It’s no secret that Disneyland has had an influx of really weird rumours that just refuse to go away, no matter how many times you tell people they’re not true or how much time may pass. For a major company and establishment like Disney and Disneyland, these rumours, and most specifically, creepy urban legends about the Disney parks can turn out to be incredibly hard to squash, regardless as to how outlandish they are. Although, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal recently, it has now been revealed that a rather gruesome practice, whispered about but not fully confirmed until now, is actually taking place at Walt Disney theme parks in Florida and California.
About once a month, the previous rumoured practice of guests scattering the remains of a loved one somewhere in the park will occur, as the park apparently held a special place in their heart. And staff even have a secret code to deal with the practice.
“No code is kept more under wraps at Walt Disney World and Disneyland than the call for a ‘HEPA cleanup,’” noted the Journal. “It means that, once again, a park guest has scattered the cremated ashes of a loved one somewhere in the park, and an ultrafine (or ‘HEPA’) vacuum cleaner is needed to suck them up.
”Yes, that’s right, human ash piles are disposed of via vacuum cleaner. Another fun fact laid out in the article: cleaners have been chastised for using the term “Code Grandma”, which is the kind of grimly hilarious snipe absolutely verboten by The Mouse.
The practice is, of course, illegal, as amusement parks are private property, which means you need to receive permission from the owner to scatter ashes on private land (here’s a handy guide to where you can and can’t do this). Anyone caught doing it at a Disney theme park will be ejected from the park, although there are no reports of arrests being made yet.
However, that hasn’t stopped people from repeatedly scattering ashes there, with some attractions – like the Haunted Mansion – being particularly popular.
“The Haunted Mansion probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny,” one worker told the paper. If you are the superstitious type, please feel free to infer that The Haunted Mansion is actually haunted.
To get the remains into the park, would-be-scatterers use empty pill bottles, Ziplock bags or other methods to sneak past security. If ash is found on a ride, the staff will close it and use the high-powered vacuums to get rid of the remains.
“It’s a sweet way to giggle and remember—he’s here… and there… and a little over there… yep, there, too,” Caryn Reker of Jacksonville, Florida, who spread the ashes of her father in Disney World in 2006 had stated.
Shanin Himebrook, a 41-year-old from Missouri, told the Journal she spread her father’s ashes near Disney World’s gates earlier this year. She said she used to make summer trips with him there when she was younger, and wanted to memorialise it.
“[At Disney World,] he wasn’t my tired, graveyard-shift Dad,” she said. “He was, ‘Let’s get you the Mouse ears! Let’s get your name stitched in it!’ It’s like, ‘I love this dad! Can we stay forever?’”
As Gizmodo noted, however, this isn’t the first time tales of the dead have been reported at a Disney park. A report from the Los Angeles Times in 2007 said that police arrived at the Anaheim park after a guest was seen “sprinkling an unidentified substance into the water.”
Although the individual involved claimed it was only baby powder, the substance dissolved in the water and was never available to be tested, leaving the case unsolved.
Experts have also warned that while the gesture might be nice for the loved one that has passed away, the practice can itself cause pollution if they get into a water supply, and is just generally pretty unhygienic for others that come into contact with the ashes, too.