Episode 648: Astral Disturbances

“The letter M is very strong in this room.”

Yesterday, following Roger’s suspicious specter-assisted accident on the stairs, his sister Elizabeth found a tarot card on the drinks table in his bedroom. As everyone knows, discovering an unexpected tarot card is a sure sign of supernatural crisis, so she called Professor Stokes, the mad occult expert who is now making house calls at Collinwood on a weekly basis.

The Professor identified the card as the Tower of Destruction — the sign of the downfall of a great house. He agreed that this is extremely significant, and he promised to bring in a colleague who can investigate the unearthly events that have been piling up lately.

So here she is: Madame Janet Findley, the psychic sorceress on call. Apparently, things have gotten so bad at Collinwood that the occult expert is subcontracting with other occult experts.

Madame Findley walks into the drawing room, throws her hands in the air, and if there was ever a moment for somebody to say, is THIS your card? then this is it.

648 dark shadows madame findley intro

So I’m just going to put my own cards on the table, right from the get-go: I love Madame Findley. You know me and the crazy dames, and she is one of the all-time craziest. In fact, if they didn’t already have a Julia, then Madame Findley could have been their Julia. She’s at that level.

“No, Mrs. Stoddard,” she insists as she approaches the customer, “you must tell me nothing about this house — neither its history, nor your personal experiences. I do not want to know what to expect. Is that quite clear?” That’s how you say “hello” in Madame Findley’s world. That’s step one.

648 dark shadows findley liz stokes look

She drfts into the drawing room, and says, “This is the room where the séance was held?” Behind her, Liz and Professor Stokes share a look that must be the baseline reaction every time Madame Findley turns her back. Liz is asking, Are you sure that this is a good idea? and Stokes replies, I am absolutely not sure about that at all.

“There have been spirits here, in this room,” Madame F nods. “They are not here now… but they have left their mark.”

648 dark shadows findley liz stokes hands

And then she makes with the hand gestures. That’s how you know when you’ve brushed up against something hot on Dark Shadows. Any character worth a damn on this show has their own personalized spooky tai chi routine.

648 dark shadows findley shadows

“Their shadows — are still in the air,” she says, helping herself to an armchair.

648 dark shadows findley trance

And then she just goes ahead and settles into a goddamn trance.

She has been on this television show for a minute and a half so far. Attention, new characters: this is the correct approach. Everyone else has been doing it wrong.

648 dark shadows findley plan

So here’s how today is going to go: I’m going to describe something that Madame Findley does, and then I’m going to say that it’s amazing. That is literally going to be the entire entry today, and to be honest, it’s probably going to be tomorrow’s entry as well. It’s possible that I will never be able to write about anything else for the rest of my life.

I know that you come to Dark Shadows Every Day expecting a perfect little slice of mythopoetic postmodern lit-crit insight, and that is just not going to happen. Now pipe down, Madame Findley has something on her mind.

648 dark shadows findley contact

“Who are you?” she says, staring off into the infinite. Then she leans all the way over, and cries, “I cannot hear you plainly!”

I have to imagine that the spirit is saying, Well, yeah, I’m dead. I don’t know if that explains your reception problem.

“Are you in this room?” asks Madame F, raising her voice. “If you are in this room, speak to me more clearly!”

Lady, I’m trying, says the voice from the beyond. How many bars do you have?

648 dark shadows findley head

Then Madame F starts swinging her head around, and gasps, “A battle! A battle! This house is a battleground! Yes… yes. I see that. Who — whom are you fighting?”

And there she goes again, throwing a curve ball. I expected the crazy trance talk; I did not expect the whom. I am deeply, deeply in love with this character.

648 dark shadows findley liz stokes really

Emerging from the trance with a face like a bad idea, Madame Findley announces that she will find “that room”.

Professor Stokes turns to Liz, and says, “Has she your permission to search the house?”

Liz immediately says, “Of course,” and there’s a moment where he looks at her, and thinks, Really? You’re going to let this run around loose?

648 dark shadows liz findley stairs

But it’s too late now, Findley’s on the move. Everyone breaks for lunch, and when we come back, she’s already returning from her initial sweep.

“Oh, Madame Findley,” Liz breathes. “Tell me what you’ve found in the rest of the house.”

Madame F pauses, and says, “There are signs of astral disturbances upstairs,” which is one of those lines that takes a special kind of actor to deliver this casually. “Not as strong as here, perhaps. It’s terribly difficult! Two forces seem to be — battling one another!”

648 dark shadows liz findley believe

Liz frowns, and Madame Findley takes the opportunity to do something interesting with her hands.

