One of the things that I love and despise most in the world is the Disney Corporation. I understand that it’s evil, but there’s something about it that is so appealing, and has been since I was a kid. From that childhood love grew an adult fascination with everything Disney which has ultimately led me to a lot of facts, myths and mysteries about the corporation and the theme parks they run. Hopefully this article will pique your interest as well.

Facts, Myths, and Mysteries about Disney Theme Parks

No One Has Ever Officially Died on Disney Property:

According to legend, whenever there is a death on a Disney park, the paramedics are not allowed to declare the person dead until they have left the Disney property.

epcot planned community

Walt Originally Planned Epcot to be a Model Utopia

We all knew Walt Disney was brilliant, but a couple of his ideas were way off the charts, like super crazy stuff. One of the best documented examples of this was the original plan for Epcot Center. The full video can be found on a DVD series called Tomorrow Land in which Walt proceeds to explain that he hopes to construct a city, resort, and urban sprawl that will provide everything for the residents of his utopia. At the center of the city was a giant skyscraper which would serve as office buildings and a resort hotel for the guests. On the outskirts of this would be acres of parks for the residents, then outside of this would be a suburban sprawl of homes. There wasn’t a need for roads here, instead there were trails leading to the residents’ respective homes. The residents of this utopia don’t need to drive anywhere. They were expected to ride a series of Monorails and small 2 person cars on tracks called people movers that never stopped being in motion. Walt even planned a series of industrial parks for the more blue color workers that were accessible by monorail. This is not to say that you didn’t need a car, for residents of the utopia there was an immense parking garage for residents and guests beneath the central sky scraper. Of course Walt’s dream of this utopia was never realized and in its place we have a giant sphere.

There is a System of Tunnels Beneath Disney World

During the early days of Disneyland, Walt continuously had his dream of a seamless magical world destroyed by seeing misplaced cast members. He often would find cowboys in Tomorrow Land, Jungle Cruise drivers in Fantasy Land and princesses in Adventure Land. Walt’s solution to this was to build a series of tunnels with different levels beneath Disney World. Not only allowing the cast members to move around, eat, and take breaks, but also for merchandise and food to be moved around the park, as well as delivery trucks to be loaded and unloaded. The tunnels have different portals throughout the park where the cast members and deliveries can enter and exit the tunnels.

Lincoln

Mr. Lincoln Is Always Protected

This rumor is one of my favorite, solely because it’s so off the wall that it may be true. The rumor goes that if there is ever a fire in the Hall of Presidents then Mr. Lincoln falls through a trap door into a self contained sealed room that is fireproof. Now that’s dedication.

Monsanto’s “House of the Future” Was Nearly Indestructible

The original Monsanto’s “House of the Future” is something long lost to the past after Disney realized that homes wouldn’t be built with plastic, or with large rounded corners. So when the day finally came to demolish it Disney brought in a wrecking ball. When they took the first swing at the House the ball bounced right back at them, the house had a nearly unbreakable structure due to the plastic frame. The house then had to be manually taken apart because of this.

Club 33

Disneyland has an Ultra Exclusive Club

This is one of the most widely known hidden facts about Disneyland. Somewhere in New Orleans square there is a high end restaurant that is attainable only by VIP guests with a special card called Club 33. The restaurant was originally used by Walt himself to hold parties at Disneyland, and many of the decorations there are originals with their little hidden secrets, most notable is a microphone hidden inside the deer antler chandelier and a small video camera inside the stuffed owl. Both of these were used by Walt to eavesdrop on his dinner guests when he stepped out of the room so he could see what they were saying about him. Disney assures their guests now that these have been turned off. In order to get a card to this VIP room you need to either know someone who works very high up at Disney or be a celebrity of some sorts. There is a waiting list somewhere, though it’s speculated the wait is about 80 years to obtain a card.

Cinderella’s Castle is Taller than it Seems

Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World is 189 feet. Despite the 189 foot height, the castle still applies an optical trick call forced perspective, making it seem taller than it really is. Walt originally planned for the Castle to be much larger, but according to Florida law, the castle could only be 189 feet tall without adding a 10 foot pole with a red blinking light on it for airplanes flying over head. As with all the park’s Walt despised anything that would break the illusion and so there is no pole attached.

Cinderella's Castle Suite

Walt’s Private Suite In Cinderella’s Castle

While Walt was planning out Disney World, he wanted to have a private place for himself and his family to stay while in Florida. So he had a special suite constructed inside Cinderella’s castle so that he and his family could stay there. Of course since Walt Passed away before Disney World was completed the suite was turned into an office, until recently when Disney chose to refurbish it into the suite it was planned to be.

