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Barnabas Collins is a fictional character, one of the feature characters in the ABC soap opera serial Dark Shadows, which aired from 1966 to 1971. Originally played by Canadianmarker actor Jonathan Frid, Barnabas Collins is a 175-year-old vampire who is in search of fresh blood and his lost love. The character of Barnabas Collins was introduced to the serial in a last-effort attempt to resurrect the flagging ratings. The role of Barnabas Collins was originally intended to be a brief one, to run but a mere 13 weeks, but the popularity of the character and the quick spike in ratings resulted in him continuing on and becoming virtually the star of the show.

In the 1991 NBC revival series of Dark Shadows, British actor Ben Cross played the role of Barnabas Collins.

Barnabas Collins' origin

Barnabas Collins was a member of the late 18th century-era Collins family, from the fictional town of Collinsport, Maine. He was the son of Joshua Collins (Louis Edmonds) and Naomi Collins (Joan Bennett), and had a little sister, Sarah Collins. In 1795, he intended to marry a beautiful heiress from Martinique named Josette du Pres (Kathryn Leigh Scott), although he also had an affair with Angelique Bouchard (Lara Parker), Josette's maidservant. Unbeknownst to him or Josette, Angelique was actually a powerful witch, well acquainted with voodoo and the black arts.

After Barnabas decided to end his affair with her, Angelique cast a spell on Josette to make her fall in love with Barnabas's uncle, Jeremiah Collins (Anthony George). After Jeremiah and Josette eloped, Barnabas challenged Jeremiah to a duel. Jeremiah lost, dying shortly after being shot. Later, Angelique tricked Barnabas into marrying her by placing a curse on Sarah, so that she suffered an incurable malady. After Barnabas agreed to marry her, Angelique removed the spell on Sarah, but claimed to have cured her through a medicinal remedy. When Barnabas discovered that Angelique was responsible for the marriage of Josette and Jeremiah, and other strange happenings at Collinwood, he shot her. With what she believed to be her dying words, she took revenge on Barnabas by summoning a vampire bat from hell to attack him. Barnabas fell extremely ill and died. Angelique survived and attempted to rescind the curse, but was unsuccessful.

Shortly thereafter, Barnabas rose as a vampire. He immediately killed Angelique, the only witness to his rising from his coffin. (In death she became a succubus.) Later, he frightened his aunt Abigail Collins (Clarice Blackburn) to death, and entombed alive the hatefully fanatic witch-hunter Reverend Trask (Jerry Lacy) in the Old House basement. Sarah saw her deceased brother roaming Collinwood and hid from him in the cold dark woods all night; because of this she contracted pneumonia and died. To add to Barnabas' grief, his mother Naomi Collins commited suicide after discovering her son's secret, (indirectly due to all the grief caused by Angelique). Barnabas also attempted to transform Josette into a vampire. At first, she was willing, if not quite fully cognizant of what this would entail. But then Angelique (who had become far more powerful after her death) revealed to her a vision of what she would become. Fleeing from Barnabas, Josette leapt to her death off the cliffs of Widow's Hill, (in a later episode in the series where Barnabas confronted Angelique, he told her he would never forgive her for bringing about the deaths of both Josette and Naomi).

Unable to bear what he had become, Barnabas asked his father, Joshua Collins, to kill him. However, Joshua was unable to murder his son, and so he ordered Barnabas’ devoted servant, Ben Stokes (Thayer David), to nail a crucifix to the inside lid of Barnabas' coffin and to wrap chains on its outside, forever imprisoning the vampire in the secret room of the family mausoleum at Eagle's Hill Cemetery.

The return of Barnabas Collins

In 1967, Willie Loomis (John Karlen) was foraging in the Collins family crypt at the cemetery for the family's rumored "lost jewels". He stumbled upon the chained coffin in which Barnabas slept. Believing the coffin to contain the lost riches of the Collins family, Willie accidentally released the vampire. Barnabas attacked Willie and turned him into his unwilling servant.

