Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour wins the gold medal for the scariest and darkest attraction in Disney history. If you had anything else in mind when thinking of “Disney’s Scariest Attraction Ever,” think again. We will admit that you would be completely justified in guessing ExtraTERRORestrial, but that was nothing compared to this. Never heard of Mystery Tour before? That might be because it belonged to the Cinderella Castle in Tokyo Disneyland, not the Magic Kingdom. Still, the eerie walk-through is infamous among those who know about it.

In 1971, The Walt Disney Company purchased the rights to adapt Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain into a feature film. The company was still only five years past the death of Walt Disney and was trying to get back on its feet. If you have never heard of a Disney movie called “Chronicles of Prydain,” that’s probably because the name of the final movie became The Black Cauldron. Still not ringing a bell? Maybe that is because the movie was a complete flop.

The Black Cauldron was considered pretty dark and gloomy for a Disney movie at the time. In fact, it was the first ever Disney movie to receive a PG rating. Filmmakers chose to make this film dark because they tried to emulate what they thought Walt would have wanted, and he loved to push boundaries. To make matters worse, it was the most expensive animated film to date. Needless to say, The Walt Disney Company lost a lot of money on the project. The blow was so bad that executives even considered only making live-action Disney films from then on. Since then, the company and fans alike have kind of repressed the existence of this film, except at Tokyo Disney.

Tokyo Disneyland was the first theme park built at the Tokyo Disney Resort and opened on April 15, 1983. Constructed in a partnership between the Walt Disney Company and a Japanese corporation called The Oriental Land Company, Tokyo Disneyland was almost identical to the Magic Kingdom. The main difference between the two parks was that Cinderella Castle in Tokyo did not house a restaurant as the Magic Kingdom one does, but instead, a walk-through attraction called Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour. At least that was the plan upon opening of the park; the tour would not open until July 1986.

Tokyo Disneyland was extremely popular right out of the gate. It was arguably the most successful opening for an international Disney Park ever. In fact, it was the first Disney expansion made to international locations. The final cost of Tokyo Disneyland was about 180 billion yen, which was 80 billion yen more than the expected cost of 100 billion yen.

Cinderella Mystery Tour Poster

The Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour was a creepy walkthrough attraction inside Cinderella Castle at Tokyo Disneyland. Inside, guests visited the underground dungeons and barely escaped with their lives after scary encounters with notorious Disney villains. The attraction was partially inspired by Japanese Ghost Houses. These are like Haunted Houses in the United States but much creepier, more immersive, and probably more popular.

Mystery Tour was a D-Ticket attraction, which meant it was a favoured attraction, but not as thrilling as the E-ticket one. Since it was an unusually dark attraction, it was the perfect location to incorporate Disney’s darkest film: The Black Cauldron. Mystery Tour is still the only Disney attraction in the world that prominently references the film.

On the Mystery Tour, if you did not understand any Japanese, you would not know what was happening around you – as there is no English in the attraction. This is especially confusing since the signs outside the attraction can be found written in English. These signs all portrayed the walkthrough as a lighthearted, child-friendly adventure. However, once inside, things go terribly wrong and take a really dark turn. If you do not understand the language spoken by the tour guide, which is Japanese, you, and especially your kids, will likely find yourselves in a stressful situation.

Your tour guide follows a script, similar to Jungle Cruise Skippers, which starts out happy and exciting. She (usually it is a female) takes you to the library. Guests see beautiful portraits of Aurora, Snow White, Pinnochio, and Taran (from Black Cauldron). She praises their hard work in defeating villains, and all of a sudden, the Magic Mirror comes to life. He is very angry that the tour guide is demeaning the Disney villains. He replaces the portraits of heroes with portraits of their respective villains: Maleficent, The Old Hag, Stromboli, and the Horned King. The Magic Mirror opens a hidden door in the wall and challenges guests to venture inside.

The tour guide is hesitant but takes guests through anyway. Guests first enter a room that resembles the Old Hag’s evil lair. On the side is a recipe book opened to a page on how to make poisoned apples. Other villains and their minions make sudden appearances. Maleficent’s minions can be seen hiding underwater. Guests encounter her dragon, which is identical to the one under the castle in Disneyland Paris.

Dragon Animatronic

Finally, guests come face-to-face with a massive and terrifying animatronic of the Horned King from The Black Cauldron. While he is giving his creepy monologue, your tour guide finds the “Chosen One” from the audience. The Chosen One was generally a child young enough to enjoy the experience, but old enough not to be too afraid to participate. The guide and the Chosen One would hold the Sword of Light, which was discovered earlier in the tour. Flashes of light would project toward the animatronic as he was slowly destroyed.

Once the Horned King is gone, the room gets a little brighter and another door appears. Written on the door is the only English phrase in the entire attraction. It says, “Good Conquers Evil.” The tour guide thanks everyone for their help in defeating evil, giving the Chosen One a gold medal to keep.

Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour closed on April 5, 2006. In the final days, every guest on the tour received a gold medal for completing the tour; not just the Chosen One.

The reason behind the closure was never officially announced by Disney or The Oriental Land Company. Although, that has never stopped people from speculating. Even today, rumours still abound. Many believe the attraction closed due to practical reasons. These include high costs, limited guest capacity, or a decrease in popularity. Some think it was closed because it was too secluded and too scary. It was also not structurally strong enough to withstand an earthquake or tsunami. In reality, it was likely a combination of all of the above. The Mystery Tour was replaced by Cinderella’s Fairytale Hall.