People Keep Scattering Ashes at Disney Theme Parks — and Custodians Are Over It
From marriages to proposals to birthdays, Disney theme parks are normally a place to rejoice. But it turns out many people want to mourn there, as well
From weddings to proposals to birthdays, Disney theme parks are normally a place to rejoice. But it turns out many people use them to mourn, as well.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, guests often visit Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland in Anaheim, California, with the intention of sprinkling a loved one’s ashes around the park. In fact, it happens so often — about once a month, reportedly — that custodians have a special code name for handling it.
It’s referred to as a “HEPA cleanup,” which, sources told the outlet, references the ultra-fine vacuum needed to suck the ashes up.
It’s technically a misdemeanor to spread cremated remains anywhere without permission — “this type of behavior is strictly prohibited and unlawful. Guests who attempt to do so will be escorted off property,” a Disney rep told the Journal — but those who’ve done so say it’s actually pretty easy.
One woman, Jodie Jackson Wells, recalled packing her mother’s ashes into a pill bottle. Others have used makeup compacts and hidden a Ziploc at the bottom of their bag.
“Anyone who knew my mom knew Disney was her happy place,” Wells said of her decision to the Journal. “I had two fistfuls of the ashes and I literally leapt like I was a dancer.”
The most popular final resting places within the parks are flower beds and bushes, Magic Kingdom lawns, outside the park gates, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the moat underneath the flying elephants of the Dumbo ride — and above all, the Haunted Mansion, according to the outlet.
“The Haunted Mansion probably has so much human ashes in it that it’s not even funny,” one custodian explained to the Journal.
When ashes are discovered, the attraction has to be closed because of “technical difficulties,” the outlet reported. Someone then has to ride through it alone and sweep up any and all ashes. The good news? The guests who are forced to relinquish their place in line are often gifted Fast Passes.
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There are other substances around the park that often get mistaken for an informal burial — like funnel cake residue, for example — and much of the ashes that do get sprinkled likely don’t get cleaned up, at least not right away. None of the people the Journal talked to believed custodians saw them dispersing the ashes.
Reps from Walt Disney World did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.