The Collinsport Horror: Dark Shadows and the Cthulhu Mythos, by Rick Lai

Dark ShadowsSet in the fictional seaside village of Collinsport, Maine, the afternoon soap opera Dark Shadows (1966-71) borrowed heavily from supernatural classics such as Frankenstein, The Turn of the Screw and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the fall of 1969, the writers decided to launch an ambitious storyline involving an ancient race called the Leviathans. This whole concept was derived from H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” (Weird Tales, April, 1929).

In several tales popularly known as the Cthulhu Mythos, Lovecraft had fashioned an artificial mythology in which beings from other planets and dimensions had visited the Earth in primordial times. These entities became known as the Great Old Ones. Prominent among them is Yog-Sothoth. Other writers such as Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch and August Derleth later contributed to this mythology. In “The Dunwich Horror,” Yog-Sothoth briefly invaded Earth through a dimensional portal and impregnated a woman, Lavinia Whateley, in the fictional town of Dunwich, Massachusetts. She gave birth to a pair of twins. One of them, Wilbur Whateley, looked remotely human. He grew at an alarming rate. By the time he was four years old, he looked like a boy of fifteen. The other twin was an invisible monstrosity who was kept hidden in a room of the Whateley farmhouse.

Naga box

Naga box

On Dark Shadows, there appeared an alien race called the Leviathans. Dressed in brown robes like monks, members of the race took the form of humanoids with green-tinted skins. However, this was not heir true form. While the true appearance of the Leviathans was never actually shown on the television show, the clear implication was that the Leviathans resembled snakes. Their main symbol was the mythological Naga, a serpent with four heads. Yet one contradictory scene in the series had the Leviathans appearing as blobs of bright light.

The leaders of the Leviathans were a male and a female respectively named Oberon and Haza (Peter Lombard and Robin Lane). They produced a son who initially took the form of a disembodied spirit contained inside a box bearing the Naga seal. The spirit then took physical form as a human baby named Joseph. Later Joseph transformed into a young boy, Alexander (David Jay), who in turn evolved into a young teenager called Michael (Michael Maitland). In his final evolution, the Leviathan heir became a man named Jebes “Jeb” Hawkes (Christopher Pennock).

Besides “The Dunwich Horror,” the depiction of the growing Leviathan child may of been at least visually influenced by Village of the Damned (1960), the film version of John Wyndam’s The Midwich Cuckoos (1957). The science fiction novel dealt with aliens from outer space impregnating women. The resulting offspring were blonde children like the Alexander and Michael avatars of the Leviathan progeny.

During his younger incarnations, Jeb had been living with Philip and Megan Todd (Christopher Bernau and Marie Wallace) in their antique shop. The Todds were human beings possessed by Leviathan spirits. Now in adult form, Jeb posed as the Todds’ lodger. A special room had been constructed inside the antique shop for Jeb to assume his true Leviathan form.

The writers of Dark Shadows had modeled Jeb Hawkes on Wilbur Whateley. Rather than give the Leviathan Messiah a twin brother like Wilbur, Jeb was endowed with two forms. Television viewers never saw the true shape of Jeb Hawkes. Instead, the fearful expression of Jeb’s victims were shown before they were slain by the monstrosity.

The idea of a serpentine elder race had appeared only sparingly in Lovecraft’s own fiction. Ghostwriting the stories of another writer, Zealia Bishop, Lovecraft had fashioned a snake god, Yig, Father of Serpents, in “The Curse of Yig” (Weird Tales, 1928) and “The Mound” (first published in an abridged form in Weird Tales, November 1940). The tales involving Yig seem to have minimal influence on the Leviathans.

Lovecraft had also forged connections between his demonic creations and the sword and sorcery stories of Robert E. Howard. Although they never met in person, Lovecraft and Howard were regular correspondents. In his tales of King Kull, a monarch from the age of Atlantis, Howard had fashioned the serpent men of Valusia. The serpent men were frequently cited in Lovecraft’s Mythos tales. These Valusians were a significant influence on the Leviathans of Dark Shadows. In Howard’s “The Shadow Kingdom” (Weird Tales, August 1929), the serpent men of Valusia were shape-shifters who murdered human beings and assumed their identities. On Dark Shadows, the Leviathans were portrayed as beings without souls who merged with human hosts and controlled them. In the course of the storyline, the possession angle would be downplayed and replaced.