She says, “You don’t really believe in the occult, do you?” and then she gives Liz a reassuring smile. This is what she does when she wants to reassure somebody.

And, man, don’t you wish the photographer from View-Master would come back and take some more pictures? Just imagine what this scene would be like in 3-D. It would have knocked the kids of 1968 sideways.

648 dark shadows findley gestures

Then there’s more hand gestures, as she glides back into the drawing room.

“Strange,” says Madame Findley, “but I keep coming back to this room. There are vibrations here, that I feel nowhere else in the rooms I’ve visited.”

648 dark shadows faraway

She gets that faraway look again. “Is there someone connected with your family, or this house’s history, whose first name begins with M?”

Liz says that there isn’t, which is true, except for Millicent, of course.

Madame Findley says, “The letter M is very strong in this room,” because she is determined to break new ground in dialogue.

648 dark shadows findley liz curse

Madame Findley says that she’d like to be alone, and Liz heads for the study. As she’s leaving, the seer announces, “There is a curse on this house. Knowing as little as I do, I am positive of that.”

This is kind of like a handyman telling you that you have dry rot. You can’t really do anything about it, except mentally revise the household budget.

648 dark shadows findley alone

Alone in the drawing room, she places a call to the other side. “You have helped me before. I need your help now.”

648 dark shadows findley reaches

She reaches out to the entity that she calls “M”.

“Emmmm,” she urges. “Emmmmmmmm! Come to me — I will aid you in your fight against the spirit you oppose! But you must TELL — me — WHERE — to LOOK!”

This is the great thing about Madame Findley, she makes friends everywhere she goes.

648 dark shadows findley questions

After a while, she and M get a game of 20 Questions going.

Q:  The spirits that are causing this unhappiness — are they confined to this house?

A:  Knock.

Q:  Yes! Do you mean, they are?

A:  Knock.

Q:  Are they confined to a single room?

A:  Knock.

Q:  In the part of the house in which the family lives?

A:  Knock knock.

Q:  Can you lead me there?

A:  Answer unclear — try again.

648 dark shadows joe amy set up

So Madame Findley heads off on another fishing expedition, while the other characters set up the next lunatic spectacle.

Young David and Amy are currently under the malign influence of Quentin Collins, the nasty spirit who’s been scattering sinister tarot cards around, and he’s given them instructions on how to deal with Findley and her psychic friends network.

Meanwhile, Joe’s come over to visit with his cousin Amy. The last time we saw Joe, his life was entirely falling apart — he lost his fiancee and his job, because he was hopelessly addicted to getting bloodsucked by a beautiful lady vampire, and he ended up in the hospital with a self-inflicted stomach wound and a bad case of the rams. But the lady vampire returned to the netherworld from whence she came, so now Joe is fine.

648 dark shadows findley amy joe

Sadly, Joel Crothers is going to be leaving the show pretty soon, which is a terrible shame. Until very recently, Joel was the only hot guy on the show, and he’s responsible for major innovations in the field of taking off his shirt and heaving decoratively, so he’s kind of my hero.

After he’s gone, Joel will tell interviewers that he left the show because there was so much emphasis on setting up special effects that the directors didn’t have time to work with the actors on character development. And I’m sorry to say, today is a good example of that problem.

They didn’t invite Joe over because they wanted to check in with his character arc, and help him work through the shame and grief he must be feeling over losing everything that he ever cared about. They have other things on their mind today.

So when Liz lets him in, she says, “I didn’t know you were out of the hospital; I hope you’re feeling better.” Then Joe says, “Oh, yeah, I’m fine, right back to normal,” and that is the end of that.

648 dark shadows joe pentagram

The reason they had Joe show up to work today is to get him to walk into the Collinwood drawing room and stand perfectly still on his mark, so that Amy can look at him and see an upside-down pentagram on his face.

The pentagram is a sign that a character’s about to get savaged by a werewolf, which is just another example of how great the show is right now.

648 dark shadows joe findley star

So I want to feel bad about Joel Crothers; I really do. The story about Angelique wrecking Joe’s life was heartbreaking and sexy, and they had the opportunity to do something interesting with his character. Instead, they hit the reset button, and moved the focus to the next crazy item on the agenda.

And yet it’s hard for me to be upset about that right now, because this week, they’re doing things that no other soap opera could ever possibly do. Joel’s about to leave Dark Shadows and get a job on The Secret Storm, and they’ll be lucky to have him. But there’s a reason why we’re watching Dark Shadows and not The Secret Storm right now, and it’s standing right in front of him.

