Episode 1153: How to Explain the Doll

“Then how do you explain the doll?”

“We were in a little village in Brazil,” says Gerard Stiles, “up the river.” He’s looking back on an experience he had with his friend, Quentin Collins, on an unspecified business trip in South America. “One of the crew members got very ill, suddenly. Quentin had heard of a witch doctor who could perform miracles — or so Quentin said.”

God-fearing buttinsky Lamar Trask recoils. “You let him take a Christian soul to a pagan?”

“It wasn’t my decision!” Gerard swears. “When the witch doctor was doing his incantation, Quentin mentioned the ring that he was wearing. When the ceremony was over, I could see plainly that Quentin wanted that ring very much, but was afraid to ask for it. So I bought it for him.” End of anecdote.

Several questions spring to mind. First: did the crew member get better? Why wasn’t Gerard afraid of the witch doctor? And — most baffling of all — what the hell were you doing in Brazil?

I mean, Quentin and Gerard are poised New York City actors who wear frilly shirts and stand around in drawing rooms for a living. Gerard is supposedly a villainous pirate and gun-runner, but all we’ve ever seen is the period of his life when he’s the unpaid companion of an elderly female novelist, pretending to cure her headaches by standing behind her and wishing. Quentin, as far as I can tell, is a make-believe mad scientist who holes up in the basement, constructing a staircase to nowhere. Consider the lilies; they toil not, neither do they spin.

So what these two were doing in the Amazon jungle is anybody’s guess. Apparently it was a shopping trip.

The symbol on that ring doesn’t look particularly Brazilian; if anything, it’s a steering wheel from Detroit. But the voodoo doll they spend all of today’s episode fussing over doesn’t look Brazilian either; it’s obviously an African voodoo doll, except there isn’t really such a thing. The voodoo part comes from Haiti and the doll part comes from medieval Britain, and that’s not what they meant by “witch doctor” in 1840 anyway.

They’ve done voodoo dolls plenty of times on Dark Shadows, but they’re usually made of clay, except the crocheted one from 1897 and the cloth one from 1795 and the little stone bust from Parallel Time. We’ve never had an African one before, because as I said, they don’t have them there, and the expectation that the audience would immediately jump to the conclusion that this perfectly friendly souvenir from the Congo is a) a voodoo doll b) Brazilian and c) Satanic is pretty much the last word on Dark Shadows cross-cultural insensitivity.

“You know as well as I do that it’s a creature of the black arts!” Trask screams, and it certainly is, in the sense that it was made by a Black artist. This is what happens when you make a television show that has a difficult time leaving the house. Dark Shadows is designed by, for and about shut-ins, from Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on down, and everything past the front lawn is basically South America.

Voodoo dolls as we know them don’t really have a lot to do with Haitian Vodou, which is an actual religious practice held by non-white people living outside of the United States, so obviously we figure it’s mostly about stealing money and hurting people.

The religion started as West African Vodun, which is practiced in Nigeria, Benin and Togo, and it was exported to Haiti in the 18th century, when the French brought West African slaves to the Caribbean to work on sugarcane plantations. The French also dragged some other slaves to Louisiana, where they called the religion Voodoo. There’s also Hoodoo, which is another mix of religious practices from the Congo, Nigeria and Benin, which developed among the West African slaves in the Mississippi Delta.

None of these religions involved making clay dolls of enemies and being unkind to them, because on the whole people have more useful things to attend to, but Vodun does include the use of gris-gris, an amulet that protects the wearer from evil. In Haiti, the gris-gris is considered good luck, but in Louisiana, slaves developed the practice of using the gris-gris to bring bad luck on their owners. This is what happens when you kidnap and enslave people, so if they stick pins in you and choke you with an ascot then it’s all your own fault, next time try leaving people where they are and not bothering them.

But sticking pins into a little rag doll to cause harm actually comes from the cunning folk in medieval Britain, who would break witches’ curses by making a doll of the witch, and they stuck pins into the doll to hurt the witch, and encourage them to break the bewitchment. This stuff usually ends up being white people’s fault eventually.

