TMSM Monday Myth Busters: River Country and Haunted Mansion Myths

10509500_4212157479749_81199148026484198_nThe goal of this blog series is to factually prove or disprove rumors and myths in the Disney-verse. Tonight on TMSM Mythbusters we’re taking on more reader suggestions!

River Country Closed Because?

Daniella Ortiz De Cammalleri asked “Was River Country abandoned due to water contamination?”
Walt Disney’s River Country was a seasonal water park near Fort Wilderness. River Country opened in 1976 and used water from the damned off Bay Lake in a sandy bottomed man-made lagoon, the water was filtered but not purified. In 1980 there were four deaths in the state of Florida connected to the amobea caused amoebic meningoencephalitis infection, one of these deaths was connected to River Country, BUT the park did not close for another twenty one years.

Unlike Typhoon Lagoon (opened 6/1/89) and Blizzard Beach (opened 4/1/95) which could have the temperature of their rides and pools attractions heated allowing them to be open all year,  River Country’s lake water source really couldn’t be heated making it a seasonal water park. During this time frame the State of Florida also started modifying their laws about pools and water parks regarding chlorinated water and it’s use in water park attractions. Due to River Country’s water source being natural and not piped in, chlorinating the water system to the required state levels would have been hard to do. Below you will find SOME of the current Florida codes regarding swimming pools and bathing places that would have effected River Country.

64E-9.004 Operational Requirements.

(1) Water Quality – The water supply for all pools shall be an approved potable water system or shall meet the requirements for potable water systems by the submission from the operator of bacteriological and chemical laboratory reports to the county health department. Salt water sources are exempt from the potable water chemical standards except for iron and color requirements.

(d) Chemical quality – Chemicals used in controlling the quality of the pool water shall be tested and approved using the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF-ANSI) Standard 60-2005, Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals-Health Effects dated September, 2005, which is incorporated by reference in these rules and shall be compatible with other accepted chemicals used in pools. The following parameters shall be adhered to for pool water treatment:

  1. pH – 7.2 to 7.8.
  2. Disinfection – Free chlorine residual shall be 1 milligram per liter (mg/L) to 10 mg/L, inclusive, in conventional swimming pools and 2 mg/L to 10 mg/L, inclusive, in all other type pools such as spa-type pools and interactive water fountains; bromine residual shall be 1.5 mg/L to 10 mg/L, inclusive, in conventional swimming pools and 3 mg/L to 10 mg/L, inclusive, in all other type pools. Except that, the following maximum disinfectant levels shall apply to indoor conventional swimming pools: 5 mg/L free chlorine or 6 mg/L bromine.
  3.  Cleanliness – The pool and pool deck shall be kept free from sediment, floating debris, visible dirt and algae. Pools shall be refinished when the pool surfaces cannot be maintained in a safe and sanitary condition.

So, though Disney has never 100% stated WHY River Country was closed, we can surmise that the twenty one year gap between the amoeba infection did not cause the closing of the park. Instead the changes in laws and drop in travel post 9/11 probably caused the demise of River Country.

10525841_4212157519750_2096196563165430385_nHaunted Mansion Original Home?
Jenni Presley Davidson asked “Was the Haunted Mansion built around an existing house. I have heard the owners supposedly only sold Walt the land on the condition the house not be torn down.” Since Jenni didn’t clarify WHICH Haunted Mansion, I figured I would cover both.

Let’s start with Disneyland since it’s Haunted Mansion opened first. The Disneyland Haunted Mansion is based on Baltimore’s Shipley-Lydecker House which use to sit at 2550 McHenry Street the house was the inspiration for the Mansion’s “home” facade, sadly the original house was torn down and condos now sit on the land. Disney itself notes that construction began on the Haunted Mansion in 1962, and the outside was finished in 1963, but sat unfinished until it opened in 1969. As you can see from the Google earth photos the “house” is really a facade for the ride that is in a HUGE building behind the house.  Thought the Disney notes there was “60-acres of citrus trees had been cleared and 15 houses moved to make room for the park” they never mention one being left behind to become the Haunted Mansion. So based on the fact the house’s model was across the country, and Disney notes themselves they built the Mansion from top to bottom it’s sort of hard to go with the idea an insisting home was there.

pre-dl-landScreen Shot 2014-12-14 at 6.04.56 PM4LRD10034_014Shipley-Lydecker---29572000

In Florida when the majority of the land for Walt Disney World was purchased sellers had no idea Disney was buying the land from them. Walt and his crew set up multiple shell companies when buying the land to keep prices from jumping. When the Orlando Sentinel found out what was going on prices soared, prior to article the swampland was $180 and then soared to $80,000 an acre. Like Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion the “house” is a facade for the ride that is actually goes through a huge hidden building (see Google Earth Image). Park owned and released imagery show the mansion was in fact completely constructed by Disney. Also from what we can find in researching land purchases and survey photos ( 05-NOV-57  DSQS) by using the address of the Contemporary there were no homes in the Haunted Mansion area prior to construction of the park.


Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 6.03.09 PM

So while BOTH parks had to have land cleared off to build the attractions we all know and love, based on Disney’s photographic history, their own stories of construction, and aerial imagery from before the parks were built I would say no,  land owners did not demand Disney turn an existing home into either Haunted Mansion.


*IMAGES from,,,,

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Michele Atwood is the Owner/Editor of The Main Street Mouse and it’s subsidiaries and author of the books “Moving to Main Street U.S.A.” “How Many Sleeps Till Disney?” and “How Many Sleeps Till Disneyland?” Michele also contributes Disney news to the Joe Kelley Morning Show on 107.3 WDBO in Orlando. She and her family made the move from Michigan to the Orlando area to pursue their Disney dreams. Michele is a life long Disney fan, and has two sons who have followed suit, each going on their first Disney trip before their first birthday’s. Part of the goal Michele has for The Main Street Mouse is not only to keep members informed, but to create somewhat of a Disney Family by relating to others through personal experiences and opinions. Also, Michele is making it a priority to share stories of inspiration and hope to other Disney Fans in an effort to share the Magic and hopefully make a difference in the lives of others. ~ I enjoy writing personal perspective blogs, doing TMSM Meet Ups for our readers, and keeping the constant interaction going with others, sharing the Disney Magic to people when they can’t be at their Happy Place.

Michele has 5972 posts and counting. See all posts by Michele


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