Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Magic & Misadventures Halloween post. It’s a… ghost post, if you will.
You may have heard, my dear readers, of the lamp in Walt’s Disneyland apartment. Situated in a window above the Main Street Fire Station, Walt would turn that lamp on so folks would know that he was there, and since his passing it’s been kept on all the time. A touching tribute, to be sure, to the man who created the park.
What if, however, there’s actually a more… supernatural side to this story?
There are stories of a custodian who, shortly after Walt died in 1966, went in to clean the apartment. As was normal at that time, she turned his lamp off as she left. When she got outside, however, she looked back and saw that the light was still on. Assuming that she must have forgotten, she went back inside and shut it off again. Once more she went back downstairs, once more she saw that the lamp was lit, and once more she went into the apartment to turn it off. The story goes that this time she stood there for a few minutes and, without being touched, the lamp turned itself back on.
There’s even a version of this eerie anecdote that claims she then heard a familiar voice telling her “I am still here.”
The creeped-out custodian left the apartment in a hurry and never returned, and since that day the lamp has remained on. Officially, it’s to honor Walt Disney, and officially the apartment is empty. Yet, in the years since his death, many cast members have claimed to hear footsteps and knocking from within the vacant apartment. Sometimes, out of the corner of an eye, they’ll catch a glimpse of the curtains twitching. As if, they say, an ethereal observer just stepped back from the window. Could it be that the ghost of Walt Disney is still there in his apartment, watching over the magic kingdom that he created?
Frightening folklore? Perhaps. There are whispers, though, passed between guests and cast members, suggesting that the happy haunts of the Haunted Mansion aren’t the only ghosts in the Happiest Place On Earth.
So turn on all the lights and muster your courage, my friends, because it’s time to go on a tour of spooky stories about some specters that may dwell within the Disney parks.
There’s no turning back now…
Of course, we all know that the Haunted Mansion is full of grim grinning ghosts. Nine hundred and ninety nine, to be exact. They do say that there’s room for a thousand, and ask for volunteers, but maybe that last slot has already been filled?
Some people believe there is at least one more spirit, that of a creepy crying child, stalking the halls of Disneyland’s haunted house. As the story goes, a young boy died and his mother asked if she could spread his ashes inside his favorite attraction–the Haunted Mansion. Naturally, Disney said that she couldn’t, but supposedly that didn’t deter her from doing it anyway. After that, rumors of a ghost haunting the ride began to surface. Guests have claimed to see a tearful tot by the exit, but he ignores them when he’s spoken to and sometimes even vanishes altogether. Even cast members have said they’ve heard weird sounds, felt chills, and seen things out of the corners of their eyes while working at the attraction.
Some ghosts, it seems, may have been around long before the theme parks were built. One such spirit is said to be an old man holding a cane who rides Florida’s Haunted Mansion late at night. Though not much is known about him, it’s rumored that this apparition is in fact a pilot whose plane crashed in the 1940s on what is now Walt Disney World property. Many cast members claim that they’ve tried to talk to him, but he never responds. The ghost, known as “the man with the cane”, will more often than not just disappear.
Our last Haunted Mansion ghost story stems from a picture taken in 2004 and posted on this WDWMagic forum.
According to the photographer, the face staring back from the doombuggy ahead can only be that of a spirit. This child was not there when the photo was taken, they claim, and in fact there was no guest of that age visible anywhere ahead of them in line. To add to the mystery, they say that they were not using a flash or external light source of any kind. So who could this kid be, why is their face so well-lit in the dark hallway, and why are they staring straight back at the photographer? Other guests claim to have also seen this ghostly youngster looking back at them from a few doombuggies ahead, even though they knew that they were the very first rider of the day.
The first living one, anyway…
I didn’t mean to frighten you prematurely. Many more chilling tales are coming. As they say, look… alive, and we’ll continue our little tour.
