Monday, May 4, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 44 - Haunted Disneyland

Moment in Oddity -Famous Historical Figures and Their Odd Pets

Some of history's most famous figures had some really odd pets. President Andrew Jackson had a foul mouthed gray parrot. Unfortunately, this was revealed at his funeral when the parrot began cursing in the middle of the funeral. President John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator that he had been re-gifted by the Marquis de Lafayette. The alligator was kept in the East Room bathtub. Lord Byron owned both a wolf and a bear. When he was staying in Venice, a friend reported that Byron had the following pets there with him: 8 dogs, five cats, 10 horses, 3 monkeys, a crow, an eagle, a falcon and 5 peacocks. Roman aristocrat Lucius Licinius Crassus kept a moray eel as a pet. He even put a necklace and earrings on the thing. French Romantic Poet Gerard de Nerval had a pet lobster. He had the lobster walked around the gardens of Paris on a leash. He wrote, "Lobsters are peaceful, serious creatures, who know the secrets of the sea and don't bark." Well, they may not bark, but they sure are tasty. We love our furry pets, but the idea of keeping some of these weird pets is quite odd.

This Day in History - Fire at Paris' Rue Jean Goujon

On this day, May 4th, in 1897, a fire rages through Rue Jean Goujon, a Paris bazaar. The fire started at 4pm in the afternoon. The Duchess d'Uzes and other prominent women were hosting a bazaar for charity at the location. This was something they had done every year since 1885. The bazaar was arranged in such a way that the booths would represent a Paris street. Fifteen hundred people attended the event. The papers the following day reported that the fire started with an illuminating apparatus of the cinematograph that exploded and set fire to the Turkish curtains and hangings. The whole left side of the bazaar was immediately engulfed in flames. People towards the front of the building escaped, but people in the back were trapped. There were doors there for employees, but the patrons had no idea. People were crushed to death against the right side of the building. Firemen arrived and threw hundreds of buckets of water on the fire. It was no use. The building soon collapsed. Charred remains were five feet deep. The mansions in the vicinity became hospitals for the injured of which there were hundreds. In all, two hundred people were killed including French General Meunier and the sister of the Empress of Austria.

Haunted Disneyland

The Haunted Mansion at California's Disneyland Resort is one of the park's more famous and beloved attractions. What if that mansion were really haunted? Could it be? And what of the rest of the park? Could a park that was the heart and soul of Walt Disney go on without his spirit somehow sticking around? Disneyland was inspired by a dream to build a place where all the members of a family could have fun and this "Happiest Place on Earth" has been fulfilling that dream for sixty years. Come with us on a magical journey as we share the history and hauntings of Disneyland!

Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901. His parents were Irish-Canadian Elias Disney and German-American Flora Call Disney. The name Disney is the anglicized version of d'Isigny. The Frenchman Robert d'Isigny was Walt's ancestor and he had travelled to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. The Disneys had four boys and one girl. Besides Walt, there was Herbert, Ray, Roy and Ruth. Walt was born in Chicago, Illinois, but the family soon moved to Marceline, Missouri, a town that would later inspire the main streets of all the Disney Parks. Walt loved to draw and began his career early, selling doodle art to neighbors at the age of seven. A love for trains developed at this time too and Walt spent a summer selling snacks on the local railway. Herbert and Ray ran away from home in 1906, fed up with too much work and no pay. Walt started school in Marceline in 1909 and then the family moved to Kansas City in 1911.

Walt attended art courses on Saturdays at the Kansas City Art Institute. During the week, he went to school and delivered the The Kansas City Star newspaper. The newspaper delivery business was hard work and Walt would fall asleep during class due to lack of sleep because of the hours he kept. He would rise at 4:30am every day with his brother Roy and deliver papers until the school bell rang. Then after school, the boys would finish their route, which grew to 700 customers. In 1917, the Disney family moved back to Chicago and Walt attended high school there. He became the cartoonist for the school paper. This did not last long as Walt dropped out of school at sixteen and tried to join the Army. He was rejected for being too young, so he joined the Red Cross. He drove an ambulance for a year in France and covered that ambulance in cartoons.

