved ones in the park

When a loved one dies and is cremated, it's common to sprinkle their ashes in a place they enjoyed. But what if the place they loved was the Happiest Place on Earth? You need permission to scatter ashes on private property, and Disney is not okay with that, for health reasons and publicity issues. So what do you do?

According to a common legend, you just do it anyway. Every few years, a story comes up about a person caught sprinkling a mysterious powder near a certain ride or attraction. Pirates of the Caribbean comes up a lot in these stories, like in 2007, when a woman sprinkling something shut down the ride for 45 minutes, or a similar incident in 2019. Both times, the substance was claimed to be baby powder, not human remains. Both times, Disney denied people scatter ashes at their parks.

But a 2018 Wall Street Journal article claimed anonymous Disney custodians said it happens way more than anyone would ever suspect, as reported by Gizmodo. For its part, Disney still denies this happens, so it's not certain whether this is a myth or not. Disney, naturally, does not want people to worry about coming into contact with someone else's ashes, so of course they would deny it. However, park employees do have a history of spreading park myths themselves, too. So which is the truth?