Category Archives: December 1968

657 dark shadows mrs johnson unpacked

Episode 657: The Unpacking

“I still can’t understand it. About the clothes, I mean.”

There’s a long and depressing history of make-believe ghosts in American culture, going back to the late 1840s, when the Fox sisters discovered that they could convince people that ghosts were speaking to them by cracking the joints in their toes. The Fox sisters’ toes, I mean, not the ghosts’ toes. Ghosts don’t have toes. At least, I’ve never heard that they do. Look, it’s not important whether ghosts have toes.

The point is that David and Amy are currently trying to convince the Collinwood domestic staff that there’s a ghost in the house, by committing the most confusing version of spiritualist fraud in haunted house history.

The kids actually have made contact with a real ghost — the spirit of Quentin, a Collins ancestor who wants revenge on the familiy for locking him in a room 70 years ago and letting him starve to death. The angry specter has possessed the children, and he’s using them to further his evil ends, whatever they are.

Meanwhile, Barnabas and Maggie want to take the kids on a trip to Boston, for reasons that I’ll get into later. Quentin is furious, because the children are key to his long-term revenge plan, so David and Amy have to figure out a way to convince everyone to let them stay at Collwinood.

The kids solve this problem by pretending that there’s a different spirit in the house — ghost governess Victoria Winters, who disappeared into the past several weeks ago. So the real ghost in the house is telling the kids to pretend that there’s a make-believe ghost in the house, although it turns out that maybe the make-believe ghost might actually be real too.

Let me see if I can find another way to explain this. Nope, I can’t. That’s what’s happening on the show today. Sorry.

Continue reading Episode 657: The Unpacking

656 dark shadows david amy spooky kid

Episode 656: Unspooky

“No human hand has touched these clothes since I took them away.”

Okay, the Ron Sproat script countdown continues; we are currently at nine episodes and holding.

Sproat, if you haven’t read my other posts on the subject, is the third-best out of three on the Dark Shadows writing team, and he and I have been engaged in a tense standoff since April 1967. He’s got one month left until he leaves the show, and it’s going to come down to the wire on which of us is going to crack first.

Now, I’m going to write today’s post as if there’s somebody out there who still likes it when I spend the entire day complaining about Ron Sproat and his terrible scripts. “Oh, boy,” this make-believe person might say, passing by in a hot-air balloon. “These are my very favorites. I shall read today’s entry with particular relish.”

But now that I’ve written that down, it doesn’t sound super likely. I mean, does anyone even talk like that? And why a hot-air balloon?

Continue reading Episode 656: Unspooky

655 dark shadows liz lie to her

Episode 655: Accidentally Yours

“If she realizes that her feelings were right about Amy, what about her feelings about herself?”

Weekly To-Do list, from the Desk of Barnabas Collins (deceased):

Tell Elizabeth that she’s not going to die. Take her upstairs, and put her to bed. Take a phone message for Julia. Consult with Julia about Liz’s condition. Blame Cassandra for everything.

Lose track of where Elizabeth is. Lose track of where Amy is. Find Elizabeth and Amy at the mausoleum. Bring them home.

Put Elizabeth back to bed. Tell her that she’s not going to die. Offer a sedative. Tell her that it’s all in her mind. Discuss hiring plans for a new governess. Scold Amy for going outside without permission.

Brief Maggie and Joe on the recent disturbances. Bring Maggie upstairs for her job interview. Go through the onboarding checklist with her. Make sure she has a keycard.

Drive to Maggie’s house to see if Joe’s okay. Scoop up the remains, and drive it back to Collinwood. Deposit blood-stained trauma victim on the drawing room couch.

Insist that Joe stay the night. Prepare a bedroom for him. If you get a chance: ask him what it’s like to have a real storyline.

Continue reading Episode 655: Accidentally Yours

652 dark shadows amy moon header

Episode 652/653: Kill the Moon

“It was the moon! I’m afraid of the moon, Barnabas, and I don’t know why!”

We’re in the dying days of the Great 1968 Wrap-Up, when all of the year’s dangling plot threads are finally resolved, and we can move on with our lives. Today’s episode aired on Christmas Eve 1968, and there’s just a couple more shoes to drop before the clock strikes midnight and we start a new year.

One of the last remaining storylines is the curse that Cassandra put on Elizabeth in a fit of pique, condemning her to do nothing but ruminate obsessively about her own death. This is an incidental story thread that’s been dragging on for more than six months, and for a while it seemed like they might forget all about it. But now Cassandra’s revenge is back with a vengeance, and we’re just going to have to deal with it.

When we left Liz yesterday, she’d wandered out of the house and walked to the graveyard, where she collapsed and pretended that she was dead for a minute. Barnabas went out to retrieve her, and now he’s scooped her up and brought her back home.

