Considering that Disney World attracts thousands upon thousands of people every day, it’s no surprise that not everyone has a picture-picture perfect experience when they go. The House of Mouse has encountered its fair share of the strange and unusual over its many years of entertaining the masses.
Obviously, you’re not allowed to bring toddlers and babies onto every ride available at Disney World’s theme parks. There are certainly areas where you’re encouraged to do so, but we all know you’re not going to be able to smuggle your wailing child through the hour-long wait for Space Mountain and onto the indoor roller coaster itself. Still, that didn’t stop one dummy from trying to do just that. Disney Fanatic reports a visitor once attempted to smuggle a large bag onto the ride. When the visitor refused to open the bag after being stopped by the ride’s cast members, security arrived. They found a 6-month-old baby inside that the parent was trying to hide in order to ride Space Mountain. Encounters like this are much more frequent than you realize, as parents oftentimes don’t bring someone who could watch their children who are too small to ride certain attractions.
Dumbo throws up in front of everyone
The biggest rule at Disney World for its characters is that they can never take off their heads in public on threat of being immediately fired. So, that means there’s a lot of suffering inside those heads on hot days. The extreme heat and lack of air can put a Mickey or two down for the count and, according to the book Inside the Mouse, it happens every summer.
Sometimes, it’s even worse than fainting at a character meet-and-greet. One cast member described a moment where he played Dumbo in a parade. It was an awful day, he felt sick, and knew he was going to vomit. If he pulled the head off to do so, he’d lose his job and probably cause a few children’s future therapy bills along the way. So, he threw up right in the head. It was so bad, barf started pouring out of the little mesh-covered hole where Dumbo’s mouth should be. The cast member, however, made it through the parade without beheading. He claims that, even if a character throws up or passes out on a float, nobody ever pulls them off the ride. You just keep waving and hope a kid thinks that Dumbo’s just leaking some magical flying juice.
The monorail always seemed like the future of transportation. It looks kind of weird and vaguely spaceship-ish, plus the fact it rides on one rail makes it mysteriously cooler than those boring two-rail trains. But there’s a reason this train system is better suited for Shelbyville than anywhere else in the country … like when you have to climb down 30 feet to escape a fire in the car.
In 1985, a monorail car tire went flat, and the friction caused the car to ignite. Approximately 240 people were on the six cars, and they all quickly found that exiting a monorail mid-journey is not an easy task. The cars are situated on concrete beams 30 feet high — since most people didn’t want to try their luck with a three-story fall, passengers had to climb on top of the cars, to avoid smoke inhalation and possibly burning to death.
Eventually the fire department came with cherry pickers to rescue the passengers — though there were some injuries, none were serious and no one died. Thankfully, Disney did not try to spin the monorail disaster as a tryout for a new "Escape the Public Transportation" ride, though telling people that you had to hoist yourself to the top of a monorail car while escaping flames will likely beat anyone else’s Disney World story.
A snake attack kills a grandma
And now for the dark side of weird Disney stories.
CBS News reported that in early 2016 at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park, an unfortunate death occurred when a wild snake (that was not part of any of the zoo-like attractions) fell from a tree and bit a young boy. The boy is just fine, since the snake is non-venomous. Unfortunately, the boy’s grandmother was watching the whole ordeal and went into cardiac arrest from the surprise. Park medics treated the boy with a bandage, but grandma unfortunately didn’t make it. The family, of course, sued Disney World, as the snake was a local Florida serpent that somehow made it into the safari-like resort.
A loaded gun on the Dinosaur ride
Guns in a theme park normally do not a real fun story make, but no one got hurt in any way, so feel free to laugh at it.
A grandma and her grandson were riding the Dinosaur ride (themed to the oh-so-forgettable Dinosaur movie), when she realized there was something at the floor of her ride car. It wasn’t a big deal, just a fully loaded gun! The woman immediately gave the gun to an attendant, and soon the police were called. They found the gun’s owner, Angelo Lista, who seemed pretty chill about the whole thing. He claimed he didn’t know you couldn’t bring loaded guns into a children’s theme park. Sure, security searched bags as you entered, but he thought that was only to find bombs and such. People like that are why shampoo bottles have instructions telling you not to eat the shampoo.