Barnabas introduced himself to the modern Collins family as a cousin from England — a hard working businessman never seen during the day. The family accepted this story, (even though they’d never heard of him before), because of his ‘uncanny resemblance’ to the portrait of the ancestral Barnabas (actually one and the same) which hung in the foyer near the front door in Collinwood. Thirsty for new blood, Barnabas made victims of several Collinsport residents. He was particularly taken with waitress Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott), who resembled his long-lost love, Josette. Barnabas was told by Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), that Josette's spirit still haunted the Collinwood estate; where it periodically helped and protected others, such as young David Collins (David Henesy), to whom Vicki was governess. Barnabas kidnapped Maggie, and hypnotized her into believing she really was Josette, and planned to make her his vampire bride. Maggie escaped (with help from the ghost of little Sarah Collins), but not unscathed. The emotional distress of being kidnapped caused Maggie to regress to a child-like mentality, and to forget all that happened to her. Barnabas next targeted Vicki, as his next potential vampire consort. He opted to use alternate methods though, first trying to seduce her away from her fiancé Burke Devlin (Anthony George) before biting her. While this was happening, the ghost of Sarah appeared repeatedly, tormenting Barnabas (who felt indirectly responsible for her death) and warning him not to do evil deeds.

Meanwhile, Maggie was sent to Wyndcliff Sanitarium, where Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) tried to make her remember what happened, as well as to identify her kidnapper. Dr. Hoffman soon found out that the answer lay somewhere at Collinwood. She then discovered who and what Barnabas was. Julia fell in love with him however, and attempted to cure him, (as well as protect him by re-hypnotizing Maggie into forgetting everything Barnabas had tried to do to her). Barnabas initially distrusted Julia, and when her medical cure failed, he viewed her as a risk – she would be able to expose his true nature. He attempted to kill her, or drive her mad so that no one would believe accusations of vampirism from her. Ultimately though, Barnabas realized he needed an ally and eventually became rehabilitated to the point that they became friends. Even though the romantic relationship Julia desired never happened, she became Barnabas's chief confidante and helped him many times, even risking time travel to aid her afflicted friend over the next several years.

Victoria Winters travels back in time

Barnabas had genuinely fallen in love with Victoria by this point, but even more bizarre machinations prevented him from opening up to her. During a séance, Victoria was thrown back through time back to Collinwood in 1795, when Barnabas was still a human being. She became a witness (if only peripherally) to Barnabas’ transformation into a vampire. Victoria herself was accused of being a witch by the hateful Trask, and stood trial. She fell in love with her legal representative Peter Bradford (Roger Davis). When Vicky returned to her proper point in time (1968), she had only hazy memories of what occurred. Peter managed to follow her through time, and under the assumed identity Jeff Clark, was reunited with her – much to Barnabas’ disappointment.

Adam the Golem and Nicholas Blair

Another doctor, Eric Lang, cured Barnabas of his affliction by using his vampiric life force to give life to his golem creation Adam (Robert Rodan), a Frankenstein's monster-like hybrid of reanimated corpses. For a time, Barnabas and Adam were spiritually joined; if harm befell one of them, the other would suffer the effects. This strange connection prevented Angelique (who also reappeared in the 20th century) from enacting a dream curse that, if successful, would have made Barnabas a vampire again. Barnabas was then put in the difficult position of becoming an enemy of Adam, who was being used by the warlock Nicholas Blair (Humbert Allen Astredo). Nicholas wanted to create a female golem as a companion for Adam, in order to create a new race of beings to supplant humanity, one consecrated to evil. Barnabas destroyed the female golem and defeated Nicholas, after which Adam left Collinwood for parts unknown.

Barnabas versus Quentin Collins and Count Petofi

Barnabas was able to use the I-Ching to transport his consciousness back into the past in order to inhabit his body in the past. By doing this, he undertook several trips through time in order to save friends and/or relatives. Once was to save Vicki (who was once again trapped in 1796, and in danger of being hanged as a witch.) Another incident was to save young David Collins, who in 1969 was possessed by the spirit of his great-uncle Quentin Collins (David Selby). To save David, Barnabas’ consciousness went back to the year 1897 and inhabited his imprisoned body (but freed by the gypsy Magda Racosi – another Grayson Hall role). He was once more a vampire in this time. Aside from combating Quentin’s villainy, he yet again faced off with Angelique, as well as immortal phoenix Laura Collins (Diana Millay), and the sorcerer known as Count Petofi (Thayer David). Along the way, he met up with Lady Kitty Hampshire, the reincarnation of Josette.

The Leviathans

After his adventures in 1897 were wrapped up, Barnabas again went back to 1797 along with Kitty/Josette. Their reunion was short-lived however, as Barnabas became the pawn of an ancient mystical race known as the Leviathans, who ruled Earth before humanity, and wanted to return to power. They forced Barnabas to travel back to the 20th century and aid in their plans to resurrect their leader. Eventually he broke free of their mind control and turned against them. But in defeating them, he paid a terrible price – they changed him back into a vampire. During the Leviathan affair though, Barnabas had one last contact with the spirit of Josette, who finally forgave him and allowed him to move on. Also, Barnabas became enamored of Maggie, who had taken over Vicky’s position as governess at Collinwood, following the latter woman’s departure and return to 1795-6 with Peter Bradford.

