Writer Art Wallace was hired to develop a story outline for Dan Curtis’ proposed series. Curtis' idea for the series came from a dream about a beautiful young woman riding on a train, with her destination being a brooding old mansion. Given the task of fleshing out Curtis' initial vision, Wallace fashioned the document which would serve as both a guide for prospective writers and as a detailed synopsis with which Curtis could use to sell the show to the ABC Network. As well as putting together the 91-page series bible, Wallace would also write 65 of the first 85 televised Dark Shadows episodes.
In constructing the series bible Art Wallace drew heavily from one of his previous works, an original teleplay entitled The House, which had been seen as an episode of NBC-TV’s Television Playhouse, broadcast on September 8, 1957.
The House was set in a New England fishing village where middle-aged Caroline Barnes has lived the life of a recluse since her seafaring husband disappeared years ago. The only people she sees are her daughter Elizabeth and her piano pupils. In an attempt to change her life of seclusion, Caroline plans a dinner party.
For Dark Shadows, the New England fishing village from The House became Collinsport, Caroline Barnes became Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the missing husband became Paul Stoddard, and daughter Elizabeth became daughter Carolyn Stoddard. The piano teacher aspect was dropped for Dark Shadows, although Elizabeth Collins Stoddard was shown playing the piano in early episodes.
The Collins family ancestral home is referred to as Collins House in the story bible. This would be changed to Collinwood shortly before recording of the series commenced.
Characters that feature in the story bible who would appear in the show as televised are:
- Victoria Winters
- Burke Devlin
- Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
- Roger Collins
- David Collins
- Carolyn Stoddard
- Joe Haskell
- Maggie Evans
- Sam Evans
- Bill Malloy
- Frank Garner
- Constable Carter
- A character named Walt Cummings corresponding to Jason McGuire also features.
- Laura Collins is also referred to as being David’s mother. Her maiden name is given as ‘Robin’, this would be changed to Murdoch when the character appeared in the series.
There were a couple of alternate fates originally planned for certain characters:
- Bill Malloy is never murdered. (Bill is found dead in episode 50.)
- Carolyn Stoddard and boyfriend Joe Haskell bicker but don't break up; there's no hint of an attraction between him and Maggie. (Joe and Carolyn break up in episode 119.)
- Roger Collins was to die falling off Widows' Hill. (see section 4: the story arcs for more details on this change.)
- Walt Cummings (Jason McGuire) is not killed after the collapse of his scheme, but merely kicked out of Collinwood. (Jason McGuire is strangled to death by Barnabas Collins in episode 275.)
There are no characters corresponding to:
The bible summarizes the originally planned storylines for the first two 13-week story arcs. It does not mention any supernatural elements. The first arc chronicles Burke Devlin's attempt to prove that Roger Collins framed him for a manslaughter charge. The second deals with Walt Cummings' plot to blackmail Elizabeth Collins Stoddard into marriage by threatening to expose her ‘murder’ of Paul Stoddard.
The first story arc is much simpler and more straightforward than what eventually appeared in the series as televised. Sam Evans had previously accepted a bribe from Roger, the purchase of some of his paintings at an inflated price, to lie on the witness stand and claim Burke rather than Roger had been driving the car that struck and killed a pedestrian. With Burke's return to Collinsport, Sam is torn by guilt and begins drinking heavily. When Maggie Evans, Sam's daughter, brings her new friend Victoria Winters to the cottage, Victoria hears some of Sam's drunken ramblings. She hasn't heard anything that incriminates Roger, but an increasingly paranoid Roger fears she has. He finally snaps completely. Wrongly convinced that Victoria already knows the truth, he himself blurts it out to her. When he realizes what he's done he tries to kill her. As he's about to push her off Widows' Hill, David Collins, hiding in the bushes, cries out in horror. Startled, Roger loses his balance and falls to his death.
- (As televised, this storyline changes significantly once the focus of the show begins to shift towards supernatural elements. In particular, the addition of Bill Malloy’s murder shifts the identity of the villain from Roger to caretaker Matthew Morgan. Matthew’s motive being that he was protecting Elizabeth from scandal. In episode 102, Matthew begins to suspect that Victoria knows the truth. In episode 108, Matthew blurts out the truth, that he killed Bill Malloy, to Victoria. In episode 116, Matthew holds Victoria prisoner threatening to kill her. In episode 126, Matthew dies of a heart attack as a result of an encounter with the ghosts of the widows'. The Burke Devlin manslaughter charge aspect is eventually resolved in a much more low key fashion than originally planned. In episode 201, Burke finally learns the truth, that Roger was driving the car of the night of the accident, satisfied in knowing the truth Burke pursues the matter no further.)
