When I was a kid, growing up, there was one place in the world where I wanted to go. It was called Disneyland. Most kids do. It’s a place built for kids and named after a man who probably remained a kid all his life or had the imagination of one. Of course I didn’t get to go there until I was an adult but what’s a few decades between friends?
The sign at the front entrance said it all for me: welcome to the happiest place on earth. No harm in that. We all need to dream. But you know what? I kind of believed it and have done every since, until I read something the other day. The kind of something called a big, fat reality check that takes hold of your naivety and tosses it back in your face. The kind of reality check that makes you feel as sad as the kid who hears the shattering news that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.
The story was called the shocking facts about the happiest place on earth. Talk about shattering. Behind the smiles and screams of joy at Disneyland a truly darker side might be lurking that most of us, apparently didn’t know about. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, the story went on to list the most surprising and horrifying things that have occurred at Disney theme parks. These incidents could in no way be described as Mickey Mouse. I’m talking deaths and serious injuries. But be warned. Your perception of a Disneyland ride might be changed forever.
In July 2014 a British tourist lost two fingertips after dangling his hand outside the boat on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World in Florida. Three months earlier, a 12-year-old boy badly lacerated four fingers on the same ride.
In 2103, a woman died from complications after fracturing her leg while trying to board the Jungle Cruise in Orlando. Her family has filed a lawsuit against Disney claiming her death could have been avoided if staff had attempted to help her to board.
There have been other deaths. A cleaner was killed while working on a boat in the It’s A Small World attraction at Disneyland Paris, a stunt performer was killed while practicing a tumble roll for the Indian Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular in Florida, a Disney worker dressed as Pluto was run over and killed during a Disney parade would you believe? There was even a fatal incident involving my favorite ride the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster. A wheel assembly fell off, landing on top of another car, killing one person and injuring ten others.
There was the case of a man dressed like Donald Duck who is alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman at Disneyland. And the Splash Mountain ride should actually be renamed Flash Mountain because of the numbers of young women who bare their breasts to the cameras that are supposed to snap the frightened expressions of ride patrons. The list goes on. I am certainly not trying to point the finger of blame in any way at anyone. I am just truly sad.
I also learned that Disneyland’s Haunted House might very well be truly haunted. Park patrons are in the habit of scattering the ashes of loved ones during the ride. Former Disney employee David Koenig wrote about in his book, Mouse Tales. A tourist group was thrown out of the park after they were caught sprinkling the ashes of a seven-year-old boy. You might be pleased to know the ride was quickly shut down for cleaning.
And once the sun goes down, California’s Disneyland, becomes overrun by feral cats. Park officials encourage them because it keeps the rodent population under control.
Actor Tom Hanks tells a great story about his Disneyland experience when he was playing the role of the great man himself in the movie, Saving Mr Banks. There used to be sky buckets that park patrons caught in Tomorrowland that travelled to Fantasyland through the heart of the Matterhorn. The trip only took four a half minutes but it had to be shut down because people were trying to join the Sky High Club shall we say.
Now some of you might also have inside knowledge that questions the existence of the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And I must admit I’ve heard rumors too. But I would ask that you keep it to yourself for now. Quite frankly, after all of this business with Disneyland, I’m just not ready to deal with it.