Parallel time

Barnabas and Julia discovered a room in Collinwood’s east wing that was a gateway to a strange parallel universe, one in which Collinwood, Collinsport and most of their inhabitants existed, but in strangely different ways. Observing this otherworld several times, Barnabas deduced that he was long dead; apparently in that world he never became a vampire. He surmised that if he were to enter that world, he would again revert to being normal human – since the curse never having been invoked, it would not affect him there. He did manage to cross over to the other world, but he was still a vampire. Worse yet, he was imprisoned by the Parallel Time version of Willie Loomis, named William, who was an alcoholic author. William chained Barnabas up in his coffin for many weeks (thus, reversing the events of ‘normal time’ in which Willie freed him from his coffin) while he forced him to relate the history of his vampiric existence. (William wanted to write an exploitative book about Barnabas.) Meanwhile, the Parallel Time version of Angelique proved to be just as destructive to the Collins family as her normal time counterpart. After escaping from William’s imprisonment, Barnabas fell in love with Roxanne Drew, a young woman whose life-force was being used to sustain the Parallel Time Angelique (a succubus who survived by stealing the life force from other people.)

The mystery of Gerard Stiles

Julia ultimately rescued Barnabas from Parallel Time. But when returned to their proper universe, they inadvertently appeared in the year 1995 – 25 years into the future. While there, they discovered from an aged Mrs. Johnson, the contemporary Collins family housekeeper (Clarice Blackburn again), that Collinwood and most of it’s inhabitants befell a calamitous disaster in the year 1970, one linked to the ghosts, Gerard Stiles (Jim Storm) and Daphne Harridge (Kate Jackson), from the early 19th century. Barnabas and Julia returned to their proper point in time, the year 1970, several months before the disaster was to occur. The two raced against time to discover who Gerard and Daphne were, and how to prevent the disaster from occurring. (During this time, Barnabas encountered the ‘normal time’ counterpart of Roxanne Drew. This Roxanne was herself revealed to be a vampire, and she blamed Barnabas for making her one, even though Barnabas had never met this Roxanne before. This would be explained in the next time travel escapades.) This adventure met with failure, as Gerard possessed David and through him summoned an army of the living dead to invade Collinwood and kill most of the Collins family.

The final adventure

In a switch, Julia rather than Barnabas was the one to escape into the past, this time to the year 1840, while Gerard and Daphne were still alive. Aware of Barnabas’s previous time traveling experiences, Julia assumed he would use the I-Ching to inhabit his past self. While this assumption was correct, Julia released Barnabas from his coffin too early, before his rehabilitated 20th century mind inhabited the body. Thus the Barnabas she released was the evil vampire self whom Willie initially set free in 1967. He fed off an innocent victim – Roxanne – before his ‘modern’ self was able to possess his body, and therefore become Julia’s ally.

During the 1840 adventure, Barnabas once again confronted Angelique (who used the name Valerie during this time). Angelique/Valerie finally lifted the vampire curse from Barnabas once and for all, leaving him a normal human. She also used her magic to counter Gerard’s evil plots (and was stripped of her own witch-powers by him). Valerie was a more compassionate person now and Barnabas genuinely fell in love with her. Unfortunately she was shot and killed by Lamar Trask (Jerry Lacy), the vengeful son of Rev. Trask from 1796.

A gothic finale

Eventually, Barnabas and Julia (and their oft-time ally Prof. Stokes – Thayer David again) unraveled the mystery of Gerard Stiles and prevented the events that would precipitate the 1970 disaster. When Barnabas and his allies returned to 1970 (’71 by then), the disaster had simply never taken place. At that point, the storyline for “Dark Shadows” shifted back to Parallel Time in 1841 for its final months on air. The last story was a conventional gothic mystery, featuring Jonathan Frid in the new role of Barnabas's son, Bramwell Collins, who successfully confronts the ghost of Brutus Collins.

Other appearances

In 1970, MGM released the movie House of Dark Shadows. The story centers on the releasing of Barnabas Collins from his coffin by Willie Loomis. Unlike Frid's original portrayal of Barnabas in the show, the Barnabas featured in the movie was more true to the typical evil vampire. By the end of the movie, he has killed half of the Collins Family. Finally, Barnabas himself is killed by Jeff Clark (now depicted as Maggie's boyfriend), and a dying Willie Loomis, when he tries to make Maggie Evans his vampire bride.


