Hidden Disneyland – Secrets of the Happiest Place on Earth
People everywhere love Disneyland. It enables them to leave the stress of the real world behind for a while and experience the magic of this fantasy filled kingdom. The thrill rides, exciting shows, family amusement and costumed characters contribute to the sense of experiencing a bubble in time filled with fun, happiness and exhilaration.
Walt Disney’s pet project has provided people of all ages with an escape from everyday worries and strains, making it a bit easier to return to real life when the time comes. Disneyland is a special place which lets people take home a bit of the magic when they leave.
While Disneyland is an extraordinary amusement park, there’s a secret world behind all the wondrous sights that few know about. Secret sights, smells and experiences are scattered throughout the park. With a bit of insider knowledge you can add a layer of mystery to your Disneyland trip.
Hidden Mickey’s – There are hundreds of round-eared Mickey Mouse symbols all over the park. It’s said that there are some hidden on every ride and in every venue. Searching for hidden Mickey’s is a popular family activity. In fact, Disney fans worldwide have contributed to a logbook documenting all the Mickey’s found in the park. If you find yourself in need of the first aid station, check the wallpaper. The swirled pattern is composed of the three-circled symbol. When gliding through the Haunted Mansion see if you can find the three hidden Mickey’s on the Dining Room table.
Captain the Mark Twain – This is one of the biggest secrets in the park. If you play your cards right, and know the correct message you just might be able to steer the Mark Twain River Boat on one of it’s trips. In order to accomplish this, first find a cast member before boarding and ask is you can “view” the wheelhouse. If luck is with you and the cast member thinks you’re worthy, you’ll be shown a staircase to the second floor and told to find, then knock on the door marked “private.” If you’re luck continues to hold the boat’s captain will answer the door. Again ask if you can “view” the wheelhouse. Should you pass this second inspection, you’ll be led to a secret staircase and taken up to the wheel room. There you’ll be taught to steer the large riverboat. Impress the captain with your skill, and you just might be taught how to operate the controls to ring the ships bell and blow the whistle.
Cue the Toyland Characters – Among Disneyland’s favorite children’s attractions are the costumed characters that walk around the park. New characters are added frequently. Some of the newest and most popular are the cast members from Disney/Pixar “Toy Story.” These characters travel the park together. When you see them if you yell “Andy’s coming!” they’ll freeze then drop to ground and lay there limp just like in the movie. The cast members are very good sports about this even when children insist on yelling this several times before moving on. Visitors can also take pictures with them while posing as if they’re part of Andy’s toy collection.
The Matterhorn Basketball Court – When the Matterhorn ride was built it was appropriately placed inside a mountain shaped structure. However, the ride could only use the bottom two-thirds of the area, as the top third was too narrow. Walt Disney didn’t like wasted space and surveyed the cast member mountain climbers and ride operators about what should be put there. They voted for a basketball court though due to space limitations only half a court could be installed and later a ping-pong table was added. Matterhorn cast members can use this area during their breaks.
It’s All In How You See It – Walt Disney designed the park using forced perspective to make buildings look larger than they really are. He intended for this to make the park look even grander that it already appears. This is most evident on Main Street where the windows and signs on the second stories of buildings are smaller than those on the ground level. The buildings are also angled inward so that the Castle seems farther away than it actually is. When you walk down Main Street in the reverse direction toward the exit, the opposite effect happens and the exit appears much closer than where the gates are truly located. This is intended to cause visitors to slow down, as most feel reluctant to leave the park, making them more likely to stop at the stores along the way. This perspective is also used on the Matterhorn by making the trees smaller as they get higher up the mountain. At the tree line close to the top, two-foot tall trees are used to make the mountain look far larger than it is. While most people, especially children, perceive the structure to be the size of a small mountain it is only 147 feet high.
Walt Disney’s Apartment – When Disneyland was being constructed, Walt Disney visited his pet project often. He had an apartment built over the Fire House so he would have a place to stay whenever he was there. There is a lamp in the window that was lit whenever he was there to let people know the owner was in residence. Since his passing, the lamp remains on at almost all times in Walt Disney’s honor to symbolize that his spirit lives on in the park. The only time it is turned off is when his daughters visit out of respect for their loss.
Disneyland Hauntings – Although Disneyland is called the Happiest Place on Earth, many consider it to also be one of the most haunted places on earth. Some of the rides and areas believed to be haunted include:
- Pirates of the Caribbean – According to legend, a terminally ill little boy loved riding Pirates of the Caribbean so much he asked his mother to spread his ashes there. Though the request was refused the mother reportedly sprinkled her sons ashes along the ride. Over the years since then, cast members have reported seeing a little boy sitting by himself on the ride in the video monitors though the seat is empty when the boat exits the ride.
- It’s a Small World – Disneyland cast members, ride operators and repair technicians have reported a number of strange occurrences inside this ride. Lights go off and on without anyone near the controls, songs play that aren’t programmed into the computerized audio system and dolls that move on their own when the electricity is turned off. Disneyland workers believe that the ghosts of three former Disneyland employees who loved the ride so much their spirits have remained behind are behind these odd events.
