Hello folks! This blog is still active, and I’m still breathing. So sorry there hasn’t been an update in months, but I’ve been rather ill. That led to surgery this Fall, and I’m still convalescing. Nonetheless, I’ve made notes for many essays and hope to write more in the coming months. My mind is still working if everything else isn’t, at least sometimes!
The other day I was reading that cesspool of derp known as Facebook. The Midcentury Fashion page and chatting with a handful of friends are the only reasons I endure this morass of outrage and gross stupidity. Seeing a post from Dark Shadows alum Kathryn L. Scott is always a pleasure because she always shares something interesting and cheerful. Ms. Scott, known for her endless patience with the show’s fanbase, gave everyone some happy news. Here in the bleak midwinter, a second volume of The Dark Shadows Daybook, named The Dark Shadows Daybook Unbound, has been published for Kindle, with a hard copy coming later this year.
Let’s have a little backstory on this project! New to the DS world in 2012, Rondo award-winning screenwriter/director Patrick McCray viewed every episode of the show in an impossible 45 days. Shortly after, he joined the award-winning The Collinsport Historical Society as a contributor to the blog. In 2016 he created the column “The Dark Shadows Daybook,” essays about his experience watching each of the 1225 episodes. These summaries are wonderful. Providing a fresh point of view, his observations bring new life to the DS saga. Spontaneous, energetic, witty, intelligent, and informative, his irreverent commentary is thoroughly enjoyable.
After years of writing for the blog, McCray and CHS writer/graphic artist Wallace McBride took on the time-consuming project of transforming this popular online column into a physical book. First conceived in 2019, the pair diligently worked on the project during the dreadful pandemic years. In 2021, The Dark Shadows Daybook arrived on Amazon. No mere episode guide, it is a selection of the best “Daybook” columns from The Collinsport Historical Society. And here we are, starting the year 2023 with a second volume of these wonderful episode summaries. It also includes an expanded section for the DS actors we’ve lost. As a Regular Dark Shadows Fan, I was delighted by the news!
Though this announcement wasn’t tantamount to winning Powerball, small favors are always welcome this time of year. It brought me giddy joy. It’s deep winter, and the weather is terrible. No snow this year makes it worse because it wastes good cold weather, and I’ve slipped on morning frost for no reason. We’ve just emerged from that three-month holiday season – Hallowthanksmass– with no holidays or household decorating extravaganzas on the horizon. Things are colorless and dull. Late January simply blows, so it’s a good time for light, fun reading, and a 99¢ Kindle book is always welcome.
Amid this happy news, someone said discouraging words. That’s Facebook for you. There’s always one! That disappointed me, and I felt a little miffed. My blood pressure went up a hair because I get irritable over trivial things in January. So strange it was in a sea of approval, I asked the naysayers why the negative post. The exchange and the fallout soon overshadowed the new Daybook announcement. I’ve redacted all names for the individuals’ privacy and to forestall lawsuits, but here is the public exchange.
THEY DIDN’T LIKE IT!
In all fairness, any encyclopedia of Dark Shadows with serious discussion of each episode was done thirty years ago by a fanzine. The Dark Shadows-themed books, published in the 1990s by Kathryn Scott, say all that’s left to be said. This was a soap. Actors learned reams of dialog for the next day, it was shot live on tape, goofs happened, rinse and repeat—The End. Amazon’s description is very truthful -this book reprints articles from an award-winning blog by an award-winning writer. Daybook does what it says on the tin. Why did anyone expect an encyclopedia?
Ok! Giving one last “Hail Mary” to reiterate that this book was a collection of essays from The Collinsport Historical Society, I got one last shot.
Whadda what!? Now that wasn’t nice! The CHS is the internet’s repository of all things Dark Shadows. Beautifully designed, it holds interviews, articles, fan news, podcasts, you name it, collected over the years. For over a decade, if you want information on Dark Shadows, you can find it here. Contributors have gone above and beyond collecting the many magazine articles and news clippings from Dark Shadows’ heyday. There are photographs and memorabilia galore. I do believe CHS has collected every picture and story printed during the show’s run. Searching the CHS is like finding all those magazines I bought from 1968 to 1971 that my mother threw away. Even the holy grail of memorabilia, items from the official Dark Shadows Fan Club based in Los Angles, are in the vault of this magnificent website. In 2015, extraordinary graphic artist Wallace /“Cousin Barnabas” gave us a link to his own retro Dark Shadows Fan Club designs just because he’s nice. This way, fans old and new could print their own Barnabas Collins bookmarks and notepads. Yes, just like the ones I blew my allowance on in 1969. The only difference is that it didn’t arrive via the post with a sticker saying, “Frid is Fangier” and I didn’t have to do dishes for 2 weeks to repay the allowance advance. Did I mention that the blog won several Rondo awards? Plus, it has the seal of approval of the remaining Dark Shadows actors. How much more official must it get? It’s the definitive guide to Dark Shadowsdom in the 21 century, hands down.
