Walt Disney thought The Scarecrow was real … plus a fact you won’t find anywhere else!

BE SURE TO READ THE WHOLE POST … I’ve saved the best for the end.

McGoohan as The Scarecrow

McGoohan as The Scarecrow

In my last post, I exposed myself for the Dr. Christopher Syn / Scarecrow of Romney Marsh fan that I am. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and talking about the subject and the star of the Disney version of the story (the best known version) starring Patrick McGoohan who passed away this past Tuesday. I even got involved in a very brief “flame” war with the guys at Appy Entertainment who defended (lamely) their fan devotion to McGoohan’s series The Prisoner. I’m actually a fan of The Prisoner, but I couldn’t admit that to them, so I’m admitting it here.


The new Scarecrow DVD. Buy it for yourself.

Before moving on to a TRULY GREAT STORY by Fanatic Gary Guzzo about the night that Disney premiered Dr. Syn alias the Scarecrow on the Wonderful World of Color, let’s quickly share some cool Scarecrow stuff for all you fanatics out there.

Click on the picture of the Walt Disney Treasures graphic here and you can order your very own copy from Amazon.

Many people commented on the creepy picture of Walt Disney with the Scarecrow masks that I posted last time. Click HERE and you’ll get to see the video intro that aired on television before the first episode. Brace yourself … Walt claims that Dr. Christopher Syn was REAL. I can’t find any other information anywhere that makes this claim. Everyone else says that the character began with writer Russell Thorndike and his seven Dr. Syn novels. But apparently, the Disney version is far more closely modeled after the 1960 novel Christopher Syn by William Buchanan, which made major revisions to Thorndike’s work.

Painting tribute to the first masked hero

Painting tribute to the first masked hero

That Scarecrow theme song, the one that everyone remembers, the one that you can’t get out of your head once it has invaded … if you want to hear the first few bars … click HERE. This will connect you with “www.drsyn.com” which is a good resource for Scarecrow stuff, but it certainly isn’t complete.

Fans of heroic fiction also tend to have or foster other more peculiar hobbies. In the interests of presenting something a little stranger, check out the Dr. Syn / Scarecrow Action Figure. Yes, it is real, but it wasn’t produced commercially, it was customized by people who do this as a hobby. A little weird, a lot fanatical … but in this instance, at least for me … very cool.

Scarecrow action figure (?)

Scarecrow action figure (?)

And I’ll have to admit to being a little sad that Ricardo Montalban passed away the same day that the death of Patrick McGoohan was reported. Montalban was a bigger star in most circles, so the loss of McGoohan got a lot less media attention.

And now, without further ado, a truly FANATIC story of titanic proportions. Put this fact in your back pocket. Use it to win bar bets if you want. I think it is TRULY AMAZING. I present it here in the words of terrific friend and fanatic brother-in-arms Gary Guzzo.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I heard the news earlier today about Patrick McGoohan, and being the news junkie that I am, I must have read ten different obits……well, NOT different. Most only gave points to Mr. McGoohan for The Prisoner and only a few mentioned my favorite, ‘Secret Agent Man’ (it’s theme being included in Gary Guzzo’s Ten Greatest Songs Ever Written, by the way). 

No one, with the exception of Dave Olbrich on his terrific blog site Funny Book Fanatic, mentioned the Disney Scarecrow show, and quite frankly I had forgotten it myself.  Well…there IS a wonderful piece of trivia here that explains, even in my advanced state of geekhood, why I would have forgotten the Scarecrow

wwofcolorYou see, every Sunday night, my family would go next door to my Grandmother’s house to watch TV. NO…it wasn’t some Italian thing, it was because my grandmother had 13 children and they had all gotten together to buy her the first color TV I had ever seen. First one on the block, by the way. (hey…I was a poor Italian kid from Yonkers, OK?). Anyway…..we would go over on Sunday because Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was on……AND it was in color, unlike much of the programming on TV at that time.scarecrow3men1

We had seen the promos for The Scarecrow on the previous week’s progam, and my sister Cheryl, being older and more hormone driven than I, was already in love with the Secret Agent Man, so she spent the week in teenage anticipation for Sunday’s show, while I, the kid that stayed in his room with his treasured comic  books, had other plans.  You see, my room did not only contain my four color friends, I had been given the old, cracked, Bakelite shelled Motorola family radio and it was on throughout my entire comic reading life. 

