Jorrin Quest sums up years' worth of theories in this latest SCUMM Bar article which was last updated on December 19th, 2002.

Ahoy Mateys!
I, Jorrin (QueZTone/Ralgath) Quest, have written this article simply to lay out my theory about the true story behind Monkey Island. I hope to enlighten you on the magical pirate ride Ron Gilbert so marvelously gave us.

First... let's do a quick history review (taken from the CMI booklet*)

If you forgot the Monkey Island stories (or if your memory has been a little spotty since that last alien abduction), you may be asking yourself,
"Who is this Threepwood guy, and what's he doing in the middle of the Caribbean?" Well, it all started on Mêlée Island...

In the first game, The Secret of Monkey Island, wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood showed up on Mêlée Island seeking instruction
in his chosen craft of pirating. While passing the pirate entrance exam (treasure hunting, sword fighting and thievery), Guybrush met the love of his life, Governor Elaine Marley.

Unfortunately, he also ran into his archenemy, the Undead Pirate LeChuck, who had kidnapped Elaine. With the help of the Voodoo Lady and some other
friends--like Stan, the obnoxious used galleon salesman-- Guybrush defeated LeChuck, scattering his spirit to the Caribbean winds.

In the next episode, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, Guybrush appeared on Scabb Island and became obsessed with hunting for the legendary treasure of Big Whoop.

In the process, he nearly lost the love of the beautiful Elaine and unwittingly aided LeChuck's first mate, Largo LeGrande in the zombie resurrection of the Undead Pirate. Only through the aid of the Voodoo Lady and the near-sighted cartographer, Wally, was Guybrush able to survive. Nevertheless, Guybrush ended up hexed by LeChuck, believing him himself to be a little boy trapped in the Carnival of the Damned.

Guybrush and Chuckie (LeChuck) turn out to be brothers. Chuckie was searching for Guybrush because he wandered off from his parents while they were in an amusement park named Big Whoop. Eventually they return to their parents and continue their visit in the park.

Because Ron Gilbert, the creator of the first mi games, did NOT work on MI3 and MI4 and he wasn't consulted or affiliated in the creation of the last two sequels we do NOT take in account what happens in MI3 and MI4. So do NOT comment by saying "but that isn't true because in mi3..." The secret explained in MI3 is NOT necessarily Gilbert's.

Monkey Island - The Revelation
Many theories have floated over the web about what really was going on in Monkey Island. Some say there are portals in the pirate world around the Caribbean; or that the secret is the location of Monkey Island itself; or, finally, because of MI2's ending, that Guybrush is just a young boy who is visiting a theme park. On these suggestions Ron Gilbert (creator of MI) once commented, "One is closer than the others--but not much".

Of course Ron couldn't have said “It’s very close” – he probably likes his secret to remain secret. And he was probably referring to the last one. In that case, our theory could be as much as 99% correct.

Final confirmation can come only from Gilbert himself, of course, but we hope he will let his Monkey Island fans know someday.
Now here is my theory..

Guybrush, his brother Chuckie, and their parents go to an amusement park named Big Whoop on a sunny day. Ooh, goodie! Guybrush can't wait to get there; he knows they're going to have a swell time! They enter the park and look around to see what ride they’ll do first. And then Guybrush wanders off. He is completely lost, but he doesn't care. He loves wandering around in this huge theme park by himself! He lets loose his imagination, which starts a chain reaction of fantasy situations...

As Guybrush wanders around, he suddenly knows what he wants to be; a swashbucklin' pirate! So he wanders over to his first scene--Mêlée Island. Wow, it looks amazing! He comes across this lookout character. He he he's funny! Guybrush says he wants to be a pirate, he's then sent down to the SCUMM Bar... We all know what happens next...
    Meanwhile, we get some clues that Guybrush is still in a REAL theme park:
    • There's a vending machine at Stan's Shipyard.

    • He needs to defeat the Swordmaster as one of the Three Trials--when he enters the contest, he wins a cotton T-shirt (much like you'd win in an amusement park for such a contest).

    • He needs to find a treasure as another of the Trials. He finds the treasure--another T-shirt (another theme park prize).

Eventually, Guybrush becomes a pirate in his imagination. But soon his parents find out that he has gone missing. They send his brother Chuckie to search for him in the huge theme park. Guybrush becomes aware of this, and, deep as he is in his imaginary world, he thinks of Chuckie as the evil villain who wants to take him out of his pleasant fantasy. And so Chuckie becomes the dread pirate LeChuck...

A lot of things happen in the meantime (Guybrush meets Elaine, Elaine gets kidnapped, Guybrush travels to Monkey Island, etc), all in the theme park, and all in Guybrush' imagination..

