CLOSE
Original image
daveland

11 Wonderful Former Disney Rides

Original image
daveland

Since Disneyland's opening in 1955, and Disney World's in 1971, a lot of attractions have come and gone. Disney likes to hold on to its successful rides, but some were too costly, or just not popular enough; others were just collateral damage for newer and more exciting rides (the fact that Disney World's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride closed still stings). These rides are lost, but not forgotten. Let us look back at the nostalgic graveyard of defunct Disney rides. 

1. Phantom Boats // Disneyland, 1955 – 1956

This ride never stood a chance. Lasting just a year, its big problem was that it was too boring. Originally called the Tomorrowland Boats, this ride featured slowly moving white vessels that visitors could drive around the lagoon. On August 16, 1955, they were rechristened The Phantom Boats and redesigned with tailfins that were apparently a mechanical nightmare; the boats left park-goers stranded in the middle of the lake and undoubtedly very unhappy. The boats' last appearance was in the summer of 1956, making it the first ride to be removed from Disneyland.

2. Submarine Voyage // Disneyland, 1956 - 1998

Inspired by the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, The Submarine Voyage replaced the Phantom Boats. Passengers could board the Disneyland Nautilus—or one of the other seven submarines—for a fanciful re-creation of the actual craft's journey to the North Pole. Although the submarines never actually went underwater, bubble jets gave the illusion of diving deeper and props were scattered throughout the track. Patrons could see sea monsters, turtles, glowing fish, and even mermaids. You can check out this video from 1959 to see what it was like:

The ride stayed mostly the same for its duration, with the exception of a new coat of yellow paint in the mid-'80s. A similar ride opened in Disney World called 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1971, and due to costs, the Florida ride was shut down in 1994, followed by the California version in 1998. The original Submarine Voyage was renovated to become a new ride. Today, you can hop in a submarine and see your favorite Disney fish in the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. 

3. Flying Saucers // Disneyland, 1961 - 1966

The Flying Saucers ride was sort of a mix between bumper cars and air hockey. Giant saucers big enough for an average-sized person to sit on were propelled across an arena by air valves; riders shifted their weight to direct the craft where they wanted to go. It was popular, but suffered from a lot of problems when larger guests tried to ride. As a result, it closed for good in 1966. Today, the spot is occupied by Space Mountain.

4. Astro Jets // Disneyland, 1956 - 1966

Located in the heart of Tomorrowland, this delightfully retro-futuristic ride gave patrons a great view of the park. Each rocket was big enough to snugly fit two riders and came with a lever that made it go up and down. Rocket Jets, a similar spinning ride with more modern-looking jets, eventually replaced the ride in 1967.

5. Rainbow Mountain Stagecoach Ride // Disneyland, 1956 - 1959

The stagecoaches in Frontierland gave visitors a chance to get the feel for transportation in the Wild West. After deciding whether to sit up top or inside, riders were transported back in time and through the Living Desert. The scenery featured balancing boulders, cartoonish cacti, and interesting rock formations. Unfortunately, the stagecoaches had a tendency to tip over and spook the mules; breakaway harnesses resulted in stranded passengers and missing mules—yikes!

6. Rainbow Caverns Mine Train // Disneyland, 1956 - 1977 

The mine train also went through the Living Desert, but unlike the stagecoaches, this ride brought its passengers into the rainbow caverns. Riders were transported through a beautiful cavern illuminated by beautifully colorful lakes and waterfalls. After the ride, patrons exited through the Mineral Hall, where rocks glow with the power of a black light. 

The ride was expanded in 1960, and became the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland. This new and improved ride now featured robotic animals, fossils, and Cascade Peak, a large mountain complete with waterfall. The ride was replaced by the rollercoaster Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in 1979, and most of the remnants have been bulldozed or removed. 

7. Delta Dreamflight // Disney World, 1989 - 1998

This ride aimed to encourage visitors to travel the world, and more importantly, to use Delta Airlines to do it. The attraction featured a hodge-podge of projection screens, animatronics, and pop-up storybook style sets. Passengers waited in an area fashioned to look like a terminal, and climbed into painted blue cars. The guests would then “take off” and travel through the ride. The ride was replaced by Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin in 1998. 