If we have to make a choice about whether we want consistent characterization or Madame Findley and werewolf attacks, then I’m sorry, but you can get responsible character-led drama somewhere else. Or maybe you can’t, it doesn’t matter. The point is, there’s going to be another werewolf attack.

648 dark shadows findley david amy

So there’s no time to waste; we have to get Madame Findley upstairs for some ghostbusting. M doesn’t seem to be helping, so David moves the process along by accidentally on purpose getting caught coming through the secret panel. Madame F investigates, and follows the passage to the west wing.

648 dark shadows findley blooper

To close the episode, we get one of Dark Shadows’ most underappreciated bloopers.

Madame Findley follows her nose through the west wing storage room, and she finds the entrance to Quentin’s room. That door is going to slam shut behind her in a minute, so there’s a wire attached to it.

648 dark shadows findley step

She takes a step into the room…

648 dark shadows findley trips

And she trips over the wire, sending her sprawling into the room.

648 dark shadows findley falls

It’s lovely. If that chair hadn’t been there, she would have fallen on her face. If you haven’t seen this episode and you don’t have a DVD, you should buy this on YouTube. I mean, the episode is already worth watching for a lot of reasons, but seriously. You should see this.

648 dark shadows findley mad

And you know what? She pulls it off. She gets up and glares around the room like that was Quentin’s fault, and he’s being totally immature. Oh, I love Madame Findley. I hope that tomorrow, she decides to move into Collinwood and stay on the show forever.

Tomorrow: The Rise and Fall.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Liz starts closing the drawing room doors in act 1, somebody in the studio coughs.

At the beginning of act 3, the camera pulls in gently on Amy as she’s standing at the drawing room door — and then it hits something, and stops with a thud.

When Madame Findley is alone in the storage room, you can hear someone walking quickly across the studio, and then another cough.

The end credits run over a shot of David and Amy’s jacks. Towards the end of the credits, there’s a shadow of someone walking by.


Behind the Scenes:

Ms. Findley asks Liz if there are any parts of the house that aren’t used, and Liz says, “Actually, yes. The east and west wings.” That’s the first time they’ve mentioned the east wing that I can remember; I was starting to wonder if they’d made up the east wing in 1970, for the Parallel Time story. (Update, thanks to reader Gary in the comments: “There are two direct mentions of the east wing in the pre-Barnabas episodes. In episode 2, it is stated that east wing was closed off 50 years ago. The next mention comes in episode 98, where the closed off section of the house is stated to be the east wing.”)

Tomorrow: The Rise and Fall.

648 dark shadows janet credit

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

35 thoughts on “Episode 648: Astral Disturbances

  1. Joe was caught straight up trying to murder Barnabas. I can imagine under the circumstances Barnabas not wanting to press charges, but Liz is awfully calm around him. This is a true reset with extreme prejudice. And it’s reasonably well done. If a new viewer switches on, he or she knows that Joe and Maggie have broken up (and it can be for any of a number of non-vampire reasons). His eventual departure is also more interesting because it’s occurring to a mostly restored Joe rather than the shell of a man he was previously.

    I love the Madame Findley episodes. She’s used to good effect in that we don’t get the idea that she’s a fake or a charlatan or just not that good at her job. She just can’t stand up to Quentin’s evil, which lets us know that he’s going to be a serious threat.

    It’s also fun to imagine, as Danny did in a previous entry, what Magda was intended to be prior to her becoming Grayson Hall. I also like the potential irony of “this house is under a curse” or “my curse” — they could both actually be good things (“the curse” is what keeps Quentin’s spirit locked up and the kids are the ones helping “break’ the curse so that Quentin can take over.)

    1. You know, I completely forgot about Joe’s attempted murder charges. I guess that proves that the soap opera reset button is a powerful tool.

      I’ve been watching the show in real time with the audience, but I’m obviously being way more attentive than anybody in the ’68 audience could ever be — watching episodes several times, writing about them, talking about them in the comments — but Joe’s murder charges completely passed me by, because I am a goldfish.

      To be fair, I don’t think Joe going on trial would have added much to the current storylines. The Great 1968 Wrap-Up is almost complete, and there’s no more room for dangling loose ends.

      One thing that I have noticed and that I am cross about is that Liz is totally and completely fine. She’s been in several episodes over the last week and a half, and not said a word about being buried alive. I’m actually fine with that, because it was depressing, but I know it’s coming back, so I’m saving my crossness about it until the show brings it up again.

