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Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows is an American Gothic soap opera that originally aired weekdays on the ABC television network, from June 27, 1966, to April 2, 1971. The show depicted the lives, loves, trials and tribulations of the wealthy Collins family of Collinsport, Maine, where a number of supernatural occurrences take place.

The series became popular when vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) appeared ten months into its run. Dark Shadows also featured ghosts, werewolves, zombies, man-made monsters, witches, warlocks, time travel, and a parallel universe. A small company of actors each played many roles; as actors came and went, some characters were played by more than one actor.

Dark Shadows was distinguished by its vividly melodramatic performances, atmospheric interiors, memorable storylines, numerous dramatic plot twists, adventurous music score, broad cosmos of characters and heroic adventures. The original network run of the show lasted for nearly five years to amass 1,225 episodes.

In 2004 and 2007, Dark Shadows was ranked #19 and #23 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever.[1][2]

Since 2006, the series has continued as a range of audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions, featuring many of the original cast, including David Selby, Lara Parker, and Kathryn Leigh Scott.[3]

Dark Shadows
Created byDan Curtis
Developed byArt Wallace
Written byGordon Russell
Sam Hall
Ron Sproat
Violet Welles
Malcolm Marmorstein
Art Wallace
Joe Caldwell
Francis Swann
Ralph Ellis
StarringJoan Bennett
Grayson Hall
Jonathan Frid
Nancy Barrett
Alexandra Moltke
Louis Edmonds
Kathryn Leigh Scott
David Selby
David Henesy
Lara Parker
Thayer David
Composer(s)Robert Cobert
Country of originUnited States
No.of seasons6
No.of episodes1,225(list of episodes)
Producer(s)Robert Costello
Running time30 minutes
Productioncompany(s)Dan Curtis Productions
DistributorABC Films
Worldvision Enterprises
CBS Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Picture formatBlack and white
(June 1966 – August 1967)
(August 1967 – April 1971)
Original releaseJune 27, 1966 (1966-06-27) –
April 2, 1971 (1971-04-02)


Creator Dan Curtis claimed he had a dream in 1965 of a mysterious young woman on a train. The following day Curtis told his wife of the dream and pitched the idea as a TV series to ABC. Network officials greenlit production and Curtis began hiring crew members.[4]

Art Wallace was hired to create a story from Curtis's dream sequence. Wallace wrote the story bible Shadows on the Wall,[5] the proposed title for the show, later changed to Dark Shadows.[6] Robert Costello was added as a line producer, and Curtis took on the creator and executive producer roles. Lela Swift, John Sedwick, and Henry Kaplan all agreed to be directors for the new series. Robert Cobert created the musical score and Sy Tomashoff designed the set.

Broadcast history

Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire

Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire

Perhaps one of ABC's first truly popular daytime series, along with the game show Let's Make a Deal (which had moved from original home NBC in 1968), Dark Shadows found its demographic niche in teenagers coming home from school in time to watch the show at 4 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Central, where it aired for almost all of its network run, the exception being a 15-month stretch between April 1967 and July 1968, when it aired a half-hour earlier. Originally, it was aired in black-and-white, but the show went into color starting with the episode broadcast on August 11, 1967. It became one of ABC's first daytime shows to actually win the rating for its timeslot, leading to the demise of NBC's original Match Game and Art Linkletter's long-running House Party on CBS, both in 1969.

Dark Shadows began with a 4.1 rating in the 1965-66 TV season, tying for thirteenth place out of eighteen daytime dramas. The audience figures only improved slightly, to 4.3, in 1966-67. 1966 was a volatile year for soaps, and many ended their runs between the premiere date of Dark Shadows in June and the month of December. By that time, six months had passed, and for Dark Shadows, the news was not good; the soap had failed to gain major traction. In June, it ranked #13 out of 18 soaps, and by December, the lower-rated offerings were gone and the show officially ranked #13 out of 13 soaps. “The show was limping along, really limping”, head writer Sam Hall remembered, “and ABC said, ‘We're canceling it. Unless you pick up in 26 weeks, you're finished.’ [Series creator Dan Curtis] had always wanted to do a vampire picture, so he decided to bring a vampire — Barnabas Collins — on the series.”[7]

Barnabas was introduced in April 1967 and the fan response was swift and immediate. Coupled with a time slot change to 3:30 Eastern / 2:30 Central, the fortunes of Dark Shadows rebounded, as many more teenagers found the program after tuning out the other offerings that may have been too "boring" to them. By May 1968, the series was still in last place (out of 12 offerings), but rose to a 7.3 rating, the rough equivalent (at that time) of gaining the viewership of three million households in the span of one year. Dark Shadows would return to its 4 p.m. Eastern / 3 p.m. Central time slot in July 1968, without losing much of its audience at all. One Life to Live, which was launched by ABC in July 1968 in the 3:30 slot, also sought to reach the newfound young demographic.

