Dinny the dinosaur, a fond childhood memory defiled

Since at least 1975 anyone driving on Interstate 10 through the tiny truck stop of a town of Cabazon California (about 15 miles west of Palm Springs) could catch a glimpse of an amazing sight; a massive, larger even than life, concrete replica of a Jurassic dinosaur Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) named “Dinny” the dinosaur.

Dinny was the creation of Claude Bell (1897-1988) an artist who had once worked for Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA, and later ran the Wheel Inn truck stop next door to the dinosaur. Starting in 1964 it took him eleven years to construct and reportedly cost upwards of $250 thousand dollars. It about 150 feet long and weighs in at more than 100 tons.

Dinny the dinosaur

In 1981 Bell added “Rex” the Tyrannosaurus, and while he apparently intended to make several more prehistoric creatures he only managed to add a large coiled and rearing snake near Dinny’s tail entrance, and a large turtle like creature closer to Rex before he died at the age of 91.

Please note that the photographs in this post were taken on two or three different visits in the last couple years, the last being on 4-5-08, and all photos of posters from the shop interior are from the most recent visit.

Rex the T-rex

Rex the T-rex with my wife Kathy by the leg for scale.

Under Dinny

Your’s truly underneath Dinny, between the forelegs.

When I was a child my family used to go on camping trips once or twice a year to various national parks all over the western United States. The Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Dinosaur National Monument and Yellowstone, were all places of fun and fascination for me, nurturing early on my interest in natural history which has only grown with time.

Living as we did in Southern California traveling to these places often meant that we would have to drive east on Interstate 10 and through Cabazon. My parents liked to stop there to visit a fruit store called Hadley’s to buy all sorts of dried fruits and things, but of course all I cared about was getting a chance to stop and see Dinny (and later Rex). I remember with fondness searching impatiently through the rear window of my parents car hoping to catch a glimpse of the massive roadside attractions.

Dinny, cir 1976. My father is in the yellow shirt and I am the figure in the reddish shirt. Note that Rex wasn’t built yet.

You may recognize them, even if you’ve never been to Southern California, from TV and movies appearances most notably Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985). Here is a YouTube clip of the relevant part of the film:

Kathy on Rex\'s foot

Kathy on Rex’s foot.

Unfortunately my childhood memories of this bit of Americana have been somewhat spoiled by the fact that in recent years Dinny and Rex were purchased by a group of creationists (backed by Orange County developer and homeschooling promoter, Gary Kanter), who has turned them into an antievolution propaganda spreading tool. We’re talking full blown, Kent Hovind, Answers in Genesis, young Earth creationism (YEC hereafter). In fact they’ve got a former Institute for Creation Research staffer, John Rajca, directing the project.

For over 150 years a false religion of evolution has run rampant in the world. Hitler was a believer in this false religion, using evolution as his means of creating a better society through cleansing…Children have been taught by public school textbooks that since evolution is true there is no God, no morals, no sin and therefore no need for redemption. Our national museums (that we fund through our taxes) leave millions of people with information that they are no more than an evolved rock. The destruction of millions of souls has been devastating. Evolutionists have used the dinosaurs, a major attraction, as their focal point to teach these false claims, drawing people into their religion by the millions through their fascination of the huge creations such as Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Apatosaurus.

Now that is about to change... (Denise Kanter 2004, from the Revolution Against Evolution website.

From what I understand they converted a structure that was once Bell’s home (look for the cross atop the facade in a photo below) into the church now found on the property. And irony of all ironies the pastor is named Robert Darwin Chiles!

Moi at the welcome sign

Yours truly at the welcome sign near Dinny’s tail entrance.

The welcome sign’s question might be an allusion to the creationist book: From goo to you by way of the zoo (1976, 1985) by Harold Hill (et al.), though I didn’t ask.

A shot of the store

A shot of the interior shop, looking from the tail towards the head.

Dinny’s interior contains a souvenir shop that despite having it’s walls festooned with creationist propaganda mostly sells merchandise that is relatively benign. Plastic toy dinosaurs, and living animals of all sorts, making up the bulk of this, with a smattering of “sciencey” toys and games thrown into the mix.

Creationist books for sale

However they also have a modest selection of creationist books for sale, some aimed at adults and others at children. Nearly all written from a YEC perspective.

Hovind sign

Something inspired by Kent Hovind or Answers in Genesis perhaps.

Propaganda poster

This poster definitely comes straight from Kent Hovind.

Java-man poster

Here we have some “Java Man” nonsense. While there are questions about whether or not the thigh-bone and the skull cap discovered by Eugene Dubois belong to the same individual, the skull cap was and is still considered the type specimen for Homo erectus. Jim Foley has a must read FAQ refuting the claims of creationists about “Java Man” and other fossil hominids on the Talk Origins Archive.

Peking-Man bust

One of the hominid busts on the shop walls (the busts might predate the creationist takeover, note the apparent dating that is substantially older than the six to ten thousand years YEC allows for).

Peking-Man poster

The accompanying poster on “Peking Man” or Sinanthropus pekinensis (now also Homo erectus). The poster states that “all of the specimens were lost in 1941” which is true, but what it doesn’t say is that more material was found at the same site after WWII. The poster then states that Franz Weidenreich discovered Peking Man, but actually the first fossils were discovered by Davidson Black. Weidenreich took over the excavations after Black’s death (just a nit). As for Weidenreich’s thinking, yes he thought Sinanthropus was human, but not the same a modern humans.

