Category Archives: September 1969

Episode 847: … And Carry On

“Having Charity Trask drive a stake through his heart was a stroke of genius.”

They say that the DEATH card in the Tarot deck doesn’t really mean death — not the actual literal physical death, as in: this card means that you’re going to die. In the deck, Tarot enthusiasts say, DEATH is sort of a generalized shorthand for change, or transition, or the end of something old, which brings new life in the spring. DEATH means quitting your job, or ending a relationship, or selling your couch. Or changing your mind. It’s a metaphor. DEATH is a magazine subscription about to expire, or finally dropping that karate class you never go to. DEATH is giving up on the idea that Joss Whedon will ever make another decent television show. DEATH is running out of coffee, but Starbucks is closed, because there was a gas leak and all the baristas died. Wait, that’s a bad example.

They’re wrong, of course; Tarot people are idiots. DEATH means death. You know what death is; it’s the thing that you mean when you say the word death. If you’re talking to someone who’s passionately explaining why death isn’t really death, you should probably remove sharp objects from their immediate vicinity, just in case they want to demonstrate.

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Episode 846: Plan Meets World

“I have powers, I guess. I didn’t used to have, but I do now.”

On Friday afternoon, fluorescent floozy Charity Trask followed Quentin along the shoreline, until he entered a cave. She waited until he left, and then investigated the cave herself — and discovered the coffin of fugitive vampire Barnabas Collins, asleep and unprotected.

Picking up the hammer and stake that Quentin had conveniently dropped on the ground, Charity opened the coffin, and stared at the unholy ghoul who’d killed the only man she’d ever truly loved. And then she got down to business, hammering the stake through the creature’s heart, and putting an end to him once and for all.

As Monday’s episode opens, she staggers into the Blue Whale, vaguely traumatized and entirely thirsty.

“I done it,” she moans, a single tear trailing down her heavily rouged cheek, and then she bangs on the bar. “I need a drink!”

Tim Shaw, doing some work at a nearby table, suggests, “Why don’t you try getting some sleep instead? You can’t carry the party on indefinitely, you know.”

“Party!” Charity giggles, cuddling a bottle of bourbon. “It wasn’t no party, luv, believe me!” And then she laughs and laughs, until she collapses into sobs, and never recovers.

So: Mondays, huh? I guess they’re tough on everyone.

Continue reading Episode 846: Plan Meets World

Episode 845: Barnabas Collins Must Die

“I just can’t remember all the reasons why we should get rid of the vampire.”

Well, here we go again. Vampire fugitive Barnabas Collins — on the run, and spending his days sleeping in a cave, apparently — pirouettes into his secret headquarters at the old rectory, and tells his friend Julia — who has recently channeled the zeitgeist in order to travel back in time and help him — that they have to change their plans to defeat the mad old wizard who’s threatening the future of the Collins family, and all of the people that he loves. Why? Because he just ran into somebody who reminds him of Josette. That’s why.

It’s maddening, and just imagine how Julia feels. She came all the way here from the 20th century for this. Barnabas is the one who convinced her that they need to stay in this time so they can counter the wicked Count Petofi, and now, quelle surprise, he’s going off-script.

He was just out rambling around in the woods, like he shouldn’t be, when all of a sudden who should come along but Lady Hampshire, a brand-new character who’s played by the same actress that played his long-lost love a couple years ago, and therefore she is the actual reincarnation of Josette, according to rules that only seem to apply to this specific instance. And you know how Barnabas gets, when he thinks he’s found a reincarnation. This is his third consecutive swing at that particular plot-point piñata, and it’ll probably end the same way, with gunfire.

You know, I’m starting to see Count Petofi’s point. Barnabas Collins must die.

Continue reading Episode 845: Barnabas Collins Must Die

Episode 844: Those Meddling Adults

“I must go. I have a feeling that there are evil forces at large tonight.”

As you know, it’s September 1969, and our vampire soap opera is reaching the peak of its popularity. After school, the kids all hurry home to check in with Collinwood, and find out what the vampires and witches and mad scientists are up to. Dark Shadows owns Mondays through Fridays — but on Saturday mornings, where we least expected it, a new creature is born. It has five heads and twelve legs, and it will run forever.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is an occult-tinged mystery-adventure cartoon sitcom about four hep teens and a talking Great Dane, who travel around the country in a van called the Mystery Machine. Each week, they visit one desolate tourist attraction after another — an abandoned circus, a deserted mansion, an old marina or a haunted hunting lodge — where they inevitably find a ghost, a witch, a Frankenstein, a phantom (which is a kind of ghost), a mummy, a zombie, a killer robot, or a snow ghost (which is also a kind of ghost).

The monsters are thrilling, but they aren’t real; the creature is always caught at the end of the episode and unmasked, revealing that they’re actually someone that the teens already know. This is a comforting, rational world, where there’s no such thing as a monster — there’s just your Uncle Stuart, or that nice archaeologist, or the curator of a local museum, and they’re dressing up as monsters because they’re committing a crime, and they want to murder you.

On Dark Shadows, of course, there are actual monsters, and the real mystery machine is the television, which is broadcasting directly at a defenseless audience of housewives and children with twenty-two minutes a day of black magic and werewolf attacks. For the last two and a half years, we’ve been asking the question, “How did they get away with this?” The answer, as far as I can figure, is that nobody actually cared. Everyone thought that Dark Shadows was perfectly acceptable children’s television; that’s why they made trading cards and View-Master reels and joke books.

But as summer wanes, that begins to change. The fall of 1969 is where we start asking the flip side of that question, namely: How did they stop getting away with it?

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Episode 843: I Can Make You a Man

“I am puzzled by the meaning of shadows.”

