“It is tragic that your Greta is so deformed, for she really could play the role of Josette to perfection.”
It’s a Ron Sproat script today, which means that Carolyn’s still stuck in the root cellar, and so are we. So I’m going to invoke my executive privilege to ignore a filler episode, and talk about something else instead.
It’s time to start looking at the Dark Shadows merchandise, because this is the period where it becomes a real factor in the audience’s experience of the show. While this episode was being taped, Jonathan Frid was on a completely insane ten-city publicity tour, where he was besieged by literally thousands of screaming teenagers who were desperate to get closer to Barnabas, and the show. Recognizing that these kids have allowances, ABC started to tap into that market, with some success.
The first piece of Barnabas-related merchandise was released in May 1968, just in time for the publicity tour. It’s a 155-page book called The Curse of Collinwood, and it’s the fifth in the series of Dark Shadows-inspired romance novels published by Paperback Library. The Curse of Collinwood has a picture of Barnabas on the cover, and it sells spectacularly well.
Unfortunately, Barnabas isn’t actually in The Curse of Collinwood, which is about Vicki and therefore not worth discussing, so we’re going to talk about the next book instead.
So this is the story, as I understand it. Mass-market paperback publishing took off in the early 1950s, with a national distribution network for short, cheap original fiction in an assortment of lowbrow genres. One of the popular styles was “gothic romance”, which basically meant endless iterations on Jane Eyre, with some mild suspense and occasional outbreaks of the supernatural.
Paperback Library joined the gothic romance racket around 1964, and started pumping out titles with the tagline “A Paperback Library Gothic”.
The cover art basically tells you everything that you need to know about what the books are like. They invariably depict a mildly flustered woman, being stalked by architecture.
So in June 1966, when ABC launched a daily soap opera in the gothic romance style, it made sense for Paperback Library to assign one of their authors to write some novels about girl governess Victoria Winters, and her spooky adventures at Collins House.
Yeah, Collins House. The books exist in kind of an alternate dimension. They’re clearly based on Art Wallace’s original series bible, which used the name Collins House before they changed it to Collinwood for the show.
In fact, the novels exist at such a remove from the TV show that they were still using that name when they published Strangers at Collins House in November 1967, more than six months after Barnabas’ introduction, when there was really no excuse for being that out-of-tune with the audience’s expectations. (They made up for it by calling the next two books The Mystery of Collinwood and The Curse of Collinwood.)
The books were written by Dan Ross, an unbelievably prolific hack who sold his first novel at the age of 49, and then kept on going because nobody ever told him to stop. He ended up writing more than 330 books under a dozen different pseudonyms — Dan Roberts for westerns and adventure stories, Ann Gilmer for straight romances — and he used his wife’s name, Marilyn Ross, for the gothics.
It’s impossible to novelize a daily soap opera, and Ross didn’t try. Instead, he took inspiration from the Dark Shadows premise, and then he wrote whatever the hell he was going to write anyway. Victoria’s main love interest is Ernest Collins, Roger and Liz’s cousin, who’s a major figure in the novels until his death in book 4. We also see Liz and Roger’s Uncle Henry, and their brother Mark. Do you know who we don’t see? Carolyn. It’s a weird series.
But, as always on Dark Shadows, the story doesn’t really begin until we open up the mystery box. The sixth book, Barnabas Collins, finally brought the novels up to date with the show’s new direction.
This was published in November 1968, which is about six months ahead of where we are in the show right now, but it’s so clearly a response to the Barnabas publicity tour that it makes more sense in this context than it would in November.
Ross has definitely watched some of the 1795 storyline — the novel name-checks Josette, Angelique, Jeremiah and Joshua, and there’s even a brief description of Angelique being shot, and unleashing the vampire curse. But after that, Ross’ attention kind of wandered, so the Barnabas of the books just strolls through the centuries, free and unchained.
This is his story.
The book opens on a dark and stormy night, with Vicki reading up on the Collins family history in the library. She’s found the journal of Jonas Collins, the master of the house in 1900, and she’s engrossed in it. She grew up in an orphanage, but since she’s been living at Collinwood, she’s become obsessed with the idea that she’s really a member of the Collins family. So she reads everything she can find about the Collins family history, hoping to find a clue to her own identity. What she expects to find in a diary from 1911, I have no idea. Even in the books, Vicki is an idiot.
Jonas’ journal mentions Barnabas Collins, a mysterious cousin from England, which piques Vicki’s interest. She consults with Liz, who remembers hearing the story from her grandmother, Margaret.
Elizabeth closed her eyes, remembering. “I believe it was after dusk one night in 1902.”
Cut to the cemetery, where Margaret’s restless spirit has the latest.
“Ah, yes, dear little Elizabeth, you were only a child when I told you about Barnabas and those dark days. Therefore I spared you the full horror of the real truth — the secret of Barnabas that I have carried with me to my grave! The secret that only I was to discover!”
So I don’t know what Elizabeth thinks she’s telling Vicki about. But here goes: the full horror of the real truth.
