Despite the ever-increasing glut of superheros parading their tights across the big screen, one hovers above all others (including those who fly): Batman. Still the most popular superhero on Earth, the character has enjoyed numerous outings in comics, television and, of course, the movies. We’ve seen the Batcave in Adam West’s Batman shows. We’ve seen the Batcave in the Batman movies of the 80s and 90s (the latter of which we try to forget). And we’ve recently seen the Batcave in the more popular Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies.
One of the most treasured hallmarks of the Bat-mythos: it has provided untold numbers of fans with inspiration for a secret hideaway, not to mention countless toy retailers with megabucks made off selling toy replicas. For as well known as the Batcave is within pop culture though, not every element of the Batcave has made it into the zeitgeist. Here, find the untold tales of the cave that makes a home for the bat.
10. It’s A Popular California Hiking Spot
Yes, really. The 1960s Batman TV series, which starred Adam West, used locations around Los Angeles to double for Gotham City. These were the days when movies and TV shows were actually filmed in Hollywood, of course. Besides making a home for actual filming, Los Angeles also hosts a number of cave systems throughout the Hollywood Hills.
For the scenes showing the Batmobile escaping the Batcave, the crew turned to Bronson Canyon near Griffith Park. The production discovered a cave wide enough to house the Batmobile, barely! The scenes were filmed at a special frame rate so the car could pull out of the cave at a low speed without scratching the Batmobile prop. For broadcast, the footage was sped up, making the Batmobile look super fast.
9. It Had A Caretaker
Meet Harold Allnut, deformed super genius!
Harold debuted in Batman comics in the 1990s as a lackey of The Penguin. Hunchbacked, deformed and mute, he nonetheless possessed incredible mechanical skills. The Penguin had employed Harold to build super weapons designed to conquer Gotham City until Batman intervened. Taking pity on poor Harold, Batman relocated him to the Batcave. There Harold became, along with Alfred, custodian of the cave. He also helped Batman develop a new line of gadgets to help him fight crime.
Harold’s tenure didn’t last forever. In the 2000s, the villain Hush helped repair Harold’s ability to speak, and used surgical techniques to cure his deformities. Though he initially helped Hush, Harold tried to warn Batman of a sinister plot to kill him, only to meet his death at Hush’s hands. Batman buried him on a hill near Wayne Manor.
8. Batman Didn’t Originally Use It
When Batman debuted in Detective Comics in 1942, the cave did not appear as part of his story. Rather, Bruce Wayne used an old barn to house the Batmobile near Wayne Manor. About a year later, the Caped Crusader made his big-screen debut in a series of low-budget movie serials. The writers introduced the idea of a cave where Batman could conduct his secret research when working on a case. Batman creator Bob Kane mentioned the idea to comic writer Bill Finger, and the two added the cave to the Batman comics. It stuck ever since. Originally just an office where Batman could work in secret, the writers have since expanded it to epic proportions as storage for Batman’s equipment.
7. It Has A Trophy Room
As the writers kept expanding the size of the Batcave, they began to add subtle mementos and references to previous stories. Some of the most eye-catching tokens of Batman’s adventures became staples for the cave, eventually giving way to an entire trophy area. Among Batman’s treasures, a giant Joker card, an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex, and a giant penny tend to catch the eye. Their origins differ somewhat depending on what writer penned the story, and when. Also in the cave: a glass case displaying the costume of Jason Todd, the second Robin who died at the hands of the Joker. Batman keeps the costume there as a sort of memorial to his fallen partner.
6. There Actually Are Several Batcaves
Batman doesn’t like to get taken off guard, and as such, he prepares for all possible emergencies. That includes building satellite Batcaves.
The so-called Bat Bunker, located beneath the Wayne Building, became the first satellite Batcave when Batman moved into a downtown penthouse for a time. Following an attack by the villain Bane, Batman decided to further build back-up bases. He constructed several around Gotham, including one inside Arkham Asylum, each stocked with rations and equipment. In 2002, he further expanded by renovating an old submarine into a mobile Batcave. Batman also allowed his crime fighting partners to use and help maintain the caves: Batgirl uses one in an old house located in central Gotham, while Nightwing and his superhero team, the Outsiders, actually built one in Los Angeles! These days, Nightwing has returned to Gotham, making use of the Bat Bunker to aid Batman.