The series reached its peak in popularity during a storyline set in the year 1897, broadcast from March 1969. By the end of May, Dark Shadows was ABC's most popular soap opera, and by late 1969 it was reaching between 7 and 9 million viewers on any given day, and ranking 11th out of a total 15 daytime dramas in that time period.[8][9]

In November 1969, after nine months of some of Dark Shadows' most intricate, intelligent storylines, the 1897 storyline came to an end. With ratings at an all-time high, the writers were under pressure to hold the audience.[10] Their next storyline, known as "The Leviathans", proved to be a thematic misstep for the show and one from which it never recovered. Fans tended to dislike the portrayal of Barnabas as the pawn of some greater power. They were more interested in the archetypes of classic horror—the vampire, the witch, the werewolf—than in off-camera suggestion.[11] The launch of Somerset in March 1970, a much-ballyhooed spin-off of NBC's Another World, also hurt the series considerably.

The release of the film House of Dark Shadows in September of that year is also thought to have caused TV ratings to fall, perhaps because of parents who attended the film with their children, and seeing the amount of blood spilled across the screen, discouraged their children's choice of television viewing material.[12] Beginning in the fall of 1970, several ABC stations across the country dropped the show due to falling viewership. Within six months, ratings dropped from 7.3 to 5.3. Ironically, Nielsen ratings for March 1971, the last full month that Dark Shadows was on the air, revealed that viewership had risen in its final weeks.[13]

By early 1971, though, ABC was trying to cut costs in the face of harsh new economic realities including a national economic recession, a sharp dip in advertising revenue following the discontinuance of cigarette commercials, and a record-high number of competing soap operas—which were more expensive to produce than game or talk shows—on the networks' daytime schedules. Thus, the network began weeding out supposedly unproductive programming.

Despite its relatively high station clearances for its timeslot and low production costs, Dark Shadows fell victim to the purge mainly because of its young audience, who usually did not make decisions about the purchasing of household goods and food products for the family, which were the two chief industries that bought airtime on daytime television in that era. Practically no other daytime show skewed so much under the 18–35 demographic threshold as Dark Shadows did. Furthermore, prime-time shows and movies with horror or science fiction themes (e.g., Star Trek, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) had been on the decline for some time, and, of course, the serial appealed heavily to fanciers of those genres, people who usually didn't express much interest in the often sentimental domestic or romantic themes on which traditional soaps had relied since their inception on radio in the 1930s. In addition and probably more decisively, the program experienced a precipitous drop in its ratings during its last two years on the air, falling from a peak of 8.4 in the 1968–69 television season to a 5.3 in 1970–71.[14] Reflecting on the series' cancellation, in an interview included in a 2005 DVD release, series creator Curtis welcomed the show's cancellation, feeling it had run out of fresh ideas: "I was just hoping it was going to end. I couldn't squeeze my brain any harder to come up with just one more story. I just wanted to move on and out."[15]

Despite many letters of protest from outraged fans, ABC canceled the five-year-old show on April 2, 1971, and replaced it with a new version of the hit 1960s game show Password. The rather abrupt ending of the series left some plotlines (such as Victoria Winters' parentage, and the story of the Jennings family) unfinished, although most of the plot threads came to a happy conclusion, via a voice-over explaining future events in the final minute of the last episode.[16]

The original cast reunited in 2003 for a special reunion play recorded for MPI, and in 2006 resumed production of Dark Shadows audio dramas for Big Finish (see below). These dramas have been ongoing for 10 seasons.[17]


Dark Shadows has the distinction of being one of the few classic television soap operas to have all of its episodes survive intact except one, although a handful of early episodes are available only in 16 mm kinescope format.

For the one lost episode (#1219), only a home audio recording exists. The home video version and cable reruns of this episode were reconstructed from a combination of this soundtrack, video still frames sourced from other episodes, and the closing and opening scenes from episodes #1218 and #1220 respectively. The search for the preserved episodes of this series also uncovered several hundred episodes thought lost of another series, The Hollywood Squares.

Syndication and cable repeats

Dark Shadows was to be syndicated by ABC's distribution arm, ABC Films, as the series was ending in late 1970 and early 1971. However, delays kept the show from entering syndication, mainly because the FCC imposed Financial Interest and Syndication Rules, forcing the networks to sell off their syndication companies. Finally, in 1975, Worldvision Enterprises (spun off from ABC Films) released 130 episodes to syndication.

Over the years, more episodes were released in varying quantities until the show finished its syndicated run in 1990. However, the first 209 shows and roughly the last year's worth of shows were never seen in syndication. Dark Shadows was lucky to be in reruns at all; most daytime programs at the time were being destroyed in an effort to recycle the videotape, and those programs that survived were usually locked away without being seen again. The series is now distributed by CBS Television Distribution.

For many years the show was rerun on Sci-Fi Channel, now known as Syfy. Unlike previous networks, Syfy had the entire run of 1,225 episodes to show. The network stopped airing Dark Shadows in December 2003, only two weeks short of completing the series. All 1,225 episodes in the series were shown at various times between 1992 and 2003.

Episode numbering

A total of 1,225 episodes were produced but, during the course of its run, the show was preempted 20 times. ABC would compensate by occasionally skipping, double-numbering and, in one case, triple-numbering episodes in order to keep a show ending in a 5 or 0 airing on Fridays. This is why the last episode produced has #1245 when, in actuality, it was only the 1,225th episode produced.