Yeah, it happened to me, too — that weird summer, when everything that I drew on a sketchpad came to life.

I remember how it started: I was drawing a picture of a Chinese funerary urn, kind of squat stoneware with an olive green glaze, maybe 3rd century, Western Jin dynasty, with a balcony of molded figures around the rim, like a tortoise supporting a memorial stone, some bears and monkeys and immortals riding dragons, plus a row of Buddhas sitting in meditative postures on thrones surrounded by lotus petals — you know, just doodling — and all of a sudden, I look up, and there it is on the table.

Seriously. The funerary urn that I’d scribbled on the drawing pad. It was right there, just like I drew it — bears, Buddhas, Western Jin, the whole shebang.

Well, I was stunned, obviously. I didn’t think it was possible. I had to see if it would happen again, so I drew another funerary urn — this time with more bears on it, just to make sure — and when I looked up, there they were. The two urns that I’d sketched, three-dimensional and big as life.

Naturally, after a while, I got tired of funerary urns — I probably had about three dozen by that point, and things were getting cluttered around the house — and I figured maybe I should try and draw something else.

So I drew a guy. And then there he was, in the room with me: a new man. Maybe five foot nine, brown eyes, dark skin, one ear a little bigger than the other. Not really up on current events. I mean, you know what human beings are like. He was one of those.

He turned out to be a nice guy. A lot of birthdays to catch up on, obviously, so I had to scrounge up some last-minute presents. I was hoping he would take some of these funerary urns off my hands, but no dice. Getting him a social security number was a hassle, too.

After a while, we kind of lost touch. You know how it is sometimes, you drift apart. God, I haven’t thought about him in forever. I wonder how he’s doing.

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Episode 842: Graduation Day

“Does he even know you are not, shall we say, an ordinary being?”

So once again the bat/man arrives on the scene, for a last-minute rescue. The supervillain has kidnapped Barnabas’ time-tossed best friend, and locked her away in a secret chamber hidden in the old mill. She’s bound to a chair with her mouth gagged, looking straight down the barrel of a revolver. There’s a string tied between the doorknob and the gun’s trigger, so that whoever opens the door becomes Julia’s executioner.

And how does Barnabas save his friend from this diabolical trap? Well, he doesn’t, obviously. He just opens the door, and the gun fires, and Julia dies. Duh. This is Barnabas Collins. He fails at everything.

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Episode 841: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

“He revels in every form of torture and bloodshed known to the mind of man!”

“It’s the third one,” says Dr. Julia Hoffman — blood specialist, hypnotherapist and the world’s most adaptable person. “The Kun hexagram.”

“What does it signify?” her captor asks, and Julia consults the reference material.

Julia’s flipped back in time to the late 19th century, where she’s currently assisting mad god Count Petofi, the Butcher of Ozhden, as he attempts to bend space and time to his implacable will. He needs to take his legendary magical hand to the far-off space year of 1969, and he’s going to use the I Ching, a Chinese divination technique that he has no prior experience with. So now he’s casting the I Ching wands, and Julia is looking in her Junior Woodchucks guidebook to see which of the 64 hexagrams he’s laid out on the table.

She’s doing this under duress, if that helps. Julia does a lot of things under a lot of things.

“There will be great progress and success,” she reads, and Petofi’s face lights up. “The character Kun shows how a plant struggles, with difficulty, out of the earth, gradually rising above the surface.” Petofi is utterly thrilled, but there’s more.

“The top line is divided,” Julia warns. “The horses of the chariot are obliged to retreat. There are weeping tears of blood.”

Petofi grabs the book out of her hands, and snarls, “I will hear no more!” Then he sits down in front of the hexagram, meditating furiously.

Now, this is where Count Petofi and I part ways. If it was me, the weeping tears of blood would give me pause. But what do I know, I don’t even have a legendary magical hand. I just have regular default hands. I didn’t even know magical hand was an option.

Continue reading Episode 841: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

Episode 840: The Grown-Ups

“What could there possibly be new about falling in love?”

At this point, Count Petofi has just about had it. All he wants to do is get away from this crummy burg, with his legendary magical hand still attached at the wrist. He’s tired of being stalked by aggravating gypsies who shake tambourines and threaten him with scimitars, and he wants a ticket out.

He happens to know that Barnabas has the ability to travel forward in time to 1969, and if Petofi can tag along, it would give him a nice seventy-two year cushion when maybe the gypsies could calm the hell down. But Barnabas insists that he doesn’t know how to travel in time, despite the fact that he absolutely does know and I have no idea why he keeps saying that he doesn’t.

And now one of Barnabas’ friends pops up — having traveled exactly through time, thank you very much, like she can obviously do — and she still won’t tell Petofi how it works. I mean, at a certain point, they’re just being dicks about it.

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Episode 839: The Gods Laugh Sometimes

“It’s all right. You’re here with us, in the past.”

Good news, everyone! Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has pulled off another daring rescue mission, reaching all the way back into the late 19th century, to prevent angry ancestor Quentin from turning into a broken telephone. This heroic customer service call lasted six months, with time out to pick fights with grandmothers and fire demons and lawyers and crazy ex-girlfriends. Naturally, it all came down to a miraculous last-second save, which Barnabas had nothing to do with and doesn’t even know about yet.

Quentin has passed through the ill-fated tenth of September and come out the other side, releasing the Collins family of 1969 from his terrible vengeance. Today is the first day of the rest of his life, which means we can all go home and celebrate by moving back into Collinwood, and finding a new monster to tangle with.

Except we’re not going to, because the 1897 storyline is so much fun that we’re going to stick around for weeks. So now we have to face the question that always haunts long-running serialized narrative, namely: What happens to a story, when the story is over?

Continue reading Episode 839: The Gods Laugh Sometimes