Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Podcast: The Dark Shadows Daybook

Diabolical Daybook diarist Patrick McCray is joined by the Fabulous Alexis Latshaw to resurrect Barnabas Collins and argue that TV’s greatest villain is its greatest hero in a bizarre act of unnatural fan love.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadio and YouTube.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 27


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 834

When Count Petofi appropriates Charles’ studio for a clandestine rendezvous with Edward, Charles is puzzled to learn that a beautiful portrait of Amanda Harris might ruin the mood. Petofi: Thayer David. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Charles Tate discovers the secret of his own power just as Petofi monopolizes his home to meet Edward and expose his knowledge of Barnabas as the vampire. Barnabas ventures forward, via the I Ching, to interview Quentin’s ghost about how he died.

Nothing defines swagger like Jonathan Frid, Thayer David, Grayson Hall, and Louis Edmonds, and 834’s I Ching wands glisten with a palpable mist of their testosterone. I have no idea how a show like this, with an episode like this, could be called a soap opera. “Supernatural drama” is more like it.  Or maybe just, “Dark Shadows,” because at this point, it defines itself. The swagger begins, though, with Roger Davis. And a bit before. 

The writers swagger, having established Charles Delaware Tate as the most powerful being in the universe. I would say more powerful even than Petofi. If the Count were that powerful, he would have given the abilities to himself. Tate is the perfect man for the job, however, because he is one of the people in the dark shadows universe least likely to want it. If Petofi has to choose a vessel for the power, let it be Tate. Roger Davis responds to the task with his most cerebral performance on the show. Most Davis characters are situational pugilists, dealing with very direct conflicts with high stakes and little time. Tate, however, is a man saddled with the ultimate existential realization of his chosen profession, art. It’s safe to live by manifesting imagination if that manifestation is only two dimensional. But the responsibility that he realizes here is beyond the infinite. Can he change a math equation? Would that make buildings rise or fall? Can he change the shape of a continent? Or eliminate the stars with a splash of black paint? Is he experiencing the ultimate liberation of an artist or the ultimate prohibition? Roger Davis captures this complexity with the deliberate economy of a Go master. No small feat. 

Petofi, of course, is Living Swagger, forging names and appropriating art studios to trap Edward. Edward returns the swag by both embracing and dismissing bohemianism And then staying even after he realizes it’s a trap. It’s the perfect embodiment of mechanized, Victorian thinking and propriety. When his worst enemy, Count Petofi, drops a dime on Barnabas, Edward should suspect that something is up. But Edward thinks like a reptile, with only a few up and down switches that give him very limited modes of very binary thinking. That only enhances his confrontation with the former Fenn-Gibbon, because Petofi is nothing but operational contradictions.

Best of all in this is Barnabas. Because he doesn’t have the power cosmic. He’s not the living embodiment of Victorian ideology. Early in the episode, he realizes that he must figure out how Quentin is going to die and how to stop it. Frid’s own actor’s terror here comes to the rescue, as always. It gives him a marvelously petrified millisecond of indecisive horror. Unlike any other TV hero of the era, he’s not a master detective. Barnabas Collins is largely the master of finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, making him more akin to the heroes of Easy Rider and Little Big Man than Mannix. Nevertheless, he must summon the inner Mannix and solve the problem in the most ludicrous way possible, by projecting his soul temporarily through time to his awaiting body so that he can chat with a lethal ghost who never talked, get him to discuss his own death, and then return to 1897 with the news. It’s ridiculous anti-thinking, tantamount to solving a Rubik’s Cube by switching around the stickers. It smacks of desperation.

It works.

Desperation births a strange willpower, and Barnabas may not be a master detective, but he’s no slouch at risking everything on insane ventures. It’s one of the benefits of being a living corpse who’s suffered every conceivable tragedy. The schemes he executes, especially in this era, work because of sheer chutzpah and the bravery one can only achieve through abject terror. At this point, the audience isn’t tuning in to feel afraid, but rather to see what someone else can do when fear is all they know… and fear for the right reasons.

This episode hit the airwaves Sept. 4, 1969.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 26


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1092

Julia’s plan to put Maggie into intentional danger results in Maggie being put into intentional danger. Maggie: Kathryn Leigh Scott. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia uses Maggie as bait to find her attacker, but the plan fails. As she and Barnabas continue to decode prophecy and study Rose Cottage, the children are drawn to the playroom by Carrie’s taunting voice. There, they see themselves as dolls in the dollhouse.

1970 is Collinwood but not Collinwood when Barnabas and Julia return from Parallel Time and 1995. Roger and Liz are gone, as are any outsiders who are not menacing weirdos like Roxanne and Sebastian. I didn’t know how much I would miss Sam and Burke and the Blue Whale, which is the Drawing Room for the Common Man, quite so much. The stories have been so exotic that we really haven’t had time to mourn them. But the bread and butter of so much of the show was playing off rich from not-rich, isolated from urban, sherry from Stroh’s, etc. This perhaps became irrelevant with the introduction of Quentin, a man of pretty common sensibilities with an aristocratic last name. Losing that chemistry is a shame because it grounded the show and the family. Take that away, and disorientation sets in. Never before has the Collins family felt more isolated and helpless. Are these things even going on? Don’t bother to look, the mirror was blinded a year ago. The Collinses always saw themselves as the saviors of the commoners, but it’s the other way around. The last of the townsfolk, Maggie, is finally being sacrificed. It’s the price she pays for climbing Mt. Olympus. She was right to warn Vicki and a chump for ignoring her own advice.

