Episode 258: The Casual Ghost

“I’m the sole judge of who deserves what!”

Time is running out for Maggie Evans, who’s still being held prisoner in the Old House basement. Her only hope is that the mysterious little girl who she saw on Monday will come back, bringing parents, the police and a crossbow.

Maggie’s just on the verge of giving up when Sarah suddenly appears in the cell, still playing with a ball and singing “London Bridge”. This is a new milestone for the show. On Monday, it was possible that this was just a really weird kid who’s been hiding in the basement since the late 18th century. But today, the girl straight-up apparates through a brick wall, leaving no room for doubt.

258 dark shadows prison sarah maggie

This is the first example on Dark Shadows of what you might call the casual ghost — also known as a Casper, according to the supernatural-television-commentary jargon that I just made up ten seconds ago.

A Casper is the kind of ghost that you can have a whole conversation with, and not realize that the person you’re talking to is dead. This requires the kind of reality-astigmatism that makes Peppermint Patty think that Snoopy is a funny-looking kid with a big nose.

They’ve done ghost stories on Dark Shadows before, going all the way back to October 1966, when Vicki is awakened by the spirit of a recently-murdered cannery employee, who gives her a vague warning that she completely disregards. But that could have been a nightmare, or a hallucination. (Except that on the floor where he stood, she finds — dun-dun-DUNNNN!!! — a patch of wet seaweed. Seriously.)

256 dark shadows sarah outside

So according to the Dark Shadows playbook up to this point, we should expect maybe two or three weeks of cryptic is-she-or-isn’t-she malarkey, with people thinking that it was just a dream, or saying things like, “Could it be one of those things you think you saw?”

But not this time. They took “maybe it’s Maggie’s imagination” off the table halfway through Sarah’s first episode — first showing her outside Maggie’s cell, and then introducing her to David.

They’re not messing around anymore. The audience needs to understand that this is a ghost right away, because there’s a big plot twist coming up on Friday, and it’s ghost-dependent. That’s pretty much the opposite of the way that Dark Shadows operated in its first nine months, when “plot twists” happened in slow motion, and involved seaweed.

258 dark shadows maggie sarah

So Sarah appears in Maggie’s cell, and she is super casual about everything.

Maggie:  Did anyone see you come in here?

Sarah:  No. No one ever sees me.

Maggie:  But this door — it’s locked!

Sarah:  I guess so.

See what I mean? So chill! Caspers are like the hipsters of the ghost community.

Maggie:  Tell me — how did you get in here?

Sarah:  Oh, I have a way. What’s that?

Maggie:  That’s a music box.

Sarah:  Can I hear it?

Yeah, I guess. But it doesn’t play “London Bridge”, so that might be kind of a downer.

Maggie:  Little girl, please, tell me — how did you get in here? Show me how you got in!

Sarah:  I like that music, don’t you?

258 dark shadows hate this music box

At this point, Maggie starts to develop that sick headache that you get whenever you try to engage a hipster in conversation.

They end up playing catch and singing “London Bridge”, which is apparently the only thing that Sarah is ever interested in doing. At this point, we don’t know how this nine-year-old girl died, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that whoever killed her was probably not a huge “London Bridge” fan.

Maggie tries to bring the conversation back around to “let’s get the hell out of here before the vampire kills me”, but she looks away for a moment, and when she turns back, Sarah is gone.

258 dark shadows dont kill me

So it hasn’t been a great day for Maggie, mental health-wise. By the time Barnabas comes to visit her, she’s staring off into space, singing “London Bridge”.

He’s come by to give her one more sales pitch for becoming Josette, but she’s not interested. There’s only one thing she wants to talk about.

MaggieI have a friend! A secret friend! And that’s the best kind to have!

Barnabas:  Of course.

Maggie:  But she’s a special secret friend. And she comes to play with me.

Barnabas:  … Plays with you?

Maggie:  Yes! We play catch, and we have fun together!

Barnabas:  I see.

258 dark shadows oh dear

And man, when Barnabas thinks you’re crazy? You’re pretty far gone. The dude dresses people up like his dead girlfriend. You really have to go out of your way to compete.

258 dark shadows barnabas willie

Barnabas goes upstairs, and tells Willie that he’s given up on Maggie. He’ll have to dispose of her.

Willie is horrified, and pleads for her life: “Please, Barnabas, don’t do this. She hasn’t done anything to you. She doesn’t deserve this. If you have any mercy –”

258 dark shadows barnabas mercy

Barnabas says, “Mercy?”

Then he walks upstage, and looks off into the distance.

