The original soap opera series Dark Shadows was the conceptual idea of TV producer, Dan Curtis. This cult classic ran from 1966-1971. The story centered on the Collins’ family, founders of the sleepy town of Collinsport, Maine, and the preternatural happenings around their estate home of Collinwood.
Dark Shadows’ first episodes introduced the Collins family to afternoon viewers and centered around the arrival of Victoria Winters, newly hired governess to David Collins, and the mysterious Burke Devlin. Although the show got off to a slow start, Dark Shadows was eventually watched faithfully every week by millions of devotees who just could not get enough of the highly addictive show during its run on ABC.
The series opens by introducing the Collins family matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, who for, as yet unknown reasons, has not left Collinwood in over 18 years. Her brother, Roger, her 18 year old daughter Carolyn, and Roger’s 9 year old son David, all inhabit the estate. The first show has the family awaiting the arrival of Victoria, an orphan girl who no one seems to know anything about. Victoria has accepted the job at Collinwood in hopes of finding clues as to her unknown past.
The beginning year of Dark shadows started out as a gothic soap opera, complete with mysterious noises in Collinwood, the appearance of ghosts, in addition to the attempted murder of Roger Collins and the murder of Bill Malloy, the manager of Collins Enterprises. This storyline ended up with the destruction of the Phoenix, Laura Collins, wife to Roger and mother of David.
By episode 210, con man Willie Loomis unintentionally releases a vampire from a chained coffin and we finally have the long awaited arrival of Barnabas Collins. When Barnabas shows up at Collinwood, everyone is surprised he looks identical to the portrait hanging in the foyer, everyone except Barnabas; after all, Barnabas knows that he is the person in the portrait. Through the course of the 1795 storyline, we learn the origins of the Collins family and how Barnabas ended up as a vampire.
Although the vampire was a major draw for the series, most of the Dark Shadows fans tuned in every day for the many plot twists and ghostly warnings. Viewers were left hanging on the edge of their seat, anxiously awaiting the next leap into the past or twirl into parallel time. The draw was waiting to see what would happen next.
The supernatural has always been a fascinating subject and it is not surprising that stories of vampires, witches, werewolves and ghosts have been around to entertain us on television for decades. Dark Shadows was the first such show, predecessor or today’s shows that continue to tantalize our generation. If not for Dark Shadows, we most likely would not have any of the beloved vampires of the day, such as Damon and Stephan on the Vampire Diaries or Bill and Eric on True Blood. Barnabas Collins was the vampire that started it all.
This year marks the 48th anniversary of Dark Shadows and the fandom continues to grow. There are Dark Shadows Festivals and Weekends, Dark Shadows Cruises, and Dark Shadows websites and podcasts. Social media is heavy populated with Dark Shadows fans, both new and old. Grandparents are now enjoying the show of their youth with their grandchildren and a new generation of Dark Shadows fans is being born.
Long live Dark Shadows!