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A Halloween Tradition Returns to Hollywood

A Special Report on an Extra Special Horror Event
by Monster Kid West Ghost Gorespondent
Spooky Sam Park

Lean in close, my fiends. Here's a story about things that go bump in the night. Recently the villagers of Burbank, California noted that something unusual was going on up at Castle Burns. All during the month of October strange unnatural figures darted in and out of the darkness on the surrounding grounds. The peculiar sounds of lost souls wailed along with the buzz and thud of power saws and heavy hammers. When screams began to ring out in the night toward the end of the month, the villagers realized that the terror that had haunted their town years before had finally returned. They knew what they had to do. They lit the torches, marched to Castle Burns... and got in line for the latest adventure in Halloween fun by Bob Burns and his friends. But let us go back to the beginning of this bizarre tale of madness and mayhem to the brilliant genius who started it all.

It's been 20 years since they last organized such an event, but once again sci-fi expert and archivist Bob Burns and his wife, the crafty and resourceful Kathy, created a monster of a Halloween show based upon the original sci-fi film classic, The Thing From Another World. From his headquarters atop his weird collection of arcane objects, Bob sent out the word and the top effects people in the film world rose like zombies to do his bidding as the elite of the industry came with the regular public to view his out-of-this-world production on All Hallow's Eve.

Who is this creator of monsters and worlds, Bob Burns? His name is whispered in trembling tones among the fevered fans of the truly cool and ancient stuff. He worked on the effects for classic sci-fi and horror films of the 50s through the 70s, learning all the unholy secrets of their makers before they passed on from unspeakable means. He was seen as one of Paul Blaisdell's huge brained aliens in Invasion of the Saucer Men. He was Tracy the gorilla in the original Ghostbusters (the Saturday morning TV series of the 70s). But better than all that, he has collected some of the coolest props from the greatest genre films of all time. As documented in his book, It Came From Bob's Basement, he has the steel skeleton (stop motion armature) from King Kong, the space ship from The Day The Earth Stood Still and the original Alien Queen from Aliens. Bob even has the original Time Machine from the 1960 movie. And it works! I use it all the time to go back and get tons of original monster magazines from the 50s and 60s (Shhh. Don't tell Count Gamula or he'll want me to cut him in).

Bob Burns

On top of collecting the world's greatest genre movie props, Bob put on the absolute most incredible and wonderful Halloween shows in the universe from 1967 to 1982. These masterworks were based on classic movies such as War Of The Worlds, Alien, The Exorcist and Creature From The Black Lagoon to name a few, and were given free to the public outside his home almost every year. Probably the best treat any trick or treater ever received.

Right: A scene from Bob's 1976 Halloween show based on The Time Machine. For more photos from past shows see the Trick or Treat sections of Bob's website.

If you're going to build a military post in your front yard, it helps to have an army of friends. Fortunately,
that was no problem for Bob Burns, one of sci-fi's fandom's fondest figures. ©2002 Casey Losey

On Halloween night 2002, Bob's time machine took audiences back to the frozen north in the year 1951 to relive the battle between a desperate U.S. military crew and the Thing from another world. Built over a month in Bob's front yard, the "Arctic base" included six rooms with scenes from the 1951 movie that starred Kenneth Tobey and James Arness (yes, Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke). Captain Hendry (switch played by actor Daniel Roebuck and MK artist, Frank Dietz) led the audience through severed alien hands, alien pod babies, dead bodies (human and animal) to finally confront the the awesome Thing. Goosebumps rose as the Thing slowly came toward the audience down a replica of the famous walkway from the film's finale. After some tense moments, the Thing was electrocuted in a spectacular flash of electricity and sizzling smoke. Or was he? Happy to have survived Captain Hendry led everyone to the awaiting plane and... I can't tell you what horrible "thing" happened but I can tell you there is a commercial release DVD being created that will reveal the gruesome ending to this live event. Included with this will be a documentary on the making of this show along with films of all the past Halloween scare fests.

The completed set ready for the Halloween crowds. ©2002 Kathryn Indiek

These films are not only entertaining records of fun Halloween events of the past, they also offer a chance to see the work of Academy Award-winning make-up artist Rick Baker and ILM's top effects supervisor Dennis Muren back when they were first getting into the film business. Other award winning effects masters who worked on past shows were Bob and Dennis Skotak (Aliens to Terminator), Greg Jein (Star Wars to Star Trek model maker), John Goodwin (who just won an Emmy for make-up on C.S.I.) and many more. Walter Koenig appeared in one year's show and Gene Roddenberry's Girl Friday and collaborator on Star Trek, D.C. Fontana, wrote the scripts for many of these productions (including The Thing). Fiend fans, it just doesn't get any monstrously ghouler than this.

What's that? So WHO showed up to see this FREE show over five nights during Halloween? Besides the crowds of fans who came to enjoy the frightening fun, here's a list of the top genre filmmakers and creature creators in the world that attended and screamed in delight: Rick Baker, John Landis, Frank Darabont, Bernie Wrightson and Guiermo Del Toro! Greg Jein, Don Glut, Don Coscarelli, Bill Malone, Mick & Cynthia Garris, Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger (of KNB Effects), Randy Cook, Angus Scrimm, Ann Robinson, Frankie Thomas and Jan Merlin (stars of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet), Tom Weaver, Scott MacQueen, Jan Henderson, John Morgan, Bill and Beverly Warren, original Thing movie cast member William Self and yes, even Count Gamula showed up from the Lone Scar State to work in the show. Last but not least, Texas' own master fantasy sculptor, Joe Riley, who created masks and hands for this awesome event, showed up for the occasion and surprised Bob with a new Glenn Strange Frankenstein mask for his collection.

I hope many of you were able to enjoy the historic horror event in person. If not, then don't miss he DVD when Bob Burns' The Thing invades the DVD racks sometime next year. Pleasant dreams for now, creepy kiddies, and remember, when you are shivering in your bed tonight just keep telling yourself over and over, "It's only a Halloween show." For more info on the show check out the official Bob Burn site at:

Tell him Spooky Sam sent you.

Editor's note: Spooky Sam Park, a writer based in L.A., fulfilled a Monster Kid's dream this Halloween by becoming one of the crew of the Bob Burns' Halloween show. I know it was lot of hard work but I also know how much he enjoyed being a part of it. Bob told me, "Sam's one of the most hard working and helpful guys we've ever had on a show. But don't tell him I said that. " Don't worry, Bob. He won't hear it from me.

Howard Hawks' film classic THE THING, a perfect blend of sci-fi and horror and the perfect choice for an exciting new Bob Burns Halloween show.

Turn the page for THE THING photo Gallery

The Thing Part 2

All photos on these pages courtesy of Bob Burns
and ©2002 Kathryn Indiek except where noted. All rights reserved.