Spookiest Disneyland myths and conspiracy theories as park opens after lockdown

It's the happiest place on Earth, some say – but it's also the source of a number of disturbing myths and legends.

Disneyland will reopen its gates to the public this week to the delight of thousands of families and fans who haven't been able to go inside for months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However there's a dark side to the theme park. From secret illuminati meetings to mind control to gruesome deaths on rides, conspiracy theories about Disneyland are plentiful… and some may even have a kernel of truth to them.

Here are some of the wackiest and creepiest Disneyland myths of all time.

Decapitation on Space Mountain

One of the most common Disneyland urban legends is that a man stood up while riding this iconic indoor rollercoaster and got his head cut clean off.

Despite the pervasiveness of this rumour, there's no truth to it. However a teenager did in fact stand up while riding the Matterhorn ride in 1964 and was thrown from the cart, sustaining fatal injuries.

In fact there have been a number of fatal accidents at Disneyland, from a young female cast member crushed on the America Sings ride in 1974 to a guest killed on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad after the car he was on separated from the rest of the train in 2003.

The ghost of Pirates of the Caribbean

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In 2017 Buzzfeed gathered a number of Disney park conspiracy theories from its readers, including one from a woman who claims the popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride is haunted by a ghoul named George.

"My sister's roommate did the college program and she said that if they didn't say "Good morning, George" and "Goodnight, George" at the beginning and end of the day, respectively, the ride would shut down and they'd have problems with it all day," she told the site.

And that's not the only rumour about the Pirates of the Caribbean ride…

Real human skeletons

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While building the ride, Disneyland's design team was dissatisfied with the fake skeletons they'd been supplied with and instead sourced a few from the nearby UCLA Medical Centre.

These skeletons formed a key part of the ride's design for several years until the technology had improved enough that they could be replaced with fakes and eventually given a proper burial.

But some insist the skeletons were never replaced, and guests are in fact seeing real dead bodies when they enjoy the ride.

Walt Disney's frozen body

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Ever since the Disney founder died in 1966, there have been persistent myths that Walt had himself cryogenically frozen so he could be re-animated at some point in the future.

For some reason, those who believe he was frozen (even though his family have confirmed he was cremated) also tend to think his body is stashed away under the very ground of Disneyland itself.

Various rides have been suggested as Walt's resting place, but for the record: His ashes are located at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale and have not been scattered around the park.

Scared to death by the Haunted Mansion?

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This spooky ride first opened in 1969, but there's a rumour it temporarily closed again shortly afterwards.

The first version was so terrifying a man invited to preview it suffered a fatal heart attack, the legend goes.

Walt Disney is said to have temporarily closed The Haunted Mansion and ordered the engineers to tone down the frights in the interest of public safety.

This myth became so pervasive, fact-checking website Snopes dedicated an article to it. It turns out to be completely false, as the ride has never closed for any longer than it takes for routine maintenance work to be carried out.

It's A Small World comes to life

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Home to possibly the most annoying theme song ever written, there's a different reason some people have negative feelings about this famous ride.

Park employees have sworn they saw the animatronic figures blink or move while It's A Small World, which transports guests in boats around a ride showing robots representing different cultures, was switched off.

And speaking of creepy sights on this particular attraction…

The hanging body

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While riding It's A Small World with her family in 1999, a 12-year-old girl witnessed the ride come to a halt and an evacuation was announced via loudspeaker.

As she wrote later, the girl's mother took out her camera and snapped some photos of the ride while waiting to be escorted out.

After having the film developed she saw the final image that seems to show a body hanging from the ceiling.

It's an eerie image, but most people who've heard this internet legend believe the hanging figure was just a prop in an odd place.

Monorail ghost

Some park guests have reported seeing a ghostly figure run along the track of the monorail that circles the park.

It's certainly true that a man was killed by the train in 1966. Thomas Cleveland was trying to sneak into Disneyland when he was spotted by security guards.

He made a run for it, climbed onto the track and was hit by the oncoming monorail.

Mind control scents

The more conspiratorial-minded have come to believe that Disney is such a power-hungry monolith, they want to control their theme park guests' minds — through the power of smell.

The thing is, this theory is somewhat accurate. Disneyland's "Smellitzer" is a device invented by the company that disperses different aromas throughout the park.

Attendees have noticed that Main Street smells like fresh cookies, while the Candy Palace smells like, you guessed it — candy.

The technology is likely harmless, although it may subconsciously manipulate guests into buying more food by making them want the thing they may not realise they're smelling.

Illuminati club meetings

The myth of the all-powerful Freemasons (otherwise known as the Illuminati) controlling much of the world has been a classic conspiracy theory for decades.

Many celebrities have been accused of belonging to the secretive society, and Walt Disney was no exception.

Some believe Walt used the exclusive Club 33, a private lounge within Disneyland that guests have to be invited to join, as a meeting house for his Illuminati dealings.

A number of bloggers have written feverishly about "Masonic" detailing in the club's stairwell or windows that resemble an eye, but from what we do know about Club 33, its biggest crime may just be overcharging customers for its food.

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