When you think about vampires (though we\u2019re not exactly sure why you would be), odds are they\u2019d be members of the undead desperate to reclaim some part of their lost humanity, whether it\u2019s their soul (David Boreanaz\u2019 Angel), eternal love (Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga) or meaning in their own existence (Anne Rice\u2019s Lestat). Few likely consider them blood-thirsty predators who look upon us as nothing more than cattle, which is the way it used to be until the arrival, in 1967, of a perfect storm: actor Jonathan Frid, vampire Barnabas Collins and Dark Shadows, the daytime horror soap opera. If you\u2019ve ever uttered the phrase, \u201cI used to run home from school every day to watch it,\u201d you\u2019re well aware of what Dark Shadows was. If not, it was a pop culture phenomenon you\u2019d have to have been there for to fully appreciate just how big it was. \u201cBack then, on the weekends, I would make personal appearances,\u201d Frid recalled in an exclusive interview prior to his death. \u201cI did it for the money and for the ego trip \u2014 sure, I enjoyed it, but who wouldn\u2019t? You know, going down the street and hearing the din of thousands of people anticipating your arrival. It was the time of The Beatles and I was getting almost the same kind of treatment they were.\u201d The creation of producer Dan Curtis, who claimed the concept of the show came to him in a dream, Dark Shadows debuted in 1966, set in the fictional town of Collinsport, Maine and focusing on mysteries involving the Collins family at their mansion (Collinwood). It was essentially a Gothic novel brought to life, involving a woman (Alexandra Moltke\u2019s Victoria Winters) who comes to Collinwood to work as a governess for young David Collins (David Henesy) while trying to uncover secrets of her own past. \u201cThe early episodes loved the idea of \u2018mystery,\u2019\u201d muses Wallace McBride, creator of the premier site on the show, The Collinsport Historical Society. \u201cThey loved the concept so much that Dark Shadows was reluctant to ever\u00a0resolve whatever mystery was at hand during its first year, including its most notorious dangling plot point: Who is Victoria Winters? Like Twin Peaks many years later, the mystery was the entire point, so it doesn't bother me at all that we never got an answer to that question.\u201d RELATED: Do You Remember The Barnabas Collins 'Dark Shadows' Board Game? It Was Pretty Disgusting! The real mystery is how Dark Shadows managed to survive on the air for more than a couple of months given its anemic ratings. Things did reach a point where the network (ABC) was getting ready to cut it off, giving Curtis just six months to turn things around. Deciding he had nothing left to lose, he figured he\u2019d go for broke and threw a vampire into the mix. \u00a0The idea was that this vampire \u2014 Barnabas Collins \u2014 would be inadvertently freed from his chained coffin and pass himself off as a distant relative of the family. On the surface, he seemed like this charming gentleman who had lived his life in England, but beneath that, there was indeed the need for blood, which was initially quenched by cows(!), but would come to include victims of the humankind. Enter Jonathan Frid Born John Herbert Frid on December 2, 1924 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, he served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II, which is where the idea of acting first came to him. \u201cIt hadn\u2019t occurred to me to be a professional until then and a friend of mine was definitely coming to New York after the war to become a professional actor,\u201d he recalled. \u201cThe fact that I had a friend who was going to be an actor gave me the same incentive to be a professional actor. That was in 1945. The first play I was in at prep school, where I astounded myself, my family and my friends, was when I was a \u2018budding actor\u2019 in 1938 or 1940. So 1940 was my first inclination and 1945 I figured that if my friend could do it, I could do it. My family objected to the whole idea of it.\u201d Not that that was going to stop him. Frid would graduate from Hamilton\u2019s McMaster University in 1948, enrolling the next year at London\u2019s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. By 1954 he had decided to move to the United States, where he would attend New York University and, in 1957, would receive a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the Yale School of Drama. Beyond various university productions, he began appearing on stage in shows such as A True and Special Friend and, as an understudy on Broadway, the 1964 production of Roar Like a Dove. His roles varied, ranging from The Rival\u2019s Sir Anthony the Absolute to Father Barrett of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Dr. Sloper in The Heiress and Richard III among many Shakespeare parts. RELATED: 'Dark Shadows' Star John Karlen Dies at 86 \u201cI was playing inquisitors and priests trying to destroy this and that,\u201d he laughed. \u201cI\u2019ve always played the heavy and I\u2019ve had great delight in playing them. I\u2019ve played comedy, too, though that\u2019s a part of my life I have not fulfilled.