It should come as no surprise to you that Jack Chick was not a fan of DARK SHADOWS.
The paranoid, hate-filled comics publisher died Oct. 23 at the age of 92, according to a Facebook post by Chick Publications. There are few people in America who have seen one of his tiny pamphlets, which tell violent parables in support of bigotry, fear and delusional myopia. Since 1961, Chick published more than 250 comics, tackling such crippling social problems as Dungeons & Dragons, rock music, homosexuality and Freemasonry. If it was the least bit fun, Jack Chick hated it.
Naturally, DARK SHADOWS was an easy target for him, though it's highly unlikely he ever watched an episode of the series. In 1972, not long after the ABC soap went off the air, Chick took a potshot at this show in his Chick Tract "Bewitched." Rumor has it story begins with Satan taking in an episode of DARK SHADOWS, it's distinctive gothic/serif font emblazoned on his television set.
"Why are these old re-runs so important, Master?" a nameless ghouls asks.
"Because, stupid, that show paved the way for our occult and vampire programming viewed by millions today," Satan answers dickishly.
And he's not wrong. Without Barnabas Collins, we wouldn't have THE NIGHT STALKER, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and a host of lesser-known offspring. Chick takes a slightly dimmer view of DARK SHADOWS, though, using it as a springboard for his usual morality play about eternal damnation. In short, our protagonist, Debbie, does a bunch of acid before having her soul saved by the prayers of her grandmother. Awwww.
Again, some of this is just rumor. Later editions of "Bewitched" was revised: Debbie's name was changed to Ashley (why?) in later editions, and Satan's favorite TV show was altered to replace DARK SHADOWS with the credits for the sitcom BEWITCHED. (The curious reference to "vampire programming" remained.)
I've spent years casually searching for an original edition of "Bewitched," for no other reason than to satisfy my own curiosity. The 2015 book "The World of Jack Chick" includes a segment on "Bewitched" but does not mention DARK SHADOWS. For all we know, any appearance by the series in a Chick Tract is myth.
But that's OK, because Chick has a much more interesting connection to DARK SHADOWS. But first, a word of warning: this post is going to go to some dark places.
One of Chick's associates was an evangelical Christian named John Todd, who first worked with Chick on "The Broken Cross," one of hsi company's magazine-sized "Crusaders" comics. "John is exposing Masonry which has infiltrated our churches," Chick wrote in 1978. "It’s an unseen enemy. John has given me valuable information on two new publications, 'Angel of Light' and 'Spellbound.' The latter on rock music will have a devastating effect on Christian rock music. I thank God John is risking his neck to warn us of the dangers and techniques used by the Illuminati."
Todd's narrative was that the Illuminati was actually a vast conspiracy of witches, a web that grew to include the KGB, Hollywood, the already mentioned Freemasons ... and the Collins family from DARK SHADOWS. Todd claimed his family was descended from Druids in Scotland, who fled the country after being persecuted as witches. His family name was "Kollyns," which was later changed to "Collins."
When he was a teenager, Todd claimed, he was asked to fly out to "Hollywood" with a diary he'd inherited from his great-grandmother. These diaries served as the basis of DARK SHADOWS, and his ancestor Lance William Collins -- a secretary for a coven that included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton -- inspired Barnabas Collins. (For the record, the DARK SHADOWS production was located in New York.)
Todd also claims DARK SHADOWS was "literally prayed off the television," which is the first time I've heard that particular explanation for the show's cancellation.
"I back John up 100 percent with all his faults," Chick said of Todd in a 1978 letter. "I know this brother is doing his best to advance the kingdom of God. We must keep one fact in mind. John is not a minister, but a Christian layman sharing what he knows about a very explosive subject."
Wikipedia politely describes Todd as a "conspiracy theorist," a tagline that omits a great many of the man's more sinister faults. Todd was a lunatic and conman, having gone by the names "Lance Collins," "Kris Sarayn Kollyns" and "Kollyns Christopher Sarayn" at various points of his dubious career. According to "The Occult World" by Christopher Partridge, Todd was convicted of incest in Kentucky in 1984, for which he received a probationary sentence. In 1988, Todd was convicted in South Carolina of raping a college student, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. During that time, the once evangelical Christian filed a lawsuit against the state claiming he was not allowed to practice Wicca, and demanded "personal items" such as a pair of women's panties and some pornographic photos be returned to him.
Todd was released from prison into the care of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, where he died in 2007. To this day, Todd has defenders who insist his arrests (and even his death) were the work of the Illuminati.Was Jack Chick among their numbers? We can only speculate. None of Todd's offenses were considered valid reasons by Chick Publications to discontinue any of the stories that involved John Todd. "The Broken Cross," which begins with Chick expressing his "deepest appreciation" to Todd, is still available for sale from the company.
Anyone else feel like they need a shower now?