Ah...the magical world of Disney. So much goes on "offstage" and "behind the scenes" to ensure that the guests have "the most magical times of their lives" once they arrive on the property. Ever seen a wet paint sign while walking through the parks? How about a maintenance cast member with a bag of tools? Anyone with a construction hard hat? Of course you haven't. That would ruin the expierience that WDW is perfection. It's because that 99.99% of all work goes on after the show is over. All the little "mice" that keep the place running like clockwork don't even start working until the announcement is made over the radios we carry that "The Park Is Now Clear!". Then the crews get to work. Maintenance starts buzzing around on their golf carts, the custodial cast members bring out the large hoses to wash down every inch of the streets we all walk on, and the construction crews are allowed past the security perimeter gates to come in and do whatever needs to be done. That's where my story begins. I've worked construction most of my life. When work dried up up North, I moved to Florida where some of my family had moved over ten years ago. Naturally, I needed to find a job. I wound up applying for and getting hired by a construction company that shall remain nameless that literally did almost all of the construction needs for "The Coorporate Mouse". I spent five or six overnights a week at various locations at WDW with coworkers (we weren't employed by Disney hence we were not "Cast Members") doing whatever our foreman told us what needed to be done. Sweet gig actually, even though it was very hard work at times. Just think...how many people can truly say the get to ride around Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, etc in the dead of night in trucks, golf carts, what have you while the park is just about empty except for a skeleton crew? For about the first six months, I kind of kept to myself except for talking with the crew of the company that I worked for. Then I began noticing how chummy many of the Disney overnight crew was with our staff. Custodians, when working in the same areas as us would come and talk to the boys as well as the overnight security cast members. I began to slowly get to know many of these folks as well. They, for the most part, were really nice. I got to know many of the night security staff (by face at least) at all four parks as well as the resorts. If you didn't know, WDW opened in 1971. It was actually not too uncommon to come across someone who had been a "lifer" with Disney or knew someone who was. Forty plus years working for the Mouse...God bless 'em. Even my foreman, who although did not work directly for WDW, was one of these. Boy...did they have some stories to tell to pass the time.
As I adjusted more to the job, I began to get more comfortable with the surroundings. The cast members grew more social towards me, and I was able to make my way through the parks without getting lost too. Let me tell you, that is not an easy feat when you first start out working there. Especially at night. Although it's not PITCH black, there is very minimal lighting except where we put our floodlights up to do work. Security is only using flashlights or the headlight of their carts to light their ways, and store lights are only on if someone is working in them. Quite eerie and yet cool at the same time. It's like a totally different place than during operating hours. As a matter of fact, one time when I decided to visit the park as a guest, I couldn't find a ride that I wanted to go on because it looked so different during the day with all the colors, people, sounds, and music. One year of working at the place full time and I had to swallow my stupid pride and go get a map. Ha ha...pathetic. Anyway, as I started conversing more and more with the Cast Members, some of the security staff and I found out that we had a mutual intrest in the paranormal (of course that would come up in coversation eventually when working graveyard shifts...haha). I would get to hear stories from them all the time. The famous ghost in the Pirates of the Carribean ride. The murder/suicide in one of the rooms of a certain resort. The jumping off of terraces at another. Ghosts of cast members who passed on that "come back and say hi". The spooky occurances at rides where some unfortunate guest was killed. The stories went on and on. Although fun to hear, I won't lie, it did give the whole property an ominous feel at times that a guest will never get to expierience. Even coworkers of mine had stories to tell...attractions turning on even though the "Lock out, tag out" system is in place to ensure that they don't, following someone to a break room and walking in to find no one in there, of course the noises and voices when they were working alone...Ghost Hunters JACKPOT!!
So, several months ago, when arriving at work, the foreman called our team over for a meeting. He announced we would be starting a new assignment in the Magic Kingdom shortly. We would be working on the Seven Dwarves Mine Train Ride! This attraction would be opening later in the year. How exciting! Up until now, my crew, since I had started with them, had been doing mundane yet necessary assignments. We had the pleasure of pouring concrete, digging ditches, fixing bathrooms...good stuff. Now, we were actually going to get to work on an attraction! Imagine me getting to tell my future wife and children that I helped make this as we were riding it! They would be in awe and so proud! The building was already up for the most part, and we we going to be working on making it "show ready". You know, making a building look like a mine inside and out? Fabricating rocks, fixating jewels...the works. When the time came to start this, he had us meet in one of the cast member breakrooms inside the attraction. For those that don't know, most if not all attractions have breakrooms inside them that the public can't see. A cast member working the ride literally doesn't have to leave it if he/she doesn't want to, even for a lunch break. He explained the job, who would be doing what each week, and all the normal details. Then he procedded to tell us that as per Disney Management, we were to all take our lunch breaks at 3:00 AM and to only take it in this particular break room we were in. I thought that was kind of weird. Since my employment with them began, we were never told when and where to take lunch. We used to always stagger our breaks as well so that most of the crew was always working. Whatever I guess, the Mouse paid our bills and who the hell was I to question it? I was still the "rookie" but I will say this...I saw what I was thinking in the eyes of my coworkers as well.
