Bob Burns' THING Halloween Show

PrintE-mail Written by Whitney Scott Bain

Bob Burns is an extraordinary man. A special effects make up artist in the fifties who worked with Paul Blaisedale on many of the American International Pictures horror/sci fi films including The Astounding She Creature as well as on set for Eddie Cahn's It! The Terror From Beyond Space. He is also a collector of rare props ranging from the only surviving 18" armature from the 1933 version of King Kong to George Pal's full size model of the 1960 version of the Time Machine (the miniature of the Time Machine was owned by Pal himself, but was destroyed in a fire at his home in the late 60's.)

Bob and his lovely wife Kathy (A great cook, by-the-way!) and their passion for the genre of the fantastic began when they started creating Halloween shows in their front yard in 1967 as something extra for the neighborhood Trick Or Treaters to enjoy along with their candy filled bags, beginning with Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory and his monster in 1967.

Highlighting some of the elaborate shows that were put together with a lot of help from Bob's friends and the special effects community were tributes to Forbidden Planet complete with Robby the Robot on loan from director/collector William Malone, War of the Worlds where Star Trek actor, Walter Koenig played the lead discovering a crashed cylinder in Bob's elaborately made up garage complete with a slimy, tentacled Martian crawling out of the slowly, unscrewing top and the Creature From the Black Lagoon that featured a large aquarium constructed for housing the monster (in a perfectly created latex suit from the film) as he spotted a lovely lass in the audience, crawled out of his tank and began chasing after her - terrorizing the audience.

What started out as a fun show for the neighborhood kids grew over the years to an event that had lines over a block and a half long to see Bob's creations compete with local television news crews and newspapers covering them.

Bob's swan song for his Halloween shows was in 2002 with a recreation of The Thing From Another World. Not only did I get to participate in constructing the interior and exterior of the sets which was a labor of love, I was able to work with many of my friends from the Roger Corman days including Bob and Denny Skotek as well as Mark Stetson. I also got to play Crew Chief Bob (Dewey Martin's role in the film and sadly, the only surviving member from the 1951 Howard Hawks movie) during the run as well as Captain Hendry for a night.

Construction of set took well over a month working mostly on weekends and even in the dark to get the show ready for Halloween. It was like working on a Roger Corman film all over again using what we could dig out of local industrial area trash bins to use as well as making use of what we could get for next to nothing to build with. Bob's wife Kathy was always making sure we were well fed and cooked some of the best meals I've ever had. I can see why Bob married her!

We were visited by William Self (Private Barnes in the 1951 version and producer of the Batman and Green Hornet television shows who sadly passed away last year) where we gave him a tour and complimented us on our work even stating that he felt he was back on the set it was that perfect and director Frank Darabont, a big fan of sci fi and horror, who was amazed at what we had done.

We had two actors around 6'6" that alternated in the James Arness role (A role he always hated and wouldn't talk about) as The Thing in make up and outfits that were spot on from the movie.

Actor Dan Roebuck played Captain Hendry with gusto doing a great job, but lost his voice for one night he was so absorbed in the role. Supporting actors involved alternating Dr. Carrington's, Nikki and the other military personnel and scientists, who were top notch in their performances. We all got along as one big happy family and it was a treat to work with such talented people. With the ambiance of the set, we all felt like we were the Polar Expedition Six team from the 1951 movie at the North Pole.

Oustide the entrance, kids and adults were briefed with a video taken from the trailer of a saucer discovered in the ice. Once inside, they were led by Captain Hendry and his team where they find the empty, thawed block of ice The Thing escaped from, a dead sled dog that popped out of a wooden box, a severed Thing hand that moved on its own, Dr. Carrington and his laboratory growing tiny plant-like Things, among many other rooms with the grand finale of the group confronting The Thing under flashing strobe lights being electrocuted as it diminished into nothing. The lights would then go out and everyone was in complete darkness breathing a sigh of relief that The Thing was defeated, until they came back on and saw The Thing STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM! The lights would go out once more among the screams and laughter and the door would open where everyone would be escorted out.

Overall everyone had a great time. Audiences couldn't stop talking about how good it was which made the attraction so much more the success. The fact that everything went so smoothly and people had fun was part of the event's charm.

The show ran nightly Friday through Sunday past Halloween until Thanksgiving it was so popular. Burbank police department were kind enough to come out several times to handle crowd control as there were people lined up for two blocks waiting to see the show.

Sadly, all good things (No pun intended!) must end. The attraction was over, the sets torn down and many sent to a local college for their theater arts department to be recycled in future stage plays. It was a memory everyone involved in will all collectively share in with love.

Will Bob Burns ever do another show? One can only hope and wonder, for he has all the time in the world.

As Mr. Scott the reporter said: keep watching the skies.

For more information on Bob and his amazing shows here's a link to his site:

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