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Charmed and Cole Turner, Barnabas Collins and Dark Shadows

Updated on October 16, 2010

Two very similar television programs

One was a daytime soap opera for the ABC network in the ‘60s, the other a drama/adventure produced for a minor television network in 1998. Both amassed a certain cult following with paperback novels, web sites, and other memorabilia created for fans. These two unrelated television programs, produced 30 years apart, bore some remarkable similarities. Their stories emphasized demons and the occult, but paradoxically made love and family their main focus. Although the parallels to each other were numerous, I wish to examine one resemblance in particular: both featured strange men that embodied evil but strove to be good. These men possessed powers which set them apart from others, but walked as a human. They were reluctant monsters.

The two characters were Barnabas Collins and Cole Turner, and the TV programs they starred in were Dark Shadows and Charmed, respectively. The shows were sometimes hokey or poorly acted, but both were tremendously important to me. As a child I watched Dark Shadows after school with my brother and grandmother, racing home to view the exploits of this cool if oddly dressed vampire—back in the days when vampires turned into bats and bit their victims on the neck. Three decades later I tuned in to Charmed after seeing it on a New Year’s Day marathon. I found the adventures of three gorgeous sisters who vanquished demons each week irresistible, and was intrigued by the youngest daughter’s enigmatic lover.

Vampires, Demons and the women who loved them

Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, the reluctant vampire
Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, the reluctant vampire
Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans/Josette DuPres
Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans/Josette DuPres
Angelique, the witch who curse Barnabas to walk the night as a vampire
Angelique, the witch who curse Barnabas to walk the night as a vampire
Dark Shadows
Dark Shadows
Julian McMahon as Cole Turner
Julian McMahon as Cole Turner
Cole's demonic alter-ego, Belthazor
Cole's demonic alter-ego, Belthazor
Allysa Milano as Phoebe Halliwell, one of the Charmed Ones and the woman who captured Cole's heart
Allysa Milano as Phoebe Halliwell, one of the Charmed Ones and the woman who captured Cole's heart
Charmed--the Power of Three
Charmed--the Power of Three

Who were these powerful, tragic characters?

Barnabas Collins and Dark Shadows. In the Dark Shadows mythology, Barnabas was born to the wealthy Joshua and Naomi Collins and intended to marry his beautiful fiancé, Josette DuPres in the year 1795. However, an ill-advised interlude with her maidservant, Angelique Bouchard doomed their romance. Angelique was a powerful witch and ruined the family through use of black magic. She cursed Barnabas to walk the earth as a vampire. Barnabas approached Josette and offered her eternal life as his bride, but she would not love the monster he became and threw herself from the cliffs of Widow’s Hill to her death. Barnabas’ father couldn’t bring himself to destroy his son, and ordered the coffin he lay in to be chained shut for what he thought would be eternity.

Barnabas was accidentally freed in 1967 and returned to Collinwood. He introduced himself to the family as a cousin from England, and they noted his uncanny resemblance to the portrait of their ancestor from 1795 which hung in the foyer of their great house. The resemblance was not coincidence—Barnabas was indeed the man in the portrait. He soon met Maggie Evans, a woman who reminded him of his lost love, Josette. Determined to finally marry his bride, he kidnapped Maggie and hypnotized her into believing she was Josette. A Dr. Julia Hoffman eventually rescued Maggie and managed to appeal to the good within Barnabas, and while they overcame many dangerous threats in the next four years, he could never rid himself of the evil within him. Even when he was human for a time, he manipulated the other members of the family in what he believed to be their best interests. He defended them from the evil forces that sought to harm them, but never completely exorcised his own demons.

Barnabas Collins was portrayed on Dark Shadows by the Canadian actor Jonathan Frid. Originally intended to appear for thirteen weeks, Frid’s character proved so popular he was retained and became the show’s de facto star.

Cole Turner and Charmed. Approximately thirty years later, we met Cole Turner in the third season of Charmed. He was an Assistant District Attorney, but soon revealed to be only half-human—he was also the demonic soldier of fortune, Belthazor. Cole fell in love with Phoebe Halliwell, the youngest of three witches called the Charmed Ones. He was originally sent by an evil force known as the Triad to destroy the sisters, and used Phoebe’s attraction to him to infiltrate their ranks. His growing love for her compelled him to betray his dark lords, and Cole sought to marry Phoebe when the Triad was defeated. He fought with the Charmed Ones as their ally against fiends bent on destroying them, and while combating another demon, a potion extinguished his monstrous side. Cole Turner was completely human and free to marry Phoebe.

