There are so many things to do and see in Disneyland that often some of the fun is overlooked. Some of the little things (like the penny presses and the shooting arcade) are well advertised but others, such as the fortune tellers, are less well known. Over my next few blogs, I thought that I might share some of my favorite things to do when the lines are long, the weather is inclement, and I just need a break from the all immersive Disney experience. Today, I bring you Esmerelda, the fortune teller on Main Street, USA.
As you walk down Main Street, USA towards the castle, on your left, you will come to the Penny Arcade. Today this building is a candy shop but back in the olden days of Disneyland, the Penny Arcade was just that – a penny arcade. It housed many fun and interesting novelties. In the 1970’s, when I was old enough to enjoy the old wooden boxed amusements here, my grandfather, cousins, and I would wander through, watching hand flipped movies and checking our nerves and strengths on the contraptions inside. This is back when tickets were king and so a full day of fun had to be planned out based on just how many of those coveted E-tickets you could afford. Grandpa took the grandkids to the Penny Arcade because it was entertainment at the cost of a penny and one of our favorite people to visit was Esmerelda.
Esmerelda still sits in her wood and glass box at the entrance of the Penny Arcade today. She watches as you pass, beckoning you to her so that she can read your future in the tarot cards. She’s a gypsy and so she will only read your future for a small donation. But if you are willing to pay, she will tell you all about your miraculous life.
Visiting Esmerelda on our first day at Disneyland has become a family tradition. Each of us slips our shiny quarter in the coin slot and waits for her to look at us and then wave her hand over the cards several times. Soon, she will deposit a paper card with our fortune, lucky color, and lucky number on it. These cards make a fun keepsake of our time in the parks. Each card is one of a set and if your party is smaller (under six or eight people), each of you should get a unique fortune. If you are a collector and want a copy of each card, it is simply a matter of feeding coins into the coin slot.
Esmerelda was purchased for the Penny Arcade and has been reading the cards since 1955. Amazingly, she never seems to age, but she has changed her style. Back in 1955, she was more of a Grecian storyteller. When she because a gypsy is up for debate. Like her clothing, Esmerelda also regularly changes her tarot deck. One guest favorite is her haunted mansion deck.
Many people have asked about how Esmerelda was made, and they understandably think that WED made her. However, Esmerelda is one of the wax-faced fortune tellers popular on the pier amusement parks. I have not been able to find out where she was purchased from, but she came to the park and was dressed by wardrobe. She then made her debut with the park in 1955. Back then, she would read your fortune for a penny.
She, like all the mechanical wonders in the Penny Arcade and round the park, is maintained by the miraculous Cast Members in the Mechanical Department. Even given her age, you will very infrequently see her off duty. And, if she is feeling unwell, these Cast Members usually have her up to par before the end of the day, so be sure to check back.
Have you stopped to have your fortune read by Esmerelda? Share your memories in the comments.
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