The popular culture interest in Vodou powers started with the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804, when the African slaves on the sugarcane plantations rose up and defeated their French colonial rulers. This was the only slave uprising that led to the creation of a free nation run by former slaves, and a legend developed that the slaves beat the French thanks to the intercession of their Vodou deities, because obviously they must have had some kind of supernatural assistance, right?

Then in 1915, the United States invaded and occupied Haiti, for complicated reasons that basically boiled down to gold and sugar. The US held on to Haiti until the Great Depression, when it got too expensive and we didn’t really want it anymore, finally pulling out in 1934.

In 1933, a Marine captain named John H. Craige who was stationed in Haiti for a while wrote a book called Black Bagdad: The Arabian Nights Adventures of a Marine Captain in Haiti, which popularized the American stereotypes of Haitian Vodou. Here’s an utterly repugnant quote from the book jacket:

“No one has seen Haiti more intimately than Capt Craige of the U.S. Marine Corps. For a number of years he was loaned to the Haitian Government and served as a white officer of the black troops of that republic. His first duty was in a wild & mountainous interior district nearly half as large as the State of New Jersey. Here the inhabitants shuffled on the sides of their feet. Some of them had peanut-heads and could not straighten their knee-joints.

“Captain Craige learned their language, on which he is an authority. He went to their dances, attended their funerals, studied their weird, primitive religion — the voodoo. The natives called him Papa Blanc, White Father. Then he was called to take charge of the Police Force of Port au Prince, capital of Haiti. He found the city a black Bagdad full of happenings & tales as fantastic, exciting & beautiful as any Scheherazade related of the days of Haroun al Raschid. Voodoo rites, cannibalism, black magic, and ‘wangas’ were all part of his daily routine.”

So fuck Captain Craige is my basic point, and that’s why Lamar Trask looks at a carved figure from Africa and says it’s a Haitian voodoo doll from Brazil. This is how the White Father thinks.

Oh, and in 1840 “witch doctor” didn’t mean what you think it means either; that’s a whole other terrible story. The original meaning of witch doctor wasn’t a doctor that used Satanic witchcraft; it was a doctor who protected people from witchcraft. It’s the same as the cunning folk in Britain who stuck pins into rag dolls to defeat the witches. I don’t know why everybody gets everything backwards like this; they just do, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The first use of “witch doctor” in print was in 1718, in a British book by Francis Hutchinson called An Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft, with Observations upon Matters of Fact; Tending to Clear the Texts of the Sacred Scriptures, and Confute the Vulgar Errors about that Point. Hutchinson used the phrase in a chapter defending someone accused of being a witch, and asserted that the “Witch-Doctor” himself was the one practicing sorcery:

“Notwithftanding this, confider how very few Things they could prove that were real Facts of the fuppofed Witch’s doing. One fingle Witnefs, Dorothy Durent, confeffed of her felf that which was a more criminal Act of Sorcery than all that they could prove againft the accus’d Parties.

“For of Facts, of their doing, I fee little befides giving a Child an empty Breaft feven Years before to quiet it, and giving another a little Water, which is ufually done in Vapours; and by a Conftruction that feems very unaccountable, they would make thofe innocent Actions to be employing of Spirits, and working by the Devil; but the faid Dorothy Durent, having been with a Witch-Doctor, acknowledges upon Oath, that by his Advice fhe hang’d up her Child’s Blanket in the Chimney, found a Toad in it at Night, had put it into the Fire, and held it there tho’ it made a great and horrible Noife, and flafh’d like Gunpower, and went off like a Piftol, and then became invifible, and that by this the Prifoner was fcorch’d and burn’d lamentably.

“Now, I own I do not believe this Witnefs; for fhe muft be a filly loofe Woman, or fhe would not have gone to the Witch-Doctor.”

So it wasn’t Brazil that had witch doctors; it was Britain, and they made frogs explode in the fireplace. Now you know.

The first time the term “witch doctor” was used to describe an African practitioner was in Robert Montgomery Martin’s 1836 opus The British Colonial Library. In Volume III, Martin describes the trial of a South African witch. This is more White Father type stuff.