There is a Vice President on Hand at All Times

Continuing with our Hall of President myths, it is said that at all times there is an animitronic of the current Vice President on hand, in case something were to happen to the real President of the United States and the Real VP would need to take over. Not allowing any continuity errors Disney would simply swap out the old President animitronic and put in the new Vice President animitronic.

Light From Walt's Apartment

Walt Disney’s Ghost Still Haunts his Fire Station Apartment

This story was originally told to me by one of my friends who used to work at Disneyland. The primer is that above the fire station in Disneyland Walt had a small apartment constructed for himself and his family. One of the things he would do was turn on a small lamp by the window to let the guests know that he was there. Well after his death, or as the story goes, a cleaning women was surprised to find the lamp still on in the Firehouse. So she chose to turn it off when she was finished cleaning. Once she was outside she looked back at the firehouse and saw that the lamp was on again. Assuming it was just a prank by one of the other employees she went back upstairs and turned the lamp off. When she was outside the firehouse once again she noticed the lamp was on. So for a third time she went back to the apartment, turned the lamp off and waited. As the story goes while the woman was sitting there the lamp turned itself back on. From that point forward no one has ever tried to turn the lamp off, believing it was Walt’s wish that the light remain lit, letting the guests of Disneyland forever know that he is present.

Mark Condon is an avid Disney aficionado and accepts that all of these cases may not be true, but that’s why it’s called facts, myths, and mysteries about the Disney Theme Parks. If you happen to know of a myth, mystery or fact feel free to leave it in the comments below.



Comments

32 Responses to “Facts, Myths, and Mysteries about Disney Theme Parks”

  1. kram on October 19th, 2008 8:28 pm

    oh sh.t , that lamp thing is scaring the crap out of me….great read.

  2. Derek on October 20th, 2008 4:54 pm

    Really interesting! Do they ever give tours of the underground tunnels? That would be awesome. That haunted fire station story gave me the chills.

  3. markcondon on October 21st, 2008 8:21 am

    Thanks for the comments, @Derek I’m not really sure if they give official tours of the tunnels, I’m sure if you know someone who works there they can get you down there unofficially.

  4. Brendan on October 29th, 2008 10:29 pm

    Epcot still bears the namesake of its original inception:
    E.P.C.O.T. = Experimental Planned/Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.

    There is also a model of the original design on display for riders on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

  5. KC on November 15th, 2008 3:03 pm

    Club 33 is definitely real, but I don’t think it takes anything more than money to get in.

  6. Ryan on December 18th, 2008 6:32 pm

    Yes, they do give tours of underground disney. It is the Underground Disney Tour. Never been on the tour but hoping to go soon. And in reference to EPCOT. It was originally called EPCOT CENTER, then they dropped CENTER and was just EPCOT. Now it is just Epcot. The reason it was capitalized before was because it was actually an acronym that stood for Experimental Prototypical Community of Tommorow, which was Walts original plan for Disney World. A great site to see his original plans is http://www.the-original-epcot.com

  7. Kelly on January 4th, 2009 10:46 pm

    They do indeed give underground tours. I went on one with my family when I was young. We toured the tunnels at Disney World and were able to see costume rooms etc.

  8. allison on January 19th, 2009 12:14 pm

    the only way to tour parts of the tunnels is a very expensive VIP/Keys to the Kingdom tour, but there is no “unofficial” entrance into the tunnels. i work at disney world and the only way you can get in there is if you work there bc you have to show ID’s everywhere, or if you’re part of that tour. but even the tours don’t go everywhere in the tunnels, just into certain parts.

  9. Babs on February 22nd, 2009 8:28 pm

    Idk if you ever heard the story behind splash mountain, it might be an interesting one for your page.

  10. collin on February 23rd, 2009 1:10 pm

    my grandma went on the underground tour.
    she said that it was the worst thing about disney world…
    she is the biggest disney fan i know.
    she lives and breathes disney… but she hated it.
    she said all they did was walk around the tunnels, see where they changed, saw where they stored the christmas stuff, and the other decorations…
    but there was nothing exciting…
    so i wouldn’t go…

  11. lollypop on February 27th, 2009 5:12 pm

    this was a vert interesting artical and i would like to go on the disney underground tour. I know someone who went there and they said it was the best tour they have ever been on!