In Sinanthropus the skullcap extends down almost to its base, the entire region around the ears being preserved. The new find did not leave the slightest doubt that Sinanthropus was a true man, although a very primitive type — in any case, more primitive than any of the long-known Neanderthalians. – Weidenreich (1946) Apes, Giants, and Man, p. 27 (emphasis mine)

As with Java Man, Foley’s FAQ is the go to resource for the facts on creationist claims regarding Peking man and other fossil hominids.

Propaganda poster

Here we have some general evolution bashing by quotation of opinion. One from a T. N. Tahmisian from a newspaper,The Fresno Bee, August 20, 1959 (that’s some cutting edge science there). The other quote gives no reference but is from Nobel laureate Ernst B. Chain (1906-1979), and likely comes via crank Francis Hitching’s book The Neck of the Giraffe (1982, p.82). Chain seems to have made a lot of antievolution statements. But opinions, even from Nobel laureates, do not count as scientific evidence.

Medieval knights fighting dinosaurs/dragons

A diorama of Medieval knights fighting a theropod dinosaur and a Dimetrodon.

That’s right, a diorama of knights in armor fighting dinosaurs. This is straight out of the YEC literature, where they often speculate that the dragons of medieval legend were actually dinosaurs whose recent ancestors (along with those of every other land animal) had survived the Biblical flood by getting on Noah’s Ark.

Speaking of extinction, the dinosaurs come to mind. These also may have been living fossils up until modern times, except that they were called dragons. Not many people realize how closely the ancient and medieval descriptions of various types of dragons correspond with modern paleontological reconstructions of various dinosaurs. (Henry Morris 2000)

Living dinosaurs?

Living dinosaurs?

Claims that dinosaurs might still live in the African jungles

In fact some of them even believe that dinosaurs (and we’re not talking birds here) are still alive and with us. The poster above talks about the claim that there are living non-avian dinosaurs (and other Mesozoic creatures) running around the more remote areas of the world. For example they often speak (as this poster does) of a legendary creature called Mokele-Mbembe which YEC believe might be some sort of sauropod dinosaur (a smaller version of Dinny) that supposedly lives in the jungle along the Congo river of Africa.

Belief in this fanciful sort of cryptozoology in not found just among few outliers in the YEC community, in fact one can find serious discussions about Mokele-Mbembe in the literature of the Institute for Creation Research, one of the more “scholarly” of the YEC organizations. For example here is an article from a 2002 Impact (part of ICR’s monthly newsletter Acts & Facts), “In Search Of the Congo Dinosaur” by William J. Gibbons.

But my personal favorite is the claim that there are still living pterosaurs (Mesozoic flying reptiles) living in New Guinea called “ropen”, and even better they are supposedly bioluminescent (like fireflies). I even seem to recall someone on creationist Carl Baugh’s TV program claiming that they spit acid or something (no I’m not kidding).

Anyway, it seems that this desecration of Dinny, despite its tackiness and lack of scientific merit, is taking in the bucks since they seem to be gearing up for a fairly big expansion. A large section of the property towards the back and off to one side of Rex has been fenced off, has started to be landscaped, and a whole gaggle of new fiberglass dinosaurs are going in. They are fairly well sculpted; better than Dinny and Rex, though on a much smaller scale and obviously not nearly as weighty.

Church and dinosaurs

The church on property with some of the new dinosaurs in foreground (the Morongo Casino tower can be seen looming in the distance).


A quarter scale Triceratops.


Two raptors (dromaeosaurs) frolicking.

A stegosaur

A quarter scale, or immature stegosaur of some kind.

They’re also supposed to have some sort of “creation museum” inside of Rex, but that is only open in summertime. So I guess I will have to make another trip to see what they’ve got in this “museum” of theirs and to see how the “upgrades” are going, but I won’t be looking forward to it like I did when I was a kid.

See: Dinny the dinosaur (still) held hostage for my report on the “upgrades”.

Additional links on Dinny:

Finally here is a rock video (song title: Without Love) by Tonio K. that prominently features both Dinny and Rex:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

13 thoughts on “Dinny the dinosaur, a fond childhood memory defiled

  1. These people have no shame.

    Why does the Commandment against bearing false witness never seem to carry any weight with them?

    Is it because that Commandment says “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” – so they regard anyone who is not their immediate neighbour as fair game, instead of generalising it to be a universal moral imperative?


  2. Anything to propagate their lies. Willful deception and as Kent-ole-boy these scoffers are dumb on purpose. The whole creationist movement if you will call it that is a fine example of stupid in action.


  3. Pingback: Dinny the dinosaur (still) held hostage « Playing Chess with Pigeons

  4. Sad, that this is your take on life. What hope do you have? I was an evolutionist like you once, I had no hope, no comfort. I looked at the creation info and was willing to humble myself and be saved, it’s very sad that you have not been willing to look at the truth. How are you even able to tell right from wrong without God? “2Ti_4:4 they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”


  5. Pingback: What “hope” do you have being an evolutionist? | Playing Chess with Pigeons

  6. Shame to mess up what (for all their technical inaccuracies) must be a great landmark. It sort of reminds me of my regular childhood visits to the Natural History Museum in London, with the room full of blue whale, and the Diplodocus (a Carnegie one) stretching most of the length of the Hall of Dinosaurs.

    Liked by 1 person

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