SEE ALSO: 13 Facts About Disney’s Haunted Mansion

8. Adventure Thru Inner Space // Disneyland 1967 - 1985

Patrons of this ride would start by climbing into "Atommobiles." These cars would slowly enter a giant microscope, where the riders would then be "shrunk down" to microscopic size. (People waiting on line would watch the visitors ahead of them shrink and disappear.) After passing through the microscope, passengers were then shot into a snowflake. This simulation was created by moving the cars back and forth while bringing them through a dark tunnel. The tiny navigators emerged from the dark tunnel and were welcomed by gigantic falling snowflakes. As the riders shrunk in size, the sights changed: giant snowflakes became molecules, and molecules broke down to atoms. Up on top, a giant eye watched the ride through a microscope. The ride was eventually replaced by Star Tours in 1986.

9. PeopleMover // Disneyland 1967 - 1995

The PeopleMover was a lot like Florida’s Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. Made to seem like the transportation mode of the future, these trains took patrons on a 16-minute ride around the park. The loading was done with some hustle: the train cars never stopped and doors closed automatically. After hopping inside, riders got a nice view of Tomorrowland. The ride was closed in 1995 in an effort to save money, but it remains standing.

10. Flight to the Moon // Disneyland 1967 – 1975

Previously called Rocket to the Moon, Flight to the Moon took place beside the Moonliner, the giant spaceship in the middle of Tomorrowland. At the time, the ship was the tallest thing in the park. The attraction inside was more like a simulation than a ride; visitors would sit in chairs surrounded by projectors, and the chairs would vibrate as the screens showed images of the moon. In 1975, the ride changed to Mission to Mars since, by then, humans had already been to the moon. No word on what the next iteration will be when we finally make it to Mars. 

11. Journey Into Imagination // Disney World 1983 - 1998 

Like many other Disney rides, this one has seen many different incarnations. The current ride is called Journey into Imagination with Figment, but Figment didn’t always have such a large role. In the original ride, the passengers glided through what seemed like clouds. A bearded man with a top hat and goggles would fly over to the guests and introduce himself as “Dreamfinder.” He drove a contraption that collected dreams and the guests came along for the ride. The visitors are shown multiple rooms with different themes, like art, literature, and science. Today, the ride focuses on the five senses and Figment is in every scene (although Dreamfinder is nowhere to be found).


Original image
iStock
arrow
Weird
Watch Plastic Skeletons Being Made in a 1960s Factory
Original image
iStock

The making of human teaching skeletons used to be a grisly affair, involving the manipulation of fresh—or not-so-fresh—corpses. But as this video from British Pathé shows, by the 1960s it was a relatively benign craft involving molded plastic and high temperatures, not meat cleavers and maggots.

The video, accented by groan-worthy puns and jaunty music, goes inside a factory in Surrey that produces plastic skeletons, brains, and other organs for use in hospitals and medical schools. The sterile surroundings marked a shift in skeleton production; as the video notes, teaching skeletons had long come from the Middle East, until countries started clamping down on exporting human remains. Before that, human skeletons in Britain and the United States were often produced with a little help from grave-robbers, known as the Resurrection Men. After being dissected in anatomical classes at medical schools, the stolen corpses were often de-fleshed and transformed into objects for study. The theft of these purloined bodies, by the way, started several of America's first riots. Far better they be made out of plastic.

Original image
iStock
arrow
History
Assault, Robbery, and Murder: The Dark History of "Bedsheet Ghosts"
Original image
iStock

Wearing his finest black outfit, Francis Smith stared nervously at the three judges in London’s main criminal courthouse. A mild-mannered excise tax collector, Smith had no known criminal history and certainly no intention to become the centerpiece of one of 19th century England’s most unusual murder trials. But a week earlier, Smith had made a criminally foolish mistake: He had shot and killed what he believed to be a ghost.

