In the Dark Shadows serial program death was a tragic consequence of living in the small fishing hamlet of Collinsport, Maine. On Widows’ Hill, a short distance from Collinwood, the Collins Family ancestral estate, built by Jeremiah or Joshua Collins depending on which alternate reality of the serial was in play, was a place of misery.
Before Collinwood the women would come to the hill to watch for the return of fishing ships with their husbands and sons. For many the ship on the eastern horizon brought a sense of relief and a prayer of thanksgiving.
For many the sad news of loss was greeted by tears and wails. This was especially true at night when the village widows would ascend to the hill and lament their lost family members.
To lose a husband or son was heart wrenching. Their sobs were picked up by the coastal winds and echoed far beyond the jagged rocks below.
One such widow, as told in episode 266, was Rachel Comstock. One early clear morning Rachel kissed her husband and five sons good-bye as they sailed out of the harbor to fish in the North Atlantic. She knew they would catch a boatload of bass, cod, haddock, mackerel, and salmon, her favorite.
There was something wonderful about preparing the salmon for supper. The pink flesh was a delicacy—it was so good!
Rachel understood full well the dangers of the North Atlantic. The gale-force winds could topple the strongest ship if the crew was not fully prepared, and storms could pop up like dandelions in Spring.
After each departure of the fishing ships, the women and children would visit the village church to say a prayer. The quaint New England chapel would provide a bit of solace as the long wait began for these women and their children.
The minister was not always full of cheer, especially the most Reverend Task. However, the story of this Salem’s witch hunter and torturer will be told another time with his Fortunato’s fate.
It was near sunset when the news reached the hamlet. Rachel’s husband and sons were lost at sea. Her hidden fear came to the surface like a Vesuvian eruption.
Her neighbors attempted to comfort her, but the grieving woman was isolated in her agony. Later that night after the lights were extinguished in the village, Rachel went to her garden and picked six white roses.
White roses were her favorite. Her grandmother had told her that white roses were symbols of innocence, purity and secrets to be unfolded on the road of life.
Rachel made her way to Widows’ Hill and stood there listening to the waves on the rocks and the howling winds of the sea. She gently tossed one white rose as she named her husband and each son who had perished.
It was a moonless night as sable clouds blotted out the stars and the earth’s companion. As she gazed at the ocean with her tear-stained brown eyes, she heard the death cries of her husband and sons as Thanatos took its captives into eternal night.
Her whole life was her family. Now, with them gone to the depths of the sea, her road of life seemed ended. “ The sea is my grave; my grave is the sea.”
With one step, she leaned over the precipice and with a harsh push of wind fell onto the jagged rocks below. For a moment the moon broke through the ebony canopy and a single moonbeam shone upon the lifeless form on the ancient rocks.
Surrounding Rachel were the six white roses, they were now touched by the blood of a wife and mother. The voices of the sea were calm for the present.
Rachel was the first widow to jump from Widows’ Hill. Her example led others to follow—Abigail Tolliver and Margaret Findley were the next two. In the serial these three women of grief are said to haunt Widows’ Hill until a fourth widow joins them before they can find peace and eternal rest.
Widows’ Hill is a fictional place in a gothic serial. However, Widows’ Hill is part of our reality.
On our road of life we say good-byes to those who must leave us because their time has expired on this earth. Many are taken in their prime who still want to grasp the last ounce of life.
There is another group of fellow travellers:
There are those on this planet traversing the cosmos whose grief is so consuming that they cannot embrace another moment of this life. They toss themselves off their own symbolic Widows’ Hill hoping for solace in the dreamless sleep of death.
There are those among the living who believe their desperate act has eternal consequences. In their theological view a suicide has no hope for peace in death.
Without being disparaging of their belief system on this particular point, no one knows what awaits in the cosmic ocean. We who stand on the shores of eternity should have more compassion for those who have left our shores.
The Cosmos is a beautiful and mysterious place. Surely, one who was in such despair and pain should find solace out there among the stars.
Whatever your Widows’ Hill may be on your road of life, choose life to its very last drop. Thrive!
May all the victims of their Widows’ Hill,
In pace requiescat!
G. D. Williams © 2014
Episodes 266-270 Introductions –Victoria Winters’ Soliloquy:
“On this night, a pale moon illuminates the walls of Collinwood only to pass periodically behind masses of clouds, leaving the great house in total darkness. A night wind blows in from the sea, past the cliffs where many have died, to Collinwood itself. And as it rushes past the great house, a sighing can be heard. Some say it is the call from the dead to the living. For one woman there is terror in the night, for the dead are calling to her, beckoning her to the cliffs where others have died before. And in a dream, she’s having a premonition of her own death.
“There is a cliff near Collinwood that by legend was created for those who lost all hope, because their existence has become intolerable. It is a place of the dividing line between life and death. There is one who has come to this place, seeking an escape from problems that have become insurmountable.
“Near the ancient walls of Collinwood there are cliffs that project upwards for hundreds of feet from the turbulent sea below. Some say the cliffs are haunted for three women have died here. And yet, according to the legend, their spirits remain, lingering to beckon another to her death. One desperate woman has become obsessed by this legend for she is beginning to believe that she is destined to fulfill it. Destined to die on the rocks below the cliffs. Summoned there by voices beyond the grave.
“Death walks among us, calling upon those he has chosen. And they follow him, for there is no alternative. He chooses his meeting places well, and arranges the time with great care. But there are those who seek him out, and ask for escape from the burdens life imposes.
“Soon the sun will set on Collinwood, and the night, in its inexorable journey across the land, will plunge the ancient house into darkness. A darkness of the spirit, a darkness of the mind, a darkness of the will. And it will seem at times that light and truth have been banished forever, leaving behind the desperation and fear of people who do not know what the darkness holds.”