1092 begins with Maggie being allowed to wander the Collins estate so that Julia can track down her assailant. When that fails, she and Barnabas refuse to alert the authorities, which might have been a lifesaving move. It’s as if they and the series want her to die. Maggie has been astonishingly indestructible, and it takes a team effort of malice, hunger, and negligent friends to finally pour her into Sebastian’s car. But with sensible average folk around, there is no way that the Collinses would have stayed in that house. I mean, it’s Quentin, the kids, Barnabas, and Julia. Carolyn, too. That’s a double room at the Collinsport Inn and a couple of sleeping bags. It might be close quarters, but Gerard can have the house. Doesn’t happen. In a vacuum of pragmatism, this is what we’re left with, and it’s intentional. Horror may be the ultimate expression of art because both are about stripping down the essentials until the only remaining choice exists by default.

The children fight inevitability and are victimized by it all at the same time that they symbolically enact it. (Kathy Cody’s best acting on the show is her eerie voice work as the gloating voice of Carrie.) Another element that makes this Collinwood-not-Collinwood begins with David Henesy’s narration. He’s not supposed to be doing this, and his voice is not supposed to be that deep. He and Hallie even argue over whether or not she’s a guest, and David gives her the bad news that she’s become a lifer. So… is she the next Vicki or Carolyn? Yes, no, too young. All answers apply, ultimately making her another element that doesn’t quite fit, and doesn’t quite fit… on purpose. It keeps Collinwood alien to us. Because this upcoming trip is not about saving David or Collinwood. Whether he knows it or not, this trip will ultimately be about Barnabas saving himself.

Barnabas continues to wander through a liminal forest, and in the words of Michael Corleone, every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in. 1897 seemed to be the forest, and 1970, home. It was a specific place to which he could return after Parallel Time, but nothing’s the same when he does. The household is different. Even Julia’s hair is different. The forest has followed him into a present that may be more unfamiliar than Parallel Time. By the time he returns home to 1971, Collinwood is finally the familiar same, but he is not. That’s the irony, and it’s not a nice one.

Is he being manipulated? We all are. Viewers and our sympathies. Heroes and their supposed true loves. 1092 is talking about this is loud silences and a final image both chilling and satirical when we realize we are in the dollhouse with them.

This episode hit the airwaves Sept. 1, 1970.

Podcast: Penny Dreadful and the Vampire of Collinsport

Penny Dreadful's alter ego Danielle Gelehrter discusses her favorite vampire, Barnabas Collins, and her memories of growing up a "second generation" Dark Shadows fan. You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadio and YouTube.

Penny Dreadful ( the XIII, to be more specific) is a New England-based television horror host and two-time recipient of The Rondon Hatton Classic Horror Awards and a 2014 inductee of the Horror Host Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter at @Danielle13Penny and visit Shilling Shockers online at

Friday, August 23, 2019

Podcasts! Weclome to Collinsport and The House by the Sea

If you subscribe to The Collinsport Historical Society Podcast, you might have found another episode in your download queue yesterday. The last few weeks have been incrediblt stressful, what with getting a child ready for kindergarten and all. So my wife and I took the day off yesterday to play videogames and depressurize, so there was no announcement about the podcast here at the website. But yesterday Big Finish's Welcome to Collinsport, and features a chat by the producers of Big Finish's line of Dark Shadows audio dramas about why extending the show's storyline has always been about extending the Collins family.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadioYouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Today's episode is The House by the Sea with Jessica Dwyer. Jessica explains why the sins of Collinsport's royal family aren't always as sinful as they appear. You can download the episode HERE, or stream it below. If you've been keeping count, Jessica's episode marks the end of this week's "single serving" series, meaning you've got new episodes coming your way Monday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Podcast: The Dark Shadows Daybook

Another day, another Dark Shadows podcast! Patrick McCray and Justin Partridge have a drink at The Blue Whale and talk about the Master of Dark Shadows documentary, how the series speaks to the lonely, and why the 1897 storyline is essentially an episode of Fantasy Island for Barnabas Collins. Pull up a seat at the bar and give it a listen!

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Podcast: My Drawing Room

The first installment of the rejvenated Collinsport Historical Society podcast was a graveyard smash. But the kaiju-sized format has proven difficult to keep up with, so we're going back to formula. New episodes will be coming your way next week, but in the meantime enjoy these single-serving installements extracted from the first episode.