We were only a group of ten guys on this assignment and we were broken up into groups of five. One group would work on the outside, and one group on the inside of the attraction. I was in the inside group. It was a pain to work in that thing. Due to the size of the spaces where we had to work, maybe one or two floodlights would fit in an area where we were working. It gave an effect of staring into a fire in the woods. While working on a wall, it was bright as hell. When you came out of that space, you were as blind as a bat. The first few days, it became a running joke/contest of who tripped on something and broke their ass the most each week had to pay for the drinks when we went out together. I paid up twice the first month...thanks Disney!
I guess you could call me paranoid, but I would never leave my lunch bag in the fridge in the breakroom. I'm an absolute angry asshole if I get hungry and after having it stolen once while at Animal Kingdom, I was not going to have it happen again. So I just carried it with my other gear from then on. We were working on the opposite side of the attraction from the break room and it was just about lunch time. We cleaned up all the possible trip hazards and went on break. When we got to the break room, I realized I had left my bag where we were working. Dammit! There was no way I was spending $8.00 on a coke and stupid bear claw from one of Disney's rip off vending machines. I told the guys I was going to run back and get my bag. So, off I went. I was hurrying along because we only get a half hour for lunch and if we take even a minute longer to get back to our work location, there is hell to pay. And you all know how fast a half hour flies by unless you're working. Trying to make good time, I must have made a wrong turn in all that blackness. My stupid flashlight was in my tool bag...of course. I was attempting to feel my way around the track when I saw some light coming up ahead of me. They looked like they could be a set of emergency lights but they were quite dim and flickering. Who cares? Any port in a storm, right? I slowly made my way towards them and began to hear voices but I couldn't make out any words. There was no one in the attraction other than us...or so we were told. Oh my God! After all the stories I was told...was I finally going to have one of my own? As much as felt the hairs on my neck stand up, I was excited as well. Even though I really like hearing about ghosts, I can't say that I am really, TRULY afraid of them. I just don't want them in my home...other than that, I find the idea of them fascinating. I slowly peeked my head around the next corner. I wish to God it was a ghost I saw...
It was a large (at least compared to where we were working) open space and there was a fabricated stone slab made to look like a natural rock formation in the center. Six figures in suits were around it in a circle. Five were holding candles while one was reading off what looked like an old piece of parchment. What he was saying was beyond my knowledge. Not English from what I could hear. Every time the main suit would finish a sentence or two, the others would repeat the last word. As I crouched there amazed, I saw what looked like a flash of yellow and blue stirring from on top of the "altar". There was someone on it. A woman. She stirred again and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. It looked like one of those college program kids that get to "be friends with" the characters. Completly dressed as Snow White. She was gagged and bound. What the hell was I seeing? Her eyes were huge and filled with fright. Tears were streaming down her face, making her overly done make up run. As much as she struggled, she could barely move. The man with the parchment stopped reading. The others all produced some crudely made daggers and made their way to her. Two of them went to each of her arms, two to her legs and one stood at the top of her head. The "leader" (for lack of a better word) made a guesture with his hands and said one more uncomprehendable word and the others moved in. The two by her arms sliced her arms from mid bicep down to the wrists. Two others did the same from mid thigh to the tops of her feet. The fifth one actually carved what looked like a half moon into her forehead. I stifled a scream and closed my eyes. I could hear muffled screams and smell copper in my nostrils and taste it in the back of my throat. I opened my eyes briefly to see the "leader" produce a knife, walk over to the altar, and lift poor Snow White's chin up toward him. Thats when I turned and ran.
I got back to the breakroom, sprinting though the door. I must have looked half crazed because one of my buddies said "What the hell happened to you, and where's your lunch bag?" I didn't even answer him. I just stood there. He looked me over one more time, and decided to call the foreman over the radio to come talk with me. The foreman came in, took one look at me and asked if I was feeling OK. I shook my head. He told me to go home for the remainder of my shift.
I called out sick the next three days. In the comfort of my home, I attempted to rationalize what had happened. It had to be a gag, right? Was it my boys with an elaborate "welcome to the crew" trick? I mean, God, WDW is crammed full of college program kids. Late teens and early twenty year olds away from home and college, getting paid crap just so they can put Disney on their resumes, just fornicating and causing havoc every chance they get? Playing tricks so they can put it on thir blogs or twitter or whatever else stupid things they use to get attention? HAD TO BE.
