DARK SHADOWS: Dig 13 of the Classic Show’s Grooviest Characters

Vampires, warlocks and monsters — oh my!

Hey, dig this Shadowy ones – our man Jim Beard has a new book out: a series of essays on the classic TV show Dark Shadows called, appropriately enough, Running Home to Shadows.

The book, which is also edited by Charles R. Rutledge, is similar to Jim’s classic Gotham City 14 Miles and features a coterie of contributors, including a foreword by Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played Maggie Evans on the supernatural soap.

You can get the 150-page paperback from Amazon for a startlingly affordable $8.99. Writers include Greg Cox, Mark Dawidziak, Dave Dykema, Bob Freeman, Ed Gross, Rich Handley, Nancy Holder, Tina Hunt, Katherine Kerestman, Mark Maddox (with Ed Catto), Elizabeth Massie, Kimberly Oswald, Martin Powell, Dana Pride, Mark Rainey, Michael Rogers, Chris Ryan, Frank Schildiner, Duane Spurlock and Jeff Thompson.

Cool, eh? Well with the book burning up the sales charts (it’s in Amazon’s Top 10 for TV guides and the like), Jim is here with a fun piece in which he pays tribute to 13 of the show’s grooviest characters.

Dig it.

By JIM BEARD

Sometimes I wonder if most people who aren’t die-hard Dark Shadows fans realize how cool the show really was. Just like my beloved Batman ’66, there’s a lot of short-handing about TV’s first supernatural soap, but not a lot of digging below its surface. If you know anything, you know about Barnabas and Angelique and maybe some of the goofs and gaffes and the low-budget atmosphere, but I’m here to tell you there’s a whole lot more, stuff that may surprise a lot of genre fans. The show itself dug deep, even if many of us today do not.

Here’s a list of 13 of my favorite Dark Shadows characters, of which there was a virtual army over its six-year run and 1,200-plus episodes.

Barnabas Collins. OK, yes; you can’t really have a list without him. What I find fascinating about Barnabas Collins is that he was many things over the course of the show: villain, anti-hero, hero, victim, force of nature. And actor Jonathan Frid was an unlikely romantic lead for a soap opera, but he gave the role a certain something that was often intangible.

Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins

Maggie Evans. She began as a simple waitress who stumbled into the role of reluctant stand-in for Barnabas’ lost love Josette, but Maggie went on to grow into an ersatz heroine, a sometimes-ballsy young lady who tried to remain grounded in the middle of a supernatural bughouse.

Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans

Roger Collins. Actor Louis Edmonds played Roger as a richer-than-thou fuddy-duddy that I loved to see trod onto the set with his chin up and looking down his nose at everyone around him. It was a delicious part and Edmonds always looked like he relished it.

Louis Edmonds as Roger Collins

Dr. Julia Hoffman. Here’s a character who was always in the middle of everything, her fingers dancing in the mayhem as she tried to look calm and cool and on top of the situation as she cared for monsters and played many games behind peoples’ backs. And she loved Barnabas, though it was unrequited.

Grayson Hall as Dr. Julia Hoffman

Nicholas Blair. The show’s resident warlock, a guy who couldn’t not look evil even if he tried. Nicholas gave Angelique a run for most-wicked person in the room every time he was on the screen.

Humbert Allen Astredo as Nicholas Blair

Reverend Trask. The holy man you love to hate. He would suffer no fools nor monsters, and when he called out to the Lord, he was really calling up fire and brimstone. Trask was so bad his ghost returned in the present day to wreak even more havoc than he did back in his original 1700s life.

Jerry Lacy as Reverend Trask

Adam. The show had its own resident Frankenstein Monster, a dude stitched together from, yep, dead bodies by Dr. Eric Lang. Adam wanted a mate of his own and set his soulful eyes on young Carolyn Stoddard until he was gifted with an Eve.