As Peter Parker battled the Molten Man, Cousin Brucie, Scott Muni, Dan Ingram, and Murry the K played a soundtrack that enhanced the experience.  And it was Murry who caused the rebellion that Sunday and caused me to throw a wrench in the weekly family tradition.  There was no way I was going to Grandma’s on the night of February 9, 1964.  There would be no color TV that night, it would forever exist in glorious black and white because at 8PM, a half hour after the Scarecrow started airing, I was sitting on the living room floor with my Mom, who had volunteered to endure the monochrome magic of that night’s Ed Sullivan Show, and sat with me as Ed introduced The Beatles.

The Beatles historic first appearance on ED SULLIVAN

The Beatles historic first appearance on ED SULLIVAN

And the whole world changed…..

To this day, I have only seen snippets of the Scarecrow, but now that Dave has educated me on the fact that a DVD exists, I am off to Amazon to grab a copy.  I will watch it, most likely, with Meet The Beatles playing in the background.  It just sounds right.

           — Gary Guzzo

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Yes, you read that correctly. The night that Disney first showed Dr. Syn alias the Scarecrow (in color), at the same time The Ed Sullivan Show was airing its historic appearance of The Beatles (in black-and-white), February 9, 1964. That deserves a major fanatic YEEK! I don’t know what the ratings were, but I’ll bet The Scarecrow didn’t do very well. 

Thank you Gary Guzzo for that AMAZING story that you can’t get anywhere else, unless you’re reading Funny Book Fanatic.

           — Dave Olbrich (DWO) Fri. Jan. 16, 2009


Filed under Behind the Scenes, Fanatic General, Fanatical History, Product Plugs

28 responses to “Walt Disney thought The Scarecrow was real … plus a fact you won’t find anywhere else!

  1. Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

  2. The literary Scarecrow was also mentioned in Alan Moore’s ‘the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ as being a member of a much older incarnation of the team.
    I just hope that the upcoming cable “re-imagining” of the Prisoner series (to star Ian McKellan) will do McGoohan’s work justice.

    Also- Dean Motter, designer supreme, did a mini that was an awesome ode to the Prisoner for DC in the years just prior to their Vertigo imprint, which would have housed it nicely, I think.

  3. Dave Olbrich

    Richard –
    The Scarecrow was mentioned in LEG …

    Did the character actually appear, or was it just in dialogue or a caption?

  4. DWO-
    Most clear is a portrait from pg 53 of the first series, which shows the 1787 League (including also Jonathan Swift’s Lemuel Gulliver and James Fenimore Cooper’s Hawkeye). They were mentioned again in the second series, and an actual story was to be a feature for the third series, along with those of other eras.
    I reference from Jess Nevins’ “Heroes and Monsters”, a companion book approved and endorsed by Moore and O’Neill.

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  8. Marc

    WAS Dr. Syn based on a real person? I am confused over this matter. As was previously pointed out, Walt Disney indicated that he was based on an actual man. I cannot find anything to confirm this. Please clarify.

  9. Dave Olbrich


    Just like you, I can’t find and haven’t found any evidence that Christopher Syn (the Scarecrow) was based on a real man. It appears as if the character was completely fictional, dropped into a real world setting, by author Russell Thorndike. I was shocked to find that Disney thought otherwise, but maybe he just wanted to embellish the story.

    If any information surfaces that Walt was right, I’ll be happy to provide it.

    And remember, Walt spent a lot of time in the actual location where the story is set in England. It wouldn’t be the first time that local merchants turned a fictional character into something more to boost tourism.