Since the Dinosaur ride is herky, and might we say jerky, the gun fell out of his back pocket during a bumpy moment, and he exited the ride without realizing he was missing his deadly weapon. Now, people have to go through metal detectors before entering the parks, so you don’t have to worry that your child will find an extra special toy on the floor of your favorite ride.
Haunted Mansion gets filled with the ashes of dead people
Over the years, Disney cast members and custodians have had to deal with multiple guests smuggling the ashes of their lost loved ones and scattering them somewhere around or inside the Haunted Mansion attraction, according to the LA Times. This actually happens at the Haunted Mansions in both California’s Disneyland and Florida’s Disney World. The attraction’s macabre, graveyard-esque landscape certainly looks like an opportune place for a person to leave the ashes of a loved one, but Disney’s staff advises against it, even more so for those who try to scatter the ashes somewhere within the building or during the ride itself. You know what usually happens afterwards? You get kicked out and the ride gets stopped until custodians vacuum up your loved one’s remains, just so they can be dumped out with the soda cups, empty popcorn boxes, and the rest of the trash. Scatter those ashes somewhere else. Haunted Mansion needs a Ghostbuster, not a DustBuster.
Tarzan actually saved a child
Usually when Disney World casts an actor to play one of their favorite heroes, they usually don’t insist on them actually saving a life on Disney property to keep their job. But a certain Tarzan decided to go above and beyond.
In his memoir Cast Member Confidential, Chris Mitchell wrote about a moment that seemed too perfect, even for the Happiest Place on Earth. During a Magic Kingdom parade, a young boy accidentally fell into the lagoon by Tom Sawyer island. The mother screamed in shock, and a few employees, including Mitchell, dove into the dirty water to save the child, with everyone hoping they weren’t about to witness a tragedy.
But who was the hero of the day? Tarzan. The actor playing Tarzan literally jumped off a parade float when he heard the mother scream and came out of the lagoon with both the boy and his dreadlocked wig in tact. The jungle man even stayed in character as he returned the free diving child to his worried mom. And the actor didn’t even break character. "Keep boy safe. … Tarzan very brave. But everybody can be hero," he told the boy’s bawling mother. The only sad part of the story is that nobody will believe that kid when he tells his friends at school that Tarzan swooped down from above to save him from death.
Injury and death at the Indiana Jones show
Hollywood Studios’ Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular has been captivating audiences for decades. Taking our favorite parts from Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade, this live-action show has had its fair share of pitfalls—it is Indiana Jones, after all.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that, after its 1989 debut, one performer fell 30 feet after a support cable failed. Another fell 25 feet directly onto concrete (while practicing a safer routine nonetheless). A third actor plummeted 25 feet after a prop ladder collapsed underneath him. As you’d expect, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, became involved, citing Disney for improper fall precautions. Twenty years after the show’s debut, a performer died while performing a tumbling roll. It’s a shame to think so many people have gotten significantly hurt trying to put together one of our favorite Hollywood Studios attractions outside of the Tower of Terror.
The death of Pluto
A 38-year-old cast member was killed at Magic Kingdom in 2004 during the Share a Dream Come True Parade that would go across the main, central streets of the park, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The employee, dressed as Pluto, was run over by a Beauty and the Beast parade float. This apparently happened at one of the backstage areas outside of the view of the visiting public. Nevertheless, it’s a sad tragedy for someone portraying such a beloved character. As you’d expect, a large investigation happened and OSHA slapped Disney with some hefty fines. Now, Disney is a lot stricter as to having employees off to the sides of its parade floats.
Drunk guy really wanted an employee cargo cart
Epcot is home to weird tourist behavior, because it’s the park that encourages the most drinking. Though the other parks offer booze (except the Magic Kingdom), visitors came up with the idea of "Drinking Around the World," which can only happen at Epcot’s World Showcase. Even if you don’t taste an adult beverage from all 11 countries featured, it’s not hard to get a little sloppy on an Ice Cream Martini from France, or a liter of beer from Germany.
One Naval grad took his Epcot drinking way too far, when his drunken brain decided it would be a great idea to go backstage. Backstage is the area just for employees at the park, but 23-year-old Austin Devan Hill figured he’d waltz right in and steal a cargo work cart. Hill punched an employee who tried to stop him from entering backstage, punched another employee who tried to stop him from taking the cart, then hit a female employee in the face with a PVC pipe. If this were an action movie, that might be sort of badass. Instead, he was a grown man at a park for children who harmed three innocent people during his needless drunken mission to get a cargo cart. Way to go, Hill. At least the kids at Epcot that day learned the dangers of drinking too many vodka slushes.
