A report in the Wall Street Journal has revealed a rather gruesome practice, whispered about but not confirmed until now, taking place at Walt Disney theme parks in Florida and California.
About once a month, it appears that a guest will scatter the remains of a loved one somewhere in the park, as the park apparently held a special place in their heart. And staff even have a secret code to deal with the practice.
“No code is kept more under wraps at Walt Disney World and Disneyland than the call for a ‘HEPA cleanup,’” noted the Journal. “It means that, once again, a park guest has scattered the cremated ashes of a loved one somewhere in the park, and an ultrafine (or ‘HEPA’) vacuum cleaner is needed to suck them up.”
The practice is, of course, illegal, as amusement parks are private property, which means you need to receive permission from the owner to scatter ashes on private land (here's a handy guide to where you can and can't do this). Anyone caught doing it at a Disney theme park will be ejected from the park, although there are no reports of arrests being made yet.
However, that hasn’t stopped people from repeatedly scattering ashes there, with some attractions – like the Haunted Mansion – being particularly popular.
To get the remains into the park, would-be-scatterers use empty pill bottles, Ziploc bags or other methods to sneak past security. If ash is found on a ride, the staff will close it and use the high-powered vacuums to get rid of the remains.
“It’s a sweet way to giggle and remember—he’s here… and there… and a little over there… yep, there, too,” Caryn Reker of Jacksonville, Florida, who spread the ashes of her father in Disney World in 2006, told the WSJ.
As Gizmodo noted, however, this isn’t the first time tales of the dead have been reported at a Disney park. A report from the Los Angeles Times in 2007 said that police arrived at the Anaheim park after a guest was seen “sprinkling an unidentified substance into the water.”
We should add here that, while the gesture might be nice for the loved one that has passed away, that practice is really not a good idea at all. They can cause pollution if they get into a water supply, and it’s just generally pretty gross for others that come into contact with the ashes.