Many people will recognize the iconic theme song from The Dark Knight Rises as the same one that was used in the 1966 movie about Batman and his crusade against crime and corruption. When film historian Mark Kalinowski was researching the origin of this famous song he stumbled upon the unlikely story of a bat-wrestling championship and the unlikely composer behind it all.
Kalinowski stumbled upon the story of “The Bat-Signal” while looking for information on the film’s soundtrack. He didn’t find much, just a couple of references to the song in online databases. Eventually he did track down the song’s composer, an obscure pianist and composer named Scott Jacobson.
Jacobson had written the song back in the ’50s but didn’t release it until 1966, the same year that The Dark Knight Rises was released. The movie’s composer, Hans Zimmer, had arranged the pianos in the background and convinced Jacobson to release the song.
After the success of The Dark Knight, Jacobson wrote several more Batman songs, including “Duel of the Fates,” “Riddle in the Dark,” and “The Haunted Knight.” However, he decided that it was best to stop writing songs about Batman and started writing about more “traditional” topics such as romance. In fact, he was inspired by a real-life bat-signal event that occurred in 1966.
The Event That Inspired ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
On September 21st, 1966 a bat-signal was spotted by a couple driving on the backroads of Long Island. The woman, Kay Lenz, was driving to a nearby farm while her husband, Lloyd, was asleep in the passenger seat. As they neared the barn where the couple’s daughter was playing, they saw something bat-like fluttering around outside. After driving around for a while trying to find the source of the noise they decided to get out and have a look. Upon opening the hatch of their car they saw the face of a man looking up at them with yellow eyes.
The sight was so terrifying that it temporarily paralysed both Lenz and her husband. Luckily for the couple, the barn was well-hidden from the road and the man didn’t see the car’s occupants exit.
The sight of a yellow-eyed man floating around outside their car was too much for husband and wife to handle. Fortunately for Lenz, the man didn’t follow them inside the barn where she could lock the door and stay there with her daughter. What would’ve been the point of going back for Lloyd, who was more than a little hypoglycemic in those days anyway?
The man followed them into the road and started tapping on the window, trying to get their attention. Terrified, Lenz accelerated and hit the gas, running the man over. After the collision the man vanished and was never seen or heard from again. Although traumatized by the event, and understandably shaken, Lenz was determined to put the incident behind her and move on with her life. That determination to put the incident behind her led to some interesting coincidences, which are worth mentioning.
One of the oddest coincidences connected to “The Bat-Signal” concerns a 1966 Batman comic which was on the cover when Kay Lenz and her husband were driving on the backroads of Long Island that evening. The cover of the comic featured a character named The Joker who wore a mask that looked exactly like the one in the movie. Although Lenz didn’t buy the comic, it was almost certainly the cover that made her think of the scary figure she’d just witnessed.
Another strange coincidence has to do with the fact that Kay Lenz’s father was named Fred. The name Fred just so happened to be the name of the character in the Batman comic that appeared on the cover when the incident occurred. Although it’s unlikely that Lenz’s father ever met the real Bruce Wayne, it’s fascinating to wonder if he knew the identity of the masked vigilante on the page.
There were also some very strange occurrences that night. Just as the yellow-eyed man was about to hit the couple on the head with a hammer, a glowing orb the size of a human head rose above the man’s shoulder. As the couple tried to escape through a nearby cornfield, they found themselves being chased by someone with the head of a stag.
There were also reports of multiple sightings of the mysterious flying creature over New York City that night. Some people claimed to have seen it while driving on the New York State Thruway, some people claimed to have seen it over the Bronx, and some people even thought they had seen it over Staten Island. This proves how traumatizing the experience was for Kay Lenz, because not only did she see a man with yellow eyes, but she also saw a bat-like creature as well.
The Dark Night Is Over
Although the story of “The Bat-Signal” has some pretty remarkable elements, it would still be remiss not to point out that the real-life encounter never happened. On some level, Scott Jacobson knew that this was likely to be the case and chose to go ahead with the song anyway. After all, it was already published and he had been paid for it. However, if he had his way, he would’ve never written a song that was remotely linked to something so terrifying. Yet, in the end, he couldn’t help but write a song about a creature he believed to be a product of his mind and not anything real. When asked about whether or not the song was based on a true story, Jacobson would reply:
“I don’t know – it’s a combination of things. I live next to a large cemetery; I’ve always been fascinated by the unknown dead, especially when it comes to grave robbing. I’ve also been studying the occult for many years, and there are so many possibilities there. Maybe I made the whole thing up. Who knows? It could have happened. I don’t think I would’ve hurt anyone, though. I don’t believe in violence.”
Although he would’ve liked to be able to say that the song was based on a true story, Scott Jacobson ultimately couldn’t take the shame of having written such an eerie song about a dark nightmare. Instead, he chose to try and forget about it and get on with his life. He did release one more song about Batman, called “The Haunted Knight,” which was included on his album The Joker. However, he never wrote a song again, and died of a heart attack in 2007 at the age of 70.
“The Bat-Signal” wasn’t Scott Jacobson’s only inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises. The movie’s producers looked for ways to outdo the intensity of The Dark Knight and came up with an ingenious idea. Since the scene of the explosion was already dated in the script, the producers decided to have it be not one scene but an entire sequence. This way they could show more intensity when the moment of ignition comes. One could argue that this scene was directly responsible for the enduring popularity of The Dark Knight Rises. On the other hand, it could’ve just been that people were finally able to let go of the trauma from the first movie and got something happy out of it. Who knows? That’s what really makes this song so fascinating.