  10. Marc


    Thanks so much for the quick and thoughtful reply. I will reciprocate and tell you if I learn of anything new regarding the manner. In the meantime, I can relish the new copy of “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” that we received last Friday. We found it on the net and paid $65 for it. It was well worth it. I was just over 5 years old (I am now 50) when Dr. Syn first appeared on Wonderful World of Color. Although I had forgotten most of the story in the intervening years, the Scarecrow’s costume and his great cackle never left me. As well, the opening song stayed with me and the image of the Scarecrow, astride his horse, thundering past a real scarecrow as he rode off to a nighttime rendevous with the gentlemen of the marshes, is seared into my memory. What a great show (and still is) it was! Take care.


  11. Richard

    How can I get the cool action figure? I am forty nine yrs old and I do remember the scarecrow. Classic series, very few programs can match such drama and acting,. the actors played there parts as true actors. the plots seemed real enough and deserve great praise. Thanks for the info.

  12. Dan Brown

    One thing this post leaves a misimpression about–Disney with the Scarecrow was on at 7 p.m. (that was when network shows started back then) and Ed Sullivan with the Beatles aired at 8 p.m. I saw both (in black and white) the first time they were on because I changed the channel. My family watched both shows for years, because they were consecutive on different channels, so I do not think the Beatles affected the Scarecrow’s first ratings at all.

  13. Our beloved Walt [as in Disney] had his facts wrong [or] maybe he even embelished a wee bit who really knows right? Let us not forget he was in the Entertainment Industry. Because guess what? the person of Christoher Syn was a real clergyman in the Romney Marsh area circa 1778. Please accept this weblink [below] for the official Dr. Syn website.

    Which is run by surviving relatives of the original Christopher Syn. I found this while doing some research for a book that I’m writing about the very time period, and am considering adding a ‘Scarecrow’ type of aspect to it [maybe] or at least something similar perhaps.


    You should be able to with this link, if it comes through well enough that is. Click on the top center picture labled Vicars of Dymchurch. Here you will find a well kept record of the original listings of all vicars and parsons, with Royal visitations added. Even the ‘Ship Inn’ mentioned in the books actually exsits, go figure huh? So since I have stumbled upon your most excellent blog, and feeling fairly certain I have the answer for you…eer ya go matey! I do hope this answers yer question as to Mr. Disney’s confusion…or embellisment[?]. Ever in HIS service, HIS humble privateer…Michael

  14. As too brother Dan Brown’s recalling of the shows being on consecutive channels, Yes! Thats how I remember it as well. My family did the same thing we all watched Disney, then we would flip to Sullivan. Although coming up on 54 yrs of age, I do think I have that correct…LOL, and yes I saw them in black and white also!

  15. Sorry gang I forgot to mention somethng…silly me!
    As someone who lives in Roswell NM, I am sure that since Romney had a real Christopher Syn, that there are some who ‘do believe’ that the scarecrow myth is real. Just as there are folks here in Roswell who think the alien thing is real, even if there is no real supporting evidence.

    So I am thinking that the ‘Scarecrow’ is Romney’s “Roswell’ of sorts. I do not doubt that this ‘Christopher Syn’ did exsist, since their are folks claiming his lineage, but I do doubt that the scarecrow in legend has any merit whatsoever. Myself being English and have heard nearly all of the olde English legends over my lifetime…I do hope this makes sense and clears the air
    [I hope…lol] Thank you for your time everyone…Michael

  16. DBE

    Of course Dr. Syn was a real character. Myths are based on real events and real people. The ancient city of TROY was DISCOVERED. The remains of KING ARTHUR were uncovered centuries after his and Genieve’s death. And besides, Walt Disney says so.

  17. Dwayne Croft

    Don’t forget that Patrick McGoohan starred as Long Shanks in the movie Braveheart later in life and was quite brilliant!!

