“I demand that counsel define the term ‘occult practices’.”
We’re going back to court for another witchcraft trial on Dark Shadows today, and once again, people have missed the entire point of the Salem story. The witch trials that took place in Massachusetts in the late 17th century happened in the actual real world, where I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s no such thing as witches. Salem 1692 is a story about a justice system perverted by superstition and mob panic, where innocent people were jailed and executed based on the claims of a pack of hysterical middle schoolers.
But in modern Salem, they’ve discovered that it’s a lot more lucrative to pretend there were real witches in the late 17th, and build a tourist trade by promoting Halloween parades and haunted house tours. Yes, they have a Witch History Museum that tells the real story, but on the whole, it’s more fun to build events around spooky fictional witches instead of focusing on the thing that’s really scary, which is putting Christians in charge of a legal system.
So there are a whole bunch of TV shows and movies that depict real witches on the scene of the Salem witch trials — Charmed, Bewitched, Hocus Pocus, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I Married a Witch, The Vampire Diaries, that WGN Salem series with sexy versions of John Alden and Mary Sibley. This is basically like making a TV show about the Holocaust in which the Jews kind of deserved it.
Naturally, Salem is irresistible for a supernatural-themed soap opera, because it combines scheming witch vixens and tense courtroom drama, and that’s why Dark Shadows is going back to that well for a second sip. And in the Dark Shadows spinoff media, they can’t stay away from Salem; I don’t think they even try.
The first storyline in the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip is about burning witches, and Lara Parker’s second Dark Shadows novel is called The Salem Branch, which we’ll address at some point soon. The second movie, Night of Dark Shadows, doesn’t mention Salem specifically, but it’s absolutely obsessed with stringing Angelique from a tree, even though that’s the one instance where there wasn’t a witch in the story, just a sexy ghost who fooled around with her brother-in-law.
And there’s one more Dark Shadows Salem story that most people don’t know about, which was published by Gold Key in June 1970. It’s the first and only issue of Dark Shadows Story Digest Magazine, a 144-page illustrated novella called The Interrupted Voyage.
In the 1970s, Gold Key was publishing the utterly insane Dark Shadows comic book, which at the time had just put out its lunatic fifth issue, “The Curse of Collins Isle“. The Interrupted Voyage is written and illustrated by the same team as the comic — D.J. Arneson and Joe Certa — but instead of sprinting through a story in 25 action-packed pages, they’ve got a whole book to spread out and really explore a concept, whether it deserves to be explored or not.
The story catapults Barnabas from the present day back to Salem in 1810, where he’s anachronistically put on trial for being a witch on fairly flimsy grounds. The story actually includes two different interchangeable witches, neither of whom go on trial. As you may recall, Barnabas, Quentin and the Witch’s Curse didn’t have a single witch in it, but The Interrupted Voyage has two. I guess it’s true what they say about inequity: the witch get witcher.
Barnabas Collins ran terror-stricken through the night,
the story begins.
Panic gripped him as he raced toward Collinwood. Something within those cold gray walls was beckoning to him. Something was drawing him toward it. A force he could not control.
Suddenly he stopped. Fear filled his eyes as he stared up to the highest tower above his head.
So okay, fine, I believe you. Barnabas is scared. He has a feeling and he’s freaking out about it. He sees a pale blue light of the spirit world flickering from a tiny window in the tower, and he’s convinced that it’s Angelique, who’s returned to plunge him into the world of living death. He happens to be incorrect about that, but you can see how a person might make that mistake. Pale blue lights of the spirit world are tricky like that.
He ran through a long black hall. His pounding footsteps echoed hollowly through the empty mansion. No other living soul dwelled in Collinwood this night. No living soul.
Which means that Barnabas is pretty much the only Dark Shadows character in this Dark Shadows Story Digest Magazine story, apart from brief cameos from Angelique and Reverend Trask late in the game. I don’t know why the Collins family isn’t dwelling in Collinwood this night, but that’s pretty common for the spinoff media. Everyone expects a Dark Shadows story to have Barnabas in it; the other living souls are optional.
So he runs all the way to the rear of the house and up a cobweb-strewn back staircase, which is infested with bats.
Bats! The very creature he had once been. Now he despised them. He hated them and everything they stood for. No longer was he a victim of the deadly curse which Angelique had placed on him centuries before. He was free.
So that’s nice, he’s managed to shake off being a vampire, although I don’t know why he’s holding a grudge against bats and everything they stand for. What do bats stand for, anyway?
“The Captain’s room!” Barnabas exclaimed as he stared at the odd ship’s door which confronted him. “The light is in the Captain’s room!”
