Written by: Maisie
Anyone who is in any way familiar with internet horror stories will have heard of the infamous ‘Abandoned by Disney’, the story of the a Disney resort built in the 1990’s in Emerald Ilse, North Carolina known as Mowgli's Palace. It was a luxury resort that featured the theme of the movie “The Jungle Book” and hosted exotic animals and a large jungle area surrounding a ‘palace’ like building in the middle where the guest facilities would be held. It was open for only a very brief time before it was abruptly shut, left abandoned, with the entire resort being left to be overcome by the elements. Rumour has it, according to the eyewitness account given by a user be the name of ‘Slimebeast’ in an online forum, that the place is haunted by a possessed negative print Mickey Mouse suit, locked in a room which is slathered with the words ‘Abandoned by God’. If you want more information read his account of the event online. Now, as someone who grew up with yearly trips to the mouse kingdom, this story was quite disturbing when I first read it, an experience that can only be summed up by the phrase “right in the childhood”. Now aside from the obvious trauma to my soul after reading this, my main question was this; “Was this for real?”. Was there really a Mowgli’s Palace? Is there really an entire resort out the abandoned by Disney?
Well the short, and rather boring answer, is no, there never was a resort in North Carolina, there were never even plans of one. This was something concocted by a writer, and whilst it is written in a rather convincing way, fact it is not. This struck me as odd, that someone would make up a story about an abandoned Disney resort when there are whole Disney theme parks that are abandoned in real life!
Abandoned places has always been something of a passion project for me, and so I would like to share with you some of the creepiest abandoned places in Disney, ranging from small park areas to entire rides and parks just left hidden in plain sight.
Two of the biggest abandoned places in Walt Disney World, and probably some of the biggest inspirations for the horror story, are Disney’s Discovery Island and Disney’s river country, both of which were fully operational theme parks that have both been left to rot, one of which is mostly open to the public.
Discovery island was a zoological park built on an already existing island in Bay lake, the lake that the Magic Kingdom resort is built around, although it was called Treasure island when first opened in April of 1974. It featured aviaries and wildlife brought specifically for the island, and was an attraction at Disney for 25 years, however with the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, the island was rendered obsolete, as the new theme park was more convenient and overall a bigger, better version of it. With attendance dwindling, Discovery Island eventually closed for good in 1999, and since has been left to let the natural wildlife take over. The last documented visit to the island was in 2009 by a photographer named Shane Perez, in which the park was shown to still have electricity, abandoned buildings and enclosures. As of more recently fencing has been put up around the docks on the island to keep others from doing the same, which means that in the seven years between that time and now, no-one knows what the island now looks like. Eerily creepy, especially considering that boat and jet-ski tours go right by the old entrance points, overgrown but still visible, almost as if in waiting to be of use once again.
Across the lake from the island, and in a position that guests can still access if they know where to go, is Disney’s abandoned Water Park, River country. River country was Disney World’s first waterpark, opened in 1976 next to the Fort Wilderness resort, just one of the many themed hotels that make up the Magic Kingdom resort. Whilst it is said that a brain eating amoeba was the cause of this parks closure, (a rumour which was caused by the death of a young boy due to a bacteria in the water, however the particular species is found in most Florida lakes and has an around 99% death rate, so the water in river country was incredibly safe by comparison) the real reason was more due to the addition of two more Disney water parks later on, with Blizzard Beach opening in 1995, and Typhoon Lagoon in 1989. This, much like with Animal Kingdom with Discovery Island, led to a decrease in attendance for River Country and the parks eventual closure in 2001. Since then it has been left abandoned, with much of it still accessible to guests (it is important to note that the area isn’t open per say, but you are unlikely to get caught if you choose to go exploring). The water park has become a hotspot for everyone from urban explorers to casual guests including my own brother, who told me it was easy to get in and that the generators in the buildings were all left in a state of disrepair. For me, this is one of Disney’s most premier must-see attractions, and one that you certainly won’t find in any guidebook.
It is probably worth mentioning that any tour around Bay lake you take will talk about both of these incredible places, they don’t pretend they don’t exist. What I find most interesting are the areas that they don’t acknowledge, that they try to pretend are really there. These are places like the Journey Into Imagination pavilion located in the future section of the EPCOT centre theme park, in which the entire second level of the building has been sealed off from guests, never to be acknowledged that it was ever there to begin with. The floor held exhibits involving the latest technology sponsored by Kodak, and featured the famous rainbow tunnel that Michael Jackson was photographed in, which now sits in a state of disuse for all time. Another example of this trend of certain areas being ‘swept under the rug’ is the Wonders of Life pavilion in EPCOT, or at least what is left of it. You see, while the main building is now renamed and used as a hub for the seasonal festivals the park holds, the entire ride area for ‘Body Wars’ (an educational simulator thrill ride) at the back of the pavilion has been left sealed off and completely abandoned, never to be seen by the public, and forgotten by those that gave it life.
While these are not all the abandoned places and Walt Disney World, much less at all of the Disney locations around the world, they are but some of my favourites. This doesn’t even include the places that were left abandoned for long periods of time before being demolished or re-purposed, the abandoned concepts that the Walt Disney company cancelled in a state of economic desperation in the 90s, or even the abandoned places in Disney’s biggest theme park rival, Universal studios. Having said all this, there is something about the phrase ‘Abandoned by Disney’ that sends a chill up many a person’s spine, and the reason for that is most likely the innocence of a children’s theme park that we would love to believe is perfect, in contrast with these haunting places that lurk in the shadows. As much as we love to believe that the Haunted Mansion is as scary as it gets, Disney really does hold some dark secrets. So next time you or anyone else mentions ‘Abandoned by Disney’, I hope your mind goes to the real, chilling places that are out there waiting to be explored, rather than a made up story on the internet.
Don’t believe everything you read online kids.