We love visiting the parks at Walt Disney World.
Magic Kingdom brings the magic and spurs us on to remember that childhood imagination and wonder of days gone by. EPCOT broadens our horizons and asks us to take a second look. Disney’s Hollywood Studios reminds us of the Golden Age of Hollywood while dazzling us with the art and animation of Walt Disney and PIXAR. And Disney’s Animal Kingdom challenges us to be both awestruck by, and respectful of, all creatures great and small.
But can we be completely honest for just a minute? There’s some crazy stuff that goes down at Disney World, and we’re not talking about the wild behaviors that net some Guests an all-expenses-paid trip to the Orange County Jail.For all the magic and imagination and wonder and broadened horizons and dazzles and inspiration you’ve probably found served up in generous portions at the Walt Disney World Resort, you’ve probably also witnessed some of the most enigmatic (or downright troubling) behaviors of Guests in the parks. (You’ve probably at least heard of them.)
Of course, your experiences will vary, but at a vacation resort the size of Disney World with annual attendance in the tens of millions range, there’s bound to be some level of quirky, “interesting,” or just plain disturbing incidences and strange phenomena experienced by at least some Guests. This post includes just a few.
Leaving loved ones at Liberty Square
While you might not have actually witnessed it yourself, if you’re a Disney Parks fan at all, you’ve probably read about this, um, “practice.” Some Guests, wishing to honor their departed loved ones’ wishes, board a Doom Buggy at the Haunted Mansion attraction with a sachet, a bag, or a small urn that contains the ashes of a loved one with the intention of spreading those ashes while inside the Haunted Mansion. For some fans, it’s a final request because they love the parks or the attraction so much, that they want to eagerly answer the advertisement in the mansion for the 1,000th happy haunt.
The trouble is that when ashes are spread at Haunted Mansion (or anywhere else at Disney World), the reality is a hard one to hear. Instead of that loved one spending eternity as a houseguest in the mansion, his or her ashes are immediately removed from the area. Translation: Ol’ Uncle Ben gets swept up or vacuumed by one of Disney World’s custodians. And that’s after you get a front-row hot seat because of your actions, which are strictly prohibited in the parks and lead to an immediate ride shutdown. And believe me, at Disney World, you don’t want to be the Guest who creates the calamity that causes a ride closure, especially when every other Guest around you will know it was you.
The puzzling behavior in this instance isn’t that Ol’ Uncle Ben wanted his ashes spread at Disney World; it’s that you knew better, did it anyway, and now your uncle won’t spend eternity at Disney, but rather in several refuse containers. Puzzling indeed.
A herd of “cattle” on Main Street at Magic Kingdom
If you’re smart, you visit the parks during off-season when you don’t have to walk around the parks in crowds with complete strangers breathing down your neck and every other breath you take is a deodorant check on the 10 people standing closest to you. (If you’re only able to visit the parks during June and December, it doesn’t mean you’re an idiot; it just means you’re unlucky. Don’t worry; I’m right there with you.) During seasons of high attendance in the parks, it becomes painfully clear that good hygiene is a feat attempted by many, but fully achieved by few.
One hot July day at Disney World, as thousands of Guests mosied, strolled, or otherwise sashayed down Main Street toward Cinderella Castle, a very odd thing happened indeed. No, it wasn’t the mass fainting of hundreds of dehydrated, stuffed-with-turkey-legs Guests. Main Street became temporarily clogged near the hub grass, and it was nearly impossible to move more than a few inches at a time. And though we aren’t sure whether it was because he was trying to offer the situation some levity or because he was delirious–either from the heat or the stench of non-deodoranted Guests, a man suddenly started to moo. Yes, “moo,” as in the sound cattle make. He mooed and he mooed and he mooed some more, despite the crooked eyebrows and question-marked faces of the Guests around him. And in no time at all, a hundred or more Guests began following suit, perhaps signaling their frustration at being herded down Main Street like your garden variety bovine.
A mass exodus at the Flight of Passage attraction
Since its opening in May of 2017, the Avatar: Flight of Passage attraction at the World of Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has seen some lengthy wait times in the queue. Once upon a time, scoring a FastPass+ for the attraction felt better seeing the Publishers’ Clearinghouse van roll up at your house. Even with Disney’s new Genie+ and Lightning Lane services, Guests experience a noticeable wait to experience the attraction.
That’s why it was so strange to me to see hundreds of Guests fleeing the banshee stables/ride house. I had walked through the FastPass+ queue with some of my traveling party, so I knew how long that wait was, as well as how long the wait was in the standby queue. Whether someone had smacked a fleet of massive beehives or there was an actual banshee on the loose, I wasn’t sure. I just knew that Guests running for their lives out of an attraction structure meant something strange was afoot.