Barnabas often blamed his moments of cruelty on his transformation into one of the Undead or "nosferatu", but throughout the series, other characters revealed that Barnabas was not as reluctant a victim as he saw himself. While in a drunken stupor Ben Stokes admitted that Barnabas, prior to his change "...weren't no good then, neither!" When the vampire tried to kill his own father to silence his cries for help, an astonished Joshua Collins exclaimed: "You would kill even me! You must have always had so much hatred in you. No one could be filled with it so quickly!" In later interviews, Jonathan Frid admitted this was part of the character's success, "...the lies he told to himself".


Barnabas' abilities mimic those of the classic vampire Dracula which include extra strength, hypnotism and the ability to transform into a bat. However, Barnabas has been known to use sorcery. Although unclear in the series, Barnabas mentions that he studied "magic" in his travels before becoming a vampire. On some occasions he seems to vanish or appear at will as well as to project horrific images and voices from a distance in order to frighten his victims.


Jonathan Frid first appeared as Barnabas Collins in episode #210 in 1967. However, the character's hand was briefly seen in the climax to episode #209, prior to Frid's introduction. Production staff member Tim Gordon (uncredited) provided the hand, which was first seen choking the character of Willie Loomis.



Further reading

  • Ashley, Amanda. After Sundown. Zebra Books, 2003. p. 130. ISBN 0821775286
  • Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. University of Chicago Press, 1995. p. 137. ISBN 0226032019
  • Bradley, Marion Zimmer. Witch Hill. Tor/Forge, 2000. p. 58. ISBN 0312872836
  • Chamberlin, John Edward. COME BACK TO ME MY LANGUAGE: Poetry and the West Indies. University of Illinois Press, 1993. p. 190. ISBN 0252062973
  • Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca And Contemporary Paganism in America. Rowman Altamira, 2006. p. 101. ISBN 0759102023
  • Clute, John and Grant, John. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. St. Martin's Press, 1999. p 823. ISBN 0312198698
  • Hamrick, Craig. Barnabas & Company: The Cast of the TV Classic Dark Shadows. iUniverse, 2003. p. 22. ISBN 0595290299
  • Jones, Stephen. The Essential Monster Movie Guide: A Century of Creature Features on Film, TV and Video. Watson-Guptill, 2000. p. 99. ISBN 0823079368
  • Krensky, Stephen. Vampires. Lerner Publications, 2007. p. 48. ISBN 0822558912
  • Mann, Jeff. Edge. Haworth Press, 2003. p. 19. ISBN 1560234296
  • Mansour, David. From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia Of The Late 20th Century. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2005. p. 109. ISBN 0740751182
  • Massey, Brandon R. Dark Corner. Kensington Books, 2004. p. 64. ISBN 0758202490
  • McNally, Raymond T. and Florescu, Radu R. In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires. Houghton Mifflin Books, 1994. p. 270. ISBN 0395657830
  • Mitchell, Charles P. The Complete H.P. Lovecraft Filmography. Greenwood Press, 2001. p 220. ISBN 0313316414
  • Nowlan, Alden. Double Exposure. Brunswick Press, 1978. p. 127. ISBN 0887900968
  • Parker, Lara. Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch. Tor/Forge, 2006. ISBN 0765304570
  • Pope, Dan. In the Cherry Tree. Picador, 2003. p. 81. ISBN 0312422369
  • Pringles, David. Imaginary People: A Who's who of fictional characters: from the Eighteenth Century to the ... Scolar Press; Ashgate Pub, 1996. p. 51. ISBN 1859281621
  • Riccardo, Martin V. Vampires Unearthed: The Complete Multi-media Vampire and Dracula Bibliography. Garland Publishing, Incorporated, 1983. p. 19. ISBN 0824091280
  • Senn, Bryan and Johnson, John. Fantastic Cinema Subject Guide: A Topical Index to 2500 Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy Films. McFarland & Co, 1992. p. 551. ISBN 089950681X
  • South, James B. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: fear and trembling in Sunnydale. Open Court Publishing, 2003. p. 318. ISBN 0812695313
  • South, Malcolm. Mythical and Fabulous Creatures: A Source Book and Research Guide. Greenwood Press, 1987. p. 260. ISBN 0313243387
  • Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Ed. Allen, Brooke. Spark Publishing/SparkNotes, 2004. p. xxviii. ISBN 1593081146
  • Sullivan, Jack. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. Viking, 1986. p. 422. ISBN 0670809020
  • Terrance, Vincent. The Complete Encyclopedia of Television Programs, 1947-1979. A. S. Barnes & Company, 1979.
  • Worland, Rick. The Horror Film: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, 2006. p. 93. ISBN 1405139021

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