  18. Doug

    I have to weigh in on The Beatles/Scarecrow airing question as well. I too remember watching Scarecrow on Disney, and then watching The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I’ve been told that it never happened… But it did… In Canada, CBC aired Disney at 7PM and then Ed Sullivan at 8 PM. That was a stellar night for watching TV — even if it was on a Black & White television with Rabbit Ears.

  19. LindaY

    I’m coming late to this party while looking for items on the Scarecrow, but WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR started at 7:30 p.m., not seven. I know because LASSIE was at seven, and then the channel was changed for Disney.

  20. Sorry to disappoint you, but Dr.Christopher Syn was never a real person. His creator Russell Thorndike produced the first story in 1915. Romney Marsh certainly exists, as do many of the places mentioned in the books. Smuggling reached its height there during the 17th-18th Century. One vicar was known to have helped the smugglers hide their contraband under the floor of his church – but it was one of many events that Russell heard about and re-invented for his own smuggler-parson. There is, however, a memorial plaque to Russell inside Dymchurch Church, not far from where
    he often drank at ‘The Ship Inn’ and where the Thorndike family cottage can still be seen.

  21. The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh was a truly wonderful adaptation of Buchanan’s book — with one major exception. The Scarecrow had two lieutenants: Hellspite and Curlew. Disney made Curlew the squire’s son, but in the original book, Curlew was the squire’s daughter; and there is intimated romance between the Vicar Syn and the squire’s daughter at the end of the book. Having Curlew be a boy spoiled this romance story.

  22. Joe Reader

    Like so many others, I came to your site, also a little late in the game, while looking for ” The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh ” info and found what you have fun and interesting. I was 9 years old when the show debuted on Disney, and was hooked. My family, by coincidence, was also together for a gathering at my grandparents the night the Beatles took the stage on Ed Sullivan. I wanted to watch “The Scarecrow”, but was outvoted by my cousins. I was so angry I stormed off swearing to not watch these Beatle guys. In Los Angeles, Disney was on 7:30 – 8:30. Ed Sullivan was on 8:00 to 9:00.
    I had to wait until the early 70’s, when “The Scarecrow” was rebroadcast to see the complete series. It also was released here in a theatrical version around the mid 70’s. Watched it every chance I got.
    By the way, I became a lifelong Beatles fan, too.

  23. Mac

    I first saw the theatrical version on television in 1983 at age 7.
    At first I kind of thumbed my nose at it, yet later when the 3-part televised version aired in spring of 2000 as a late, late, late show, well, I took a more active interest, and to this day I miss the theatrical version. Also, I miss Mr. McGoohan, too.

  24. You should have a look here, at “what might have been”.

  25. randy

    @ Cory Hinman
    whoa; that is some badical fanart.

    I’ve been a Scarecrow fan since that telecast. And a superhero geek in general. In the 1960’s the pickings were kinda slim on TV. Davy Crocket and Zorro were popular. Everybody had the coonskin caps and the capas gaucho (Zorro) hat. I was sort of a the-road-less-travelled guy

    A perusal of Dr. Syn at Wikipedia shows just how conflicted a hero he was. Not possessed of the integrity of Superman, etc., he had several identities; he was Captain Clegg, a bloodthirsty pirate. He dynamited his ship to get rid of witnesses when he decided to resume a parson’s life. Smuggling had it’s own set of ethical issues; lots of unsavory things were going on; his wife deserted him for his best friend; he stalked them both for .that. Squire Cobtree’s daughter fell in love with him, and lost her life over it. Syn was harpooned through the neck by a survivor of the dynamited ship.

    There are numerous fansites on the web. I was impressed with DrSyn-dot-com…as you also noted. Ebook editions of Thorndyke’s books also seem to be available.

    I remember Uncle Walt’s info that the Scarecrow was real, and that intrigued me mightily. The oversight isn’t so egregious. Elected officials tell bigger whoppers..

  26. Colyn

    I think it is about time that Disney release again with a Blu-Ray copy.

  27. ElizaBeth

    The life and times of the Rev. Dr. Christopher Syn… Matthew Baugh…..

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