In 1919, Walt moved back to Kansas City and tried to find work drawing for newspapers. He was unable, but his brother Roy, who had become a banker in Kansas City, got him a job through a colleague at an art studio where he met fellow cartoonist Ubbe Iwerks. The two men would go on to start their own commercial company together. The business was a flop and the two men went back to working for another company where Disney learned about animation and fell in love with it. Animation had started out as cut-outs, but Walt soon found that cel art was much better. He recruited a fellow artist and the two men began creating Laugh-O-Gram shorts, which featured Aesop's Fables and they were screened at a local theater. Based on the success of these, Walt opened his own animation studio, but he was horrible with money and soon was bankrupt.

Walt did what all dreamers do, he packed up and headed for Hollywood. Roy joined Walt and they pooled their money to open a new animation studio, Disney Brothers' Studios. In 1925, Walt hired Lillian Bounds to do inking for the studio and the two soon began courting and were married in July of that same year. The Disney Studios began with the Alice Comedies based on Alice in Wonderland and they were very successful. The shorts incorporated live action with cartoons. Just the first sign of the innovation Walt would bring to animation. Next came Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Walt was hired by Universal to produce the cartoons. These were wildly popular, but ended in another failure for Walt. He did not know much about contracts and had not realized that Universal had put his animators and the character Oswald under contract. When Walt went to Universal to request higher compensation, he was told that he could take a pay cut if he liked. When Walt threatened to walk, he found out the news about the contract. He walked anyway and lost Oswald and all his artists except Ubbe Iwerks. Oswald did return to the Disney family in 2006.

Walt had a pet mouse and he decided to base his next character on that mouse. He scratched out a cartoon mouse and named him Mortimer. Lillian thought the name was not cute and suggested Mickey instead. Ubbe Iwerks reworked Walt's original cartoon and Mickey Mouse was born. Walt himself became the voice of Mickey until 1947. "Plane Crazy" was Mickey's first cartoon and it was silent. The first sound cartoon for Mickey was "Steamboat Willie." It was a raging success and Mickey soon was more popular than Felix the Cat. "Silly Symphonies" was the next animated outlet for the Disney Studios and while they were successful, they were not as popular as Mickey. Betty Boop was on the scene and started garnering most of the attention in cartoons, so Walt was ready to give up on his "Silly Symphonies" until a man appraoched him and convinced him to try Technicolor in the cartoon "Flowers and Trees." It was a huge success and Walt won his first Academy Award for the short. Another Academy Award was awarded to Walt in 1932 for his creation of Mickey Mouse.

Other characters were added to the mix in the form of Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto and Minnie Mouse. Donald Duck would become the second most popular Disney character of all time. At this time, Lillian Disney gave birth to a daughter and three years later adopted a little girl. The next big thing for Walt became known as "Disney's Folly" when he developed a full length animated movie that is today the beloved classic, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." The film was in production for three years when the Disney Studio ran out of money. Walt showed investors a rough cut of the film and managed to get the rest financed. The film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater on December 21, 1937. The film was a huge success and won Walt another Academy Award. More movies followed and as they say, the rest is history when it comes to animation and Disney Studios.

Walt was unsatisfied in one area though. He would take his two daughters to parks and watch them play on the merry-go-round. He would think to himself that it would be fun to ride with them and that there must be a way for a park to be built that all family members could enjoy together. In the late 1940s, he began sketching out ideas about such a park. Walt started WED Enterprises and transferred a small group of employees from the Studios to the new company and they were dubbed Imagineers. He directed them to design the park and make sure that it was encircled by a train because of his love for trains. Originally the park was designed to be next to Disney Studios in Burbank, California. The area was only eight acres and the group knew that eight acres would not be enough land. In 1953, a search was conducted for an area that would measure 100 acres and be inside the Los Angeles area near the highway. And the land would have to be cheap because Disney only had so much money. The perfect spot was located in Anaheim, California.

WED Enterprises ended up purchasing a 160 acres orange grove in Anaheim. Now they needed money to build the park and investors were skeptical. Talk of flying elephants, moon rockets, giant teacups and magic was not catchy to bankers. Walt needed to do something else to get financing and he decided to turn to television and share with America his vision. "Walt Disney's Disneyland" began airing on television, sharing details about the development of the park. ABC, which had just gotten started, agreed to help finance Disneyland if Walt aired the show with them and construction began on Disneyland on July 21, 1954. This was only a year before Walt wanted to open Disneyland. The citrus trees were removed along with fifteen houses. Walt planned out five separate areas in the park that would be their own land and designed the main street, that people would enter through, to resemble the turn of the century.