Over in Adventureland, in Pirates of the Caribbean, resides one of the best-known Walt Disney World ghosts: George. In life, George was supposedly a construction worker back in the early ’70s who died while working on the attraction (though any details of his demise are lost to legend). Since then, many believe that his spirit lingers within the ride. Cast members say good morning and good night to George every day over the PA system, and it’s widely believed that he’ll get a bit mischievous if they don’t. The ride might stop, or a phone call may come from an empty control room. There’s even a door, near the jail cell and the key-holding dog, called “George’s door” because it will often open on its own after being closed. It’s not just the cast members who say they’ve experienced George’s hijinks, either. If a guest claims they don’t believe in him while riding the ride, the boats may suddenly stop (sometimes, according to reports, for an extremely long time). Saying his name three times while on the attraction is rumored to cause stops as well, and one guest who chose to taunt George early on swore later that their boat rocked much harder as it went down the waterfall. Cast members have claimed to see shadows moving where there weren’t any people, felt cold air blowing as if something was passing through them, and some have even said they’ve seen weird lights appear on photographs and security monitors. Overall, cast members do maintain that George is basically harmless as long as you’re polite to him. If you don’t show this spectral swashbuckler respect, however, he can be a really bad egg.
Of course, you may expect ghosts in a haunted house or amid the bones of buccaneers, but what about among the stars? Some speak of a spirit, known as Mr. One-Way, who haunts Space Mountain in Disneyland. This futuristic phantasm, often described as a large man with red hair and a red face, will hop into the empty seat next to single riders but will have vanished by the time their rocket reaches the end of the trip. There have also been reports of cast members seeing Mr. One-Way in the Space Mountain locker rooms.
Interestingly, while Mr. One-Way is the most well known of Space Mountain’s ghosts, there’s also talk of a young boy who has been seen in the queue for the ride. Guests who have witnessed this particular wraith say that he’ll actually wait in line and talk to the people around him, though his information seems quite dated and he doesn’t seem to know about all of the changes to the park that have happened over the last few decades. He’ll even get on next to an unsuspecting mortal, but, like Mr. One-Way, will have disappeared before the end of the ride.
Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding. Are these terrifying tales true, or are they only imagination?
Even Disneyland’s Main Street USA, that charming collection of shops and restaurants, is said to be home to its own eerie apparition. This spirit has been spied by both guests and cast members throughout the years, and they describe a woman dressed in a white dress that appears to be from the early 1900s. This silent specter wanders around the stores, and some even state that she guides lost children to the Baby Care Center. Though this helpful haunt’s clothing fits well within Main Street’s theme, it’s suspected that she’s actually from the turn-of-the-century and that she’s been there far longer than the theme park.
Our tour of the supernatural is not only limited to the lands of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy. There are stories of spirits residing in other Disney parks as well.
EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Maybe, though, we should replace “prototype” with “paranormal” since it’s said that a pair of phantoms can be found there. Described as ghostly children, they are most often seen playing in front of Spaceship Earth. The boy will run ahead of the girl, and then they will simply vanish. Both the girl (often said to have long blonde hair, a fairly consistent detail) and the boy have also been seen riding Spaceship Earth as well. While many claim to have seen them, nobody seems to know who these ghostly kids are or where they could have come from, or why they spend all of their time at EPCOT’s most iconic attraction.
Hollywood Studios, too, could very well be haunted. As the story goes, a Tower of Terror cast member died of a heart attack on the loading platform for the “Delta” shaft and his spirit hasn’t moved on from the attraction. Cast members claim that, during their nightly ride-throughs on that particular elevator, all sorts of spooky scenarios can play out. They suddenly find themselves in complete darkness, though on the security screens in the control room the lights never seemed to go out. The music fades in and out. Sometimes, out of the corner of their eye, they’ll see a shadowy figure that vanishes when they turn to look. Some supposedly won’t ride Delta alone, and at the end of the night will wait for others to complete their own tasks and then go through as a group.
Consider the screenshot below, taken from a maintenance video that was posted on YouTube. At exactly 26 seconds, and only for the blink of an eye, a figure seems to momentarily materialize behind the cast member. Is it a trick of the light, a reflection, or some sort of glitch in the recording? Or, for the briefest of flashes, does a ghost actually appear behind this unsuspecting man?
From cast members who greet George every day to guests who claim to have seen a specter on Space Mountain, these spine-tingling stories (and more like them) have taken on an afterlife of their own to become a real part of the mythology of the Disney parks. Whether you think that they’re terrifyingly true or just silly superstition, of course, is up to you.
Our tour is almost at its untimely end, but before we reach our frightening finale I will leave you all with one last morbid mystery. Is this video eerie evidence of an entity walking through Disneyland late at night, or should we be somewhat skeptical of this recorded revenant? Watch, and decide for yourself. And the next time you’re at a Disney park, remember… beware of hitchhiking ghosts!
Hurry back… hurry back…