“The most heinous offence in the opinion of a Kafir is the crime of witchcraft, and under this plea are the most dreadful cruelties practised, and the grossest injustice exhibited. When the plot is ripe for execution, and a suitable opportunity occurs, such as the illness of a person of rank, or any unusual mortality among the cattle, the party denounced is immediately seized by the ministers of vengeance, and led away in a state of indescribable horror to the spot where it is intended he shall undergo the dreadful ordeal.

“All this time the witch doctors, who are not unfrequently females, continue their frightful incantations, until the assembled multitude are wrought up to such a pitch of phrensied excitement as to lose entirely all self-control, and thus they are prepared to execute, without the slightest demur, the appalling demands which are from time to time muttered; and to inflict the most excruciating pangs upon the trembling culprit which cruelty ever devised, or which it is possible for diabolical malice either to contemplate or to suggest.

“Like all barbarous people, the Kafirs are lamentably superstitious; and hence they have the most implicit dependance on these wretched impostors; and though in causing rain by their incantations, and in many other respects, their impositions are so frequently exposed, yet so credulous are the people, and so infatuated in a belief of the infallibility of the wizard or witch doctor, that they will readily admit the most flimsy excuse as a sufficient plea for the failure.”

Martin is right, of course, when he says that superstitious people are barbaric and stupid when they believe everything they’re told, like for example that Port au Prince is full of cannibal sorcerors, or that “Kaffir” is an appropriate way to refer to Black people.

So all of this gets mixed up together — cunning folk and healers and priestesses and Marines and cranks of every type and description — and it all becomes a kind of 20th-century gumbo of vague unfocused racism, where everybody with skin darker than Lara Parker’s has their own version of primitive aboriginal voodoo magic, whether they’re parking a gypsy caravan outside Boston, leading an insurrection in the French Caribbean, or doing incantations up the river in a Brazilian jungle.

Africa and South America and the Caribbean and Macau are all the same place when you see them through the window of the Collinwood tower room, and it makes you wish that the Collins family stepped off property a little more often. The past is a foreign country, but it shouldn’t be the only one you ever visit.

Tomorrow: A Thanksgiving Day pre-emption treat:
Night of Dark Shadows: The Haunted Horse!

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 1, when Quentin turns from Daphne to run out the door, there’s a quick flash of the boom mic at top left.

Gerard tells Trask, “Somebody could have planted this doll in Quentin’s laboratory, in the hopes that the blame would be — fall on Quentin.”

When Quentin enters the room at the start of act 3, you can see one of the studio lights.

At the beginning of act 3, Quentin tells Trask, “I’m going to give you one more warning, and that’s all. Now, you stop all of this talk about witchcraft, and you stay off of Collinwood!” A few lines later, Quentin admits, “I do happen to have a so-called voodoo dool.”

As he did yesterday, Trask says that earlier in the evening, he found Desmond and Quentin in the middle of a “violent quarrel”. This is not really true — he’s talking about the scene in Monday’s episode when he saw them briefly snapping at each other. Randall asks what the quarrel was about, and then there’s a tape edit that skips over Trask’s reply.

A minute later, there’s another weird tape edit that jumps from Trask leaving Randall at Rose Cottage to Daphne reading to Gerard in the Collinwood drawing room.

In act 4, when Randall says, “Then that’s the argument that Trask overheard,” somebody in the studio sneezes.

There’s a third tape edit that cuts off the end of Desmond and Randall’s scene, which causes a strange gap in the story logic. Desmond tells Randall, “There is more to Gerard Stiles than meets the eye!” and then suddenly Randall’s out the door, off to ransack Gerard’s room just on the basis of that line.

Tomorrow: A Thanksgiving Day pre-emption treat:
Night of Dark Shadows: The Haunted Horse!

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

61 thoughts on “Episode 1153: How to Explain the Doll

  1. If Quentin wanted Daphne, all he needed to say to her was: Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang
    Walla walla, bang bang.

  2. Ah, but the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode “The Zombie”: If “voodoo” (sic) had been properly understood, then that would have been an empty Friday night (8:00-9:00 pm) in my childhood.