In the first episode of My Drawing Room, Alice Collins talks about discovering Dark Shadows on The Sci-Fi Channel while home sick from school at age 11, and seeing something familiar in the show's themes and characters.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadioYouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 19


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 566

Barnabas becomes suspicious of Julia when she begins sleeping all day, wearing high collared shirts, and longing for the embrace of the undead. Tom Jennings: Don Briscoe. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia is attacked and bitten by Tom, and later denies it to WIllie, who takes her to Collinwood to recover. She instructs Mrs. Johnson to leave her alone, and when the housekeeper brings her a letter from Barnabas, she tears it up. Later, Julia is summoned by Tom for the second meal of the day, and upon coming back to Collinwood, her bite marks are discovered by Barnabas.

I know that alcoholism isn’t funny. And drunks aren’t funny.

Having made that clear, Dark Shadows was produced before these modern opinions, and we’re swimming in its pool, so get that lampshade off your head and jump in. Once you’ve seen the episodes enough times, which could mean just once, it becomes pretty clear that the writers often had a good time by doing an episode in drag. I don’t mean that Sam Hall was wearing a dress, because I always saw him as more of a smart, designer pantsuit kinda guy, much like future tv hunk, Bea Arthur. No, I simply mean that the episodes are often about something else. Usually with no conclusion. Just an opportunity to explore a situation or human moment that was fun or challenging or necessary to write about. All you have to do is re-frame a little bit of the context.

I think the reason that drinking was kind of funny for so long was that the drinkers were often in on the joke, and the joke kind of changed before, during, and after the imbibing. “Morning after“ humor is a strange mix of regret, everyone agreeing to ignore the obvious after-effects, and the paradoxical pursuit of hair of the dog. In this case, the dog is Tom Jennings. Because if you look at this episode and kind of ignore the bite marks on its neck, it looks for all the world like Julia is sleeping off a hangover and everyone is either trying to deny what they know or find out what they fear. And it’s not just a minor hangover. This is, in the immortal words of Robert Urich, “a full, adult-size bangaroo.” It’s also perfect commedia dell’arte, where the hapless servants are trying to understand the decadence of one half of the household and then cover it up to the rest. What can Mrs. Johnson possibly be thinking? She worked for Burke Devlin, so whatever it is, it can’t be new.

In the midst, Barnabas is more of a fussbudget than ever. He had to put up with months of Nathan Forbes and, I’m sure, more than one night of Jeremiah in his cups, thumping around the almost-Old House while chasing maids or sneaking in doxies from the docks. In the 20th century, that level of wanton sherry consumption might pass at Collinwood, but this is his house, thank you, and Young Loomis and Dr. Hoffman were hand-picked because they didn’t go in for those sorts of shenanigans. Which is why he wants to get to the bottom of it, even more. And Willie does everything to keep him from knowing. And Julia, knowing exactly what Barnabas is up to, tears up Barnabas‘s note, because it probably said, “Lay off the sauce and get back to work, you lug.”

The scene where Willie and Barnabas have their confrontation in the lab is priceless, because someone has forgotten his lines, and I can’t wager which one it was. But Barnabas seems so appalled at what’s happened that awkward silence mixed with helpless astonishment are indistinguishable from a fully-voiced response. If anything, it’s more realistic. I mean, what do you say? This is an episode with no really progressive dialogue, just evasion and implication with Tom Jennings in the middle.

Tom is the bartender here, and he’s worse than the clientele. Actually, that’s stretching it all. Tom Jennings is a very peculiar vampire. Maybe one of the scariest, because he’s the most consistently feral. Via makeup and performance, Don Briscoe emphasizes the undead and driven quality of the monster, stripping away the velveteen refinement and leaving a working-class killer underneath… and perhaps the portrayal is a commentary on class paranoia by the writers. (It’s a reflection, anyway.) Barnabas can be trusted with the satanic powers of the undead; he’s been to university. But a guy like Tom Jennings? Lock up your Doctor Hoffmans! There’s a union man on the loose!

Episodes like 566 are situational popcorn. Even when monotonous, they are character-driven delights to watch. Like any good sitcom, I know exactly what’s coming and yet it always satisfies. Actually, it satisfies on a more metaphysical level even than that. Barnabas had his chance with Julia and he ignored it. Rather than see her victimized, I almost see her avenged, and the vaguely post-coital splay and daze in which she’s found by Willie and Barnabas after her two encounters say far more than what’s on the page. Is Barnabas horrified because she was claimed by a vampire or by a vampire other than he? 

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 26, 1968.

Podcast: Jonathan Frid and the Clunes Reunion

We're chopping up the last podcast and spreading the remains all over the world. Every day this week we're disposing of another gory chunk of our massive episode "It Runs in the Family." We've already released the contributions from Dana Gould and Ella Minnope. Today's segment is The Clunes Reunion: On the seventh anniversary of Jonathan Frid's death this year, his production staff and creative collaborators reunited in New York City to remember the life and career of the man best known for playing Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. There are a LOT of surprising details revealed here.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube whereever you find your podcasts.

The Dark Shadows theme is performed by Valentine Wolfe.

