Episode 310: Ghostbusted

“I think I see something… A shape! And I know what it means!”

Willie’s up on a ladder, cleaning the chandelier in the Old House drawing room, when he suddenly sees someone standing at the window. He rushes to the window, shouting, “Hey! Hey, you!”

Then he bolts outside, calling, “Where are ya?”

Roused by the clamor, Barnabas follows him outside.

Barnabas:  Willie, who are you shouting at?

Willie:  Her! Sarah! She was standing right here, at the window.

Barnabas:  Well, she’s not here now.

Willie:  I know! When I shouted at her, she disappeared!

Barnabas:  Disappeared?

Willie:  Yeah, she disappeared — right into thin air!

That gets a little “surprise” dramatic sting, which leads into the opening titles. Except how much of a surprise could it be, when everyone in the scene already knows that Sarah is a ghost? Of course she disappeared. Did you think you’d find her crouching behind a tree? That’s not how ghosts work.

310 dark shadows willie barnabas ghost

But that’s the problem, really. Sarah has suddenly become the most important character on the show — the only character who can move the plot forward another step — and they still haven’t figured out what she wants.

So Barnabas and Willie have another conversation about her, and all they can do is ask questions.

Barnabas:  She wouldn’t do anything to harm me. She was devoted to me, as I was to her.

Willie:  Then why won’t she come to ya? Why does she disappear every time you’re nearby, if she loves ya so much?

Barnabas:  I… I don’t know.

And, yeah. That’s the thing. We don’t know either. I’m pretty sure nobody does.

310 dark shadows david carolyn crystal

So every storyline screeches to a halt, because the only thing anybody wants to do is find Sarah. David even digs out his crystal ball, which is left over from a story they did a year ago.

David has decided that he’ll be able to find Sarah if he looks into the crystal, although as far as I know, he doesn’t realize that she’s a ghost. He thinks she’s just a weird kid who knows a lot of secrets. It doesn’t really make sense that he would try to use supernatural powers to find his friend.

But the concept of “Sarah” is so fluid right now that they can say just about anything. It turns out that he does see something — or at least, he says that he does — and now he knows where Sarah is. We find out by the end of the episode that he’s talking about the secret room in the Collins family crypt, where Sarah brought him on Monday.

So it’s possible that David didn’t really see anything in the crystal ball; he’s just going to the last place that he saw her. Or maybe she really did send him some kind of psychic ghost message through the crystal ball. We haven’t seen her doing anything remotely like that so far, but who knows? It’s Sarah. There are no rules.

310 dark shadows willie barnabas candles

So it just goes on like this, for scene after scene. Joe comes over to Collinwood and asks if David can help him find Sarah. Then back to the Old House, where Barnabas tells Willie that he wants to go look for Sarah. David sneaks out of the house and goes to the cemetery. Then back to Carolyn and Joe, and after that, Barnabas and Willie.

Unfortunately, the Dark Shadows budget can only accommodate five or six actors in each episode. But you get the feeling that if they’d had enough money, they would have had the entire cast standing around in twos and threes, all in different locations, and all wondering where Sarah could be. Maybe with a montage, and calendar pages flipping by — May! June! July!

310 dark shadows david sarah cemetery

So let’s get to the real point of today’s episode, which is some good old-fashioned child endangerment.

David finds Sarah at the Eagle Hill cemetery, and he asks her to come back with him to Collinwood. All she wants to do is play catch. He agrees to play with her for a minute, but then she has to come with him.

310 dark shadows david jeopardy

She fakes him out, throwing the ball into the shrubbery — and when he turns around to find it, she disappears.

Frustrated, David goes into the mausoleum to look for her, and he opens the panel to the secret room.

310 dark shadows willie barnabas mausoleum

And then guess who shows up — Barnabas and Willie, who are also hoping to find Sarah there.

Apparently, Sarah has spent the entire episode planning this specific scenario. She appeared to Willie, so that Barnabas would come looking for her, and she sent a psychic ghost message to David’s crystal ball.

Now that everyone’s showed up, she disappears, and leaves them to fend for themselves. Why? Because she’s a ghost, that’s why. Apparently, that’s how ghosts are.

Monday: A Tomb of One’s Own.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Joe steps on David’s line:

David:  I can go there myself…

Joe:  Would you do that, Davey?

David:  … and I can bring her back!

Joe:  Would you do it?

David repeats a line when he meets Sarah:

David:  I knew I’d find you.

Sarah:  You did?

David:  I knew I’d find you here!

Carolyn also seems to repeat a line:

Joe:  He shouldn’t be out by himself after dark.

Carolyn:  I have a feeling he is. I’m so scared, Joe.

Joe:  All right now, there’s nothing to be afraid of. We don’t even know for sure that David left the house.

Carolyn:  I have a feeling he did.

Finally, this isn’t a blooper, just an odd moment: when David is looking into his crystal ball in the drawing room, Carolyn walks in and tells him, “Mrs. Johnson says your dinner’s almost ready. You’d better get washed up.” Does David have a separate eating schedule from everyone else?

