We’ve all heard the myth about Walt Disney having his body preserved in cryonic storage. In some tellings, it’s just his disembodied head that gets cryonically frozen. If you came of age in the 1990s, during the Disney Renaissance, you might also be familiar with how a bevy of inappropriate Easter eggs are said to be laced throughout the animated features of that period.

But Disney urban legends go deeper than that. If you go looking for urban legends, prepare to be sucked into stories of scary abandoned theme park islands and mayhem aboard mountain rides, including bared breasts and decapitations. You might also encounter a few fascinating fan theories that will change the way you look at certain Disney films.

Let’s unlock the proverbial Disney Vault and start raiding it for riches in the form of some of the most intriguing apocryphal stories that have grown up in and around the Happiest Place on Earth. This is where The X-Files meets Mickey Mouse.

Myth of the Villain-Themed “Dark Kingdom” Park

The idea of a theme park built entirely around Disney villains is so cool that it is really no wonder this has turned out to be such an enduring legend online. Back on October 1, Thrillist ran an interesting feature by Drew Taylor essentially busting the myth that Disney ever had any kind of “Dark Kingdom” park in the works. Bolstered by the expertise of Disney historian Jim Hill, what Taylor found in his research was that an array of villain-themed concepts over the years had snowballed into the idea of a full-on villains park that never came to be.

Disney California Adventure, for example, once had a preview center where they showcased the concept for an area within the park called Villain Village. At the Magic Kingdom, too, there was once a proposed Villain Village that would have featured a Caterpillar-type Ursula ride, as well as an “Unhappy Hour” show in a beer garden outside Gaston’s Tavern, where villains would nurse drinks and trade their woes in song, similar to how Batman’s rogues gallery gathered around the card table to tell “Almost Got ‘Im” stories in one memorable episode of Batman: The Animated Series. According to Hill, the centerpiece of this version of Villain Village, a ride called Villain Mountain, would have put guests on the underworld boat of Hades from Hercules and let them drift through a succession of Audio-Animatronic villain encounters, all culminating in a run-in with Chernabog, the bat-winged monstrosity from Fantasia’s “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence.

The earliest genesis of the Dark Kingdom idea appears to have come from Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour, a walk-through attraction that operated for ten years at Tokyo Disneyland. For the last three years, Tokyo DisneySea has let villains take over the park as part of its “Villain’s World” Halloween celebration; alas, this and other Halloween events at Disney parks worldwide seem destined to remain the only real-world analogues for the Dark Kingdom. Unless you were one of the “bemusement park” goers who got to experience Dismaland, street artist Banksy’s twisted 2015 pop-up exhibition in England.


Various Mountain Legends with Some Basis in Truth

While Villain Mountain never made it beyond the concept stage, there are numerous other mountain rides at Disney parks around the world, and those rides are often the setting for some pretty gruesome and sensationalistic stories. Despite frequenting Walt Disney World as a child, I never remember riding Space Mountain, for instance. What I do remember is hearing that someone had died on Space Mountain, giving the herky-jerky, pitch-black ride an almost verboten quality. Legend holds that a man was once decapitated after standing up in his seat on the ride.

Snopes reports that the earliest recorded death of someone on a Disney ride was a 15-year-old Californian who stood up on the Matterhorn Bobsleds, hit his head, and died. This may have gradually morphed into the Space Mountain legend. Two other Californians were also killed in separate incidents on the PeopleMover, which did once pass through Space Mountain at Disneyland Park.

One of the rare deaths not brought about by a guest’s own safety negligence happened on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when train cars separated in a dark tunnel and a man was killed. Adolescents have also drowned in the Rivers of America as they tried to cross the river from Tom Sawyer’s Island on their own. When I was young, this made me fear I would get stranded for the night; my late grandfather and I once got so caught up playing hide-and-go-seek in the caves that we almost missed the last raft of the evening.

If all this talk of death is getting to be too much, Snopes also verifies the claim that certain free spirits have chosen to affirm life by flashing their breasts on everyone’s favorite log flume ride at Disney, thereby turning the wholesome Splash Mountain into an indecent “Flash Mountain.” Disney Cast Members reportedly now screen ride photos for flashers before allowing the photos to be displayed.

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