Dark Shadows: The Marilyn Ross Codex #1 - Dark Shadows


I suppose I owe you lovely readers an apology first and foremost.

It has been a good while since I have graced the hallowed halls of the CHS. So long in fact that my typewriter and paltry desk lamp have been moved BACK down to the Cupboard Under the Stairs, right back next to the mop and spare encyclopedias. It really is my bad.

Truth be told, some freelance work took me up to accursed Bangor and kept me there far, far too long. I got to talk about Swamp Thing over at Newsarama a bunch. I covered some horror film festivals AND wrote in a quite good zine (available now and with issue #2 on the way!) over at Dis/Member. I was even in a magazine! The Eisner winning PanelXPanel #25, all about the Sandman franchise, which was a trip and a half. It would have all been worth it had I not been in that festering cesspool of mediocrity that is Bangor. Schlepping down to what they pass off as a bar, filling pieces while choking down that weak freaking tea they call beer all while dodging mouth-breathing jabronis who haven't heard a goddamn Steely Dan song they didn’t love.

Anyone who tells you Bangor is a “decent enough town” is WRONG. Dead wrong. And probably selling you something.

But I’m back! And I have plenty of work ahead of me, work that will hopefully get me out of the broom closet and back into something at least resembling a workspace. Which brings us to this new column! The Marilyn Ross Codex! That’s right, after all these years, the Paperback Library’s’ Marilyn Ross books are finally receiving the audiobook treatment thanks to Oasis Audio. We here at the CHS have gotten a hold of some of these beauties and are going to be taking a listen to them. The immensely talented and far smarter than I am Alice Collins (@VampAly!) will also be joining us eventually along the way, and maybe a few other guests, if yer lucky! Welcome to The Marilyn Ross Codex!

So, I have a special relationship with the Marilyn Ross books, in that I DON’T have a relationship with them. Like my beloved Big Finishverse, I had only become aware of the cult classic tie-in novels here recently. Which is a bummer as I have heard they are quite insane. Like, fighting mummies and offering a completely separate prose universe alongside the TV canon insane. All of that sounds very much my jam. A lot of fans seem to really like these, and I have always meant to get around to them but a 32 book long series is daunting even for the most devout of fans. The closest I have come to really getting into these is listening to the fantastic Bodice Tipplers podcast episode about book #6 Barnabas Collins, by all rights, the horniest of the Marilyn Ross affairs.

Which is why I am excited to get to these reviews! I now have a pretty great in point for these and should I want to double-dip, buying both the old novels to display while keeping the audiobooks as my “reading copy” I totally can! It is nicely symmetrical for the obsessive collecting dork in me.

So how is the actual content itself, you may be asking now. And to that I say, pretty great! Though lacking the production values of the Big Finish audios and clocking in at a pretty decent chunk of time (which I will get into later), this first audio, carefully and lovingly read by Maggie Evans herself Kathryn Leigh Scott, is a fantastic entry point into this “Expanded Universe” of Dark Shadows.

Stop me if you have heard this before, but Victoria Winters has come to Collinwood. Lured by an offer to work at *checks notes* Collins House as governess to a child that lives there. Something, something beginning and the end of the world, you get it.  What follows is a pulpy, fairly loose adaptation of the first dozen or so episodes of the original TV series, stocked with all new characters and variants on the show’s opening dynamics. Characters like Ernest Collins, a seemingly famous concert violinist and suspected murderer who lives in Collins House (a canny anachronism that continues for the first few Ross books).   

As a fan of Expanded Universe, I sincerely love the idea of a semi-independent canon that stands alongside the TV canon, with it’s own cast and storylines. That said, the lack of production values is a bit of a bummer, especially when compared to the still ongoing Big Finish Dark Shadows line. Another bummer is the lack of any other cast members. Maybe the idea further down the line is to get other cast members in the booth and I DO love hearing Scott talk just in general as she has a smooth, caring tone that I find psychologically soothing. But part of the charm and drive of the Big Finishverse is hearing her play once again against other actors. I fear these might sound a bit stuffy after the full-cast efforts.

I also fear that the time commitment of this opener might be a turn off for casual fans. Clocking in at six hours, this thing really is a true blue audiobook (which, honestly, should have been something I anticipated going into this). Which means it's just bare bones reading for the whole time. Not helping matters is the fact that this first book is largely worldbuilding, setting up Vicki, Collins House, and the expanded cast of these novels. It has a pretty good hook, but anyone familiar with the TV canon won’t really be too surprised here. That said, I think die-hard Shadows people will find it a pretty great adaptation of this weird EU starter, but not having the frills of music or other cast members might be a tougher sell for me when I yell at people to get into the franchise. 

You might think that is a contradiction to what I said above, but I really, really did enjoy Dark Shadows. I think Scott continues to be really comfortable behind the microphone in any capacity and Ross’ odd, but engagingly written prose provides a spooky weekend listen for those still wondering what the hell this Dark Shadows thing is all about anyway. Those in the know too will find this fun as well as it brings the weirdness of tie-ins and the franchise overall into a wider market, hopefully snapping up more fans and devotees. To quote a great man, Joe Bob says, check it out.