Victoria Winters' Parentage, episode 1 to 92.

  • Victoria Winters and her role as governess is inspired by title character in Charlotte Brontë's gothic novel Jane Eyre.[18]

Burke Devlin's Revenge For His Manslaughter Conviction, episode 1 to 201.

  • Burke Devlin and his motivation for returning is reminiscent of Alexandre Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo.[19]

Roger Collins' Mysterious Car Crash, episode 13 to 32.

The Murder of Bill Malloy, episode 46 to 126.

Laura Collins the Phoenix, episode 123 to 192.

Jason McGuire Blackmails Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, episode 193 to 275.

The Arrival of the Vampire Barnabas Collins, episode 211 to 220.

The Kidnapping of Maggie Evans, episode 221 to 261.

Julia Hoffman's Attempt to Cure Barnabas, episode 265 to 351.

Barnabas Terrorizing Julia Hoffman, episode 352 to 365.


Angelique Bouchard's Vampire Curse on Barnabas, episode 366 to 426.

Victoria Winters's Witchcraft Trial, episode 400 to 461.

  • The witchcraft trial involving Victoria Winters is inspired by Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. Reverend Trask's fate is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado."[18]

Nathan Forbes' Manipulation of Millicent Collins, episode 419 to 460.

  • Nathan's manipulation of Millicent is reminiscent of the 1938 play and the 1944 film Gaslight.


The Mystery of Jeff Clark, episode 461 to 665.

The Creation of Adam, episode 466 to 636.

  • The character of Adam is inspired by Mary Shelley's horror novel Frankenstein.[18]

The Dream Curse, episode 477 to 548.

Elizabeth's Fear of Being Buried Alive, episode 513 to 672.

  • This storyline is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Premature Burial."[18]

Nicholas Blair's Scheme to Create A Master Race, episode 549 to 633/634.

Chris Jennings' Werewolf Curse, episode 627 to 700.

The Ghosts of Quentin Collins and Beth Chavez Haunt Collinwood, episode 639 to 700.

  • The character of Quentin Collins and his role is inspired by Peter Quint in Henry James's gothic novel The Turn of the Screw.[18]


Barnabas’ Mission to Save David Collins, episode 700 to 839.

  • The heartbeat that tortures Quentin is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart."[18]

Jenny Collins, the Mad Woman in the Attic, episode 707 to 748.

  • Jenny Collins is inspired by the character of Bertha from Charlotte Brontë's gothic novel Jane Eyre.[18]

Laura Collins the Phoenix, episode 728 to 761.

  • Worthington Hall and Gregory Trask's running of it is inspired by Charles Dickens's novel Nicholas Nickleby.[18]

Magda Rakosi's Werewolf Curse on Quentin, episode 749 to 834.

  • The portrait of Quentin Collins is inspired by Oscar Wilde's gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.[18]

Gregory Trask's Manipulation of Judith Collins, episode 762 to 884.

  • Gregory Trask's fate is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado".[18]

  • Mrs. Trask's murder is inspired by "The Manchurian Candidate".

The Hand of Count Petofi, episode 778 to 814.

  • The hand of Count Petofi is inspired by William Fryer Harvey's short story "The Beast with Five Fingers". Quentin's torture is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s short story "The Pit and the Pendulum."[18]

The Creation of Amanda Harris, episode 812 to 850.

  • The theme of an artist's falling in love with his own creation who is brought to life by supernatural forces is reminiscent of the classic Greek myth of Pygmalion.

Barnabas's Infatuation with Kitty Soames, episode 844 to 885.

Count Petofi Body Swaps with Quentin, episode 849 to 883.

  • The character of Count Petofi is based on the real-world Count of St. Germain, a Georgian-era courtier and man of science who claimed to be, and possibly was, the son of Francis II Rákóczi. In the 19th Century, Theosophist legends claimed that he attained the secret of immortality.[18][20]


Barnabas Falls Under the Control of the Leviathans, episode 886 to 950.

  • This storyline is inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s shared universe known as "The Cthulhu Mythos," and particularly by the short story "The Dunwich Horror".[18]

The Mystery of Grant Douglas and Olivia Corey, episode 888 to 934.

  • This storyline is inspired by the Greek mythological tale of Orpheus and Eurydice.[18]

Chris Jennings' Werewolf Curse, episode 889 to 978.

The Leviathan Child, episode 891 to 929.

Jeb Hawkes the Leviathan Leader, episode 935 to 980.

The Ghosts of Gerard Stiles and Daphne Harridge Haunt Collinwood, episode 1071 to 1109.

  • This storyline is inspired by Henry James's gothic novel The Turn of the Screw.[18]

1970 Parallel Time

The Death of Angelique Collins, episode 969 to 1060.

  • This storyline is inspired by Daphne du Maurier's gothic novel Rebecca.[18]

Cyrus Longworth's Experiment, episode 978 to 1035.

  • This storyline is inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's "chilling shocker" short novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.[18]


The Destruction of Collinwood, episode 1061 to 1070.


