Nothing is ever wasted. That’s my economy of the soul. I spent my tween years mooning about Maine. I’d grown up watching Dark Shadows after school and I’d begun reading the pulp fiction based on the series by Marilyn Ross. My mother wondered how I could waste my time on vampire nonsense when there was sun shining outside and other kids to play with. Little did she know that I was learning valuable lessons for the future. My fascination with Maine—still intact—led me to vacation there whenever possible and over my career I’d applied to more than one or two jobs there based primarily on the potential reward of living in the same state as Collinwood and its spooky mansion atop the cliffs overlooking the stormy Atlantic. Once some friends in Norwalk, Connecticut took us to see the Lockwood–Mathews Mansion, used for Collinwood in the movie House of Dark Shadows. Such is the draw of childhood imagination.
What were these lessons I’ve mentioned? Well, Collinwood stands outside the quaint fishing village of Collinsport. Both are named after the family that houses some very dark secrets, as well as shadows. Barnabas Collins is a vampire. He has run-ins with many supernatural creatures, including ghosts, witches, and a few Scooby-Doo kinds of cases where someone’s faking the paranormal. But Barnabas isn’t the only monstrous Collins. His cousin Quentin, whom I kind of remembered being his ally, was an unstable werewolf. Of course, I’m not sure there is such a thing as a stable werewolf, but still. Those in the family stay loyal, despite the beasts that lurk within their walls. Some of the early Collinses were involved in the slave trade.
The Collins family has a long association with the state of Maine. During the groovy 1970s they seemed somewhat progressive while maintaining the aloofness of the aristocracy they’d become. Despite Tim Burton’s spin on it, they were the undisputed lords of Collinsport. You felt you could trust them. Unelected though they were, they possessed an innate sense of social responsibility. I also learned as a child that, as appealing and tortured as they might be, you could never really trust a Collins. Barnabas was not evil, but he was a vampire. He required blood to survive, and his victims, like those of the current Collins of Maine, Susan, were female. Any girl who trusted a Collins was in danger, unless she was their willing servant. I was not squandering my childhood afternoons. I was learning lessons about trust and its costs.