\u201d The Road to \u2018Dark Shadows\u2019 In early 1966, Frid, at that point a resident of New York City, had plans to move to California to become a teacher. He had been on tour with actor Ray Milland in Hostile Witness and when it was over, he returned to Manhattan to find the phone ringing \u2014 in the days before answering machines \u2014 and ran in to answer. It was his agent, who he hadn\u2019t told when he was returning. He was alerted about an audition for a soap opera, which would provide him with some extra money to go to the West Coast with. RELATED LINK: See What Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Looks Like Now \u201cI said, \u2018I\u2019ll never get it,\u2019\u201d he details, \u201cand because I was in that attitude, I think I got the job. You know the rest of the story. It was just that freaky phone call. If I had been two minutes later, he would have figured I was still in Florida.\u201d Needless to say, Frid was cast as Barnabas Collins and the results were seismic. \u201cThat is exactly the word that describes the change that took place,\u201d offers Mark Dawidziak, author of, among others, Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dracula and The Shawshank Redemption Revealed: How One Story Keeps Hope Alive. \u201cNot only the impact that the character had on the show, but the impact that the character had on the pop culture and all of horror storytelling going forward.\u201d How Do You Play A Vampire? \u201cWhen Jonathan joined the show,\u201d he continues, \u201cnobody could actually tell him how to play a vampire. As an actor, the first thing you want to know is, \u2018How am I supposed to play this?\u2019 Well, how do you tell somebody how to play someone who\u2019s been locked in a coffin since the 1790s? So Jonathan just did what actors do: he built an interior life.\u201d Though early on it seemed he didn\u2019t need too much of that interior life in the sense that Barnabas was intended to be a part of the show for just three months, at which point they\u2019d move on to another character. Dawidziak points out that the actor actually did know one thing: \u201cHe knew how it was going to end, which was with a big piece of lumber sticking out of his chest, because they were going to kill him off. He was just going to be like every other vampire predator \u2014 a threat that had to be eliminated. But because Jonathan did the work of trying to find relatable ways to play that part, the viewers picked up on it before the writers did. They found something very human in the monster and he became the most popular character on the show, which made him unkillable. It was a mistake, because they weren\u2019t intending to make him the reluctant vampire or to give him a conscience.\u201d Interestingly, Barnabas came out of his coffin in 1967, exactly 70 years after Bram Stoker wrote his seminal novel, Dracula, and in all of that time the vampire had barely evolved from predator. \u201cAnd the predator doesn\u2019t question his own nature,\u201d Dawidziak points out. \u201cBut Barnabas starts to ask the questions and starts to say, \u2018Do I have to live this life? More importantly, can I change? Is it possible to reclaim my humanity?\u2019 No vampire had ever thought that way.\u201d And the audience loved it. Dark Shadows became a bonafide phenomenon. The show\u2019s ratings skyrocketed, the writers introduced a wide variety of other supernatural beings to torment the Collins family, vast amounts of merchandise were inspired by the show and there were two feature films, House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971). Living a Lie The irony of all of this is that as far as Frid was concerned, the vampirism was the most boring aspect of playing the character. \u201cI love to play horror for horror\u2019s sake,\u201d he explained. \u201cThe inner horror. The fang business with Barnabas \u2014 I never thought that I created fear, I always felt foolish doing that part of it, but the horror part I liked was \u2018the lie.\u2019 There\u2019s nothing more horrible than looking someone in the eye who is tell you a lie and you know it\u2019s a lie. Especially in a love relationship when you find out the person does not love you and is only pretending to. Somehow that scares me more than anything. In terms of the theater, I like the inner drama rather than the outward manifestation. \u201cAn inner conflict or emotional confrontation is more of a drama to me,\u201d Frid detailed. \u201cThat\u2019s why with Barnabas there were many scenes I was thrilled to do and why the show came alive so many times for me. What scared me was Barnabas\u2019 lie; that he was pretending to be something he wasn\u2019t. That was something the actor playing Barnabas had to remember all the time. He got the lust for blood every once in a while, but what always preyed on his mind was the lie. And that played right into my own lie as an actor, pretending to be fully confident when I wasn\u2019t. I was lying that I was calm and comfortable, just as Barnabas was lying that he was the calm and comfortable cousin from England. He wasn\u2019t at all. He was a sick, unbelievable creep that the world didn\u2019t know about. I don\u2019t mean whether he was nice or bad. He was always nice, right from the beginning; he was never really bad. What was really bad was the lie.