“When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls; Whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still – that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight!”
– Ghost Host from The Haunted Mansion
It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, pumpkins are literally everywhere you look (even in beer & coffee!), and there’s a chill in the air. Halloween is coming. This is my absolute favorite time of the year to be in any of the Disney theme parks. It is also the time of the year that Disney can be a creepy place to be at night. Of course, it’s not creepy enough to scare you. Disney is focused on families, after all (not like the other park down I-4 and their scare-fest! Oh, I also specialize in trips to Universal Orlando!) But the Disney theme parks, especially at this time of year, can give you that uneasy feeling where the hair on the back of your neck starts to stand up and you start looking over your shoulder a little bit more. As Rod Serling famously says, “Tonight’s story is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction.” Here’s Creepy Disney: People and Places Edition.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – Let’s start off with a fairly obvious one. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is supposed to be a little eerie, creepy, and unnerving. It starts with the fantastic cast member out in front of the queue, normally stone-faced and beckoning you to come inside. The queue is incredible and one of the best ones Disney has ever done. From the dried up fountains and overgrown vegetation outside to the dusty, time-standing-still lobby, to the boiler room, the queue perfectly sets that creepy vibe that Disney Imagineers were hoping for. I don’t want to give too much away just in case you haven’t done it (SPOILER ALERT: there’s a drop!), but both the ride and the pre-show are also amazing and really, really creepy. Of course, during the ride I’m too busy screaming like a child so I don’t always get the full effect of the creepiness! It’s just a great overall experience, and I can’t recommend it enough. So please, on your next trip to Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios or Disney’s California Adventure, check in at the Hollywood Tower Hotel.
Pete from Mickey’s Christmas Carol – I’m going to take kind of a Nightmare Before Christmas turn here with this post, just for a minute. As a kid, I looked forward to watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol every single year around Christmas. I loved (and still love) that special. But Pete, as the Ghost of Christmas Future, always really freaked me out! I would watch it and then not be able to stop thinking about his creepy face for the rest of the night! I would lie in bed, thinking of him striking that match and using it to light his cigar. I can still see him and hear him now (in my head, of course…I may have a problem) as he pushes Scrooge McDuck into that open grave with the tombstone in front of it. Now, as an adult, I’m supposed to pretend that I’ve never seen that and enjoy Pete frolicking around, having fun with Mickey and the gang on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? Yeah, he’s the fun, scoundrelly Pete now, always looking to get one over on the Fab Five, never doing anything horrible like pushing a living duck into an open grave. I don’t buy it, Disney. I want my childhood back.
Snow White’s Scary Adventures in Disneyland – A ride so creepy that the Disney folks had to insert the word “scary” into the title, Snow White’s Scary Adventures was an opening day attraction for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Although I LOVE the newer Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at the Magic Kingdom, I do miss this ride being on the east coast. There’s just something about the moment that the Evil Queen turns into the Wicked Old Hag that stays with you long after you step off the ride vehicle on this attraction. When you’re outside in the queue at Disneyland, look up into the window above the attraction and you can see the Evil Queen opening the curtains and looking down on the guests about to make their way inside.
Jack Skellington – I have a feeling I’m going to get some flack for this one, but Jack Skellington is one of the creepiest, if not THE CREEPIEST, character Disney has ever unleashed on the people of the world. EVER. First of all, he’s a skeleton. Second, his running gag in the movie is to take his body apart for comic relief. Third, he’s a skeleton. I couldn’t believe the length of the line to meet Jack during the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2014. I can’t believe guests wait in line for HOURS to meet him and Sally at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom. I can’t believe his popularity in the Disney parks. Jack’s likeness is everywhere: on shirts, umbrellas, coats, buttons, baby bottles (okay, that one I might have made up). I guess maybe I’m missing out on something really big here, but creepy Jack Skellington, I just don’t get you.
Vintage Disneyland Characters – Don’t think an explanation is necessary. I’m just going to leave this picture here to haunt your every thought.
DiVine from Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Imagine this: You’re walking between the Africa & Asia sections of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, probably going toward Expedition Everest or Kilimanjaro Safari (or running to find some shade or AC in the summer). Out of the corner of your eye, off the pathway and mixed in with the trees and foliage, you see something moving. Your first thought will probably be that an animal has escaped and it’s going to be a Jurassic Park situation in Animal Kingdom, but then you realize it’s not an animal at all. It’s something much creepier. It’s DiVine, a Disney performer whose job is to blend into the background and look an awful lot like jungle plants. Then, when people walk by, she jumps out, grabs them, and no one ever sees them again! Okay, this doesn’t actually happen. But it feels like it might! DiVine is truly an amazing performer and it’s worth stopping by to see her on your next trip to Animal Kingdom. Her talents don’t make her any LESS CREEPY though!
The Haunted Mansion – The grandaddy of all that is creepy about the Disney theme parks: the more silly than scary, fantastically fun, Haunted Mansion has been beloved by park-goers for generations. From the Ghost Host (who lowers the safety bar for you) to the musical score (“Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize!”) to the incredibly well-designed Doom Buggy ride vehicles (great story about how they were designed by Disney Legend Bob Gurr HERE), this attraction is practically & perfectly creepy in every way. The creepiest part, in my opinion, is the ghost bride in the attic whispering for you to “Huuurraaay Baaaaaaack.” There are differences in the attractions at the Magic Kingdom and in Disneyland Park, and the stories and exteriors of the buildings are vastly different but the end result is still the same: “Grim Grinning Ghosts” will be stuck in your head for the rest of your vacation!
These examples are obviously just the tip of the creepy Disney iceberg. There are SO MANY other creepy things about Disney and the Disney theme parks (some intentional, some not so much) that I haven’t listed here. I could go on and on about Pinocchio’s Daring Journey in Disneyland (truly terrifying), Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (the reason thousands of children from the 50’s up until today have trust issues…I TRUSTED my parents the first time I rode this attraction), and this guy:
What the heck is that?! He’s at Animal Kingdom in the Asia section (say sorry from Phil at Ear To There Travel if you see him…he’ll know what it’s about). For the sake of space and your sanity, I’ll stop my list here. Next time you’re in one of the Disney parks, whether it’s Halloween or really any time of year, I hope you enjoy the creepiness that they have to offer!
Do you have a favorite Disney creepy place or person that I haven’t mentioned? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave your comment here, send me a Facebook message or post on my FB wall HERE, send me a Tweet HERE, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, please also share this post on social media using any of the buttons on the top and the bottom of this post.
Thank you so much again for reading! Please enjoy the rest of your stay here at Ear To There Travel!