Now, the concept of “the Captain’s room” is a little perplexing. It was built by Captain Daniel Collins circa 1810 at the top of a tower, out of the wreckage of his ship, Silent Arrow. After his ship crashed in a storm, Daniel apparently gathered up the driftwood, brought it back home to Collinwood, and built a room out of it, and then lived in that room. I’m going to go ahead and admit that I’m not really sure what exactly that means, but it’s a crucial story element, so we don’t have much choice but to accept it.
Anyway, that’s the room at the tippy-top of the batpole, where the pale blue light of the spirit world is causing consternation. Barnabas thinks that Angelique is in there, ready to pounce, but when he opens the door, he gets a pleasant surprise.
In a flash the light disappeared and standing where its brightest part had been was a girl. A beautiful, young girl in a long, gray velvet gown. Her face was calm, her eyes were soft and understanding, her lips turned slightly in a compassionate smile. “Do not fear me, Barnabas,” she said. “I am not Angelique, I am Annabella!” She stepped toward Barnabas, extending a small, gloved hand toward him.
“Annabella!” he said, the awe in his voice now replaced by surprise. “The daughter of Captain Daniel Collins whose very room this was?”
Now, that’s not necessarily the Daniel Collins that you’re thinking of. The Daniel Collins of 1795 who died at the top of a tower in 1840 would have been in his late twenties in 1810, and too young to have a dead eighteen year old daughter to build a weird grief room over. Although now that I think about it, Dark Shadows is a television serial, and therefore subject to children experiencing Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome, who get recast all the way up to eighteen just in time to die tragically and turn into a pale blue light of the spirit world.
But from the point of view of Messrs. Arneson and Certa, Captain Daniel Collins is just a name to hang a piece of backstory on. The Daniel Collins of The Interrupted Voyage is like Nathaniel Collins from 1770, Mordecai Collins from 1350, and Oscar Collins from 643: a random name from an alternate continuity that never existed, already dead by the time we even hear about him and pretty much useless to anybody, except maybe for Big Finish, who are always keeping an eye out for spare Collinses in case an old Doctor Who actor drops by the recording studio.
Anyway, Annabella’s in trouble, of course — beautiful girls at the beginning of stories usually are — and she asks for Barnabas’ help. He immediately says no, of course.
“My own spirit has scarcely crossed the precipice of night,” he says. “If I deal in the mysteries of the spirit world my own soul may be pitched back into the terror I once knew.” That’s the way people talk in this story the whole entire time, keeping up a running stream of vague spooky metaphors. It’s kind of fun, if you like that sort of thing.
Annabella says that she understands, and then launches into a sob story precisely calculated to make Barnabas feel guilty.
“I have walked the floor of this room for a hundred and sixty years. Trapped. Unable to break free of this world, unable to enter the next world because of a vow I made at the moment of my death.”
Her voice was tinged with sorrow. “This very room was built from the wreckage of my father’s ship, Silent Arrow. He built it with his own hands after his ship was crushed in a terrible storm and I, among many, perished under the waves. Only he survived.”
You know, I’ve heard that a captain’s supposed to go down with his sinking ship, but I don’t think that means you’re supposed to carry it home, build a room out of it and then die in it decades later, especially if you’ve still got passengers aboard. Leave it to a Collins to come up with a whole new way to ruin things.
Now, we all know that Barnabas is a sucker for a pretty face, so it’s no surprise that he instantly caves and promises to help, no matter the consequence. You get this a lot in the spinoff media, where Barnabas basically runs a detective agency for dead people, who show up at the start with some kind of spirit world flim-flam that he has to untangle. If we need a plot and the author can’t remember the names of any of the other characters from the TV show, then we’re going to have to import some new family tragedy for Barnabas to interact with.
He asks what’s wrong, and she makes with the backstory.
Black memories chilled Annabella’s voice. “The day which was to be the happiest day of my life,” she said sadly, “became the day of my death. I was to be married. Married to Michael, my beloved. Our wedding was to be in Michael’s town, Salem.”
A chill came over Barnabas at the sound of the name of the dreaded city of witches.
So that’s what I’m talking about, with Salem. City of witches! How backwards can you possibly get a story, to come up with that? I just hope Martha Corey never hears about this, she’ll be ever so cross.
Anyway, there was a storm and the ship went down, and as Annabella was drowning, she saw something that worried her.
“A light shined in the heavens,” she said. “A strange, bright light.” Her eyes were fixed on a spot in the vision of her mind. “It was Michael’s spirit. Michael was waiting for me in Salem. He saw the storm. His love for me was so great that his very soul flew from his body to find me.”
