When I think of the word obsession, I think of a stalker lurking in the shadows watching the unsuspecting victim’s every move, or of a misguided romance in which one or more of the parties is so fixated on the other they can’t function in the day-to-day. I've had many “obsessions” in my life, writing being one of them. Recently I have rekindled one of my old fixations from childhood.
When I was in the 4th grade, my grandmother told me about a show starting up in the afternoons after General Hospital. These half-hour episodes were black and white reruns of a 1966 soap opera called Dark Shadows. “You’ll love it,” she told me. “It’s really spooky. It has a vampire in it.” Dark Shadows was a popular soap opera that ran from 1966 until 1971. Once it went off the air, follow-up movies, companion books, and Dark Shadows reunion conventions continued to fuel people’s obsession over the show. Even today, Dark Shadows continues to have a cult following (I actually “follow” the show on Twitter).
The first time I watched Dark Shadows, I was hooked. There was something about the creepy atmosphere of Collingwood Manor set on the coast of Maine, and the mysterious yet gentlemanly character of Barnabas Collins that kept me tuning in every afternoon at 4:00. I even wrote my own episodes to the show, complete with the narration of Victoria Winters at the beginning. I don’t remember when ABC stopped airing the reruns, but by the time I was in 5th grade, I moved on to some other obsession.
Two years ago, I discovered that Netflix had most of the 1,225 episodes, and I’ve been watching them ever since. At the end of one of the episodes last night, Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played Maggie Evans (one of Barnabas Collins’s first victims), was interviewed about her time in the show. Now in her seventies, Scott spoke about obsessed fans approaching her to reveal the fangs they’d had professionally bonded to their teeth; others legally changed their name to one of the Dark Shadows characters. She was somewhat perplexed and amazed that the show could inspire such obsessive behavior.
I think my “obsession” with this show now is because it reminds me of my childhood, and more specifically my grandmother who passed away two years ago. The episodes were filmed on live television, so you’ll see the occasional microphone or the edge of filming equipment, or hear someone on the set cough. It’s also extremely melodramatic, but it’s strangely addictive and compelling. It was not at all hard for me to re-obsess over this old obsession.
Online journal for Dark Shadows: http://www.collinwood.net/