        1. At this point, I can’t remember where Angelique is in the timeline. Has she been kiled? Is she in a coffin? Was she de-vampirized with the “death” of Nicholas?

  2. The east wing goes back to Art Wallace’s series bible, Shadows on the Wall, which was partly destroyed by fire in 1895, after which a “young Samuel Collins was sent to Europe soon thereafter. He never returned. The wing was rebuilt.” (p. 5) The east wing was closed off during World War I when finances became tight and was never reopened.

    In the following seven decades a legend grew out of the east wing and the sudden and mysterious departure of Samuel Collins: “…there are some who insist they have seen the flickering of a candle in the closed East Wing, a candle they swear is held in the hand of that same Samuel Collins who was so precipitously ushered off to Europe after the fire almost seventy years ago.” (p. 6)

    So, in their current back to basics approach perhaps they have consulted the original series bible once again. As we will learn from Quentin’s backstory, he was said to have left for Europe around 1897 never to return, his legend associated with a particular wing of the house that had been sealed off (though in this case the west wing).

    But in the original series bible and in the beginning of the series itself in 1966, we learn that part of the west wing was closed off only eighteen years before the arrival of Victoria Winters, when Liz dismissed all the servants and began her life as a recluse. So it seems that some elements of the series bible are being revisited in the new Quentin era.

    1. That’s interesting, I didn’t realize that was in Art Wallace’s bible. Do you know if they ever mentioned it on screen? I don’t think they have since 210, but I haven’t seen most of the pre-Barnabas episodes.

      1. Not that I remember. At least not the east wing in particular. In October 1966, to prevent Victoria from finding the fountain pen, David tells her he’s hidden it in “the closed-off wing”–that’s how they refer to it in these episodes–and takes her into a room only to run off and lock her in. It is there when, in episode 85, Dark Shadows produces it’s first real live ghost in the seaweed dripping transparent form of Bill Malloy, who warns Victoria to leave Collinwood. Victoria mentions to David, in episode 84, that this wing has been closed off “for more than fifty years” and the opening narration of episode 85 reiterates this as it begins with “There are sections of Collinwood that have been closed off for more than fifty years.” To get there, they have to enter through the door at the end of the hall outside Victoria’s room, and this would seem to indicate the west wing, but the timeline of a wing completely closed off for more than fifty years would indicate the east wing. So you’re probably right in saying that this was the first actual mention of the east wing on the show. In the early days it was likely more just a matter of portraying Collinwood as being of two worlds: one where the people living there occupied day to day, and the other, more remote world of locked rooms and mysterious legends.

      2. There are two direct mentions of the east wing in the pre-Barnabas episodes. In episode 2, it is stated that east wing was closed off 50 years ago. The next mention comes in episode 98, where the closed off section of the house is stated to be the east wing.

  3. This re-boot is really fascinating, I mean just 2 weeks ago we were in hell with the devil himself, and now were back to simple dark scary rooms and a ghost. (Okay and a werewolf too) It’s kind of amazing how they were able to pull back from the insanity so quickly, and it works.

    It’s almost like the last 8 months didn’t happen. (Although I guess Joe’s upcoming “goodbye” scene is one for the record books on “crazy time”.)

  4. This storyline reminds me of when Frank Garner got his friend/psychologist Dr Guthrie to go to Collinwood and investigate the strange goings on surrounding Laura Collins return and Liz’s subsequent catatonic state. Dr Guthrie too met with an untimely demise but that was much more spectacular because the show actually spent money to stage a horrific car crash – they spent more time with Dr Guthrie performing a thorough investigation of the events and I was riveted by every moment.

    1. That car crash footage was actually the same as when Roger crashed his car a few months earlier. They used more scenic footage for Guthrie.

  5. I’m surprised you missed the obvious joke, Danny, so I’ll make it for you. “The letter M is very strong in this room.”

    Janet Findlay is receiving precognitive vibrations from “Sesame Street” slightly less than a year early.

    Also, a couple of notes on Cavada Humphrey:

    In a 1947 Broadway production of Alice in the Wonderland, she puppeteered marionette animals… and voiced a gnat. Who knows what might have happened had she met Bil Baird.
    I have residual affection for Cavada Humphrey due to a Stockholm syndrome situation. She played a stern office manager in the 1967 movie Thoroughly Modern Millie (telling Julie Andrews “No nonsense, gel” and engaging male interlopers in the stenographic pool in physical combat). My sister didn’t like to watch movies alone, and she loved TMM. So she exercised elder sibling powers and compelled me to watch it with her. Over and over, again and again, finish to end. Until I actually liked it.

