“Terrible things happen, and no one seems to do anything about them.”
At the top of today’s episode, the ghost of Sarah Collins appears in David’s bedroom, and tells him that Dr. Woodard was murdered.
Sarah says that she doesn’t know all the details, but it was horrible, and “it shouldn’t have happened the way it did.” David asks who killed him, and Sarah says that she can’t tell him. Then she disappears.
This is all standard operating procedure for Sarah, who is powered entirely by narrative convenience, and always gives David exactly enough information to set up the next scene. Usually, I would complain about that, except that the next scene is unbelievably sad and beautiful, and it makes me want to cry.
I’ve been writing all week about Joe Caldwell, a New York playwright who did several brief tours of duty as a writer on Dark Shadows. He was on the writing team for two months early in the summer of 1967, and now he’s back for two weeks, filling in before Sam Hall joins the show in November.
Caldwell is one of the best writers on the show, because he takes the characters seriously. Even with all of the insane supernatural plot contrivances, Caldwell tries to find the truth in the characters’ emotional lives.
Now, David has been put through the wringer lately. His ghost friend has given him glimpses of a terrible, dark world lurking under the surface — she showed him the secret room in the mausoleum, and he knows that Barnabas sleeps in a coffin in the Old House basement.
So he’s spent several weeks just running around and yelling at everyone, trying to get them to recognize the horror that’s right in front of them. But Barnabas keeps pulling off last-minute escapes, and now David has to talk to a psychiatrist, who interprets everything he’s saying as a reaction to the death of his mother.
Oh, and PS: David’s mother died in a fire eight months ago, right in front of him, screaming for him to join her in the flames. It’s been a weird year.
So here’s David sitting in his room, listlessly poking at his Major Matt Mason Space Crawler toy, which has failed to grip his attention. His aunt Elizabeth comes in for a talk.
Liz: Good morning, David.
David: Good morning.
Liz: Did you sleep well last night?
David: I guess so.
Liz: Mrs. Johnson told me you didn’t touch your breakfast.
David: Didn’t I? I’m sorry.
Liz: Well, maybe you were still too sleepy to be hungry. Would you like something now?
David: No, thank you.
Ohhhh-kay. Well, that didn’t work.
Liz: I’m sorry I didn’t come in to see you earlier, but I had to go into Collinsport.
David: I understand.
Liz: We all went in. It wasn’t a very happy trip.
David: I know.
Liz: I, um… I have something to tell you.
David: I know.
Liz: What do you mean, you know?
David: I think I know what you’re going to tell me.
Liz: I don’t think you do. It’s something very sad, and I don’t want you to be too upset by it.
And this is how he’s looking at her. She’s right; I’d hate to imagine how he would look if he was even more upset.
He takes charge of the situation.
David: He’s dead, isn’t he?
David: Doctor Woodard.
Surprised, Liz gets up, and turns away from David.
Liz: Yes, but… who told you?
David: I just knew.
Liz: You… you must have heard us talking.
David: I guess so.
He’s given up on trying to tell people about Sarah. It doesn’t do any good, and it just makes them sad.
He walks over to the window, and looks outside.
Liz: We all went to the funeral this morning. Practically everyone in town was there. Lots of people were as fond of him as we were.
David: I know.
Liz: Why didn’t you tell someone you knew?
David: What difference does it make?
And, wow, seriously, that makes me want to cry. They’ve made three hundred and forty-four episodes of Dark Shadows so far, and some of them have been great, but this is the one that just tears my heart out.
I might take this scene a little harder than other people, because I was the youngest kid in my family, and there were definitely a lot of times in my childhood when I felt like nobody was listening to me, or took me seriously. There wasn’t anything special or tragic about it, just an ordinary kid feeling alone and unappreciated sometimes.
But I recognize this response — just shutting down, because nobody’s listening, and it doesn’t make a difference anyway. I’ve done this. I’ve had this conversation.