There’s a lot of that in the story, characters coming up with weird postulates about how the soul works. In the world of Dark Shadows Story Digest Magazine, a person’s body is basically a set of ill-fitting clothes for their spirit, which kind of rattles around inside and can be taken out in an emergency. Souls fly and droop and clatter to the floor, and everybody wants somebody else’s. Angelique wants to grab Barnabas’ soul, for one, and apparently somebody grabbed Michael’s when it was soaring around and he wasn’t paying attention.
“There is a way,” Barnabas said, “one where the person’s will is captured in a moment of weakness, such as when his spirit is vulnerable because of great illness or,” he paused as he recalled Annabelle’s story, “or when he has suffered a great tragedy.”
“Captured?” Annabella asked Barnabas, “Captured by whom?”
“By a witch!” Barnabas answered. “By a dreaded sister of Night.”
“By a witch? But that is not possible,” Annabella cried. “There were no more witches in Salem. The last was destroyed long before my time.”
So again with the Salem witches. Apparently, it was an epidemic that needed to be wiped out by the heroic Puritans. This is what happens when somebody tries to write historical fiction who doesn’t know anything about history.
In Barnabas’ point of view, the reason why Michael’s spirit hasn’t joined Annabella’s in the afterlife is that it was enslaved at the moment of Annabella’s death by a dreaded sister of Night, and she still has it. Therefore, the only reasonable plan is to for them to hopscotch their way back through time to the shipwreck in 1810, at which point they drown (presumably) and then somehow find Michael and rescue him from the witch. It’s not a very well thought out plan.
“You must tell me the tragedy of the wreck,” Barnabas shouts, over the howling of the time winds. “You must tell me every detail. It is the only way to return.” She already did.
It works, naturally; anything that Barnabas says about time is automatically true. Gold Key is utterly convinced that every supernatural entity is capable of traveling through time whenever they want, especially Barnabas and Angelique, who drift at will from one era to another, making things worse.
In this case, Barnabas makes the unforced error of shazaming his way onto the deck of a boat that he knew perfectly well was about to be shipwrecked. I believe that this is an innovation in time travel fiction, piloted once and never repeated, because it is the most bone-stupid plot point I could imagine.
“I have failed,” he thought in the flickering instants of consciousness which flashed through his mind, “I have failed to help Annabella and I have failed myself.”
Yes, you have. What were you expecting? You need to stop wishing yourself into a direct flight to ground zero.
Then there’s a whole sequence about Angelique smiling at him from out of the darkness, licking her lips at the prospect of collecting his soul.
To die here would mean the loss of his soul once more. This time, forever. Angelique, ever waiting, would take his spirit as he died and would never let it go again.
“I must not die,” he thought. “Not now in a time when my soul can be taken by Angelique.”
There is no further information on what this could possibly mean. This threat is repeated at regular intervals from here on out — if Barnabas dies in the past, then Angelique will take his soul. The question of why she wants it, how she would get it and what she would do with it remain firmly unexplored. She would just take it, and then she would have it, that’s all. Barnabas’ interior is inhabited by a MacGuffin, which must be protected at all costs.
But he doesn’t die and his soul remains untaken, because he decides that he’d rather live, and he pulls his way up to the surface. There, he finds Annabella, bobbing listlessly on the churning sea, and he grabs her and swims toward the shore.
So Annabella survives, she doesn’t die in the shipwreck after all, and therefore her boyfriend didn’t send his spirit flying around to look for her, and he didn’t get captured by a sister of Night, so the whole story is resolved, except it’s only page 40 and this is basically still the prologue.
Barnabas gets his cane back, by the way. His wolf’s-head cane was thrown overboard when he fell into the water, but when he reaches the shore it washes up right next to him on the beach like a loyal dog. He’s still got a tie on too, and Annabella’s outfit is still Cinderella-perfect, including the lace at her cuffs. These people shake off a shipwreck like you wouldn’t believe.
Refreshed after her swim, Annabella spots the docks where Michael’s been waiting for her all these years. But as she approaches, she sees a woman dressed in black take Michael’s hand, and lead him away.
So we finally get to the wicked witch, meeting dudes on the docks.
A few moments before, a lonely figure had stood on the dock looking far out to sea. It was Michael. His clothes were wet and his shiny black hair hung in damp strands over his sad face.
Which means that Michael is more damp than the two characters who just got up out of the ocean. I’m not sure why he’s so wet, actually.
A figure in black joined him. A woman. For a moment she watched the solitary youth on the dock’s edge with greedy eyes.
One thing that I like about the writing is that every once in a while, they use a sentence fragment as a bit of dramatic clarification. It’s not proper grammar, but there’s something about “A figure in black joined him. A woman.” that I find mysteriously appealing.
“Michael,” she called to him in a voice which was as soft and warm as the purr of a cat, “come with me, Michael. You are cold and wet.” She reached out and took his hand in hers. Her bone white fingers gripped tightly the firm flesh of Michael’s hand. No warmth flowed from her hand to his. Her skin was cold as ice. No blood flowed beneath its surface. She was a witch.