“There was a time when I needed it,” he says. “A time that I begged for it, from those could have so easily given it. From those who could have understood, and helped. But they chose not to. And now I choose not to.”

It’s one of those nice theatrical moments that Jonathan Frid can pull off really well, especially if he’s facing the teleprompter.

Willie protests that Maggie doesn’t deserve this, but Barnabas grabs him by the throat and snarls, “I’m the sole judge of who deserves what!” Which is difficult to argue with.

258 dark shadows real doll

All right, back downstairs for the big finish. Willie tells Maggie that he doesn’t believe in her secret friend, which shakes her confidence for a moment. But then Willie leaves, and Maggie sees something on the floor — a patch of wet seaweed!

Okay, it’s not really seaweed; it’s actually a little doll. But it’s the same basic idea.

Tomorrow: Cell Blocked.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Barnabas leaves Maggie’s cell, the camera goes in for a close-up on the door. The camera dolly hits the door and bounces backwards a little.

Tomorrow: Cell Blocked.

258 dark shadows choke willie

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

18 thoughts on “Episode 258: The Casual Ghost

  1. Really do love these blogs! Catch up on them if I can’t read them everyday! Love them and you post GREAT pics with them also. Definitely a winner!!

    1. Awesome, thanks! I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. I’m glad you’re reading it — your encouragement will help me get through the upcoming “Liz considers suicide” week. 🙂

  2. I just want to thank you for taking the time to write your blog, I am so hooked! I too, have seen the Dark Shadows series six times (I’m pretty sure that’s right) — your take on the episodes are so much fun. Thank you, Danny!

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you’re reading it! Feel free to post if I missed something, or you have a different interpretation. If you’ve watched the series six times, then you and I are brothers. Much respect.

      1. Thanks, Danny. It’s funny, you and I are on the same page, we think a lot alike! Your blog never fails to make me smile, laugh, learn and yes, great pictures! I think one of the few times I thought a little differently from you is the episode with Barnabas, Vicky and Carolyn – the thunderstorm, no electricity, the Josette story, it’s one of my favorite episodes. So atmospheric to me, it plays like a spooky, fun ghost story around the camp fire. And I too, am a big Buzz fan. Carolyn’s “Mrs. MacGuire” tirade, a masterpiece!

  3. PS. I also love, just like the original DS run, that you make us wait from Friday to Monday for your next blog installment!

    “Tonight…must go…nothing wrong”.

    1. Yeah, I’m trying to capture that day-to-day, week-to-week rhythm of watching it on TV. I’m planning to take a day off on the days they pre-empted the show for Thanksgiving and Christmas. 🙂

      I’m curious — how did you discover the show? I got into it because of the reruns on public TV stations.

      1. Wow, following their schedule including holidays, awesome. As for me, I was one of those (cliched) kids that ran home from school every day (and I’m not kidding, I ran). 🙂

        And you’re so right, who wants to watch a stale blackmail story when all the cool stuff is happening next door. Although any time that Joan Bennett is featured on an episode, I’m happy!

  4. This episode really got to me. As Maggie described her secret friend in a childlike voice, jonathan Frid had tears in his eyes.

  5. KLS is on fire with these episodes. They have her bouncing around all over the place emotionally, and she nails it whether it’s confused, determined, scared to death, defeated or half out of her mind. She sells it for me every time. The arrival of J Frid I guess hurt some actors as he eclipsed everyone else, but it was to the benefit of KLS and the character of Maggie, who was tedious before all of this.

    Sarah the ghost and Barnabas the vampire are such great counterbalancing forces. Adding Sarah was a brilliant move. Sharon Smyth’s lack of acting ability, at this point, almost works in favor of the scenes.

    I’m now remembering/rediscovering why I loved this arc of the show so much.

  6. Barnabas closing the cell door with Maggie’s face seen through the bars behind him is really something.

  7. Sorry to post so much….but, rewatching the show (for the 5th time or so now), it’s so amazing to me to see things like today’s speech from Barnabas taking about mercy….the backstory for him was far into the future of the show, but knowing what it is and seeing this, it’s pretty great how perfectly this speech, and others, fit in with what is to come in future episodes.

  8. Love this blog! I noticed one other blooper. Sara jumps ahead to the line, “Why were you crying?” early in the episode, and KLS quietly prompts her with the beginning of the actual line, “I remember….” I love this episode; it has the subtlety that the later show abandoned. Great job by all the adult actors!

  9. And boy, if you get tired of London Bridge in this episode, good luck in the next weeks. Every time Sarah appears, her “theme” plays: London Bridge on a recorder. Over and over and over . . .

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