In human form he was frequently threatened by the evil forces attacking the sisters, and as he defended Phoebe from the Source of All Evil, he inadvertently absorbed its demonic powers. His love for Phoebe never diminished but the evil that resided in him could not be repressed. He was the new Source of All Evil, ruler of the Demonic Underworld—and he desired for Phoebe Halliwell to become his bride. Following a series of tricks initiated by an evil Seer to lure the couple into iniquity, Cole and Phoebe ruled the underworld together. Wickedness seduced them both, but they were not truly wicked and ultimately rejected their malevolent purpose.

Phoebe returned to her sisters and Cole was exiled to the demonic underworld. In a realm where banished evil spirits resided, Cole learned to absorb the remnant energies of the vanquished demons. He returned to the Charmed Ones more powerful than ever, and vowed to regain Phoebe’s heart. His evil nature could never entirely be extinguished, however, and he was incapable of convincing Phoebe he was worthy of her trust and love. Eventually she and her sisters finally destroyed him forever.

The character of Cole Turner was brought to life by Julian McMahon, who played the half-human/half demon for 47 episodes. McMahon also starred in the quirky series Nip/Tuck and played the villainous Doctor Doom in the Fantastic Four motion pictures.

The creators of Charmed seemed heavily influenced by Dark Shadows, and perhaps used this gothic soap opera as a blueprint while updating it for the 21st century. These two prominent characters were so much alike, they would have easily sympathized with each others’ plight and their respective struggles.

What did Barnabas and Cole have in common? Both were powerful characters in the worlds they inhabited. While they attempted to use their might for good, their strength sprung from evil sources. Barnabas was a vampire and Cole was (in order) a demon, the Source of All Evil and an Avatar. They battled their evil impulses but couldn’t eradicate them. They reluctantly accepted their fate while constantly desiring a normal life. They carried an air of sadness about them that would not abate.

The two were also tragically in love. Barnabas could never forget his love for Josette Dupres, and saw her in every woman he fell for. Cole stubbornly held onto his passion for Phoebe, even when her feelings for him had ended. Neither Barnabas nor Cole could move on, and it doomed them to an eternity of sorrow. Both hoped their loves might share in their dark existence, but weren’t surprised when they were rejected. They realized they were unworthy of the love they sought above all else.

Why is it so easy to empathize with this vampire and demon? These tragically flawed characters speak to our sadness and our insecurities. They express our thoughts and desires. They validate and dignify our feelings. They want to be loved but feel unlovable—just like us. They want to side with goodness but sometimes cannot. When we do wrong, we share their hopes for redemption. When we can no longer stand our situation and wish we could strike back at the world when it hurts us, these fictional characters do so for us with their amazing abilities. When they go too far and hurt the people around us, we fear we could perhaps someday do the same.

We are Barnabas Collins and Cole Turner. There is a tragic hero within us all, fighting endlessly to come to terms with our demons. These two bizarre characters are us.

Dark Shadows Lives!


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    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 

      8 years ago from Mason City

      I loved watching Dark Shadows when I was a kid in the 60s, too. I would try to watch it every chance I got.

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      11 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Habee, thanks for reading. I absolutely loved Dark Shadows as a kid, and I am looking forward to a Dark Shadows movie that will allegedly star Johnny Depp. It should be pretty good. They did a couple movies in the 70's while their television show was still on, and I keep hoping they will put them out on DVD--so far nothing yet.

      Well, thanks again, and thanks for recommending Treasurestrove, also. It looks like a pretty cool site.


    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      I loved Dark Shadows when I was a kid! I hadn't thought about that show in years. thanks for the memories!

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      11 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Janny, thanks for reading. I loved the remake and was sorry it ran for only twelve episodes. I bought it on DVD and have watched it again several times. Dark Shadows was a soap opera in the '60s and ran five days a week. Very popular in its day. They are discussing a movie for Dark Shadows within the next year--I will love to see that.

      Thanks for your comments, Janny, they are greatly appreciated.


    • JannyC profile image


      11 years ago

      I enjoyed the Dark shadow remake they did in the 1990s. I became a fan and joined the dark shadows fan club and the discovered it was a show back in the 60's. I was a fan of charmed too and watched it like when all else failed in my channel surfing. Nice comparisons there the typical tragic bad guy. There a name for those type of characters but I have forgotten but I wrote a hub on it. Lol

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      11 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      rml, thanks for commenting. Dark Shadows might have been melodramatic, but they were trying to be over the top, so I will look the other way if it went too far sometimes. I will admit, people don't usually engage in casual conversation the way those folks did.