The Leviathans often gained control of humans by invading their dreams. This idea was clearly lifted from Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” (Weird Tales, February 1927) in which the Great Old Ones sent apocalyptic visions to humans in their dreams. As the Leviathan storyline progressed, the demonic possession of human hosts would be downplayed and replaced by the more subtle idea that the elder race manipulated humans by implanting subconscious desires and fears inside them.

Howard’s “The Shadow Kingdom” portrayed a war between mankind and an alliance of non-human races that included the serpent men and werewolves. The same war was also mentioned in Howard’s classic tale of lycanthropy, “Wolfshead” (April 1926). This concept of an ancient war was considerably reworked on Dark Shadows. Instead of a conflict between man and monster, there was now a war in which the Leviathans tried to wipe out other pre-human races. The one race whom the Leviathans couldn’t defeat was the werewolves. This idea was conceived in order to draw an already existing Dark Shadows character, Chris Jennings (Don Briscoe), more tightly into the Leviathan storyline. Jennings, a werewolf, was now one of the few characters on the show capable of destroying Jeb Hawkes.

Another facet from “The Shadow Kingdom” was also borrowed and revised. The serpent men of Valusia could enslave the ghost of any human they murdered. Jeb Hawkes originally had the ability to resurrect any of his victims as a subservient zombie. Hawkes did this once with a Collinsport sheriff whom he had killed. The writers then decided to abandon this idea and make Hawkes and the other Leviathans vulnerable to attacks from the ghosts of their victims. Hawkes still had the ability to manufacture zombies, but he had no particular relationship to the reanimated corpses.

The Leviathan storyline may have also borrowed an element from the Cthulhu Mythos stories of August Derleth. There was no true defense against the Old Ones in Lovecraft’s original tales, but there were vague references to a symbol called the Elder Sign. In stories like “The House on Curwen Street” (first published as “The Trail of Cthulhu,” Weird Tales, March 1944), Derleth decided to transform the Elder Sign into a five-pointed star, a pentagram. This version of the Elder Sign could repel the Old Ones in the same manner that a crucifix thwarts vampires.

On Dark Shadows, Paul Stoddard (Dennis Patrick) prevented himself from being possessed by a Leviathan by drawing a pentagram around himself. Despite the similarity to the Elder Sign, the soap opera may have taken this plot device from another source. William Hope Hodgson’s Edwardian occult detective, Thomas Carnacki, often stood inside a pentagram to protect himself from demonic forces. Besides Hodgson, the pentagram had become associated with werewolves in the Universal horror film, The Wolf Man (1941). Pentagrams had figured prominently in the werewolf storylines of Dark Shadows that preceded the introduction of the Leviathans. In fact, a woman had even stood inside a pentagram to protect herself against a werewolf, Quentin Collins (David Selby), in the TV show’s lengthy 1897 time travel storyline.

In “The Dunwich Horror,” Wilbur Whateley hoped to use Lovecraft’s fictional book of black magic, the Necronomicon, to open a dimensional gateway to Yog-Sothoth and the Old Ones. An unnamed book about the Leviathans appeared in the show, but it was clearly not the Necronomicon. Copies of Lovecraft’s tome existed in Arabic, Greek, Latin, and even English. The book on Dark Shadows was written in the pre-human language of the Leviathans.

The grand scheme of Jeb Hawkes was to sire a new race of Leviathans by mating with a human female, Carolyn Stoddard (Nancy Barrett). This romantic angle was totally missing from Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror,” but it was ironically in the 1970 film version in which Wilbur Whateley (Dean Stockwell) wooed a college student (Sandra Dee). Another similarity between the film The Dunwich Horror and Dark Shadows is snake imagery. Wibur’s twin appeared as a Medusa-like head with serpents for hair. Since the movie opened a few months after the Leviathan storyline concluded on Dark Shadows, these parallels between the soap opera and the film adaptation of Lovecraft’s story appear to be coincidental.