    “I give you little medicine.. Drink some ‘dis. Your back don’t hurt no more… You ‘fraid?… Oh, well, drink the rum, sonny. The white rum!”… the “Mamalois”

    Lara Parker was in a Night Stalker episode (The Trevi Collection), as, of course, a witch:

    1. I neglected to mention that the actor in “The Zombie” episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker playing the character of Mr. Sposato was Joseph Sirola, who was also in the movie Seizure with Jonathan Frid.

  3. “The symbol on that ring doesn’t look particularly Brazilian; if anything, it’s a steering wheel from Detroit”

    That ring always makes me think of the opening credits of “Gilligan’s Island.”

  4. As one who has no problem with the 1840 period, I find that I enjoy it more if I don’t think of Dark Shadows in terms of “serialized narrative” as one would in a more traditional soap opera. I’m not even sure that Dark Shadows ever was a true soap in the sense of the word, given that it was already breaking from the definitions of traditional soaps even before the arrival of Barnabas in 1967. If one tries holding the show up against the expectations of serialized narrative, then Dark Shadows fails, year after year.

    It’s the same problem I would have as a fan of The Odd Couple TV series. With the way they would keep bringing in all these freelance writers for episodes, there would be no sense of “institutional memory” and all hope of story and character continuity would go out the window. First Felix and Oscar were supposed to have met as trial jurors in the early 1960s; then it was written that they met in the army in World War II; then it was written that they met in the 1950s, and on and on it went.

    But then it dawned on me. The Odd Couple was a situation comedy, not a serialized narrative. Think of what Dark Shadows has going for it; a soap created by a man who’d never done a soap before or since and who had no idea of what it took to put one on the air; a senior member of the writing staff (Sam Hall) who writes horror but has no interest in or profound knowledge of the genre. The only institutional memory the show has in terms of story arcs are the ones that got the ratings at their peak.

    So instead I think of the later years of Dark Shadows as “situation drama” or “situational narrative”; rather than the confines of a traditional soap with its adherence to continuity, Dark Shadows is more “in the moment” and story points get revised to suit the present situation.

    If Dan Curtis thought that it would have helped to get back to keeping the show more rooted in soap opera, then he could’ve brought back original episode writer Art Wallace. That would’ve helped in keeping the characters of contemporary 1970 Collinwood more grounded; since he created characters like Elizabeth and Carolyn Stoddard as well as Roger Collins, he would have known best what their original motivations were.

    He also could’ve helped in the monster department with the Leviathan storyline, by giving the “other form” of Jeb Hawkes a definite shape and appearance that could be used on camera. In the late seventies Wallace created and wrote the pilot for The World Beyond, which featured a supernatural “mud monster”; imagine a creature like that running loose in Collinsport – and even if you chopped off one or more of its limbs, each individual part would still remain alive to come after you:

    1. I agree. I enjoyed 1840 much more when it just looked at it as a totally different story that wasn’t related to anything else in the series, just like 1970 PT.


      …here’s what I think could have worked for the Leviathan creature. Dark Shadows could have pulled it off, too, by doing quick cuts on the cloud creature on 16 mm film and superimposed it over the studio video.

        1. It’s title is: “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork.” Ed Asner, Barbara Luna, and Kent Smith are in the cast.

          1. At first I didn’t recognize Lou Grant with a (mostly) full head of hair. I enjoy Kent Smith’s work on Peyton Place and in the first pilot movie of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, but I wish he hadn’t adopted that cornball East European brogue for his mad scientist role, as if it were borrowed from Bela Lugosi in that Ed Wood movie.

            But that got me thinking, about the conversation of energy thing (yes, I know I typed “conversation” but I’m drunk at the moment, let’s move on), about energy never being created or destroyed: Energy is immortality. God isn’t love, God is energy; hell, God is an ice cream sandwich!

