Scream to Screen: Digging Up The Gay Origins Of Dark Shadows

Tim Burton’s re-imagining of the 1960s spooky soap Dark Shadows swoops into theaters tomorrow and as an old-school fan of the original, I’m not convinced he’s gotten the tone right: There’s something about Johnny Depp’s Barnabas Collins that feels like a vampire version of Austin Powers —and an insult to the source material.

Dark Shadows was a monument to campy goth melodrama—and that’s where the humor should come from: The flubbed lines, the boom mics and crew members showing up in shots, sets falling apart during deadly-serious scenes—not stale fish-out-of-water jokes. That unintentional campiness was a huge part of what drew me to DS when I watched it on the Sci-Fi Channel back when I was a kid (and it was still called the Sci-Fi Channel).

Revisiting the show, though, I wonder if it was just Dark Shadows‘ ridiculous grandiosity that sucked me in, or was it the preponderance of homos on set? On a fan forum, someone once posted that it would be easier to list the Dark Shadows actors who weren’t gay rather than those that were. That’s an exaggeration, but there were plenty of gay ghouls haunting Collinwood. Let’s take a look, shall we?


Louis Edmonds (Roger Collins)

Louis “Big Lou” Edmonds was the most beloved member of the original Dark Shadows cast, despite often finding himself playing humorless icy father figures like Roger Collins and Barnabas’s own severe patriarch, Joshua. “He would be saying something incredibly droll—or naughty—one minute, and then… he would slip into character, leaving Nancy Barrett and I very much out of character and trying not to laugh at whatever witticism he had just uttered,” co-star Alexandra Moltke (Victoria Winter) told Barnabas & Company author Craig Hamrick in 1995.

Edmonds was out to friends and coworkers his entire life though he only came out publicly in his 70s, in the authorized biography Big Lou: The Life and Career of Actor Louis Edmonds. Turns out he was a regular in Fire Island’s Cherry Grove, where he hosted friends and co-stars—like Barnabas Collins himself, Jonathan Frid (in swimsuit shot above, with Edmonds at left).


Click through for more gay secrets from the original Dark Shadows!

Photo: Louis Edmonds, Edwin Snyder, ABC