Dark Shadows: Warlocks and Witchcraft Trials

In 1840, Gerard Stiles, possessed by the warlock Judah Zachary, wants revenge against the Collins family since a Collins was among the judges who condemned Zachary 150 years earlier. He’s setting up Quentin Collins to be accused, convicted, and beheaded for witchcraft, just as Zachary was himself executed.

Desmond chokingTo start with, Gerard throttles Quentin’s cousin and best friend, Desmond, using Desmond’s cravat and one of those voodoo dolls so popular with the Dark Shadows witch community.

Gerard leaves the “strangled” doll on the trans-dimensional stairway that Quentin is constructing in his basement workshop / laboratory at Collinwood. Quentin displayed  the stairs to his supposed friend earlier and tried to explain his theories about the mutable properties of time and space–ideas which would sound more like magic than science to people who aren’t Time Lords.

Lamar Trask finds the voodoo doll on the stairs in time to untie the knot and save Desmond from choking to death, but the location makes him highly suspicious that Quentin’s work is satanic.

Lamar has also been extremely suspicious of Barnabas since the girl they were both in love with, Roxanne Drew, became a vampire, but whether he believes that Barnabas is a vampire himself or allied in witchcraft with Quentin fluctuates. Lamar’s the kind of guy who thinks that anybody he doesn’t like simply must be evil.

Quentin shows off his transdimenstional stairwayTo pile up the evidence against Quentin, Gerard has made a neighboring farmer’s cattle die; after the neighbor blames the Collinses, he is stalked and threatened in the woods.

Quentin’s wife Samantha’s and the vampiric Roxanne’s brother Randall is also attacked and killed in the woods. A note left beside Randall’s body bears the same circle-and-cross symbol as Quentin’s signet ring. Since Quentin is the one who stumbles over the body, he’s arrested for the murder.

When it comes to the inquest, Quentin is cleared of this murder charge, but it seems that the great state of Maine still has laws against witchcraft on its books as late as 1840. Lamar brings his accusations to the court and instead of laughing in his face and sending this looney on his way, the judge* has Quentin bound over to be tried as a warlock.

The local prosecutor, a sensible man, refuses to have anything to do with a witchcraft trial since he’s not living in the Dark Ages, and resigns. Another lawyer is brought in to deal with the case against Quentin: Gerard’s coven friend Charles Dawson.

As the two make their fiendish plans, they sound so over-the-top as bad guys that I keep expecting them to throw back their heads and let out a mwa-ha-ha! of evil laughter.

It turns out that Randall’s murder wasn’t Gerard’s doing. He confesses to Dawson that he has no idea who did it, but he’s pleased to know that there’s someone around who hates Quentin as much as he does.

Since descendants of the 1690s coven aside from Mr. Dawson are scarce, Gerard / Judah Zachary is making efforts to drum up new members. He mostly targets women: his old girlfriend Leticia,  Gabriel Collins’s bitter and angry wife Edith, and the Collinwood governess Daphne. He even gets back on good terms with Samantha, since she hates Quentin more than she hates him–and not just because she thinks Quentin killed her brother. There’s also the fact that Quentin won’t let her take their son if she leaves him, and that he’s carrying on a romance with Daphne.

The one woman Gerard doesn’t go after is the already witchly one who testified against Zachary at his trial in 1692–he has other plans for her. Her name was Miranda when he first converted her back in the 1690s,  but she’s currently living at the old house with her husband Barnabas under the name Valerie. We’ve known her for a long time as Angelique.

Watch fob Angelique has her suspicions about Gerard being possessed by Zachary, but when she steals his watch fob to cast a spell and test the premise, Gerard turns it to his advantage. Her spell shows her that Quentin is the warlock, not him–and he gains an unwitting ally since Angelique now considers Quentin her enemy in spite of Barnabas’s efforts to convince her otherwise.

The elderly Daniel Collins is horrified at his beloved son Quentin’s arrest, but Gerard and his allies manage to convince the old man that Quentin is indeed guilty. Gerard shows Daniel the transdimensional stairs and gives him a false vision of a woman being murdered by Quentin.

1840s SeanceGerard, Daniel, and Charles Dawson later hold a seance in which Dawson pretends to speak for the spirit of the murdered Randall Drew and says that Quentin killed him.

Daniel, whose heart isn’t very strong, takes to his bed and changes his will to disinherit his elder son. Gerard hints to the younger son, Gabriel, that he will now be Daddy’s principle heir. Gabriel, therefore, isn’t happy when he learns that Barnabas has talked Daniel into reconsidering disinheriting Quentin at least until after the trial, and changing his will again.

When Gabriel confronts his father, the two get into an argument. Daniel says a few very true but unkind things about Gabriel’s lack of character, which leads to Gabriel losing his temper–and Daniel learns to his astonishment that Gabriel can walk after all.

I’d been wondering about that for some time; we’ve seen Gabriel upstairs and downstairs and even all the way up in the tower room, but I’ve never seen any indication that Collinwood is wheelchair accessible.