            But, yeah, an interesting effect, that “cloud” which seems photo overlays of at least a dozen or so images all sped up. However, I don’t think it would’ve worked on Dark Shadows for an image of “Jeb out of the box” because of all the work that would be required. I don’t know what the budget of an Outer Limits episode in the 1963-1964 would have costed, which was no doubt filmed weeks or even months ahead of broadcast, but I doubt on daytime television Dan Curtis would have had the resources or the time ahead of broadcast to fuss over the SFx needed to recreate something like this for a representation of the Leviathan creature in that “other form”; the best thing would’ve been to have done what they did, just leave it up to viewer imagination.

            But hey! Thanks for referencing that Outer Limits episode; such a great show! I can see why it would scare the hell out of really young viewers at the time — and with a sense of social conscience to boot!

  5. I think at some point it was decided that 1840 would basically be a sequel to 1795 than to anything we’d really seen in 1970 or 1995. There’s a certain logic to it, as we basically cared more about 1795 than 1970/1795: The Barnabas/Trask and Barnabas/Angelique relationships are far more compelling than whatever was going on with Gerard and Daphne as ghosts.

    If Barnabas and Angelique were a “super couple,” then Barnabas/Trask was sort like Victor Newman and Jack Abbott. The “Trask” might change but ultimately Barnbas’s ideal foe was staid, self-righteous hypocrisy — even though he himself was guilty of those traits in some measure.

    The “family secret” plotline in 1897 was a quick way of rooting the narrative into 1795, as well. They might have referenced Angelique’s post 1795 appearances but ultimately all that ever mattered was that she’d once was married to Barnabas and loathed Josette (all of which was established in 1795).

  6. I will say that the ring (and previously, the Mask of Baal) has (have) more visual appeal than that line of tat jewelry that the Leviathans were flogging. That Naga symbol just looked like a blob (when you could even see it). Though I did like Liz’s brooch, but I think she already had that in her jewelry box and it fit in thematically. Or maybe Liz was a closet Leviathan? (“I was Leviathan BEFORE it was cool!”)

    But Quentin’s ring looks more like a branding iron from Dalhart.

    Steering wheels from Detroit are much, much bigger.

    1. One can’t wear a ring like that for long. It would be snagging on things all the time. Must be ceremonial only. Still, I like the look of it. It could work for napkin holders.

      I once had some small birthstone ring on while making change from a cash register. Each bill tray had a little pressure foot to keep the bills flat. Darned if my ring didn’t get caught under one of those and took the skin off my knuckle. That’s when I gave up on wearing rings except for ones that were only bands. Of course, I still kept an eye out of gold rings with black onyx settings, but while they had silver with onyx in the 70’s and 80’s I’ve only recently started seeing gold paired with onyx … well, at least in the price range I’m looking in. (My husband doesn’t know how lucky he is; I’ve never asked for things with gemstones. Then again maybe he does know. He did propose to me with a plastic dinosaur, but there’s a story behind that choice too.)

    2. I assume Quentin’s ring is so low rent looking because A) It was a piece of junk picked up from a dime store and B) the producers didn’t need the headaches of featuring any vaguely recognizable Witchy symbol on national TV.

      Half the time the reason anything outside of mainstream Protestantism sounds ridiculous and made up in entertainment is because it is; the creators don’t want the flack from parents/church groups if they said anything even in the same neighborhood as accurate.

      The other half, of course, is white superiority/incuriosity/lazy-ass crap where everything outside the Midwest is suspect, and everything outside of mainland America older than twenty years or so is a mishmash of insulting, racist crap that isn’t even trying to differentiate continents, let alone religious beliefs or accurate cultural practices.

    1. I have the feeling there is a whole side-story in Brazil, maybe another colonial mansion long occupied by a family of wealth and troubles. A Brazilian family with some long-established, shipping ties to a small fishing village in Maine.

      (Maybe if your toss Sarah’s ball into a well at Collinswood it floats to the top of a well in some town in Brazil.)

        1. I seem to recall one of the DS actors saying they loved how the Spanish speakers said “Barnabas” in the dubbed versions. “BhhahrNAbas”, savoring the syllables, caressing the name ….

    2. I mean, DUH, his flight turned out to be that one from that Twilight Zone episode where they saw the dinosaur out the plane window!

