Episode 450: Scary Godmother

“Your hand will burn if you touch me!”

Her name is Bathia Mapes. Even that doesn’t make sense.

It’s difficult to say exactly how we got here; it all seems like a dream. A year ago, Dark Shadows was a daytime soap opera that did a couple of mild ghost stories. And now it’s 170 years ago, where a French aristocrat from Martinique is praying over a candle, trying to bring a witch to the house to cure a vampire who’s locked in a tower upstairs. The door slams open, and there’s the sound of thunder, and then in walks this magical Yiddish elf.

450 dark shadows dare bathia

She strolls into the center of the room and strikes a pose, staring straight into the camera as if she’s daring the audience to start something. She does this a lot; it’s just Bathia being Bathia.

“You have sent for me,” she says, in an Irish-Hungarian brogue that must make her extremely popular, here in 18th century Maine. “But the man you have sent for me to see — that man is already gone.”

450 dark shadows madness bathia

The opening today is all about establishing that this crazy bag lady has access to the secret magic number of the universe. She roams around the foyer, staring off into the corners. This is apparently her way of warming up.

“There is nobody under a curse in this house now,” she says. “But there is madness — locked in a room. Not a man.”

She pauses for dramatic effect, and then says, “A woman!” as if there were a huge number of options left.

450 dark shadows listen bathia

“Listen!” she says, trying on several urgent listening expressions, one after another. “Do you hear?”

They don’t.

“Laughter,” she explains. “A woman laughs at us as we stand here now!”

Joshua looks around, and says, “I hear nothing!”

She snaps, “You expect to hear everything?” as if she wasn’t the person who told everybody to listen five seconds ago. “To see everything that I see? You cannot! You should be glad.”

Okay. Jeez. You brought it up.

450 dark shadows tricorder bathia

Striking another listening pose, she says, “There has been much tragedy in this house. Many tears.”

“Too many,” agrees Natalie.

“There are more to come,” Bathia says. Apparently she’s still taking tricorder readings.

450 dark shadows eyeroll natalie bathia

Then there’s a great little moment — just for an instant — where Bathia’s giving another weird speech, and Natalie rolls her eyes. Grayson Hall is not accustomed to being the second most eccentric person in the room.

450 dark shadows curse natalie bathia

“I’ve been tempted to put on curses too,” Bathia says. “I understand both sides.”

And then — wait, really? I think I want to hear more about that story. What guy had the courage to break up with you?

450 dark shadows bitten joshua millicent

Meanwhile, Joshua goes up to the tower room to check on things. Bathia was right, of course — Barnabas has left the building, and Joshua finds the recently-bitten Millicent, now in full-on Ophelia mode. She giggles and babbles as if she had just arrived from New York. The house is descending into utter chaos.

450 dark shadows removed bathia joshua

Joshua returns, and asks Bathia to find his missing son. This has got to be the weirdest service call she’s ever been out on.

Then something happens that brings it all into focus.

Bathia:  You have not told me everything about your son.

Joshua:  I have told you — all you need to know.

Bathia:  Why do you not trust me? That can make me fail. There is something you must tell me, before I can begin.

Joshua:  Must I say the word?

Bathia:  I fight an enemy that I must call by a name. What is it you have not told me?

And it turns out that here — smack in the middle of one of the strangest episodes we’ve had so far — this is the key to the entire show.

450 dark shadows secrets joshua

Because he has to tell the truth. It won’t work otherwise. He has to swallow his pride, and stop keeping secrets.

It’s one of life’s most basic lessons — tell the truth, admit you’re wrong, trust people, ask for help — and yet we have to learn it over and over, like it’s a surprise every time.

This has been the problem for the entire storyline. Barnabas had a secret affair with Angelique. Josette and Jeremiah didn’t tell anyone about what was happening to them. Joshua made up a cover story that Barnabas went to England. Barnabas didn’t explain his plans to Josette.

At every step, the Collins family of 1795 has chosen to lie, to obscure, to keep things secret and avoid a scandal.

If Joshua wants to break this cycle, he needs to start telling the truth. Just say the word.

