Episode 1185: Meanwhile, in 1971

“The screaming was unbelievable.”

There is another world.

There is a better world.

Carolyn is looking for her Uncle Roger. The date is January 8th, 1971, and it’s been three months since the day she decided to give up hope.

She doesn’t come every day anymore. There’s a little shack, on the beach down at Findley’s Cove, and she’s been there, some days. It’s a cottage, really, that must belong to someone. But she’s using it now, and nobody’s told her that she can’t.

Some mornings, she finds that someone’s left food on the porch: bread rolls and fruit, and sometimes sandwiches. Someone’s being kind to her. Not kind enough to knock on the door and give it to her in person, of course. Not kind enough to help her look.

She’s been everywhere that she can think of, where it’s still possible to go. The hidden door in the drawing room is blocked by something heavy that she can’t move, and she hasn’t figured out how to get into the basement yet. Maybe that’s where Uncle Roger is.

Or pieces of him. Like her mother.

Meanwhile, in May 1968, 43-year-old Canadian stage actor Jonathan Frid embarked on a whirlwind ten-city promotional tour to promote Dark Shadows, which he was unexpectedly in charge of. He’d joined the show already in progress a year ago to play a gentleman vampire, a blasphemous Hail Mary pass that somehow connected with the audience, making the show, and himself, unbelievably popular for a time.

Frid was aware that people liked his work, and that’s why he was still on the show — there were hundreds of letters coming in every week, too many to respond to. But he didn’t know it would be like this, in the outside world.

3,000 people were waiting for him at the Pinehaven Shopping Center in Charleston, South Carolina, shrieking and swooning, and he had to climb on top of three police cars to get away. And then, two days later, there was Fort Wayne.

When Jonathan Frid arrived at the Glenbrook Mall in Fort Wayne, Indiana, there were 12,000 women, children and teenagers crowding in the parking lot. “The screaming was unbelievable,” said ABC publicist Phil Kriegler, who was on the scene and had to help clean up afterwards. “Eleven women fainted, there were 58 lost children, one broken arm, a broken leg, and $1,500 damage to trees and shrubs.”

And that’s not easy to replace; shrubbery doesn’t grow on trees. It grows near trees, but that’s not the same thing.

But she still comes back, most days, climbing the stairs and clambering around the rubble, to see what’s left to find.

She’s clutching at whatever’s left, which is hardly anything. An unbroken vase. A stuffed tiger. The last unburned photo album. That portrait from the foyer.

She brings them all, these tiny treasures, to the shack on Findley’s Cove, and she arranges them around the room, building herself a nest of useless memories.

She’s supposed to be looking for Uncle Roger, but she never finds him, she just finds some trinket that accidentally escaped destruction.

She thinks, if Uncle Roger was here, if he could see her living like this, what would he want?

Well, that’s obvious, she tells herself. He would want his sister back. He would want his son. And he would want a logical explanation.

Meanwhile, in 1971, the show’s fortunes are fading, and America’s cool ghoul has vanished into the past, leaving chaos and destruction in his wake. He decided that he didn’t want to play Barnabas anymore, and look what’s happened. Twelve thousand screaming people, with nothing left to scream about.

Eleven women lost consciousness in Fort Wayne, and when they opened their eyes, the world had changed. They saw the soon-to-be — a life with no Barnabas Collins, and the end of all things — and they woke with dire warnings of the time to come.

But nobody listened, and now here we are, with Collinwood in ruins. Barnabas and Julia and Stokes are gone, Elizabeth and Roger are dead, David and Hallie are dead, Quentin is mad with grief and guilt, and Carolyn is scavenging for pieces of a broken world that she helped to break, somehow.

Yes, the Junior Detectives have walked up a staircase and down a staircase, and now they’re in the past, trying to make all of this not happen, but what does that mean, for this Carolyn and this Quentin? This world continues, from 1970 all the way to 1995, twenty-five broken years that they still have to endure.

This is a forgotten tributary of time, closed off and dying, but not dead yet. Even if it’s undone by retcon time trickery, these people still live and grieve, somewhere out of our sight, and we’ve just quietly agreed to stop thinking about them.

She’s not scared of the things that killed her mother. They’re scared of her. Or they would be, if they could think and feel and understand what was going on.

Their work is done now, their purpose fulfilled. Most of them are still bumping around the house, but their spirits are dimming. Nobody needs them anymore.

She hasn’t seen Gerard, or Daphne. Not since that final day, when her world burned. Maybe they’re busy somewhere, destroying somebody else’s family. Maybe that’s a thing that they do. Maybe it’s a franchise.

Or maybe they just can’t bear looking at her, climbing through the wreckage, peering around, her eyes glazed with tears. Maybe they can’t face her.

Decades from now, two time travelers will impinge upon Carolyn’s sanctuary, on the beach at Findley’s Cove. The meddling twosome mean well, but it’s twenty-five years late, and there is very little left to say. Nobody leaves sandwiches on the porch anymore. Carolyn has found a way to survive without them.

She calls herself Fredericks now, and there is a history behind that choice which will never be told. If you heard that story, it would break your heart, probably. It certainly broke her.

