Some spoilers follow. You have been warned!
Because the breakout character in the gothic soap opera turned out to be a vampire (Barnabas Collins) small wonder the undead are most associated with Dark Shadows. But in truth large numbers of other supernatural creatures also wandered the environs of Collinsport, Maine. Ghosts, witches, warlocks, a zombie or two–and several werewolves.
First came Chris Jennings. He first arrived in Collinsport to investigate the death of his twin brother Tom (who’d fallen victim to a vampire and eventually had to be destroyed). The twins also had a much-younger sister, Amy. Upon his arrival, Chris seemed odd. Melancholy, acting as if he had some really big secret, which of course he did. Our first real clue came when he chained himself up in his hotel room on the night of a full moon. Alas, the proprietor of the Collinsport Inn didn’t take too seriously the young man’s insistence he be left alone. Over the next few weeks we learned more, as Chris reluctantly remained in town to provide some kind of stability for his sister. Amy herself sometimes looked at people and saw a pentagram on their faces–someone no one else could. Chris alas freaked out upon hearing this. In time he revealed how he’d changed for the first time in the presence of his fiancee Sabrina. He assumed her dead, but later learned she had gone catatonic, her hair bleached white by the horror of it. Later, her brother brought her to Collinsport, always in an effort to learn what had happened. Eventually she got better, determined to help the man she loved.
About this time, something truly (wonderfully) convoluted happened. After a closed off room in the Collinwood mansion was opened up again, the ghost of a man from the 1890s began to haunt the great house atop the hill. They soon learned his name–Quentin Collins. Played by David Selby, the looming figure with long sideburns was somehow connected to Chris, and to a silver pendant of the pentagram found in a secret grave. Eventually, a pair of characters traveled back to the year 1897 where they learned the truth. Quentin had married and abandoned a gypsy girl named Jenny, who eventually died. Her sister cursed Quentin to become a werewolf–but only later learned Jenny given birth to a pair of twins! The curse would follow the eldest males of the bloodline (which is why Tom and Amy were not themselves werewolves). Desperate to remove the curse, she then tried tracking down the severed hand of a man who had also been a werewolf–a powerful magic user by the name of Count Petofi.
Petofi proved a strange and fascinating antagonist. Seemingly immortal, he had invested mugh of his power into that hand and he wanted it back! As part of a much larger scheme he also found a way to cure–or at least successfully treat–Quentin’s own lycanthropy. Taking a page from The Portrait of Dorian Grey, he had an artist make a painting of Quentin and when done it was that painting that changed into a wolf rather than Quentin himself! One niggling side effect–the painting also aged for him, so Quentin was rendered virtually immortal. Why would Petofi do such a thing? Turned out he wanted to escape some powerful enemies, and stealing Quentin’s body was his way of doing it.
The rules of werewolves in Dark Shadows seemed relatively straightforward. A victim became a werewolf via a curse or inheritance. Could the survivor of a bite become one himself? Such never came up. On three nights of the full moon, the werewolf (always male) turned into a creature very much like that of Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man, in effect a wolf-like man. Governed by rage, these creatures could be controlled by someone of sufficient occult power. The only way to hurt or kill one was with silver, so the iconic silver wolf’s head cane of the series proved very useful more than once. Evidently women in the cursed bloodlines could see perspective prey of the werewolf with visions, as Amy did.
Perhaps most interestingly, in a later storyline it turned out werewolves were the natural enemy of a kind of Lovecraftian demon known as Leviathans. When Jeb Hawkes, a human-form version of the Leviathans, learned a werewolf haunted Collinsport he went into a total panic. He described their savagery as the only real danger to one of his kind.
Alas, on the show, Chris Jennings never found a cure for his affliction. Sam Hall, one of the writers of the show, later wrote an article for T.V.Guide describing how he saw the stories continuing. This included tragedy for Chris and Sabrina. Eventually she was killed by the beast, and Chris in despair committed suicide.
For the new movie, Tim Burton and Seth Graham-Smith in the end also included a werewolf, to add to the vampire, ghosts and witch in the most recent version of the show. Without revealing who it is, said werewolf looks much more like a blend of wolf with human, including legs that clearly show a more lupine shape. We also learn this werewolf became that way via a bite. Other versions, like the 1991 revival series, didn’t last long enough to bring in a werewolf.
About the Author
David MacDowell Blue blogs at zahirblue.blogspot.com. He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. He’s currently writing a vampire novel titled Winter Isle and a nonfiction book Your Vampire Story (and how to write it).