It’s not super clear in this story what a witch actually is. They live forever, or at least they exist outside of time, and they don’t have blood, which is news to me.
“Come with me, Michael,” the woman said, “I will take good care of you.” She smiled at him through thin, bloodless lips. Her deep dark eyes flashed with fire. She was beautiful. Her hair was coal black and hung in long straight tresses over her shoulders.
She was tall, almost as tall as the handsome youth at her side who followed her quietly as she stepped from the dock onto the cobbled streets of Salem town.
Uh oh, that word “handsome” means trouble. If you’ve read any of my previous posts about the Paperback Library novels, then you know that there’s a strict rule in 1970 Dark Shadows spinoff media that Barnabas has to be the most handsome character in the book. Describing Michael as a “handsome youth” is a challenge. Fortunately, that sentence is immediately followed by this one:
Far down the beach, too far for their shouts to be heard, ran a young girl in a gray velvet gown, her bright yellow hair blowing in the wind, and a handsome, dark man in a flowing cape.
That means everybody’s square, and we can move on with the story.
Michael and the witch have moved out of sight, so Barnabas and Annabella sprint into Salem, desperate to find them. Here’s their first encounter with the locals.
Barnabas ran to a group of people who stood quietly talking at the entrance to a house.
“Excuse me,” he said, urgently. “I am looking for a friend. A young man. He is with a woman. A woman dressed in black. They came this way. Have you seen them?” His breathing was fast and heavy. His eyes were dark and fearful.
The people stared at him for a moment and then moved quickly away. “A stranger,” said one man to another.
“Did you see his eyes?” asked a woman.
“And his clothes?” asked another.
They watched Barnabas as he stood helpless on the corner. “He is a strange one,” they said. “I have never seen one like him before.” As quickly as they had appeared, they vanished, each into his own house.
So that’s an incredible picture of the state of play in 1810 Salem, a thriving port city and tourist center where the sight of a stranger sends them scattering for safety. Barnabas spends the rest of the book staggering around Salem begging for assistance, and the town is entirely populated by the rude. None of the residents are ever named except for one dead lady, and every single one of them is detestable.
“Who is it?” A man’s voice came from the inside of the house.
“I seek a friend,” called Barnabas through the door. Before he could continue, it opened. A burly man stood facing him.
“You’ll find no friend of yours here,” hissed the man, as he quickly slammed the door shut.
Barnabas hurried to the next house. Again his pleas were met with fearful contempt.
You see what I mean? They’re horrible. It’s no wonder this town is infested with bloodless witches.
Meanwhile, the witch is in one of the houses, playing with her new toy. She kind of plunks him down on a stool and then she starts waving her hands around and asking the Spirit of the NIght to send unto her the fires of its unholy place. And then this occurs.
“Thou has heard me, O Prince of Blackness,” cried the witch, “Thou has heard thy daughter Calandra!” She held her fingertips together, each finger touching its opposite. The flames disappeared. She smiled. “The power of the fiery pit is mine,” she said.
So, hang on — thy daughter Calandra? Really? Have we sunk that low, Gold Key? You have to scan pretty far down the list of acceptable witch names before you scrape Calandra out of the barrel. Although I do enjoy the part about the Prince of Blackness, who in 1970 I think was probably George Clinton.
She moved quickly to Michael’s side. Placing a cold hand under his chin she raised his face to hers. The tragedy of nature still numbed his will. His spirit still drifted loosely within his sorrowful body. “Good,” she said as she let his head drop to his chest. “There is time.”
I think the important thing to note here is that Calandra is not given a single drop of backstory. She doesn’t have any history with Michael, or any particular motive to lead him around and try to scoop the soul out of him. She’s just an evil lady who can shoot flames out of her fingers — seriously, “a jet of flame spat from her extended finger” — and all she wants to do is mess with people. I think it’s fair to say that the boys at Gold Key had a couple of unresolved issues with women.
Meanwhile, Barnabas and Annabella are running in circles all over Salem, looking for a witch in this dreaded city of witches. Everyone in the entire town is a jerk. Dig this.
“Please,” Barnabas said, “I come in friendship. I seek a dear friend who may need help at this very moment.” He stood alone, circled by the searching stares of a wary crowd. “Will nobody offer to aid me?”
The crowd remained silent. One by one they walked away until he was alone. “Why must people live in distrust?” he asked aloud. “Why cannot they live in harmony?”
A shrill whistle pierced the air. No sooner did Barnabas hear the sound than he felt a sharp pain sting into the center of his back. He whirled. A small arm disappeared behind the corner of a building. Another whistle sounded from the opposite side. Barnabas ducked in time to see a rock fly straight and true through the space where his head had been an instant before. This time a young boy, a mischievous smile still on his face, quickly hid behind a large cart on the street.