The spectators inside the courthouse sat hushed as the prosecutor and a cross-examiner questioned about half a dozen eyewitnesses. Each person had seen Smith in the village of Hammersmith (now a part of London) the night of the crime, or they had previously seen the ghost that Smith was zealously hunting. One such eyewitness, William Girdler, the village night-watchman and Smith’s ghost-hunting partner, had not only seen the white-sheeted specter lurking across the street—he had chased it.

“When you pursued it,” the cross-examiner asked, “how did it escape?”

“Slipped the sheet or table-cloth off, and then got it over his head,” Girdler responded. “It was just as if his head was in a bag.”

“How long had the neighborhood been alarmed with its appearance?”

“About six weeks or two months.”

“Was the alarm great and general?”

“Yes, very great.”

“Had considerable mischief happened from it?”

“Many people were very much frightened.”

Girdler was telling the truth. The people of Hammersmith had reported seeing a ghost for weeks now, and they were terrified: The specter was verifiably violent. It assaulted men and women, and during its two month campaign of harassment and intimidation, it had successfully evaded capture. Rumors swirled that it could manifest from graves in an instant, and sink back into the mud just as quickly. At the time, the magazine Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum reported that the ghost was “so clever and nimble in its retreats, that they could never be traced.”

When Ann Millwood took the stand, the cross-examiner asked if she was familiar with these reports.

The Hammersmith Ghost.
The Hammersmith ghost

“Yes, I heard great talk of it,” Millwood explained, “that sometimes it appeared in a white sheet, and sometimes in a calf-skin dress, with horns on its head, and glass eyes.” That wasn’t all. The ghost also reportedly took the shape of Napoleon Bonaparte; other accounts said that its eyes radiated like glow-worms and that it breathed fire.

It must have been incredibly difficult for Millwood to describe the ghost’s appearance, especially in front of a public audience. The ghoul she characterized looked nothing like her late brother Thomas, the young man whom Francis Smith had mistakenly murdered.

 
 

In 19th century Britain, seeing a ghost—at least, a person dressed up as one—was not uncommon. Ghost impersonating was something of a fad, with churchyards and cobblestoned alleyways regularly plagued by pranksters, louts, and other sheet-wearing hoaxsters who were up to no good.

Historian Owen Davies tracks the origin of ghost impersonators in his wide-ranging book, The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts, tracing the first reports of fake ghosts to the Reformation, when critics of Catholicism accused the Church of impersonating the dead to convert doubters. (According to one account by the reformer Erasmus, a priest once fastened candles to a cast of crabs and released them in a dark graveyard in hopes of imitating the lost, wandering souls of purgatory.)

But for most ghost impersonators, candle-strapped crustaceans were unnecessary; all you needed was a white sheet. Up until the 19th century, the bodies of the poor weren’t buried in coffins but simply wrapped in fabric—sometimes the sheet of the deathbed—which would be knotted at the head and feet. Ghost impersonators adopted the white sheet as their de facto wardrobe as early as 1584, when Reginald Scott, a member of parliament and witchcraft aficionado, wrote that, “one knave in a white sheet hath cozened [that is, deceived] and abused many thousands that way.” It’s from this practice that the trope of a white-sheeted ghost originated.

Seventeenth and 18th century Britain are sprinkled with accounts of phony phantoms. Take Thomas Wilmot, a famed crook and highwayman who once disguised himself as a spirit to steal money. (His appearance—chalked-up skin and a sheet-bound head—sent a table of gamblers scrambling for an exit. Wilmot pocketed the cash they left on the table.) And by the 1760s, so many white-sheeted pranksters were prowling in cemeteries that annoyed citizens were paying bounties to get rid of them. According to the Annual Register, one ghost in southern Westminster “struck such terror into the credulous inhabitants thereabouts, that those who could not be brought to believe it a ghost, entered into a subscription, to give five guineas to the person, who would seize him.”

These pranks had consequences. In 1792, a ghost impersonator in Essex spooked a farm-worker steering a wagon; the horses jumped, the driver tumbled, and his leg was crushed by one of the wagon’s wheels. He died from his injuries. Twelve years later, soldiers in London’s St. James’s Park spotted the specter of a headless woman, an event that authorities took very seriously, if only because it was distracting—and reportedly harming—its security guards. In the 1830s, a ghost impersonator was tried for manslaughter because he literally frightened an 81-year-old woman to death.

