Seeing as how it’s an iconic institution controlled by a secretive, unstoppable corporation, it’s easy to understand why Walt Disney World has its own collection of urban legends (supposedly there are hidden Mickey Mouse shapes everywhere, but that’s simply too wild to believe). One of the most infamous myths surrounding the park is that it’s full of ashes that families and friends have scattered to honor the Disney fandom of their deceased loved ones, but according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, it’s no myth. Apparently, whenever the custodians at one of the Disney theme parks gets a call for a “HEPA cleanup,” it means that someone has released someone’s cremated ashes and that a custodian needs a special ultrafine vacuum to clean it up.
The custodians say it happens “about once a month,” though it’s unclear if that specifically means Disney World or at all of the Disney-themed parks. Either way, they say human ashes have been found “in flower beds, on bushes and on Magic Kingdom lawns; outside the park gates and during fireworks displays; on Pirates of the Caribbean and in the moat underneath the flying elephants of the Dumbo ride,” but no place has been targeted more by grieving family members—in a bit of dark comedy—than the Haunted Mansion. One custodian told The Wall Street Journal that “it’s not even funny” how many people have tried (or succeeded) to scatter human remains on the ride.
When it comes to the clean-up, Disney employees will shut a ride down because of “technical difficulties,” and they’ll hand out special passes that let guests skip the line if they ever need to clear out a place to bring in the special vacuums. Basically, if it seems like the workers at a Disney park are up to something mysterious and they’re trying to divert your attention from any one specific thing, it’s because they’re definitely up to something and it could be that another guest has dumped ashes on a ride. One former employee even told the Wall Street Journal that this happened so often that they started calling it “Code Grandma” and promptly got in trouble with the higher-ups.
Naturally, this is all against the rules at Disney World, because it’s gotta be pretty unnerving for other guests, but that has just required the grieving family members to get creative with how they sneak ashes in. According to “smugglers,” some people use phony pill bottles, while others will simply put the ashes in a plastic bag and bury it at the bottom of a purse. On a side note, we understand that people mourn in their own way and that Disney World means a lot to people, but oof, that’s gotta be weird.