“Why don’t you call yourself Collins?” Julia asks, and Carolyn cringes.

“That’s not a good name, Collins,” she says. “They… don’t like it.”

That’s how she says it, with dramatic stress on that unheralded third person plural. Carolyn’s had a lot of time alone to think about They, serving her long sentence in this chrono-prison, and she’s figured some things out.

And it’s time for us to figure it out, too. I’ve been writing about They for years now, scavenging little pieces of information here and there, not sure how to put them together. Meanwhile, here in January 1971, I’ve been alive for two days now, and there’s nothing like being a newborn to give you a fresh perspective.

I think I understand it now. Some of it, anyway. Let’s start by looking at They’s track record so far.

Carolyn tries not to think too much about the final night. It doesn’t make sense to her anyway.

Gerard poisoned Daphne and waved a flag, and the things that killed her mother clawed their way up out of their unhallowed graves, and started their work.

And then what happened? The creatures broke things, and pulled things down, and knocked things over, and smashed all the doors and windows. And killed people. And started fires. But they couldn’t break the floors, or the walls. They could damage, but they couldn’t destroy.

But this dead man’s hate was so intense that it pushed common sense aside, because it turns out feelings are more important than reality. He knew that, and we didn’t, and then the roof caved in.

Collinwood was like a house of cards, doused in too much lighter fluid. Life must have always been like this, and we weren’t paying attention.

It was December 1968, the first time that I noticed They, when Vicki’s boyfriend Jeff ate some magic herbs to find out whether he really was the man that she knew in the eighteenth century, as she kept insisting that he was.

Now, the big unanswered question about Vicki and Peter’s time travel is who booked the tickets. People think that Vicki was shot back into the past by a dead ten-year-old named Sarah, who wanted her to understand how Barnabas became a vampire. This theory is not compelling, because there is no evidence in the text to support it. The short version is that’s not what Sarah said, Vicki didn’t learn anything, and ghosts don’t even do that. So what actually happened?

And then the questions pile up. Who brought Vicki back to 1968, just at the moment of her hanging, and made her switch places with poor Phyllis Wick, who was condemned for Vicki’s mistakes? Who brought Peter forward in time, wiped his memory and named him Jeff? And who, at this moment, was responsible for taking him back?

“They’re pulling at me!” Jeff said, hopped up on magic herbs. “Let me talk to her, let me explain to her!” he pleaded. “Please, don’t come for me now! All I need is time!”

Vicki came in, and threw her arms around him. “They’re calling me!” Jeff said, and Vicki cried, “My love will keep you here! Commit yourself to this life, to this time! Say you will, Jeff — and they will let you stay!”

It worked, just long enough for a quickie wedding ceremony. Later that night, he announced, “They’re taking me away,” and They did, leaving Vicki with nothing but heartache and a broken wristwatch.

They say that a broken clock is right twice a day — but who is They, and why are They breaking all these clocks?

Later on, in one of my wilder, magic-herb-informed moments, I realized that They actually switched Vicki and Phyllis in their cradles, setting up a time crash that would send each of them hurtling back to the time where they belonged. And then the governesses were snatched back and forth at the most dramatic possible moment, carving an open two-way channel through time, from 1968 to 1796, with all kinds of consequences.

While They were at it, They also stole Carolyn’s twin sister Charity, and dropped her off in the 19th century with the Trasks, who agreed to raise her as their daughter. They met again with Reverend Trask, in later life — the old lady in Providence, and the other one in Boston, and the one he never suspected.

They came that night, the good people of Collinsport, and they watched, from a distance. When she burst through the broken front door, stumbling and screaming, the firemen were there, Lou and Harris and George, and they were spraying water at the burning wing of the house, one little hose against all that rage.

Somebody grabbed her by the arms and asked, “Is there anyone else in the house?” and she said yes, my Uncle Roger, he’s there, please find him, I don’t know where he is. Please save him.

Except that she didn’t. She doesn’t remember what she said. Something about creatures, probably, and her mother, and she was crying, and she didn’t even think about Roger. The children, and Quentin, and Mrs. Johnson. She said something about Mrs. Johnson.

But later, lying on the grass, while people were shouting, she suddenly thought, I forgot Uncle Roger. They didn’t know that he was in there. And they never found him.

Vicki prayed to the broken wristwatch all day and all night, until They took pity on her — or so we thought, at the time — and allowed Peter to timescoop her, and bring her back to 1796, which was where she thought she wanted to go. But she ended up getting hanged all over again, because it’s Vicki, and she can’t stay out of trouble.

A wicked witch brought her back to life in an uncharacteristic moment of charity, and Vicki and Peter ran away together, out into the eighteenth-century night, in the only “happy ending” that Dark Shadows ever gave any character, even temporarily.

But the price for that happiness was poor, forgotten Phyllis Wick, who vanished into the aether. The first time that Vicki visited the eighteenth century, she pushed Phyllis out of a carriage, and took her place as the Collins family governess. Phyllis filled Vicki’s chair in the present-day Collinwood for four months and one tick of the clock, until Vicki was ready to come home.