And indeed something was. Cast Members were scrambled and began repeating the same words, as if they were programmed: “Attention Guests, please clear the area; there’s a fire in the structure! Attention Guests, please clear the area; there’s a fire in the structure!” Panic took over as I waited to gather up my two daughters, my best friend, and our nanny as they exited the building. Soon, we were reunited, and an hour or two later, the ride reopened.
*No banshees were hurt in mass exodus mayhem.
Hundreds of trays of rogue sunglasses
My cousin and I took our families to Disney World together several times. Disney World prep always looked the same with her; it began with “there’s no way I’m gonna get everything packed,” and it ended with her purchasing a new pair of sunglasses each and every time. Why? Because she lost at least one pair at the parks on every single trip. I was thrilled when she started buying two pairs of sunglasses before each visit, just in case, you know? Of course, she was only inviting the inevitable.
The first visit during which she managed to lose both pairs on the same day–one at Space Mountain, and one at Big Thunder, she took the crazy a little further by demanding to carve precious time out of our park day and enjoy the Finders Keepers experience near the Transportation and Ticket Center, otherwise known as Lost and Found, so she could attempt a retrieval.
I rolled my eyes so much, they felt like slot machines.
And it wasn’t enough to just ask the Cast Member about the arrival of a lost pair of glasses. No, she had to tell the Cast Member the entire backstory of the years and years of pairs and pairs of rogue sunglasses from which she was forced by circumstance to part. I stepped in: “Could we please see the sunglasses that have been turned in?”
That Cast Member gave us the strangest look: a smile, but a strange one, as she disappeared behind a door and was gone for several minutes. Then, over the course of the next 6 1/2 minutes, she produced tray after tray after tray of rogue shaded readers. Kids’ glasses, adults’ glasses, red ones, blue ones, tie-dye ones. We were staring down the annual inventory of a Ray-Ban shop. It goes without saying that my crazy cousin never found her lost sunglasses. She didn’t dare take any that weren’t hers, and it’s funny because the Cast Member said that Guests almost never came in to claim lost sunglasses.
A flying leg at Mt. Everest
A Guest boarded the tea train at the Expedition Everest attraction at Animal Kingdom. Since it was his most favorite ride at Disney World, he knew every square inch of it, from the Yeti to the backward drop to the 80-foot drop in front of the PhotoPass camera. But on this particular expedition, as the man was enjoying the attraction, suddenly an object flew past him, almost hitting him in the head. He must have wondered if the Yeti were throwing things at him, but he’d taken the train through the Forbidden Pass enough times to know that whatever flew past him wasn’t part of the Everest experience; there are no animatronic birds and no projectiles in the attraction.
But as the train approached the loading zone, came to a stop, and Guests began to disembark, the man overheard a huge commotion as a Guest just three seats ahead of him on the train was yelling to the Cast Member, “I lost my leg on the ride! My prosthetic leg!”
Parks protests in favor of the toad over the bear
In the late 1990s when it was announced that Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride would close to make way for another attraction, fans of the famed ride roared in disapproval. Scores of Disney World fans protested Disney’s decision to give Mr. Toad the boot, by initiating letter-writing campaigns to fill Disney’s mailbox with written testaments to their anger. They even mass-produced t-shirts with slogans aimed at conveying their disgust. Perhaps no one could have seen the protests coming. But the protests fell on deaf ears as Disney never retreated in its decision, and the classic attraction was completely reimagined as The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
The phenomenon of the “12-foot wide Guest”
Perhaps akin to the legend of Bigfoot, enter the legend of the 12-Foot-Wide Guest, except the 12-Foot-Wide Guest actually exists. I’ve seen it many times, but only in the Central Florida region. In fact, I’ve only ever seen it in the Magic Kingdom region of Disney World in Central Florida. This strange phenomenon has been witnessed by many people who have visited Magic Kingdom. It happens more often during seasons of heavy attendance in the park. The 12-foot-wide Guest can pop up anywhere, but it’s most often seen in Fantasyland where the thoroughfares are always deep with Guests.
You and your family are walking along in the park, taking in the sights and the sounds of Magic Kingdom, when suddenly, you come upon it: the 12-foot-wide Guest. It’s huge. It’s massive. And Guests are unable to pass around it. You’re in awe and shocked simultaneously, only to discover that the giant Guest is actually 5 to 8 Guests walking side-by-side, preventing any other Guest from passing them. The phenomenon grows stranger still as some of the 12-foot-wide Guests halt unexpectedly, right in front of crowds of Guests, pull out their smartphones and begin snapping away, seemingly with no concern for others around them who also bought a part ticket for that day.
Strange behavior, indeed.