“I am reviled!” he said, turning sadly away from the boy, his humiliation more stinging than any rock.
So, I mean, Salem. Right? What a nightmare.
And what’s even worse is that judging by the outfits, these people still think that they’re Puritans. It’s 1810, kids; Puritanism went out of style almost a hundred years ago, not that it was ever super stylish in the first place. What gives these kids the right to mock anybody? God, Salem sucks. It’s possible this book was written as propaganda for the Colonial Williamsburg Board of Tourism.
Anyway, Barnabas finally figures out where the witch is hiding, because he starts banging on Calandra’s door, and she creates a vision of Michael jogging around the corner to distract Barnabas. Some more Salemites act like dicks, and then Barnabas realizes that was the right door in the first place, so he comes back and bangs on it with his cane. There’s a lot of door drama in this book.
Finally, he throws himself at the door in an illustration that Gold Key Dark Shadows readers will recognize as a classic Joe Certa run-falling pose, and he cracks the crib.
The door flew open with a crash and Barnabas rushed into the house. He blinked his astonished eyes in surprise. He found himself in a simple room decorated in the quiet taste of the day. A chair, a table, a small rug on the floor. Nothing met his eye that told of witchcraft or the black sciences of night.
So that fiendish Calandra has moved to a different house, or she’s invisible, or she’s turned herself into a small rug, or possibly this wasn’t the right house in the first place. But wherever this is, it’s apparently off limits.
At this moment a man appeared in the doorway. “He is here!” he shouted. No sooner had he spoken when four other men appeared, each with the look of suspicion on their faces.
“The stranger is here,” said the first man. They all walked slowly toward Barnabas who held up his arm as if to protect himself. “The stranger has entered the room where Widow Starbuck died her strange death.”
I have to say, I do admire the Salem residents’ unflinching commitment to standing two inches away from Barnabas, staring right at him, and then talking about him as if he can’t hear them. It’s a very specific method of being an asshole that these people have perfected to a T.
But the name “Widow Starbuck” has a familiar ring to it. As I mentioned earlier, Gold Key published The Interrupted Voyage in the same month as issue #5 of the comic, “The Curse of Collins Isle“, which features a century-spanning rivalry between Barnabas Collins and colonial coffee magnate William Starbuck, the father of Barnabas’ childhood friend Jonas.
As you can see in the panel above, William Starbuck was a complete asshole who hated Barnabas like poison, even though Barnabas had never shown them anything but kindness, and he blamed Barnabas for Jonas’ tragic death, which Barnabas had absolutely nothing to do with.
William Starbuck’s irrational hatred for Barnabas puzzled me at the time, but now it makes sense: he must be from Salem. That explains everything.
It turns out Calandra was using the Widow Starbuck as a slave, like she’s doing with Michael — or at least, that’s Barnabas’ conclusion, after seeing a lock of hair sitting on a table. It doesn’t really matter; the whole Widow Starbuck thing is just a plot device designed to keep the superstitious Salemites away from this house, so Barnabas and Annabella can use it as an HQ for the next fifty pages. Although it’s also possible that it’s a reference to some other June 1970 Gold Key publication about Barnabas and the Starbuck family that I’ve never heard of, and they all fit together in some complicated overlapping mosaic pattern that we may never discover.
There’s more door drama, of course; the ignorant villagers see the marks of Barnabas’ cane on the door and think that they’re made by Barnabas’ cloven hoofs, despite the obvious fact that he has normal human hands. But they’ll say anything, at this point.
For example, in the chapter “Storm of Superstition”, they say the following.
He is the devil! He must be destroyed! We cannot allow him to live! I have seen him with my own eyes as he tried to steal one of our children! Destroy him! Kill him! He is strange! Different! The Devil himself! He must be destroyed! (again) But not without a trial. The devil will have a trial! We will catch him! Throw him into prison! Give him a trial! And then burn him at the stake!
And in the next chapter, they say “If this is where the black spirits of the devil lurk, where is the dark stranger we seek?” and “Why wait for the black powers which sent him to come and level more terror upon us?” It’s always about black power with these kinds of people.
And then there’s just more cliches, really, as we tumble over Barnabas Falls. The witch sends the zombie boyfriend after the pretty girl, who screams EEEEE! and then the boyfriend says “Ann-a-bel-la” and maybe the power of love can break through the evil spell, blah blah. The villagers catch Barnabas in the graveyard, obviously, and cart him away to prison, and it’s basically every time-traveler-goes-to-Salem story that’s ever been written.
