Nuggets of Wisdom

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nightly Frights: Abandoned By Disney


Yet another favorite creepypasta, and this time, from the ever-beloved Magic Kingdom--or rather, Tragic Kingdom.

This story involves a short-lived Disney resort called Mowgli's Palace, and one urban adventurer's attempt to explore its ruins, only to discover some hidden secrets that should have remained hidden.

Now as someone who once lived near North Carolina, I can tell you this story is pure cow manure. If there was a Disney resort built there in the 90s, I would have known about it, and my Disney-loving family would have jumped at the opportunity to visit it.

But either way, this story still makes for a good scare. Nothing is scarier than a Mickey Mouse costume, after all.
Some of you may have heard that the Disney corporation is responsible for at least one real, "live" Ghost Town.

Disney built the "Treasure Island" resort in Baker's Bay in the Bahamas. It didn't START as a ghost town! Disney's cruise ships would actually stop at the resort and leave tourists there to relax in luxury.

This is a FACT. Look it up.

Disney blew $30,000,000 on the place... yes, thirty million dollars.

Then they abandoned it.

Disney blamed the shallow waters (too shallow for their ships to safely operate) and there was even blame cast on the workers, saying that since they were from the Bahamas, they were too lazy to work a regular schedule.

That's where the factual nature of their story ends. It wasn't because of sand, and it obviously wasn't because "foreigners are lazy". Both are convenient excuses.

No, I sincerely doubt those reasons were legitimate. Why don't I buy the official story?

Because of Mowgli's Palace.

Near the beachside city of Emerald Isle in North Carolina, Disney began construction of "Mowgli's Palace" in the late 1990s. The concept was a Jungle-themed resort with a large, you guessed it, PALACE in the center of the whole thing.

If you're unfamiliar with the character of Mowgli, then you might better remember the story "The Jungle Book". If you haven't seen it anywhere else, you'd know it as the Disney cartoon from decades past.

Mowgli is an abandoned child, in the jungle, essentially raised by animals and simultaneously threatened/pursued by other animals.

Mowgli's Palace was a controversial undertaking from the start. Disney bought up a ton of high-priced land for the project, and there was actually a scandal surrounding some of the purchases. The local Government claimed "eminent domain" on people's homes, then turned around and sold the properties to Disney. At one point a home that had just been constructed was immediately condemned with little to no explanation.

The land grabbed by the Government was supposedly for some fictional highway project. Knowing full well what was going on, people started calling it "Mickey Mouse Highway".

Then there was the concept art. A group of stuffed shirts from Disney Co. actually held a city meeting. They intended to sell everyone on how lucrative this project was going to be for everyone.

When they showed the concept art, this gigantic Indian Palace... surrounded by JUNGLE... staffed with men and women in loincloths and tribal gear... well, suffice to say everyone flipped their shit.

We're talking about a large Indian Palace, Jungle, and Loincloths not only in the center of a relatively wealth area, but also a somewhat "xenophobic" area of the southern USA. It was a questionable mix at that point in history.

One member of the crowd tried to storm the stage, but he was quickly subdued by security after he managed to break one of the presentation boards over his knee.

Disney took that community and essentially broke it over its knee, as well. The houses were razed, the land was cleared, and there wasn't a damned thing anyone could do or say about it. Local TV and Newspapers were against the resort at the beginning, but some insane connection between Disney's media holdings and the local venues came into play and their opinions turned on a dime.

So anyway, Treasure Island, the Bahamas. Disney sunk those millions in and then split. The same thing happened with Mowgli's Palace.

Construction was complete. Visitors actually stayed at the resort. The surrounding communities were flooded with traffic and the usual annoyances associated with an influx of lost and irate tourists.
Then it all just stopped.

Disney shut it down and nobody knew what the Hell to think. But they were pretty happy about it. Disney's loss was pretty hilarious and wonderful to a large group of folks who didn't want this in the first place.

I honestly didn't give the place another thought since hearing it closed over a decade ago. I live maybe four hours from Emerald Isle, so really I only heard the rumblings and didn't experience any of it first-hand.

Then I read this article from someone who had explored the Treasure Island resort and posted a whole blog about all the crazy shit he found there. Stuff just... left behind. Things smashed, defaced, probably ruined by the disgruntled former employees who had lost their jobs.

Hell, the locals from all around probably had a hand in wrecking that place. People there felt just as angry about Treasure Island as folks here did about Mowgli's Palace.

Plus there were rumors that Disney had released their aquarium "stock" into the local waters when they closed... including sharks.

Who wouldn't want to take a few swings at some merchandise after that?

Well, what I'm getting at is that this blog about Treasure Island got me thinking. Even though many years had passed since its closing, I figured it might be cool to do some "Urban Exploration" at Mowgli's Palace. Take some photos, write about my experience, and probably see if there was anything I could take home as a memento.

I'm not going to say I wasted no time in getting there, because honestly it took me another year after I first found that Treasure Island article to get around to going up to Emerald Isle.

Over the course of that year, I did a lot of research on the Palace resort... or rather, I tried to.

Naturally, no official Disney site or resource made any mention of the place. That had been scrubbed clean.

Even odder, however, was that nobody before myself had apparently thought to blog about the place or even post a photo. None of the local TV or Newspaper sites had one word about the place, though that was to be expected since they had all swung Disney's way. They wouldn't be out there lauding their embarrassment, you know?

Recently, I learned that corporations can actually ask Google, for example, to remove links from search results... basically for no good reason. Looking back, it's probably not that nobody spoke of the resort, but rather their words were made inaccessible.

So in the end I could barely find the place. All I had to go on was an old-as-hell map I'd received in the mail back in the 90s. It was a promotional item sent out to people who had recently been to Disney world, and I guess since I had been there in the late 80s, that was "recent".

I didn't really intend to hang onto it. It just got shoved in with my books and comics from my childhood. I'd only remembered it months into my research, and even then it took me another few weeks to locate the storage bin my parents had shoved it all into.

But I DID find it. Locals were no help, as most were transplants who had moved to the beach in recent years... or old residents who just sneered at me and made rude gestures the second I managed to say "Where would I find Mowgli's---"

The drive took me through an inordinately long corridor of overgrowth. Tropical plants that had run rampant and overpopulated the area mixed with the native species of flora that actually BELONGED there and had tried to reclaim the land.

I was in awe when I reached the front gates of the resort. Tremendous, monolithic wooden gates whose supports to either side looked like they must've been cut from giant sequoias. The gate itself had been gouged in several places by woodpeckers and eaten away at the base by burrowing insects.

Hanging on the gate was a sheet of metal, some random scrap, with hand-painted letters scrawled in black. "ABANDONED BY DISNEY". Clearly the handiwork of some past local or an employee who wanted to make some small protest.

The gates were open enough to walk through, but not drive, so grabbing my digital camera and the map, whose flip-side showed a layout of the resort, I set off on foot.
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