- Children frequently get lost in crowded places like malls, stores, and theme parks like Disney World and Disneyland.
- Disneyland officials asserted in the past that they had a perfect record of reuniting children lost at their resort with their families.
- The implication that hundreds of children "go missing" and are never found, or that their dead bodies are buried in the theme park is unsupported by evidence.
On April 19, 2023, a Twitter user claimed that hundreds of children "go missing" every year at Walt Disney World in Florida and that the remains of some of those missing children would be found if law enforcement officers searched the property with trained dogs:
It widely known that 100s of children go missing every year at Disney world. What if @RonDeSantisFL Ordered the state LEOs to use cadaver dogs and sweep the entire property. You can be certain they will find some of the missing children and show the true nature of the park.
The other user tagged in the post, @RonDeSantisFL, is Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis. We reached out to the governor's office for comment but have not heard back.
Cadaver dogs are dogs "specially trained to use their sense of smell to locate human remains and alert people to them," according to the American Kennel Club.
We reached out to the user, who had doubled down on his claim in subsequent replies to other people on Twitter, and asked if he could provide evidence that missing children's bodies could be found in the resort. We did not receive a reply.
In the Twitter thread, the user provided no evidence other than a link to a blog post with the headline, "How Many Kids Go Missing at Disney World?" The blog cited alleged research from the University of Central Florida (UCF) to support the claim that hundreds of children "go missing" every year in Disney World, but officials at the UCF told Snopes in an email that they could not find any such research on that subject – going back years – conducted at the university.
"In my opinion, it's much more likely that children wandered away from their parents while at Disney and are quickly reunited with their families, which is very different than saying they 'go missing'," said Mark Schlueb, director of strategic communications at UCF.
Although we were unable to confirm that UCF research was the ultimate source of the claim, it's likely true that hundreds of kids get lost/separated from their parents in Disney theme parks every year (it would only take one lost child a day to reach 365.) A 1994 story in the Los Angeles Times reported that "scores of children ... are separated from their parents or adult supervisors every day" at Disneyland in California. Disney officials from that park pointed out that "there is always a happy ending to their lost boy and girl stories. Unlike the Lost Boys in Never-Never Land, a vast majority of lost children at Disneyland are reunited with adults within a few minutes."
In fact, the above-referenced blog also noted that "you'll be happy to hear that most of these missing kids are reunited with their parents or guardians within the same time they're reported missing." Snopes reached out to the blogger for more information about the claims in the post. We will update this report when – and if – we get a response.
It's important to note that the phrase "children go missing" carries with it more serious connotations than "children get lost." Even after other users pointed out that the blog itself noted that children were reunited with their families, he kept citing it. In one of his subsequent replies, he wrote, "Yes, most but not all. Where did the rest go?," implying, without evidence, that some children were never seen again.
(Image Via @JesusECast/Twitter)
In the LA Times article, a Disney employee said "[w]e've never lost a child at Disneyland" (in Anaheim, California). We reached out to the Disney World in Orlando for their comments on the claim and to provide data on children who get lost temporarily and if there were any instances of children missing permanently at the theme park. Disney World had not respond as of this writing. We will update this report when – and if – we get a response.
There is zero evidence that children have gone permanently missing in Disney World. Had that been the case, as the tweeter claimed, missing persons investigations would have ensued and there would be records of such. The further claim that missing children have been buried in Disney World has neither evidence nor logic to support it. Snopes checked for reports from credible local or national news media about any corpses of children buried or found at that or any other Disney theme park, and found none.
The tweet went viral amidst a very public locking of horns between DeSantis and Disney after the entertainment titan criticized the governor's signing of legislation that prohibited classroom instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in certain grades.
Myths, hoaxes, and satires about Disney theme parks regularly spring up and Snopes has fact-checked them. For example, it has been claimed that the kidnapping of a child was thwarted because the kidnappers neglected to change the child's shoes, and that people spotted a shark in the water at Disney's Magic Kingdom, which we found originated with a satirical website.