Liz: I’m sure it must have upset you a great deal.
David: I guess so.
Liz: David, I don’t understand this attitude of yours.
David: He’s dead. Terrible things happen, and no one seems to do anything about them.
She keeps saying that it’s okay for him to be upset, but when he starts to act upset, she doesn’t know what to do.
David: It was terrible. It shouldn’t have happened.
Liz: David, it was just like going to sleep, very quietly.
David: It shouldn’t have happened! It was terrible!
Liz: David, why do you keep saying that?
David: I’m sorry.
And he shuts down again. He sits on the bed.
Liz: Can’t you tell me what you mean by it?
David: What difference does it make? Nobody believes anything I tell them any more anyway. It doesn’t matter, nothing matters.
Liz asks him if he wants to come downstairs for lunch. He says he’ll be all right up here. She walks to the door.
David: I liked Doctor Woodard… because he believed me. And maybe that’s why he’s dead.
Liz looks at him, for a long moment. Then she turns and walks out.
And that’s the scene. Now, most of the time, if you showed somebody an episode of Dark Shadows, you’d have to make a series of excuses and caveats — it’s the late 60s, they had a different expectation about pacing, they recorded it live-to-tape, one actor is drunk and the other one’s a werewolf, whatever.
But I’d put this scene up against anything else on television — no excuses, no apologies. It’s a great, heartbreaking, character-driven scene about two people who truly love each other, and are utterly unable to help each other.
This happens to be one of the eleven color episodes in the series where they lost the videotape master, so all we have is this black and white kinescope copy. That’s usually irritating, and I’m glad we only have a few more kinescopes coming up.
But for this episode, it’s actually kind of a benefit. It’s just a coincidence that they lost the color master, but it works. This is a funeral. It should be bleak.
Carolyn comes upstairs with a sandwich for David, and they go in a completely unexpected direction.
Carolyn: It isn’t easy for you, is it, David?
David: I’m all right.
Carolyn: No, you’re not… any more than I was.
David: What do you mean?
Carolyn: Don’t forget, I grew up in this house too. I was alone most of the time too. I didn’t have any friends, either… except the ones I imagined.
This is precious. We should hold on to this. It’s a little moment of thoughtful character-building, revealing a part of Carolyn’s backstory that we hadn’t thought of before. Roger had a similar moment a couple weeks ago, when he talked about growing up in Collinwood, with the portraits of all his dead ancestors staring down at him.
David: You’re talking about Sarah, aren’t you? You think I just imagined her, don’t you?
Carolyn: Do you think you imagined her?
Carolyn: Then neither do I.
David: Do you mean that?
Carolyn: I think so.
David: You don’t have to pretend. I don’t care.
So Carolyn tells him a story.
Carolyn: When I was nine, my best and closest friend was a little boy named Randy. He had dark hair, and brown eyes, and he always wore a red sweater, even in the summertime. We played practically every day. Sometimes down on the beach… we would climb trees, or look for sea glass.
Carolyn: The last time I saw him was on my tenth birthday. He brought me a piece of sea glass that looked like clear, green water. I never saw him after that.
Carolyn: Even now, I’m not sure whether he really existed, or whether I imagined him.
David: Or if he was a ghost.
Carolyn: Maybe he was. I’ve never known, and I’m sure I never will. But whatever he was… he was real. A real boy, or a real figment of my imagination… or a ghost. Even now, I find sometimes that I miss him. People can laugh at me, and not believe me. But I don’t care.
David stands up, and he looks at her, as if they’re really seeing each other for the first time in a long while.
David: Sarah’s real. I mean, she’s a real ghost.
She sits down on the bed.
Carolyn: Do you want to know something, David?
Carolyn: I do believe you.
That’s not the end of the episode — there’s a bit with Carolyn hearing “London Bridge”, and then David talks to Burke, who’s going away on a business trip to South America. David says goodbye, like it’s the last time, and we can consider what happens next appropriately foreshadowed.
