Death at Disneyland: Peculiar cases of human remains in ‘happiest place on Earth’

It’s billed as the happiest place on earth so much so that millions flock to the various Disney theme parks each year. A place of magic and wonder; an escape from day-to-day life that so many hold dear.

It’s not uncommon for visitors to comment about never wanting to leave, flinching at the very thought of ditching the mouse ears and returning to the day job. However according to long-established urban myths, some take the drive of not wanting to leave a little too literally.

It has long been speculated across the internet and subsequently ‘confirmed’ by those former-cast members (park employees) that it’s a common activity for individuals to scatter the ashes of loved ones throughout the grounds and on the rides themselves across Disneyland resorts.

It’s become such a phenomenon that Disney has spoken out it in the past, confirming that it is not permitted or tolerated. In basic terms, it’s a violation of the Health and Safety Code to scatter human ashes on private property.

Disney is no stranger to urban legends, the sort of myths that are bound to circulate around a brand that is known for its ‘magic’ and its guarded approach to running the theme parks across the globe. An approach that is in place in order to conceal the ordinary, keep the magic alive and allow for an all round special experience for guests.

Of course, this slight element of secrecy can allow scope for people’s imagination to run wild and the opportunity to reveal stories which may or may not be true.

If there are anywhere near as many attempted ashes scattering incidents across the theme parks as the internet, in particular Reddit, has us believe, then it appears that such an act has been carried out by visitors for a long time.

Treating any of the Disney theme parks as the final resting place of a loved one may be happening behind closed doors despite Disney’s efforts to stop this. In fact, according to Insider in 2018, incidents of ashes scattering in on Disney property were occurring as often as once a month.

Ashes to ashes
As with any long-established urban myth, there are intricate details including where the hotspots for ashes scattering are within the theme parks.

Reddit is convoluted of users claiming that hotspots include the Haunted Mansion ride, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the expanse of vividly coloured flowerbeds that the parks boast.

The Haunted Mansion ride for example, has its own cult following, a division of which supposedly believes that guests scatter the ashes of loved ones within the ride so that they can join the ghosts and essentially live on at Disneyland forever – creepy stuff.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney staff members, or cast members as they are affectionately known, even have a code for when there is a believed scattering of ashes by a guest.

The code is apparently ‘HEPA clean-up’, which stands for ‘high-efficiency particulate air’, referring to a certain type of filter that picks up extraordinarily fine particles.

The 2018 article continued with a quote from a custodian saying: “The Haunted Mansion probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny.”

One user on Reddit added: “When I was on my Disney College Program, I had friends working at the Haunted Mansion, and every time someone would spill ashes, they called a code grandma and evacuated the ride.”

It seems this particular user has dismissed the concept of the codeword being ‘HEPA clean-up’, favouring a questionable code of ‘grandma’ instead.

Dead men tell no tales
In LA in April 2019, a woman was spotted sprinkling an ‘unidentified substance’ into the water of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.

A witness described the substance to sound similar to that of ashes but later Anaheim police decided not to file a report due to lacking a detailed enough description of the female and the evidence had of course disappeared into the water.

The ride is not just a supposed hotspot for scattering ashes, it has also long been speculated that real human skeletal remains were once used as part of the attraction.

Supposedly when the ride first opened 54 years ago, Disney Imagineers desired more realistic skeletons as opposed to the faux bones that were created for the ride. It is suggested that they then obtained real skeletal remains from the UCLA Medical Centre.

Rumours seem to suggest that the human skeletal remains in question have since been replaced but there are users on forums that truly believe there is one remaining human skull within the attraction.

A skull that sits above the bed in the treasure room at the beginning of the ride. Self-proclaimed ex-cast members have since ‘confirmed’ this.

Forums continue to discuss this topic in detail, including suggesting the ‘easiest’ items to smuggle ashes in past security and into the theme parks.

Whether people do ultimately manage to smuggle ashes on to Disney property, needless to say, all rides are regularly deep-cleaned, so the likelihood of any ashes remaining there within the ride is not exactly viable.