NEXT TIME! Marilyn Ross #2! 1967’s Victoria Winters! To be honest, I’m just hoping we can get to the mummy fighting. Be seeing you!

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Podcast: Evolving in the Shadows

The first installment of the rejvenated Collinsport Historical Society podcast was a graveyard smash. But the kaiju-sized format has proven difficult to keep up with, so we're going back to formula. New episodes will be coming your way next week, but in the meantime enjoy these single-serving installements from the first episode. We're dissecting them into more manageable portions, posting an episode a day throughout the week. Yesterday, Dana Gould explained how Dark Shadows might have been gothic as all get out, it was still as American as apple pie. Today,  Ella Minnope talks about how the romantic aesthetic of the deep South compares to the dysfunctional Collins family in Evolving in the Shadows. You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or whereever you find your podcasts.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Podcast: Dark Shadows is as American as apple pie

Mistakes were made.

The first podcast turned out better than I could have ever imagined, a two-hour sprawling epic with more contributors than I could count. The traffic on the episode was great, as well ... but trying to publish an omnibus podcast on a monthly basis proved to be beyond my abilities. I've got some good stuff already in the can for episode two, but trying to get everybody to manage their schedules at my whim is unrealistic. From now on I'll be releasing "single serving" episodes as they become available, collecting them into an anthology podcast at a later date.

Which means I have to break down the previous podcast into single serving installments ... beginning today. Each day throughout the week a complete segment from our first episode - "It Runs in the Family" - will be shared as an individual MP3 file. Hopefully this might also attract a few of you who blanched at the thought of a two-hour podcast.

First up: Night Rally by Dana Gould! Dana and Bobcat Goldthwait were injured Thursday in a car wreck in Atlanta, suggesting they might need to follow some sort of Air Force One protocol for future live appearances. Get well soon, guys.
You can download Night Rally by clicking HERE, or stream it below. The Dark Shadows theme is performed here by Valentine Wolfe.

Tomorrow: Evolving in the Shadows with Ella Minnope!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Get Dark Shadows stuff CHEAP

The Big Finish warehouse is bulging with a plethora of amazing releases from the last 20 years – so grab some CD bargains while stocks last. As you'd expect from Big Finish, there's a LOT of Doctor Who audios for sale, but there are quite a few Dark Shadows titles also part of this weekend's deal. (I haven't stopped to count them, but it looks like almost the whole Dark Shadows line is on sale.)

Head to and use access code AUGUST to get the warehouse clearance prices. Act fast! Once these CD releases are gone, they’re gone and will only be available on download thereafter. Unless otherwise stated, all CD purchases unlock a download exclusive via the Big Finish website or the Big Finish app.

These offers are only available until 23:59 UK time Aug. 19, so don’t delay.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A new Dark Shadows TV series is in the works

The cat is out of the bag: A new Dark Shadows television series is being discussed!

There have been rumors about the project circulating for months, but now I have a source which I can attribute, which is (checks notes) Forbes. The magazine has a feature about Bradley Gallo, Chief Creative Officer/Partner for Amasia Entertainment. Among the projects he's developing is a "re-boot" of Dark Shadows with Warner Bros. Over at Stage 32, Gallo is listed as an executive producer on the series.

If things proceed, where is Dark Shadows going to land? I don't know ... but I hear the major streaming services are being targeted. That's if it happens at all. In the words of George Burns, show business is a hideous bitch goddess ... a new Dark Shadows might go to pilot and die. An entire season might get shot and shelved. The final product might even, dare I say it ... suck? But it's exciting to think about. Consider my mind open and my body ready.

I'm already dreading the inevitable Facebook arguments this is going to provoke. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 12


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1083

Sebastian Shaw disturbs Hallie with news from the beyond, but will he open his third eye in time to see that Collinsport’s most venerable hunk is coming his way? Professor Stokes: Thayer David. (Repeat; 30 min.)

David and Hallie find a dollhouse of Rose Cottage in the playroom and are disturbed by the presence of dolls that resemble themselves. Driven my Hallie’s evasions, Professor Stokes visits Sebastian. Although he implies that Sebastian is a fraud, Sebastian demonstrates his powers through a heartfelt vision that ends in the sight of the children sleeping. After Stokes leaves, Sebastian confides in Roxanne that the children were actually dead. At Collinwood, David and Hallie try to break Gerard’s spell by burning the dolls. When they return to the playroom, the dolls have reappeared, unharmed.