Other than Main Street USA, the five lands include Adventureland, which Walt described as "an exotic tropical place...a land that would make this dream reality, we pictured ourselves far from civilization, in the remote jungles of Asia and Africa." There is Frontierland, which Walt described as, "All of us have a cause to be proud of our country's history, shaped by the pioneering spirit of our forefathers. . .Our adventures are designed to give you the feeling of having lived, even for a short while, during our country's pioneer days." There is Fantasyland, which Walt envisioned as a place where dreams come true and he said, "What youngster. . .has not dreamed of flying with Peter Pan over moonlit London, or tumbling into Alice's nonsensical Wonderland? In Fantasyland, these classic stories of everyone's youth have become realities for youngsters-of all ages-to participate in." At the helm of Fantasyland is Sleeping Beauty Castle. Tomorrowland is the next land and the Imagineers struggled with this because Walt knew it would be obsolete the minute it was built. Of Tomorrowland, Walt said, "Tomorrow can be a wonderful age. Our scientists today are opening the doors of the Space Age to achievements that will benefit our children and generations to come. . .The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future." Modern day Disneyland includes Mickey's Toon Town, Critter Country and New Orleans Square.

Nurseries from San Diego to Santa Barbara were emptied of their plants as Disneyland was loaded up with greenery. The Rivers of America was carved out of the soil and a bed of clay was laid down to help hold water. The Mark Twain Riverboat was moved piece by piece up the highway. The amount of money spent bringing Disneyland to fruition topped out at $17 million. Twenty attractions were complete when Disneyland opened. Disneyland officially opened on schedule on Sunday July 17, 1955. Opening Day was televised on ABC and only invited guests were suppose to be in the park. Unfortunately, counterfeit tickets had been made and 28,000 people were at the event. Drinking fountains did not work because of a local plumber's strike, traffic was backed up for miles on the highway, the temperature reached an unusual 101 degrees and the asphalt laid down for Main Street was not dry and women's high heels were getting stuck in it. The day seemed as though it was a fiasco and Walt's big dream was a failure. But as we all know, that was far from true.

The opening day for the public was Monday and people had lined up at the front starting at 2am. Things went much better this day as Disney and his staff worked to rectify the problems of Opening Day. Food and water were made more available. A fun fact about Disneyland is that this is where Doritos were invented. The Casa de Frito pavilion figured out a way to use crushed tortilla shells, so they wouldn't go to waste. They called the snack Doritos, which means "little golden things." Frito Lay saw how popular they were and went on to produce them in mass. In 1959, the first tubular-tracked steel roller coaster was installed in Fantasyland, the Matterhorn Bobsleds. The first audio animatronics were used in the Park in 1963 inside the Enchanted Tiki Room. By 1965, Disneyland had seen 50 million visitors. Walt Disney passed away the following year in December 1966 from lung cancer.

Walt Disney's legacy lives on and some wonder if his spirit continues to live on this side of the veil. Not only does Disney's spirit seem to hang around the park, but the spirits of others seem to be here too. Above the Fire Station on Main Street is an apartment where Walt Disney really did stay sometimes. An eternal candle is burned in the window to signify that Walt is still there. Some claim that he really is there still. A cast member was dusting the apartment once and she turned off the lights when she was done. When she got outside, she glanced up and saw that the lights were on again. Thinking that perhaps she had not hit the switch hard enough, she returned and turned the lights off again. She glanced up after exiting and once again the lights were on. She marched back up to the apartment and reached for the switch again when she heard a male voice say, "Don't forget, I am still here." Some say that this is really why the candle is left burning in the window.

