New Bedford Kids Loved to Watch ‘Dark Shadows’
Like many other kids in 1960s New Bedford, I would race home from school every afternoon to witness the latest adventures of vampire Barnabas Collins and the folks of the fictitious town of Collinsport, Maine. I was a Dark Shadows groupie.
Dark Shadows was a gothic soap opera on ABC from 1966 to 1971. It didn't begin that way. When Dark Shadows first aired, it was just another black and white sappy soap designed for bored housewives. Poor ratings and even poorer writing and storylines made it the lowest-rated soap on TV.
Creator Dan Curtis thought that by adding some vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and witches, the show might attract a younger and more loyal following. He was right, and the rest is television history.
Dark Shadows became a massive hit, and many of the performers – Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, David Selby, Lara Parker, John Karlin, and others – became huge celebrities. Actress Joan Bennett was already a Hollywood legend when she signed on to do Dark Shadows.
Dark Shadows taped live, and redos were unheard of in those days. As a result, the show was campy. Technical issues such as doors that wouldn't close properly and cheesy special effects were a part of the finished product. Viewers might see a stagehand in a scene or see a boom microphone drop down a bit too far, but that was part of the fun of the show.
My friends and I would act out scenes from Dark Shadows. We collected Dark Shadows memorabilia including, posters, record albums, books, magazines, Barnabas Collins rings, fangs, trading cards, and a whole lot more. The fact that the house used in the exterior shots of the Collinwood mansion was in nearby Newport made it even more appealing. Of course, we visited often. It's now on the market if you've got $30 million to spare.
When this home on Jarry Street in New Bedford went up for sale in 2020, the owner even had an entire room in his house dedicated to Dark Shadows.
When Dark Shadows was on television, there were no video recorders or DVRs. If you missed an episode, it was lost and gone forever. When I got in trouble in school or didn't behave at home, my punishment was no Dark Shadows.
Dark Shadows went off the air when the writers ran out of storylines and ideas. It lasted just about long enough. The memories of Dark Shadows live on for many of us who were kids at the time. It can still be seen in reruns on cable and internet channels.
Several attempts to revive Dark Shadows in movies and on TV failed miserably. There was only one Barnabas Collins and one Dark Shadows. It is a bond I share with the kids I grew up with in my working-class New Bedford neighborhood. It is a part of who we are.