10 Intriguing Friends Fan Theories

Warner Bros. Television/Getty Images
Warner Bros. Television/Getty Images

Friends is a classic sitcom about twentysomethings navigating life, love, and work in New York City. Or at least that’s one theory about the beloved sitcom, which premiered on September 22, 1994. Here’s another: Friends is a glimpse inside a mental ward, where six disturbed patients are working through their personality disorders. In the 25 years since it made its debut, Friends has inspired a ton of wild fan theories on Reddit and Twitter. Here are a few of the strangest (and be careful: Mr. Heckles’s murderer is still at large).

1. Rachel dreamed the whole thing.

In the summer of 2017, this photo of the Friends season four DVD box ignited a fan frenzy. The image on the box shows the titular pals snoozing side by side. Ross, Phoebe, Monica, Chandler, and Joey all have their eyes shut, but Rachel—resting right in the middle—is wide awake and looking directly at the camera. Why is she the only one with her eyes open? Some fans suggested Rachel was plotting something sinister, or secretly very “woke.” But plenty more insisted it was proof the whole show was Rachel’s dream. According to one Twitter fan, Rachel fell into an anxiety-fueled dream the night before her wedding to Barry and imagined her own group of hip New York friends to cope with her frustration and dread. Except she woke up to reality the next morning, as shown on the DVD cover, where she’s surrounded by her dream friends.

2. Phoebe hallucinated the show.

Another popular theory suggests that Friends was all in Phoebe’s head—only this take is much darker. The basic premise is that Phoebe never got off the streets. She was a lonely, homeless woman with a meth addiction who peered into the window of Central Perk one day. She noticed five friends laughing over coffee, and imagined herself as part of the gang. In this fantasy, her pals didn’t always get her weird sense of humor, but they loved her anyway. In reality, the twentysomethings in the window were wondering why that “crazy lady” was staring at them. This theory gained so much traction that a journalist asked Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman about it at a television festival. She quickly threw water on the whole thing. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” Kauffman replied. “That’s a terrible theory. That’s insane. Someone needs a life, that’s all I’m saying."

3. It was one long promotion for Starbucks.

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According to one manic Facebook rant, Friends was not a sitcom at all. It was actually a 10-year marketing ploy, designed to make Starbucks the new go-to destination for young people. Why else do the characters spend so much time in a coffee shop? True, the shop is not called Starbucks, but the subliminal evidence lies in Rachel’s last name (Green, like the Starbucks company color) and hair (styled like the mermaid in the Starbucks logo). Then there’s Ross and Monica’s last name, Geller, which is close to the German word gellen. It means “to yell,” just like the Starbucks baristas calling out customer names. The case only gets flimsier from there, but if you really want to read about how Chandler and Moby Dick are connected, you can dive down that particular rabbit hole here.

4. Ross lost custody of Ben because he was a bad dad.

Ross’s son Ben arrives in the very first season of Friends, in the aptly titled episode “The One with the Birth.” He’s a constant character for several seasons, but as the show goes on, Ross seems to spend less and less time with his kid. Ben disappears after the eighth season, and never meets his half-sister Emma onscreen. There’s one explanation for this drop-off: Ross lost custody of his son due to increasingly disturbing behavior.

The blog What Would Bale Do lays out a bunch of examples: Ross sleeps with his students, tries to hook up with his cousin, and asks a self-defense instructor for help scaring his female friends. He’s also generally pretty jealous and possessive. According to this theory, Ross’s ex-wife Carol hit a breaking point and took full custody of their son, which is why Ben stops coming around his dad’s apartment in the later seasons.

