Former Disney theme park employees – also dubbed as cast members – have said individuals scattering the cremated remains of their loved ones throughout the theme park was a common activity. A 2018 Insider report said Disney is aware of the practice and called on people to abort it. "This type of behavior is strictly prohibited and unlawful. Guests who attempt to do so will be escorted off property," a company spokesperson said that time.
Some of the hotspots for scattering human ashes former included the Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean rides. According to one anonymous cast member, the former "probably has so much human ashes in it that it's not even funny." Guests reportedly scattered the ashes of their loved ones within the ride so they can "join the ghosts."
In 2019, a woman was spotted sprinkling an "unidentified substance" into the water of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. A witness described the substance to be similar to ashes. Despite this, law enforcement decided not to file a police report due to a lack of a detailed enough description of the perpetrator.
Multiple people have said that spreading the ashes of their loved ones across Disneyland in California and Florida's Disney World was a "cathartic and meaningful dedication." Forty-one-year-old Missouri resident Shanin Himebrook scattered her father's ashes near Disney World's gates in 2018. She said that she and her father used to make summer trips to the amusement park, and she wanted to memorialize them.
"[He] wasn't my tired, graveyard-shift Dad [at Disney World.] He was: 'Let's get you the [Mickey] Mouse ears … and get your name stitched [on] it!' It's like, 'I love this, Dad! Can we stay forever?'', Himebrook said.
Actor Alex Parone meanwhile scattered her mother's ashes in a Magic Kingdom flower bed, then went on the It's a Small World park ride. The New York resident said on June 2018 it was strange for him to mourn his mother's passing while going on Disney World Rides. He explained: "I was still crying. That song is playing over and over again, and there are those happy little animatronic things. I remember thinking, 'this is weird.'"
The Wall Street Journal said in October 2018 that Disney cast members used the code "HEPA clean-up" when human remains are found. This meant that a park guest scattered the cremated remains of a relative and an ultrafine vacuum cleaner for high-efficiency particulate air is needed to clean the ashes.
One user posted on Reddit: "When I was on my Disney College Program, I had friends working at the Haunted Mansion. [Every] time someone would spill ashes, they called a 'code grandma' and evacuated the ride."
The moment ash residue is discovered on a ride, Disney cast members tell guests they must shut down due to "technical difficulties." A park manager then rides alone through the attraction to locate any ash piles. Meanwhile, other cast members hand out "Fast Passes" to assuage guests who must leave before custodians arrive with their vacuums to suck up the remains.
In addition to having human remains scattered around, Disney theme parks have also been hotbeds for disease outbreaks. In 2014, the Disneyland theme park in California became linked to an outbreak of measles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it resulted in a total of 147 cases. It added that measles cases linked to the Disneyland outbreak were found in seven U.S. states, as well as in Mexico and Canada.
Three years later, Disneyland was once again involved in an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. A December 2018 report by the Associated Press said that a cooling tower that provided mist to make park visitors comfortable was the likely source of the disease. Twenty-two individuals contracted the disease and one died as a result, with most of them having visited the park in the fall of 2017.
According to Dr. Matthew Zahn of the Orange County Health Care Agency, tests around the time of the outbreak showed high levels of Legionella bacteria in two Disneyland cooling towers. The towers were part of an air conditioning system that released mist – with contaminated droplets spreading the pathogen.