Gabriel walks!Daniel doesn’t have much time to be surprised about his son’s mobility, since Gabriel assaults him and smothers him in his bed. The rest of the household thinks the old man has had a heart attack.

Another surprise is in store when Daniel’s will is read. Gabriel isn’t his heir. The Collinwood estate has been left to Daniel’s grandson Tad, who will come into the property when he’s 21. Gerard is appointed to be the boy’s guardian until then.

If, by chance, Quentin is acquitted of the charges against him, then he’ll be reinstated as his father’s heir. Gerard, who is still pretending to be Quentin’s friend, says that he hopes this will happen and he’ll just look after Quentin’s home and family until then–but of course he’s really doing everything he can to ensure that Quentin loses his head.

Things don’t look good for Quentin as the manufactured evidence piles up against him. Desmond, who has been Quentin’s lawyer, also ends up arrested for witchcraft when the journal of Judah Zachary is revealed to have been in his possession, not to mention that severed head which has since disappeared.

I thought that Gerard had destroyed Zachary’s old head once he was possessed by the warlock, but whenever Dawson suggests bringing it into court to use against Quentin and Desmond, Gerard balks, as if he still has it and is reluctant to use it.

Leticia, who is psychic, comes into danger from the townsfolk as well. She is the first person to envision the upcoming deaths of the two children, Tad and Carrie.

Carrie and her boyfriend's pictureIt’s strange that, after Tad and Carrie in ghost form played such a large part in the build-up for this 1840s storyline, they’ve barely been seen since we entered that time period. Nor have we visited the playroom lately. Samantha used to hang around in it, grieving when she thought her son was dead, but no one’s been in it since Tad and Quentin came home.

“Children” hardly seems the appropriate word for the two young people anymore. David Henesy’s voice is changing, and the actress playing Carrie has swiftly made the transition from little girl to young lady. She even has a boyfriend, the handsome son of that neighboring farmer Quentin was quarreling with.

Gerard and Lamar Trask continue to build up their case to include Barnabas in their accusations. Trask finds his father’s skeleton bricked up in the cellar wall at the old Collins house and is certain Barnabas Collins is responsible. In his quest for revenge, he convinces himself that the Barnabas that’s living at the house now is the same man who was there in the 1790s. After all, he looks exactly like the man in the painting (Trask overlooks the fact that he too looks exactly like his father).

When they also notice that they’ve never seen Barnabas in daylight, the two become convinced that he must be a vampire. Gerard goes over to the old house one afternoon,  brandishing a pistol with silver bullets to find the coffin and dispatch Barnabas. He finds Julia, Valerie… and Barnabas, who is up and around although sunset is still several hours away.

So he’s not a vampire after all?

No, he’s not anymore. Valerie/Angelique has removed her curse from him and the couple seems to be on their way to a reconciliation. I guess he’s forgiven her for killing his mother, his little sister, at least two women he was in love with, Dr. Lang, and who-can-remember how many others. They refer to themselves husband and wife; I always put an “ex” in front of that, figuring “until death us do part,” and they’ve both been dead at least once if not twice.

Barnabas talks about how good it is to go out into the sunlight, even though he was non-vampiric just about a year ago according to his own personal timeline and could enjoy sunny days at the beginning of 1970.

I admit I’m having a harder time piecing together Angelique’s personal timeline. I had assumed that this was, for her, before she made her appearance in 1968 as Cassandra, married Roger, and tormented Barnabas and the rest of the Collins family with her dream curse until her boss Nicholas Blair showed up, killed her, and turned her into a vampire,  and she got sent back in time again to reconsider her former nastiness. Also before she appeared in 1897 and was willing to help him and Julia out. But she’s being sweet and helpful now.

The whole thing feels abrupt and forced to me, as if the writers suddenly decided to abandon the latest round of Angelique hating Barnabas and trying to hurt him in any way she can, and are bringing this long-standing storyline to a close.

We are getting very near the conclusion of Dark Shadows now; it’s the end of 1970 and the show only has a few months left to run.

Barnabas has precious few days to enjoy being human again, however; mortality has its drawbacks once Trask catches up with him. He ends up bricked behind a wall in an abandoned chapel. This is something he could bear for any amount of time as a vampire, but as a mortal man it nearly kills him. It takes Julia and Valerie / Angelique nearly a week to find and rescue him.

When Barnabas recovers, he appears at the courtroom–not as a witness to support Quentin, but as his new lawyer for the defense.  He does pretty well, actually, turning some of the startled Trask’s accusations back against him.

The Dark Shadows version of A Christmas CarolBut then the neighboring farmer is murdered via a spell from Gerard (that same hootchy-kootchy dancing shadow figure that menaced Jeb at the end of the Leviathan storyline a year before). He leaves behind an incriminating note that finishes off the prosecution’s case.

Quentin is found guilty of witchcraft.


*The judge is played by Addison Powell, the same actor who once played mad scientist Dr. Lang.



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.