5. Mr. Heckles was murdered.

Rachel and Monica’s mean old neighbor dies of natural causes in season 2—or at least that’s what they want you to think. By one Redditor’s account, Mr. Heckles was killed in cold blood. Moments before he dies, Mr. Heckles shows up at Monica and Rachel’s door, complaining that their noise is disturbing his birds. (He does not have birds.) Monica says they’ll try to keep it down and as Mr. Heckles leaves, he says he’s going to rejoin his “dinner party.” Minutes later, he’s dead. Ergo, his dinner party guest killed him. Of course, the likelier explanation is that Mr. Heckles was a crazy old man who wasn’t even having a dinner party. But where’s the fun in that?

6. There's a reason why the gang always got that same table at Central Perk.

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How did the gang manage to snag the coveted center couch at Central Perk every single time? Simple: Gunther reserved it for them. It was all part of his ongoing campaign to win Rachel’s affections, and it explains why the group never had to fight for seating space. Well, except that one time.

7. There's a Parks & Recreation crossover.

In “The One With All the Candy,” Rachel insists she doesn’t sleep with guys on the first date, only for her friends to immediately call her out. Monica rattles off three names: Matt Wire, Mark Lynn, and Ben Wyatt. Could she be talking about the same Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation? According to Reddit, their ages check out. Ben would’ve been 26 at the time of the episode, making him a perfectly acceptable one-night stand for 29-year-old Rachel. But how does Leslie Knope feel about this?

8. Monica was the product of an extramarital affair.

Ross and Monica’s mom doesn’t even try to hide her favoritism. Judy Geller thinks Ross is a genius and Monica is, well, trying. (But could be trying harder.) One bonkers (and since-deleted) fan theory suggests Judy’s preference stems from a family secret: At some point in her marriage to Jack Geller, she had an affair, one she could never forget because it spawned Monica. Judy’s shame over this tryst is what causes her to lash out at Monica and praise Ross, her one 'legitimate' child.

9. There's all in a psych ward.

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What if Central Perk wasn’t a coffee shop at all, but rather the cafeteria at a mental institution? As one theory goes, all six main characters are suffering from personality disorders. They’re confined to a facility for treatment, and can only shuffle between their rooms (i.e. their “apartments”) and the cafeteria (i.e. “Central Perk”). This situation also explains why the group is so hostile toward new people. They’re not actually teasing Monica’s new boyfriend; they’re attacking anyone who tries to take one of the friends out of the mental hospital.

10. Joey really wanted some pancakes.

This very silly—but very solid—fan theory is centered on Joey’s love of food. In “The One With Ross’s Library Book,” Joey has a one-night stand with a woman named Erin. He doesn’t want to see her again, and asks Rachel to break the news to her over pancakes. Apparently Chandler used to do this when he lived in the apartment. He’d even save extra pancakes for Joey. Rachel refuses to be a part of this, but once she’s left alone with Erin, she feels bad and offers to cook. Things escalate over the episode and pretty soon, Joey is the one who’s too clingy for Erin. Rachel has to tell him and, feeling bad yet again, she offers pancakes. Reddit claims this was all just a plot for pancakes. It kind of adds up: Joey can’t cook but likes to eat, and he has enough soap opera money to pay an actor (Erin) to play a part in this conspiracy. So he cons his roommate into making pancakes, twice, in a ruse that’s both delicious and diabolical (and, yes, a little bit silly).

This story has been updated for 2019.

11 Masks That Will Keep You Safe and Stylish

Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods
Design Safe/Designer Face Covers/Its All Goods

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21 Defunct Disney Park Rides and Lands

Some of Disney's most beloved rides and attractions have gone the way of the Dodo.
Some of Disney's most beloved rides and attractions have gone the way of the Dodo.
Paul Rovere/Getty Images

Over the course of their 65-year history, Disney's parks have hosted a lot of rides—including many that didn't last. Here are a few defunct rides and lands you should know about, adapted from an episode of The List Show on YouTube.

1. Superstar Limo

Did you know that Jackie Chan, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cher were once featured in a Disney ride? It sounds fun, but Disney visitors were not a fan of Superstar Limo, which didn’t even make it a single year at California Adventure in the early 2000s. It was a slow ride through Los Angeles featuring audio animatronics of those celebrities and others. Maybe it would have been more successful as one of the later ideas for the ride: Miss Piggy’s Limo Service.

2. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

Walt Disney World once had an attraction inspired by the movie Alien. During ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, guests were terrorized in the dark by an escaped alien. It was frightening enough that only people over the age of 12 were recommended to experience the Encounter. While the attraction was in early stages, it was going to be called Alien Encounter and feature a Xenomorph from the Alien movies. But the park’s Imagineers objected to building a ride around R-rated fare in Tomorrowland, which was meant to have an optimistic vision of the future. As a result, the creature ended up just becoming a generic—but still very scary!—alien. It did have another cool Hollywood connection, though: George Lucas was one of the designers. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter lived in the Magic Kingdom from 1995 to 2003, when it was replaced with a Lilo and Stitch attraction (which was itself dismantled in 2018).

3. Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour

This ride in Tokyo Disneyland opened in 1986 and was operational for 20 years. A tour guide took groups on a journey involving confrontations with Disney villains from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Fantasia, and Pinocchio. These were done the way that Disney does best: a combination of video and animatronics. The big finale featured the Horned King from the film The Black Cauldron. It involved him saying that the guests were now trapped and would be sacrificed to the cauldron. One person who was given a sword earlier on the tour pointed it at the Horned King and "destroyed" him (there was a flash of light, then he disappeared).

4. Submarine Voyage

For almost 40 years, Disneyland maintained the Submarine Voyage ride. Riders would enter a submarine that was on a track. The submarine then looked like it was being submerged in water and proceeded to move slowly past various creatures, like turtles, fish, and mermaids. When the ride opened in 1959, the submarines were gray and named after actual U.S. navy submarines. In the ‘80s, they were painted yellow and given exploration-related names like "Explorer" and "Seeker." In 2007, the ride reopened at Disneyland with a Finding Nemo theme. At that time, more sub names in line with the explorer theme were added, like "Seafarer" and "Voyager." A Walt Disney World version similar to the original lasted from 1971 through 1994.

5. and 6. Rainbow Mountain Stagecoach Ride and Rainbow Caverns Mine Train

Two of the earliest rides at Disneyland were the Rainbow Mountain Stagecoach Ride and the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, which were part of Frontierland. The Stagecoach Ride had actual stagecoaches led by actual horses going through a desert. It opened in the mid-’50s and closed in 1959.

The Mine Train journeyed through illuminated caverns, and would later turn into Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. In 1979, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad took over the spot. But if you ride that roller coaster, you can still see evidence of the Mine Train. In the queue for Big Thunder Mountain, there are pieces from a town that were part of the old ride. The same queue leads you through a Ventilation Service Room where there’s a map with a section labeled “Rainbow Caverns.”

7. Flying Saucers

Flying Saucers existed for five years in the early 1960s at Disneyland. They looked like bumper cars, but they were slightly lifted above the ground thanks to air vents beneath the ride. Like air hockey, but with flying saucers. According to the site Yesterland, Flying Saucers used technology that was developed and patented especially for the ride. When it opened, the Los Angeles Times reported, “The Flying Saucer ride cost $400,000 to build, Each saucer is ‘blown’ 8 inches off the ground and is under constant control of its pilot,” a.k.a., a park guest, who moved the saucer by shifting their body in the direction they wanted to go. Part of the problem was that only people within a specific weight range could do that effectively. Flying Saucers was ultimately closed for a redesign of Tomorrowland.

8. If You Had Wings

Disney is really into flying. Between 1972 and 1987, Walt Disney World had a ride sponsored by Eastern Airlines called If You Had Wings. Passengers got on an omnimover—that line of cars that you can, in theory, board without them ever stopping—which “flew” them around the world (the world being animatronic scenes of places like Mexico, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico).

