Words / Teresa Beard
Earlier this week I was listening to a new favorite creepy podcast, Ghosting Around with Kathleen Derose and John Casen. Yeah, the name is really dumb and they tell way too many stupid/dad jokes, but it’s otherwise enjoyable and easy to listen to while I’m doing more important things, like working. Also, John writes for one of my favorite TV shows, Drunk History.
The episode I was listening to involved Disney World. Now, I’ve been to Disney World a bunch of times as an adult and I know most of the stories, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love listening to them. This podcast has multiple episodes about Walt Disney World (that’s the one in Florida, FYI), and this one happened to be about the various hotels on Disney property. If you’re planning a trip to WDW, I highly recommend staying in a Disney hotel. Not only are all of the hotels gorgeous with impeccable service, but most of them aren’t any more expensive than other Orlando-area hotels, and you’re going to save a ton of money using the free airport shuttle (Magical Express, woot!) and the various transportation options within the Disney parks and properties. Buses and boats and trains, oh my!
I was most recently in Disney almost two years ago, when I went with my parents, my sister and brother-in-law and their two kids, who were six and under a year old at the time. It was a big deal to my dad that we all go on a family vacation so we did, and it was awesome.
One thing that’s an absolute must when in Disney is a character breakfast, and the one at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary is my favorite Mickey breakfast. The day we planned to go I was feeling a bit tired and lazy, so I was running behind the rest of the family and ended up making my way to the Contemporary on my own. I’m confident getting around so it wasn’t a big deal to go alone, and I was excited to take the Monorail. Who isn’t? ¡Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas! (This is the Spanish version of “Please stand clear of the doors!”, which some super enthusiastic dude recorded in the 70’s and Disney hasn’t ever changed it.)
The only problem with Disney transportation is that it’s not always super timely. It’s on Florida time which means the clock is irrelevant. It also means that by the time I got to the Contemporary on this particular day, I was running late and pretty focused on finding my family and eating some Mickey waffles. You know, priorities.
Now, the Contemporary isn’t like a normal hotel. The whole thing is a giant trapezoid with the rooms lining the outside walls. The doors to the rooms face the inside of the hotel, and each room has an interior balcony. The middle of the hotel is all open, and on each floor there are little speciality shops, restaurants and cafes. The monorail pulls right into the hotel, so a big portion of one floor is devoted to getting on and off the train, but a bunch of the balconies are clearly visible when passengers exit the Monorail area into the main part of the hotel.
So, there I was, totally distracted thinking about waffles and how adorable my nephew was going to be getting Mickey’s autograph (it was cute af btw), and I’m walking out of the Monorail area to go down to the restaurant, and I look across the hotel and see a little kid with dark hair on the balcony across the hotel. He was just standing there, near one of the rooms, holding a red Mickey head balloon. I thought it was a little creepy that he was just standing there, but there are kids everywhere being weird in Disney. It’s impossible to know if maybe they’ve got sensory issues or something, so I ignore it. What was weird about this kid was his balloon. He was holding a red, old style latex Mickey head balloon.
I’m sure that if I hadn’t been to Disney a dozen or so times in my life I wouldn’t have noticed the dumb balloon, but I have, and I know that they haven’t sold this style of balloon in years. I suppose it’s possible that somewhere in the resort could have been selling them as a throwback, but since the new balloons are way cooler, and bigger, and more expensive, why would they bother?
Nothing else about this kid was remarkable, so while I was processing this information about him I was walking away and going about my day, and by the time I got down to Chef Mickey’s I had totally forgotten about him.
Welp, turns out he’s a fucking ghost.
According to Death in the Tragic Kingdom: An Unauthorized Walking Tour Through the Haunted and Fatal History of Disney Parks by Keaton Moll, the employees call the kid “Robert”, because it’s apparently the default name given to kid ghosts, and the stories range from kind of creepy, like him interacting with other kids, to downright terrifying. The scariest story involves a woman and her daughter on the Monorail, and they saw Robert as they were boarding, and every time they looked away and looked back at him he’d moved closer, until he was standing right at the train window as they pulled out of the station. Hard no.
It’s weird thinking that I saw this semi-sinister kid and didn’t even know it. I guess maybe I dodged a bullet. I guess when I go back on our next family vacation I’ll pay more attention. Or maybe not.