After the unfinished honeymoon, though, when the magic wristwatch ported Vicki back to 1796 for the second time, Phyllis wasn’t catapulted into the future. Vicki just took her place, and ran away with it.

Think of Phyllis Wick, unhanged but forgotten, snatched away from her own life to give somebody else a happy ending. Oh no, not again, said the doomed bowl of petunias, tumbling through the timeways.

Eventually, she was rerouted to the Stopping-Off Place, with no further destination in mind. And she’s stuck there still, in that haunted limbo between life, death and the other one. She has nowhere to go, and nobody even remembers her, so there’s no way for her to build up the required level of narrativium to earn a reprieve.

So Phyllis Wick sits, and she waits, with no one to keep her company but a handsome bellboy, and an uncreated, impossible cat that used to be a man. There’s nowhere for her to go, nothing for her to do. Who takes care of lost souls like these?

Ten days ago, she found a microphone attached to a long stick. She didn’t know what it was for, but it seemed familiar somehow, so she picked up one end of it and walked around with it for a while, dragging it behind her.

In the blue room, she found one of the things that killed her mother. It had wedged itself somehow between the remains of a writing desk and a piece of the wall, just walking in place, not understanding how to get free. It might have been stuck in that spot for weeks, still moving, still pointlessly alive, when everyone else was dead.

She had the long stick with the microphone in her hands, and she swung it, and hit the thing across the shoulders. It didn’t react. She wound up and hit the thing again and again and again until she got tired and couldn’t do it anymore, and then she sat down on the floor and thought about something else for a while.

And that wasn’t They’s only time crime, not by a long shot.

Next — if there’s still a word called “next” — They went to the 1770s, and stole young Angelique, slipping her out of sight during one of those terrible living-god-worship ceremonies that she headlined, which the slavers invented to make perfectly ordinary Black people look like superstitious savages.

They scooped Angelique up in their clutches, hopped back a hundred years, deposited her with a new family, and told everyone that her name was Miranda.

In the new timeline, Miranda lived and died in the late 1600s, and Angelique never met Barnabas. He lived out his life — just a man, not a vampire, as depicted in Will Loomis’ The Life and Death of Barnabas Collins. This spawned a new, unwanted band of time, rubbing up against our world.

It’s like I keep telling Vicki: there are consequences to time travel. In fact, you usually get the consequences first; that’s the whole idea.

Then — if there’s still a word called “then” — the Leviathans couldn’t use a time-hopping vampire to carry their Naga box from 1796 to 1969, where they thought it belonged. They had to grow a new Jeb Hawkes in the eighteenth-century, and that’s the Jeb that grabbed Vicki and threw her off a cliff, and sent Peter back to prison, trashing the show’s only happy ending.

But, I hear you ask, if Barnabas wasn’t a vampire in that band of time, then his kid sister’s ghost wouldn’t have haunted young David, and there wouldn’t be a seance at Collinwood to send Victoria Winters into the past, so how could there be a Vicki and a Peter, and a happily-ever-after for Jeb to destroy?

My answer to your perfectly sensible question is: shut up, and stop making everything worse. This is what They wanted. This is what They do.

It all fell apart, so quickly. Not just the house, the whole town.

Everybody wanted to do the right thing, of course. Elizabeth’s will was read, and if Carolyn had come to the reading, then she would know that everything belonged to her — the cannery, the business holdings, the assets and the debts. But obviously, she must know that. She’s the only one left, who else would inherit?

She could have come downtown and talked to the board of directors. She could have made decisions. She could have taken charge.

But instead, she crept into a little fishing shack on the beach, and didn’t talk to anyone, and nobody had the nerve to ask what happened. Except for Richard Garner, who told his secretary that he was driving up to Collinwood to see if he could find Carolyn, and talk sense to her. He wasn’t just Elizabeth’s lawyer, he was a family friend, and he couldn’t stand by and watch it all fall apart.

They found him, later. Well, parts of him. And most of the car.

That witch doctor in Brazil must have been a part of it, too, the one that gave his magic devil ring to Quentin, loaning him the power to create that Staircase Through Time that he never even tried to use.

Burke found out about it somehow, and he flew to South America to find that mysterious village up the river, and then he received an anguished ghost message that knocked him out of the sky, stranding him who knows where.

It’s a They thing. They like to take people and put them in places where they don’t belong, and won’t be happy.

Four days ago, Carolyn found a mirror, impossibly unbroken, still hanging on a wall. She looked in the glass, and tried to recognize the person that she saw. And as she stared, a hidden hand wrote on its surface.

B — E — W — A — R —

And then she picked up a piece of wood and smashed it against the mirror, again and again.

Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me?

she was shouting, and sobbing

Look at my life!

You bastards!

the glass was singing through her skin

What the HELL

is LEFT

to BEWAR of?

So, at long last: Who is They? I’ll tell you who.

They is a gang of New England widows, including the old lady in Providence, and the other one in Boston, and Mrs. Curry from Fall River. Then there’s the three widows from the hill: Rachel Comstock, Abigail Tolliver and Margaret Findley, who owns that shack on Findley’s Cove, and made sure it was available when Carolyn needed a place to crash, and burn.