Joshua:  My son…

Bathia:  Yes?

Joshua:  My son is a vampire.

Finally. Now we can get somewhere.

450 dark shadows candle bathia

So Bathia makes another incantation over a candle, sending the flame out to find Barnabas, wherever he is.

450 dark shadows docks barnabas

It turns out that he’s at the docks, of course, because that’s what he does when he feels troubled about something — he goes down to the docks to kill a prostitute. He doesn’t really need to. He bit Millicent earlier this evening, and he’s just been moaning about how terribly guilty he feels. But he sees another girl, so all of a sudden he’s thirsty again.

Because Barnabas’ thirst for blood has nothing to do with “hunger”, as we experience it. There isn’t a specific amount of blood that Barnabas needs in order to maintain his existence. His “need” is just a craving; he bites people when he’s feeling stressed or scared.

And this cycle is getting increasingly self-perpetuating. If he bites this woman just for the momentary comfort it brings, then he’s taking the risk of being exposed, plus now there’s one more killing to feel guilty about. This is clearly spiralling out of control.

450 dark shadows light barnabas

But then Barnabas sees the light. Literally, there’s a light, and he sees it, and it helps him make the right choice.

This isn’t made explicit, but you could interpret this scene as a crucial spiritual moment for Barnabas. If he ignores the candle flame and rejects Bathia’s help, then he’s lost forever.

In the end, he makes the right choice. Obviously, it’s weird to congratulate a guy for not killing his third prostitute, but you have to start somewhere.

450 dark shadows tower barnabas bathia

Things get pretty heavy when Barnabas shows up at the tower room. At this point, Bathia explicity confirms the spiritual subtext.

Barnabas:  What are you going to do to me?

Bathia:  I’m going to fight her who put the curse on you. Your body, your mind, your soul will be my battlefield. Tell me her name!

450 dark shadows choke barnabas bathia

He starts to choke — just as he’s choked so many other people — but her touch helps him to spit out the name: Angelique.

450 dark shadows witness bathia barnabas

Weakly, Barnabas moans, “I do not want my father present for this.”

“There must be a witness,” Bathia says. Because this isn’t really a fight between Angelique and Bathia, a woman that we can’t see and a woman that we’ve just met.

The real enemy here is the lie, and the only solution is for Barnabas to take responsibility and confess his sins. Of course there needs to be a witness. These secrets have been destroying them all.

450 dark shadows faith bathia barnabas

And then, believe it or not, the scene gets even weirder. Clasping her hands together, Bathia paces around Barnabas, drawing “a circle of faith” that will protect them as she draws the evil out.

450 dark shadows spirit bathia

“Spirit of Angelique!” she cries, glaring up into thin air. “Can you hear me? If you can hear me… speak to me through him.”

450 dark shadows speak barnabas

And, bless us all, she does.

“You will DIE!” Barnabas growls, his face twisted in an unholy grimace. “Yoooouu will DIIIIEEEE!”

450 dark shadows burn bathia barnabas

Bathia reaches out her hand.

Barnabas yells, “Do not touch me! Your hand will BURN if you touch me!”

But the good witch has no fear.

450 dark shadows comcast bathia barnabas

And that’s when this unholy rite turns into something even darker — a call with Comcast customer service.

Barnabas:  Why are you looking to cancel this curse?

Bathia:  We’re just asking you to cancel it. We want you to take it away.

Barnabas:  Well, if you want to get your curse disconnected, you’re going to have to go over this information with me.

Bathia:  Can you actually cancel this curse? Just tell me yes or no.

Barnabas:  I mean, we are the number one provider of vengeance-based vampire curses in the entire country. Help me understand this. What is it about the number one rated vampire curse that you don’t want anymore?

Bathia:  That’s not your business. Your business is to disconnect us, please.

Barnabas:  Look, I’m just trying to help you here.

Finally, the conversation ends with Barnabas reaching up to strangle Bathia, which is actually kind of a relief under the circumstances.