Death at Splash Mountain
You know how most roller coasters and amusement park rides often have multiple written and verbal warnings telling you to stay seated at all times? There’s a reason for that: so you don’t get hurt. But due to the sheer magnitude of crowds that come through Disney World’s gates every single day, you’re bound to get a few idiots. Granted, there are some people who panic and try to bail due to a hardcore case of the jitters, but it’s too late once you’re strapped in. According to NewsChannel2000, a man was killed during Splash Mountain as he tried to exit his cab. He fell as a second raft bumped into his car from behind (which is a regular part of the ride before the big drop). Disney has gotten a lot more protective about the restraints on its rides, but they still do occasionally get people trying to jump ship when they’re not supposed to.
Free video games during hurricanes
Though Florida is a hotbed of hurricanes, Disney World is usually safe. But every once in awhile, a hurricane gets too close for comfort and Disney has to act for the safety of its customers. So, more than a few people have gotten stuck at Disney during a storm. Hurricanes Floyd and Charlie both caused Disney World to shut down for two days. Though the damage was minimal, the shutdown prevented any guests from getting hurt. Hurricane Matthew came along in 2016 to disrupt Disney vacations once again. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but what actually happens to all the visitors when Mickey closes shop?
First of all, the parks are closed and people are evacuated — an empty daytime Disney is actually pretty creepy-looking. The park employees will help people reschedule flights and hotel stays, while people are encouraged to stay indoors at the resorts. But Disney does try to make it a little fun while hordes of people wait out the storm. Characters come around to all the on-property hotels to amuse children, they hold movie marathons, and once it was deemed safe to go outside, all video games were free at Disney Quest. So, if you do get the strangeness of a Disney hurricane, you might get to see a post-apocalyptic park and experience a weird summer camp-like slumber party, with a bunch of strangers and long lines for food. But don’t really worry about hurricanes — Disney World does not like to shut down. They once kept a parade going in a torrential storm. At least that probably washed some vomit out of those Mickey heads.
Health problems on Disney rides
Some Disney World rides — in fact, lots of them — aren’t for everybody. The Orlando Sentinel reported that at Animal Kingdom, a 30-year-old man died of a heart attack on the Dinosaur ride after his pacemaker failed. On Expedition Everest, a 44-year-old man died due to another heart ailment, cardiomyopathy, also according to the Orlando Sentinel. A 12-year-old boy died on Hollywood Studios’ Rock ‘n Roller Coaster due to a congenital heart defect, CBS News reported. If you’ve got a withstanding health issue, you might want to hold back on the crazier rides available at Disney World.
A woman became a meme after angry Splash Mountain ride
Jordan Alexander was heading to her very favorite ride in Disney World, Splash Mountain. She probably spent her hours daydreaming of the fun of hearing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" sung by animatronic chickens while she careened into a fake briar patch. But her husband decided he wasn’t interested in sitting on a fake log, and told Jordan she should go alone.
The wife wasn’t pleased with her husband refusing to share her joy for the flume ride, so she put on her angriest face right as the ride camera went off. The result was a pretty hilarious photo of a bunch of excited passengers on their way to the splash zone while one woman folds her arms and glares at the camera in disgust. It obviously didn’t take long for the picture to become a meme. Whether redditors put her face on the "American Gothic" painting or substituted her head for Grumpy Cat, the Disney pic proved to be a perfect photo for internet celebrity. She may have gone into Splash Mountain in anger, but she came out a star … for one to two minutes.
Riding Splash Mountain produces many reactions: joy, fear, laughter, poutiness — but you might be surprised to hear exhibitionism on that list. Yep, more than a few women have ridden Splash Mountain and, knowing their picture was about to be taken, decided there was no better idea than lifting their shirt and showing the world what they got.
The Snopes article about women flashing their breasts at Splash Mountain focuses mostly on Disneyland, but Disney World has a Mountain, too, so you know it happens there. This sometimes happens because somebody behind the woman lifts her shirt for her, which is a whole different kind of weird. Regardless, the seemingly innocent Disney ride has been host to many a NSFW lady part, as this also-NSFW page compiling pictures of flashers will attest. It got so bad that, at one point, Disney employed people whose actual job it was to sift through Splash Mountain pictures for any flashing photos and swiftly remove them before they became public viewing.