Unfortunately, the Leviathan storyline was extremely unpopular with Dark Shadows fans. The main problem with the plot was its initial handling of Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), the most popular character on the show. Originally a guilt-ridden vampire, Barnabas had been cured to become as somewhat heroic character. Corrupted by the Leviathans, Barnabas became the principal agent of the ancient race. In fact, Barnabas was the main villain during the early Leviathan episodes. While the audience could accept Barnabas as a reluctant vampire, it couldn’t stomach him as thoroughly evil.

Ratings declined dramatically. Major changes were made to spruce up the plot. Once the Leviathan Messiah had evolved into the adult Jeb Hawkes, Barnabas Collins finally rebelled against the Leviathans. As punishment for his defiance, Hawkes turned Barnabas into a vampire again.

Other villains were brought into the show to attract viewers. Michael Stroka had played Aristide, a psychotic criminal, during the 1897 storyline. He returned playing a very similar character, Bruno. As a member of the Leviathan cult, Bruno became Jeb’s chief henchman.

In an early Leviathan episodes, there had been a brief appearance by a mysterious cult leader named Strack (John Harkins). Probably the writers intended to have Strack reappear as a major figure, but such plans were abandoned in order to resurrect a more diabolical personage.

One of the most formidable villains on Dark Shadows was warlock Nicholas Blair (Humbert Allen Astredo). After failing to create a master race by mating artificial humans created in the Frankenstein tradition, Blair had been consigned to the fires of Hell by the Devil. It was now revealed that Blair had regained the favor of his Satanic Majesty by conceiving the idea of reviving the Leviathans. This twist in the plot relegated the Leviathans to becoming mere tools of the Devil, and unwisely diminished the Lovecraftian aspects of these entities by placing them in the context of traditional Christian demonology. On the other hand, the introduction of Blair into the proceeding interjected a strong villainous presence with whom the audience was very comfortable.

The intervention of Blair also allowed the writers to involve another popular character more thoroughly into the plot. Angelique (Lara Parker), the immortal witch who originally made Barnabas a vampire, had been written out of the show by happily marrying the wealthy Sky Rumsen (Geoffrey Scott). Relinquishing her powers, Angelique seemed to be living in wedded bliss as a mortal. Nevertheless, Sky was now revealed to be a Leviathan cultist under Blair’s dominion. Since Angelique had betrayed Blair during his Frankenstein-like scheme, the warlock ordered Sky to kill her. Angelique could only protect herself by reverting to witchcraft.

At this point, a Dark Shadows fan would be very happy. Barnabas was a vampire again. Angelique was once more a witch. Nicholas Blair was running rampant. Maybe the Leviathan story arc would finally reach its true potential. Regrettably, this proved not to be the case.

Leviathan Book

Leviathan Book

The ultimate nemesis of the Leviathans proved to be the plans to do a movie version of Dark Shadows with the original cast. In order to film the movie, which would be released in 1970 as House of Dark Shadows, it was necessary to wrap up the Leviathan storyline quickly and replace it with a new story arc in which Barnabas and other major members of the cast would be absent for months.

The replacement storyline was originally intended to grow out of the Leviathan arc. Before Barnabas debuted on the soap opera. the central character had been Victoria Winters, a naive governess. When Barnabas appeared on the scene, he eventually became romantically obsessed with Victoria. In the most popular storyline of Dark Shadows, Victoria traveled back in time to 1795 when Barnabas was a mortal man. Although Victoria would return to the present under the impression that the Barnabas of 1795 was merely the ancestor of his modern namesake, viewers were treated to a compelling story of how Barnabas was turned into a vampire by Angelique.

Alexandra Moltke, the actress who played Victoria Winters, had to leave the show because she was pregnant. She had been replaced by two other actresses to wrap up the storyline of Victoria Winters. During her sojourn in 1795, Victoria had fallen in love with Peter Bradford (Roger Davis), a Collinsport resident of that era. Peter had somehow followed her back to the late 1960’s. Both Victoria and Peter returned to the 1790’s. After surviving some machinations by Angelique, Victoria and Peter announced their intentions to marry and move to the western frontier territories of the United States.