So I think it’s worth noting that this story has just about no resemblance to Dark Shadows, except for the props and special effects. There’s a spell, a cane, a candle, an amulet, a few pitchforks and torches, and a light dusting of Angelique dream sequences, but there are only five characters, and nobody has human feelings.
Dark Shadows is fundamentally a daytime soap opera, which uses a continuous stream of overlapping storylines that explore the relationships and rivalries among a large cast of characters. The show does break soap opera storytelling rules a bit, because they use time travel to create more or less discrete chapters with a guest cast that mostly gets discarded at the end of a storyline, but the thing they don’t do is a set of individual adventure stories, where one character goes off on his own for a random side quest that has no impact on him or anyone else.
The most striking violation that this story makes is that Barnabas is risking his life for a pretty girl that he’s not personally in love with. This never happens on Dark Shadows, not even in the Paperback Library novels. On the show, he hops between crushes constantly — Maggie, Vicki, Josette, Angelique, Vicki again, Rachel, Kitty, Josette again, Maggie again, Parallel Maggie, Parallel Roxanne, present-day Roxanne and 1840 Roxanne — that’s more than three girls a year for four years. He doesn’t just help people for the sake of being nice, because Barnabas isn’t a nice person.
This is a story with two Dark Shadows characters in it — Barnabas and, to some extent, Angelique — except that neither of them are motivated by love, which is their defining characteristic. In this story, the only recognizable character from Dark Shadows is the cane.
So I think it’s worth asking the questions which will haunt us over the next four months: Is it possible to tell Dark Shadows stories, after Dark Shadows is over? And if it’s not, why do people keep trying?
And to illustrate my point, here comes Calandra, who goes out to the cemetery to burn Barnabas’ cane, and incantate herself a flashback from a Dark Shadows that never was.
In the haze of history which rose from the burnt walking stick, Barnabas began to speak.
“You have killed her,” he shouted to an unseen figure in the misty background. “You have killed her as if by your own hands you had lighted the fire which consumed her at the stake.” He raised his black cape over his head and plunged into the darkness of the vision. “For that I shall kill you, Reverend Trask,” he screamed.
Calandra watched on. Soon another scene emerged from the smoke. Hanging by his wrists from black, iron chains was a man of the cloth. His face was etched with terror. His voice parched and dry.
“No, Barnabas,” he pleaded, “do not do this thing to me. I beg you, do not do this.”
Barnabas stepped from the gloom holding a brick and trowel.
Now, that’s remarkable, for 1970 spinoff media to reference a specific sequence from actual Dark Shadows. The folks at Gold Key remember Barnabas walling up Reverend Trask, and they expect you to remember it too. That flashback appeared on the first page of the first issue of the Dark Shadows comic, which means that this moment from episode 442 has penetrated the public consciousness enough for it to stand in for the entire 1795 saga.
Except then they do this.
Again the mists of the vision flowed and yet another scene revealed the truth of Barnabas’ early life. Angelique, mysterious, yet as beautiful as a goddess stood before Barnabas whose knees quaked at her sight.
“You have destroyed Reverend Trask,” she said in a voice which was smooth and soft but which had a sinister echo deep within it. “For that the price you pay will be great.”
She leaped toward him and clutched him by his shirtfront. She bared her teeth. They were pointed and sharp. A grotesque laugh shrieked from her lips. “Now you will pay, Barnabas Collins. Forever!” Before he could move she plunged her teeth into his neck as a cry of terror screamed from his gaping mouth.
“The mark of the bat!” Calandra wheeled from the vision. “So that’s it,” she cried.
No, that’s not it. That misses it by a mile.
I’m not objecting to Angelique biting Barnabas, rather than calling up Bil Baird and asking to borrow a bat puppet. My concern is Angelique’s motivation, which doesn’t make any sense. The only thing that we know about Reverend Trask is that he was a witch hunter. Why would Angelique punish Barnabas for killing Trask?
So this isn’t Angelique, or at least not any version of the character that we know. This is just another Calandra, an evil witch who does evil things for no particular reason except the fun of it. They hammer this home by having Calandra summon Angelique and send her out to attack Barnabas, basically tagging in a relief witch for thirteen pages.
Angelique finds Annabella out on the street, just wandering around aimlessly looking for Barnabas, and takes possession of her body. She knocks out the jailer and gets into Barnabas’ cell posing as Annabella, but just as Barnabas embraces her, she pulls back, reveals that she’s Angelique, and leaps for his throat.
It’s not a very Angelique plan, but this isn’t very Angelique, and they wind up this subplot in an appropriately undignified way. Just as she’s about to hit home, the first rays of dawn stream in through the barred window, and she dissolves into a cloud of vapor, the end. Annabella just wakes up in a nearby doorway, dazed and unharmed, and then we get back to the real story.