Barnabas' Infatuation with Roxanne Drew, episode 1081 to 1150.

The Head of Judah Zachery, episode 1117 to 1138.

Judah Zachery's Possession of Gerard Stiles, episode 1139 to 1197.

Quentin Collins' Witchcraft Trial, episode 1162 to 1197.

1841 Parallel Time

Bramwell Collins' and Catherine Harridge's Love Affair, episode 1186 to 1245.

  • This storyline is inspired by Emily Brontë's gothic novel Wuthering Heights.[18]

The Cursed Room Lottery, episode 1194 to 1245.

  • This storyline is inspired by Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery."[18]



Curtis set out to find the actress to play the girl on the train. Alexandra Isles (then Alexandra Moltke), a young actress with little experience, was discovered and cast in the role of Victoria Winters,[21] an orphan who journeys to the mysterious, fictional town of Collinsport, Maine, to unravel the mysteries of her past.

Veteran film star Joan Bennett was soon cast as Victoria's employer Elizabeth Collins Stoddard,[22] a woman who had not left her home in over eighteen years. Stage actor Louis Edmonds was cast as Elizabeth's brother, a widower, Roger Collins.[23][24] Another stage actress, Nancy Barrett, was then cast as Elizabeth's headstrong daughter Carolyn Stoddard,[25] and child actor David Henesy was cast as Roger's troubled son David Collins.[25]

As production on the series continued, many new and mysterious characters, played by unfamiliar actors and actresses were introduced, but two early cast changes brought stage actors David Ford and Thayer David into the ensemble. Thayer David would go on to play several formidable villains over the course of the series. Michael Currie, as Constable Jonas Carter, was shortly replaced by veteran actor Dana Elcar, as Sheriff George Patterson. Most of the actors played multiple characters, and those characters often returned through flashbacks, the use of parallel time lines, or as ghosts.

Main cast

Character names noted with ***** indicates appearance of a counterpart in an alternate reality known as Parallel Time during episodes 969 to 1060 or 1186 to 1245.

Joan BennettElizabeth Collins Stoddard*
Naomi Collins
Judith Collins
Flora Collins*
3911 to 1245
Mitchell RyanBurke Devlin #11071 to 248
Louis EdmondsRoger Collins*
Joshua Collins*
Edward Collins
Daniel Collins
Amadeus Collins
Brutus Collins
3231 to 1245
Kathryn Leigh ScottMaggie Evans*
Josette DuPres Collins*¹
Rachel Drummond
Kitty Soames
3101 to 1108
Alexandra IslesVictoria Winters #1²3351 to 627
Nancy BarrettCarolyn Stoddard*³
Millicent Collins
Charity Trask
Pansy Faye
Leticia Faye
Melanie Collins
Amanda Collins
4082 to 1245
Joel CrothersJoe Haskell
Nathan Forbes
1662 to 666
Frank SchofieldBill Malloy153 to 126
David HenesyDavid Collins*
Daniel Collins
Jamison Collins
Tad Collins
2774 to 1165
David FordSam Evans #2⁴
Andre DuPres
10835 to 530
Thayer DavidMatthew Morgan #2⁵
Ben Stokes*
Timothy Eliot Stokes*
Sandor Rakosi
Andreas Petofi
Mordecai Grimes
22538 to 1245
Dana ElcarGeorge Patterson #1⁶3554 to 329
Clarice BlackburnSarah Johnson
Abigail Collins
Minerva Trask
7967 to 1104
Conard FowkesFrank Garner1992 to 180
Diana MillayLaura Collins61123 to 191730 to 760
Vince O'BrienLt. Dan Riley
Sheriff George Patterson #2
11148 to 174, 328, 503 to 533 & 658 to 675
John LasellPeter Guthrie25160 to 186
John HarkinsLieutenant Costa
Garth Blackwood
Mr. Strack
Horace Gladstone
16174878 to 1010
Dennis PatrickJason McGuire
Paul Stoddard
66193 to 276888 to 953
James HallWillie Loomis #15199 to 205
John KarlenWillie Loomis #2*⁷
Carl Collins
Desmond Collins
Kendrick Young
180206 to 1245
Jonathan FridBarnabas Collins
Bramwell Collins
593211 to 1245
Robert GerringerDr. Dave Woodard⁸29231 to 334
Sharon SmythSarah Collins37255 to 415
Anthony GeorgeBurke Devlin #2
Jeremiah Collins
48262 to 384
Grayson HallJulia Hoffman*
Natalie DuPres
Magda Rakosi
Julia Collins
Constance Collins
474265 to 1245
Jerry LacyTony Peterson
Reverend Trask
Gregory Trask
Mr. Trask
Lamar Trask
109357 to 1198
Lara ParkerAngelique Bouchard Collins*
Alexis Stokes
Catherine Harridge
Cassandra Collins
269368 to 1245
Addison PowellJudge Matigan
Eric Lang
Judge Wiley
39404 to 5431162
Roger DavisPeter Bradford
Ned Stuart
Dirk Wilkins
Charles Delaware Tate
Harrison Monroe
128404 to 968
Craig SlocumNoah Gifford
Harry Johnson #1⁹
17439 to 659
Robert RodanAdam78485 to 636
Humbert Allen AstredoNicholas Blair
Evan Hanley
Charles Dawson
100521 to 1196
Don BriscoeTom Jennings
Chris Jennings*
Tim Shaw
96554 to 1001
Marie WallaceEve
Jenny Collins
Megan Todd
64596 to 971
Denise NickersonAmy Jennings*
Nora Collins
Amy Collins
71632 to 1049
David SelbyQuentin Collins #2*
Quentin Collins #I*
311646 to 1230
Terry CrawfordBeth Chavez
Edith Collins
63646 to 1186
Lisa RichardsSabrina Stuart*28692 to 1033
Michael StrokaAristede
Bruno Hess*
Laszlo Ferrari
64791 to 1158
Donna McKechnieAmanda Harris
Olivia Corey
24812 to 934
Christopher BernauPhilip Todd23888 to 968
Geoffrey ScottSky Rumson13923 to 980
Christopher PennockJeb Hawkes
Cyrus Longworth
Sebastian Shaw
Gabriel Collins*
126935 to 1237
Elizabeth EisNelle Gunston
Buffie Harrington
Mildred Ward
15951 to 1161
Donna WandreyRoxanne Drew*341039 to 1177
Jim StormGerard Stiles*811063 to 1209
Kathy CodyCarrie Stokes*
Hallie Stokes
491066 to 1237
Kate JacksonDaphne Harridge*701067 to 1238
Virginia VestoffSamantha Drew Collins*291110 to 1193
Lee BeeryJoanna Mills111181 to 1193
Keith PrenticeMorgan Collins
James Forsythe
401186 to 1245