Efforts were made to entice Alexandra Moltke back to Dark Shadows to reprise her role as Victoria Winters. A surprising justification was created for the probable return of Victoria Winters. Having revised its continuity to make Leviathans fearful of vengeful spirits, Dark Shadows had Jeb Hawkes being haunted by the ghost of Peter Bradford. In an incredibly confusing scene, Peter’s ghost revealed that Jeb had a prior incarnation in 1797. During that year, Jeb had caused Victoria Winters to jump from Widow’s Hill, a cliff overlooking Collinsport’s seacoast. Peter retaliated by throwing Jeb off the cliff into the waters below. Arrested for murder, Peter was executed by hanging. Peter’s ghost also revealed that Jeb could be killed by drowning.

Oberon and Barnabas

Oberon and Barnabas

This sequence thoroughly revised Jeb’s origins, he was originally supposed to be simply the child of Oberon and Haza. Now he was the reincarnation of a man drowned in 1797. Since Leviathans were soulless, one plausible explanation merged their child with an enslaved human soul. However, this discrepancy was never explained for a simple reason. Alexandra Moltke declined to return as Victoria Winters, and the 1797 references were never expanded upon.

Jeb had been carrying on an affair with Megan Todd. This enraged her husband Philip, who became an ally of Peter’s ghost. Learning that Jeb could die from drowning caused Philip to lure Jeb to Widow’s Hill. Philip’s plan to push Jeb off the cliff backfired. It was Philip who fell to his death. Peter’s ghost was then exorcised by Angelique.

Having Jeb Hawkes suddenly become a hero was unsettling to viewers. Within a short period, he had become a charismatic villain whose infamies included the murder of Carolyn’s father and the return of Barnabas to vampirism. Fans really wanted to see him mangled by a werewolf or a vampire.

Jeb was to suffer a different fate. A series of violent deaths erupted in Collinsport. Bruno was ripped apart by the werewolf Chris Jennings. Conspiring with Angelique, Jeb dispatched Nicholas Blair with a demon whose form was a living shadow. Sky Rumsen threw Jeb off Widow’s Hill. Attacked by Barnabas, Sky tried futilely tried to defend himself with a gun. Barnabas slew Sky with his own gun. Turned into a vampire by Barnabas, Megan Todd received a stake in the heart.

If the original plan had been followed, Barnabas would have traveled back in time to 1797 in order to prevent Victoria Winters from dying at Widow’s Hill. In the 1897 storyline, Barnabas Collins had discovered a magical ritual using I Ching wands that could project his mind backwards in time to his immortal vampire body. This usage of I Ching may have been borrowed from Seabury Quinn’s “The Door Without a Key” (Weird Tales, September 1939) in which “Yai Ching” wands were manipulated to travel in time. Undoubtedly, Barnabas would have used I Ching to transport himself to 1797.

Since the whole 1797 idea was abandoned, Barnabas journeyed instead through a dimensional passageway to a “parallel time,” an alternate reality where different version of the Dark Shadows characters existed. There he was imprisoned inside a chained coffin. This enabled Jonathan Frid and other cast members to make House of Dark Shadows while the soap opera focused on alternate versions of Angelique and Quentin Collins. Once the movie had finished filming, Barnabas was released from the coffin. Presumably Barnabas would have similarly been bound inside a chained coffin in 1797 if the original intention of bringing back Victoria Winters had been realized.

Dark Shadows was cancelled one year after the Leviathan storyline was wrapped up. This should have been the end of the Lovecraftian connections to the soap opera, but the original version of the Collinsport inhabitants would have adventures in other mediums that would have direct connections to the Cthulhu Mythos.

In 1998, HarperCollins, a division of the publishing firm of Harper and Row, began to publish new paperback novels about the characters from Dark Shadows. The first of these books, Angelique’s Descent, told the origin of the witch who had plagued Barnabas Collins. It was appropriately written by Lara Parker, the actress who had played Angelique. Although an excellent novel, Angelique’s Descent had no connection to Lovecraft’s mythology. The second novel in the series would be a totally different matter.

Dreams of the Dark (1999) by Stephen Mark Rainey and Elizabeth Massie was set in Collinsport shortly after Victoria Winters had returned from her first journey to the 1790’s. At this point in the Dark Shadows continuity, Angelique was a disembodied spirit in a hellish netherworld. She sought to return to life by manipulating Thomas Rathburn, another vampire, to fight Barnabas Collins. The plan resulted in Rathburn’s destruction, and the novel concluded with Angelique planning the successful scheme that resulted in her resurrection on the TV show as Cassandra Collins.

The novel mainly used the traditional Christian mythology concerning vampirism and witchcraft, but the novel also featured several direct connection to the Cthulhu Mythos. This was not surprising since co-author Rainey had heavily used the Mythos in his own works. Al Azif, the Arabic version of the Necronomicon, briefly surfaced in Collinwood, the mansion of the Collins family. In the conclusion, Rathburn and Barnabas utter magic spells invoking such Mythos names as Ag-sothoth (Yog-Sothoth), Iod, Hali, Azathoth, Yig, N’yarl O’hoteph (Nyarlathotep) and “la chèvre noire du forêt avec les milles jeunes” (French for “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young”).

Dreams of the Dark also featured The Spheres Beyond Sound, a book that figures prominently in Rainey’s Mythos fiction. The author of the book is a music composer  named Maurice Zann, a relative of the violinist in Lovecraft’s “‘The Music of Erich Zann.” It was once falsely reported that the book actually existed.  Rainey has since clarified that this tome of musical lore is solely his own fictional creation.

Rainey alone wrote another Dark Shadows novel, The Labyrinth of Souls, which had even more pronounced Mythos connection. One of the characters was an instructor from Lovecraft’s Miskatonic University. Keziah Mason, the sorceress from Lovecraft’s “The Dreams in the Witch-House” (Weird Tales, July 1933), was revealed to have authored a book, Of Secret Passages and Catacombs Within the Realms of Shadow. Rainey also fashioned an extra-dimensional race of spider-like creatures, the Xianges, that fit very well into Mythos lore. Rainey hoped that this would be third paperback in the new Dark Shadows series, but Harper & Row divested itself of its media division. This decision led to the termination of the new Dark Shadows series. Tor Books would later publish two other Dark Shadows novels by Lara Parker, The Salem Branch (2006) and Wolf Moon Rising (2013). However, The Labyrinth of Souls exists only as free fan fiction on Rainey’s website. This is a superb novel which I heartily recommend.

2003 saw many members of the original Dark Shadows cast reunite to create Return to Collinwood (MPI Home Video), an audio drama that was an authorized continuation of the soap opera. The following year, Big Finish Productions, a British company which produced audio dramas based on British science fiction series like Doctor Who, became licensed to produce further Dark Shadows audio plays. Among the writers who contributed scripts was Stephen Mark Rainey.

Path of Fate

Path of Fate

Rainey’s The Path of Fate (2009) featured Lara Parker and David Selby vocally reprising their roles as Angelique and Quentin Collins. The witch and the werewolf found itself opposed to Isiah Mason, a sorcerer who worshipped Dagon. An historical Philistine fish god mentioned on the Bible, Dagon was severely altered by Lovecraft to become a deity of the Cthulhu Mythos. The toad-like idol of Dagon in the audio drama is consistent with Lovecraft. The Biblical version of Dagon was depicted as a merman. The name of Dagon’s acolyte suggests a possible connection to Lovecraft’s Keziah Mason.

On Dark Shadows, the Devil was known as Diabolos. At one point in The Path of Fate, Diabolos punished Angelique by dispatching ravenous Hell-Hounds to devour her. Lovecraft had drafted a similar group of monstrous creatures from Frank Belknap Long’s “The Hounds of Tindalos” into the Cthulhu Mythos. Whether Rainey intended the Hell-Hounds of Diabolos and the Hounds of Tindalos to be synonymous is unclear. At the very least, Rainey performed an homage to Frank Belknap Long.

