Disney fans "explore" off-limit areas of park
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
ORLANDO - It's a side of Disney World you've probably never seen before - a secret world of hidden underground tunnels and forgotten parks.
"I'm not a brave person I'm just a regular guy," said Disney fan Leonard Kinsey, who uses a fictitious name. "But my curiosity is so strong that it just propels me to take these risk."
Kinsey is one of several "urban explorers" that are pulling back the curtain on Disney - trespassing inside parts of the park off limits to the public, videotaping their experience, and uploading it all to YouTube.
"Some people would think you're crazy for doing this?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"I think I'm crazy sometimes," said Kinsey, a self-described obsessed Disney fan, inside a Disney hotel.
Kinsey's crazy obsession has led him, and others, to explore employee-only areas of the Magic Kingdom.
"I got a little bored with riding 'It's a Small World,'" said Kinsey. "And decided I needed a little more entertainment than that."
Kinsey has been visiting Disney World since he was a little kid. He's the author of a book called "The Darkside of Disney" - an underground guide describing his views on the best places to do drugs in the park, where to have public sex, and off-limit areas to "explore."
The book has sold more than 30,000 copies, according to Kinsey.
He says his love of the park and the feeling he'd seen everything there is to see, compelled him to peek behind the curtain.
"To me it's like you live in a house for 30 years and you've never gone in the basement," said Kinsey. "That's just weird."
In this case, Disney's "basement" is a subterranean city known as the "Utilidors." It's a bustling underground tunnel system for employees only that allows cast members to travel from one park to another without being seen.
As Kinsey and his camera discovered, the unmarked entrances are hidden in plain site. Kinsey posted the video of experience inside the Utilidors on YouTube.
"The park above is so clean and pristine and manicured," said Kinsey. "When you get down to the Utilidors it's a dump."
"Not the side Disney wants you to see?," asked Grant.
"Not at all," said Kinsey. "There are costumed characters half out of costume. You'll see Goofy walking around with his head off...It's a different world."
As it turns out, there are other "hidden worlds."
Disney's River Country closed for good back in 2001. A Disney fan-turned-explorer, who goes by the name "Adam the Woo," developed a cult following sneaking into off-limit areas and posting the videos online.
"It's just morbid curiosity," said Adam.
In 2010, Adam filmed himself trespassing into the defunct water park. He described to us what he saw.
"It's just sitting there rotting on Disney property," said Adam, who describes his experience as "nerve-wracking." "The crazy thing is they really haven't done anything with it. They haven't torn it down or done any maintenance on it."
We met a former Disney employee, turned "urban explorer," who goes by the fake name "Nomeus."
"I grew up with the parks and wanted to see how the magic was done," said Nomeus. "Of course, I ruined the magic for myself. But the trade off is that I got to see really cool stuff that no one will probably ever get to see in their lifetime."
Nomeus is with the group Flurbex, or Florida Urban Explorers. In 2007, he and his friends snuck onto Discovery Island, he said.
It was a place where guests could observe the island's birds and animals until it was shut down in 1999, more than a decade ago.
For Nomeus, the forgotten island was a perfect place to explore.
"We 'borrowed' some Disney boats and paddled over," said Nomeus.
"You stole them?," asked Grant.
"We took them back," said Nomeus laughing. "We took them back when we were done."
It was 2 a.m., pitch black, when Nomeus and his friends rowed over, while trying to avoid being seen by Disney's ferries.
"It's a visceral experience," said Nomeus. "The island is really trashed. It's covered with bird feces and smells really bad."
Photos show documents and maps left behind in buildings that haven't been used in over a decade. Nomeus says he "may or may not" have taken one of the maps.
With these "explorers" posting dozens of videos online, Fox 4 asked Disney World if they consider this kind of behavior to be a security risk.
"We have extensive security measures," said Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger. "But to discuss any of them would compromise their effectiveness. We restrict access to backstage areas for a variety of reasons, including the safety of our guests and Cast Members, along with the desire to preserve the Disney magic for all our guests, especially young children."
Nomeus says his intention isn't to do harm.
"One of the things we practice is taking nothing but pictures," said Nomeus, "break nothing but silence and leaving nothing but footprints."
Nomeus, Adam and Leonard could have all left Disney World in handcuffs and charged with trespassing, according to Orlando criminal defense attorney Blaine McChesney.
"In your legal opinion," asked Grant, "are they breaking the law?"
"Yes," said McChesney. "I wouldn't advise anyone to do that."
McChesney says just because the doors to the Utilidors, or anywhere else in the park, aren't always labeled "Employees Only," it's still considered trespassing and could have landed them in jail.
"There's a door to my home that doesn't mean you can open my home and walk right in," said McChesney. "They have their trade secrets in those corridors and they don't want people being in there for those reasons. And I would agree that they shouldn't be in there."
"Backstage areas are generally off limits to guests," said Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger. "As a private property owner, we may file a trespass warning against any guest who deliberately enters an unauthorized area. Repeat violators may be arrested."
But that hasn't stopped Leonard, Adam and Nomeus. The three, who didn't know each other before, found each other's videos online and are now friends.
"Is it worth the risk?," asked Grant.
"It is," said Kinsey, who says he is now "retired" from exploring. "For me it is worth the risk."
But the others don't plan to stop - even if their love of Disney takes them to places it shouldn't.
"When will you guys stop?," asked Grant.
"I don't think there's any reason to stop," said Adam. "I don't see anything wrong with it."
But Disney does see something wrong with it. They alerted law enforcement after viewing one of their recent videos which showed one of the guys sneaking into the audio control room of Epcot's Norway ride.