¹ Parallel counterpart played by Mary Cooper during episodes 1206 to 1238. ² Played by Betsy Durkin during episodes 630 to 650; and Carolyn Groves during episodes 662 to 665. ³ Played by Diana Walker during episode 578. ⁴ Played by Mark Allen during episodes 5 to 22. ⁵ Played by George Mitchell during episodes 6 to 16. ⁶ Played by Vince O'Brien during episodes 148 to 174, 328 and 503 to 675; Angus Cairns during episodes 341 and 342; and Alfred Sandor during episode 615. ⁷ Played by James Hall during episodes 199 to 205. ⁸ Played by Richard Woods during episodes 219 and 229; and Peter Turgeon during episodes 335 to 362. ⁹ Played by Edward Marshall during episode 669.


Both theatrical films, House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971), were shot primarily on location at the Lyndhurst estate in Tarrytown, New York. For the TV series, Essex, Connecticut was the locale used for the town of Collinsport. Among the locations sited there are the Collinsport Wharf, Main Street, and the Evans Cottage. The Griswold Inn in Essex was used for the Collinsport Inn, and the town post office was used for the Collinsport Police Station. The Collinwood stand-in mansion used for the TV series is the Carey Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, until August 2009 used by Salve Regina University. The exteriors for the "Old House" (original Collinwood mansion) were filmed at Spratt Mansion, which was also located on the Lyndhurst estate; this mansion was destroyed by fire in 1969. The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion in South Norwalk, Connecticut, was also used for some scenes in House of Dark Shadows. Some outdoors shots for the series were filmed in the famous Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, not far from the Lyndhurst Mansion.[26]

All of the interiors of the TV series were shot on sound stages at various ABC-owned studios in Manhattan, New York City. The early episodes were shot at ABC Studio Two at 24 West 67th Street, and the rest of the episodes were shot at the smaller ABC Studio 16 located on West 53rd Street.

Special effects

Working within the constraints of the live-to-tape format—with almost every scene done in one take—Dark Shadows displayed an unusually inventive use of costume, make-up and, in particular, special effects. Both time travel and ghosts allowed characters killed in earlier sequences to return, often in period clothing. Séances held in the old mansion were often visited by ghostly apparitions of quivering ectoplasm. Dream sequences included colorful psychedelic spectacles superimposed over ethereal, fog-filled fantasies. Individuals of normal appearance were transformed into hideous creatures of the netherworld.


The difficulty of keeping up with the demanding schedule of a daily half-hour show manifested itself on screen. In addition to sets and props wobbling unintentionally (in one episode of the 1795 storyline, actor Thayer David bumped into a large "oak tree" and it almost fell over), heavily used actors—especially Frid and Bennett—often struggled with their lines, and occasionally, a stagehand could be spotted wandering onto the back of the set. At other times, the microphone boom or its shadow appeared in the frame (giving the show the derisive nickname "Mic Shadows"[27]), a television camera would appear on screen, a fly hovered around the head of an actor, or window curtains fell down. These "bloopers" are treasured by Dark Shadows fans and have been collected by MPI Home Video on both VHS and DVD.[28]


Of particular note is Robert Cobert's music score, which broke new ground for a television program. The original soundtrack cracked the top 20 of the U.S. Billboard national albums chart in 1969 and still ranks as one of the top-selling TV soundtracks ever. The instrumental track "Quentin's Theme", for which Cobert earned a Grammy nomination, was recorded by the Charles Randolph Grean Sounde. The single peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (and number 3 on its Easy Listening chart) in summer 1969, when Dark Shadows was perhaps at the peak of its popularity.