So finally we get to the big dance number we’ve been waiting for, a good old-fashioned Salem witch trial. Barnabas looks sadly around at all the hate-filled faces packing the courtroom, as the judge pounds his gavel and asks for opening bids.
Countless voices cried from among the spectators. “I saw him appear in a cloud of smoke,” shouted one. “He tried to steal my child,” cried another. “His cloven hoofmarks are imprinted in the Widow Starbuck’s door,” wailed another.
The judge spoke in a somber tone. “Are there any who would defend this creature of the night?” At this statement the crowd went insane.
“Burn him now,” they cried. “We are not safe until he dies!”
And that’s about it, end of trial. Barnabas isn’t allowed to speak for himself; the judge just tells him that he’s guilty, and they’ll burn him at the stake in three hours. The whole thing is covered in five pages, including two full-page illustrations. I’m not sure why you’d write a witch trial book that only has three pages of witch trial.
Everything works out okay, of course. The Gold Key audience apparently wants a happy ending, which is strange, because the TV show audience got a steady diet of nothing but tragedy, and we ate it up and asked for more. But apparently Arneson and Certa want to tie everything up neatly, which they do, in the most confusing possible way.
Annabella shows up at the jail to help Barnabas, and the jailer — thinking that Annabella is Angelique — drops into a swoon and stays there, blissfully unconscious for the whole rest of the story. Annabella grabs his key and unlocks Barnabas’ cell, and then they proceed to walk in and out of the cell for the next three hours, as they piece together Barnabas’ cunning escape plan.
At his instruction, Annabella rushes out to the cemetery and calls Michael’s name. Calandra notices that Michael stirs, and decides, in the most baffling passage of this baffling book, to let him go out for a walk.
“Are you restless, Michael?” Calandra asked. “Does your feeble mind still yearn to be free?” She walked to him and lifted his head and looked deeply into his dulled eyes. “Be free then,” she said, “be free and go.” She pointed to the heavy iron door.
Then an evil laugh broke from her lips. “Go and return, you fool! You will always do my bidding as long as this remains with me.” She clutched at the chain which hung from her throat and withdrew the black amulet.
Hysterical laughter cackled from her thin, bloodless lips. “Go!” she ordered, “go to the town and learn what has happened.” Then, her eyes narrowing and her voice rasping with a sinister snarl, she threw open the door for him. “But remember, Michael, you are in my power for eternity. Now go and return!”
She slammed the door behind him, its ringing clang sounding loud through the air of death which hung over the place.
So that’s something of a mixed message. Now go and return?
But that means Annabella can grab the shuffling Michael and lead him into town, through the crowd of people screaming for Barnabas’ death, and straight into the jail cell, where Michael and Barnabas exchange clothes.
At five minutes before the hour Annabella ran desperately back to the cell. “They are coming,” she called. “They will reach the door in a minute!” The cell door opened and Barnabas, dressed in Michael’s clothes, stepped out. “All is in readiness,” he said as he looked back into the cell. “They will have their victim.”
He shuddered as he looked on the drooping figure of Michael who stood in Barnabas’ clothes, in the middle of the cell, his face hidden in a turn of the cape.
The chanting voices reached three as Barnabas and Annabella slipped out of the jail door a scant few seconds before the men came to lead him to the pyre. They hid in the crowd as the man entered the jail.
You can go ahead and ask me why Barnabas didn’t just slip out the door and get away hours ago. The answer is that I don’t know.
Then Calandra shows up, and she’s decided that maybe Michael shouldn’t be let off the leash after all. She shouts his name, and Michael — now tied to the stake, wearing someone else’s clothes — responds to her call.
Michael raised his head in answer to Calandra’s shouts. The cape fell away from his face.
“No!” screamed Calandra as she looked up to see Michael instead of Barnabas at the stake. “It is the wrong man!” she cried, jumping to the platform as the man with the torch bent low to touch the ready wood.
“No!” she cried, as she tore the torch from his hand, and pointed to Barnabas in the crowd. “There is the man you want! Not this man,” she screamed as she spun to face Michael. Turning, she slipped.
Yup. That’s the plot resolution. She slipped.
With a fearful shriek of terror she clutched at the air. The torch fell from her grip and landed on the wood. It burst into flame. Fire leaped from the pyre and instantly engulfed her as she lay on the platform in view of the gasping crowd.
An explosion ripped the sky as an immense ball of fiery flame and smoke shot into the heavens. The fire vanished as quickly as it had come.
So that about wraps it up for The Interrupted Voyage, which slips and falls into the furnace, consigned to the flames forevermore. But Dark Shadows continues on, driving further into the past, until Barnabas is a twinkle in the rear-view mirror.