And Judith Collins Trask, of course. None of these reckless plot contrivances could get anywhere without her.

These weren’t your ordinary lamenting-type widows, naturally. These were the kind of widows that figured out they were widows even before their husbands died. Proactive widows, you might say. Self-made widows.

And one way or another, they all found their way to Rushmore Sanitarium during that crazy summer in 1897, to speak their secrets to Judith Collins Trask, and get her on their side. They were very rich, and they were very angry, and there are ways to acquire power, especially with a Collins on your team.

And that, I am sorry to say, is the most logical explanation I can think of.

Meanwhile, right now, she’s in the ruined drawing room, thinking about the night she sang her song.

She faced the door, and Gerard was standing in the foyer, and she started to sing. And then Julia ran into the room, screaming at her, Carolyn, stop, STOP! 

The song was helping Gerard, somehow. It was feeding some story that he wanted to tell, before everything ended. She should probably feel bad about that, but it all seems so pointless, and disconnected. She stood right here, and she sang a song. So what?

“Hello?”

It makes her jump, but it shouldn’t. It’s not Gerard, he’s gone somewhere, and anyway, he doesn’t talk. That’s the only good thing about him. She takes a few steps forward, towards the doors.

The stranger looks around, at the untidy pile of lumber and stone that used to be a house. A young man, with a fuzzy mop of brown hair and deep-set eyes, and a nervous expression.

“Hello?” he repeats. “Is anyone here?”

He catches sight of Carolyn, standing in the drawing room.

“Oh,” he says. “Um. I’m sorry if I…”

He stops, and tries again. “My name is Claude North, and I’m looking for somebody.” He pauses. “What is this place?”

Eleven women fainted. There were 58 lost children, one broken arm, a broken leg, and $1,500 damage to trees and shrubs.

I wrote about the battle of Fort Wayne six years ago, back in — was it really October 2014? Dear Lord, I’ve been writing this blog for a long time. And it stuck in my head, those mysterious little characters, and I’ve never forgotten them. Those eleven unconscious women, and the 58 lost children. I’ve been carrying them with me all this time, knowing that they must add up to something.

But the broken arm, and the broken leg. I forgot about them, and I just realized that we’ve seen them, too. Kathy Cody broke her arm while she was playing Hallie. David Henesy broke his leg when he was playing David.

And now I get it: it’s all about the children.

There’s Victoria Winters, the only official orphan in the bunch, left at the Hammond Foundling Home, in midwinter 1946. But that was really young Phyllis Wick, pulled forward in time from 1775 and switched with baby Victoria, to set the trap in motion.

And Carolyn’s twin sister Charity, stolen at birth by someone who looked so familiar that everyone agreed never to talk about it again, on pain of being brained with a fireplace poker.

And little Angelique, snatched and sent back to the 1670s, and renamed Miranda, to ruin the backstory of the only legitimately well-structured storyline that Dark Shadows ever assembled in any medium.

Victoria, Phyllis, Charity and Angelique: those four lost little girls, plus Bobby Martin, of course, sent upstairs to polish his skis, never to return. And Nora Collins, who everyone forgets about, even Big Finish. And those are just the ones that we know about. There are another fifty-two lost children left to discover, strewn haphazardly around the timeline to weaken the vibratory shields between Collinsport and Keystone City.

There are lots of other players, obviously — Burke and the Brazilian witch doctor, Quentin’s great-uncle Quentin and Julianka’s grandmother Julianka, Dameon Edwards and Adam, and the woman that ate Tony Peterson. But those were part of the cover-up, and the time war that followed.

It’s so obvious now, I just couldn’t see it. All this time I’ve been trying to figure out who They are, and what They want, and it was right in front of me the whole time.

They lose children.

That is what They is for.

“I’m sorry, it’s –” He took a breath. “I’ve had these dreams… they told me to come here. That sounds crazy, I’m sorry, but — I’m looking for a man named Philip Todd. He’s important. To me. Do you know who that is?”

And Carolyn laughs, for the first time in months, and it doesn’t make her feel better at all. Her face is wet, and she’s laughing at a man she doesn’t know. “Oh, Mr. North,” she says. “You’re too late. He’s gone! Philip Todd is gone.”

Claude blinks, twice. “But you know him? You actually know a real person named Philip Todd.”

“Not anymore. He’s dead, like everyone is dead.” She gestures toward the place where the front doors used to be. “It wasn’t here, it was” – her fingers flutter – “out there, the cliffs on Widow’s Hill. Into the sea, into the rocks. My God. So many people. Everyone is dead.”

“Is there –” he says. This woman is insane, this place is insane. Maybe she’s just saying things. “I’m sorry. Is there anyone else, who might have known him?”

“Dead!” she says, “I keep telling you. Look around you! You’re probably dead too. We all are.” She waves him away. “Go the cliffs, if you want him. Maybe he’s there. I don’t know. If he’s anywhere…” She shakes her head. “Go to the cliffs.”

“Okay,” he says. “Thank you. I’ll do that.”