  7. What were they doing in Brazil?

    They were doing the SAMBA!
    Right – and – together, left – and – together…

  8. Hey everyone, just so you know: the Night of Dark Shadows post is coming! It’s taking a crazy long time, because it is a crazy long post — the craziest and longest that I’ve ever done. But I’m kicking it Night of Dark Shadows style, which means putting everything you’ve got into it, to produce something that’s confusing and messy and ultimately not really worthwhile. That’s how we do it, Night of Dark Shadows and me. You’ll see.

      1. Actually, I was wondering how Charles & Angelique managed all alone in that huge house – they’re 120 years out of step. Probably would have been better for them if (á la ‘Manos – The Hands Of Fate’) Angie had enslaved the Normals; Will could have become Gerard, Claire is the new Carlotta, but Tracy still has to get killed (it’s in the painting…)

  9. John wrote: “Actually, I was wondering how Charles & Angelique managed all alone in that huge house…”

    EXACTLY! Charles and Angelique really didn’t think this thing through. Angie’s back in the fleshed Charles just murdered Tracy. Welcome back to the real world. Now it’s time to hit the road and run from the cops. (Did they really think that Tracy’s family wouldn’t have questioned her disappearance?)

    The cop factor is often not considered in endings like this. At the end of Dan Curtis’ Burnt Offerings, weren’t the Allerdyces concerned that so many families had disappeared in the house that eventually the police would begin to investigate the situation? Nah.

    1. Well, at least Kate Jackson got the ‘best’ of things a couple of years later, in Killer Bees – she ends up (if I remember right) as Madame, possessed by Gloria Swanson and ruling over the wealthy Van Bohlen family, their vineyard, and swarm of deadly, deadly bees. For some strange reason, Killer Bees sort of reminded me of Night of Dark Shadows.

      Maybe THAT’S what NoDS needed, some bees, or ants, wasps, termites, cockroaches, grasshoppers, frogs, rabbits, woodworm, silverfish, gophers, woodchucks, pigweasels, lemmings, beavers, locusts, millipedes, moths, slugs or butterflies (okay, maybe not butterflies – though they are kind of creepy in large numbers).

      Oh now I’m just being silly.

      1. That would be the third movie …. ripping off (er, excuse me “borrowing” from) Willard/Ben and Night of the Lepus. I have no idea how the plot for that one would turn out, but it couldn’t be more incoherent than the version of NODS most of us saw.

        sigh I kind of wanted to contribute to the NODS episode but I didn’t want to spend a penny on that oh so disappointing movie. Maybe I’ll catch it again when it airs on TCM come Halloween weekend. Maybe I can pretend it’s not DS and just another ghost story and see if it plays better from that vantage point.

        …anyway I’m back watching the 1795 flashback and am pretending all of DS is as interesting. I’ll also say that Joel Crothers looks amazing and I find myself comparing his Nathan Forbes to John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness (Doctor Who). They are very similar characters in some ways.

        So mostly I’ve been watching on my computer, but I’ve evacuated Wilmington and for the last few days have been watching DS on a proper large TV screen. Joan Bennet also looks amazing. I’m in my mid-50’s now and I don’t look anywhere as good as she did on DS. (Of course, I never looked as good as she did. lol …we can’t all be glamorous.)

        However, I can be a little like Victoria and say I find the past of North Carolina personally interesting. A few weeks ago I found I have a 4 times great grandfather who fought in the Revolutionary War and settled in the northern part of the state. …and he is supposedly haunting the place where he secretly buried a fortune in gold an silver coins. Sqeeeeeee! I’m delighted to have found this relative. Most of the relatives in my family tree are far more mundane. 🙂 ….although up until now, I assumed my family tree was unburdened by the more shameful aspects of this country’s history. So now that all too real part of the past comes along with a family ghost story.

        I’m learning a lot about the social conventions of the 1700’s and 1800’s. From time to time I will share them it’s relative to the discussions going on about Dark Shadows.

        I highly recommend a series of broadcasts called “Cape Fear Unearthed”. iTunes has it, so does TuneIn and others. The podcasts should prove to be a great fit for most people who are fans of Dark Shadows.