We’ve got a couple more witch trials to pass through before our final destination, with more superstitious and ignorant townsfolk to endure, but I promise you this: we will never meet anyone more terrible than the bloodthirsty, xenophobic psychopaths who live in Salem, Massachusetts. Honestly, they are the worst.
Monday: The Practice.
Hermes Press reprinted The Interrupted Voyage in 2012 as Dark Shadows: The Original Series Story Digest, with recolored illustrations. I can’t say I’d recommend it, but it’s there if you want it.
Gold Key’s Story Digest Magazine lived on after this, in a slightly different form. The Dark Shadows issue was part of the original set of four, all released in 1970 — Dark Shadows, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Tarzan of the Apes, and Boris Karloff: Tales of Mystery. Apparently Ripley’s and Karloff sold the best, so the magazine was relaunched in 1972 as Mystery Comics Digest. Each issue would swap between one of three brands — Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Boris Karloff: Tales of Mystery, and The Twilight Zone. The series ran for 26 issues, and ended in October 1975.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of Desmond and Quentin’s scene in the first act, there’s a lot of studio noise, including rustling paper and footsteps.
During Desmond’s sidebar with the judges in act 3, someone coughs in the studio. (Although this isn’t really a blooper, because they’re pretending there’s a whole crowd of invisible spectators at the trial.)
In act 4, a stagehand passes by the edge of the set as the judge tells Desmond, “There is indeed ample evidence…”
Samantha swears to tell the truth by placing her right hand on the Bible. The correct procedure is to put your left hand on the Bible, and hold up your right hand to swear.
Also, on page 24 of The Interrupted Voyage, Annabella asks Barnabas who “capturned” Michael’s soul.
Behind the Scenes:
Surprisingly, this is David Henesy’s last episode, and he doesn’t get anything like a fitting farewell, considering how important he was to the show. David was the original monster of Dark Shadows, and he was key to a lot of major storylines, including the Barnabas/Sarah story, Quentin’s haunting, the raising of the Leviathan child and the protracted pre-catastrophe sequence of summer 1970. But they didn’t quite know what to do with him in the past — Jamison got some time in the spotlight during 1897, but not much, and the Daniel of 1970PT and Tad of 1840 were basically walk-on parts.
Sadly, Carrie — who we hardly know and don’t care about — gets to grow up and have a teen romance storyline, but David Henesy was always somebody’s son on Dark Shadows, not a man in his own right. His last line on the show is, “When you see my father, will you tell him that I’ve been thinking of him, and praying for him?” and then Samantha sends him upstairs to bed.
David didn’t do much acting after Dark Shadows. He appeared on an episode of The Waltons in 1973, saying two lines: “How could college be that important?” and “What are you going to do, set the world on fire?” Then he appeared on the soap Another World in 1976; the only info I could find was that he played “a student,” so that part apparently didn’t set the world on fire either.
And that was it for David and acting; he grew up and moved on, becoming successful as a restaurant owner. In Barnabas & Company, he says, “I never hated show biz. I just found it boring after a while and enjoyed working in an environment where I had more control over my chances for success.”
His New York City restaurants included Jim McMullen’s, Punch, Petaluma and Island. He opened the popular Cafe San Pedro in Cartegena, Colombia, and then moved to Panama City, Panama, where he owns La Posta and Market. He’s never gone to a Dark Shadows Festival, and he’s only done little snippets of interviews with people writing about the show. But he’s doing fine.
There are also three judges in the show today, one actual character and two silent extras.
Judge Vail is played by John Beal in nine episodes, from now until the end of the 1840 storyline in late January. Beal had a crazy long career in show business, starting with his first movie, Another Language, in 1933. He did a lot in early television, including Colgate Theatre and Chevrolet Tele-Theatre in 1949 and a bunch of shows that I never heard of, all the way through the 50s and 60s. After Dark Shadows in 1970, he was on The Waltons, The Adams Chronicles, The Streets of San Francisco, Family and Barnaby Jones. He did some movies in the 80s including Amityville 3-D, and his final screen appearance was in the Tom Cruise thriller The Firm in 1993.
Carl Nicholas plays one of the other judges in this episode and the next; he’ll be replaced by Tom Markus in 1174/1175 for another five episodes. This is Nicholas’ only screen credit.
Paul K. Giles is the third judge, who’s in 7 episodes. Giles also played two Reverends on Dark Shadows in 1967 — Reverend Alton Brook, who married Barnabas and Josette in 380, and Reverend Bland, who married Barnabas and Angelique in 396 and 397. He only has a few screen credits, including the short “Young Man’s Fancy” in 1952, which was riffed by Mike and the bots on Mystery Science Theater 3000, as the lead-in to The Violent Years in episode #610.
Monday: The Practice.
— Danny Horn