“Oh, and bewar!” she says, and she laughs again, and the knot in her stomach tightens. That was the first conversation that she’s had with a person in a month and a half. “Bewar, Mr. North!” she cries, as he walks away. “Bewar…”

They want us to leave those lost children, accept the fact that they’re lost, and forget all about them, like we’ve forgotten this miserable, mad Carolyn, who’s afraid to even speak her name aloud.

They is trying to destroy Dark Shadows by grabbing every character that isn’t nailed down, and shooting them off to some doomed tributary of time, where they stay, to weaken Dark Shadows and imperil us all.

And They’s dastardly plan would have worked, if not for Dr. Julian Hoffman, one of the best men in the field.

He’s been working for months in the secret library under the Eagle Hill cemetery, studying the prophecies of the eleven women from Fort Wayne, and having circular conversations with the addled quack who runs the place.

Julian is smart, and essential; he can see things happening in Maggie Evans’ blood that nobody else can explain. As the real Dr. Woodard once said, there is no such thing as a mystery in science. There’s just ignorance, and if we don’t understand something, it simply means that we don’t have the proper knowledge.

So Hoffman did what Hoffmans always do: he made the story more interesting. Julian found the dusty old books in this underground tomb of tomes, and learned about the mysterious Stopping-Off Place, where lost souls wait for all eternity, just in case something turns up.

And Dr. Julian Hoffman, armed with the proper knowledge, figured out the equations and the incantations, and then he went and ripped a goddamn hole through the universe, like the boss that he is.

Once he got to the Stopping-Off Place, he had to bribe the bellboy, of course, and one day, there will be a terrible price to pay. But it worked, and two of the lost children were found.

Well, one and a cat. But that still counts.

Claude North trudges up the walkway to the cliffs on Widows’ Hill. It’s not like he has anywhere else to go.

A year and a half ago, in the summer of ’69, the police raided a sissy bar in Greenwich Village, and the queens rioted in the street for a week. “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad,” said the headline.

“We may have lost the battle, sweets, but the war is far from over,” lisped an unofficial lady-in-waiting from the court of the Queens.

“We’ve had all we can take from the Gestapo,” the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. “We’re putting our foot down once and for all.” The foot wore a spiked heel.

That’s got nothing to do with Claude, of course. Those people are perverted and sexually confused. Claude doesn’t lisp, he doesn’t wear heels, and Greenwich Village is three hundred miles away. Still, it was around that time that he started having the dreams.

Philip Todd. A slim, good-looking man that runs an antiques shop. The man is married, to some crazy redhead woman that he doesn’t love. And they meet, somehow, in a place called Collinsport.

But Claude doesn’t like antiques, and he’s not a faggot, and there’s no reason to drive to a town he never heard of, to visit an antiques store that probably doesn’t exist, just to meet a married man who will take one look at him, and know all of his secrets, in an instant.

Meanwhile, in September 2020, the sky turned orange over Oakland, California, a deep burnt umber color. This is what it looked like outside my window, for a whole day. Oregon was burning, and a whole lot of smoke and ash blew over Oakland and just stayed here, suspended in the air, blocking out the sun and turning my beautiful, sunny city into a sci-fi dystopia.

I didn’t take this picture, but that’s a few blocks from my house, and that’s what it looked like, around 11am. I tried to take some pictures myself, but my smartphone was too smart for that. That’s not what the sky looks like, it said. That would be ridiculous. Let me filter that out for you.

Here we are, you and I, in a band of time that doesn’t quite feel real. There’s a virus burning across the world, and we don’t know how long it’ll take to stop it. The president has announced that he’ll refuse to step down, if he loses the election. Oregon is on fire, and California is perpetually on fire, and the sky is orange, and all of the movie theaters are closed, and this is not the way that things are supposed to be.

Last week, for the first time, Claude went to the sissy bar in Portland. Absolutely disgusting. The beer was flat, and the seats were dirty, and everyone looked like a tired, shifty pervert, sizing him up like fresh meat thrown to the sad, sissy lions.

But he let one of them take him home, to a cramped apartment that was dark and smelled bad. And he let the guy kiss him, this weird flickery-tongue kiss that made his skin crawl. And then he let the guy do other things, and it hurt, and it made him feel sick, and now that’s a thing that he’s never going to do again.

But it’s not like that, in the dream. Philip is gentle, and handsome, and perfect, and he smells clean. He would let Philip kiss him, if he wanted to, and everything would be different. If Philip Todd was actually a thing that existed in the waking world, then maybe he could be a part of that story.

A world where the people are the same, but they’ve made different choices. Claude could use a different choice. The choice he has right now sucks.

He looked on a map, and found out that there really is a place called Collinsport, and it wasn’t that far away. So he had two different choices for what he could do this weekend. He could kill himself, just to get that fucking taste out of his mouth. Or he could drive to Collinsport, and try to buy some antiques.

But if Dark Shadows teaches us anything, it’s that feelings are more important than reality, and wanting something enough can give you the power to travel through time, and change the past.

We all know that this world that we’re currently living in is temporary, like Carolyn in 1971. This is a story thread that didn’t end up being as productive as we hoped it would, so the Junior Detectives have gone back in time, to make it better.

The real world, the one that matters, is totally fine. We’re just in this tributary of time that they haven’t bothered to close down yet.

