Creepy western themed statues that were once part of the Old Trapper’s Lodge Motel in Burbank, now sit hidden behind a chicken coop at Pierce College. Yep, its not Knott’s.
In 1941, former tracker John Ehn opened a motel in Burbank and called it “The Old Trapper’s Lodge”. He filled it with western memorabilia, weapons and pelts hoping to attract tourists with a slick gimmick. When that failed, John Ehn decided to go big.
He hired sculptor Claude Bell of Cabazon Dinosaur and Knott’s Berry Farm fame to make him a few statues that he thought would finally attract the tourists he needed to fill his motel. After observing Bell’s technique for a few days, he decided he could easily finish the job himself. For the next 30 years, Ehn filled the property with crudely-made cowboys, Indians, miners, saloon girls and an entire cemetery scene depicting his version of a “Boot Hill”.
This sculpture shows Peg Leg Smith squaring off with Big Bear, a Native American. Looks like BB is winning this fight.
Bringing some fun to these lonely folks.
It’s fairly obvious that John Ehn didn’t possess the same sculpting skills as Claude Bell. His proportions here in “The Fight” are pretty hysterical. Unless his models were oversized dwarfs, I think it’s safe to assume that this scene was probably one of his first to sculpt on his own.
Nice teeth. I think Big Bear might of been a vampire.
The faces along the bottom of some of his bigger statues are extremely creepy.
Oh look its Donald Sterling.
So that’s why they call them Redskins.
“Old Trapper” was the pseudonym John chose to sign his artwork with.
He called this next one “KIDNAP”.
Kidnapping is so sexy when the victim isn’t a kid…NOT!
Signed, sealed, delivered. A pioneer and a hunter.
Guess they ran out of dirt for this guy.
Pioneer Women are serious women.
Child Protection Services
Hmmm, these ladies sure look a little familiar…
…Claude Bell’s creations always looked more realistic at Knott’s when I was a kid [damn that kid’s cute].
What up ladies? I’m all grown up now.
They sure look like they’re in the mood to party, especially that one-armed hussy on the left.
The Old Trapper’s Lodge became California Historical Landmark Number 939 in 1985. Around that same time, the land the motel was on had been sold to the nearby Burbank airport. The motel was sadly torn down, but luckily most of the statues and other folk art were saved and transferred to Pierce College in Woodland Hills. Apparently, an unknown fan of the statues made a phone call to nearby Pierce College. Somehow, he or she persuaded a decision-maker at the school to “adopt” the statues. Before anyone else knew what had happened, the Trapper’s Lodge statues had a new home in Cleveland Park — an out-of-the-way patch of land behind the Animal Sciences Building. What was said to seal the deal, and what was the fallout for the decision-maker, no one will say. An even greater mystery surrounds the continued upkeep of the Old Trapper’s creations. According to a Pierce official, “Every few years we get a letter saying that someone’s coming down to repaint the statues.” The folks at Pierce never bother to ask who; all they care about is that someone else pays the bill. “Last time the statues got painted, the trail around the Park needed work as well.” The college couldn’t afford it — so the mysterious caretakers did it themselves. “Did a good job, too.”
You can find them near the western edge of Pierce College campus, just east of the stables and behind these chicken coops, in a stand of trees west of the parking lot on the north side of El Rancho Drive.