“Be cautious with it! We don’t want a string of strange deaths in our group.”
But it’s the age old story, isn’t it? Man comes into contact with something other — something beyond our grasp, beyond understanding, beyond words — and it changes us, occasionally for the better. And we take that encounter, and we turn it into story.
I mean, not this story, obviously. This story is insane. You know how Joseph Campbell and the Mythkateers say that all mythic narratives are just variations on a single great story? Yeah. This is one of the exceptions.
But even the strangest sound has an echo, and here, in the midst of the ragged and unruly Leviathan tale clattering across our screens in double-time, we can reach out and grab hold of another story that’s following a similarly erratic track.
There is another story where Barnabas very gradually fights an otherworldly menace, where Quentin appears and disappears with little consequence, where Maggie experiences carefully controlled doses of mild peril, and where an upsetting reptile pulls the strings, and makes the puppets dance.
This is a story that our people tell. We call it Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse.
Continue reading Episode 946: Universal Monsters
“Barnabas never ceases to be exciting.”
My husband opens the doors to the drawing room, and finds me deep in thought, puzzling over an old book. I’m reading carefully, and transcribing some of the more difficult passages.
As he makes his way to the drinks cabinet, he asks, “Is that for the blog?” I tell him it is, and I show him the cover. He asks why I’m writing about this now, and I say that the book just came out.
“But that looks old,” he says.
“Yeah, it just came out.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m in January 1970. This was published in December 1969.”
“Oh, I see,” he says. “You were meanwhiling.” This is why our marriage works.
Continue reading Episode 922: To My Fans, the Audience
“When you were putting Miss Balfour’s room to rights, did you find a dead snake on her dresser?”
Shadows of the night, falling silently. “Quentin’s Theme” is steadily climbing the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and pretty soon everyone’s going to be humming that tune, whether they want to or not. In this world that we know now, Quentin Collins is a bona fide Dark Shadows phenomenon, with a hit record and everything.
And this phantom melody is even starting to intrude on the hazy parallel world of the Paperback Library gothic romance novels. This peculiar line of spinoff books has been spinning its own cracked version of Dark Shadows for several years now, first chronicling the adventures of an ersatz Victoria Winters, and then tumbling head over heels for Barnabas Collins.
We last checked in with the Paperback Library four months ago to read Barnabas Collins vs the Warlock — the 11th novel in the series, and the sixth to feature Barnabas. By that point, the PBL was following clear editorial guidelines that the greatest human being who ever lived is named Barnabas Collins, and everybody else can go to hell. His only flaw is that his hands are cold, and hands are not everything.
But even the Paperback Library can’t ignore Quentin forever. They can ignore consistency and common sense and the limits of human patience, but Quentin Collins requires a response.
Continue reading Episode 782: Don’t Leave Home
“It is strange, isn’t it, how suddenly the swamp seems to be playing a leading and sinister role in the affairs of Collinwood?”
Let us speak, then, of Barnabas Collins Versus the Warlock.
It’s book #11 in Paperback Library’s long, strange line of Dark Shadows-inspired novels, and it’s the first one in a while that actually takes inspiration from the show in any meaningful way.
In this book, governess Maggie Evans has to save her young charges, David Collins and Amy Jennings, as they — more or less — fall under the influence of an evil phantom that stalks the halls of Collinwood. It’s complicated.
Continue reading Episode 692: The New Mischief
“They live in a cemetery.”
I’m away this week, because I need to spend some time standing in a cemetery and yelling at Julia to hear my voice, which is echoing through the centuries. But I don’t want to leave you with nothing to do just because I’m off time traveling, so here’s the final day of extracts from Paperback Library’s death-defying attempt to write 91 pages of vampire jokes without the use of a sense of humor.
Continue reading X5: Why Did Barnabas Sell Fangs for a Dollar?
“He’s the one who made the raven rave.”
I’m away this week, probably in Bangor or Boston or someplace. But if I leave you alone for too long, you’ll probably invite clumsy occult experts over and let them wander about the house, waving their hands in the air and talking about the letter M.
So in lieu of actual episode posts this week, I’m filling in with selections from Paperback Library’s novelty joke book, Barnabas Collins In a Funny Vein.
Continue reading X4: Does Barnabas Ever Drink Milk?
“Barnabas’ sheets are made of…”
I’m away this week, but I don’t want you to think that I’m dead, so I’ve prepared some posts in advance. Please do not bury me alive. Or if you do, at least put me in an open casket with a little doorbell next to my hand, just in case I want something.
But honestly, I would prefer it if you just didn’t think I was dead at all. Is that really too much to ask?
Continue reading X3: What Does Barnabas Use in His Coffee?
“Because that’s where the blood is.”
I’m out of the country this week — it’s one of those “He dropped out of school, alienated all of his friends, started going off to the mountains for weeks at a time” type situations. But if I leave you all alone, you’ll wander off to the west wing and start talking into broken telephones, so instead I’m going to leave you with selections from the February 1969 Paperback Library effort, Barnabas Collins In a Funny Vein.
My theory is that this is better than nothing. That theory is looking pretty shaky already.
Continue reading X2: Why Did Barnabas Become a Vampire?
“Dig the groovy new humor craze that’s sweeping the country!”
I have to take a week off, I’m afraid, because I’m out of town at a conference. Plus, I’ve finally moved past the “writing about Ron Sproat” phase of my life, so it’s a good time to take a moment and reflect.
But I can’t just leave you with nothing to read all week, so instead of episodes, I’m going to post excerpts from Barnabas Collins In a Funny Vein. Allow me to explain.
Continue reading X1: What Does Barnabas Say After He Bites a Girl?
“It is tragic that your Greta is so deformed, for she really could play the role of Josette to perfection.”
It’s a Ron Sproat script today, which means that Carolyn’s still stuck in the root cellar, and so are we. So I’m going to invoke my executive privilege to ignore a filler episode, and talk about something else instead.
It’s time to start looking at the Dark Shadows merchandise, because this is the period where it becomes a real factor in the audience’s experience of the show. While this episode was being taped, Jonathan Frid was on a completely insane ten-city publicity tour, where he was besieged by literally thousands of screaming teenagers who were desperate to get closer to Barnabas, and the show. Recognizing that these kids have allowances, ABC started to tap into that market, with some success.
The first piece of Barnabas-related merchandise was released in May 1968, just in time for the publicity tour. It’s a 155-page book called The Curse of Collinwood, and it’s the fifth in the series of Dark Shadows-inspired romance novels published by Paperback Library. The Curse of Collinwood has a picture of Barnabas on the cover, and it sells spectacularly well.
Unfortunately, Barnabas isn’t actually in The Curse of Collinwood, which is about Vicki and therefore not worth discussing, so we’re going to talk about the next book instead.
Continue reading Episode 504: The Ladykiller