Dark Shadows: 1840

When Julia Hoffman escaped into the past via a transdimensional stairway just as Collinwood was overrun by an undead pirate horde*, I said that she’d gone to 1841. Well, I was wrong. It’s only the autumn of 1840, which means the events that lead to Collinwood’s destruction have some months to unfold.

As with our previous trips into the past, we have mostly the same actors in new roles, with new names and period costumes. This time, everybody gets to dress up like Dickens characters.

Dr. Hoffman peeks through the playroom doorway to glimpse the 1840s inhabitants of Collinwood and, along with the viewer, it takes her some time to sort their relationships and the current situation out.

Louis Edmonds is playing family patriarch Daniel Collins, whom we last saw as a young boy in the 1790s when Victoria Winters saved his life. He’s now an old man, a bit batty, and is kept up in the tower room. Daniel has two sons, Quentin (David Selby, just like the later Quentin) and Gabriel (Christopher Pennock); the latter is in a wheelchair and is very bitter and angry about it. Quentin is married to a woman named Samantha, and Tad is their son. Gabriel is married to Edith (Terry Crawford, who was Beth in the 1897 storyline–nice to see her back again!).

Gabriel and Edith are presumably the ancestors of the present-day Collinses, since we know that Tad will die soon. Also, 1890s/1970s Quentin said that 1840s Quentin was his great-uncle. Children are mentioned, although we haven’t actually seen them. Will Edith then be the Granny Collins who was on her deathbed at the beginning of the 1897 story?

Gabriel, Flora, and Gerard (plus an accidental boom mike)Just at the time Julia Hoffman arrives in 1840, the Collins family has received some tragic news: Quentin and Tad were lost at sea. The person who brings this news is Gerard Stiles. He claims that he witnessed the two being swept overboard during a storm.

Given what we know about Gerard in ghostly form, and what we know about the final fate of this Quentin and his son, I strongly suspect that, whatever really happened to them, it was no boating accident.

While he’s at Collinwood, Gerard worms himself into the family’s good graces, gaining Daniel’s trust and wooing the grieving Samantha, who’s been sitting alone in the darkened playroom. He has some talent as a mesmerist and uses his abilities to cure Flora Collins of her migraines.

Joan Bennett plays Flora, a cousin who lives at Rose Cottage–the neighboring mansion, not the dolls house. This confuses me, since we saw her in a dream sequence awhile ago as an earlier Elizabeth Collins. Was that only a dream, or had the show’s writers not yet settled on their 1840s characters when they wrote the scene? Anyway, Flora is a writer of romantic three-volume novels. She has a son, Desmond (John Karlen), although we won’t see him for awhile yet.

Skeletal Trask. Same skeleton as the sketetal bride above.Roxanne Drew, later to become a vampire, is Samantha’s sister. She has a suitor, the Collinsport undertaker–Lamar Trask (Jerry Lacy), son of that Witchfinder Trask who persecuted Vicky and whom Barnabas bricked up in the basement of the old house, and I assume the father of the 1890s Reverend who ended up bricked up in Quentin’s room. Watch out, Lamar! Avoid any Collinses who look like they’re planning to do a little masonry.

There’s no sign of Daphne. Leticia (Nancy Bennett) turns out to be a clairvoyant with a bad Cockney accent. It takes me several episodes to notice that her last name is Faye, so I guess she’s a great-aunt to that 1890s Cockney music-hall clairvoyant, Pansy Faye. She and Gerard have some history, and he’s surreptitiously installed her at Rose Cottage as a companion to Flora.

The girl Carrie isn’t a Collins, but the granddaughter of Ben Stokes, Barnabas’s first Renfield. Old Ben is still around, and it’s to him that Julia turns for help. Not that he really understands what she tells him about Barnabas coming to join her from the future. That was the last thing Barnabas said to her while he was still fighting with the undead pirates, and she hasn’t given up hope of his finding a way.

With Ben’s help, Julia obtains some clothing appropriate for the period and presents herself at Collinwood as Miss Julia Collins, daughter of that Barnabas who went to England 40-some years earlier. She says that she expects her brother, also Barnabas, to be joining her shortly.

But first, she visits the secret room at the back of the mausoleum, believing that 1970s Barnabas has used the I Ching wands to travel through time and take possession of his body inside the coffin in this earlier time period.

She’s wrong about that. This Barnabas, who’s been chained up in his coffin for over 40 years, is in no mood to listen to this strange woman who says they’ll be besties in the distant future.

Ben Stokes rescues her before she’s bitten, but Barnabas refuses to get back into his coffin and hides it from them at the first opportunity.

The ghost-children, Tad and Carrie, had talked about vampire attacks at Collinwood during the time when they were still alive; does this mean that everything, including Julia Hoffman’s part in it, is already playing out as it had before?

Barnabas eavesdrops on RoxanneUnleashed once again on the hapless residents of Collinsport, 1840 vampire Barnabas goes to his old home and, speaking to Josette’s portrait, bids farewell to his lost love. Then he lurks in the garden at Collinwood to hear Roxanne reject Lamar’s latest proposal and describe the man she’s waiting for; she almost bursts into song about it. “Someday my vampire will come.”

Barnabas wastes no time in biting her, demonstrating how she got to be a vampire herself by 1970.

So, where is 1970 Barnabas? While Julia’s wondering and worrying, let’s go take a peek into that later time period and see.