The irony of Dark Shadows’ broadcast history is that, by the time they were making the episodes that would have really given kids nightmares, the kids for whom the show was vaguely aimed were too old to be scared. Or given nightmares by soap operas. Or maybe still watching But 1083 is a fine candidate for nightmare inducement, and a perfectly good reason to walk a little slower on the way home from school. Lately, Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall are not reliably waiting to greet them

It’s a cursed storyline. Cursed by the fact that we already know they’re doomed. Yes, the whole point is averting it, but at no point do our heroes catch a glimmer of hope. In this episode, we have only the third stringers to rely upon. And I hate to call Professor Stokes this, but the role of skeptic is a strange one for him, and it’s a little odd to try and get behind him not believing in something. Especially because he gets it wrong. And that’s what they do in the Ragnarok sequence. They get it wrong at every crucial point when getting it right would thwart Gerard. He is a villain whose plan only works because of entropy. An all-star can only get it right so many times. Stokes not only has trouble detecting that Sebastain Shaw is the real deal, but he even fails to detect the only lie told by him: that the children were in no real danger. In fact, he saw them dead. This isn’t a testament to Stokes’ waning powers; it’s a tribute to the insurmountable odds he faces in near ignorance.

Killing kids is one of horror’s few taboos, reserved only when the medium has no interest in charming the audience. (And to witness what happens when you effectively break that taboo, revisit Pet Sematary.) Sure, kids have died/almost died before on the show, but never just… because. Heroes constantly outmatched? One of the only things that makes much horror watchable is the knowledge that the forces of good may somehow escape. Or, as with the 1982 The Thing, at least take “it” with them on the way down. The last victory Gerard wants is a moral one, and it’s clear that none will happen on his watch.

1083 typifies the storyline in that David and Hallie are on the front lines of both the attack and the defense. Fewer things are more unsettling than trying to solve a problem you may be unwittingly creating, and episodes like these are strange precursors to the feeling that Candyman gave audiences. There, too, the heroine is a lightning rod for manipulation by the villain. Dollhouses, as I’ve noted before, are testaments to our desire to control. As David and Hallie try to sidestep its rules by burning the dolls, Gerard must again deliver a memo in inevitability by making them reappear.

Why a dollhouse? Coming up on a future episode, David and Hallie will see themselves replacing the figurines within. It’s what I consider to be the single most disturbing image on the show. Gerard’s message is a clear one; David and Hallie are already dolls in a dollhouse, themselves: Collinwood. Gerard is its clear master, and maybe he has been for a very, very long time.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 19, 1970.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 8


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 562

Joe finally learns the truth behind Collinsport’s nocturnal activities. But if he’s a puppet, who is the hand? Angelique or Nicholas? Joe Haskell: Joel Crothers. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Joe stumbles upon Willie, who is digging up a grave. Nicholas and Angelique divert Joe from informing the authorities, and Joe later goes to a nervous Barnabas to suggest that the police will not be involved. Joe continues to succumb to Angelique’s bite, despite resisting.

Dark Shadows started out as one thing. And that one thing cannot escape what the show is becoming. The saddest example of that is the transformation of Joe Haskell.  Sad because he is a wasted, maddened casualty, played with a wonderful sense of dawning horror by Joel Crothers. He and his character were once the show’s rays of light. (Excluding an understandable temper and one, allowable, drunken night of soaking up beer and piddling class envy on the Collinsport Afgan.) Now, he’s Angelique’s blood doll, and a pitiful, disheveled one, at that. His captivation by Angelique can be written off to the supernatural, but that feels superficial. Angelique is, In every way, the anti-Maggie. Does this make her the wrong woman or the wrong woman in the right ways? Joe’s desperate attraction feels tragically right. Even her comparative indifference to him is both repulsive and alluring. 

Dark Shadows’ early world of blackmail and revenge was built for Joe Haskell, and Joe was built to be the paragon withstanding it. He reeks of honest work, integrity, and common sense. When Willie needs a warning or Sam needs a sober ear, Joe’s the guy. Vampires and demons, not so much. Dark Shadows was careful to segregate guys like Joe and Burke from the incipient sideshow. They were just not built for moments like this, and all of Collinsport Revealed to be an elaborate shell to hide what was really brewing under the surface. Jeffrey Beaumont is designed to successfully segue back and forth between the genres. His story is, by classical definitions, a comedy. Joe’s is a tragedy. When Jeffrey says that, “It’s a strange world,” he does so with bemused wonder. But when Joe Haskell says it, there is nothing more nor less than horror -- at the world and his own combination of eager desire and spoonfed ignorance. He is the doomed hero of Lovecraft, not Lynch. But David Lynch is an optimist compared to the minds behind Dark Shadows, and the fall of Joe Haskell is a prime example.

In fact, he is so alien to the newly revealed world of the supernatural in Dark Shadows that Angelique seems subtly indifferent towards him. He’s a meal to her more than a man, and she takes the job because she’s a pro. Not because she wants to. He’s a worthy victim in only the biological sense. When they share the screen, it feels like two vastly different shows have been Frankensteined together, but that adds to the dark fascination of it. Because it’s clear which is going to win, we also see which vision of the universe is stronger. Suddenly, the pedestrian world of everyday, mortal storytelling is revealed to be on the thinnest of stilts. Van Helsing doesn’t stand a chance, and we knew it all along. The unseemly and fascinating part of this story is how it brazenly tells that truth about mortal life after setting it up as unimpeachable for the past two years. Joe has been played all along, and the audience -- part of Joe’s world all along -- has been, as well.

