Gruesome Discovery: Decaying Flesh Found in Storage Locker at Disneyland

in Disneyland Resort

A large, green Mickey Mouse-shaped balloon floats in the foreground on the left side. In the background is the Rivers of America at Disneyland Park, with the Mark Twain riverboat.

Credit: Inside the Magic

Twelve tons of garbage, including rotting flesh, were pulled out of the Rivers of America and other locations at Disneyland Park. A former Disney cast member claims pollution is an ongoing problem at the Southern California Disney parks.

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In the summer of 1956, Walt Disney instructed imagineers to stock Disneyland Park’s Rivers of America with fish. Guests could rent fishing poles and go for a quick catch in between rides on the Mad Tea Party or Autopia. Disneyland Resort retired fishing shortly thereafter, as guests would catch fish and leave them strewn throughout the Disney park or in storage lockers while they enjoyed their days.

Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Park, where the Disney guest sustained a foot injury.
Credit: Disney

Redditor u/OleOleItsShowtime recently shared two vintage photos of guests fishing in the Rivers of America, including Walt Disney himself. Former Disney cast members and longtime Disneyland Resort visitors reminisced about the gruesome realities of one of Disneyland Park’s most short-lived activities:

TIL guests could catch real fish from Tom Sawyer Island in the 50s, until people began discarding fish around the park

TIL guests could catch real fish from Tom Sawyer Island in the 50s, until people began discarding fish around the park
byu/OleOleItsShowtime inDisneyland

“The lockers on Main Street were full of decaying fish,” recalled u/Disneyland1959, a Southern California Disney Park cast member from 1959 to 2018. “This was the reason Uncle Walt ended fishing in the Rivers of America. There are still fish and an entire eco-system in the waters and interconnected waterways of the park, but no fishing allowed.”

fantasmic maintenance rivers of america disneyland
Credit: Inside the Magic

A large fish population in the Rivers of America presents issues for Imagineers when refurbishing the Mark Twain Riverboat or rerouting the tracks for Disneyland Park expansions, like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The former Disney cast member explained that maintenance used to relocate the fish every few years to remove trash, dead critters, and other pollution from the waterway:

“Disneyland drains the Rivers of America about every 5 years to remove algae forests and foreign debris dropped or tossed into the water. Before they drain the RoA the use a net system to trap and move all the fish into underground tunnels that inter-connect all the dark green water areas in the DL resort. The tunnels are then plugged with air bladders to prevent water from draining in other waterways and then the RoA are drained. Any fish still in the water, as it’s being drained, are capture alive and transfered to the other dark green waterways, such as the Jungle Cruise river.

The last time they drained it was in 2010, they had waited 7 years. Several trips to the dump were required to get rid of the debris (about 12 tons).”

The 12 tons of trash included almost 900 cellphones, multiple electric conveyance vehicles (ECVs)/scooters, a computer tower, a prosthetic leg, numerous bicycles, tools, clothing, over 1000 pairs of eyewear, souvenirs, and bags: “Anything with an ID was attempted to be returned. Everything else was discarded.”

A busy outdoor scene at a Disney theme park with a large crowd of people, Disney merchandise stalls, a riverboat in the background, trees, and a clear blue sky.
Credit: Carlos (armadillo444), Flickr

The former employee suspected disgruntled cast members were responsible for the sunken bicycles, computer tower, and other large objects:

“I can only guess but these items were dumped by castmembers. Bicycles are used backstage by castmembers to travel to and fro, Construction teams can also use the bicycles after the park closes. There are bicycle parking areas at TDA near the Train Round-about, behind the large gates at the end of Critter Country near Foods, at the BCML gate entrance for castmembers entering from the Mickey and Friend parking structure and another tucked in among the workshops south of Ball Gate.

My guess is castmembers or workers get angry at Disney and dump the bikes in RoA as an act of defiance. The tower box computer was most likely to be disposed of and a vendor took a shortcut to the discard pile. Disney does not have an inhouse IT department so vendors are brought in for all IT work. One PC may have as many as 5 vendors to respond depending on which peripheral fails. Each peripheral a different vendor.

I have no way to verify if my assumptions are correct but these are educated guesses based on decades working at Disneyland.”

Other former cast members have admitted using Disneyland Park waterways as trash shortcuts. In May, Inside the Magic reported on a former restaurant employee fired for dumping pots & pans in the backstage storage area of the Jungle Cruise river to avoid spending all night washing them. He was caught when a boat sank the following morning.

mark twain on rivers of america
Credit: Inside the Magic

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Luckily, Imagineers updated the Rivers of America with a new “pump and filtration system” during that refurbishment. But maintenance still checks up on garbage in the waterway monthly.

“Now it will only be required to be drained just once every 20 years,” the former Disney cast member explained. “They also use divers and technology to locate and remove debris on a monthly basis.”

Have you seen anything unusual at Disneyland Park, Downtown Disney, or Disney California Adventure Park? Share your strange experiences with Inside the Magic in the comments. 

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