Curse of the Pharaoh

Curse of the Pharaoh

The Leviathans were directly tied into the Cthulhu Mythos in Rainey’s Curse of the Pharaoh (2009), which featured Nancy Barrett returning to the role of Carolyn Stoddard Hawkes. The Big Finish audio drama also featured Marie Wallace, who had played the ill-fated Megan Todd in the original Leviathan storyline. Since Megan was no more, Ms. Wallace, played a totally new character, Dr. Gretchen Warwick. Gretchen was a widowed archeologist . She had discovered the ancient tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh who had worshipped the Leviathans. Inside the tomb was a box bearing the Naga seal. Translating the scrolls of the pharaoh, Gretchen hoped to use the box to summon the Leviathans to Earth. In exchange for their freedom, the Leviathans would resurrect her late husband. Gretchen sought to entice Carolyn into her schemes by offering to bring Jeb Hawkes back to life. Carolyn sabotaged Gretchen’s magical ceremony, and the archeologist was ripped apart by a Naga demon.

The connection to the Cthulhu Mythos comes from the name of the Egyptian pharaoh in the audio drama. Although it was pronounced “Nep-her-ren-ka” in the audio drama, the pharaoh’s name was spelt Nephren-Ka (see the online Dark Shadows Wiki). This fictional ruler was first mentioned in Lovecraft’s “The Outsider” (Weird Tales, April 1926). His name was invoked in a letter written by a sorcerer in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (written in 1927, but first published as an abridged serial in the May and July1941 issues of Weird Tales). It wasn’t until “The Haunter of the Dark” (Weird Tales, December 1936) that Lovecraft expanded on his imaginary pharaoh. Nephren-Ka had done something horrible that caused his name to be erased from all Egyptian records. An American archeologist, Enoch Bowen secretly found his tomb and removed a mystical object, the Shining Trapezohedron, that summoned a winged demon. The demon was an avatar of Nyarlathotep. a faceless god who figures prominently in “The Dreams in the Witch House” and other works by Lovecraft.

Robert Bloch elaborated on Nephren-Ka’s tomb in “Fane of the Black Pharaoh” (Weird Tales, December, 1937). Nephren-Ka’s crime was to replace the worship of the traditional Egyptian gods with the veneration of Nyarlathotep. The Egyptians rose up and overthrew Nephren-Ka. Rather than face the wrath of his subjects, Nephren-Ka buried himself alive with his occult secrets in a secretly constructed tomb.

Bloch didn’t try to fit Nephren-Ka into a slot of actual Egyptian history. According to The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia (Elder Signs Press, 2008) by Daniel Harms, Nephren-Ka was overthrown by Sneferu, the founder of the Fourth Dynasty. The exact source of this Sneferu reference is unclear, but it most likely originated from a work cited by Harms, “The History of Nephren-Ka” (1997) by Steven Marc Harris.

Rainey borrows heavily from all these previous works about Nephren-Ka. The pharaoh was made the disciple of both the Leviathans and an unnamed faceless “guardian” (clearly Nyarlathotep). Sneferu was the architect of Nephren-Ka’s overthrow, but the fate of the apostate pharaoh was different than that presented in Bloch’s tale. Nephren-Ka was beheaded by Sneferu. This contradicts the assertion in “Fane of the Black Pharaoh” that Nephren-Ka entombed himself alive in an unknown location.

The Curse of the Pharaoh had Carolyn Stoddard Hawkes remembering a previous incarnation as Nephren-Ka’s wife. One might expect the Jeb Hawkes would be revealed to be the reincarnation of Nephren-Ka, but Rainey introduced a more interesting twist. Jeb was the reincarnation of Sneferu. Apparently Jeb had an Egyptian incarnation in addition to the earlier life in the 1790’s when he destroyed Victoria Winters. Carolyn believed that he Leviathans later enslaved Sneferu’s soul in revenge for his foiling of Nephren-Ka.