When Barnabas returns from 1795, he immediately starts draining Vicki of blood. It’s a metaphor for the show reinventing itself by feeding off its own beginnings until they cease to be relevant. Joe’s victimization by Angelique is simply equal opportunity with a thousand-yard stare. And not without regrets. In 562, both Joe and Angelique seem equally horrified and enthralled at the prospect of meeting each other. Joe seems to have more of the opportunity to resist than any victim we’ve seen. Consequently, his eventual capitulation to bites and blackmail is all the more poignant.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 20, 1968.

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Collinsport Historical Society writer needs your help

Frank Jay Gruber has been contributing to The Collinsport Historical Society almost from the beginning, and is a founding member of what I jokingly call the "board of directors."

His first contribution was for our Grayson Hall Blog-a-thon way back in 2012, and he's since written about such movies as House of Dark ShadowsDracula Has Risen from the Grave and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Frank is also a great guy, and a fan's fan. When I attended my first Dark Shadows Festival in 2016, he offered to pick me up at the airport in Newark, N.J. and shuttle me to Tarrytown, N.Y. That, alone, should tell you something about his character. Whenever anyone asks me for a favor, I remember how far out of his way Frank went for me that weekend and try to live up to those standards. (If you've ever been to the Newark airport, you know he set the bar pretty high, ha ha.)

On July 31, Frank began chemotherapy following a diagnosis of Stage IV pancreatic cancer, which had already spread to his liver by the time it was detected. I don't have any profound insight into his situation. The word "unfair" keeps pushing my other thoughts to the margins. I'm struggling to complete this paragraph, but in the end it doesn't really matter what I do or say ... Frank doesn't need my platitudes right now. But he's a good guy and I hope he pulls through this.

On July 19, Frank's friend Chris Vignola launched a fundraiser to help cover his medical expenses. You can find it on Facebook at and the goal is $20,000. Here's a snippet from the page's summary:
"Frank and his family, wife of 30 years Kathy, his two daughters Cristina and Melissa have had a series of bad luck. In 1989 Frank suffered a brain stem injury and has been permanently disabled in addition to 8 herniated discs from a car accident. I have asked for things thru the years for my special kids and vets but this one is even more personal to me. Please anything you can give. Give a little each time you can through out this fundraiser , it doesnt need to be a giant amount in one shot. Again he is one of our own please step up the plate for this avid Yankees fan and lets hit it out of the park for him!"
$20,000 for one family is a major expense, but The Collinsport Historical Society's thousands of readers should be able to make a sizable dent in that goal. Consider it the bill coming due for all the free content we've provided here over the years.

You can find the Facebook fundraiser online HERE. Please consider donating.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Sy Tomashoff 1922-2019


Along with Bob Cobert, there is one man who appeared in every episode of Dark Shadows, and did so while balancing the impossible. He was artful and practical at the same time, just as he was menacing and nostalgic at the same time.  He was past and present at the same time. Grand and forbidding, and warmly domestic. Ancient and new. City and country. Rich and poor. Innovative and innocuous. Secular and supernatural. And most of all, inevitably iconic.

Scenic designer Sy Tomashoff was not only responsible for the look of the continuing world of discovery and time travel on the program, but also for its sense of time, itself. Chronologically, yes, but also as the prison first Presented by Collinwood for the viewers. He never had the luxury of not thinking ahead. Would the show be going to color? Would the show be going to unknown storylines? Would the show eventually feature something actually scary? He was responsible for the look of the program in the present, and was constantly preparing for what the show might be in the future, an impossible feat.

Oh yes, and he did all of this in a space with less versatility than a bowling alley. Making room for actors, technicians, and three, cable dragging, giant television cameras. In fact, on Dark Shadows, he helped envision, plan for, and execute one of the first three camera programs in the daytime television industry.

In assembling a program, no one really knows that he is creating icons. They have too many jobs to do. The best evidence for his genius may be seen in the other versions of Dark Shadows, Most of which already provided mansions and mortar from previously established buildings. Those versions prove an unmistakable point. They either had real locations, such as Lyndhurst and Greystone, or grand designs that rose from a backlot to be as grandiose as possible. Indeed, they were authentic and fanciful, but the pre-existing structures and backlot behemoths lacked something essential. Collinwood must be a source of fear and a symbol of wealth while also being a source of loyalty and warmth and family and a thing worth defending. Creating that visual world was one of television’s great accomplishments. The subsequent versions and visions of Dark Shadows were grand design. But Tomashoff did that while creating a home.

Sy Tomashoff arguably had more influence on the program than anyone short of the show’s musical composer. He continued to work for decades, exploring the possibilities for visual storytelling in the strangely rigorous world of daytime television. He is a legend to other designers in the industry. And his genius lives after him, defining Dark Shadows in every frame.

So, who wants to be on a Dark Shadows trading card?

UPDATE: Thanks for everyone who participated today in #DarkestSelfie on Twitter. It probably came as a surprise to a lot of people ... I expect to be getting selfies for the rest of the day, but can't promise I'll be able to "card" them. Anyhoo, here's a collage of today's event. If anyone wants to do this again, I've got templates for the green trading card ready to go.

