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The skeleton and the castle

The skeleton and the castle

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The following story is (I swear to God) true. I'm not revealing the names of any of the Disney World personnel who actually took part in this prank because ... Well ... A few of them still work at the Magic Kingdom. And I'd hate for someone to lose their job over what is basically a decade-old practical joke.

Anyway ... The time is the Fall of 1995. And a martinet has just joined the Magic Kingdom's management team. And this guy is really making life difficult for the members of that theme park's maintenance staff.

Finally, after one too many requests that maintenance work at the Magic Kingdom had to be redone because it didn't meet this manager's exacting standards ... a decision is made. Something has to be done to take this guy down a few pegs. Put him in his place.

Well -- as it turns out -- this martinet is a real Disney history buff. The guy just loved hearing stories about what was -- more importantly, what wasn't -- built at his theme park.

Well, in the summer of 1995 -- as part of Disneyland's 40th anniversary -- the Imagineers had buried a Time Castle (I.E. A time capsule that was shaped just like Sleeping Beauty Castle) at the Anaheim theme park. With the idea being that this container would then be dug up & opened when Disneyland's 80th anniversary celebration finally rolled around. So that theme park visitors in 2035 could check out all the artifacts that had been stashed inside the Time Castle and then get some idea of what it must have been like to visit "The Happiest Place on Earth" back in 1995.

For some reason, the whole Time Castle idea just fascinated this martinet of a manager. Which is why he once supposedly told a senior member of the Magic Kingdom's maintenance staff that " ... I wish that our theme park had something like that. A time capsule that we could then dig up 50 or 100 years from now."

Sensing an opportunity, that senior member of the theme park's maintenance staff then said: "Well, you know, the sealing-up-of-a-time-capsule was originally supposed to be part of Disney World's opening ceremony. The Imagineers even designed a place for the thing right inside Cinderella Castle."

The martinet said: "No! Really?"

The maintenance staffer continued: "Yep. You can clearly see the spot where that time capsule was supposed to have gone back in 1971. Mind you, there's a big metal grate over that hole now. But -- as far as I know -- the space behind that grate is still available for a Disney World time capsule."

The martinet then said: "Gee, I'd love to see that sometime. Maybe take some pictures of the space so that I could then try & convince my bosses that the Magic Kingdom really does need its own time capsule."

"Well, tell you what," the senior member of the maintenance staff said. "You come into work around 6 a.m. tomorrow. You know, before the park opens to the public? And meet me at the walkway through Cinderella Castle. Together, we'll take that panel off the wall. And then you can get all of the pictures you want of that empty space."

So the martinet of a manager agrees to meet this senior member of the Magic Kingdom's maintenance staff at that theme park bright and early the next morning.

Now what the martinet didn't know was this covered-over hole in the castle's breezeway wasn't actually a place for a time capsule. But -- rather -- just unused HVAC space that is hidden behind a big metal plate. Which the maintenance staff knew was about three feet high and nine feet deep. The perfect spot for stashing something scary.

Which is why this senior member of the Magic Kingdom's maintenance staff then called over to WDW's Central Shops area and asked if they had any skeletons lying about. Well -- as it turned out -- several of the figures from "Pirates of the Caribbean" 's treasure cave sequences had just been sent in for refurbishing. Which is why Central Shops was able to loan this guy a skeleton.

This maintenance staffer then called over to WDW's costuming department and asked if they had any ratty old janitor uniforms lying around. Well -- as it turned out -- the people in Wardrobe were able to find a circa-1971 Disney World maintenance worker's costume stashed away in some back corner of their office.

So this senior member of the Magic Kingdom's maintenance staff drove over to Central Shops and collected that skeleton. He then dropped by WDW's costume department and picked up that ratty old janitor's uniform. Which he then took back to his office along with the skeleton.

Then -- after dressing the skeleton in that uniform and then stuffing the now-dressed skeletal figure in a duffel bag -- this maintenance staffer waited for the Magic Kingdom to close for the night. And once that theme park was closed ... This senior member of the Magic Kingdom's maintenance staff took that duffel bag into the theme park. He then carried it through the Ultilidors up into Fantasyland.

Once in Fantasyland, the maintenance staffer stops in the breezeway through Cinderella Castle. He unscrews the metal plate from the wall and then -- after making sure that no one is looking -- quickly pulls the now-dressed skeleton out of the duffel bag and then stuffs it deep down inside the HVAC space. This senior member of the Magic Kingdom's maintenance staff then screws the metal grate back into place ... then goes home for the night.

The very next morning, bright and early, this maintenance staffer meets the martinet of a manager in the walkway underneath Cinderella Castle. The manager's there with his camera, eager to get a picture of the place where a WDW time capsule can possibly go.

Using screwdrivers, the two men work together to remove the big metal plate. Finally, they loosen the grate and set it to one side. The martinet of a manager crows about how he's the first person in nearly 25 years to see this secret part of Cinderella Castle. The senior member of the Magic Kingdom's maintenance staff then says "It looks pretty dark in there." Handing the manager a flashlight, he suggests "Why don't you see how deep it is."

So the martinet of a manager gets on his hands and knees, shines the flashlight down into the hole and sees ... What appears to be the skeletal remains of some poor maintenance worker that was accidentally sealed up inside of Cinderella Castle back in 1971 !!

I'm told that they could hear this manager screaming as far away as Frontierland. And that it took several minutes to calm the poor guy down and explain that it was just a gag.

The end result was that this martinet of a manager became a laughingstock at the Magic Kingdom. Word spread so quickly about how this guy had been pranked that he eventually had to apply for a transfer. The last I heard, he's now working over at Disney-MGM. Where this manager supposedly gives the skeletons in the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" sequence in "The Great Movie Ride" a very wide berth.

So the moral of this story is ... Be nice to the members of your maintenance staff. After all, you never know when one of these guys is going to make you the butt of a particularly gruesome practical joke.

Happy Halloween!

Jeff Lange is the staff photographer / archivist here at JHM. He recently released his very first DVD, "Jeff Lange's Trick or Treat." Which offers full coverage of last year's "Mickey's Not-so-Scary Halloween Party" at WDW's Magic Kingdom. If you'd like to learn more about this entertaining recording, we suggest that you follow this link.

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