Pirates of the Caribbean holds a special place in the heart of many Disney fans. Aside from the franchise, which is releasing it’s fifth installment in May 2017, the ride has grown to be a part of Disney parks all around the world. But Disneyland’s Pirates, which was built in 1967, will always be remembered as the last ride that Walt himself personally supervised. And it holds a pretty gory secret.
The story of the building of Pirates was shared by former Disney producer Jason Surrell in his book Pirates of the Caribbean: From Magic Kingdom to the Movies. When the construction of the ride was underway, the Imagineers pushed Walt on a dolly through the ride. As a man that was often hard to please and always was open with criticism, the Imagineers were surprised to hear that he loved it, praising that the guests would have a new experience every time.
Walt may have been satisfied, but the design team wasn’t. They worked for something authentic, but they felt that something was a little too fake. In 1967, they didn’t have the type of sculpting that we see in the parks today. So what stood out to them were the obviously fake skeletons. After spending $15 million on construction of the ride, they couldn’t settle for anything less than perfect and, to them, perfect meant real.
The Imagineers called on some friends in the UCLA Medical Center, where they acquired skeletons for the ride. When the ride opened, real, human skeletons were a part of it, but no one knows exactly how many there were. Surrell assured his audience in his book that the skeletons are gone now. As the Imagineering technology got better, they were able to build more life-like skeletons and the real ones were sent to their home countries and given a proper burial.
Of course, not everyone is convinced. Many people believe that there are still skeletons on the ride. Jason Petros of the EarzUp Podcast has concluded that there are three skeletons still remaining. He claims that he received confirmation, but didn’t say how.
The only real, on-camera confirmation came from the Disney Dose, who recorded a cast member confirming that the skull in the “gold room” is, in fact, still very real. The cast member does go on to say that she heard that there are two more so maybe Petros is on to something?
So the Haunted Mansion might be scary, but those ghosts aren’t real. The skulls in Pirates of the Caribbean might just be.