It was dangerous for the so-called ghosts, too. In 1844, six men chased a ghost impersonator and beat him so badly that he had to visit the hospital. In 1888, a mob of 50 villagers—all armed with sticks—surrounded a “ghost” and only released him after he agreed to donate money to a local infirmary. (Some ghost-busts startled investigators for other reasons: Davies writes that, in 1834, an investigation of an unoccupied haunted house revealed “nothing more than some boisterous love-makers.”)

Like many other pastimes in 19th century Britain, ghost impersonating was a gendered activity: Women, especially young female servants, were often restricted to mimicking poltergeist activity indoors—rapping on doors, moving furniture, throwing rocks at windows—while the sheet-wearing hijinks were reserved for young men who, far too often, had scuzzy intentions.

Most accounts of ghost impersonating, both modern and historical, gloss over the fact that men often used their ghostly cover to intimidate, harass, sexually assault, and even rape women. In his precise and critical account of ghost impersonators, Spirits of an Industrial Age, the historian Jacob Middleton argues that ghost impersonating was not only the domain of juvenile pranksters, but also that of sexual predators. This was made most painfully clear during the 1830s, the height of hauntings by “Spring-Heeled Jack.”

Spring-Heeled Jack.
Spring-Heeled Jack
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Every day, London’s women had to contend not only with the persistent threat of cads and street harassers, but also with men the press dubbed “Monsters,” menaces who stalked, grabbed, groped, slashed, and stabbed women in the breasts and buttocks. These criminals were piquerists, people who took sexual pleasure in piercing the skin of women, and a spate of attacks in the 1780s put all of London at unease. In the early 1800s, these boors started to take cover by dressing as ghosts. Spring-Heeled Jack, called a “monster in human form,” was among them: Hiding in alleyways after sunset, he would seek lone women, knock on their doors, and attempt to tear away their clothes with hooks. Thanks to London’s sensationalist press, tales of Spring-Heeled Jack would bloat into urban legend.

But even before Spring-Heeled Jack, on a normal evening, the women of Hammersmith were justified in feeling worried about stepping outside after dark. Organized police forces were a relatively new idea in Great Britain, and solitary neighborhoods such as Hammersmith were protected by little more than a roving constable or watchman. Reports of the Hammersmith ghost intensified that anxiety. (The community's men weren’t much help. As the Morning Post reported, “[The ghost] was seen on Monday evening last pursuing a woman, who shrieked dreadfully. Although there were four male passengers in the stage coach, which passed at the time, not one durst venture to the rescue of the distressed female.”) It wasn’t until weeks of attacks that bands of locals, their bellies sloshing with ale supplied by the nearest public house, began taking to the streets to stop the menace.

It was at the intersection of these two sad facts that the tragedy at Hammersmith unfolded: Francis Smith went out on January 3, 1804 to catch a ghost, while Thomas Millwood went out to ensure that his wife, who was walking home alone in the dark, did not meet one.

 
 

Thomas Millwood was told he resembled the Hammersmith ghost. A bricklayer, Millwood wore a white jacket, white trousers, and a white apron, an ensemble that scared a carriage-riding couple one dark Saturday night. When the passerby exclaimed to his wife, “There goes the ghost!” Millwood turned and uncorked a few colorful and unprintable words, asking if the man wanted “a punch in the head.”

After the incident, a family member named Phoebe Fullbrooke implored Millwood to change his wardrobe at night. “Your clothes look white,” she said. “Pray do put on your great coat, that you may not run any danger.” Millwood mumbled something about how he hoped the town’s vigilantes would catch the ghost, but he neglected the advice and continued walking home in his white work clothes.

A few nights later, Francis Smith and William Girdler went ghost hunting.

