LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It’s all fun and games until someone finds the ashes—which is disturbingly not that hard to do at Walt Disney parks.
Confirming what Gizmodo says has been an urban legend for years, current and former custodians tell the Wall Street Journal that ashes of loved ones, often big Disney fans, are deposited on rides, lawns, and other spots at Disney World and Disneyland about once a month, often enough that such cases have a special code.
“HEPA cleanup” signals to workers that a special vacuum is needed to collect the ultrafine remains.
“I had two fistfuls of the ashes and I literally leapt like I was a dancer,” says a Florida woman who sprinkled her mother’s ashes outside Cinderella’s castle and on the It’s a Small World Ride at Disney World in 2009. (The story includes a photo to prove it.) “Anyone who knew my mom knew Disney was her happy place.”
Disney tries to dissuade guests as much as possible.
“This type of behavior is strictly prohibited and unlawful. Guests who attempt to do so will be escorted off property,” a rep tells the Journal. Yet ashes are easily concealed in pill bottles and makeup compacts, and none of the people the Journal spoke to thought they’d been spotted in the act.
A woman who deposited her father’s ashes around Disney World in 2006 even returned last week to do the same for her brother.
While any ashes discovered are vacuumed away—under the guise of “technical difficulties” in cases requiring ride closures—custodians admit some ashes likely slip through the cracks. Indeed, Disneyland’s 49-year-old Haunted Mansion could have real ghosts. Says a custodian: It “probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny.” (Also watch out for poop at Disney.)
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