\u201d Santa Claus with Fangs As the fan mail poured in, Frid made his public appearances and Dark Shadows was virtually everywhere, with the actor attempting to gain an understanding of just why people connected with the character the way that they did. \u201cI was kind of like a dark Santa Claus,\u201d he suggested with a laugh. \u201cI don\u2019t know if as a child you were taken to the department store to see Santa, who was supposed to be a friend, but he was a big man and he was frightening. You nevertheless wanted to get up there, because you wanted a present, but you were terrified. There was an instance on a weekend when I was in a tent and there was a mob of people \u2014 mothers and children \u2014 waiting to come up and see me. There was one child, before he even got into the tent, who was just screaming and terrified. The mother, who\u2019d been waiting on line for an hour or two, said, \u2018Sonny, I\u2019ve had you in line for two hours so you can tell Barnabas exactly what you want to tell him.\u2019 Finally, he figured that the only way he was getting out of there was if he told me, so between tears he said, \u2018I like you.\u2019 Talk about love-hate. Like I was going to turn into a bat or something, but it was a precious moment which really summed up, for me, what people thought of the character.\u201d Like most pop culture phenomena, Dark Shadows burned brightly but had a limited shelf life. The show had debuted in 1966 and came to a close in 1971 with a total of 1,225 episodes (remember, it aired five days a week). And by the time it did end, Frid was okay with it (despite missing the regular paycheck). \u201cThe end wasn\u2019t really a great shock, because the writing on the wall was always there for me,\u201d he shared. \u201cEvery time the show went up another notch, I figured it was peaking and that it would start to go down. I knew it couldn\u2019t last. I\u2019m a negative person in that way. So when the end came, I was fully prepared for it. It was like the stock market, it would go down and up. And it lasted a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would. It wasn\u2019t the ordinary soap opera and they went through all the horror stories three or four times; we were repeating ourselves. \u201cWe ran out of stories, gas and interest,\u201d added Frid. \u201cI think Dan Curtis, the show\u2019s producer, had other interests. I was getting a little bored with it, I suppose, but everyone got bored with it. Work got sloppy, the writing got sloppy, the discipline got bad and the show burned itself out.\u201d Life Beyond the Coffin Given how popular both Dark Shadows and Jonathan Frid were at the time, it\u2019s a little surprising that the actor didn\u2019t parlay that success into something more. Initially, he did return to the Broadway stage in 1971 in Murder in the Cathedral and Wait Until Dark. Then there was his role as a mute butler in the 1973 TV movie The Devil\u2019s Daughter and Oliver Stone\u2019s directorial debut, Seizure (1974). And then he returned home to Canada, before relocating back to New York in the early 1980s. All told, though, things were pretty quiet. \u201cI do, but I don\u2019t miss the work,\u201d he admitted. \u201cIt\u2019s too much hard work. I was nervous and under a great strain. If I say nothing else important during this interview, every day of my first year on the show was sheer hell, just because of nerves. But at least those nerves worked for Barnabas, because the character was a nervous wreck. The truth is, I knew people were going to view me as Barnabas after the show ended, although there was nothing to typecast except the fangs. Frankly, if I worked harder I could have twisted it, though I may never have made it as big again. You see, being a star is a big, big job; you always have to be better than you were the time before or you\u2019re out. \u201cI also knew I couldn\u2019t make a career out of being a star, because I would have to make a commitment to the occult,\u201d he continued. \u201cI have no interest in that at all. If I did make a career out of it, I would have to become an honorary member of every occult society in the country and get into vampirism. I couldn\u2019t bear the thought of that. Look at Bela Lugosi, the poor man. He died and had himself buried in his Dracula cape. I never wanted to get like that.\u201d Return to the Stage In the 1980s he began developing a one-man show and, in collaboration with television producer Mary O\u2019Leary (who also had a background in theater) and a guy named William McKinley, was able to hone it down and bring it to fruition. What they came up with was a concept that would put Frid \u2014 who always had a tough time memorizing lines \u2014 on the road armed with a music stand, stool and written material from which he would read\/perform. As O\u2019Leary told him, \u201cIt\u2019s your voice and all your facial expressions that bring all these characters from the page to life for the audience.