The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland is one of the scariest places in the park, but not for the reasons you'd expect. In his 1994 book "Mouse Tales," former Disney employee David Koenig tells the story of a tourist group that requested a little extra time on the ride so they could hold a quick memorial for a 7-year-old boy.
Disney gave the family permission, but it turns out, the memorial was only half their plan. When the mourners were spotted sprinkling a powdery substance off their "doom buggies," the Haunted Mansion was quickly shut down until all the remains could be cleaned up.
Amazingly, this wasn't an isolated incident. Stealthy ash scatterings have occurred all over Disneyland. Not everyone tries to skirt the rules, though. Every year, several families ask for permission. According to one Disney spokesperson, the answer is always no.
The cats own the night
Each night at Disneyland, after the sunburned families and exhausted cast members have made their way home, the park fills up again -- this time, with hundreds of feral cats. Park officials love the felines because they help control the mouse population. (After all, a park full of cartoon mice is more enticing than a park full of real ones.)
But these cats aren't a new addition to the Disney family. They first showed up at Disneyland shortly after it opened in 1955, and rather than spend time chasing them away, park officials decided to put the cats to work.
Today, there are plenty of benefits to being a Disney-employed mouser. When they're not prowling the grounds, these corporate fat cats spend their days lounging at one of the park's five permanent feeding stations. Of course, Disney also goes to great lengths to manage its feline population. Wranglers at the park work to spay and neuter adult cats, and any time kittens are found, they're put up for adoption.
You can shoot hoops inside a mountain
Disneyland's Matterhorn is best known for its bobsled-like roller coaster that twists down the giant peak. But few people outside the park know that deep inside the 147-ft. mountain lurks a basketball court. How did Disneyland become a place where your hoop dreams could come true?
After construction of the Matterhorn was completed in 1959, the roller coaster occupied the bottom two-thirds of the mountain, while the top third remained empty. What to do with the extra space?
Disney employees voted to put in a basketball court. Because a regulation court wouldn't fit inside the mountaintop (sometimes magic can't trump physics), only one goal was installed.
As for the story about the court being installed to skirt building ordinances, that's just an urban legend.
Disney World is its own city
Four years after opening Disneyland's doors in 1955, Walt Disney became convinced that it was time to expand his franchise. After scouting several locations, he decided on a plot of land in Orlando, Florida. But there was a major obstacle standing in his way.
The land spilled over into two counties, meaning the task of constructing Disney World would require navigating the bureaucracies of two local governments. To skirt the issue, Disney petitioned the Florida State legislature to let the company govern its own land, essentially making Disney World a separate city.
The request wasn't as novel as it may seem, however. Governments often create special districts for private companies because the arrangement is mutually beneficial.
The company wins by receiving more power over things such as building codes and tax-free bonds, while the local government saves money on providing infrastructure. In the end, the state gets an economy-boosting business that it paid little to help build.
So, that's what Florida did. On May 12, 1967, the Reedy Creek Improvement District was born. Governed by a board of supervisors, the agency has powers typically reserved for city and county governments.
It has the authority to open schools, create its own criminal justice system, and open a nuclear power plant -- although it hasn't chosen to do any of those things yet. The company also holds all of the seats on the board, and it can always count on its residents' support. After all, they're all Disney employees.