In 1970, Barnabas and Professor Stokes are at the old house following the funerals for David, Hallie, and the briefly alive-again Daphne. They also mention Elizabeth, although I’m still not clear on what exactly happened to her. Barnabas has been trying to look after Carolyn and Quentin, although he knows from his visit to the future that their respective mental states will never get any better. Carolyn is in denial about the destruction of Collinwood and the deaths of so many people she cared about, but mostly harmless. Quentin, however, is a danger to himself and others, and ends up committed.

What happened to the undead pirate horde, by the way? Did they swarm into Collinsport, wreaking havoc? Did they return to their graves once they’d trashed Collinwood? They can’t still be over at the house; Barnabas and the professor wouldn’t be sitting so comfortably at the old Collins house if they had zombies for neighbors.

Once Quentin is sent away and Professor Stokes agrees to take Carolyn away from Collinwood for awhile, Barnabas finally attempts to do just what Julia hoped he would–sit down with the I Ching wands and go into a trance.

Barnabas 'sees' Julia's grave This he does, but as he enters the trance, he’s blocked from passing through the metaphysical doorways to travel through time. Instead, he sees a vision of a tombstone with the name Julia Hoffman Collins on it, and a date of death in October 1840.

The two men go up to the cemetery and confirm that Julia’s tombstone really is there with the same date on it (It’s right next to Minerva Trask’s. I love the cemetery–it’s full of call-backs to earlier characters who were killed). This only makes Barnabas more anxious to get into the past to save his friend.

Meanwhile, back in 1840, Julia is heading rapidly toward her date of death by preventing that period’s Barnabas–who certainly isn’t her friend–from turning Roxanne into his vampire bride. She even gives the girl a transfusion.

It surprises me that Ben Stokes and the Collinses accept that Julia is a doctor so readily. A woman doctor would have been unheard-of in that era; Elizabeth Blackwell hadn’t even gotten into medical school yet.

When 1840s Barnabas has had enough of the doctor’s interference with his plans for Roxanne, he attacks her and tries to sink his teeth into her throat.

Julia and Barnabas reunitedJust then, Barnabas has some kind of seizure and collapses to the floor. When he rises, he’s a different man. 1970s Barnabas has finally succeeded in taking over his body in the past. He has to do some fast talking about I Ching wands, Professor Stokes, and Carolyn–things that 1840s Barnabas wouldn’t know–to keep Julia from braining him with a great, big crucifix, but he soon convinces her that he’s the Barnabas she’s been waiting for. They hug. Aww.

Julia introduces her “brother” to the Collins family. It’s funny that they both speak of their fictitious “father” Barnabas as if he were still alive in England. Most of the inhabitants of Collinwood and their acquaintances are happy to accept the pair as members of the family and don’t mind if Barnabas and Julia want to take up residence in the old house. There are a few exceptions.

Whether it’s jealousy because Roxanne is attracted to Barnabas (she doesn’t remember being attacked by him) or revenge because he suspects that 1790s Barnabas had something to do with his father’s disappearance, Lamar Trask is immediately hostile. Probably a bit of both. Following a hint from his father’s spirit during a helpful seance, he starts poking around the old house in search of the late Witchfinder’s remains.

Gabriel is suspicious of Barnabas. So is Gerard. They were both suspicious when Julia first arrived too. Really, Gabriel despises everyone. Although Gerard despises him in return, the pair have been plotting together, conspiring to poison Samantha; as the widow of Daniel’s favored son, she’ll stand to inherit Collinwood. Gabriel even provides some arsenic, which Gerard is supposed to give her so that she’ll drop dead while they’re out one day in the town. But Gerard double-crosses Gabriel and marries Samantha instead.

On the evening of their wedding, just as the happy couple are toasting leaving the tragic past behind, Samantha’s first husband comes home. Quentin hasn’t drowned after all.

While she’s overjoyed to learn that her son is alive, Samantha isn’t very happy to have two husbands at the same time. Quentin very generously says that he’ll let her make her own choice, and there follows a subplot that’s somewhat tedious for me as she goes back and forth making up her mind–her decision is, after all, moot. Both husbands will be dead in a matter of months.

When she does decide on Gerard, she finds out that Quentin won’t let her take their son with her (She tells him Tad isn’t his, which I find hard to believe since Tad looks just like all the Collins men do as boys**). On top of this, Gerard doesn’t want her now that she’s no longer a wealthy widow. Not that he tells her so bluntly; he says that he’s making a sacrifice for his friendship with Quentin–and Quentin is the only one stupid enough to believe it. The two men remain friends and Samantha stays on at Collinwood, hating both of them.

Gerard, Gabriel, Lamar, even 1840s Barnabas–creeps, jerks, scoundrels, and attempted murderers they are, but something more evil than all of them put together has come to Collinwood.

The Head When Flora’s son Desmond returns home from his trip around the world, he brings a present for his cousin Quentin, who has an interest in the occult and macabre. It’s a severed head in a glass box!

And I thought the Hand of Count Petofi was disgusting.

Desmond seems to think this gruesome thing is made of wax–but, no, it’s a real head and in spite of its detached status, it doesn’t look quite dead. More like somebody sticking his head up through a hole cut in a table-top.

Old Ben Stokes recognizes what–or who–it is when he first sees and tries to write a warning to the Collinses. Before he can get very far, the Head opens its eyes. Ben flees from Rose Cottage out into the woods, where he’ll be found with his own head cut off.
* And, really, doesn’t that description of recent events show you just how loopy this show was by the end?

** That is, they all look exactly like David Henesy. If we ever get a flashback of Barnabas as a boy, I wouldn’t be surprised if David played him too.


Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.