x5 peter waving

X5: That Troublesome Problem

“Isn’t it possible that Vicki is her own descendant?”

I’m taking a week off, so that I can concentrate on vengeance, and nothing else. But I don’t want to abandon you completely, because I know what it’s like to feel alone. I’m a Dark Shadows fan too.

So this week, I’ve been posting snippets from The World of Dark Shadows, a fanzine that was very important to me in the 80s and 90s. My favorite part of the magazine was the Collinsport Debating Society, where fans asked open-ended questions about the characters or the storylines, and then everybody speculated. It’s basically what people do now in forums, except it was way, way slower. That means the writers had more time to think about their response, and the readers had more time to wonder what the hell they were talking about.

Today, I’m going to share some excerpts from the Collinsport Debating Society. I haven’t asked anybody for permission, so I hope nobody minds, and here it is.

Continue reading X5: That Troublesome Problem

x4 collinwood header

X4: An Uncertain and Frightening Journey

“This is a time of suspicion, a time when the past seems to penetrate the walls of Collinwood.”

I’m taking the week off so that I can test-drive some exciting new sedatives, but I don’t want to leave you unsupervised all week. You might get up to all kinds of mischief, who even knows. So I’ll tide you over with some strange bits of business that would never fit in a regular post.

Today, let’s talk about Markov chains. Andrey Markov was a Russian mathematician in the late 19th century, who came up with a way to describe systems with no memory — where the next thing that happens is only dependent on the current state, rather than what happened in the past.

You figure out how often the process moves from A to B, compared to when it goes from A to C, and then you can use probability to generate a “Markov chain” — a sample run-through of the process. This is useful in math, and physics, and other smart-people areas.

An amusing but not at all useful application of this idea is a Markov chain text generator. You can put a whole bunch of sentences into the generator — like, for example, the opening narrations for Dark Shadows episodes. Then the generator starts with a random word from the input text, and calculates what word is most likely to come next. Then it does the same with the next word, and so on. You end up with text that sounds like the original, but doesn’t actually mean anything.

So I’m going to input every opening narration from episode 210 through 650 into the Markov generator, to see if we can discover the perfect Dark Shadows introduction. Here we go.

Continue reading X4: An Uncertain and Frightening Journey

x3 julia reads book header

X3: Barnabas Collins and the Poetry Slam

“As you lovingly bite my neck, your fangs sink ever deeper.”

Wednesday falls over the great house at Collinwood, and I’m still taking a week off so that I can polish my harpoon collection. So I’m going to post some interesting selections from The World of Dark Shadows, and then hypnotize you into thinking that counts as today’s blog entry.

By the way, did you ever try to find the exact center of a piece of fine crystal? Let the colors flow past you. Keep searching for the center. Yeah, that’ll do.

Continue reading X3: Barnabas Collins and the Poetry Slam

651 x2 dark shadows julia words

X2: Everything That Julia Says in Episode 361, in Alphabetical Order

“mausoleum mausoleum mausolem maybe”

Sadly, I have to take this week off, because I’m going to Barbados to learn the secret magic number of the universe. But I don’t want to shatter the ancient truce between the readers and the blog, so I’m filling in with some odds and ends that wouldn’t fit in a regular post.

This would be one of the odd ones.

Continue reading X2: Everything That Julia Says in Episode 361, in Alphabetical Order

651 x1 dark shadows barnabas circus

X1: Barnabas Goes to the Circus

“You’re Barnabas Collins, the vampire. You leave me alone.”

Hi, you’ve reached Dark Shadows Every Day. I’m not here right now, because I’m away at a conference this week. But I know you need to fill the days and nights of your tomorrows, so I’m going to suspend time and space, and fill the week with five days of odds and ends that I can’t do in a regular post.

Today, I’m going to present two short stories from The World of Dark Shadows. Allow me to explain.

Continue reading X1: Barnabas Goes to the Circus

650 dark shadows pj vicki hands

Episode 650: Happily Ever Before

“I’ll close my eyes — and when I open them, you’ll be here, and the watch will tick!”

And then, six hundred and forty-nine episodes later, she was gone.

This is girl governess Victoria Winters’ last day at Collinwood, so it’s a good time to go over her original briefing instructions, and see how well she scored.

My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning — a journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me, and link my past with my future. A journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place — to the edge of the sea, high atop Widow’s Hill. A house called Collinwood — a world I’ve never known, with people I’ve never met — people who tonight are still only shadows in my mind, but who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows.