Meet Margaret Collins — thirty-seven, titian-haired, no sense of humor as far as anyone can tell. Her husband is Jonas — cold, aloof, not really in the book very much because who cares about husbands. They have a son in Boston who remains off-screen the whole time, and a 17-year-old daughter, Greta, who’s confined to a wheelchair because she’s differently-abled in the leg division.
There’s also a bunch of servants scattered around the house — the maids, Ada and Patience, a mentally-delayed caretaker named Luke, and a vague 90-year-old housekeeper whose name, I kid you not, is Granny Entwhistle.
So that’s the Collinwood household in 1902. The back cover says 1899, but it also says that Barnabas is America’s grooviest ghoul, so whatever.
Margaret takes an evening stroll out to Widow’s Hll, which is always a great idea, and she runs into Barnabas Collins, a recently-arrived cousin from England who’s come for a visit.
The pound of the incoming waves came loud in her ears. Her heart was beating rapidly as she wavered between fear and excitement. As she drew closer to the man in the dark caped coat she saw that he wore no hat, but carried a black cane with a silver handle. His back was to her but now he turned very slowly and stood there staring at her with great intentness.
Margaret Collins could almost feel the power of those deep-set eyes as they fixed upon her. The melancholy, almost cadaverous face with its high cheek bones, and the thick black hair in disarray across the intelligent forehead were strange to her, and yet familiar. She couldn’t understand it. Nor could she explain why she had come to a full stop a few feet distant from him.
Peresonally, I don’t know if I’d recognize an intelligent forehead if I saw one, but Margaret apparently has great faith in her ability to judge foreheads.
The really strange thing about this first description is that it doesn’t mention that Barnabas is handsome. As of page 15, Barnabas is a handsome, gaunt man with a gaunt, handsome face, and he stays that way.
Barnabas is described as “handsome” 24 times in the book, including four times in chapter 6, and twice on page 98. This book is seriously invested in the concept that Jonathan Frid is super mega handsome.
So it’s the usual Barnabas routine. He’s from England, and that portrait in the Collinwood foyer is his great-grandfather. He’s moved into the Old House with his mute servant Hare, and he never goes out during the day because he’s working on mysterious scientific experiments.
The scientist thing is a weird detail that doesn’t really get explored very much. They ask him about it in chapter 3, with not much success.
Margaret said, “Your experiments, Cousin Barnabas, are they of a very special nature? I suppose I should not be so curious. But both Greta and I have wondered.”
“That is quite understandable,” he said, giving her his full attention once again. The deep-set eyes bored into her as he continued with great gravity, “I am embarked on the ultimate quest of man. The secret of rejuvenation. The elixir of eternal youth.”
Margaret gasped. “What an audacious undertaking!”
He smiled grimly. “Audacious and ambitious. But I am well on my way. That is why I must guard my work so closely. What I already have discovered would be considered worth a king’s ransom.”
And then they just start talking about something else, and it never really comes up again.
Chapter 1 ends with a Varney the Vampire–style sting. Margaret is going to bed, still haunted by her meeting with Barnabas. Then she hears a noise outside, and she approaches the window.
An enormous bat was beating against the window. She watched with the fascination of horror as it came close again and there was the crash of breaking glass and the bat came hovering into the room directly above her. She smelled its dank odor and felt its soft, slippery wings. Hurling herself across the bed away from it, she cried out for help.
This incident doesn’t really lead to anything in particular; Jonas comes in from his adjoining room, and the bat flies away. This kind of thing happens at regular intervals in Margaret’s life.
I’m assuming that this is typical for these gothic romances — every couple of chapters, the main character suddenly decides that she’s in danger, which instantly evaporates moments later. The bat attack is actually much more direct than usual; most of the time, she’s just walking outside when she sees a shape in the bushes, a slight movement, she feels dark eyes upon her, and she begins to run — breathless, convinced that someone is about to overtake her — and then nothing happens. The thrills in these books are mostly speculative.
The next chapter is mostly about Barnabas meeting all the other characters. The big moment happens when he gets an eyeful of the daughter of the house.
When he first saw Greta he stopped stock-still. Then he advanced as if in a trance to her wheelchair and knelt on one knee before it as he took her hand and kissed it. He allowed his lips to linger on her hand for a long moment before rising.
“I am happy to be here,” he said in his sonorous voice. “Especially now that I have met you.” His eyes were fixed on her in his peculiarly intent fashion.
So that’s awesome. She’s 17, by the way.
Then Margaret makes the tactical error of drawing Barnabas’ attention to an unfortunate coincidence.
“We have always felt that Greta somewhat resembles one of the truly ancient family portraits. The dark one above the sideboard.”
Barnabas nodded and without a word went over to the sideboard and stared up at the portrait, a strained expression on his face. Finally he murmured softly, “Josette!”
Margaret had come up close to him. “Josette?” she repeated after him in a questioning tone.
Barnabas’ hypnotic eyes met hers. There was an expression of infinite sadness on the gaunt, good-looking face. “But surely you know about Josette?”
She doesn’t, but that deficit gets corrected in a fairly comprehensive way. Apparently, Margaret looks just like Greta, and Greta looks just like Josette, so we end up hearing about this pretty much all the time.
So Barnabas takes a special interest in Greta, and takes her wheelchair out for a late-night stroll around the garden. When they come back, she’s absolutely thrilled by the experience.