Robert Rodan as Adam

Diabolos. Did you know the Devil was on the show? Okay, maybe not the Devil, but definitely a devil. He was a hooded figure who was basically Nicholas Trask’s boss and pushed Angelique around, too. He wasn’t in more than a few episodes, but he really made an impression on me. How often do you get an actual demonic entity on a daytime soap opera?

Lara Parker as Angelique and Duane Morris as Diabolos

Mrs. Johnson. Ahh, Mrs. Johnson… The Collins’ housekeeper was always underfoot and was the textbook definition of “long-suffering.” Bless her cold, crabby heart.

Clarice Blackburn as Mrs. Johnson

Dorcas Trilling. It doesn’t really matter who she was, what she did, or what time-period she appeared in on the show. All that matters to me is that name. That is, without a doubt, one of the greatest names for a fictional character ever.

Gail Strickland as Dorcas Trilling

David Collins. David was “the kid” on the show. He was kind of whiny and sometimes a brat, but he was also kind of cool because he was in the middle of all the craziness from week to week—and he had a Major Matt Mason Space Station in his bedroom.

David Henesy as David Collins

Burke Devlin. This guy was like a pulp character come to life on your TV set. Two-fisted, tough-talking, man-about-town. There was nothing Burke Devlin couldn’t do, and the late, great actor Mitchell Ryan proved it week in and week out.

Mitchell Ryan as Burke Devlin

Willie Loomis. Think of Renfield in Dracula, and you pretty much have a picture of ol’ Willie. He took his knocks, especially after accidentally letting Barnabas out of his chained coffin. So, you might say almost all of what happened on Dark Shadows after that was Willie’s fault, and for that he will always be remembered fondly.

John Karlen as Willie Loomis

Running Home to Shadows, published by Becky Books, lists for $8.99. Click here for more info and to order.

MORE

— The DARK SHADOWS Playset You’ve Waited Decades For. Click here.

— 13 COOL THINGS About BATMAN ’66 Season One, by JIM BEARD. Click here.

JIM BEARD has pounded out adventure fiction since he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. He’s gone on to write official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes his own creations, but also licensed properties such as Planet of the Apes, X-Files, Spider-Man, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Action. In addition, Jim provided regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, for 17 years.

Check out his latest releases: a Green Hornet novella How Sweet the Sting, his first epic fantasy novel The Nine Nations Book One: The Sliding World, Running Home to Shadows about Dark Shadows, and the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season One, Biff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two and Oooff! Boff! Splatt! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season Three.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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7 Comments

  1. Bravo Jim! I started watching the series again on Tumi, but found a podcast and switched over. Can’t wait to read your book!

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  2. It would be pretty cool to see a Top 13 of Dark Shadows comics covers from the various series over the years.

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  3. I was one of those kids who ran home from elementary school to watch “Dark Shadows.” It was the greatest thing in the world – vampires, werewolves, witches…5 days a week. I own the coffin box DVD set and, a few years ago, rewatched the entire series. I will probably do it again soon.

    Glad you mentioned David Henesy…his performance of being possessed by the Ghost of Quentin Collins is genuinely creepy. And I loved Roger Collins…he always attempted to be the voice of reason, which never really work at Collinwood. One of my favorites from the series is actress Nancy Barrett – whether portraying feisty Carolyn Stoddard, the delicate Millicent Collins, or the sweet & eccentric Pansy Faye, Nancy always seemed to nail the performance.

    My favorite storyline is the 1897 – great characters, lots of fun, and a genuinely tragic story arc for Quentin Collins, who at the end, finally understands the damage that he caused. I also like the Leviathon storyline better than many Dark Shadows fans. It started slow and uneven, but eventually evolved into a tragic love story of Carolyn Stoddard and Jeb Hawkes.

    Looking forward to the book!

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  4. Great list Jim! For my own personal list I’d have to include Quentin Collins (all the various versions of him played with effortless charm by David Selby) and Chris Jennings (played by Don Briscoe) he most tragic and empathetic werewolf this side of Lon Chaney, Jr.). And not for nothing, but I think David Selby would have made a great 70s Batman.

    Loving the book too Jim! Wonderful essays!

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