Monday: Exorcise in Futility.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

There’s a jarring tape edit in act 3, cutting out the beginning of Bathia’s incantation over the candle. At the time, editing videotape was difficult and expensive, so it’s rare that something was actually bad enough to justify an edit. I wonder what happened? (See Monday’s episode for a likely clue.)

During the sequence in act 3 that cuts back and forth between Bathia’s incantation and Barnabas at the docks, there’s a moment when the camera switches to Barnabas while Bathia is still calling to him. Her mic is cut for a moment, probably by someone who doesn’t realize that she’s still supposed to be talking while the camera’s on Barnabas.

Behind the Scenes:

Bathia Mapes is played by Anita Bolster, a 72-year-old Irish actress who still had another ten years of acting ahead of her. Her first role was in What Money Can Buy, a 1928 silent film about a scoundrel who wants to prove that he can buy his way into a woman’s affections. From the late 30s through the 40s, she had small parts in more than 30 movies, including Scarlet Street, which was one of Joan Bennett’s major films. She also appeared in I Married an Angel, The Thin Man Comes Home, Dark Passage and Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur.

In the 1950s, Bolster moved to television, and had roles in lots of British TV shows I’ve never heard of, including Man Against Crime, Rheingold Theatre, Let’s Stay Home, Hour of Mystery, and The Adventures of Brigadier Wellington-Bull. In fact, most of her credits are from the UK, both before and after Dark Shadows.

I’m not sure what brought her to New York for three days in March 1968, but we’re lucky to have her on Dark Shadows, because she’s spooky and surprising, and I think she’s great. After a fifty-year career in film and television, she’s only remembered by Dark Shadows fans, because of a fairly epic lapse in her memory that we’ll see on Monday. She kept going for another ten years after that, and she died in North Miami in 1985, at the age of 89.

This episode also includes Rebecca Shaw as the streetwalker on the docks; she also appears in a couple weeks as a barmaid at the Eagle.

Monday: Exorcise in Futility.

450 dark shadows just disconnect me barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

24 thoughts on “Episode 450: Scary Godmother

  1. Three thoughts.

    1. I think Bathia Mapes marks the point where the writers realized they didn’t need to bother with the mundane figures anymore. Julia and Reverend Trask were big steps in that direction but still had a lot of dullards hanging out with them. By now, with few exceptions, the Collins family seems to have changed its emergency call list. They’ve stopped asking the baffled physicians, useless sheriffs, and stiff lawyers for help, for the most part. Instead, we get the strange old witches, psychics, gypsies, and larger than life scientists (hi, Professor Stokes!)

    2. Anita Bolster was a wonder. If you needed a creepy housekeeper, bitter spinster, or just plain weird older woman (and Margaret Hamilton was out of town), you got Anita Bolster. Her role in “Saboteur” was fairly typical: she played the bearded lady!

    3. Match-up I wish we’d seen: Bathia Mapes versus the caretaker. Irresistable force, meet immovable object.

  2. Interesting mention about a gypsy. Could she have been part of a gypsy caravan that was in the Collinsport area at the time the candle flame SOS went out? She musn’t have been far from Collinwood because she got there rather quickly – realistically how far could she have walked in a day? If she was a local I’m sure there would have been legends told about the ‘crazy witch living in the woods’. I guess thought came to mind because I’m at the tail end of 1897, where gypsies play a big part in several storylines.

    1. True, Collinsport is full of weird things just before all those Barnabas stuff ,Laura married a Stockbridge and died by Fire.So, Bathia is nothing strange why is that only Aunt Abigail was the only one that believe in witchcraft among the family on a consistent basis though she had the wrong witch..

  3. Barnabas Goin to the docks whenever he is upset about something–this plays into the “vampirism as an addiction” trope. (He needs his hit!) So that would make Bathia Mapes a kind of twelve steps program? It would certainly make sense of her insisting that the Collinses admit the nature of their problem.

  4. …the number one rated vampire curse…

    Oh, Danny!
    You done it again. I laughed until I CRIED! I may have even herniated, I’ll have to check with my doctor (if I can’t reach Bathia Mapes by candle call).