But I want to leave it here, with David and Carolyn. She believes him. That’s not going to end well for her, or for Burke, or for any of the people living in this damaged wreck of a house. But she believes him.
Tomorrow: Rest in Pieces.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Somebody in the studio is coughing through practically all of the Liz/David scene. Every time they pause for a second, you can hear him cough. Dude needs a lozenge.
Also, Liz says, “I’m sorrier I didn’t come to see you earlier.”
At the end of the scene when David says goodbye to Burke, the camera pointing at Liz goes out of focus.
Behind the Scenes:
I had originally written that David was poking at a model airplane, because I was young and I didn’t know any better, but regular commenter and friend of the blog John E Comelately has identified it as the Major Matt Mason Space Crawler toy, as seen below. This takes us another step towards the ultimate goal of deciphering David’s room. See the post “The Room” for more on this subject.
Tomorrow: Rest in Pieces.
Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967
— Danny Horn
25 thoughts on “Episode 344: Haunted”
Don’t worry too much about David, Danny. Things Get Better.
He gets a new playmate in about a year, they learn a great game, he gets possessed by a 19th century ancestor, he becomes a pawn of a mystical Lovecraft cult, he gets possessed by a 19th century ancestor…
OK, I might be a graduate of the Elizabeth Collins Stoddard School of Condolences and General Sympathy.
Ha, yeah — things don’t really get that much better for David. This is actually kind of an up day for him.
Excellent recap! 🙂
This is a great episode and you touch on a lot of the reasons why. David tended to be a very – troublesome? – child and somewhat hyperactive with a propensity for lies and tall tales (one of the reasons people find it hard to believe him about Barnabas), and never willing to admit defeat, even when he’s wrong. So to see him all of a sudden quiet and resigned makes for a huge impact.
I love scenes with Liz and David as I think they tend to bring the best out of each character and this is one of the best. And I also loved his scene with Carolyn. Carolyn absolutely detested David at the beginning of the series – she mellowed a bit during the Laura storyline but it’s so nice to see her genuinely care about David. And finally his farewell to Burke, a really sad coda to the positive relationship they had built up.
Wow, just thinking about it makes me realize what a great character episode this and how much it really shows how they’ve grown since the show began. Thanks!
Slightly off-topic, but I would have gladly paid for a 1958 flashback series in which ghost buddy Randy takes Carolyn all over Widow’s Hill for sea glass. That would have been much intriguing than the 1840 parallel time flashback.
Yeah, that Randy/sea glass moment is so beautiful that you naturally want to learn more about it. They’re about two weeks away from figuring out that Nancy Barrett is awesome and should have more story. They’ve been leaving Carolyn on the sidelines for months at this point, which is a huge waste.
Carolyn and her friend Randy made me think of the notorious NIGHT GALLERY episode “Brenda.”
Absolutely one of the best television episodes ever created. David’s good-bye to Burke, Carolyn’s story, everything about it is perfect. Easily a top 10 episode from the series; but it definitely stands on its own.
You know, I’d have a lot more sympathy for David’s “Nobody ever believes me” speech if the little psychopath hadn’t spent a good portion of the previous year trying to kill his father (and frame Vicki for it), locking Vicki up to starve to death, attempting to frame his dad for Bill Molloy’s death and then making friends with the real killer. And lying through his teeth at every opportunity.
I’d really hope that sometime in the not-too-distant future, David figures out, in retrospect, that he’s partly to blame for “no one” believing what he says. It’s a great life lesson about the old “cry wolf” and the “reap what you sow” teachings in the school of hard knocks & growing pains.
Danny and Jason B. — I agree. One of the best DS moments ever. David Henesy did a fantastic job of a child surrendering to futility. The melancholy in Collinwood was exquisitely handled. I’m going to watch the episode again before moving on.