I’m not making this up. This is an actual thing that’s happening to you and me, right now.

There wasn’t an antiques store, of course. Nothing there at all. The whole town looks like it’s falling apart. But he saw the big house on the hill, and something felt familiar, so he decided to go there, and he met that weird woman, and she told him to go to the cliffs.

And now here he is, standing on the edge, and maybe he’s going to kill himself this weekend, after all.

The wind howls. He pulls his coat tighter. There’s no one here, of course. No reason for him to be here, either. He can’t make a friend, and he can’t make a joke, and he doesn’t know how to make anything happen.

“Um,” he says, feeling like a fucking idiot. “Philip Todd?” He’s just talking into the wind now. He clears his throat. “I’m looking for a man named Philip Todd. If anyone can hear me… I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

So our beautiful, mad Dark Shadows kaiju — Barnabas, Julia, Angelique, Quentin and Gerard — they’ve already left, they’re already working on it.

They’ve gone back in time, and they’re going to make this world right again. I’m not sure how far back into the past that they had to go, but it’s far enough, and they’re going to fix all of this nonsense, when they get around to it.

I mean, let’s face it: they’re probably going to murder some people, and say some spells, and organize a seance, and Barnabas is going to fall in love with some pretty girl. They need to meet up with someone who looks like Thayer David, and fight with someone who looks like Chris Pennock. It’s going to take them some time, because the Junior Detectives are brave and passionate and clever, but they are not very efficient.

Meanwhile, in the right now, we have our own job to do, which is to stay alive in this insane timeline, until Julia Hoffman closes it down, and replaces it with something better.

And that’s why I’m so worried about They. Dark Shadows is going to save this world, but They is trying to sabotage Dark Shadows, weakening it, and making it harder for Quentin and Gerard to save us all. That’s what They has been doing, all this time.

Because Dark Shadows isn’t just a television show. You know that, in your heart. It’s got to be something else, something bigger and more important. So we have to stick together, you and I and the rest of the lost children. We need to stay alive, and safe, and sane. They is coming. We need to win.

Claude North looks down, over the edge of the cliff, and sees the waves crashing on the rocks, and he could just step forward and make it all stop, and the only reason he doesn’t is because it’s a stupid idea and he doesn’t actually want to do it. I mean, people don’t really throw themselves off cliffs. Do they?

And then he flinches, because there’s this rip that opens up, two feet away, in midair. It was a patch of regular air a second ago, but now there’s a hole, with light coming through it. It’s like something’s tearing open the sky, which doesn’t happen. But he watches, and flinches, as the rip gets bigger, making a sound like a scream as it pushes the world aside.

And then the hole is about as big as a person, and it opens up, and a young woman steps through the gap. She’s got long brown hair piled up on her head, and she’s wearing an old-fashioned brown dress, and she’s holding a cat, nestled in her arms. A woman and a cat, with a tear in the world right behind them. 

He’s never seen her before. He’s not entirely sure that he’s seeing her now.

“Claude North?” she says, and the world turns sideways.

He looks at her. He looks at the cat. The woman nods, and reaches out a hand to gently take his arm.

“My name is Phyllis Wick,” she says, “and this is Joshua. We’re the caretakers. We’d like you to come with us, please.”

Monday: Fuck, Marry, Kill.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Today is an absolute bonanza of boom mic shots.

At the beginning of the teaser, when Carrie reaches for a chair, the boom mic can be seen overhead. You can see it again briefly when Jeremy runs to his father’s body.

At the beginning of act 1, the boom mic makes a lengthy appearance, when Jeremy moves back to Carrie. A minute later, when Jeremy asks if Mordecai said anything and Carrie turns away, you can see it again.

In the jail, when Barnabas rounds the corner, talking about how Dawson’s going to attribute Mordecai’s death to Quentin, there’s a perfect boom mic shadow on the pillar, and the mic pokes into the frame for a moment.

At the beginning of act 2, when Dawson steps forward to tell the court about Grimes’ death, the mic can be seen above him.

In act 3, the mic can be seen as Jeremy takes the stand and prepares to swear in. It lifts out of frame, and then drops back in. Later in the scene, it dips in again when Barnabas says he has no further questions.

In act 4, the mic makes another appearance as Dawson gets up to make his closing remarks. In the final scene, when the camera pulls away from the judges, the mic is visible again.

Non boom mic related:

Barnabas trips on “Has this interest ever motivated you to practicing what is known as black, the black arts?”

Dawson says that Quentin can’t deny it, and Quentin shouts, “I do deny it, and I do deny it!”

In his closing argument, Barnabas says “Yes, the defendant was the last person with the dead body of Lorna Bell.” Lorna was alive when Quentin was seen with her.

Monday: Fuck, Marry, Kill.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

31 thoughts on “Episode 1185: Meanwhile, in 1971

  1. Holy crap. Amazing post.

    I just wish the real would could be fixed by using the I Ching or a seance to send some annoying governess through time.

  2. Danny, thanks so much for posting this – especially tonight! I haven’t read tonight’s blog yet, but I so needed an escape from the debate. Dark Shadows always did provide a good escape for me!