... original post follows ...

Fangoria did something amazing online yesterday. As part of the magazine's 40th anniversary, some poor graphic designer spent several hours incorporating selfies submitted by readers into previous Fango covers. IT WAS GLORIOUS. You can see a small gallery of the images HERE. (If you've ever been curious about what I look like, you can see what they did to me HERE.)

It was a fantastic celebration of the community that has accumulated around the magazine over the years, and an idea that seems worth ripping off. So, beginning at 11 a.m. EST today, tag me on Twitter @CousinBarnabas, use the hashtag #DarkestSelfie and send me your most gothic photo ... and I'll turn it into a Dark Shadows trading card! (I'll be shutting down at noon, so you've got one hour to get me your photos.)

The format for this go-round will be the original pink-bordered trading cards. If this experiment is a success we'll try this again with the green Dark Shadows cards and maybe even ... well, I've got some ideas.

This is a spur-of-the-moment announcement so anything can happen. It might be a dud. Or I might be getting fitted for a carpal tunnel glove later today.

- Wallace

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 5


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 559

Will Nicholas solve his romantic problems with Maggie by insisting that Angelique have Joe for dinner? Nicholas: Humbert Allen Astredo. (Repeat; 30 min.)

With the aid of a magic mirror and the trio of powers of hypnosis, ventriloquism, and invisibility, Nicholas fools Victoria into thinking she’s been at the Old House instead of his prisoner. When she wanders in to see Jeff, he informs her that she’s been missing for days. Meanwhile, Nicholas again charms Maggie, but when Joe appears, it’s clear that there are rocks on the green for the devil’s Don Juan. Returning to the house by the sea, he suggests to Angelique that her next victim will be Joe Haskell.

Jeez, even a smooth-talking, well-dressed, hardworking, handsome professional guy from Hell doesn’t stand a chance against the eternal menace of The Old Boyfriend. It’s a credit to the casting and authorship of Dark Shadows that you side with the demon on the whole thing. It’s a longstanding tradition now that the show’s ostensible villains are the romantic heroes, but in this case, there’s no ostensible about it. He IS the villain. Nonetheless, he’s a villain experiencing his first love, and who can’t get behind that? Maggie brings out the best in him. Humbert Allen Astredo becomes a California-bronzed Richard Benjamin onscreen with Kathryn Leigh Scott, and together, they create television’s most subversive almost-couple.

There’s nothing new to seeing love depicted as a transformative force. That’s its job in art. It transforms the static, the pessimistic, the hopeless, and the innocent. Dark Shadows is bored with that, and reliably examines what love can do for evil. Angelique is the series’ longest-running experiment in that. Her story ends in the transformation that love can create. Just because she believes she begins the story as a woman in love, doesn’t mean that she is. Obsessed, maybe. Jealous, certainly. If she begins the series in love with anything, it’s with the idea of being someone else -- primarily a Collins, wealthy and waspy. She calls that love, and it may be, but its not romance. She just happens to find that along the way, and it’s a happy irony that it’s with the subject of her obsession. Even luckier? Having gotten the pleasure of burning her alive out of his system, he’s eventually open to exploring a future with the woman who condemned him to a godless, living death of savagery and solitude. As one should expect.

For Adam, love motivates him to improve himself. It also motivates him to become a serial kidnapper, but at least that gets him out of the house. Love transforms Julia Hoffman. Quentin, arguably. Certainly, Jeb. But with Nicholas, there is a genuine danger to the depiction and storyline. Not just that he’s doing something dangerous -- it’s that the writers are.

Depending on where you’re coming from. Love doesn’t really transform Nicholas so much as expand his range of delights. Because of the casting of Astredo, it’s hard not to root for him. Especially compared with the charming-but-bland quarterback-type presented by Joe Haskell, the program creates an immediate David-and-Goliath scenario where it’s very easy to root for the diabolical Blair. Joe’s spun his wheels for years… at least Nicholas wants to make a commitment. And it’s not because Maggie’s soul is the secret to some superweapon or something. No, he just authentically loves her. If Nicholas’ charm and awareness weren’t enough to make him the preferable Dr. Pepper to the predictable Coke of the good guys, now he’s a guy with a sincere interest in one of the show’s heroines. Because who knows what’s holding up Joe? Barnabas wasn’t in love with her; he was in love with someone who just looked like her. True, we don’t see how Joe responded to her when he and Maggie first met. We don’t see Joe infatuated. What we see is a Joe (yes, traumatized, but still….) who is complacent but arguably noncommittal. Contrasted with a Nicholas, motivated for the right reasons, it makes Joe’s upcoming fate even sadder. And Maggie’s affection for Joe, even more so, because we know where it’s headed.

As for Nicholas? Now more than ever, it’s hard to root against him. And maybe we don’t. We just root against his plans. Nicholas is a man who wants naughty naughty things. But Maggie’s not one of them.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 15, 1968.
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