But before you apply for the most interesting job a cubicle could host, know that in 2009, Disney stopped employing people to look for flashers. Apparently, as reported by the Orange County Register, Disney concluded that "actual inappropriate behaviors by guests are rare." Now the rest of us are free to be free.
Groping Minnie Mouse
It’s a pretty simple rule of life: don’t grope people who don’t want to be groped. Yet time and again, people break that rule, like when a guy wanted to touch a woman so badly, he didn’t care if she was wearing a giant mask while dressed like a cartoon rodent.
In June 2009, 60-year-old John Moyer was at Disney World and came across a cast member wearing her Minnie Mouse costume. Moyer, rather than just take a picture and move on, chose to fondle "Minnie’s" breasts and butt, despite certainly feeling little but thick padding. According to Brittney McGoldrick, the woman in the Minnie costume, she pushed his hands away in an effort get him to stop touching her, but couldn’t do much else physically because she was in character and Minnie is really sweet. The law was far less so, however; Moyer was quickly arrested, charged, and convicted of misdemeanor battery. He was sentenced to six months’ probation and 50 hours’ community service, along with a legacy of news sites like NBC 6 Miami calling him the "Mouse Louse."
Old man attacks restaurant manager, makes parkgoers think there’s a gun
On Christmas Day 2015, a grumpy old man proved he deserved tons of coal in his stocking. According to the Orlando Sentinel, 70-year-old Luis Ojeda-Reyes was waiting for food at Bongos Cuban Cafe in Disney World when he decided he’d waited too long. He complained about how long his food was taking, and multiple managers apologized while explaining that wait times were longer as it was Christmas and the restaurant was really busy. This was apparently unacceptable to Reyes, who swore and shoved one of the managers. This triggered a scuffle in which Reyes attempted to punch out a general manager; he was eventually arrested after being kicked out for grabbing a manager’s arm hard enough to leave marks.
To make matters worse, Reyes’ outburst caused panic throughout the restaurant. While being tackled to the ground, Reyes knocked over some tables, which both gave new meaning to the term "bingo bango bongo" and sounded like gunshots to many patrons in the restaurant. Confusion and panic set in, causing at least 15 tables’ worth to run away in fear without paying. It was a mass case of accidental dining-and-dashing. Or it seemed to be accidental.
At least two people were injured in the panic-riot, which spread to another nearby restaurant and involved law enforcement stepping in, just in case there really was a shooter. It was probably the most chaos the Kingdom had seen since Cinderella ate that apple.
Fireworks embers set dwarf mine ablaze
Magic Kingdom fireworks are a highlight of any trip to Disney World, unless they set part of the park on fire. Then, it becomes unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
This happened in November 2014, when the embers from a late-night fireworks display landed on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. Something on that ride proved highly combustible, as those embers quickly caught aflame. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s hot as hell, you know.
Thankfully, no one was hurt, despite the rather large flames that resulted. Everyone on the ride got off safely, the local fire department arrived quickly, and the blaze was rapidly put out. The firefighters believe, according to Fox 8 of North Carolina, that fake grass was to blame. It seems that the embers hit the grass and ignited it, and that the fire never spread beyond the ride’s grassy area. That’s just one more reason to never use artificial turf.
When Tiggers attack
The most wonderful thing about Tiggers is that there’s only one. That’s a good thing because, based on this story, one might be more than violent enough for the world.
As reported by CBS, in 2007 the Monaco family was visiting Disney World and went to get a picture with Tigger. As the father, Jerry Sr., went to snap the picture, Jerry’s son, Jerry Jr., appeared to get into a scuffle with Tigger that resulted in the bouncy-trouncy load of fun fun fun fun fun knocking Junior over the head with a haymaker. Obviously, the family sued, claiming it was a "sucker punch." In the video, it’s hard to tell which one of them started pulling on the other one first.
Luckily for the actor, nothing bad came out of the incident. According to Theme Park Insider, the Florida state attorney’s office decided there wasn’t anything worth pressing charges over, meaning Tigger was free to bounce forevermore. Whether the cast member playing Tigger kept his job or not is unknown, though with those boxing skills of his, he might have been better off playing Kanga.