5. It Was Once The Home To King Kong
Yes, really. Again.
The Batman television series filmed in Hollywood at Desilu Studios, the television studio owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. When Lucy & Desi split, Ball herself maintained the studio, using her vast industry influence to create new TV series, including Batman and Star Trek.
Ball didn’t build the studio, though; rather, she and Arnaz just repurposed it. It had originally belonged to R.K.O. Studios, the movie house behind classic films like Citizen Kane and…King Kong. Hollywood lore holds that at the time Batman went into production, one of the original R.K.O. stagehands noticed that the Batcave set sat on the exact spot the Skull Gate set for King Kong was constructed, making the stage area home to two screen legends.
4. It Was Used In The Underground Railroad
Not content with Bruce Wayne being the first hero in the historic line of Gotham City’s prestigious Wayne family, the writers added a fun twist to the Batman mythology.
According to Bat-canon, the Wayne family had built Wayne Manor more than a century before the modern day. During the slave era, the family worked to aid and rescue fugitive slaves on the run to freedom in the northern states and Canada. The caves beneath the stately home became a refuge of the Underground Railroad, where Bruce’s forefathers would provide shelter to former slaves in need. The Underground Railroad also prompted the Wayne family to begin building secret passages around the house, including one noted passage hidden behind a grandfather clock to the caves below. That same passage later became Bruce’s preferred entrance to the Batcave.
3. It Once Had An Interrogation Room
Batman v. Superman invited a lot of criticism by portraying Batman as a militant, violent neurotic, reaching a new level of on-screen brutality for the character. Those critics might do well to revisit some of the Dark Knight’s more questionable origins and techniques.
Batman comics have their roots in noir fiction of the 1930s and 40s, and in the early days of Bat-stories, Batman not only carried a gun, he actually had an interrogation room in the Batcave! When a criminal with special knowledge proved difficult to question, Batman would kidnap said rogue, take him to the cave, and use a variety of cruel techniques to elicit answers. Dubbed the “truth chamber” by Batman, the room had a hall of mirrors, bright lighting elements designed to overheat subjects, a PA system whereby Batman could interrogate his prisoners, and manacled chair! Perhaps wisely, the writers later removed this torture room from continuity.
2. It’s Based On The Shadow’s Sanctum
Long before Batman dominated comic book shelves, another mysterious detective combed the streets at night, scaring the daylights out of criminals and solving crimes. His name: The Shadow.
The popularity of The Shadow comics, as well as Shadow radio dramas, had a strong influence on Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Numerous writers have linked Batman’s story to that of the Shadow: both are millionaire playboys with secret identities, and both use a hidden room as a base of operations. The Shadow used the Sanctum, a secret library adorned with dark drapes and equipped with special phone lines by which he could reach his agents. The Batman TV series took the idea one step further, giving Batman a special red phone which he used to communicate with Commissioner Gordon.
1. There’s A Vault Full Of Kryptonite
Batman has more than his own share of paranoia which keeps him up at night…along with a bunch of super criminals trying to take over the city. While he and the Last Son of Krypton are friends–most of the time, anyway–Batman has his own fears when it comes to Superman. What if he went crazy and tried to take over the world? What if he went on a killing spree? What if a weird starfish alien suctioned onto his body and started controlling his mind?
Actually, that last one happened. Fortunately, the Dark Knight came prepared! Within the confines and security of the Batcave, Batman, with Superman’s knowledge, keeps a hoard of Kryptonite locked inside a vault. In the past, when Superman or any renegade Kryptonians have unleashed havoc on the planet, Batman has retaliated with weaponized Kryptonite. While any lesser storage unit would prove perilous, the well-hidden location, and the numerous security systems that Batman has installed to the cave make it one of the safest locations on the planet.