  5. I think Anita Bolster was a talented actor. She was probably more at home in the movies where multiple takes are the norm. I think it was a mistake to have Angelique assume this level of evil. On the whole she seems to be driven by jealousy and rage than the type of raw malice we see here. This takes it to a whole different level and eliminates some of the character ambiguities on which the later drama depends.

    1. I agree. She was becoming like the resurrected broom in the “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment of “Fantasia,” existing only to cause chaos.

  6. “Then there’s a great little moment — just for an instant — where Bathia’s giving another weird speech, and Natalie rolls her eyes. Grayson Hall is not accustomed to being the second most eccentric person in the room.”

    I loled.

  7. I wonder if William Peter Blatty was watching this episode?

    I take back what I said about Angelique’s portrait yesterday. We get a better look at it today and she does have a little smirk on her face.

    You’d think after all that’s happened over the past few months that the local streetwalkers would be a little more careful around the docks.

    It’s been many years since I read the novel Dune but I think there was a mystical old lady named Mapes in that one too.

  8. Interesting, the dynamic over the last two episodes where Natalie has almost assumed the role of surrogate “wife” to Joshua. The second time he instructed her to go and sit with Millicent, her reaction seemed to be “you poor dear over-stressed man, you don’t actually think I’m Naomi whom you can just shoo upstairs, do you?”

    Their acting together so much over the last two made me wish there had been a storyline where Louis and Grayson were portrayed as a couple. That would have been something!

  9. I’ll take back what I said yesterday, about the “great vampire hunt” in 1897 being the first time Barnabas is repelled by a cross. He is in this episode, way before the Quentin story line. I think the reason the writers never stressed these kinds of scenes too much was due to the fact that they wanted to turn this vampire from monster to antihero.

  10. I am also rethinking my earlier argument about Barnabas’ blood lust being solely motivated by a physical need, for survival. I still think it does, but only due to a certain extent. I now agree with the counter-arguments that most of his attacks seem to stem from an unhealthy compulsion, as if he is addicted to drinking blood. Spotting this analogy right away, my girlfriend he feels he needs his “fix” every so often. He may experience some guilt over what he is doing, but is too weak to resist the temptation.That, then, might suggest that the real shame Joshua experiences about his son’s secret may be more akin to a father discovering his son is an addict than to a father discovering his son is gay.

  11. How could anybody see a light in the tower room with only one candelabra? Also, why are there three windows, each with its own light, when, inside that room, we see only one, stained glass window?

    1. The over-lit windows in the tower have been bothering me for days. Why doesn’t the light move if it is by candle. Wouldn’t it be lighter in one and dimmer in the other two? Lighting is hard, and I guess they went back to Seaview to grab an establishing shot of the tower with lights in it. that’s the best they could do, probably had a couple of hours to grab the shot, so that’s what we get!

  12. Somebody had mentioned this before, but the 1795 costumes, as well done as they are, seen more like outfits from the mid-19th-century than from the 1790’s.

    1. Some of them are earlier than 1795m particularly Naomi’s. The dress she woke at Millicent’s wedding wad a robe a l’anglaise, typical of the 1770-80s. A lot of the costumes are mashups of styles from different periods.

      1. Oh my goodness so many typos! “Woke” is wore, “wad” is was, and the m after 1795 is a comma.

    2. The dress the prostitute has on is close to period, if not a little later, like early 1800s, with its high Empire Waist, short sleeves, and rows of ruffles at the hem. It does look oddly modern for some reason, and that might be the hat. Millicent’s dress is also pretty close, with the extremely high waist. Mapes’ dress, like a lot of peasant class or really old eccentrics, could be from just about any decade. It looks mostly like mid 1800s to me without any petticoats. But, with that cool cape over it, you can hardly see it, except to see that it is black. And I have no idea what Natalie has on…. black velvet…. can’t see the shape, with that strange lace stand up collar…. no clue…. It reads 1930s film noir…..

  13. The menorah-looking candle stand that’s in the Old House in 1968 is in the tower room.
    “What guy had the courage to break up with you?” made me laugh out loud.
    And now I want a Bathia Mapes origin story.

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