Vampires, ghosts, and werewolves, oh my. Those were just some of the beasties on that spooky sixties soap Dark Shadows. And here were some of the show’s fans: teenagers, housewives, and hippies—who purportedly appreciated the trippy, otherworldly subject matter and play with time dimensions (oh, my).
The show had a huge following in its heyday, but an equally impressive cult following these days. It holds a place in history as the first Gothic daytime drama, as ABC’s first color soap opera, and, though this is a watershed tougher to measure, it was the first series with a broad Goth appeal. Even if spooky theatrics didn’t make for a kid’s regular TV viewing, they found themselves racing home from school, and moms found themselves racing out of the kitchen, postponing the preparation of that eve’s scrumptious family dinner for a half-hour of thrills and chills.
Dark Shadows was created by Dan Curtis, who would later compel viewers to whisk away tears in mini-series The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. The idea of a young lady governess who came to a seaside village to care for a rich little boy purportedly came to Mr. Curtis in a dream. Which makes good sense, because creepy Collinsport, Maine, and the even creepier Collinwood mansion (home of the Collins family) were certainly dream-ish places—dreams of the “bad” variety, that is.
After several months on the air, unfortunately, the show’s ratings were also of the “bad” variety. In a stroke of desperate revamping (awful pun intended), Curtis added a character named Barnabas Collins—an almost two-hundred-year-old vampire. This particular gentleman of the night was played by former Shakespearean actor Jonathan Frid, who seduced legions of viewers with his blend of ghoulishness and humanity. After Barnabas proved a success, other supernatural characters were also unearthed—ghosts, werewolves and a witch named Angelique.