Compelled by reports of the ghost’s violence, the men carried firearms. Hammersmith’s spirit had choked a man and the village swirled with rumors that it had even attacked a pregnant woman who later died of shock. According to one report, the apparition caused “so much alarm, that every superstitious person in that neighborhood had been filled with the most powerful apprehensions.” But superstitions mattered little. Ghost or not, there was undoubtedly a public menace in Hammersmith, and people wanted it gone. A bounty of 10 pounds would be awarded to anybody who caught it.

A depiction of Francis Smith hunting the Hammersmith ghost in 'The Newgate Calendar.'
A depiction of Francis Smith hunting the Hammersmith ghost in The Newgate Calendar.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

That same night, Thomas Millwood stopped at his father’s house and began chatting with his sister Ann. Sometime between 10 and 11 p.m., she suggested he leave and escort his wife, who was still in town, back home. “You had better go,” Ann said. “It is dangerous for your wife to come home by herself.” Millwood agreed and stepped outside, wearing his white bricklayer’s clothes. He didn’t know that he was walking down the same unlit lane as Francis Smith, shotgun in tow.

When Smith spotted the white figure gliding in his direction, he lifted his fowling piece to his shoulder and yelled, “Damn you, who are you? Stand, else I’ll shoot you.” The air stood silent. He yelled a second time and stared down the barrel. Not hearing any response, Smith fired.

Millwood’s sister heard the gunshot and screamed for Thomas, but, like Smith, she heard no response. She later found her brother lying face up on the dirt lane, his face stained black with gunpowder, his white clothes stained red.

 
 

The Caledonian Mercury reported the sad news later that week: “We have to announce to the public an event, in some of its circumstances so ludicrous, but in its result so dreadful, that we fear if the reader should even laugh with one side of his mouth, he must of necessity cry with the other.”

The moment the smell of spent gunpowder hit his nose, Smith knew he’d made a mistake. Millwood had been killed instantly; the shot entered his lower left jaw and exited through the back of his neck. Smith barged into the White Hart pub in visible distress, possibly in shock, and waited to be arrested. One week later, he stood trial at London’s Old Bailey courthouse. The jury deliberated for 45 minutes before returning with a conviction of manslaughter.

The three judges rejected the sentence.

“The Court have no hesitation whatever with regard to the law,” Justice Rooke exclaimed, “and therefore the verdict must be—‘Guilty of Murder’ or ‘a total acquittal from want to evidence.’” In other words, the jury could not be wishy-washy. Smith was either guilty of murder, or not guilty of murder—the jury needed to decide.

Within minutes, Smith was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to hang the next Monday; his body would be dissected in the name of science.

Reports of Smith’s trial were lurid. As the Newgate Calendar tells it, “When the dreadful word ‘Guilty!’ was pronounced [Smith] sank into a state of stupefaction exceeding despair.” His feelings were likely intensified by the admission of John Graham, a Hammersmith shoemaker who days earlier admitted to starting the Hammersmith ghost hoax. (Graham began impersonating the specter to scare his apprentices, who he complained were filling his children’s heads with nonsense about ghosts. Unfortunately, his prank appears to have inspired violent copycats to engage in what the Caledonian Mercury called “weak, perhaps wicked frolic.”)

In the end, Smith would be lucky. His sentence was sent to His Majesty King George III, who not only delayed the execution but eventually granted Smith a full pardon.

The Hammersmith ghost trial, however, would haunt England’s legal system for almost another two centuries. Smith’s case would remain a philosophical head-scratcher: If somebody commits an act of violence in an effort to stop a crime from occurring—only to realize later that they were mistaken and that no crime was being committed—is that person still justified in using violence? Or are they the criminal? British law would not be make room for this gray area until the 1980s.

Meanwhile, the tragedy in Hammersmith failed to deter England’s many ghost impersonators. Pranksters and creeps alike continued wearing bedsheets in dark cemeteries and alleyways for almost another century. In fact, the ghost of 1803 and 1804 would not be the last specter to haunt the village of Hammersmith. Two decades later, a ghost would return. But this time, villagers whispered rumors that this haunting was real, caused by the angry soul of a white-clad bricklayer named Thomas Millwood.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios