Note: I received a surprising response to this post. I've had calls and emails and never knew there are so many Dark Shadows fans in public media. I posted a great story from producer TJ Lubinsky at the end of this post. Read on! - Bohdan
Everywhere I turn I'm surrounded by the sign of the times. There are Halloween decorations throughout my neighborhood, in the grocery stores and here at work. Some of my KCET colleagues have gotten very creative with their notions of spooky and funny.
In these last weeks of October, I start thinking of pumpkins, goblins, and the television series that left an indelible mark on me as a child. Dark Shadows.
The following is a true story. (Please don't tell my Mother about this because I've never told her about it).
It began like any other school day. Our third grade class had finished exercise class on the school playground and descended into the cafeteria for lunch period. As usual, I sat with Cathy Gallagher, who was part of the group I hung around with. We talked about the usual things: our families, homework, and the most scintillating part of our daily lunchtime conversation - details about the previous day's episode of Dark Shadows. It was the black and white television series we all raced home to watch at the end of each school day.
What happened in the afterlife was of great interest to me. Dark Shadows filled me with lots of ideas. So did the nuns and priests who taught me at Catholic school. On top of that, I was surrounded by the celebration of life and death in ways that none of my classmates understood. That's because I was an eight year rock star of sorts, sort of a budding Bono, if you will. My voice got me a lot of attention and made me a good bit of money. I'm reminded to this day I possessed an angelic voice, one that people loved so much they hired me to sing at weddings and at funerals. My parents were flattered by the attention their eight year old son got. I was more interested in the money I was pulling in. I often got paid twenty dollars for my vocal services. Weddings were fun, festive celebrations. Funerals were another matter. I never got used to the grief and tears that accompanied the solemn event. Unlike what I saw on Dark Shadows episodes, no one sat up in a casket. No one ever came back to life. This is why I was confused by difference between what I'd seen on TV and what I saw in real life. It made me wonder about an afterlife. Was there such as thing as Heaven and Hell? Or did it always rain and thunder in the afterlife like it did at the Collinwood mansion on Dark Shadows?
In a few hours, school would be over and I'd be running home to catch a new episode of my favorite TV show. The school bell signaled the end of lunch hour. I said bye to my friend Cathy Gallagher as we went our separate ways to our next classes on different floors of our two story school. We would see each other at the end of the school day because we walked home in the same direction.
During my next class, it was hard not to hear the sound of emergency vehicles outside on the street. We raced to the window but were told by the teacher to take our seats. The school principal entered our classroom and whispered something to our teacher that caused her face to turn white. She instructed us to kneel and to say a prayer for the soul of our classmate who collapsed as she headed up the stairs to the second floor. Cathy Gallagher, who I had spoken to but half an hour earlier, was dead.
It would be years later before I understood what a brain aneurysm is, which caused my classmate's death. In the months after her passing, I wondered where she was, what she was doing, and whether there was a way to communicate with her. I hatched a plan. One night I arranged for Cathy's closest friends to meet in front of the grade school auditorium. We snuck downstairs to the school cafeteria while the church choir was upstairs in the auditorium holding its weekly rehearsal. By candlelight, I set out some pictures of Cathy on the table and instructed my school mates to clasp hands. Mimicking what I'd seen on Dark Shadows, we began a seance. I called out the name of our deceased friend. The others followed. Cathy, please let us know you're here. We miss you. This went on for a while. We asked her for a sign. Anything. Nothing happened. Suddenly a voice startled us. We screamed.
"Kids! You're not supposed to be down here," said Father Stephen. "We finished choir rehearsal and I would have closed up for the night if I hadn't heard your voices." He spotted the pictures of Cathy and then looked at each one of us. "I know you miss her. We all do. But she is safe in a better place." I thought I was off the hook until he singled me out. "I'm going to walk you home, Bohdan, so we can talk."
We scampered up the stairs. My friends ran home while I waited for Father Stephen. I watched him lock the glass double doors of the auditorium and then chain them shut with a heavy lock. He looked at me in that way that made me know I'd been caught and was in hot water. "You were calling out the dead. This is not good and I expect you to never do it again. I won't tell your parents this time." I breathed easier. "I'm going to walk you home and make sure you don't get into any more trouble tonight," he said.
Father Stephen and I were barely fifty yards from the school when something unexpected happened. We both heard the undeniable sound of the front doors of the school auditorium open and slam shut. Next came the sound of breaking glass piercing the night. We grabbed each other in fear and rushed back toward the auditorium. But as we neared the front entrance, we noticed the doors were just as they'd been left: shut tight and chained with a heavy lock that was untouched.
We walked to my house in silence. Neither one of us would ever spoke about the incident that night again.
(UPDATED) TJ Lubinsky contacted me almost as soon as the post went up. He not only wrote me about his enthusiasm for Dark Shadows (there may be a pledge special coming our away he hints), but also shared a photo of his family taken at the legendary Rhode Island mansion that was featured in the series. Thank you, TJ, for your note and photo and allowing me to share this.
OMG - I had no idea you were a Shadows fan - - my daughter is named after Grayson Hall. Jonathan Frid's portrait is in my parlor. When we were emailing about Sullivan stuff in August -- I was actually on vacation in Newport with my family at the real Collinwood in Rhode Island. Jim Pierson who produces our shows worked very closely with Dan Curtis and ran his production division for many years. Who's your favorite character?
I wrote TJ back and said Angelique was my favorite. I had a crush on her. That prompted another note and the photo I'm sharing.
The Lubinsky family at Collinwood - my wife Wendy, daughter Kaitlyn "Grace", and son Ryan "Quinn" - named after Quinn Martin. As to the house. t's a sad story. The house (which had been leased to a school for years) is literally crumbling, with strong speculation it's going to be torn down - - the upkeep and taxes are too much in today's economy. The salty sea air hasn't been kind - - for years it was leased - - first as a school for girls, then to Salve Regina University. As I understand it the school moved out and Collinwood sits deserted. As for Angelique, stay tuned......