Skulls at Disneyland?

That skull & bones are real!!!

Those skull & crossbones are real!!!

With Halloween being on Friday, we though we would do a creepy, scary blog!

For most Disneyland fans, there is a lot of joy in finding hidden secrets about the Park that we all love to visit. Today, we present to you a very interesting fact about the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Disneyland:  The skull and the crossbones that sit above the bed in the treasure room of the ride are actually real!!

Pirates of the Caribbean definately has the most skulls and bones!!

Pirates of the Caribbean definately has the most skulls and bones!!

Back in 1967 when Walt Disney had hardly just passed away, the Pirates of the Caribbean first set sail at Disneyland. But along with singing pirates and fair maidens, it once held a dark secret.

Disney lore has it that while the ride was still under construction, the Disney Imagineers were displeased with the false skeletons placed about the ride. They didn’t think they looked authentic enough. The solution was simple: to use real human bones! The UCLA medical school provided cadaver skeletons to Disneyland from folks who had donated their bodies to “science”, which were then positioned in the classic poses we see today on the ride.

There’s a pair of skeleton friends playing chess, one sitting atop a mountain of gold coins, a dead captain with a sabre in his ribs… While it may seem grotesque using real bones, they remained for quite some time. It hasn’t been officially stated exactly when the skeletons were replaced with dummies, but they slowly were swapped out and the remains returned to UCLA during the various ride refurbishments.

But, they didn’t remove them all!

Although the skeleton in bed looking through a magnifying glass is no longer the remains of a deceased man, the bones on the headboard behind him are! Those are a genuine skull and crossbones and it is not known why Disney chose to leave them there when the others were removed.  (Possibly, they came from a different source than UCLA and couldn’t be returned.) If you look closely, you’ll notice that they’re darker and more aged than the rest of the skeletons on the ride. It is the skull and bones of a Caucasian male.

Human skeletons were never used when the next Pirates rides were constructed at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World in 1973, or at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, or at Disneyland Paris in 1992.

Sailing into a hurricane!

Captain sailing into a hurricane!

Yo ho ho!   Dead men tell no tales!  😉

We went to Disneyland last year with a first time visitor, and he was like, “What’s with all the skeletons everywhere?”  When you think about it, there are skeletons all over Adventureland, all the skeltons in Pirates of the Caribbean, the skeleton in the water that rises when you complete the treasure map, some over in Fantasyland on Peter Pan’s Flight, a dungeon skeleton reaching for water in Snow White’s Scary Adventures, a skeleton hanging in the stretching room of the Haunted Mansion, the pile of animal bones signaling the entry to the pirahna pool in Jungle Cruise, and a dinosaur fossil in Big Thunder Mountain RR.  No bones about it, that’s a lot of bones!!!


The ghostly host at Haunted Mansion

The ghostly host at Haunted Mansion


We’ve written a book about our year working at Disney: Two Girls and a Mouse Tale.
Available now on in paperback and Kindle. Published by Theme Park Press.

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