    1. Oh, you’re right about the Sesame Street joke. I’m ashamed of myself. 🙂

      Cavada Humphrey is super interesting. Some days I have a lot of energy for writing Behind the Scenes footnotes and some days I don’t, but I should write something about her.

      One bit of CH trivia I found on Wikipedia is that in the mid 60s, she and her husband Jerome Kilty did an international tour of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, and Playwright Edward Albee insisted that they could only perform in South Africa for integrated audiences.

  6. I love Madame Findley. She should have her own show: MADAME FINDLEY PRESENTS…where she presents things that are really, really presentable. Her first guest would be John Lovitz’s Master Thespian, “Acting! Genius! Thank You!”

    Cavada Humphrey does a fantastic job of “drifting” around as Madame Findley. When she sits down, it’s like a big falling feather landing gently on the chair. Her outfit is perfect, black except for the collar, cuffs and gloves, which are light, to highlight her gestures and movement.

    Danny, I’m glad you mentioned her blooper, her little trip over the wire. I usually pay no mind to bloopers, but this is a perfect example of someone actually using the blooper to their advantage. Like you said, she glares around the room, acts like it was Quentin’s fault, which I suppose means it was Quentin’s fault. First Roger, now Madame Findley, Quentin Collins is a serial tripper.

    1. Is this a blooper? David says to Amy just before Stokes arrives: “It’s no game, Amy… stretching that wire and everything.” Amy: “Well, he TOLD us to do it.”

  7. I always imagined the foyer was symmetrical, with stairs to the east wing on the left as you enter Collinwood, door to the study across from the door leading to the kitchen, etc.

    1. I have photos, but don’t know if they can be uploaded here. Once you come in the front door and turn left, you are facing three round arches, left, right and center. The center arch leads to a hall that takes you into the house. Go through the arch on the left and you will find the stairs, next to three staggered stained glass windows, leading up. I think the arch on the right leads to the outdoor patio and the other side of the house.

  8. I love Madame Findley too. She reminds me of Bathia Mapes – outsider enlisted to help with the supernatural; eccentric; confronts evil head-on; 3 episodes; massive blooper; tragic fate – but Madame F is more successful, no doubt cause it’s a better performance. What also gives Madame F the edge is that Quentin is still a big mystery to the viewer at this point, so we’re learning along with her.

  9. I believe Cavada Humphrey was in New York to film for PBS the two-person epistolatory play Dear Liar–her husband, the playwright Jerome Kilty, playing George Bernard Shaw and Humphrey his mistress, the great actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell. I saw Dear Liar on PBS near the time of her DS appearance–remember it well to this day (Humphrey was gracious and tres grand dame). Humphrey had a limited film and television career, kept herself busier on stage, and toured when she could with Kilty, notably, as Danny mentioned, in the first international tour of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Wistfully, I can’t help wondering what the DS writers might have done with her had she stayed in town and been available . . .

  10. Wow – I’m so glad I’m reading your blog Danny! When I first saw these eps off and on during the late 90’s on SciFi channel, I actually thought Madame Findley was actually played by the same actress who played Mrs. Johnson – just with a different wig. I knew that the actress who played Mrs. Johnson had range, and I thought she was great as Madame Findley. I even thought some characters somehow noticed a resemblance between Mrs. J and Madame F — hmmm, glad to get that one straightened out.

  11. One of my favorite lines from the whole show: Amy: While you were waiting for me, Joe, did you see a tall lady who walks around looking in the air all the time?

    More “M” characters: Madame Findley asks if there is anyone “connected with” the family or the house, which leaves a pretty wide door open. Of course, there’s the alliterative Matthew Morgan, the caretaker, as well as Bill Malloy.

    Another blooper: When Amy is talking to Joe, she doesn’t know Madame Findley’s name–“Madame Something…at least that’s what they call her”–but when Madame F enters the drawing room a few minutes later, Amy introduces her to Joe as “Madame Findley” without hesitation.

  12. Cavada Humphrey has such an excellent opening narration voice. They are still at the point in the show where they really favor female actresses over a male actors doing the opening narration.

    They could have easily used Joan Bennett to do the voiceover, particularly since she is not in the teaser, but they chose to use this actress’ interesting take on the narration.

  13. No mention yet of “Quentin’s Theme” – the music that is played on the phonograph. It was released as a single and was quite popular in the summer of 1969, reaching #13 on the Billboard charts.

  14. I saw Amy trip over the same wire when she and David first entered the secret room. I remember, because when I saw Madame Findley do the same thing, I thought I would look for it in your notes, Danny.

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