Goths have a soft spot for Disneyland.
Sure, it’s counterintuitive: “The Happiest Place on Earth” wouldn’t seem a natural habitat for black-sheathed disciples of the grim and morbid. But beyond the surface discord are clear harmonies: a love of costumes and glamour, a flair for the sensational and dramatic, an allergy to humdrum reality.
Certain Disney villains, like Ursula and Cruella de Vil, are godmothers of goth in their own right.
And so, once a year for the past 20 years, lovers of darkness from around the country and beyond have descended on Anaheim, Calif., to mix with kindred spirits, spook strangers and, naturally, ride “The Haunted Mansion.”
“I’m a Disney kid,” said Noah Korda, 46, who founded the annual pilgrimage, known as Bats Day in the Fun Park, in 1999. “I figured why not combine the subculture that I’m into with something else that I love? And, strangely enough, it worked.”
Korda, a graphic designer and former nightclub proprietor from Van Nuys, Calif., estimates that thousands of revelers swarmed Disneyland on May 6 for this year’s event, a spike from previous editions, he said.
Things have changed over the years according to attendee Allison Kelley.
“People’s perspectives are changing. Before, parents would see me and grab their kids like, ‘Let’s get away from the scary lady!’ But now they’re asking me for advice on the safest way to bleach their hair,” she said.
But the festivities were bittersweet. While Bats Day in the past had been accompanied by various events — including a pop-up market and a concert — budget constraints relegated this year’s agenda to a group photo at the Magic Castle and trip to “The Haunted Mansion.”
A miscommunication, Korda said, created the impression among some attendees that the event would be terminated altogether after this year.
(Korda, true to type, was perhaps too pessimistic in a news release.)
But in a phone interview, he said Bats Day would continue, although most likely in its new, more limited incarnation.
The dream (or nightmare) lives on.