Critical response

Dark Shadows had a rocky beginning. Critics were quick to deem the series rather boring for its heavy use of unknown actress Isles and the slow pace. Variety, in its review on June 29, 1966, of Dark Shadows first eipsode: "Writer Art Wallace took so much time getting into his story that the first episode of the Neo Gothic soaper added up to one big contemporary yawn."[29] The earliest episodes concerned menacing but unfulfilled conflicts, threatened revenge, then an attempted murder, and, finally, a murder. The supernatural elements that later made the show a hit, were slow to appear and only hinted at until episodes 52 and 70 in which the audience finally sees compelling evidence of a ghost.


1965–1966 season

    1. As the World Turns (13.9)
    1. Dark Shadows (4.1)
    1. Never Too Young (3.9)

1966–1967 season

    1. As the World Turns (12.7)
    1. Dark Shadows (4.3)
    1. A Flame in the Wind (4.0)

1967–1968 season

    1. As the World Turns (13.6)
    1. Dark Shadows (7.3)
    1. One Life to Live (4.3)

1968–1969 season

    1. As the World Turns (13.8)
    1. Dark Shadows (8.4)
    1. Hidden Faces (3.3)

1969–1970 season

    1. As the World Turns (13.6)
    1. Dark Shadows (7.3)
    1. The Best of Everything (1.8)

1970–1971 season

    1. As the World Turns (12.4)
    1. Dark Shadows (5.3)
    1. A World Apart (3.4)


Home video

MPI Home Video currently holds the home video rights to the series. All episodes were issued on VHS from 1989 through 1995. Episodes 210–1245 (Barnabas' arrival through to the end of the series) have been released on DVD in 26 Collections from 2002 through 2006. Episodes 1–209 were released in 2007 under the title of Dark Shadows: The Beginning. On April 3, 2012, MPI re-released the 32 Collections. The first (and sometimes, the second) collection (from Barnabas's introduction) has been released internationally, but due to generally low sales, this has been the extent of the international release of the series.

As of January 2018, the entire series of DVD collections are available for on-demand streaming via Amazon Video [55] .

On April 10, 2012, MPI released a "Limited Edition Complete Series" box set in the shape of a coffin. The 131 DVDs are housed in 22 individual plastic cases, with the spines looking upward to show the entire body of Barnabas lying asleep in his coffin. Only 2,500 numbered copies of these were made, with each set including a limited edition card signed by original series star Jonathan Frid. A similar but unlimited "Deluxe Edition" set was subsequently released on July 10, 2012, without the limited edition card signed by Jonathan Frid and without the serial limitation number plate on the bottom of the box.[30][31]


MGM released a feature film titled House of Dark Shadows in 1970. Dan Curtis directed it, and Sam Hall and Gordon Russell wrote the screenplay. Many cast members from the soap opera, including Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Roger Davis, and Kathryn Leigh Scott, reprised their roles. 1971 saw the release of Night of Dark Shadows, also directed by Dan Curtis and written by Curtis and Sam Hall. Actors included David Selby, Grayson Hall, Kate Jackson, and Lara Parker, among others.

During the filming of House of Dark Shadows in 1970, several actors were written out of the TV series so that they would be available to shoot the movie. Kathryn Leigh Scott was absent from 30 episodes (986 to 1015); Jonathan Frid was absent from 28 episodes (983 to 1010); Grayson Hall was absent from 21 episodes (986 to 1006); John Karlen was absent from 21 episodes (990 to 1010); Nancy Barrett was absent from 20 episodes (991 to 1010): Louis Edmonds was absent from 17 episodes (991 to 1008); Don Briscoe was absent from 15 episodes (986 to 1000); Joan Bennett was absent from 15 episodes (991 to 1006); and David Henesy was absent from 9 episodes (993 to 1001).


There have been two series of Dark Shadows novels. The first, released during the show's original run, were all penned by romance writer Marilyn Ross, a pseudonym for author Dan Ross, and were published by Paperback Library. Ross also wrote a novelization of the theatrical film House of Dark Shadows.