As Margaret assisted her daughter into bed, Greta seemed much weaker than usual. “The excitement has been too much for you,” she scolded lightly as she pulled the sheets up over her.
Greta’s pretty face was radiant as she gazed up at her. “I don’t care! Not if I die before morning! This was the most wonderful night of my life.”
Margaret felt a chill of fear creep through her. “You mustn’t say such things. You mustn’t count on Cousin Barnabas so. He will only be here a little while.”
“I hope he has come to stay forever,” Greta said, seeming in a happy trance.
And it was only then that Margaret noticed the two faintly crimson spots on her daughter’s throat… marks like tiny wounds!
So that’s super rude. You just met the guy, and he takes your wheelchair-bound daughter out for a walk, and brings her back used.
In the morning, Greta wants to know if it’s okay for distant cousins to marry, which means the creepy “fall in love with the guy who sexually assaulted you” trope is in full effect.
Then Margaret’s friend Clare Blandish comes over for tea. Clare is a rich, attractive, raven-haired widow, who’s opened a private orphanage in her house.
For several years now she had offered refuge to a dozen children between the age of a few months and their early teens. As soon as she managed to place one for adoption she took in another.
That sounds like a very convenient arrangement; I’m not sure how she manages that. Apparently there’s a large backlog of orphans just milling around in Collinsport, waiting for the chance to audition for Clare.
And as they all sat over their tea cups in the Collins living room that afternoon Clare was full of news about the latest addition to the orphanage.
“A sweet child of nine,” she told them. “She came to me from up Bangor way. Such a darling!” She turned to smile at Greta. “And so pretty! Although she’s just a baby I think in many ways she resembles you.”
Greta was charmed by this idea. “I’d like to meet her.”
“You shall,” Clare promised. “I’ll arrange to bring her over some day.”
Margaret thought quickly. Greta had shown a definite interest in this child who was supposed to look like her. Why not use this as an antidote for her girlish crush on Cousin Barnabas? If her attention could be diverted to the child, she would have less time to mope romantically about her distant cousin. She said “Why not have the child stay with us for a few days? I’m sure it would be a welcome diversion for all of us.”
So that’s pretty much the ethical standard for the book. Nine-year-old orphans are basically collectibles, which you can trade like Pokemon cards.
Barnabas comes over for another moonlight stroll around the garden with Greta, but that’s not his only night-time activity.
Remember the two maids, Ada and Patience? Well, Ada takes Margaret aside, and tells her that she’s seen Patience sneaking out of the house the last few nights, and meeting Barnabas. Patience and Barnabas walk off toward the Old House, and she’s usually gone for about two hours.
This has happened every night since Barnabas’ arrival, which means that he’s been drinking from two different girls a night. How thirsty can you get?
Now Margaret has a mystery to ponder, and she does, relentlessly.
What was the secret of Barnabas Collins? For these unexplainable incidents had surely begun with his arrival. And why had she been apprehensive about this handsome, gaunt man ever since his coming? He had been charming enough. And his kindness to Greta had been disarming. And he had won her daughter’s heart to the point that she was obviously dreaming of marriage.
This had taken place in an incredibly short time. Barnabas had come to Collinwood and changed everything instantly. Was this business of the nightly meetings with Patience nothing but a vulgar affair between the two? Or did it signify something more diabolical?
And so she paces around, and thinks about the bat attack, and the weird marks on Greta’s neck, and Patience, and Granny Entwhistle, and so on, for page after page. This is what these gothic romances are all about — weird things happening to white women, who have lots of free time to review the evidence.
The books are told from the point of view of a single narrator, so we’re stuck with Margaret for the duration. But she can’t actually participate directly in the mystery, because then she wouldn’t have anything to wonder about.
So she’s always just on the periphery of the diabolical events — fretting, gossiping with the maid, feeling generally puzzled and lonely and ill-at-ease. In other words, she’s a housewife.
ABC has just realized that the TV show is reaching a new teenage audience, so they’ve sent Jonathan Frid out to hold press conferences with the editors of high school newspapers in Grand Rapids and Fort Wayne. The true behind-the-scenes story of Dark Shadows is the tension between appealing to the show’s two audiences — housewives and teenagers — and we’re going to see increasing concessions made to the teenager demographic.
But the books are firmly on the side of Team Housewife. Margaret doesn’t have a job, or really anything to do with her time, so she fills her day with information management. She finds an old journal kept by Pastor Arnold Collins in 1846, who was also curious about the family’s secrets.
Margaret frowned as she turned several pages of the dead clergyman’s writing that dealt long-windedly with church problems of the day and had no bearing on the family. Then she came to an entry that caught her attention.
“July 8th, 1846. On this day did make certain discoveries bound to be of great value in compiling our family history. Several letters from Joshua Collins to a friend concerning the sad case of his son, Barnabas, have come my way. Dark undertones to these letters. I suspect witchcraft!”
So let’s do a quick review of where we are right now. Elizabeth is telling Vicki the story of her grandmother Margaret Collins, who’s reading the journal of Pastor Arnold Collins, who’s found some old letters from Joshua. That’s three narrative levels deep. We’re nowhere near the interesting thing.