9. and 10. If You Could Fly and Delta Dreamflight

If You Had Wings briefly became known as If You Could Fly, and in 1989 turned into Delta Dreamflight. That’s right: a new sponsor. The idea was similar, but it was now an homage to airplanes. Passengers got a glimpse of aviation’s history and potential future. Buzz LightYear’s Space Ranger Spin is now where If You Had Wings and Delta Dreamflight once were.

11. Horizons

From the mid-1980s through the late-'90s, Horizons was a hugely popular ride at Epcot. Guests rode through 24 animatronic, futuristic sets. (According to Disney, the future holds robot butlers, robot chefs, and domesticated seals.) At the end of the ride, the car would let you vote on how you wanted to be returned home—through a space, desert, or ocean scene. Nowadays, Mission: SPACE sits in Horizon’s place.

12. Rocket Rods

Rocket Rods only lasted about three years. It was a high-speed thrill ride that used an old track that had belonged to the much slower People Mover ride—which ended up being its demise. The coaster broke down too often and permanently closed in 2001.

13. Adventure Thru Inner Space

Starting in 1967, for almost two decades, Disneyland guests could experience what it was like to be microscopic while riding Adventure Thru Inner Space. People waiting in line would watch as passengers sat in pods, went through a 37-foot-long microscope and were "shrunk" (in reality, they were replaced by 8-inch tall replicas on screen). While on the ride, they’d go through scenes of becoming smaller than a snowflake, mostly by watching videos.

14. Body Wars

On Body Wars—which was located at Epcot’s Wonders of Life Pavilion and operated from 1989 until January 1, 2007—40 riders took a journey through the human body. They were jostled around, causing motion sickness for many, as they watched a video of their dramatic chase. Fun fact: The video was directed by Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. Even funner fact: The other famous Wonders of Life pavilion attraction was The Making of Me, where Martin Short learned how he was conceived. (Apparently they had a disclaimer about all the sexy stuff at the entrance to the attraction.)

15. Maelstrom

Maelstrom lasted a bit longer at Epcot, between 1988 and 2014, before it was replaced by a Frozen ride. It was a boat journey through the “history” of Norway, though that history involved some embellishment ... like an animatronic three-headed troll.

16. The Great Movie Ride

The Great Movie Ride was at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios from 1989 through 2017. Guests entered a building that looked like the famous Grauman’s (now TCL) Chinese Theatre, boarded a car, and traveled through scenes from 12 movies, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Singin’ in the Rain, and The Wizard of Oz, as well as a montage of a bunch more classic films. Drama ensued when a live actor hijacked the ride. It closed in 2017.

17. and 18. Rocket to the Moon and Mission to Mars

In 1955, Disneyland had a simulation called Rocket to the Moon that showed patrons what it would be like to, well, travel to the moon. It closed in 1966, and a year later was replaced by Flight to the Moon, which became way less exciting when Apollo 11 actually landed on the moon in 1969. The area became Mission to Mars in 1975. That ride closed in 1993, and later, the space became … ExtraTerrorestrial!

19. Holidayland

Holidayland, part of Disneyland between 1957 and 1961, was actually a 9-acre area just outside of Disneyland. It was less ride-oriented and instead contained picnic spots, sports fields, and a large tent for performances.

20. Camp Minnie-Mickey and Beastly Kingdom

In the early days of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, the company wanted to include a Beastly Kingdom in homage to fake creatures like dragons and unicorns. While prepping for that, Camp Minnie-Mickey went up in 1998, intended to be a temporary placeholder until Beastly Kingdom was ready to be built. Well, now we don’t have either; Beastly Kingdom never came to be and the camp-themed section closed in 2014.

21. Lilliputian Land

Finally, one land that never became a land: Lilliputian Land. We know that Walt Disney wanted part of Disneyland to be based on a section of the book Gulliver’s Travels thanks to a map drawn in 1953. With everything in that area made to look tiny, like fake people, guests would feel like giants. It’s thought that some of the DNA of Lilliputian Land can still be seen on the Storybook Land Canal Boats.