TitleRelease DateNotes
1Dark ShadowsDecember 1966A partial re-telling of Victoria Winters arrival in Collinsport. Originally printed with an illustrated cover, subsequent editions featured a photographic cover featuring Alexandra Moltke with Jonathan Frid, although the character of Barnabas Collins does not appear in the book. This is also the case with books 2 to 4. Collinwood is referred to here as Collins House.
2Victoria WintersMarch 1967
3Strangers at Collins HouseSeptember 1967Partially takes place in 1916.
4The Mystery of CollinwoodJanuary 1968
5The Curse of CollinwoodMay 1968The only book in series not to be printed with a purely photographic cover, and the first to feature Barnabas Collins (who does not appear in the book) on the cover. The cover features a photo of Jonathan Frid as Barnabas superimposed over the illustrated cover art from Dark Shadows.
6Barnabas CollinsNovember 1968First book to feature Barnabas Collins. In the television series Barnabas was chained to his coffin in 1796 and not released until 1967, here Ross offers an alternate timeline in which the vampire was never held captive at all. Takes place in the early 1900s.
7The Secret of Barnabas CollinsJanuary 1969Takes place in 1870.
8The Demon of Barnabas CollinsApril 1969The first book to present Barnabas in a heroic vein rather than as the villain, following the trend set by the television series.
9The Foe of Barnabas CollinsJuly 1969Features the character of Chris Jennings, although presented here as a villain rather than the sympathetic victim depicted in the television series. It also features a rare appearance by Angelique. Takes place in 1910.
10The Phantom and Barnabas CollinsSeptember 1969Takes place in 1880.
11Barnabas Collins vs. the WarlockOctober 1969A homage to Henry James' 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, a text also used in the television series for inspiration.
12The Peril of Barnabas CollinsNovember 1969
Barnabas Collins in a Funny VeinDecember 1969Non-fiction joke book not written by Marilyn Ross.
13Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious GhostJanuary 1970
14Barnabas Collins and Quentin's DemonFebruary 1970Introduces the character of Quentin Collins to the range. Takes place in 1895.
15Barnabas Collins and the Gypsy WitchMarch 1970Takes place in the 1890s.
16Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy's CurseApril 1970
17Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging GhostMay 1970
18Barnabas, Quentin and the Nightmare AssassinJune 1970Takes place in 1870.
19Barnabas, Quentin and the Crystal CoffinJuly 1970A homage to Edgar Allan Poe's 1844 short story "The Premature Burial", a text also used in the television series for inspiration.
20Barnabas, Quentin and the Witch's CurseAugust 1970Takes place in 1900.
The Dark Shadows Book of Vampires and WerewolvesAugust 1970Collection of short stories. None of the stories are set in the Dark Shadows universe. None of the stories are written by Marilyn Ross.
21Barnabas, Quentin and the Haunted CaveSeptember 1970Takes place in 1690.
22Barnabas, Quentin and the Frightened BrideOctober 1970Takes place in 1920.
House of Dark ShadowsOctober 1970Novelization. Several scenes cut from the film version were included. It also featured 16 pages of color photos from the film's production.
23Barnabas, Quentin and the Scorpio CurseNovember 1970
24Barnabas, Quentin and the SerpentDecember 1970Takes place in 1870.
Barnabas Collins: A Personal Picture AlbumDecember 1970Non-fiction book not written by Marilyn Ross.
25Barnabas, Quentin and the Magic PotionJanuary 1971This story marks a sudden shift in the characterization of Quentin Collins, whom up to this point in the range had been portrayed as an enemy of Barnabas.
26Barnabas, Quentin and the Body SnatchersFebruary 1971This is the only book in the series told in the omniscient point of view. It also features a rare appearance by Julia Hoffman. As suggested by its title, a homage to Jack Finney's 1955 science fiction novel The Body Snatchers.
27Barnabas, Quentin and Dr. Jekyll's SonApril 1971As suggested by its title, a homage to Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a text also used in the television series for inspiration. Takes place in 1908.
28Barnabas, Quentin and the Grave RobbersJune 1971Takes place in 1930.
29Barnabas, Quentin and the Sea GhostAugust 1971Features a rare appearance by Julia Hoffman and Professor Stokes.
30Barnabas, Quentin and the Mad MagicianOctober 1971
31Barnabas, Quentin and the Hidden TombDecember 1971Takes place in 1866.
32Barnabas, Quentin and the Vampire BeautyMarch 1972

The second series of books consists of three novels by Lara Parker, Angelique's Descent, The Salem Branch and Wolf Moon Rising, as well as Dreams of the Dark, by horror authors Elizabeth Massie and Stephen Mark Rainey.

There also have been several books about Dark Shadows, including The Dark Shadows Almanac and The Dark Shadows Companion.


During its original run, Dark Shadows was featured in many magazines, including Afternoon TV, Castle of Frankenstein, Daytime TV, and Famous Monsters of Filmland. Even after the show ended it received coverage in genre magazines of the 1970s, like Monsters of the Movies.

In 2003, a two-part article titled "Collecting Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood", written by Rod Labbe, appeared in Autograph Collector magazine; it was the first major article to chronicle the show in years. In 2005, Scary Monsters magazine #55 devoted an entire issue to Dark Shadows. Included were full-length interviews with cast members Marie Wallace, David Selby, and Kathryn Leigh-Scott, as well as "Don't Open That Coffin! A Baby Boomer's Adventures in the Land of Dark Shadows!" Both the Autograph Collector and Scary Monsters articles were penned by freelance writer Rod Labbe, who once ran a fan club for Dennis Patrick (Jason McGuire, Paul Stoddard) in 1969–70.

Labbe also contributes to Fangoria magazine and is currently doing a series of full-length interviews with surviving original cast members, leading up to the release of Burton's film. Labbe's interview with Jerry Lacy, who played the nefarious Reverend Trask, appeared in issue #296. His second, with Kathryn Leigh-Scott, was in issue #304. The latest, a Chris Pennock (Jebez Hawkes, a.k.a. "The Leviathan") profile, is scheduled to run in issue #310. He has already interviewed Marie (Eve and Jenny Collins) Wallace for a future issue, with more to come. A lengthier version of Kathryn's interview can be found on her website.