So, Guybrush has finally defeated the pirate LeChuck (shaken Chuckie off his back), and now he wants to continue his imaginary story. He hears a legend of the Treasure of Big Whoop, the ultimate prize around! Well then, he decides that, to become the most famous pirate in the Caribbean, he will find that mighty treasure! Eventually Guybrush does find it on Dinky Island--a treasure chest, buried by four of the theme park employees who gave him hints (as they probably did to all kids in the park). It contains a ticket. An E-Ticket! E-Tickets holders can enter theme parks (e.g. Disneyland) after closing time. This is the best treasure Guybrush could get! It would be a dream come true to escape to his fantasy world after closing time so that LeChuck (Chuckie) couldn’t find him! And now, he has finally found the Treasure of Big Whoop (since Big Whoop is the theme park, the E-Ticket that gives Guybrush entrance after hours is its real treasure).

But then, just as Guybrush finds the treasure, Chuckie comes along again. The two brothers struggle until finally Guybrush miraculously defeats Chuckie. But then, with brother-ish treachery, Chuckie plays to Guybrush’s emotional side and manages to catch him. A park employee sees the two in one of the maintenance corridors below the park and brings them back to their parents. End of story...


- Excerpted from a Ron Gilbert interview,
"You see, one of my favorite rides in Disneyland is Pirates of the Caribbean. You get on a little boat, and it takes you through a pirate adventure, climaxing in a cannon fight between two big pirate ships. Your boat keeps you moving through the adventure, but I've always wished I could get off and wander around, learn more about the characters, and find a way onto those pirate ships.

"So, with The Secret of Monkey IslandTM, I wanted to create a game that had the same flavor, but where you could step off the boat and enter that whole storybook world. The pirates on Monkey Island aren't like real pirates, who were slimy and vicious, the terrorists of the 17th century. These are swashbuckling fun-loving pirates, like the ones in the adventure stories everyone grows up with."

- The earlier mentioned vending machines and two T-shirts as 'prizes/treasure'.

- When I say that the Treasure of Big Whoop is the E-Ticket, people then ask me, "Why's the park named Big Whoop then? The park's the treasure!" But as I said, the treasure of the park (the 'Treasure of Big Whoop' as when officially referred to in the game) is of course the E-Ticket (the ability to stay in the park for longer, which of course Guybrush would love to have).

- The corridors you end up in at Dinky Island are actually part of the 'crew/staff/maintenance'. The several 'islands' (which in reality overall aren't separated by water as you can find out about in the comparison made in the next theory addition) are actually connected with each other with these tunnels. Hence why you went to Melee Island's back alley when using the elevator in MI2's tunnels. This is also a common thing in amusement parks. Take a look at this comparison. Pretty obvious.

- Similarities between Booty Island and Big Whoop Amusement Park. Click here to read more.

- Broken vending machine taken down to maintenance hall. Okay so it doesn't have to be the same. But it's logical. In the ending of MI1 you pretty much break the grog machine at Stan's Shipyard. And in MI2 you find a broken grog machine in one of the maintenance halls.

- In MI2 you are imprisoned at Phatt Island and you use a bone to get the attention of a dog outside your cell that's holding the keys between his teeth. See below a picture of Walt from Pirates of the Caribbean and a picture of MI2's prison scene. Clearly proves Ron Gilbert's Monkey Island was inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.

- Below you can see a picture of Disneyland's (Lost) Family Robinson's tree. Next to it you see the Tree scene of MI2. It can't be a coincidence that at that place you get to 'meet' your "lost" parents.

- Another clue to confirm the "it's all a theme park" idea. When you go up with the elevator at the MI2 ending, you end up in Melee Island's back-alley. The entrance to Melee Island is roped off and "Closed for repairs", much like a theme park no? Also, in MI1 the door says "Staff Only", hinting that it's a way for theme park staff to enter the tunnels below the park.

"So what's the Secret of Monkey Island", you ask?
Fantasy, Imagination. A child's mind.

Thanks for reading my theory...

Breaking news:
Bill Tiller, lead background artist on Curse of Monkey Island has confirmed this theory to be largely true in an interview with the Brimstone Beach Club (link in the Hosted Sites menu on the left):
Well this is all I know, and I learned it from Larry Ahern and Dave Grossman. [..] The explanation I heard is that Guybrush was lost in the Pirates Ride at Big Whoop Amusement Park the whole time, imagining the whole adventure. Then Chucky, his mean older brother goes and pulls him back to reality. The end. And that magical lightning coming out of Chucky's eyes and Elaine waiting by the hole on Dinky Island (which sounds a lot like Disney Land) was put there just in case there was to be a Monkey Island 3. The secret is that the MI world is not real.

Thanks to:
-Ron Gilbert for creating the greatest game mystery of all time.
-The SCUMM Bar for publishing my article.
-Trapezoid for having made the first comparison between Booty and Big Whoop.
-Jake for supplying E-Ticket pictures, Disneyland corridor photos and Pirates of the Caribbean photo.
-You, for reading my theory... Now all I need is for you to believe.

// Jorrin Quest