Watching David Hennesy nail this episode had me saying “WOW” over and over.
I missed many early shows as a teen in its original running. These are pure joy for me, allowing me to fill in the gaps of my 66-year-old memory!
Just recognised what David has on his desk – NOT an airplane model at all!
He’s idling with a Major Matt Mason Space Crawler toy.
WHAT!! This changes everything. Well done on spotting that, you’re a genius.
Actually, my older brother had one, I was super jealous because HE was the WWII buff, and I was the sci-fi geek.
And after he broke one of the legs on it, he gave it to me…
I just updated the post, and added a BtS note about the toy. I believe that someday, maybe within our lifetimes, the human race will fully explore David’s room.
Never saw that when I first watched the episode on PBS years ago. Wow. I had the whole Major Matt Mason playset when I was a kid — including the Lunar Station and the Space Crawler used in the David/Liz scene.
Keep watching the shelves…
Completely agree with all the posts regarding how good the episode was. You can under-appreciate how good these 2 young actors, David and Nancy, are because they are usually portraying an out of control character. But here they both shine showing depth and range as they beautifully give us a peek inside.
Just wish the regilar cameramen would return. These episodes feel like they are filmed by the monkeys on those old Monster.com tv ads.
If only Carolyn had imagined Buzz too! 😉
First of all, WELCOME BACK CAROLINE! I guess she got her vacay in as well. Seems like they are rotating pretty well through the cast regulars. Looks like Joe is now on vacay as well since he’s been MIA for a few weeks.
It is an absolute sterling episode from start to finish and with everyone wearing their mourning black for Doctor Woodard, they might as well just keep it on with the Burke news coming over the transom shortly. DAVID HENESY continues to rock the episodes he is in! I am constantly amazed at how much material the young dude has to carry and does it so well! There doesn’t seem to be ANY other actor that young working daytime over the years that had such huge storylines and material as he is given on DS.
Can anyone think of another child actor that was this good on daytime?
I have to say that I am just a few years younger than David when he is on the show but I completely missed the Mattel’s Man in Space Space Crawler toy. That one got by me and we were big fans of Mattel at my house growing up.
And in this series of 300’s, the moving back-and-forth to these black-and-whites can be a lot of fun because somehow the show really does look grand in the B&W’s.
I’m really hoping we get Carolyn and Maggie back on a regular basis. The non-Barnabas episodes are much more interesting when they’re involved.
This line sounds like somebody doing a parody of the sort of stand-up routine Bill Cosby was performing in those days.
What impressed me most is that David put on a necktie before he went downstairs to say goodbye to Burke Devlin. David wasn’t wearing one in the upstairs scenes. In 1967, a boy that age (as I was then) would rather be tortured than have to put on a necktie. David appears to have made the decision himself to put one on!
Is this his way of showing his respect for Burke? Or of trying to look like one of the grown-ups? Or because he knows you’re supposed to dress formally for a funeral and he knows he’ll never see Burke again? Whatever the reason, it’s a very effective bit of business that goes unmentioned and unexplained in the episode. It’s just there, like the space toy.
Even though Vicki isn’t a widow yet, in the final scene she hears the widows wailing for her… or maybe it’s just the wind. Either way, it makes for a very creepy scene that continues the mood already established in this bleak, atmospheric 22 minutes.
Good acting from everyone in the cast, including Anthony George. And superb visual story-telling, every shot is set up perfectly. Some first-rate directing from John Sedwick!
I agree with everyone, that David had my chin tense with sadness for him. And the scene where he tells Burke goodbye almost made me wish Burke wouldn’t go, because I knew what it meant, and I didn’t want David to lose another person who believed him. It’s very isolating to know that your family, the very people who are supposed to protect you, don’t believe you, thereby unknowingly sacrifice you to this present evil. In whatever form it comes in, peer pressure, bad parenting, vampire cousins, it’s scary and lonely. I feel for you, David.