When we think about “The Happiest Place on Earth,” the first things that enter our minds are Main Street., U.S.A., the sounds of classic songs piping through the air (like Disney’s 1955 “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” from Oklahoma!), the smell of the churros (sweet cinnamon and sugar making our mouths water), and the voices of families echoing in the backdrop of our reality, discussing what ride they’re going on next or perhaps how much fun they had on the one they just got off.
However, there have been 55 deaths at Disneyland just in the last 15 years, countless deaths at Disney World, and don’t even get me started on dismemberments. Some rides seem to have more accidents than others. In particular, the following five rides have played host to more gruesome accidents and deaths than any others at Disney parks.
Space Mountain, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Fla.
Most of us have waited in this line for an hour or more. Then as you get closer to the front of the line, you hear the words from the cast member’s unenthusiastic, monotone voice: “The ride is temporarily closed; you can either wait or come back at a later time.” We’ve all had that thought: “I wonder what happened. I hope everyone is all right!” or maybe “Just move the bodies so we can ride. I’ve been waiting here for hours!” Indeed, there have been at least four major incidents at this beloved attraction.
- In 1979, a 31-year-old woman was accidentally sent through the ride twice, and when the ride vehicle came back around, she was unconscious. She was taken to the hospital and later died. The cause of death was a tumor from her heart that dislodged and made its way up to her brain.
- An 18-year-old man fell from the ride and was paralyzed from the waist down.
- On August 2, 2020, nine people were sent to the hospital as a result of mechanical issues and the rider vehicle abruptly stopping.
- In 2019, a man in his 20s with cognitive issues managed to climb out of the vehicle at one of the slower parts and remained hidden in the ride until cast members had to go looking for him.
America Sings, Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.
This ride had one of the first extremely gruesome accidents in the park.
- On July 8, 1974, an 18-year-old by the name of Deborah Stone was a new employee at Disney, and she was crushed to death when she slipped between the revolving wall and platform inside America Sings. It isn’t clear if this was a misstep on Stone’s part or poor training, but no matter what, Deborah was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.
This is probably one of the most well-known accidents, and if you don’t know it, the story is cringeworthy.
- On September 5, 2003, a 22-year-old man suffered blunt-force trauma and internal bleeding after one of the cars came off the tracks. It managed to injure 10 other riders. The cause was concluded to be due to poor maintenance.
PeopleMover—Disneyland, Anaheim, Calif.
This ride sure brings back memories. The open cars, the lack of seatbelts, no cast members telling us to sit down … ah, the freedom! Here are but a few of the accidents and deaths that happened as a result of too much trust being given to too many people regarding their own safety and wellbeing.
- In August of 1967, a 16-year-old boy was killed. He decided to jump between two moving vehicles and fell on the tracks. His body was dragged a few hundred feet before the ride stopped. The PeopleMover had only been open a month.
- In 1972, four teenage girls (what story ends well that starts this way?) were riding along when one girl lost her Mickey ears out of her ride vehicle. She and her cousin jumped from their car to retrieve the hat. One girl fell onto the guardrails, resulting in a broken arm.
- Once again, jumping between moving items ended a young man’s life at the age of 18. This accident happened when the ride was entering the SuperSpeed Tunnel, and the accident was eerily similar to the one that claimed the 16-year-old’s life in 1967.
Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, Disney World, Orlando, Fla.
Even though this death was declared caused by “natural causes,” one has to wonder what took place on this ride during this man’s demise—and on so many other rides as well. It does seem that quite a few deaths at Disneyland and Disney World have been due to individuals losing consciousness on rides and later dying of “natural causes.”
- December 18, 2007, a 44-year-old man met his death, allegedly from natural causes, on Expedition Everest at Disney World. Reports state that he passed out while on the ride. He was given CPR on the ride’s platform but was later pronounced dead. The coroner’s report attributed his death to dilated cardiomyopathy.