- Walt Disney World’s Discovery Island was left to rot in 1999 and has been untouched since – except for one man who was discovered living on the island during the coronavirus shutdown.
- River Country was the first water park at the Walt Disney Resort, but three children died there.
- Nara Dreamland, a Japanese version of California’s Disneyland, was left abandoned before being demolished in 2016.
- Visit Insider’s home page for more stories.
Anything that’s been abandoned is creepy to begin with, but abandoned Disney parks have a particularly unsettling quality to them that’s hard to shake.
Disney has ditched several projects over the years for various reasons, but often these parks have been left intact to decay naturally over time. The result is eerie remains of what once was part of “the happiest place on Earth.”
Take a look inside a few of the Disney – and Disney-adjacent – theme parks that have abandoned over the years.
Discovery Island in Bay Lake has been abandoned since 1999.
The island could only be accessed from a Disney resort boat or a Walt Disney World Cruise and was known as a premier tourist destination from the 1970s to the 1990s.
It was originally called “Treasure Island” when it opened in 1974 as a bird sanctuary.
It was rebranded as “Discovery Island” in 1978, and it featured a range of exotic animals, an aviary, flamingo pool, and a beach for tourists.
It closed in 1999 for a variety of reasons.
When it closed, the animals were moved to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Resort nearby.
The island has not been maintained since.
Visitors are prohibited from exploring the island.
Those caught trespassing could be arrested and banned from Disney World.
In fact, earlier this year, that exact scenario happened. According to a police report acquired by USA Today, Richard McGuire, 42, of Mobile, Alabama, was arrested on April 30 after camping on Discovery Island for multiple days.
McGuire told police officers he was not aware that the park was closed to visitors.
The area now looks like a ghost town.
Even if visitors were allowed, you probably wouldn’t want to check out the area anyway.
Though some have sneaked onto the island to film the forgotten remains, the decrepit, abandoned buildings and overgrowth could pose a serious safety hazard to those who dare to enter the island.
After opening as the first water park at the Walt Disney World Resort in 1976, Disney’s River Country closed in November 2001.
You can check out more photos from photographer Seph Lawless’ expedition to the island here.
The park was designed to look like a swimming hole, with an artificial mountain featuring water slides.
As Disney’s first water park, it was very popular.
River Country was very successful when it first opened, but in 1980 a boy died there due to an amoeba that breeds in freshwater.
The amoeba attacked his brain and nervous system, resulting in his death. Disney was absolved for this because the amoeba could have bred anywhere.
Two years later, a boy drowned coming off the Whoop n’ Holler Slide.
Disney was sued by the family, who claimed that there was no warning about how deep the water was. A lifeguard testified that they had to save dozens of kids from that slide daily.
In 1989, another boy drowned there.
However, the park continued to operate until 9/11, when a country-wide setback in tourism forced Disney to cut opening hours.
River Country then shut its doors for maintenance but never reopened. Disney announced its permanent closure in 2005, despite it having laid abandoned for three years before that.
Now the park is overgrown and decaying, and the area has a haunting quality to it.
The area is much different than it was when originally advertised in 1976.
One of their advertisements said, “Bring a swimsuit and a smile. You’re likely to wear both out at River Country.”
Now that it’s abandoned, that advertisement sounds much creepier.
Nara Dreamland wasn’t a “real” Disney resort, but it was built to resemble one.
It opened in 1961 as a Japanese version of California’s Disneyland, complete with its own Main Street USA and Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
Some of its Disney replicas included Matterhorn mountain, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, a monorail, and Main Street USA.
It closed in 2006 due to dwindling attendance.
The desolate park had an eerie feel to it without any visitors.
In 2016, the park was demolished, meaning no more visitors could stop by to photograph its creepy forgotten rides.
- Read more:
- 18 abandoned islands and the eerie stories behind them
- Vintage photos and drawings of Disneyland show how it went from Walt Disney’s pipe dream to ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’
- 55 abandoned places around the world and the eerie stories behind them
- New York City owns a creepy island that almost no one is allowed to visit – here’s what it’s like
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