On my first night back to work, I literally had to force myself not to turn my car around at the security gate when the guard opened it for me to enter. When I got to the breakroom, one of the "lifers" I worked with was sitting there seemingly waiting for me. He told me to clock in, leave my stuff with him, and go meet the forman over by the main entrance. I looked at him quizzically since it was pretty far from where the Mine was and it was heavily frowned upon for us non Cast Members to be found wandering far from where we were assigned. I stated as such and he just said "Go...you'll be with your boss, so it would be his ass and not yours if someone says something." I made my way over to the Main Entrance and found him under the Train Station, sitting on one of the benches. He told me to sit. We sat there for about five minutes without speaking. He lit up a cigarette and I did as well (during night shift you could get away with this if you were careful about it). He asked me what had happened to me the other night. I just shrugged, looked at the newly hosed down ground, and exhaled. He put his hand on my shoulder and said that I was a great coworker, the other guys all liked me a lot, he didn't want to lose me and that he was surprised I came back after the way I had looked. I told him that it wasn't far from the truth. He asked me if I was just sick or if something had happened. He also asked me if maybe a Cast Member Manager had given me a hard time and if so, he'd handle it. I shook my head and said that he wouldn't believe me and would probably fire me for being a nut if I told him. He then said something that made me feel it was OK to tell my story. He said "I've worked here since it was just flat land and dirt roads, nothing you say can shock me." I looked up at him...dead in the eyes. When I saw that he was telling the truth, I began to explain everything from the beginning...
I ended the story when the other guy told me to come see him. My foreman sat there, flicked his cigarette butt, and ground it onto the floor (a HUGE Disney no no). He had sat there nodding through the entire story, not interrupting once. Never once a smirk, a smile, a look of disbelief. A custodial truck happened to drive by and when the headlights flashed on us, I had seen that all the blood had seemed to drain from my forman's face. He breathed in and exhaled once...from the mouth. He had the beginnings of tears in his eyes. He finally spoke...
"What I'm about to tell you, kiddo, not many here have been here long enough to know and those who DO know, almost never speak about. It's sort of a taboo subject and the few that do talk about it are too old to care or have had one too many scotches."
He smiled half heartedly at this, and I thought maybe he might stop, but he continued,
"I have lived in this area for almost 80 years. I have barely been out of this state...less times than I can count on one hand. Orlando has only looked this way for a short time. If you could have seen this land in the time I grew up here you would be amazed. Marsh land and orange groves...nothing else. Until Uncle Walt decided this was the spot for his next incredible theme park, there was practically nothing. Humans have been inhabiting this land for a VERY long time. The Ais, the Apalachee, the Calusa, the Timucua, the Tocobago, all native indians that lived in or around the land you are sitting on right now. The Paleoindians were here before them. ANCIENT lands. Well, I'm no historian, but I guess them indians at some point figured out this land was a little spoiled. Spoiled as in not just bad, but spoiled as in how a little child throws a tantrum if it doesn't get it's way. At some point, when these cultures were not having good weather or crops, what have you, they figured out that a blood sacrifice could do the trick. Every time they built a large structure in this area, they drew blood. But for whatever reason, the sacrifice had to do with the structure being built. For example...if the Indians were building a religious structure, a Shaman had to be sacrificed. If a settler was building a barn or orange grove, a farm hand had to be the one. You get me? And it had to be done by the elders of the town. Couldn't be done by just anyone, but by the elders/most influencial ones in the area. You ever seen that movie "Pet Semetary" by Stephen King?? Like that....but the important people involved."
"Do you know the story about Disney buying this land? He bought it not under the Disney brand but hundreds of pseudo companies. He didn't want anyone to know he was going to build a theme park here because the locals may not have sold as cheaply as they did. So, he did what he did. I wonder if, through all this half truth bargaining, if him or his round table executives ever wondered why so many were willing to sell at that price. Were they done having to do the despicable to make a profit here? Did many of them want out? It can really make you wonder."
"And how come supposedly 'No one dies at Disney?' How come all people are proclaimed dead OFF the property? And why do we hire so many college kids that are supposedly running rampant here? Think about it."
"I just gotta tell you, because I think you may deserve it after you've seen what you claimed to...the powers at be here are powerful. More powerful than just being Disney executives. They pretty much rule everything. You think Club 33 is exclusive?" he laughed, but with no humor. "The club you stumbled upon rules more than just a theme park. If you talk about what you've seen, your life may be in danger."
I just sat there, trying to soak in what I had just heard. This was insane. And then my foreman said one more thing before the last sentence I ever said to that nice man.
"If you think that was bad, just imagine what I heard as we were building It's A Small World. I swear I STILL hear those screams of those kids once I close my eyes at night...40 years after..."
My reply? "I quit"
Ahh...the Magical World of Disney.
I still get the shakes when I think about it. I hate every fucking Disney commercial that comes on TV. And they come on a lot. I get goosebumps every time.
I see that Universal is hiring...I need work...should I apply?