But that’s what these gothic romances are about; they’re archeology. There’s always a big family secret, shrouded in layers of dust and lies, which the intrepid heroine has to uncover.
And, oh, there are so many terrible secrets. Barnabas has more visits with Greta and mysterious late-night assignations with Patience — and then he meets Clare, and all of a sudden he’s got another friend.
This handsome, gaunt man just instantly seduces everyone. He’s feeding on three different women practically every night. I don’t know how he does it; I just look at blood, and it goes straight to my hips.
But the creepiest thing is yet to come. Remember Judith, the nine-year-old orphan who’s staying at Collinwood? Well, it turns out that she looks like Greta, and Greta looks like Margaret, and they all look like Josette. Apparently in 1902 it was okay to just look like everyone.
So then there’s this.
Clare smiled nervously as she hesitated at the door before going out into the darkness with Barnabas. She said, “It is very good of you to take such an interest in Judith. Barnabas thinks the child is lovely. He’s even spoken to me of adopting her.”
Margaret found this more alarming news. Trying not to show her concern, she said, “But surely Barnabas would find a child somewhat of a burden when he returns to the busy outside world?”
Barnabas answered for himself, “Judith would never be a burden to me. But I hesitate because I’m dubious about Hare’s ability to adjust to the youngster.”
And that is now part of the storyline of this book. She’s nine.
Margaret, thoroughly spooked by this point, decides to look into these weird “scientific explorations” that Barnabas is supposed to be doing all day. She sneaks into the Old House, finds a secret panel in the cellar, and guess what, there’s a coffin.
As usual in these kinds of situations, she arrives on the scene just at dusk, so she has a ringside seat as Barnabas gets up out of the coffin. The ensuing conversation is calmer than you might expect.
“Are you telling me that you are one of the living dead? A vampire who must feast on human blood to avoid the grave?”
“I bear that curse,” the man in the caped coat said sadly. “I wanted to keep the truth from you. From everyone. That is why I rented this house where I was born. With Hare to protect me it seemed that I might rest safely here for a while.”
“But you are mad!” she gasped. “You must be to try and make me believe such a story.”
“I wanted to spare you the truth,” Barnabas reminded her, his tone becoming harsh again. “But you would not curb your female curiosity.”
And that’s the tone for pretty much the whole rest of the book.
“If you are a vampire, then no one is safe here!”
Barnabas smiled coldly. “That is an exaggeration.”
“But the girls! Even my daughter, Greta! Those marks on their throats! You have been drinking their blood!”
“My own survival depends on a daily quota of human blood,” Barnabas told her calmly, the white teeth flashing as he spoke.
That daily quota apparently runs to two or three women a night. And the weird thing is, the point of view of the book is that that’s a totally acceptable way to behave.
“You would weaken and perhaps kill my innocent invalid daughter,” Margaret accused him.
“I am very fond of Greta,” he said. “And I need not tell you she is in love with me. I have opened up her mind to new horizons since I came here. I have given her some hope.”
“You have stolen her blood in the same way you did from the others. I have seen the marks on her throat,” Margaret told him bitterly.
“But I have done her no real harm,” Barnabas said. “On the contrary, I have brought her great happiness.”
Now, I’ve been talking for a while about how troubling I find the casual acceptance of fantasy-metaphor rape in vampire fiction, but this is just off the map. Barnabas is patiently explaining to Margaret that he’s been fantasy-metaphor sexually assaulting her 17-year-old wheelchair-bound daughter just about every night, and he honestly can’t understand why she’s not grateful.
He tells her that he’s pining for Josette, his lost love, who Greta resembles. “That is what makes Greta someone special for me,” he says. “And the child Judith as well, who also bears a youthful resemblance to my lost Josette. Seeing them here is almost like finding Josette again.”
It gets worse.
Margaret stared at him. “What about the servant girl, Patience? She has been keeping a tryst with you every night.”
Barnabas sighed. “I become very lonely here in the long night. If you will come upstairs with me I will show you how I try to solve that.”
He takes her upstairs.
They arrived at the doorway of the living room and he took her in to view the table set for two which she had discovered on her last excursion. He pointed his cane at the table. “It’s here that I dine each night with the lovely Patience. It is true I touch no food or drink but I see she is served the best by Hare and I find my enjoyment in sitting with her and feasting on her beauty.”
“You take her from her bed to act out a mad charade here with you?” Margaret asked, staring at him.
He nodded. “I am, as I have said, an extremely lonely man.”
In what way?? You have three simultaneous girlfirends, not counting the nine-year-old who you’re keeping in the on-deck circle.
He lifted up the gown. “This was once my Josette’s. When I see it on Patience I try to convince myself that she is my lost one.”
“You’re completely insane!”
He smiled bitterly. “As I understand it, most lovers are. It is tragic that your Greta is so deformed for she really could play the role of Josette to perfection. We could perhaps be married!”
Margaret’s eyebrows lifted. “Do you think I would allow that?”
“I would be a devoted husband and Greta already is in love with me,” he said. “But she is an invalid and so I will not press the matter. I wish only to offer her some love and hope. Now, with the child, Judith, it is rather different. Ten years from now she will be a reincarnation of my Josette. A beauty in full bloom.”