  3. In brief: Dark Shadows is a wibbly, wobbly ball of timey-wimey… stuff?

    Which I suppose would point the finger of blame at the Time Lords rather than the Widows… and you know, I could just see the Master pulling this kind of thing. Or–are you at all familiar with Sapphire and Steel? In S&S Time itself is a malevolent entity, trying to seep through the cracks of reality and destroy things. That would make Time another perfect candidate for being “Them”!

  4. When I first read the pull quote, I thought for sure you were referring to last night’s debate. And you were, as it turned out, albeit indirectly.

    With a post this profound, it seems a little trivial to say how much I appreciate the HITCHHIKER’S reference (my god, what Douglas Adams would do with the material that 2020 would give him!), and the idea of Claude and Philip getting together (and wouldn’t that be loverly). But I did.

    I also appreciate the assertion that THEY are trying to fuck things up so royally that the whole damn house comes down around us. I can even imagine Gerard telling those undead ghouls to “stand back and stand by,” and the carnage such a statement will ultimately cause.

    But before she goes entirely insane, I want to see Carolyn beat one to death with a boom mic. Just once.

    Carolyn Stoddard 2020. She can’t be any crazier than the current occupant of that ruined house.

  5. If the CW ever gets “Dark Shadows: Reincarnation” off the ground, then let’s hope THEY (emphasis intended) won’t stop Danny from becoming the show’s principal advisor/consultant.

  6. There’s another “They” that no one talks about.

    In the Beginning, They were writers and producers.

    In the End, They became the viewers.

    Occasionally, They were the actors… like Jonathan Frid who in the end was beginning to realize that he no longer wanted to play the character that saved the show from reaching the end during the beginning.

    Also Dennis Patrick whose Jason McGuire was being considered to help fulfill the maternal link between Victoria Winters and Elizabeth Stoddard by revealing Jason as the father, except that the actor ultimately wanted out of his contract and fast.

    In the end, maybe it was just overexposure; a daytime “soap” that suddenly decided it needed to become a major motion picture – how do you go back to the farm after you’ve been to Paris?

    How many years can you keep putting Jonathan Frid on the cover of 16 Magazine? For how many years could They, the viewers, be 16?

    Like the old saying from the comics: “We have met the Enemy and They are Us.”

  7. Danny, thank you! This is a great post and terrific writing. This post transcends love of Dark Shadows and elevates the blog to something more than a collection of witty, hilarious, and obsessed observations on a TV show that ended so long ago. You somehow created a crazy framework for the craziness that is happening in the world right now. Dark Shadows was born in another chaotic time in American history, and even though there is no direct reference to the turmoil of the sixties in the show, I’ve always sensed that it did talk about it, through time-travel and monsters and even in its frantic and haphazard production schedule! I wrote a treatment for the pilot of a series about just that–how Dark Shadows (or a soap very much like it) got made and how it affected its actors, young and old.

    There was an older Canadian actor who got beat up by gay-bashers one time too many, and was about to quit New York when his agent offered him a silly part in a soap. There was a young woman who was working in a sex-based club, wearing a bunny costume, to make the rent. She puts up with sexual harassment and endless rejections, until she gets a barmaid part on a dying soap. There was a former movie star who was battling alcoholism and the ghosts of her past, while dealing with made-up ghosts on the soap opera job she despises. And there was the son of a longshoreman who wanted to be an actor. He gets the part of a thug turned into a vampire’s slave, and shows the world that he’s a really good actor by giving this nothing character a soul and conscience.

    Sadly, I don’t think I could pitch this to anyone without getting sued.

    Sorry, I got distracted–you’ve given so many people pleasure with this blog. I hope you turn it into a book! Thank you.

  8. Wow! I love every bit of it. Like this bit, for example:

    “No reason for him to be here, either. He can’t make a friend, and he can’t make a joke, and he doesn’t know how to make anything happen.”

  9. I think this is (now) my favorite blog entry in the series, Danny. I absolutely love it. As a viewer, I kept thinking about Liz, Roger, Carolyn, David, and Maggie once the 1840 saga began. As I’ve stated too many times to count, I so resented Dan Curtis and the writers for not giving the show proper closure when it was canceled.

  10. Been listening to some early Dark Shadows Festival tapes from the mid-1980s, and Ron Sproat addressed the issue of closure — though he had left in 1969, he mentioned that he still kept in touch with “Gordie”. When asked about possibly returning to earlier story points left dangling back in January and February of ’71, Sproat says they just decided to wrap it up as best they could — which, presumably, means just putting the finishing touches on the one story they still had going, parallel time 1841. Sproat adds that they didn’t get much notice about the cancellation — kind of ironic since toward the end the ratings were starting to inch back up.

    Ron Sproat spoke of his time as a writer on Never Too Young, which preceded Dark Shadows for almost a year in the 4 pm EST time slot, and how they tried to fight off impending cancellation by, for the final episode, having one of the characters commit suicide on one side of the door while her husband or boyfriend was on the other side banging away trying to get in, with the hope that viewer outrage could be used to “demand that it be kept on the air”.

