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 Captain’s Quarters treasure room are actually real bones!!
Back in 1967, just after Walt Disney had passed away, the Pirates of the Caribbean first set sail at Disneyland. But along with singing pirates and fair maidens, it held a dark secret.
Disney lore has it that while the ride was still under construction, the Disney Imagineers were unhappy with the look of the fake plastic skeletons placed about the ride. They didn’t think they looked authentic enough.
The solution was simple: Use real human bones!
They asked around and the UCLA medical school provided cadaver skeletons to Disneyland from men who had donated their bodies to “science”, which were then donated after gross anatomy classes to Disney, and 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.
Disney hasn’t officially confirmed exactly when the skeletons were replaced with fake bones, but they slowly were swapped out and the human remains returned to UCLA during the various ride refurbishments throughout the years.
But, they didn’t remove them all!
Although the Captain’s skeleton laying in bed looking through a magnifying glass are no longer the remains of a deceased man, the bones on the headboard behind him are real!
That is a genuine skull and human crossbones!
It’s unknown 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’s the skull and leg bones of a Caucasian male.
Human skeletons were never used when the next Pirates rides were constructed at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World in 1973, or at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, or at Disneyland Paris in 1992.
Yo ho, yo ho! Dead men tell no tales! 😉
A few years ago when we went to Disneyland with a first time visitor he was like: “What’s with all the skeletons everywhere at Disneyland?”
When you think about it, there are skeletons all over Adventureland, in lots of scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean, some over in Fantasyland on Peter Pan’s Flight, a skeleton hanging in the stretching room of the Haunted Mansion, the pile of animal bones signaling the entry to the piranha pool in Jungle Cruise, and a dinosaur fossil in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
No bones about it, that’s a lot of bones!!! 😉
Disneyland Fact: Opening on March 18, 1967, the Disneyland version of Pirates of the Caribbean was the last attraction that Walt Disney himself participated in designing, debuting just three months after his death.
We’ve written two books about our time working – and playing – as Disney Cast Members at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
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Have a magical day!
Two Disney Sisters