Growing up on the East Coast, a common family vacation included heading down to Disney World for a week of wholesome fun and togetherness. I was always the kid who was too afraid to try out rides even when I passed the height restriction. This may have stemmed from choosing ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter as my first big boy ride, which really only made me stop trusting my brother for any form of advice. If you've never seen Alien Encounter, watch this wonderfully dated video to get acquainted:
I eventually grew up and moved past this base-level fear, but I'm starting to think I was wiser back then. After reading about the behind-the-scenes creepy stuff that goes on at Disney parks, maybe my adolescent self was right. Here are 8 distressing facts about Disney parks that definitely would have made me avoid vacation as a kid.
8. Spaceship Earth caused paranoid guests to get lost in darkness
On Epcot's Spaceship Earth, riders enter the iconic geodesic sphere for a trip through time and human achievement. Unfortunately, many guests aren't prepared for the ending of the ride, and the result leads them to the first terrifying item on the list.
When the ride reaches the top, the vehicles spin around 180 degrees, and riders begin descending backwards. Some people have taken that as an indicator that the ride is becoming a roller coaster, sending them down a drop without any restraints. In a panic, they flee their slow moving vehicle and head out into the dark abyss of the dome. The ride immediately stops, and employees are forced to find this blind wanderer, who at any moment could stumble on effects equipment, maintenance tools, or even the ride vehicles.
7. Disneyland Paris has a harrowing connection to suicide
Any company as large as Disneyland Paris is going to have tragic incidents, but it's the manner in which they occurred that really makes this story freaky. In 2010, there were at least two reported suicides by cast members at Disneyland Paris.
One employee, a cook there for 10 years, killed himself on the same day he was scheduled to return to work after a prolonged illness. According to his father-in-law, he left a message on the door that translates to "I don't want to go back to Mickey's house."
In 2013, another suicidal man doused himself in gasoline and needed to be restrained to prevent setting himself ablaze. Supposedly, this was a response to being summoned to meet with the theme park higher-ups.
6. Mister Toad's Wild Ride Ends in Hell
Kids these days never got to experience the brilliance of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Since it was my dad's favorite ride (and no one ever seemed to be in line), I was on it a lot. For some unknown but nonetheless terrifying reason, the ride ends with your descent into the fiery pits of Hell, complete with cackling Devil faces welcoming you there. Disney even turns up the heat at this part to really teach a good Catholic boy where he could be headed if he doesn't stay on the right path.
5. Expedition Everest doesn't even try to hide gruesome deaths
In line for Disney World's Expedition Everest ride, everything goes pretty smoothly without any cause for calamity...until you get to this one section. It's easy to miss, but it tells you exactly what your confrontation with the Yeti could end up looking like: death.
In a series of images retrieved from a "shattered camera" at the overturned campsite, we see the Yeti attacking an expedition from 1982. It didn't leave any survivors, and it's a pretty grisly fate to present to riders right before boarding.
Here's a link to an even larger image for those who want to get a better view.
4. Cats roam free to feast on rats when the park is closed
According to Vice and Los Angeles Times, feral cats have the domain of the park when guests are away. When more and more strays started coming to Disneyland, park officials decided to fix the feline intruders and put them to work. That's because they had an even bigger vermin problem on their hands, and cats were the perfect solution.
I'm admittedly not a huge cat fan, but if there's one thing that I absolutely abhor, it's any rodent. The fact that Disneyland has enough rats roaming around to make them keep a bunch of cat hunters honestly makes me queasy.
3. Carousel of Progress once treated scared guests to a horrifying animatronic
During a tropical storm in 2013, guests at Disney World piled into the Carousel of Progress for safety. When ride operators decided to turn on the show for them, they were treated to a deformed animatronic who remained mostly motionless except for a series of hand spasms. I don't know how some of these people are laughing and joking, as soon as the power went out, sheer panic would have set in. This is one of the last places I would want to be trapped.
Just watch the video, and you will understand.
2. Snow White's Scary Adventures continues to haunt my dreams (and it's even worse in Japan)
Sometimes it's the fully intentional things at Disney Parks that manage to induce the most visceral fear. Case in point: Snow White's Scary Adventures ride in Disney World, which has since been toned down because it disturbed so many little kids (including me). Riders would take on the role of Snow White, rolling through terrifying forests until the Wicked Queen drops a giant diamond on you and kills you.
Unfortunately, there's an even more horrifying (and longer!) version of the ride still operating in Tokyo Disneyland. Watch the video for the full experience.
1. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a catastrophe coaster
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is widely known as the "tame roller coaster," but clearly those who doubt its ferocity aren't familiar with its body count. At Disneyland Paris in 2011, a piece of the scenery fell on five guests, with one needing transportation to the hospital.
Back in 1998, a 5-year-old boy suffered the amputation of all the toes on his left foot after it got wedged between the car and the platform at Disneyland. In 2003, a young man at the same park was crushed by the locomotive when it became unhinged from its axel, flew into the air, and landed on the victim. He died from the blunt force trauma and internal bleeding.
These deaths become even stranger when you learn the backstory to the ride. The roller coaster is a possessed train controlled by whatever supernatural force killed everyone in the fictional mining town (notice the sign saying the population going from 2,015 to 247 to 88 to 38...and then nothing).