ORLANDO, Fla. – Law enforcement is investigating a series of videos posted on social media that appear to show trespassers sneaking into Central Florida theme parks after-hours and taking unauthorized walking tours of the attractions, News 6 has learned.
Videos recorded in off-limits areas of the Expedition Everest roller coaster at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park and on a closed waterslide at Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay water park were recently posted on YouTube by Matthew St. Cyr.
“I make a living out of it,” said St. Cyr, who acknowledged profiting off the videos through YouTube ad revenue and donations from his viewers. “I’ve got to put food on the table somehow.”
St. Cyr declined to say how much money he earns off his videos, some of which have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
He also refused to disclose his involvement in creating the videos he posts on his YouTube channel. While the identity of the videographer is occasionally concealed, some of the videos appear to show St. Cyr taking part in the excursions.
The South Florida man has been arrested at least twice for trespassing, court records show, and he is currently being prosecuted for allegedly venturing into off-limits areas at Busch Gardens theme park in Tampa.
St. Cyr considers himself to be among a group of hobbyists known as "urban explorers" who venture into abandoned buildings and other manmade structures, often without permission from the property owner.
Unlike Patrick Spikes, a former Disney employee who recently pleaded no contest to charges related to the theft of props from theme park attractions, St. Cyr has never been accused of stealing from the places he visits or sabotaging theme park property.
“One of the most rewarding things for me is to know I’ve tightened security (at the theme parks),” St. Cyr said. “I feel really bad if my videos get someone (in security) fired.”
Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World officials are assisting law enforcement with its investigations into St. Cyr's videos.
“This is dangerous, reckless and unlawful behavior and we will not tolerate it,” said a Universal Orlando spokesperson. “We are taking this very seriously and we are working with the Orlando Police Department on this.”
"In any case where we find someone being intentionally reckless and promoting unsafe acts, we will bring in law enforcement to trespass them so they will no longer be allowed to come back to Walt Disney World," a Disney spokesperson said.
St. Cyr posts ‘urban explorer’ videos
After viewing older videos and photos showing other "urban explorers" trespassing in a defunct water park and zoological attraction at Disney, St. Cyr said he decided to create updated videos of those locations in 2017.
"I just wanted to see it for myself, and I brought a camera so others could see it," St. Cyr said of his videos touring the former River Country and Discovery Island attractions.
Videos on St. Cyr's YouTube channel show tours inside abandoned buildings such as a hospital, funeral home and mansion.
But St. Cyr said his most popular videos are the ones recorded inside theme parks.
“My niche is the parks,” said St. Cyr, who indicated he was originally not a fan of amusement attractions until noticing the spike in viewership for those videos. “The theme park community is a very powerful thing.”
St. Cyr has received two trespass warnings on Disney property, records show.
The first was issued at Epcot in July 2017, according to a copy of the document provided by the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
St. Cyr claims he received it for entering the theme park's shuttered Wonders of Life pavilion after employees had previously escorted him out of the building.
Two months later, Orange County deputies arrested St. Cyr after a Disney employee reported seeing St. Cyr emerging from a construction site at Disney Springs where the former DisneyQuest attraction was located, records show.
“Disney security staff was instructed to be on the lookout (for St. Cyr),” a deputy wrote in a report
St. Cyr later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor trespassing charge. A judge ordered him to pay $378 in fines and sentenced him to the one day in jail he previously served immediately after his arrest, court records show.
The following year St. Cyr was arrested by Brevard County deputies for allegedly trying to enter a power plant in Titusville he mistakenly thought was abandoned, an affidavit shows.
In that case, St. Cyr pleaded no contest to trespassing and was issued a $495 fine. He was also ordered to perform community service, court records indicate.
St. Cyr is currently facing misdemeanor trespass charges in Tampa, where police said he explored a shuttered roller coaster and other off-limits areas inside Busch Gardens theme park in 2018, according to court documents. He has pleaded not guilty.
New videos show Volcano Bay, Everest coaster
For reasons St. Cyr said he will explain in an upcoming video, his YouTube channel has been relatively dormant in the past year, with only a few new videos posted.
That abruptly changed this month, when he uploaded four videos in less than two weeks.
One video shows an unidentified man walking along the tracks of Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest roller coaster after-hours.
The videographer climbs up some faux rockwork and touches a large animatronic yeti figure suspended over the coaster track, the video shows.
In another video, two men can be seen climbing over a fence and entering Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay water park at night.
The men run across the closed water park and ascend stairs leading to some waterslides, the video shows.
One of them attempts to walk down a dry waterslide chute until he discovers how steep it is.
“(Expletive) this!” he said. “You gotta be on a raft.”
As the men return to the fence where they entered, it appears they are being chased by security guards or some other water park employees.
"Hurry up, they're coming!" the videographer yells as he climbs down the fence and enters a truck that was waiting for them just outside the water park.
Some YouTube viewers have condemned St.Cyr's videos.
"Don't let this video inspire you. NEVER do something like this. You will be arrested for trespassing," one YouTube user wrote in the comments under the Volcano Bay video.
But many others express support for the controversial recordings.
"I get that adrenaline feeling like the pit in your stomach from watching this," wrote YouTube user Ben Laurence. "Felt like I was right there with you guys ducking into the bushes, dodging the guards."
It is unclear when the videos were recorded.
"Most of my videos have been in the works for over a year," St. Cyr told News 6.
YouTube, Patreon take action after News 6 inquiry
As part of its reporting for this story, News 6 contacted YouTube’s parent company Google to inquire whether St. Cyr’s content complied with the company’s policies prohibiting users from earning money off content that is illegal, promotes illegal activity or infringes on the legal rights of others.
A Google spokesperson said the company vigorously enforces its policies governing what kind of videos can include revenue-generating advertisements.
After reviewing St. Cyr’s videos, YouTube demonetized St. Cyr’s channel so it is no longer eligible to run ads.
St. Cyr has encouraged his fans to visit Patreon, a fundraising website that enables artists and other content creators to accept donations for their work.
Patreon forbids users from engaging in illegal conduct, according to the company’s community guidelines.
"We don’t allow pages that collect money for an illegal purpose, or that encourage others to break the law," Patreon's website states.
Shortly after News 6 contacted Patreon to inquire whether St. Cyr abided by those rules, the company suspended his fundraising account while it reviewed his content.
Prior to those two revenue sources being cut off, St. Cyr vowed to upload more videos showing off-limits areas of Central Florida theme parks, with a big release anticipated in upcoming weeks.
“The next videos will blow these out of the water,” he said.
Note: This story has been updated to reflect Google’s action against St. Cyr’s YouTube channel.
This article was originally published by KPRC 2′s sister station, WKMG in Orlando, Florida.