Detail from Dark Shadows newspaper comic strip. Art by Ken Bald

Detail from Dark Shadows newspaper comic strip. Art by Ken Bald

From March 14, 1971, to March 11, 1972, the Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicated a Dark Shadows comic strip by illustrator Kenneth Bruce Bald (credited as "K. Bruce" because of contractual obligations) to dozens of newspapers across the United States.[32] In 1996, Pomegranate Press, Ltd. published Dark Shadows: The Comic Strip Book (ISBN 0-938817-39-6), which collected the entire 52-week run of the daily and Sunday strip.

Gold Key Comics released 35 issues of a regular Dark Shadows comic book, mostly written by John Warner, which ran for years after the cancellation of the series on ABC (1969–1976); and in 1991, Innovation Publishing released a short-lived comic book series based on the NBC-TV revival show. Hermes Press has released a five-volume archive reprint series of the Gold Key series in 2010–2011. Additionally, Dynamite Entertainment launched a new monthly series of Dark Shadows comic books in October 2011.[33]

Other media

There have also been two board games, a few coloring books, two jigsaw puzzles, and a View-Master reel.[34]

In June 2012, some Dark Shadows episodes were made available for streaming online video on Hulu and Hulu Plus. Episodes 211–250 were made available, covering the introduction of Barnabas Collins.[35]

Audio drama

Based on a 2003 stage play performed at a Dark Shadows convention, Return to Collinwood is an audio drama written by Jamison Selby and Jim Pierson, and starring David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott, John Karlen, Nancy Barrett, Lara Parker, Roger Davis, Marie Wallace, Christopher Pennock, Donna Wandrey, James Storm, and Terry Crawford. The show is available on CD.

Big Finish Productions

In 2006, Big Finish Productions continued the Dark Shadows saga with an original series of audio dramas, starring the original cast. The first season featured David Selby (Quentin Collins), Lara Parker (Angelique), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans), and John Karlen (Willie Loomis). Robert Rodan, who played Adam in the original series, also appears in the fourth story, playing a new character. Barnabas Collins is played by Andrew Collins. A second series was released in 2010. In addition to the cast's returning from Series One, Kingdom of the Dead also featured Lysette Anthony, Alec Newman, Lizzie Hopley, Jerry Lacy, and David Warner.[36][37][38] Big Finish has also produced a series of dramatic story readings based on the series, with arguably the most notable being the 2010 release The Night Whispers, in which Jonathan Frid reprised the role of Barnabas.[39]

In January 2015, Big Finish began releasing full cast Dark Shadows serial Bloodlust in twice-weekly installments, as to emulate the initial soap opera format of the show.[40]


1991 TV series

In 1991, MGM Television produced a short-lived primetime remake that aired on NBC from January 13 to March 22. The revival was a lavish, big-budget, weekly serial combining Gothic romance and stylistic horror. Although it was a huge hit at introduction (watched by almost 1 in 4 households, according to official ratings during that time period), the onset of the Gulf War caused NBC to continually preempt or reschedule the episodes, resulting in declining ratings. It was canceled after the first season. The final episode ended with a cliffhanger: Victoria Winters (Joanna Going)'s learning that Barnabas Collins (Ben Cross) was a 200-year-old vampire.

It also starred veterans Jean Simmons (as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard) and Roy Thinnes (as Roger Collins), British character actress Lysette Anthony (as Angelique Collins), Barbara Steele (as Julia Hoffman), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as David Collins).

2004 TV pilot

Plans for another revival series (or film) have been discussed off and on since the 1991 series' demise, including a TV miniseries to wrap up the plotlines of the canceled NBC series and a feature film, co-written by Dan Curtis and Barbara Steele, utilizing the 1991 cast. In 2004, a pilot for a new WB network Dark Shadows series, starring Marley Shelton as Victoria Winters and Alec Newman as Barnabas Collins, was written and shot, but never picked up. The pilot has been screened at the Dark Shadows Festival conventions with Dan Curtis Productions' blessing, but has yet to surface elsewhere. This pilot was produced by Warner Bros. Television.[41]

2012 film

In 2012, Warner Bros. produced a film adaptation of the soap opera. Tim Burton directed the film, and Johnny Depp, finally realizing one of his childhood fantasies, starred as Barnabas Collins. However, the film treated the stories comedically, and was not the hoped-for major success.

Dark Shadows: Reincarnation

In September 2019, it was reported that The CW and Warner Bros. Television were interested in developing a sequel to the original series called Dark Shadows: Reincarnation by Mark B. Perry. He would be executive producer along with Amasia Entertainment's Michael Helfant, Bradley Gallo and Tracy Mercer, along with Tracy and Cathy Curtis. Said Perry: "As a first-generation fan, it's been a dream of mine to give Dark Shadows the Star Trek treatment since way back in the '80s when Next Generation was announced, so I'm beyond thrilled and humbled to be entrusted with this resurrection."[42][43]

See also

  • List of vampire television series


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