        1. re: Squeeeeee!

          Seance time! If your ancestor knows that you’re related, he might tell you where he put the treasure… but then, you might end up back in the 1700s getting accused of witchcraft because you tried to start women’s suffrage, or invent the wc.

          1. Maybe my sister and her oldest daughter should go to where there are supposed sightings. Both of them say they see full body ghosts on a regular basis.

            It’s kind of amusing. We’ve been house hunting in NC for a number of months now. As part of researching potential communities, I kept seeing the family name turn up. I didn’t make the obvious connection despite 23 and me telling me that my closest genetic relatives were from that branch.

            It turns out my esteemed NC ancestor has many descendants, a big grave marker and a facebook page set up by my ‘cousins’ who are members of Daughters of the American Revolution. (That branch of the family seems to be very interested in genealogy. If “grandfather” wanted a relative to talk to he’s got plenty close to home.)

            Speaking of WC’s. We went to Mount Vernon a couple years ago. There were two toll-booth sized cupolas some distance from the front of the house. They were fairly innovative relief stations for guests and members of the house but they were not pit latrines. They were designed to capture the solid waste so it could be collected and used to fertilize the gardens. Supposedly George Washington was an early adopter of formally managing waste into fertilizer. (They still didn’t have germ theory, didn’t fully understand about washing hands, and they bled sick people, further weakening them. However, a hundred years earlier, people just dumped waste right outside their doors so sanitation was improving.)

            If I went back to the 1700’s I’d not be telling people about airplanes, but I’d probably not be able to keep my mouth shut about basic hygiene and first aid. …and I’d collect cats. I’d get myself killed for sure and probably not care because they didn’t have much in the way of body soap and shampoo back then. ewwwww. That’s why Barnabas didn’t care about updating the plumbing in the Old House. That sort of thing just wasn’t part of his world view. Willie sure had a lot of explaining to do.

            1. “I’d get myself killed for sure and probably not care because they didn’t have much in the way of body soap and shampoo back then. ewwwww.”

              So true! The thing I liked about the soap operas back then – as well as most TV shows – is that hygiene and body order was never mentioned. We believed that everyone was using Irish Spring and smelled really good.

            2. re: waste into fertilizer

              That idea is quite an old one; there’s a range of British programs about historical farming (Tales From The Green Valley, The Tudor Farm, The Victorian Farm, etc.) that discuss the practice. Human waste was used just the same as any animal droppings, and since other trash was often tossed into the loo, things like broken crockery can turn up in fields. I very much recommend the TV series; they’re posted on YouTube, and have historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands & Peter Ginn staying in various historical places, living in the way that people did in those periods.

                1. Fertilizer…
                  I’m sure that the Collins family were sending off their chamber pots to the local farm (the one with the rooster and the exsanguinated cows). One of Ben’s duties, no doubt. (Haaaaaa, I said duty!)

                  1. Yeah, Comelately, you funny.

                    I suspect chamber pot waste from the new house went into the ocean. They had tunnels going that way so why not a sluice? It would have been some lowly maid who had to deal with it so poor Ben probably escaped that unpleasant task. I suppose they could have also put into the house some of those closed pits such as some European castles have. Hmmm, maybe if the show had gone on longer we could have seen Eliot Stokes excavating one of the historical “deposits” in a closed wing and finding the skeleton of yet another vengeful Trask. (Although, at the moment I like the thought of one of Angelique’s incarnations ending up in such a place even more…. don’t tell her I typed that! That would put me on her list … you know her sh*t list. 😉

                    So I have an icky little story to fill time. When I was little and Dark Shadows was still on TV, my father moved me and my sister into a very small turquoise and silver mobile home. (It had 2 bedrooms, a bath, kitchen and living room, but was only about 8 feet wide). My father set it up on a rented lot in the middle of nowhere. We had one neighbor, an older landlady with a pink and black (maybe?) Chevy and a better trailer that had a bit of landscaping around it instead of just gamma grass, goatheads, and barbwire field fencing.

