Contemporary Legend

“My sister told me that inside the top of the Matterhorn at Disneyland there is a basketball court.  Apparently, years ago, there used to be people that would climb the Matterhorn, people hired by Disneyland as entertainers.  When they were waiting to climb, the people could play basketball to pass the time.  I’m pretty sure that Disneyland discontinued the climbers, but at night during the fireworks, Tinkerbell flies from the top of the Matterhorn, so its possible that she uses the basketball court before the show starts.”

In December 2007, Sarah visited the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, CA.  She said that while telling her sister about her plans to visit the park, her sister told her about the secret basketball court inside the Matterhorn ride.  Her sister found out this information from a friend’s father who used to work at Disneyland, and therefore was trusted as a credible informant.  When Sarah visited Disneyland, she said that asked the tram driver if there really was a basketball court at the top of the Matterhorn, and he confirmed the story.  He said that it is smaller than a half court, but it has a hoop, backboard, and lines marking the floor.

Because so few people know that there actually is a basketball court inside the ride, many people think it is a merely a rumor that adds to the mystery of Disneyland.  In addition to the “hidden mickeys” in the park, and the underground tunnel system used by characters and cast members, the basketball court is another example of the many Disney secrets that the public is often not aware of.  Although hearing about such a strange urban legend is probably interesting in any situation, since so many people have been to Disneyland, the context of hearing the legend is enhanced in Sarah’s case since she discussed it while she was at Disneyland.  She was able to see the Matterhorn in person, and talk to someone who worked for the park that could confirm the legend.  She said it made her trip to Disneyland even more special, because she felt like she got to be part of a secret.

Most of the time, urban legends are not falsifiable and therefore cannot be proven or disproven.  Sarah had direct access to a Disney employee, though, and therefore was about to confirm the story.  On one hand, this can be viewed as a detriment to Sarah, because some of the mystery of Disneyland has been taken away.  However, knowing about a secret basketball court has not ruined Sarah’s perception of the theme park, and in fact has caused her to feel more curious about what other strange things exist inside Disneyland.

When Sarah told me about this Disney secret, I did not believe her at first.  Because I have lived in Los Angeles my whole life and have visited Disneyland countless times, it is hard to believe that I had never heard of the basketball court before.  This attitude probably added to the strength of the urban legend, though, since those types of stories are especially good at challenging a person’s beliefs.  Like Sarah, I also felt that learning about the basketball court did not detract from my appreciation of the magical world of Disney.  Instead, it made me want to further investigate other secrets in the park and learn more.  I think because I’ve grown up going to Disneyland and felt so sure that I knew every part of the park, this new information is especially intriguing.  This may hold true for others as well and could also help explain why people are so interested in hearing urban legends.

Annotation:  The following book confirms the basketball court in the Matterhorn, and also provides more information about the inner-workings of Disneyland:

Koenig, David. Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland. Irvine, CA: Bonaventure Press, 1994.