The second story arc tells a more familiar story to what appeared in the series. Walt Cummings arrives knowing the ‘truth’ that Elizabeth ‘murdered’ husband Paul Stoddard and blackmails her in exchange for his silence. Elizabeth confesses the ‘murder’ rather than marry Cummings. There turns out to be no body in the basement, Paul was never killed, and Cummings’s duplicity is exposed.
- (By the time the first story arc had concluded Art Wallace had left the writing team. The new line-up of writers decided to use one of the future story arcs that Wallace had mentioned in the bible (see section 5. Future story-lines for more details) concerning the return of Roger’s wife Laura. This meant that the ‘Walt Cummings’ story arc was pushed back into third place, eventually commencing in episode 193. This storyline more-or-less plays out how Wallace had planned. The main difference being that it plays out simultaneously with, for the most part, an unrelated storyline about Barnabas Collins, a supernatural character not envisaged by Wallace.)
An ongoing mystery that was originally planned to straddle both of Wallace's story arcs was the mystery Victoria's parentage. As envisaged in the bible, when searching the Collins accounts on Victoria’s behalf, Frank Garner finds entries of $240 per annum "for Victoria Winters", leading Victoria to believe that Elizabeth is her mother. After it is revealed that Paul Stoddard wasn't killed, Victoria happens upon an old letter from him to Elizabeth. To her amazement, she realizes it was his handwriting on the note left with her at the Foundling Home. She confronts Elizabeth assuming, initially, that Elizabeth and Paul are her parents, and they hadn't dared acknowledge her because they were not yet married. But Elizabeth regretfully tells her that isn't the case. She has always feared Victoria would imagine her to be her mother, that being the most obvious explanation. Actually, it was Elizabeth who made those support payments for Victoria. But she did it because Victoria is Paul's child, and she had guiltily feelings over having ‘killed’ him. Elizabeth has no idea who Victoria's mother is. All she knows is that it was someone Paul met in Collinsport, because he was there throughout the period when Victoria must have been conceived. But it could have been either a full-time resident or a summer tourist who never passed through town again. (Wallace planned to establish that the Collinsport artists' colony attracted a summer tourist crowd.) Shortly after Victoria's birth Paul made a 'business trip' to New York. Whilst there he had Victoria placed at a Foundling Home. After Paul 'disappeared’, Elizabeth instructed her attorney to send twenty dollars anonymously every month. And the attorney had kept constant track of Victoria, as instructed by Elizabeth.
- (Although initially this is an ongoing mystery in the series as televised, the identities of Victoria’s parents are never revealed. The most significant clue given in the series occurs in episode 60, Victoria finds one of Sam’s paintings of a woman who resembles her. Sam tells Victoria that the picture is twenty-five years old, and that it is of a woman named Betty Hanscombe . As originally planned, Victoria enlists the services of Frank Garner in episode 92. After this point this storyline isn’t continued as the focus of the show shifts towards supernatural elements.)
Once the first two story arcs had concluded, Art Wallace suggests that the next plot strands would be:
- The rehabilitation of David Collins. (David’s character, and attitude towards his father, undergoes a significant change for the better once his mother arrives in episode 123)
- The appearance of Roger's alcoholic wife, Laura Collins, to claim custody of David. (Laura returns except instead of an alcoholic she is revealed to be an immortal phoenix.)
- Laura's subsequent death ‘under suspicious circumstances’, leading to Victoria Winters being accused and tried for her murder. (Victoria would instead be tried for witchcraft during a trip in time to 1795.)
- A developing romance between Victoria and Burke Devlin. (Their relationship progresses towards marriage until Burke is suddenly killed in a plane crash, episode 345)
- Carolyn Stoddard’s marriage to Joe Haskell, which would fail due to her inability to commit to her husband. (This was never pursued in the series.)
- Paul Stoddard's return to Collinwood. (Paul returned in episode 888, he is revealed to have made a pact with the Leviathan race upon originally leaving Collinsport)
Wallace also goes some of the way to creating the Collins' family tree, elements of which become significant as the series progressed. Jeremiah Collins and his French wife, Josette, are mentioned noting that Jeremiah built Collinwood in 1830. There are no mentions of an older 'Collins House' on the Estate.
- (Josette Collins would become a significant character in the series, being revealed instead to be the bride of Barnabas Collins. Collinwood will instead be revealed to have been built by Joshua Collins, Barnabas father, in 1795. Jeremiah Collins also features in the series as Joshua’s brother. The Old House would be introduced in episode 70 and would serve, most prominently, as the location where Barnabas lives in the present day.)
Wallace also mentions that part of the East Wing was rebuilt following a fire that broke out in 1895.
- (The series ongoing narrative would later involve a storyline set in the late 19th century, 1897. However, no fire is shown to occur at that time. The East Wing would be revealed to contain a doorway leading to a parallel universe.)
In 1995, Pomegranate Press issued Art Wallace's Shadows on the Wall. It was reproduced in facsimile fashion directly from the original typed version (including typographic errors, et al.). It is now out of print.