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Barnabas Collins Dies, Barnabas Collins is Reborn

Canadian actor Jonathan Frid died. He played vampire Barnabas Collins on TV’s Dark Shadows in the 1960s. Frid is dead, but Barnabas Collins is alive and well.

Jonathan Frid was 87. There’s a nice piece about him in the local papers right here.

The show was a daytime serial. It began airing in 1966, but it was another year before Frid appeared as the Collins family vampire, Barnabas. At the time I was in elementary school. 

After school my brother and I would go to the house of a babysitter named Sharon for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Sharon loved to watch soap operas, especially Edge of Night. She had two little boys who ate sugar by the spoonful and snacked on raw potatoes. We watched Dark Shadows with Sharon, who would yell at the screen, “don’t go in there!” and the like. She would sit on the edge of her seat during the spooky parts. We liked the spooky parts, no matter how cheesy the production quality was.

I remember parts of Dark Shadows where the camera wasn’t entirely pointed at the set, and you could see behind the wall where the production crew was standing around. I remember seeing Ben, the creepy “caretaker” character, walking into a fake tree and almost knocking it down. It rocked back and forth as he menaced it.

But mostly I remember Barnabas Collins and Jonathan Frid. For one thing, I loved that name Barnabas. Years later, in the 1970s, I was in a cemetery in Sacramento, California, and, to my surprise, happened upon a tombstone for Barnabas Collins. Here’s what it looks like:

Photo from Find-A-Grave

Jonathan Frid only played the character for about four years, but it stuck. He later said he didn’t take many TV jobs after that because they only wanted him to do the vampire thing again. You can read his views on a variety of things at his official website, which he personally updated with some frequency.

As is the way with supernatural-themed television shows, Dark Shadows became what they call a cult favorite. Here is Frid, meeting some fans at a Dark Shadows convention in 2007, and looking pretty spry:

Barnabas Collins got rebooted in 1991, resurrected for a new version of Dark Shadows that ran from January all the way through March of that year. Although it failed as a TV series, it’s notable for its place in the career of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who played a little boy because he was one:

And now Johnny Depp will be the next Barnabas Collins, in a Tim Burton version of Dark Shadows:

Finally, when Who2 was up and running after a redesign, in order to test the “User Contribution” function, I created a new sign-in. My first choice was to sign in as Barnabas Collins.

Spooky, right?

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