Barnabas was buried in a crypt, and discovered by Willie Loomis and his girlfriend early in the 21st century. When they discovered him, he was a withered corpse, but a touch of blood to his face awoke him. Almost immediately he killed Kelly (Willie's girlfriend) by draining her dry, then bit Willie. A little later the same evening he attacked and bit Carolyn.
He later went to Collinwood, introduced himself to the current Collins family, and set about restoring the Old House to its former glory. At that time he and Victoria Winters met for the first time and immediately sensed a strong connection. Soon after, he snuck into her bedroom and bared his fangs to feed, but stopped himself.In the one filmed episode, Barnabas exhibited no ability to transform into a bat or another other creature. However, he clearly could climb on walls (much as the title character did in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula). Rather than two needle-like fangs, with elongated eye-teeth, his fangs consisted of two four lengthened teeth (including the bicuspids) in his upper jaw. Likewise his eyes went jet-black (not unlike vampires in the television program The Vampire Diaries). Whether he could be active during the day never came up. One side effect of his bite seemed to be utter devotion, as seen in both Carolyn and Willie.
By comparison, this version of Barnabas was younger than Jonathan Frid, Ben Cross or Johnny Depp as well as dressing more casually. For example, he did not usually wear a tie nor necessarily even a coat.