There are so many things wrong with that paragraph that I can’t even deal with it. He’s basically farming women. I think this proves that when I talk about fantasy-metapor rape in vampire fiction, I’m not reading too much into it. Obviously the bite is a sexual act. If it was just about food and survival, why doesn’t he bite dudes? He’s a sexual predator who specifically targets pretty young women. Young meaning nine.
And it just keeps going.
Margaret lifted her chin. “You have caught Clare up in the evil web of your charm,” she accused him.
He smiled wanly. “Do you think so? I hope I have. Because that is rather important to my plan.”
“To adopt Judith.”
Her eyes were wide with surprise as she sat there staring up at him. “You can’t mean it! You must be joking!”
He shook his head. “No. I’m quite serious. In ten years little Judith could become my bride. In the interim I’ll see she has the life of a rich man’s daughter. Every luxury and advantage will be given to her. So in the end she will be the same great lady Josette was.”
“You can cold-bloodedly plan to marry that infant?”
“She will be a young lady in ten years. And that much time is really nothing to me,” Barnabas went on confidently. “She shall first be my daughter and then my wife.”
So… yeah. It’s hard to know what to say about this. The book is clearly aiming for Mr. Rochester, but way overshooting, and landing on Jeffrey Dahmer. If this is what gothic romances are like, then give me a soap opera any day. I can’t imagine a soap audience would put up with this kind of nonsense for five minutes.
So there you go; that’s the worst bit. It’s all downhill from here, so I’m just going to quickly run through the rest of the plot so you can get the full picture.
Barnabas buys Margaret’s silence by laying off his snacking on Greta, but still offering her love and hope, because obviously an invalid would never be able to find someone worth loving unless he was a serial rapist great-uncle.
He does adopt Judith, but Margaret talks to Clare and convinces her that it’s probably better if the girl lives at Collinwood, instead of growing up alone in the Old House with Barnabas’ weird mute servant.
Then there’s a whole thing with the “sapphire star,” a piece of jewelry that Barnabas steals from Josette’s tomb, to give to Patience for their dress-up games. Granny Entwhistle finds it in Patience’s room, and confiscates it, and then even more terrible things happen.
Namely: he kills Granny Entwhistle. She’s found at the bottom of the stairs one morning, with her neck broken, and the sapphire star is gone.
Here’s Margaret’s response: “One more killing and I will not keep your secret. Your night prowlings must stop short of murder or I refuse to protect you.”
Spoiler alert: That is not the last murder.
The story jumps ahead three years, to give Judith a chance to grow up.
Another girl in the village is attacked by a bat. Margaret’s response: “She wondered what had tormented Barnabas into his bold attack.” His reply: He got hungry, and he doesn’t want to talk about it.
Patience is now in love with her attacker. Margaret considers sending her away, so she can forget about Barnabas. But Patience seems happy, and anyway, she’s just a servant.
Patience is found at the Collins family tomb, strangled. Near the scene of the crime, the police find Luke, the Collins’ mentally-impaired caretaker, so they shoot him. If this keeps up, there’s going to be a serious shortage of domestics around here.
Margaret’s response: “The only reason I have spared you in this wretched business is because of Greta.”
Barnabas’ reply: “You do not understand. You do not try to understand. Have you any idea what my life is like? How long I have endured Angelique’s curse? How I pray to one day be restored to a normal existence?” And so on.
Clare is found dead in the snow.
Margaret’s response: “Don’t deny it! You were making one of your night visits to Josette’s tomb. Clare saw you crossing the crossing the field toward the cemetery and followed you. And you let her die out there as she tried to locate you. Probably you hid in the shadows of the tomb and watched as she collapsed!”
Barnabas’ reply: “I find that fantastic!”
Years pass. The carnage continues. There’s another dead girl in the village. They don’t even bother having a conversation about that one.
Judith is 18 now, and Barnabas tells her that he wants to marry her. She says no, on account of he adopted her, and she thinks of him as her father. Anyway, she has a boyfriend, Jim, and she’s going to marry him.
Barnabas is furious, and wants to force Judith to marry him. Margaret vows to protect her.
Later that night, as Judith walks back to the house after a date with Jim, Barnabas comes up behind her and bites her neck. Margaret is standing at the front door, and she sees the whole thing. Margaret is really not good at protecting people.
Margaret finally tells Judith and Jim that Barnabas is a vampire, and they break into the Old House to find his coffin. Jim wants to stake Barnabas, but Margaret says that Greta is dying, and her love for Barnabas is the only thing keeping her alive. Oh, by the way, Greta’s dying.
Judith and Jim run off together, so that’s over with at least. Then there’s a Greta-dying sequence, where Barnabas realizes his big mistake: “I made a grave error in placing my hopes on Judith. That was where I went wrong. I shouldn’t have turned from your Greta. She is the only one since Josette who has truly loved me. Her love could have saved me!”
But it didn’t, oh well. Greta dies, and Barnabas picks her up, and carries her out to the cemetery, where he lays her next to Josette in the family tomb. Then he leaves town, and they all live happily ever after.