    Kind of like what they did with the last episode of Peyton Place, with Dr. Rossi being led to his jail cell after the court decided that his murder charge (?!) would be bound over for trial.

    To fight off cancellation in those days, you had to be inventive. The concept of story resolution and closure for a television series wasn’t even invented until August 1967 for the 2-part finale of The Fugitive — but that was big-budget prime time.

    Sproat also told of Dan’s involvement in the show during the high point of Dark Shadows, how “he would live in his office” and how one particular writers’ meeting in Dan’s office lasted 52 hours straight. At the end of the show’s run, though, Sproat says that “Dan just washed his hands of the whole thing, and may have felt that it had gotten terribly complicated, and that it was hard to plot and he was going after more and more action. When it was cancelled, he lost all interest in the show, entirely.”

    It seems that working on Dark Shadows, you just never knew how things would turn out, especially in terms of planning out a time frame for the show to follow regardless of whether the threat of cancellation was looming. According to Ron Sproat, 1795 was only supposed to have lasted 2 weeks.

    1. The soap finale I always remember the most was “Capitol.” The producers/writers were furious at being canceled as they saw it just to give room on the schedule for Bill Bell space to build a soap with his kids. (I think that was pretty accurate, but who knows.) Anyway they went way out of their way to amp up plots toward the end leaving every single one of them on a huge primetime season ender level cliffhanger to pay everyone back. (I’ll never getting over whether Sloan was shot or not.)

    2. The ultimate Dark Shadows tragedy – that Dan Curtis moved on.
      too bad he couldn’t have passed the show on to some other hot blooded producer who would willingly devote 52 hours to brain storming in a writers’ meeting.

  11. The concept of story resolution and closure for a television series wasn’t even invented until August 1967 for the 2-part finale of The Fugitive — but that was big-budget prime time.

    Those may be “alternative facts.”

    There was story resolution and closure for the sitcom “Hank” when it ended in 1966

    There was story resolution and closure for “The Dick Van Dyke Show” when it ended in 1966

    “The Ruggles” family sitcom ended in 1952 with the daughter getting married and moving out of the house, providing story resolution and closure after three seasons.

    1. Those were sitcoms rather than serial dramas, and The Fugitive was indeed the first time a series finale was marketed as such as a special event unto itself:

      “Fifty years ago, the television finale was invented.”
      — Ron Simon, Curator of Television and Radio at the Paley Center for Media

      https://paleymatters.org/the-fugitive-series-finale-made-tv-history-e009309e2f96

      Besides, I’m not so sure The Dick Van Dyke Show actually ended. I hear Laura Petrie divorced Rob, changed her name, and moved to Minneapolis to work in a TV newsroom.

      1. Ah, well, if you add the additional criteria of ‘not = sitcom,’ then the Fugitive is the earliest TV series I can think of (at the moment) with closure and resolution.

        “Fifty years ago, the television finale was invented.”
        — Ron Simon, Curator of Television and Radio at the Paley Center for Media

        Bewar of pop culture historians (or anyone else) claiming that something was ‘the first’ or ‘ the only.’ That claim guarantees 99.9% of the time that there was an earlier or additional example.

        1. I’m sure one doesn’t get to become the “Curator of Television and Radio at the Paley Center for Media” without knowing one’s stuff.

          Whether or not The Fugitive actually was the first to provide closure and resolution is really beside the point, given that it was the first television finale that really mattered, setting the tone for all those to follow — not to mention the record-setting ratings, which amounted to a watershed cultural moment for a heroic brand of television character that in itself was deeply resonant with viewers at the time.

          So, yes, if such an event is influential enough to change how the industry approaches its content, then it deserves to be considered as an innovator, and it is therefore not at all untrue to say that “The Fugitive invented the television finale.”

          Same as acknowledging that the Beatles weren’t truly the first British band to crack the American charts, but they were the first to really make it count.

          And in terms of sheer numbers, The Fugitive on August 29, 1967 was an even bigger television event than the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

  12. As a fan of both Dark Shadows and comic books, this post was wonderfully resonant! I loved it.

    The Terrible Time Tailors have nothing on the Sinister Story Seamstresses.

  13. I’ll suggest that anyone who hasn’t should go back into the archives and read
    Episode 960: Time and Temperature
    which (to me, anyway) has a similar feel to this entry.
    As always, marvelous work, Danny. Bloody marvelous.

    1. ok, John E Comelately (come ’round again), i went and did. and you were so right. the wondrous genre he’s breathing into existence, ’twas berthed, being birthed, there too. i think it springs in that ever present observance, in the waked up of being there. (shrug. * sigh *) and then he says, “Sometimes it feels like something shocking happens every twenty-two minutes” and i laugh out loud all over again.

        1. thank you. somehow it slipped by me, all the steps you’ve constructed on your staircase, each one rippling its heartstrings; a riveting and living, transcendent lot. and yet, withal, this new one is made of wings. i feel i must gently reiterate, whatever genre you’re breathing into existence is, please take its wonders farther.

  14. Wow. This post was amazing. Is it possible to hug a blog, or hoist it upon one’s shoulders for everyone to see??

    Because I would like to do just that.

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