Due to the grueling five-shows-a-week schedule, the expense and the difficulty of video editing in those days, most scenes were shot in a single take. Actors routinely flubbed their lines and searched for the teleprompter, set pieces collapsed, props malfunctioned, crew members walked into shots, microphones and secondary cameras got in the way, and it all wound up being preserved because the production team figured each episode would only be seen one time.
Barnabas Collins was initially the villain, but when the producers turned him into an anti-hero, his character saved the show from the axe. They kept him on as the lead when he was only supposed to be around for a few episodes. This incidentally made Barnabas Collins the first example of a sympathetic vampire seen on screen.
Jonathan Frid didn't pose for the famous portrait of him that hung in Collinwood. The line producer, Robert Costello, did. The face was left blank until the actor was hired. The portrait was the last image ever shown on the last episode.
The role of Dr. Julia Hoffman was actually originally supposed to be "Julian" Hoffman, and portrayed by a man. In the first episode in which this character is mentioned (before she appeared on-screen), Dr. Hoffman is specifically referred to as a "he" and "one of the finest men I know." Before the role was cast however, a character description was typed up and the name "Julian" became "Julia" because of a typo. Producer Dan Curtis decided to change the gender on a whim, only after he noticed the typo.
For more than a year and a half the characters of "Dark Shadows" used almost every possible phrase to refer to Barnabas Collins ("He's not alive!" "He's one of the undead." "He walks at night but he ain't alive.") It wasn't until the 410th episode that the word "vampire" was actually used on the show.
The story outline for the show was titled "Shadows on the Wall." Other titles considered were "The House on Widows' Hill" and "Terror at Collinwood" before the producers finally decided upon "Dark Shadows."
The first episode shot in color was #294, but it was originally broadcast in black-and-white. Episode #295 was the first broadcast in color. In a twist of irony, the color tape of #294 survived and #295 was lost, so existing copies of the first episode which aired in color are dubbed from a black-and-white kinescope print.
The first time Jonathan Frid had to bite a victim, he had to rush to the set in a matter of seconds. He only had a matter of seconds to put his fangs in; they wound up going in upside down and he chewed them to bits.
Kathryn Leigh Scott was one of the first people hired for the show. A screen test was shot of her wearing a filmy, ghostlike costume-and it was later used on the air, with the explanation that she was the ghost of Josette Collins. They didn't let it die there. When Barnabas was introduced, it was further explained that Josette was his long-lost love, and Scott played that part when the storyline jumped back to the year 1795. They had her coming and going, so to speak.
Thayer David holds the record for playing the most characters in this series. He portrayed Matthew Morgan #2, Ben Stokes (in 1795), Prof. Timothy Eliot Stokes, Sandor Rakosi (in 1897), Count Petofi (also in 1897), Quentin Collins (his mind in Petoffi's body, also in 1897), Stokes (Parallel Time), aged Prof. Stokes (1995), aged Ben Stokes (1840), aged Ben Stokes (Parallel Time, 1840).
The role of Dr. Julia Hoffman, played by Grayson Hall, was only supposed to last a few weeks, but Hall's husband, Sam Hall, was a head writer for the show and eventually made a star out of the character.
David Selby was written out because he developed appendicitis and had to undergo surgery. He recovered as the show was canceled and was able to star in the final theatrical spin-off, Night of Dark Shadows (1971).
Despite their low-budget look, the special effects were very costly for a daytime soap opera. In order to keep within the budget, producer Dan Curtis decreed that no more than five characters could appear in a single episode (this was occasionally relaxed for sweeps-week episodes in which major plot twists took place).
Josette's music box. Barnabas gave this to her as token of his love, and somehow, through the centuries, he always manages to have it on hand when he falls in love again (usually with someone he sees as Josette's incarnation).
The first daytime soap opera to appear in syndicated reruns. A selected batch of episodes was syndicated in the US from 1975-90, and then in 1992 the Sci-Fi Channel obtained exclusive rights to rerun all 1,225 episodes.
The series was ABC's first soap opera to appear in color, beginning with the August 14, 1967 telecast. Many shows which transitioned to color endured radical set overhauls, but following some screen testing the crew discovered they didn't have to change a thing.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Since the show was canceled rather suddenly, viewers never learned Barnabas' fate. But according to one of the writers, here's what they had planned--Barnabas was going to marry his doctor, Julia Hoffman, and move to Asia, where she would eventually discover a cure for his vampirism.