Well, she was spot-on with opening the doors, at least. Like every other Dark Shadows character, she spent the last two and a half years basically just killing time between opening and closing doors. So that’s a slam dunk.

What else?  Widow’s Hill, Collinwood, people she’s never met — check, check. Yeah, I’d say she’s done pretty much everything on the list.

There’s just one more item that she has to check off — linking her past with her future. Well, she’s got one more episode; let’s see if she manages it.

Continue reading Episode 650: Happily Ever Before

649 dark shadows findley skellington

Episode 649: The Rise and Fall

“Someone now dead lived in this room.”

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, our feature bout is a winner-takes-all cage match between the savvy psychic, Madame Janet  Findley, and the sinister specter, Mr. Quentin Collins (deceased).

Quentin has been quietly haunting the halls of the great house at Collinwood for seventy years, lurking in his sealed-up chamber in the abandoned west wing. Lately he’s been reaching out to the two children of the house, urging them to visit his room, plot against family members, scatter tarot cards around the house, and listen to his hit song, not necessarily in that order.

Earlier this week, under their ancestor’s malign influence, David and Amy tricked Roger into falling down the stairs in the foyer. Concerned, Elizabeth has called in Madame Janet Findley, an exterminator for the already exterminated.

Madame Findley is one of the craziest dames that we’ve seen on Dark Shadows, and that’s getting to be a crowded field. She says surprising things, makes extravagant hand gestures, and goes into a trance at a moment’s notice. I will miss her terribly.

Continue reading Episode 649: The Rise and Fall

648 dark shadows janet hands

Episode 648: Astral Disturbances

“The letter M is very strong in this room.”

Yesterday, following Roger’s suspicious specter-assisted accident on the stairs, his sister Elizabeth found a tarot card on the drinks table in his bedroom. As everyone knows, discovering an unexpected tarot card is a sure sign of supernatural crisis, so she called Professor Stokes, the mad occult expert who is now making house calls at Collinwood on a weekly basis.

The Professor identified the card as the Tower of Destruction — the sign of the downfall of a great house. He agreed that this is extremely significant, and he promised to bring in a colleague who can investigate the unearthly events that have been piling up lately.

So here she is: Madame Janet Findley, the psychic sorceress on call. Apparently, things have gotten so bad at Collinwood that the occult expert is subcontracting with other occult experts.

Madame Findley walks into the drawing room, throws her hands in the air, and if there was ever a moment for somebody to say, is THIS your card? then this is it.

Continue reading Episode 648: Astral Disturbances

647 dark shadows amy david backacting

Episode 647: The Wire

“I fear the séance didn’t put an end to what’s been happening here.”

The Turn of the Screw opens with a group of devoted thrill-seekers at a week-long house party, entertaining each other with ghost stories. Griffin has just finished telling the story of a young boy waking his mother up in the middle of the night, because a dreadful apparition had materialized in the bedroom, and he wanted her to see it. That is the beginning and end of that story, as I understand it, but it sounds like it was the hit of the evening, so hooray for low standards.

Unable to cope with his seething jealousy of the master raconteur, a guest named Douglas tries a bit of casual oneupmanship:

Before we scattered, he brought out what was in his mind.

“I quite agree — in regard to Griffin’s ghost, or whatever it was — that its appearing first to the little boy, at so tender an age, adds a particular touch. But it’s not the first occurrence of its charming kind that I know to have involved a child. If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to TWO children — ?”

“We say, of course,” somebody exclaimed, “that they give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them.”

Obviously, this is setting a bad precedent. It’s only a matter of time before Griffin comes up with a ghost story involving four children, and then Douglas ups the ante to a half dozen, until finally there’s a story about thirty-five children, each with his or her own personalized specter, and the bottom falls out of the ghost story market. This is not a scaleable business model.

Continue reading Episode 647: The Wire

646 dark shadows quentin header

Episode 646: The Turning

“What we did was bury Quentin’s bones. His spirit is still alive, isn’t it?”

There are eight turning points in the history of Dark Shadows — moments where the focus and direction of the show changes permanently. You can’t really talk about the development of the show without these eight pivotal events.

Four of the turning points are character introductions, and four of them are backstage developments. In order, they are:

  • the introduction of Barnabas,
  • Julia’s offer to cure Barnabas,
  • Sam Hall joins the show,
  • the introduction of Angelique,
  • Jonathan Frid’s ten-city publicity tour,
  • Ron Sproat leaves the show,
  • the introduction of Quentin,
  • and MGM greenlights House of Dark Shadows.

Today isn’t one of them, by the way. I just thought I’d mention it.

Continue reading Episode 646: The Turning