Tying in Nephren-Ka to Dark Shadows was somewhat appropriate since the pharaoh’s history ironically paralleled that of Barnabas Collins. When Barnabas Collins was exposed as a vampire in the 1790’s, he was secretly buried in a chained coffin. Although he wasn’t expunged from historical records, a false history was manufactured that Barnabas left Collinsport for England. Coincidentally, Robert Bloch had Nephren-Ka planning an aborted escape plan to flee to the British Isles. Just as Enoch Bowen released the Haunter of the Dark from Nephren-Ka’s tomb, grave robber Willie Loomis (John Karlen), released Barnabas Collins from his chained coffin in the Collins mausoleum during 1966.

Rainey wrote a third audio drama for Big Finish Productions, Blood Dance (2010). the immortal Quentin Collins (again played by David Selby) became involved with a diabolical sorceress, Chandres Tessier (voiced by Lisa Richards) in prohibition Chicago. The audio drama also featured a cult called the Blue Rose. To the best of my knowledge, Blood Dance doesn’t utilize any elements of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Rainey had hoped to possibly adapt The Labyrinth of Souls as an audio drama, but the Big Finish storylines have developed a continuity that contradict the presentation of both Quentin Collins and another Dark Shadows character in that novel.

The Leviathans have figured in two other Big Finish audio dramas, The Crimson Pearl (2011) by James Goss and Joseph Lidster and The Flip Side by Cody Quanno-Schell. The Flip Side revealed that there were multiple parallel times rathe than just the one visited by Barnabas Collins in 1970. In one of these alternate realities, Carolyn joined forces with Gretchen Warwick to open the gateway to the Leviathans. This Earth was thoroughly devastated. Perhaps in one of these parallel worlds, the events of Stephen Mark Rainey‘s The Labyrinth of Souls actually transpired.

There exists at least one connection to Dark Shadows in Rainey’s literary opus. Blue Devil Island (Thomson Gale, 2007) is a novel about a group of American Navy pilots who encountered ViranGhurak, a faceless Lovecraftian entity (possibly an avatar of Nyarlathotep), on a Pacific island in 1943. One of the pilots, Lt. Maximilian T. Collins, hails from “a small fishing village on the Maine coast.” The naval lieutenant must be a member of the Collins family of Collinsport.

The Leviathans of Dark Shadows have spawned a race of similar name on the TV series Supernatural (2005 to the present). Debuting in 2011, this new version of the Leviathans is more rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition than the Cthulhu Mythos. These Leviathans are soulless beings created by God before the angels and mankind. Viewing their creation as a mistake, God sealed them in Purgatory. Unlike the Leviathans of Dark Shadows, the true form of these beings has been seen by television viewers. They are humanoids whose faces have gigantic mouths and no eyes. This is merely testimony that television special effects have advanced considerably since Dark Shadows.

It isn’t difficult to imagine that the Leviathans of Dark Shadows and Supernatural are the same. Dark Shadows muddied the Lovecraftian waters by making the Leviathans pawns of the Devil. Thus, two radically different elaborations on the Leviathans from Dark Shadows have emerged. Championed by Stephen Mark Rainey, the first is to make the Leviathans an elder race of the Cthulhu Mythos. The second is to merge the Leviathans with Biblical traditions by presenting them as a failed experiment by God. These two competing views are irreconcilable, but the horror of the Leviathans lives on.

This post is by Rick Lai, a Lovecraft eZine contributor.

11 responses to “The Collinsport Horror: Dark Shadows and the Cthulhu Mythos, by Rick Lai

  1. I’ve always wondered if Lynch’s Twin Peaks wasn’t inspired by Dark Shadows. The whole Laura story With the term “fire walk with me” and the notion of a soap opera wedded to the supernatural.


    • It’s a tough call. One of those things we wish there was an address to write potential interviewers to ask creators the answer to questions we want to know. So much is continually inspired by what came before. Louis’ character ala “Interview With A Vampire” by Anne Rice is much the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins had been. Then it inspires similar scenarios in more available storytelling, so that by the time newbies come to Dark Shadows they have a decent grasp on Barnabas Collins himself.

      I didn’t really notice “Dark Shadows” in it’s revival days because? We were watching “Twin Peaks” back then. It’s amused me to discover they were both airing around the same time. ^_^


  2. This is incredible. I went looking for some dissection of Lovecraft’s influence on Dark Shadows and voila… as extensive as opening a fresh carcass. YIKES! The tentacle artwork on the side here made me feel I really was Bishop seeping into the depths of the dead facehugger with a tweezers (“Aliens”).

