How Barnabas Changed Dark Shadows

Once in a blue moon, a show comes along that captivates people around the country. In the late 1960s, that show was Dark Shadows. Every day, teens would rush home from school just to find out what was happening at Collinwood. 

What was once a popular soap opera has now turned into a cult classic, and it's still beloved by millions of people. Here's a look at nine things you might not have known about Collinwood, Barnabas, and the legend that is Dark Shadows.

1. Barnabas Collins wasn't supposed to be a main character.

Not many people were fans of the show when it first aired in 1966. In order to improve ratings, creator Dan Curtis brought on a vampire for a limited run. That vampire was Barnabas Collins, and he proved to be so popular that Curtis kept him in the storyline. 

2. Was Barnabas Collins a vampire?

Collins first appeared in the 211th episode of the series, but it took the cast until the 410th episode to utter the word "vampire." Before that, the characters would refer to him with lines like "he's not alive," "he's one of the undead," and "he walks at night but he ain't alive." Looks like they were dropping some serious clues. 

3. There is a missing episode.

During its five year run, the cast filmed an impressive 1,225 episodes. However, one of them was lost along the way. When the distributor decided to release the series on home video, it discovered episode 1,219 was missing. Instead, they reconstructed the episode with audio and photos. 

4. Only two actors stuck around the whole time.

Of those 1,225 episodes, only two actors appeared in the first and last. Joan Bennett and Louis Edmonds were the ones there from start to finish, despite multiple cast changes. Nancy Barrett first appeared in the second episode, but was also in the cast for the full run.

5. The show had a pretty slim budget.

The studio allocated Dark Shadows a mere $70,000 a week to produce five episodes. That means the production team had to get creative. One camera operator discovered that putting plastic wrap and Vaseline around the edges of the lens made a great effect for dream sequences. 

Image: AP Photo/Bob Wands 

6. It was a little dangerous.

Because the production timeline was so strict, the show had to be taped straight through with no retakes, never mind if actors flubbed their lines or a crewman walked onset. In one instance, Kate Jackson's nineteenth century dress caught on fire because she was surrounded by candles. The camera crew kept filming as if nothing happened. 

7. That's not Jonathan Frid in that famous portrait.

Remember that famous portrait of Barnabas Collins that hung at Collinwood? Well, in fact, it's not actually Jonathan Frid posing as his character. One of the producers stood in as Barnabas, and the artist left the face blank to fill it in with Frid's features. 

8. It has a lot of "firsts."

In an era when soap operas enjoyed massive popularity, Dark Shadows stood out from the rest in a couple of ways. It was the first soap opera to be shot in color on ABC. It was also the first soap opera to spawn three films. The first two came out in the early '70s after the series ended, and the most recent one hit theaters in 2012. 

9. The cast actually got along.

When a series has an ensemble cast, you often hear of feuds or arguments among the co-stars. That wasn't really the case for Dark Shadows. Barrett said she thought the cast was very close, particularly because they literally spent the entire day together filming and rehearsing lines.