Each to their own. Not everyone likes everything. I hate cilantro, and hearing anyone over age 12 using the word “creepy.” Alas, as always happens on social media, my inquiry ruffled feathers. Facebook Messenger started pinging. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Thunder boomed in the distance and I heard Robert Colbert’s suspense music cue in my mind. It became clear that I had wandered into True Dark Shadows Fan™ territory, which is scary. For the uninitiated, Dark Shadows fans come in three categories:
Regular Dark Shadows Fans – Old or new, these are ordinary fans with a well-developed interest in the show. Reruns may bring back fond memories for the older set. More recent fans have just discovered Dark Shadows on streaming and love it. Regular Dark Shadows Fans may buy and sell memorabilia, like reading fan fiction and going to Festivals but aren’t obsessive. They realize this is just an old TV show, a fun piece of Americana and the actors are no longer 20 years old.
Dark Shadows Fans™ –This second group is comprised of both old and new, but with a more significant proportion of the original fanbase. Many “ran home from school” to watch the original telecasts. These fans are more serious about the show. More likely than not, they will attend Festivals. They are also more serious about collecting memorabilia, frequently driving up prices to $500+ for rare items on eBay. Having invested more time watching the show, Dark Shadows Fans™ like discussing trivia, recalling the episode numbers, air dates, and every goof and blown line in the entire series. Many write fan-fiction, debate alternative story arcs and fill plot holes. A few are possessive of the show and actors and lapse into fangirl/boy “I’m the greatest fan!” behavior on occasion. This category can stand light-hearted points of view, criticism, and parodies, though a minority will stamp tootsies and sulk if you laugh at something.
True Dark Shadows Fans™ – These fans are different. This isn’t a TV show; it’s a way of life. Dead serious, there is no room for criticism or other points of view; any mention must be made with reverence because Dark Shadows is perfect, even when the sets fall apart, and Barnabas misses his cue. Not only do they know the number, tape date, and air date, they can recite all dialog for all 1225 episodes. They attend Festivals come hell or high water. A few will alarm security. New fans are barely tolerated. Any laughter is not!! Deviation from the perceived norm will cause a meltdown. True Dark Shadows Fans™ will never sell their memorabilia; it will be willed to heirs or buried with them. Parodies are anathema. These fans remember that fanzine satire you wrote back in the 80s, still want to argue about it 35 years later and they still hate you. Though many have transitioned to social media, a few will post on Usenet, a lone shrill voice speaking in the darkness of an empty cyber tomb. A tiny fraction, perhaps 1%, keep nightly vigil, waiting for Barnabas to turn them into a vampire. Ditto a new reboot of the show with the entire original cast all looking just like they did in 1967, with the same story arcs. Sometimes they send mysterious letters, written in pencil on lined paper, with a return address of Collinsport, Maine. You forever wonder who they are or how they got your address. [Yes, this actually happened to me. I’m still mystified two decades later.]
Sensing danger, I extracted myself from True Dark Shadows Fans™ territory. The last time I ventured there ended in tears for all involved. My Messenger inbox was filled with cheers and a heck of a lot of jeers from total strangers. Though I did suggest the poster reread the Daybook and CHS, I was met with stony silence. Well, I tried. I guess they went back to an old Dan Ross novel or the same 20 DS episodes now showing on Decades Network.
I recommend both books for Dark Shadows Fans of all categories and for ordinary people. It’s fun to read someone’s musing on the episodes. The author is an excellent wordsmith; his articles are well-written, energetic, and at times hilarious. Though I immediately purchased the Kindle edition, I’m looking forward to the physical copy with the artwork by Wallace McBride. It will look good with my small slice of Dark Shadows memorabilia. There is nothing wrong with new points of view on our beloved old show. New fans keep it relevant and alive 58 years later.
I also heartily commend Patrick McCray and Wallace McBride for having the foresight to publish these writings in physical form. We tend to think of what’s on the internet as lasting forever. Sadly, websites and blogs come and go. With these departures, so goes some excellent writing and information. That would be a crime if it happened to The Collinsport Historical Society. The new book is very welcome. Please accept this as a formal “thank you!” to all involved in this project. It brightened up a gloomy January. I wish you guys could publish the entire website in book form, but understand that is a Herculean feat. Now, there’s an idea for a comprehensive Dark Shadows encyclopedia! I’ll call you if I win the lottery and finance the thing.
Both The Dark Shadows Daybook and Daybook Unbound are available on Amazon.
Update: The CHS has published a wonderful review of Daybook Unbound. It’s far better than anything I can come up with at present.