Behind the Scenes:

David’s crystal ball was first seen in August 1966, when Burke gave it to him as a present. In September, David uses the crystal ball to predict that Carolyn would never marry Joe, and that someone at Collinwood was trying to kill Vicki. He tries to solve the mystery of Bill Malloy’s death with the crystal ball in October, and pretends to look for the missing Vicki. In November, he uses it to look for ghosts. It’s seen in the background in David’s room in a couple episodes, most recently in January 1967.

The prop is forgotten after today’s episode, and we don’t see it again until March 1969, when it’s used by Magda, the gypsy fortune teller.

Monday: A Tomb of One’s Own.

310 dark shadows david trapped

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

24 thoughts on “Episode 310: Ghostbusted

    1. Maybe Vampires are colour blind? So Willie gets to have his little fun by buying tacky 1967-style Christmas decorations for the candlesticks.

  1. Mostly it seems like David’s the only one in the house who does eat. We don’t see it, but he gets sent to the kitchen for food semi-reguarly.

  2. This episode blew my mind. This is the Dark Shadows that I vaguely remember from my childhood — eerie, dreamlike, full of spooky sets and creepy happenings. The idea that a daytime soap opera features a small child hiding in a coffin — to escape from a vampire! — as if the idea of a secret chamber in a mausoleum weren’t captivating enough… And the music during the whole David-in-the-mausoleum scene is both threatening and hypnotic.

    As the show has moved forward with color and increased use of chromakey, I’m remembering more clearly what captivated me when I was too little to understand the plots. A big part of it was the way things seemed like an eerie dream. Even (what I think are) the painted backgrounds and the clumsy use of chromakey to get a wider range of outdoor shots (like a couple of people standing in a different section of the cemetery in one episode) give the scenes a dream-like quality.

    I’m actually up to episode 321, but I’ve decided to visit this blog only to read about episodes that are fairly far behind me, and to visit less often overall until I’ve seen the entire series. I love the insightful commentary about what makes the show special — so many things I would never have thought of on my own — but there’s a bit too much “By the end of the week, this will have happened” for me. Now that the show is really moving, I like not knowing which way the plot is headed and being surprised rather than having an advance outline. So I’m just going to keep getting sucked into the show and come back to catch up on all the fascinating commentary after I’ve seen the whole thing — at the rate I’m going, that will be only a few months from now. 🙂

  3. Carolyn spends a fair amount of time scolding David and threatening him with punishment in this episode. It’s strange that she’s trying to play the bossy parental figure with him now, where in recent episodes she’d been trying to improve her relationship with her cousin and connect with him almost as a friend.

    It makes me wonder if Mrs. Stoddard was originally supposed to appear in this episode, but Joan Bennett got sick or was otherwise called away, and they hastily rewrote the scene for Carolyn.

    1. I kind of think the recent episodes, with her friendliness towards David, are the strange bits – this is more like classic Carolyn/David interplay, though at least she’s stopped constantly saying to his face what a horrible person she thinks he is. Honestly, the way she and Roger spoke to him during the first year, it’s a wonder the kid isn’t more messed up than he is.

    2. Joan Bennett has not been on the show in a long time, so I suspect this wasn’t written for her. I think the change in Carolyn is more due to the different writers in different episodes. The last episode in which we saw Carolyn was written by Malcolm Marmorstein, for example, and this one is written by Ron Sproat.

  4. FWIW, in olden days among the upper class, children ate their meals separately from adult family members, and their meals were simpler to appeal to their tastes.. Adults dined together later in the evening and had adult conversations. Children were better seen and not heard.

  5. I like that Sarah”s motives are ambiguous. I think that is the writees intenton to make it more mysterious. I think she just wants to play with David and him getting caught is an accident

  6. Dig that far-out paisley shirt David is wearing in the crystal ball scene—the height of teen fashion during the Summer of Love!

  7. I will admit to being a little confused.

    Barnabas, Julia and Willie all are aware that Sarah is a ghost; a spiritual continuation of a child long dead. Yet all of them are acting as if she’s a normal girl and can be found by the usual means of looking about and calling for her. Wouldn’t a seance be the more direct method of communication with a ghost?
    I’m just saying.

  8. For a moment I entertained the idea that Sarah was trying to get David killed, either by Barnabus or by getting stuck in the secret room and starving to death, so she’d have a full-time playmate, à la SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON…but that’s probably giving the writer too much morbid credit.

  9. and saying well, John E Comelately, (come round again.)

    and while i’m commenting from beyond the then of time,
    i’d also like to say

    well said, Mr. Clay. the little tyke’s treatment pissed me off, too.

  10. Karen – yes, I too read the blog about 2 to 3 weeks behind because of spoilers. In retrospect, the spoilers are funny, but this is my first visit ever to Dark Shadows and creepy Collinwood, so I like to watch ahead, then read about it later!

    1. Maybe, but I knew several women who would have KILLED to be married to Harvey. He did half the housework. He supported his wife’s career. He was totally understanding about the abortion she had in college. Harve was a great husband! Willie may have been hot, but he would always be true to Barnabas.

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