      Thanks again for your comments.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I enjoyed Charmed when it was on. Dark Shadows always seemed a little melodramatic to me, but my mother enjoyed it.

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      11 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      bat115, thanks for reading. Never saw Charmed? It was a fun show in its own way. And yes, Johnny Depp should make a great Barnabas Collins--I'm looking forward to seeing this movie very much.

      Thanks again.

    • bat115 profile image


      11 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Good Hub. Never saw one episode of Charmed but I got turned onto Dark Shadows reruns on the Scifi channel during my junior high years.

      I suspect Johnny Depp will do Jonathan Frid proud.

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      11 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks, Jim. I am also greatly looking forward to the Dark Shadows movie. I suspect Johnny Depp will make quite the convincing vampire.

      Thanks again for reading.

    • Jim Bryan profile image

      Jim Bryan 

      11 years ago from Austin, TX

      I dig both series (and can't wait for the Dark Shadows movie coming soon) and while I never compared the two, I can certainly see your points.

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      11 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Cosette, thanks for your comments and feel free to write a hub about them. I enjoyed Charmed from the very beginning, and hated to see the show finally end.

      I was actually thinking of comparing Pru and Paige in a future hub, I might still do it.

      Thanks again for commenting, it's great to find another Charmed fan.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      i dig the Charmed Ones! i like the later episodes with Rose McGowan, but will always have a special spot in my heart for Prue, mostly because she had awesome powers! very nice hub haha i was going to write about them. maybe i will, if you don't object. rating you UP.

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      11 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Kathy, thanks for the comments. I am so very nostalgic about the Dark Shadows show, it truly meant a lot to me when I was young. And, of course, as you note, the women on this show were flat-out gorgeous. Lara Parker as Angelique was the most beautiful woman I could imagine, and Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie wasn't far behind. I was so taken by these two lovely ladies that when a young Kate Jackson appeared on the show, I dismissed her as plain and ordinary-looking (and we all know Ms. Jackson went on to star in a television show about three beautiful women, but that's another story....). The beauty of Dark Shadows was that it was indeed a love story that spanned the centuries, and how could any true romantic not enjoy that?

      If you catch Charmed, look for episodes with Julian McMahon in them--I think seasons 3, 4, and 5. That is the era of this show that really struck me, because those are the seasons McMahon played Cole/Belthazor.

      Thanks for reading, Kathy. I have a couple other half-worked hubs about Dark Shadows, I hope you will come take a look when I get them finished!

    • Katharella profile image


      11 years ago from Lost in America

      Hello Mike, you commented on my cell phone hub! Thank you, and I'm sorry you have also observed/endured my plight!

      When I came here to see your page, oh, this caught my eye, as I too ran home to view Barnabas Collins and what would be! As a child, Quentin Collins (aside from Donny Osmond and Robert Wagner lol) was my childhood crush. To see your similarities between Dark Shadows and Charmed, is going to now force me into putting the Charmed series in my Netfix queue. Starting about 2 years ago, I began renting and reliving my Dark Shadows saga's and loved every second! I, again was drawn in to every tidbit I might have missed as a child! Oh now I really wanted Angelique to have her wish to be with Barnabas because she was just so beautiful! I always loved her smile, and dimples, and her eyes so big and blue! :) lol. I really wished they could of ended the series back then, regardless of how they went back and ended it with Barnabas ending up being with Julia! While, she understood him more than anyone I understand that, but ah, a girl and a love story, you know, we want what we want! ha ha! :) Thanks for such a great insight, I'm glad we've ran across each others pages! I'll be viewing Charmed, as soon as the Holiday's have passed! (I too can't wait for the Dark Shadows to come next year, I also loved the Mini series) and to end, yes, I, at this age, have still fallen into the ::scary music:: Twilight Saga.:ducking: lol, Well, while it doesn't fit with what we know with Vamprisim, I'm still intrigued! Thanks again for the great hub! :) -Kathy

    • Mike Lickteig profile imageAUTHOR

      Mike Lickteig 

      11 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      Thanks, Truth, your comments are appreciated as always. I realize both shows were considered lightweights, but I loved them anyway and am looking forward to a Dark Shadows movie next year.

      Thanks again.

    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 

      11 years ago from Michigan

      There are similarities, I never thought about. Good Hub nice comparison of two eras. Very interesting.


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