\u201d Cleverly, they brought the show to various\u00a0Dark Shadows\u00a0conventions, which turned out to be a great way to work out the kinks, though there the presentations would include Barnabas-related material, which would ultimately be removed from the show when performed elsewhere. He was actually hesitant to feature what he called "spooky stories" he would read, but saw that, given his image, it would be wise to include them. So he did, among them one written by Stephen King,\u00a0and even incorporated elements of comedy, which he brought to additional conventions and colleges. The project definitely gaining speed, Frid actually thought he was being derailed when O\u2019Leary was contacted by agent Bob Waters, who told her that the Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace would be going out on a national tour and he believed that the actor would be perfect for the character of Jonathan Brewster. \u00a0She did away with Frid\u2019s concerns by pointing out that once they had the tour schedule, they could schedule engagements on the road. So he joined Arsenic \u2014costarring along with Marion Ross, Jean Stapleton, Gary Sandy and Larry Storch \u2014 from 1986 to 1987. Relates O\u2019Leary, \u201cJonathan said it was the most wonderful year of his life, because he got to do a long run of a play and he was an actor who constantly would work and look for some nuance he didn\u2019t know in the beginning. And once he was comfortable with Arsenic, we started booking his show.\u201d Embracing His Roots When he wrapped Arsenic and Old Lace, Frid\u2019s agent told him that he wanted to start submitting him to different projects, which he was completely against. Explains O\u2019Leary, \u201cJonathan said, \u2018Wait a minute, this was an incredible time, but I really want to focus on my one-man show.\u2019\u201d The evolution of the personal shows continued, from Jonathan Frid\u2019s Fools and Fiends to Shakespearean Odyssey and the heavily comedic Fridiculousness. \u201cHe just kept going; he was amazing and kept finding audiences in all these little towns,\u201d she warmly recalls. \u201cThen I was getting promoted at work and he was getting close to 70, and he said, \u2018I think I\u2019m going to retire back to Canada.\u2019 So for the first time ever he bought a house up there and embraced the fact he\u2019d always loved gardening.\u201d O\u2019Leary, whose friendship with Frid lasted until the end of his life, adopted a child and moved to Los Angeles, while he enjoyed a retirement that still allowed him to perform his show in Canada, which is where his last stage role took place in the form of 2000\u2019s Mass Appeal. He did embrace his Dark Shadows past by attending a number of conventions in New York and California between 2007 and 2011, and he reprised the role of Barnabas for the first time in the 2010 audio drama The Night Whispers. \u201cI was kind of talked into doing it and really wasn\u2019t sure what I was doing at first,\u201d he related. \u201cBut once we went into the studio, I found that I enjoyed it and we went back a second day to perform it again after I was comfortable. And with how Barnabas is now, I guess he\u2019s just older and a little more tired \u2026 like me.\u201d Frid and Dark Shadows co-stars David Selby, Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott were flown to England to appear in the 2012 Tim Burton\/Johnny Depp movie version, but that was a disaster. \u201cThey got there,\u201d says O\u2019Leary, \u201cand there was no script. I think they were just flying by the seat of their pants and the movie crew didn\u2019t know what to do with them. It was unfortunate.\u201d And their appearance was of the blink-and-you'll-miss-it variety. Final Thoughts On April 14, 2012, Jonathan Frid died at age 87 from a combination of pneumonia and complications from a fall. Notes O\u2019Leary, \u201cJonathan definitely still had energy. He would still get on his website and tell the fans, \u2018I can\u2019t wait until the next Festival to see you all again.\u2019 He had the energy and the passion, but, of course, as with all of us, his body didn\u2019t cooperate.\u201d The memory of Jonathan Frid and Dark Shadows continues to live on, with a new version of the show being developed at the CW and the appeal of the original continuing to touch people who hand it down from generation to generation. Wallace McBride comments, \u201cDark Shadows functions on a lot of different levels simultaneously. It sounds simplistic, but how many horror movies have you seen that weren't scary? Or comedies that weren't funny? Entertainment is hard work ... statistically speaking, it's almost impossible to make anything that's not forgotten by the end of the week. But we keep trying, because when it works, it's literally magic. We're still talking about Dark Shadows for the same reasons we're still talking about Casablanca, Star Wars, and The Twilight Zone ... they all have a lot of gears working in unison that sing to us on levels deeper than just \u2018personal.\u2019 Fandoms tend to crop up around these kinds of properties because they provoke a shared experience that's transcendent, and we gather together to try to prolong that experience. Religion probably started for the same reasons. Here endeth my TED Talk.\u201d Looking back at it all towards the end, Frid commented, \u201cDark Shadows was something unexpected, but really quite amazing. I was too busy when it was all happening to make sense of it, but I\u2019m having a good time with it all now.\u201d And there are a lot of people who still are.