                    There was a scary pumphouse on the property (spiders!) and for some reason two weathered pit outhouses of stereotypical shape and size. Whenever my dad got sick he’d use the outhouses instead of the bathroom in our trailer. He said it was to keep the people down river from getting sick too.

                    OK, so you probably got it even though I didn’t understand until I was an adult. Our trailer was not on a septic system. It all went into a pipe that dumped directly into the Arkansas River which supplied the water to a small town several miles down the river. Yes, this was legal in the mid-60’s. Like (eye roll) totally gross.

              1. Keeping in mind I’m paraphrasing/reinterpreting what we were told by Mount Vernon staff. Apparently, Mr. Washington was taking a more modern (scientific?) approach. He had designed a compost area a little distance from the house and took a lot of interest in its management …. as in what went in it, how long it stayed, and what happened when the contents were used as compared to some other approach.

                Part of me was cringing the whole time thinking about internal parasites, chamber pots, and how that compost area was not really as far from the house as I would like it to have been.

                My husband streams the BBC and we’ve caught some of the shows where they take families and assign each different economic status then let them live according to the time period. PBS has done some similar things and/or grabbed the BBC programming. I think I’ve seen Ruth Goodman on them …oops, I’m back. I googled her to put a face to the name and got diverted by videos of historic hairdressing techniques.

                It’s been a while since I caught any of those shows so thank you for the suggestion to look for the farm videos.

                I watched the end of the 1795 flashback tonight and although the flasback was great to watch, it’s really bugging me that:
                1. Vicki had so many different dresses when she was in jail.
                2. Angelique had such fancy hair, although as lady’s maid and companion, perhaps that’s not too much of a stretch.
                3. The 1795 Collins family was extremely wasteful of candles, something that was an expensive commodity yet they were quite generous in allowing servants to use so many.
                4. Clocks! Servants in 1795 would not have clocks in their rooms.

                I guess the Collins family was really, really into conspicuous consumption and the storylines needed a “reason” for set lighting and the plot device of ticking clocks.

                1. Yes, Ruth Goodman has a larger range of shows; and (for me, anyway) very interesting and informative. I saw her first in the farming shows, then found lots of other shows about historical domestic life.

                  As to the 1795 story;
                  they let Vicki have dresses but they didn’t let her wash them…
                  I agree with your explanation for Angelique’s hairstyles – she had to do Josette’s coiffure after all.
                  Candles kind of bothered me too, what with the port nearby and the whaling back then, shouldn’t they have had oil lamps? Servants would have got tallow and reeds.
                  But you couldn’t expect the Collinses to keep all their clocks in their own rooms; they expected punctuality from their staff. And I bet they had tons of clocks, knowing Joshua… he seems like that kinda guy.

    2. If Tracy’s family came snooping around, the Collinses could tell them that she’s sailed to England.
      For good.

  10. John E Comelately: Maybe THAT’S what NoDS needed, some bees, or ants, wasps, termites, cockroaches, grasshoppers, frogs, rabbits, woodworm, silverfish, gophers, woodchucks, pigweasels, lemmings, beavers, locusts, millipedes, moths, slugs or butterflies (okay, maybe not butterflies – though they are kind of creepy in large numbers).

    That would be the 1972 movie “Frogs”, apparently one of several “eco -horror” offerings of the era. Substitute the Collins family for Ray Milland and his family, and you are now in business.

    Strangely, given the title, it is actually the other animals doing the “heavy lifting” throughout the film. The frogs do show up eventually, looking on approvingly at the business at hand. One would assume, approvingly. Frogs don’t change expression much.

    1. I remember, saw that one on the big screen, double-billed with ‘The Legend of Boggy Creek’.

      Fun for the whole family.

  11. Gerard Stiles walked from 53rd & Norton in the Back of the Yards to Wells & Ronesha Sts to recover Judah Zachary’s dream machine charm two days after the Great Chicago Fire (Oct. 10, 1871).

  12. despite all your adorable posts, and the ones that made me laugh till i cried, still i think this may well be the best post of yours i’ve yet read, Danny Horn.

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