- Big Thunder Mountain – Another area believed to be haunted is the path that runs from behind the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from Fantasyland to Frontierland. Many have claimed they’ve seen the figure of an old man sitting on a bench along the path but when they approached him he disappeared. Others have claimed he remains visible although transparent and follows those passing him with his eyes. Disneyland employees are strong believers in this particular ghost and avoid taking the path especially after dark.
- Peter Pan’s Flight – Multiple sightings have been reported of a ghostly couple that haunts Peter Pan’s Flight. Descriptions of the couple are remarkably consistent. The pair is universally portrayed as consisting of a tall bald man and a woman with long, flowing hair. Sightings almost always occur at twilight and whenever they are reported they are always the last in line.
- Tom Sawyers Island – When the park first opened visitors were allowed to swim in the Rivers of the Americas. Three boys drowned in the river before this was no longer allowed. Two were brothers. The younger brother panicked in the water and started to go under. His older brother jumped in to save him but both drowned. The third boy who drowned was at the park for Graduation Night and tried to swim across the river at night after consuming alcohol. Since that time, numerous employees have spotted two or three boys on the island after closing time. When they check the island to make sure no visitors were still in the park, the apparitions disappear.
Special Birthday Treatment – If you let the ticket takers at the entrance know it’s your birthday, they’ll call over nearby cast members who will parade you to City Hall while singing Happy Birthday where you’ll be given a special Birthday sticker. As you wander through the park, different cast members will approach you with special birthday items as gifts. Cast members choose the birthday gift items themselves and none are the same.
Bullet Hole in the Haunted Mansion – When your doombuggy enters the Grand Ballroom, take a look at the gigantic spider web hanging from the fourth column on the right (if you have a fear of spiders however, you probably want to skip this particular secret as the gigantic web comes complete with a gigantic, very real looking, spider.) If you look through the strands at the right angel you will be able to spot a bullet hole in the glass panel behind the web. Some say a child shooting a BB gun or slingshot caused it. Others attribute the hole to a deranged visitor who shot at something he saw in the glass with a shotgun. The hole could not simply be repaired. The huge glass panel would have to be completely replaced along with much of the roof. This would have been extremely expensive so the web with its occupant was added to cover the bullet hole.
Disneyland Sample Bricks – When the park architecture was being planned, Walt Disney wanted variety in the appearance of the buildings. He decided that while the structures should resemble each other, the bricks used to construct them should differ. When you are walking down Main Street in the direction of the Castle, on your right you’ll pass an area with locker rentals. To the right of the lockers is a brick wall made up of all the different bricks that were considered for buildings, walkways and facades. Take a close look and you’ll notice every brick is different, some rough, some smooth, some wavy, and some irregularly shaped. When Disneyland was completed it was decided to leave the wall up. A fun family activity is to take rubbings of the most unusual bricks then to see if you can find each brick type as you walk through the park.
Secret Club Behind “Noseeum” Green Door #33– Most people are unaware that there is an exclusive private club at Disneyland. Even those who know about it would have a difficult time locating it without clear directions. In New Orleans Square to the right of the Blue Bayou Foyer is a door. Unless you are carefully looking for it, the door will appear practically invisible as it is purposely painted a color named “noseeum” green. This is a dull, naturalistic green hue that was determined by Disneyland researchers as the one least likely to be noticed. Club 33, named simply for it’s address, was originally founded by Walt Disney, as a private haven where he could entertain dignitaries and special guests surrounded by old world charm without being disturbed. The menu included the finest dishes and it was the only place in Disneyland that served alcohol. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, it was reopened as a private club. The limited number of memberships are not easily afforded as they run to five-digits with similarly costly annual dues. Membership is so exclusive that even for those who can afford it, the waiting list to join can be several years long.
The Lilly Belle Pullman Car – Another privilege for members of Club 33 is use of the Lilly Belle Presidential Parlor Car, which was originally used to give VIP’s a private tour of the park. Decorated with rich wood tones, antique furnishings, stained glass windows and red, mohair upholstered seating, when in use, the car is located at the rear of a special train replacing the caboose. Occasionally, tickets are handed out to park visitors. The trick to getting one of these tickets is to arrive at the park before opening and wait on the second floor of the Disneyland Railroad Station. When the opening announcement is made watch for Railroad Cast members and as soon as you see them immediately ask who is taking reservations for the Lilly Belle Car. (When tickets are offered very few seats are available so don’t hesitate.) If there are seats offered that day, someone will respond by informing you of the next step to take in order to secure your ticket. If no seats are available the cast members will likely ignore your question in order to maintain the car’s secrecy.
Main Street – Disneyland’s Main Street was designed to look like Marceline, MO., Walt Disney’s hometown. He wanted to share his found memories of the town and the happiness he experienced there with park visitors. Vents up and down Main Street dispense special scents throughout the year to lift the spirits. Much of the year the aroma of vanilla fills the air. In wintertime, the vanilla scent is replaced with the scent of peppermint. Often these two main scents are mixed with the sweet aroma of candy wafting from vents under the candy kitchens.
Next time you and your family visit Disneyland see how many of these secrets you can discover. When you get home your picture presentation of what you did on your summer vacation will be guaranteed to bore no one.
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