Late last week, Florida authorities launched a daylong manhunt to capture a man endeavoring to escape a pandemic on an abandoned and quite possibly haunted tropical island owned by Disney, an admirable and cinematic effort ultimately thwarted by trespassing laws.
As reported by AL.com, the 42-year-old Richard McGuire of Mobile, Alabama was arrested Thursday night after attempting either a YouTube stunt or the execution of a very chill long-term quarantine plan: Camping on Disney’s Discovery Island, an overgrown island wildlife park that’s been shuttered for nearly 20 years.
According to the Orange County, Florida sheriff’s department, McGuire was first spotted on Discovery Island on Thursday morning by park personnel. Authorities’ entreaties to McGuire, dramatically projected over Disney’s public communications system, went unheeded; deputies then scoured the area by helicopter, boat, and foot. When McGuire was finally apprehended, he said he hadn’t heard the warnings, as he happened to be napping in one of the property’s abandoned buildings—the intrepid explorer also said he hadn’t realized the dilapidated, gated island wasn’t open to the public and described it as a “tropical paradise,” which is exactly what it is.
Discovery Island, once called Treasure Island, opened in 1979 and has been closed to the public since 1999. Originally a zoo, the attraction was home to ring-tailed lemurs, Galapagos tortoises, and innumerable species of birds. (It also, somewhat predictably, sparked an investigation over charges of animal cruelty.) The park was shuttered to make room in Disney’s portfolio for the larger and similarly situated Animal Kingdom—at the time, potential plans for the property included honeymoon cottages and a children’s camp, according to a story in the Orlando Sentinel. None of those plans came to pass, and the 11-acre island has been left more or less untouched ever since.
According to McGuire’s arrest report, the man “stated that he had made entry to go camping on Monday or Tuesday and had planned on staying on the island for approximately one week.” On Sunday, he told the New York Times he had in fact been shooting footage for his YouTube channel. In 2017, one young man beat McGuire to this alleged expose, uploading a video of the lush and spooky landscape to YouTube:
McGuire has been charged with misdemeanor trespassing and has been banned from Disney for life, a small price to pay for four days of complete and uninterrupted solitude. Jezebel salutes McGuire’s effort to repurpose the entertainment conglomerate’s property and live in his own personal action movie.