Dark Shadows: Barnabas Collins—Antagonist and Protagonist


Every old family of New England has secrets. A skeleton or two hanging in the closet is always itching or knocking to get out.

The Collins Family of Collinsport, Maine with its rich history and roots deep in the New England coastline had more than a skeleton or two in the family closet. When Collinwood was built on the cliff near Widows’ Hill, it must have been in one of those astral zone doorways where the past, present and future co-exist.

When you toss in parallel time planes and alternate realities, you have an outline of some very strange goings on in the multiple rooms of the Collins’ mansion, an old-style English manor house. The Gothic world comes crashing into the reality of the fishing hamlet and the family, affecting everyone.


Onto this scene a visitor arrives one night at Collinwood where the family is in turmoil. It was Barnabas Collins who had been released from his self-imposed prison of the late 1790s by Willie Loomis who was searching for the legendary Collins’ fortune.

Willie Loomis in league with Jason McGuire were after the Collins’ fortune. The encounters with Barnabas by both men would change them forever.

Willie would transform from scoundrel to a respectful, honest soul and societal blessing. Jason’s plans to marry Elizabeth Collins Stoddard under the threat of blackmail would fail miserably, and he would be vanished from Collinsport forever except that fate had another path in store for the unscrupulous Mr. McGuire.

He had the misfortune of intruding into the Old House of Barnabas seeking the family jewels which he believed Barnabas had hidden. Willie warned him to leave and offered him some jewels, but his greed was too thirsty for a few baubles. Why settle for a bottle of port when you could have a rare cognac?

He wanted the fortune of the Collins Family. Barnabas had to kill him in self-defense and had Willie place the body in the secret chamber of the Family mausoleum built during the Revolutionary War as a hiding place.

Having been cursed by a spurned lover to be in eternal darkness for forever, Barnabas had a lot of pent-up emotions, including anger and grief to work through. With the help of a good doctor, Julia Hoffman, his young sister Sarah, Willie, Victoria Winters, Maggie Evans, and other assorted family and friends, Barnabas would cease being the antagonist of the story and would become the protagonist, the hero and in many ways the savior of the family.

He would save various family members in the present, past or future from imminent peril. He would travel to alternate realities to combat any threats to the Collins Family.

However, there was a sad component from which Barnabas could never escape. He found true love in various realities, but he was destined to walk alone.

Perhaps this is true in many aspects of life. Love is an elusive tangible which fades quickly into the dark shadows of moonless night.

It would not be appropriate to classify Barnabas as an anti-hero. In the late 1700s he was a young man in love, well-educated and wealthy, with a bright future.

However, fate dealt him a set of cards which left no destiny except the solitary journey of a soul in search of redemption, happiness and love. Redemption was secured, but happiness and love were just faded dreams of yesteryear—written by a young hand in his trilogy of life.


And what of Barnabas and the Collins Family fate? Perhaps, the following lines sum it up very well:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

– William Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST, Act 4, Scene 1

G. D. Williams © 2015

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Image of Barnabas

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