    I sure had my druthers with The Leviathans prior to this, wondering where it all came from and how it all came to be and why it didn’t win much viewership. There were more layers than I had supposed at first. Wow. Thank you. So well done.

    “…the blasphemously stupendous bulk of the horror…”!


  3. Rick: I am astonished – blown away – by the level of scholarship in your article. I only remember the Phoenix story-line in the early days of Dark Shadows. Then reruns of “The Adventures of Superman” appeared on an opposing channel, and I switched. I appreciate what you do all-things Lovecraftian, in connection with the eZine!


  4. This was one great article. But I have to admit I hated the Leviathan storyline on DS. My favorite episodes were the 1897 epic with the diabolical Count Andreas Petofi.


  5. The information about the writers’ hope to brink back Vicki comes from an interview that actress Alexandra Moltke, the original Vicki, gave on the DARK SHADOWS DVDS. According to Ms. Moltke, the main DS director, Lela Swift tried to entice her to come back on the show, Ms. Moltke never mentions the Leviathans or HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, but her comments seem to fall into a general time period of the spring of 1970..


  6. Wonderful article. It’s always refreshing to hear more about the show from a different perspective. I am wondering though where you got the information about the writers’ trying to bring back Vicki during the filming of the first DS movie though.


  7. LOve this article, but I do not agree with the conclusion that DARK SHADOWS and SUPERNATURAL are irreconsilable in their use of Leviathans. Although SUPERNATURAL tied the Leviathan into a Biblical dichotomy, the show also directly tied the Leviathans into Lovecraft, by having them be the ‘truth’ behind what HPL wrote about. This would seem to further cement the connection between the two versions of Leviathans. Also, the SUPERNATURAL Leviathans have not truly had their real forms shown, as the toothy creatures seen were the results of humans possessed by Leviathans, who otherwise manifest as formless black goo on Earth. As the rulers of “Purgatory”, this version of the Leviathan counts among its numbers a being called “Eve” on the show, the Mother of Monsters (an analog to Shub-Niggurath), who is summoned to Earth by dragons using an unnamed book tome written in a pre-human language. If this wasn’t a direct reference to DARK SHADOWS, it sure is trying to be. In both shows’ (expanded) mythologies, the forces of Heaven and Hell form schemes that involve the Leviathan, and pigeonhole the extra-dimensional race into a Judeo-Christian view of the world, but with the “Creator God” absent from both series, there’s no reason that “God” cannot be Azathoth from whom all other Old Ones sprang forth, and that the more benign entity responsible for creating the Angels was a manifestation of the Outer God sleep walking through his own dream. If such is the case, Only Death would know for sure, though even he admits to forgetting some details of “in the beginning”.


  8. I loved Dark Shadows as a kid. Like the stories of most everyone I rushed home so I could watch. Myself, I watched from a blanket fort I would make. (fun AND practical to keep vampires, werewolves and levithans at bay) I enjoyed (to a degree) the remake of the series. I adore the Johnny Depp movie version (heap on the abuse, I won’t budge) but I feel the series should be brought back with completely fresh eyes on the production. Given the soap opera inconsistency of the original I think there is all the room in the world for something totally new and with a bit more Lovecraft in the mix. Sigh, until I win the lottery this is unlikely to happen.


  9. Fascinating. We all know that HPL has had (and continues to have)a profound influence on Horror and Genre media, but it is always interesting to see just how deep those connections are. The level of detail in this article is impressive. Thanks!!!!


  10. Thanks for this. I hurried home from school every day to watch Dark Shadows, and the “Leviathan” storyline was my favorite as well as my introduction to the Mythos. Then, a year or so later, I saw The Dunwich Horror and realized they were, more or less, the same story. So when Ballantine Books came out with that series of paperbacks with the awesomely bazaar covers (if you’ve seen them, you know the ones I’m talking about) I just had to start reading Lovecraft.

    I’m off to Google some of those books and audios you mention.


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