Liz finishes telling the story of Margaret and Barnabas.
Vicki says, “What a strange, romantic person he was.” Vicki is an idiot.
Tomorrow: The Sinking Detective.
In the next Paperback Library post, we read
Barnabas Collins vs the Warlock in
Episode 692: The New Mischief
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the end of Carolyn’s thinks monologue, she realizes, “If he chose to run away, then… I’m trapped in here!” A music cue begins to play its first couple notes, and then it’s suddenly cut off. You hear it again twenty seconds later, in the correct place.
When Cassandra asks Liz if there’s any news of Carolyn, there’s a cranking noise heard offstage.
Behind the Scenes:
James Shannon plays a Policeman in today’s episode. Shannon appears in 13 episodes on the show, usually in a law enforcement role. We saw him as Vicki’s hangman at the end of the 1795 storyline, and he’s also credited as a Deputy, a Guard and a Gaoler.
The Deputy who tangles with Adam in his cell is Clifford Pellow, in his only episode. The Deputy is described in today’s script as a “Red-Necked Jailor”, and Pellow has mostly been seen in “Red-Necked” roles, including a Truck Driver in Lotsa Luck, a Sheriff in The White Buffalo, a Cowboy in Beretta, a Cattle Buyer in Comes a Horseman, and a guest role on The Dukes of Hazzard. The 1970s was kind of a golden age for Red-Necked actors.
For an explanation of the rules of gothic romance book covers and many, many examples, check out “Loads of Women Running From Houses: The Gothic Romance Paperback“. (Thanks to Richard Simms for the link!)
Tomorrow: The Sinking Detective.
In the next Paperback Library post, we read
Barnabas Collins vs the Warlock in
Episode 692: The New Mischief
— Danny Horn
41 thoughts on “Episode 504: The Ladykiller”
You would think falling in love with a child would be off limits, but heck, in the Twilight saga, Jacob finally realizes that his obsession with Bella is only because he is destined to fall in love with her daughter, like a few hours after she is born. By this standard, Barnabas looks very restrained. I will say that the writer did get Barnabas’ mindset of “if someone is a problem kill them” down pat.
Many fans do call Gothic novels “Girl meets house” books. Collinwood fits right in.
It has been mentioned in earlier posts how creepy it was for Tony Peterson to see Barnabas and Carolyn embracing in that scene at the Old House, but in episode 2 Carolyn really played up the weirdness factor, or perhaps it was a satirical comment on the inbred nature of rich families. She goes to Vicky’s room to introduce herself, and less than two minutes into their initial conversation what’s the first personal thing Carolyn reveals about herself to her new friend? That she has a mad crush on her UNCLE Roger. That’s “uncle”–as in her mother’s brother. And of course Roger always refers to her as “kitten”, so perhaps this peculiar brand of affection is mutual. It’s quite bold of daytime television to venture into this territory in 1966.
From a genealogical standpoint it’s not at all creepy for Carolyn and Barnabas (in terms of the cover story for Barnabas) to be romantically involved. “Cousin Barnabas” is the son of Joshua Collins. Carolyn’s line is descended from Joshua’s brother, I assume. Daniel and Barnabas are first cousins. Their common ancestors are 2 grandparents. Daniel begat Gabriel, who begat his son, who begat Edward, who begat Jamison, who begat Elizabeth who begat Carolyn. If this were parallel time and there was a Barnabas descended from Bramwell, that would make them something like 7th cousins, sharing 2 grandparents out of 256. This is genetically insignificant. If I’m correct Barnabas is actually Carolyn’s first cousin 6 times removed. Carolyn and Chris are borderline creepy. Their last common ancestor (incestor?) was the father of Edward and Quentin. Edward begat Jamison who begat Elizabeth who begat Caroly. Quentin’s daughter and Jamison would be first cousins. Elizabeth and Chris’ mother would be 2nd cousins, and Carolyn and Chris would be 3rd cousins. I believe they would be eligible to marry anywhere in the US, but it might be seen as a bit strange. I doubt there would be any serious chances of deformities. I’m told that the risk of birth defects in the children of 1st cousins is roughly equivalent to the risk of a woman giving birth to a child when she is in her 40s.
I posted about this earlier and was wondering why it did not appear. When I went to confirm this post I realized the other was pending. So there are two post of mine that are fairly similar in two different places in the DS timeline. I apologize if that’s annoying. I have a handle on the procedures now so it shouldn’t happen again.
You assume incorrectly about Carolyn being descended from Joshua’s brother. If that were the case then he would have been “Uncle Joshua” to Millicent and Daniel. He wasn’t: Joshua was their cousin. So, at best, Carolyn is descended from Joshua’s cousin.
In the same episode, Elizabeth strictly tells Roger to stay away from Victoria’s room.
Yes, Prisoner, that was truly bizarre. Was Ross a ghostwriter on the show back then? What was the point of it? To show that Carolyn needs a larger social circle of male friends? To suggest that Vicki should find Roger attractive also? A Jane Eyre/Mr. Rochester-type scenario would have been a possibility if Roger wasn’t in opposition to Burke. There was never any hint of romantic interest between Roger and Vicki.
