Or Not

In today’s world many misconceptions have been perpetuated—becoming modern day “facts”—when, in reality, myths and hearsay have taken over. Sorry to burst your bubble, but in this weekly column, Ripley’s puts those delusions to the test, turning your world upside down, because you can’t always…Believe It!

Today: Was Walt frozen?

Walt Disney dedicated his life to the creation of children’s entertainment and became such an important part of American history that his name still lives on today in the films, parks, and the ample merchandise that bear it. Still, Disney was known to be quite secretive, which is part of the reason why rumors still persist about his life and death, the most famous one being that his body—or perhaps just his head—was cryogenically frozen and buried in an undisclosed location so he could live again in the future.

Is the Walt-cicle Rumor True?

While Walt Disney was a strange man who was definitely interested in the future and potentially preoccupied with his own demise, there is no clear evidence to back up the claim that he is frozen and buried in any kind of undisclosed location (the most popular rumor being under Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California). Still, many people continue to believe this far-out claim for a number of reasons.

walt disney frozen

Disney’s Death and the Rumor Mill

Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966 of complications related to the surgery he had undergone for lung cancer. The funeral, which occurred on December 16, was only attended by family and was very small and private. This makes sense, however, as Disney stated while alive that he specifically avoided going to funerals whenever he could help it and didn’t want a funeral of his own.

In addition, many people believe that the exact location of Disney’s plot has not been released to the public. This is untrue as well, as Disney’s plot is a matter of public record, although, because he was a celebrity, the location isn’t given out freely by the officials at his burial site.

Who Said Disney Wanted to Be Frozen?

This is all perfectly understandable, so why are we so convinced that Disney wanted to be—or was—frozen? One reason is because of two biographies that were written about Disney after his death: 1986’s Disney’s World by Leonard Mosely and 1993’s Walt Disney—Hollywood’s Dark Prince by Marc Eliot. Both of these works cited Disney’s interest in cryogenics but have since been widely discredited for their speculative nature and lack of citation.

walt disney and wernher con braun

Walt Disney with aerospace engineer Wernher Von Braun.

Another reason is because cryogenics were just beginning to hit the radars of average Americans around the time of Disney’s death. The magazine Ici Paris actually published the rumor in 1969, stating that it had come from a group of animators who had been enjoying a private joke that somehow went public.

In addition, Bob Nelson, the president of the California Cryogenics Society, gave an interview in 1972, saying that Disney wasn’t frozen but that he had wanted to be. “The truth is, Walt missed out. He never specified it in writing, and when he died the family didn’t go for it. They had him cremated. I personally have seen his ashes. They’re in Forest Lawn. Two weeks later we froze the first man.” Nelson, who was a TV repairman before becoming president of the society the same year Disney died, likely said these things in an attempt to grab attention for his business without making a statement that could be completely discredited.

Disney’s Unfrozen Legacy

Frozen or not, Disney certainly lives on through his company and stories. Still, there is almost no evidence to the idea that the animator is being kept on ice and buried anywhere, let alone under one of his parks.

walt disney plans

Walt Disney discussing park plans with Orange County leaders.

By Julia Tilford, contributor for Ripleys.com


Discover hundreds of strange and unusual artifacts and get hands-on with unbelievable interactives when you visit a Ripley’s Odditorium!