  12. Dave on March 12th, 2009 11:22 am

    The “underground” tour is called “The Keys to the Kingdom” and it’s amazing. The Tunnels are only a small part. It is the best tour I’ve ever been on anywhere, you get a great historical tour of the whole park and even get to take private rides on some attractions.

  13. alex on April 6th, 2009 1:22 pm

    ok the others have some truth in them but the haunted apartment isn’t they turn it on every day before the park opens to honor walt disney

  14. Dixie on May 24th, 2009 7:36 pm

    Love the story of Walt’s ghost. :-)

    I read somewhere a while back that 3 ley lines (earth energy lines) converge in Fantasyland. Anybody else ever hear this one? Suposedly the crossing was right under the carousel.

  15. jennifer on May 30th, 2009 2:21 pm

    There’s another rumor which is true that there is a basketall hoop at the top of disney worllds castle.. Saw it on demand!lol

  16. dan on June 10th, 2009 2:47 am

    there is also another tour called “behind the magic” and you get to go backstage at all of the disney parks in florida. It’s pretty cool, you get to go in the tunnels at the magic kingdom. its a little pricey but for a true fan it is more than worth it. it takes up an entire day though.

  17. Paige on June 17th, 2009 9:27 am

    I’d like to clarify on some myths if that’s ok…

    The myth about people dying is false. Paramedics are allowed to say someone died on Disney property.

    There is a tunnel system beneath Disneyland, but it’s not very secretive and elusive like everyone seems to make it up to be. It really is just a way to get from point A to point B.

    Disney’s “Elusive club” Club 33, is NOT only for the rich and famous. My grandpa has a membership that took him maybe ten years to get. When one of the waiters took me on a tour they said the microphone hidden in the crow was so Walt Disney could interact with his guests and talk to them. There is also a two way mirror so he could point out guests, ask the waiters to get their names, and then he would go up to the guests and greet them properly without have to ask them for their name. But you do need a membership to get in.

    Cinderella’s Castle uses “Forced perspective” the same thing used on Main Street and other buildings.

    Walt Disney’s ghost doesn’t haunt his old apartment. Sorry ghost story lovers! The cast members leave the light on as a tribute to Mr. Disney and to show that no matter what he will always be looking over his park, making sure his guests are having a magical experience like he always intended.

    My mom still works at Disneyland today and my dad used to, my grandpa has a membership to Club 33 and my entire family is very…Disney. I may just be a teen but I love finding out hidden things about Disneyland as much as the next person so trust me I know what I’m talking about.

  18. Silvercat on June 29th, 2009 5:33 am

    The basketball hoop thing – there isn’t one at the top of Cindy’s castle, but there is one inside the Matterhorn mountain at Disneyland California. It is there for cast members to use!

    What is the ‘story behind splash mountain’ then?

  19. haley on July 3rd, 2009 4:07 pm

    someone did die at disney!
    i mean really how bad would it be for disney to say that someone died there?

  20. David on December 18th, 2009 1:17 am

    Hey Dixie (comment #14) check out this podcast:

    http://www.binnallofamerica.com/boaa12.16.9.html

    might give you some interesting information about the ley lines & the carousel..

    Cheers,

    David.

  21. Bree on July 16th, 2010 3:01 pm

    i have to say, i used to be into the disney myths and after basically ignoring it for a few years, im interested all over again.
    some of them i think, are just plain stupid. like sex being all over certain movies. for one thing, who in their right mind would sit around all day watching them frame by frame? i think its just plain pathetic.
    and another, who are you to judge what is real and what is not? many people believe many different things.

  22. Kurt on October 24th, 2010 9:20 pm

    There is a basketball court on top of the Matterhorn at the Anaheim park. My grandfather was one of Disneyland’s first ride operators of the Matterhorn. Disneyland had many difficulties while building the park in Anaheim, one of them was the height of the Matterhorn. The city of Anaheim wouldn’t allow a structure that tall, unless it was for a sports purpose (e.c. baseball stadium, basketball court, football arena etc.) So Disney added a basketball hoop at the top to allow the matterhorn to reach 1/10 the height of the actual mountain. Not sure about the Florida Matterhorn, they may not have had the same issues.

  23. Poohbear on December 28th, 2010 12:09 am

    i work at disney world and the tunnels are def the most terrible part about it, it’s not pretty at all. they are just an easy way for the cast members to get around.