As far as the books are concerned, I read one. That was enough. Pretty sure this was not it. It’s surprising to me that they ever let him write another one.
The idea of marrying your adopted daughter/ward is a plot point in Sweeney Todd, the Sondheim musical. The character Pirelli is Todd’s old assistant, Davy Collins.
Coincidence, I’m sure.
There’s a blog–Women running from houses (womenrunningfromhouses.blogspot. com) that has a great deal of fun with gothic romances, including a number of Marilyn Ross Dark Shadows novelizations. If you’re looking for a good laugh I recommend it.
The sad thing is, this is probably the best one of all the novels. I hope at some point you’ll look at the Gold Key comic book series, which actually ran to 1975, four years after the series ended. With one egregious exception – you probably know what issue I’m talking about – the stories are far superior to the novels.
Yeah, there will definitely be some comic book posts coming up. I’m going to do the gum cards and View-Master reels too. And some audios. And Barnabas Collins: In a Funny Vein, if I can find one. I think I’m probably going to end up doing everything.
I loved those View-Master reels they had on Dark Shadows. In between the end of the series and the start of TV syndication, it was a way to keep images of the show fresh in your mind. I also recall seeing Dark Shadows featured in such horror magazines as, I believe it was, Famous Monsters, where they had a feature on Jonathan Frid’s age makeup and showed behind-the-scenes images of him being prepared stage by stage.
I never had to run home from school to watch the show, since I was not yet in school when I started watching, which means I remember roughly the last year while it was on as an active series, so I was too young for the novels and comic books and all the rest, but I really loved the View-Master reels later on. I suppose if you’re thinking of skipping a boring episode (or a Ron Sproat script), it might soon be timely to cover the View-Master set, since it focuses on the Adam/Nicholas Blair/Angelique as vampiress era of 1968.
I don’t think I’ll ever bother with any of these spin-off novels or comic books or what have you, since it’s only based on Dark Shadows and isn’t the real thing. I’ve only recently in the last few months purchased the original Dark Shadows soundtrack album, and this is great because it comes from people who were involved with the show, which is what you want to get a sense of Dark Shadows, rather than someone who wasn’t involved and who is just riffing off of it trying to capture its essence.
Growing up in the 1970s, the View-Master reels helped to keep the show alive in heart and mind, so it would be a pleasure to see something on that set posted here.
You watched DS when you were too young to go to school? And your parents bought you the View-Master set? Did they know it’s about devil worship?
I will definitely be addressing the View-Master reels when we get to August ’68. It’s one of the craziest things they ever did.
It wasn’t my mother, it was my father, who grew up on the Universal Monsters of the 1930s and beyond. My first horror movie was seeing Bela Lugosi’s Dracula on television in 1971 when I was 5. It was on at 11:30 at night, so they made a deal that if I went to sleep at my normal bedtime they would wake me up when it came on. I remember it to this day. My second horror movie was a week later, Karloff’s Frankenstein. I remember jumping in my chair when the lightning bolt hit him. The week later I saw Karloff as The Mummy, then Lon Chaney as the Wolfman. Then my dad started buying me these horror magazines, then those model kits of the Universal Monsters that you glue together, then eventually the Dark Shadows View-Master reels.
And before all this, there was the Dark Shadows TV show. My mother was a stay-at-home mom and ABC just happened to be on at that time of the afternoon, and that show and its intro represent some of my earliest life memories, and I know that I will be a fanatical supporter of the show for all the rest of my days.
That sounds like an awesome childhood!
Yeah, that’s a really special experience. It’s cool that you had something to share with your dad like that.
Or rather, that my dad shared with me. Been a devotee ever since. 🙂
As for Dark Shadows, that was something that I discovered myself. The TV was on, and I would be in front of it, on my own. Sometimes the sun would be lighting up the living room, other months of the year it would be dark, and I would be there with all the lights out, just the TV on, as my mother was off in some other part of the house doing housework or preparing supper for that evening, while I would be enjoying an unsupervised half-hour soaking up a TV show that would keep me endlessly enthralled throughout my life.
You can’t ask more any more than that.
Oh, and if you want something super real from the show: The Dark Shadows Complete Soundtrack Collection is amazing. It’s every music cue from the show, including all the dramatic stings and everything, in order, with all the original titles. It’s super obsessive, I really love it.
Yes, this is next on my Amazon orders list. I first became aware of this collection when you mentioned it in an earlier post, so I thank you for that and also for this reminder.
I also want to add a note on how much I enjoy Robert Cobert’s compositions, which are excellent in their own write. I particular love those Blue Whale guitar instrumentals, #1 At The Blue Whale and Back At The Blue Whale. For someone whose formative musical period predates rock and roll by a good 15 to 20 years, he certainly captures that “surf rock instrumental” spirit admirably. Those tracks are also remarkably well produced and really hold up. I’m surprised these tracks were not huge top 40 hits on their own.
After watching a CRIMINAL MINDS episode, I’m going to start turning to my wife and say, a la Vicki, “What a strange, romantic person he was!”
Seriously! Barnabas is a bigoted dick. First he romances Greta to give get “hope”, but with no intention of fulfilling those hopes. In standard fiction, that is how a cad behaves. And then “Oh, I should have chosen you, but I was put off by your wheelchair.” Very romantic . . Ewww.
