The Night Whispers

My mom was a soap opera fan. When I would come home from school, I’d usually find her parked in front of the television to watch her “stories.” I would occasionally watch with her for a time while waiting to claim the TV from her so I could watch afternoon cartoons on a local independent station before starting any homework I might have. While romance is a natural part of life and it’s likely to find its way into many stories regardless of genre, I suspect her love of soap operas and being exposed to them made me a little more open to including romance in my early writing, especially when I was most focused on hard science fiction.

One soap opera that has always intrigued me is Dark Shadows, which ran from 1967 to 1971. I don’t believe my mom watched Dark Shadows during its original run, but I’m not entirely sure, since I would have been rather young during its run. Still, my interest in vampires and supernatural stories has led me to seek out a few episodes and the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows. The show was centered around the Collins family of Collinsport, Maine, where a number of supernatural occurrences took place. One of the most memorable characters on the show was the vampire Barnabas Collins played by Jonathan Frid. After the show ended, Frid turned down several offers to reprise the role. The one exception was when Big Finish Productions asked him to play the part for a story called “The Night Whispers” in 2010, just two years before he passed away.

As stories based on a soap opera go, this is a fairly simple one. On a stormy night, some time after Barnabas has been freed of his vampire curse, he is sitting with his grounds keeper and servant, Willie Loomis, portrayed by John Karlen, who played the role in the series. A spirit from the past, played by horror legend Barbara Steele, insists on being heard. Steele plays the spirit of Celeste, a servant girl from the Caribbean Island of Martinique. Steele’s role is fairly short, since her spirit possesses Willie and begins to speak through him. As the story progresses we learn that in Barnabas’s mortal days, his visited Martinique with other wealthy, young men. One of those men forced themselves on the young servant woman and she died, but not before cursing the party. To avoid the curse, Barnabas takes terrible action.

Now, some two centuries after young Barnabas visited Martinique, Celeste is back to tell her story and make Barnabas pay for his role in what had been done to her. Through the telling, we get much of what I like about vampire stories. Barnabas reflects on the morality of past actions from the lens of a long and terrible history. The tale also looks at the way the rich have treated those who work for them. Is Willie just one in a long line of people who have given their loves to serve the Collins family, or have Barnabas’s attitudes to those he employs evolved over time?

I enjoyed Frid and Karlen performing a dramatic dialog. The story had a nice Gothic flavor and, as a casual fan of Dark Shadows, it took me back to that world for an enjoyable hour. If you’d like to give it a listen, this is a nice, affordable download from Big Finish at:

Another area where my mom’s love of soap operas has served me well is juggling the large cast of characters in Ordeal of the Scarlet Order, which I’m working on now. As in a soap opera, I’m following several different sets of characters in several different sets of locations. I’ve always enjoyed this kind of storytelling because I feel like no story happens in isolation. The actions of friends and enemies across town or across the country can have an impact on a story and I enjoy weaving the tapestry of complex stories through most of my worlds. You can explore my fiction at:

6 comments on “The Night Whispers

  1. Jack "Blimprider" Tyler says:

    What fun memories! This began shortly after the navy returned me to San Diego for a 6-month school, during which time I spent every free moment with my high school running mate. I remember us making time in our day to watch this, but don’t recall if it was during its first run, or in syndication after my discharge. I also don’t remember much about the story lines, so go figure…

    I do remember an interview with Kate Jackson, famous later for her turn as an original Charlie’s Angel. She recounted a scene in which she had to stand in a circle of candles in a gothic-style dress and deliver this long incantation that she had to memorize and deliver in one piece because of the filming angles. During this performance, she recalled during the interview, there was this “horrible little boy” leaping, stomping, and carrying on behind her. All the while, she’s struggling through this complex dialogue and thinking, “I’m gonna kill this kid the second this scene is over!” The scene ends and she spins around, presumably to perform the aforementioned murder, and finds that the back of her dress was on fire, and the little guy was trying to put it out.

    And that’s the only anecdote I have from that show, and virtually no memories at all. It made a strong superficial impression on me, as one of the early books I attempted was “inspired by,” but as time has gone by, I retain virtually nothing beyond a still picture of Jonathan Frid’s smiling bonce. Thanks for recounting this, though. I remember having a great time with this, I just don’t remember why. Of course, right after I left the navy, marijuana swept the neighborhood, so maybe that’s a factor…

    • Thanks for the anecdote. That’s an amazing story. I’m like you, I don’t remember a lot of details about the series itself. I’m better at remembering the movies they made based on it and this audio was nicely written and memorable. It was good to hear Jonathan Frid and John Karlen get a chance to work together before Frid’s passing in 2012.

  2. They’re seriously addictive. They tricked me with House and with Grey’s Anatomy, the latter I managed to free myself from. House was just to gd good, lol. I try not to fall for these, but can clearly understand how others do so. 😊

    • They really can be. My big addiction was Babylon 5, which in many ways was a science fictional soap opera. I can definitely see how people fall for them.

      • Isn’t it so funny (weird) that those of us that would never fall for soap operas like “Days Of Our Lives” will summarily fall for shows like “Law & Order”? And please don’t think me crass, but these programmers have become super-smart in that they run one episode directly into the next, skipping commercials, and thereby further enthusing us. I know it works against me, so I have to avoid them altogether now. Know thyself, right? Programmers with the assistance of A.I. have become increasingly intelligent in controlling our behaviors. This shouldn’t be taken lightly.

      • And in the modern world of streaming, the programmers get instant feedback on what shows you get addicted to, when you move immediately to the next episode in a series, how often you watch a series and so forth. Your point is well taken.

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