It's No Urban Legend: Disney World Is a Surprisingly Popular Place for People to Scatter Their Loved One's Ashes

Mark Ashman, Disney Parks/Getty Images
Mark Ashman, Disney Parks/Getty Images / Mark Ashman, Disney Parks/Getty Images

While Disney may be obsessed with maintaining the squeaky-clean image of its theme parks, they still tend to inspire some dark urban legends. One of the most disturbing rumors surrounding family-friendly parks like Disneyland and Disney World claims that guests scatter the ashes of loved ones on rides. According to The Wall Street Journal, this practice is real, and it happens more often than you would like to think.

Disneyland and Disney World's ash-scattering problem is an open secret among park employees. About once a month, a manager radios for a "HEPA cleanup"—the code that signals that cremated ashes have been brought into the park and a special vacuum (one with a "high-efficiency particulate air," or HEPA, filter) is required to collect them.

Disney, understandably, takes a strong stand against the practice, saying that anyone who brings human remains onto the property will be kicked out. But mourning guests still find ways to smuggle in ashes, either by hiding them in prescription pill bottles, makeup compacts, or Ziploc baggies.

Popular lore has always attached this gruesome ritual to one ride in particular: The Haunted Mansion. Current and former Disney employees say that riders carrying cremains onto the spooky attraction are a serious problem, with one Disneyland custodian telling The Wall Street Journal that the ride "probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny."

While The Haunted Mansion may be the parks' most popular dumping ground, no spot is safe from becoming someone's final resting place. Guests have also reported spreading ashes on It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, on the lawn outside Cinderella Castle, and in the moat beneath the Dumbo ride.

In many cases, guests who can't decide on just one spot for scattering their loved ones turn the act of closure into an all-day affair. The illicit behavior may be inspired by the deceased's love of Disney, or a special memory of a day shared at one of the parks. It also gives guests a reason to return to the park and honor the memory of their loved one—even if their ashes have long since been sucked up by a HEPA vacuum.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]