Oh and I forgot he’s also a pedophile with a 10- year grooming plan. How is this supposed to be romantic? And why doesn’t Margaret call the FBI?
I am actually reading the Ross novels in order, one at a time. I am up to #28 now. I have to admit I thoroughly enjoy them. They are weird, goofy fun, not meant to be taken seriously. In today’s market they would be classed as YA fiction. They are all about the teen heroines. This one is actually quite different from the rest–Barnabas is WAY less creepy in the rest of the series. He is more like the superhero-Barnabas of the comics. What drives me nuts is the messed-up chronology. He will have one Colins family in the house in 1880 and then a totally different set in 1885. He had Quentin prancing around in 1830 in BODY SNATCHERS and then living a Collinwood with his brother Conrad in 1870. Then he shows up again in 1875 without any connection to the 1870 storyline. Makes no sense at all.
Be sure to read BQ and the HAUNTED CAVE–Barnabas is in drag in part of it. I am not kidding!!
Yeah, I would love to hear suggestions for which ones to read and talk about on the blog. I read some of them when I was in high school, but that was a long time ago and I honestly can’t remember a thing about them. I was really not prepared for the super-rapeyness of this one.
By all means read “Barnabas, Quentin, and the Body Snatchers” were Dan Ross channels Ed Wood.
I think that in this book Dan Ross was constrained by what they told him about the show – that involved a vampire who kidnapped a young girl and tried to turn her into Josette, and he used it.
For the next ones, he decided on what his version was going to be and ran with it.
By the way, there is a last, unpublished DS novel. In this one, the lost fiancé of Vicky (Edward I think) is found alive, and they can marry. And then looking up certain records they find that Vicky is the daughter of a Collins cousin who romanced a local girl, but then his condition, which he supposed was cured, worsened, so he left Collinsport.
Which means that Barnabas is Vicky’s father… and he gets to walk her down the aisle…
Here’s the version, written by a fan from what Dan Ross told him the last story would be. Enjoy
I agree with you, the lack of internal consistency was annoying. Your comments mirror my opinions. By the way book 26, Body Snatchers takes place in the present with Quentin posing as a rock star. The 1830 book was 28, Barnabas, Quentin, and the Grave Robbers, confusing because grave robbers were also called body snatchers.
Whoa, I just looked at the name. I recently reread “The Year the Fire Came.” That’s a fantastic book, Lori!
I guess from a parallel time perspective all of these stories are true in one version or another. That was a great venue they used to explore different relationships among the core characters. But this thing about Josette looking like future Collins relatives (pertaining to the novel Danny is reviewing, because on the show 1795 Josette has no children nor is she related to the Collins family when she comes to Collinsport from Martinique and any similarity in appearance to Maggie Evans is purely coincidental, although Josette’s father Andre could have come back to Collinsport and started another family..??) In this novel did Barnabas marry Josette? If so, was it assumed that they had children? If not there should be no reason for Josette to resemble any future Collins members unless she was some kind of distant relative.
I figure the (bizarre and overdone) Josette resemblance motif in this novel was supposed to be some kind of weird reincarnation or haunting thing, not a DNA connection. There was never any mention of novel-Barnabas being married to anyone, including Angelique ( a “dark haired beauty” in this world). But who knows. So much about this novel-Collins family tree makes no sense at all.
I think also that Barnabas has such a delusional obsession with Josette he sees her image in almost every young woman he comes across. I bet Maggie wished that she had traded shifts with the other waitress who worked with her at the Collinsport Inn the night Barnabas came in for coffee and to scope out Josette candidates. Susie would have then been the ‘guest’ of Barnabas and Willie instead of Maggie.
But she wouldn’t have been able to talk!
Perfect for Barnabas–he wants to control both sides of the relationship!
This is one of my favorite of your lines ever “They invariably depict a mildly flustered woman, being stalked by architecture.”
As a teen, I LOVED Gothic romance novels. The DS ‘novelizations’ were just…blaaarrrggghhh. I think I still have one.
I have two stacks of them, including the novelization of HODS and the picture album. I read them when I was a kid and the show was still on the air. haven’t read them since – when I became a teenager, I moved onto Vampirella and Tomb of Dracula comics.
It is amazing to read an analysis of this book, especially one so perceptive and funny! It is the only Dark Shadows novel I read. I hoped to get caught up with the story as I could not make it home to watch the show until I graduated high school (it was broadcast at 3 in the Midwest). Obviously, the book was no help and even at 16 I could see it was awful, but I finished it anyway.
in other news, I was startled by another blooper, where someone (presumably Cassandra ahead of her cue) opens the door just behind Vicki and Liz’s privater conversation in the foyer and abruptly closes it.
So funny that I just got to this recap less than a week after my lot of 9 DS paperbacks from EBay arrived. I got the one you recap, but to avoid spoilers, I’ll wait to read your thoughts until I’m reading the book!
In his brief appearance, the “Red-Necked Jailor” instantly becomes one of the most despised characters in the series. What tank town did the Sheriff’s Department recruit him from?