Great Moments In Television History #23: Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin


The year was 1967 and, in Collinsport, Maine, a petty criminal named Willie Loomis was about to make television history.  Convinced that a fortune in jewelry was hidden in the Collins family’s mausoleum, Willie broke in and opened a coffin that, strangely, was covered in chains.  Willie expected to find a fortune.  Instead, he found Barnabas Collins, a 200 year-old vampire who transformed Willie into his servant and proceeded to spend the next five years masquerading as a cousin from Britain while searching for both a cure to his condition and for the reincarnation of the love of his life, Josette.

Played by stage actor Jonathan Frid, Barnabas Collins made his first appearance on the April 18th, 1967 episode of Dark Shadows.  Though Barnabas was originally only meant to be a temporary addition to the show’s roster of characters, Frid proved to be popular with viewers, like my mother who not only watched the show when it first aired but also when reruns were broadcast in syndication many years later.  The show soon came to center on the ruthless vampire.

In fact, Frid and Barnabas became some identified with the show that many are still shocked to learn that Dark Shadows had run for a full year before Barnabas was introduced as a character.  When the show airs in syndication, it usually starts with Willie (played by John Karlen) opening Barnabas’s coffin and not with the earlier episodes in which the show’s nominal lead character, Victoria Winters, first arrived at Collinwood and met the members of the family.

Many future horror directors and writers have stated that their interest in the genre began with watching Jonathan Frid on Dark Shadows.  And it all began with that one great moment when Willie Loomis opened the coffin and set Barnabas free.

Previous Moments In Television History:

  1. Planet of the Apes The TV Series
  2. Lonely Water
  3. Ghostwatch Traumatizes The UK
  4. Frasier Meets The Candidate
  5. The Autons Terrify The UK
  6. Freedom’s Last Stand
  7. Bing Crosby and David Bowie Share A Duet
  8. Apaches Traumatizes the UK
  9. Doctor Who Begins Its 100th Serial
  10. First Night 2013 With Jamie Kennedy
  11. Elvis Sings With Sinatra
  12. NBC Airs Their First Football Game
  13. The A-Team Premieres
  14. The Birth of Dr. Johnny Fever
  15. The Second NFL Pro Bowl Is Broadcast
  16. Maude Flanders Gets Hit By A T-Shirt Cannon
  17. Charles Rocket Nearly Ends SNL
  18. Frank Sinatra Wins An Oscar
  19. CHiPs Skates With The Stars
  20. Eisenhower In Color
  21. The Origin of Spider-Man
  22. Steve Martin’s Saturday Night Live Holiday Wish List

7 responses to “Great Moments In Television History #23: Barnabas Collins Is Freed From His Coffin

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