Walt also had an office on Main Street behind a magic shop. The room is now used for storage and when people go in there, they claim to get an eerie feeling and that there are cold spots in the room. The Emporium on Main Street has a storage room above it as well. A cast member claims that she was in the stockroom near the Hanger Wall and something jumped up and spooked her from behind. When she turned around, no one was there. New Orleans Square has stockrooms above several of its shops and cast members claim that not only Walt Disney haunts them, but also his wife Lillian and some other female ghost that calls herself Mary. The exclusive Club 33 that is located in new Orleans Square is also reputed to be haunted. A figure is seen near Sleeping Beauty's Castle after closing hours. Could this be Walt walking through, just as he had so many times before when he was alive?

The Haunted Mansion may have its 1000th ghost. Anyone who has ridden aboard a Haunted Mansion Doom Buggy knows the famous verbage of the Ghost Host inviting the rider to join the 999 haunts already in the mansion. A young boy who loved the Haunted Mansion ride died and was cremated. His mother wanted to spread his ashes at his favorite ride, but of course, Disneyland refused. Imagine the health code violations. The mother went ahead and spread them inside the ride anyway. Unfortunately, this has happened many times with the Haunted Mansion and surely these people must know that their loved one's ashes will just be swept up and tossed with the trash. Apparently, the little boy's spirit is still inside the ride. Odd noises can be heard in the dark transition tunnel before guests board their doom buggies and the young boy's apparition has been seen several times near the ride's exit.The ghost of a man with a cane is also seen in the mansion. His story is that his plane crashed into a lake in the 1940s near the site of the mansion and he decided to take up residence in the attraction. A man in a tuxedo has been seen in the area where guests disembark from the ride as well. Usually cast members see him out of the corner of their eye and when they turn to look, he disappears. One cast member quit after having this chilling experience. A young man died in the attraction on Grad Night. He stepped out of his doom buggy and tried to step from the walkway to the Seance Room display. He did not realize there was a gap between the areas and fell fifteen feet to his death. Is his ghost there? Who knows.

Attractions are run before the Park opens to make sure everything is operating properly. Cast members ride aboard the boats on the Pirates of the Caribbean to make sure things look good and the track is running smoothly. One morning, a cast member claimed that a young child rode part of the way in the boat with him. The child disappeared and had not been on the boat when he boarded the ride. A young boy type apparition was once caught on the cameras inside the Pirates of the Caribbean. The Blue Bayou is the restaurant inside the ride and cast members claim the restaurant is haunted. The ghost is apparently that of a man.

Disneyland has hosted Grad Nights and one year, a senior boy was dared to swim across the Rivers of America to Tom Sawyer Island. He took the dare, but drowned before he got to the other side. His ghost now apparently haunts Tom Sawyer Island. Another story is told that two boys hung out on the island until after closing. When they tried to swim to shore later, they drowned. Spirits of children have been seen running and giggling on the island after it is closed. Cast members search for the children, but never find them. Maintenance workers do not like to go to the island after dark. That cave is pretty scary even in the day!

A young mother was once killed on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. She undid her belt so she could turn around to see her children and when the bobsled made a tight turn, she was thrown from the ride and hit by the bobsled coming behind the one she had been riding in. Her name was Dolly and people claim her spirit is still at the bobsleds. They named the area where she died, Dolly's Dip.

Of course, It's a Small World would have to be haunted. Nothing goes better with creepy dolls, then hauntings. Several of the dolls have been seen moving on their own when the ride is completely shut down. The People Mover that no longer is open at Disneyland was haunted by a young man who tried to jump from the car. He got caught under the ride. He had been riding with his blonde girlfriend and now makes appearances to blonde girls on occasion near where the ride used to run. Girls claim that he tugs on their hair.

Debbi Stone was a cast member who was killed at the America Sings attraction in 1974. She was new and did not know how the attraction worked. Guests sit in a theater that moves in a circle. Debbi was crushed between two walls when the theater shifted. Her ghost was said to haunt the attraction shortly after her death. Her ghost is still seen in Tomorrowland.

Disneyland is a favorite spot for many people. Have some of those people returned to the happiest place on earth after they have died? Is Walt Disney still watching over his beloved Park? Are some cast members still working here even after their death? Could Disneyland be the most haunted place on earth? That is for you to decide!

One of the most compelling videos I've ever seen is from Disneyland. What do you think? This walking light goes through a gate and seems to walk on water toward the end. It's on multiple cameras that follow it as it walks further through New Orleans Square.


  1. Darn. Video is not available. I really wanted to see that.


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