The interesting thing, as we close up these remaining story threads, is that Barnabas now appears to be in charge of everything. Liz’s collapse has left Collinwood with a bit of a power vacuum — Roger’s away on business, Vicki’s run off with her husband, and Carolyn has stepped off screen and won’t be back unti Friday. So Barnabas steps in, spending all of his time this week just fussing around and taking care of everybody.

This may be the point in the show when Barnabas the serial killer turns into the redeemed character that people remember — a cross between kindly uncle, butler and babysitter.

Continue reading Episode 652/653: Kill the Moon

651 dark shadows chris pills

Episode 651: Mother’s Little Helper

“Are there dead people in that building?”

Well, there she goes again. Girl governess Victoria Winters has vacated the premises, dashing off to the 18th century to set a world record for the number of times you can get yourself hanged. She was ashes, she was memory, she was a dream that never came true, and there’s a very good chance that she just created an alternate timeline where Dan Curtis had a dream about Phyllis Wick.

Winner and still protagonist Barnabas Collins and perpetual runner-up Liz Stoddard were live on the scene when Vicki clicked her heels three times and fell backward into the time vortex. Now they’re standing around in the drawing room, trying to process the unprocessable.

“It’s beyond our understanding,” Liz says, “like death.”

Oh, great. Here we go.

“We don’t understand death, do we?” she continues. “Because we can’t. We can only wait for it, knowing it will reach out for us, when it’s ready.”

Yup, that tears it; she’s gone all gloomy again. This is why they never did a blockbuster remake of the Elizabeth Stoddard story.

Continue reading Episode 651: Mother’s Little Helper

x5 peter waving

X5: That Troublesome Problem

“Isn’t it possible that Vicki is her own descendant?”

I’m taking a week off, so that I can concentrate on vengeance, and nothing else. But I don’t want to abandon you completely, because I know what it’s like to feel alone. I’m a Dark Shadows fan too.

So this week, I’ve been posting snippets from The World of Dark Shadows, a fanzine that was very important to me in the 80s and 90s. My favorite part of the magazine was the Collinsport Debating Society, where fans asked open-ended questions about the characters or the storylines, and then everybody speculated. It’s basically what people do now in forums, except it was way, way slower. That means the writers had more time to think about their response, and the readers had more time to wonder what the hell they were talking about.

Today, I’m going to share some excerpts from the Collinsport Debating Society. I haven’t asked anybody for permission, so I hope nobody minds, and here it is.

Continue reading X5: That Troublesome Problem

x4 collinwood header

X4: An Uncertain and Frightening Journey

“This is a time of suspicion, a time when the past seems to penetrate the walls of Collinwood.”

I’m taking the week off so that I can test-drive some exciting new sedatives, but I don’t want to leave you unsupervised all week. You might get up to all kinds of mischief, who even knows. So I’ll tide you over with some strange bits of business that would never fit in a regular post.

Today, let’s talk about Markov chains. Andrey Markov was a Russian mathematician in the late 19th century, who came up with a way to describe systems with no memory — where the next thing that happens is only dependent on the current state, rather than what happened in the past.

You figure out how often the process moves from A to B, compared to when it goes from A to C, and then you can use probability to generate a “Markov chain” — a sample run-through of the process. This is useful in math, and physics, and other smart-people areas.

An amusing but not at all useful application of this idea is a Markov chain text generator. You can put a whole bunch of sentences into the generator — like, for example, the opening narrations for Dark Shadows episodes. Then the generator starts with a random word from the input text, and calculates what word is most likely to come next. Then it does the same with the next word, and so on. You end up with text that sounds like the original, but doesn’t actually mean anything.

So I’m going to input every opening narration from episode 210 through 650 into the Markov generator, to see if we can discover the perfect Dark Shadows introduction. Here we go.

Continue reading X4: An Uncertain and Frightening Journey

x3 julia reads book header

X3: Barnabas Collins and the Poetry Slam

“As you lovingly bite my neck, your fangs sink ever deeper.”

Wednesday falls over the great house at Collinwood, and I’m still taking a week off so that I can polish my harpoon collection. So I’m going to post some interesting selections from The World of Dark Shadows, and then hypnotize you into thinking that counts as today’s blog entry.

By the way, did you ever try to find the exact center of a piece of fine crystal? Let the colors flow past you. Keep searching for the center. Yeah, that’ll do.

Continue reading X3: Barnabas Collins and the Poetry Slam

651 x2 dark shadows julia words

X2: Everything That Julia Says in Episode 361, in Alphabetical Order

“mausoleum mausoleum mausolem maybe”

Sadly, I have to take this week off, because I’m going to Barbados to learn the secret magic number of the universe. But I don’t want to shatter the ancient truce between the readers and the blog, so I’m filling in with some odds and ends that wouldn’t fit in a regular post.

This would be one of the odd ones.

Continue reading X2: Everything That Julia Says in Episode 361, in Alphabetical Order