Friday, June 27, 2014


Damn near as old as I. The first episode of Dark Shadows premiered on June 27, 1966 on ABC-TV. I was seven years old, and I saw that first episode while my family was visiting my grandparents in Gainesville, GA, as we often did in the summertime. Although the show didn't initially delve into the supernatural as it most famously did in later years, something about its air of mystery — and particularly its opening theme — grabbed my recently-turned-seven-year-old imagination, and, perhaps more than any other single property, paved the way to my becoming an enthusiastic writer of all things dark and creepy. When we came back home to Virginia a few days later, I discovered that our local ABC-TV affiliate didn't run Dark Shadows, and this rightly upset me. In Martinsville, unless you had cable TV and could pick up WLVA channel 13 out of Lynchburg, VA, you didn't get to see Dark Shadows, and in 1966, not so many people had cable as do today. A few friends of mine did, however, so I took every opportunity to invite myself over to their houses after school so we could get our Dark Shadows fixes. By late 1969, when my family finally got cable and I could watch the show daily, I was already a diehard fan.

If you've ever read a word I've written, you're probably already aware that Dark Shadows, to me, remains something of a magical property. I've been fortunate enough to write a licensed Dark Shadows novel — Dreams of the Dark (HarperCollins, 1999), along with Elizabeth Massie — as well as several scripts for Big Finish's Dark Shadows audio series, which features numerous members of the original cast, as well as an unlicensed Dark Shadows novel titled The Labyrinth of Souls, which, though it never progressed beyond first-draft stage, I honest-to-god believe turned out to be one of my best writing efforts. Perhaps most meaningful of all, these projects have allowed me to get to know some of the cast members who, almost to the person, have proven themselves fascinating, personable, and exceedingly decent human beings. As a kid, if I had known I might grow up to undertake these particular endeavors, I might well have had a heart attack and thus never grown up to write any Dark Shadows. I reckon it's a good thing life sometimes offers one surprises.

A little over a year ago, I took it to heart to watch the entire original series from start to finish, something I haven't done  in several decades. I'm currently about three-quarters of the way through, and I find myself enjoying it — from its most polished to its roughest edges — perhaps more than ever. Though the show is often known mostly for its campiness and frequently amusing bloopers, usually due to its severe budget limitations, it is also balanced by countless moments of creative brilliance, and it's the latter that, to me, continue to make the show magical.

As a kid, I half-believed this, and as an adult, I want to believe it... that if you're a person of good character and vivid imagination, when you die you'll go to Collinwood.

This suits me, it surely does.

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