  24. Jamie on January 20th, 2011 1:48 pm

    I’m going back to Walt Disney World in April and will be taking the Keys to the Kingdom tour. I’m totally excited because they take you through the Utilidors (the tunnels)!!!!!!!!!! I can’t wait!!! :]]]

  25. Kate on January 26th, 2011 11:28 am

    EPCOT – experimental polyester costumes of torture… but really does anyone know where Walt’s ashes were spread? not fueling rumors of his frozen head?

  26. Junior on January 29th, 2011 10:58 am

    heey ..

    well .. it is really possible to make a tour on tunnels .. but it’s worthless .. you will never see what you really wanna see, cuz they never show the interesting part.. i know that cuz i worked there in 2009 .. i walked all over the tunnels, i know the backstage with eyes closed .. lol

    and you cannot go on backstage only cuz you know a cast member .. if you do, you will be in trouble, and the cast member will probably be fired.

    i belive in many stories about disneys .. but some of them is obviously a lie ..

    i’m planning to back to florida for one more work-time .. there is nothing better then working there .. it’s just what it was made to be .. magical!

  27. Maddy on February 4th, 2011 5:51 pm

    I really want to clarify the whole “no deaths at Disney” fact.
    No one has technically died on Disney grounds because none of the Disney parks have doctors on staff. To be officially dead, a doctor must declare their death, so even if someone’s heart stops beating at Disney, they are not technically dead until a doctor is able to confirm it.
    So if you really think about it, there has never been a declared death at any Disney park!

    The Club 33 in Disneyland is very exclusive, but it’s not simply for movie stars and celebrities. The waiting list is over 10 years long, and it costs a pretty big amount of money to become a member. My uncle is a member and it costs him over $5,000 a year.

    :) I love Disney, always have, always will, and I know my facts! Haha

  28. Jon on February 7th, 2011 2:21 pm

    OK, so I just got back from Disney, and went on the “Keys to the Kingdom Tour” which was pretty cool. They first tell you that if you have questions that have a secretive answer to ask it backstage. Well, taking this mental note, once backstage I asked about both of the “Hall of Presidents” myths listed here and they were immediately balked at. The tour guide said that as far as Lincoln goes, she has been with the company for upwards of 20 years and has never heard that before, and has been on stage. As far as the Vice President goes, she went into great detail about the cost of designing those animatronics and said that it wouldn’t even make sense to make 2 with how much time and work goes into making just one.

    Also, he story of the bedroom in Cinderella’s castle is not accurate. The construction of the castle began after Walt died and the room was initially intended for Roy O. Disney but he told the designers that he would very rarely travel to Florida and that he would not need such a room. They built it anyway and it was always intended as a room, never offices. They just used it a few years ago for the “Year of a Million Dreams”. The room is still used for charities like Make a Wish Foundation.

    As far as the utilidors go, you do not go to the costuming department anymore, I felt kind of jipped, now they show you a DVD while underground, LOL. You spend very little time in the tunnel, and spend a lot of it looking at old pictures delving into the history and construction of the Kingdom.

  29. myspace.com/barropanama on April 8th, 2011 11:52 am

    This happens in Florida or California , “The keys to the kingdom tour”? Where is the fire department lamp , in Fla. or CA? etc….

    what really is a mistery to me is the frozen corpse under Pirates of the Caribbean… and the fact that W.. Disney died on dec.. 15 and was born on dec. 5, his ex -wife died dec.. 16 (after suffering a stroke on dec. 15 years after his death ) and one of his nephews died on a dec. 16 , too. His two daughters were born on dec dates…. his brother died on dec. 20 , the day he was supposed to open the Disney parade… etc…

  30. Hurpa on July 13th, 2011 6:10 pm

    Sometimes, during the fireworks, a castmember in a mickey suit climbs to the top of Matterhorn and waves.

  31. Cassie on July 14th, 2011 3:07 am

    To number 29. No one had EVER been frozen till one month after Walter Died. His ashes were spread at a park in California. The only reason that rumor started was because it was a very private funeral even people working at Disney Land didn’t know what was happening to him. They thought he was being buried underneath Pirates of The Caribbean ride because they were doing a little construction at the time.

    For my university course I had to do a project on an entrepreneur so I did Walter Disney. It took two months but when it was said and done my professor said that 98 percent of my project was correct. The only thing that apparently wasn’t actually proven was the haunting of the fire station.

  32. Dez on September 17th, 2011 3:29 pm

    The letters ‘sex’ don’t appear in the lion king; the letters are ‘sfx’ an homage to the special effects team.




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