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The Dream Curse caused terror in its victim until they passed it on by recounting the dream to the next victim. The terror of the curse increased with each victim until it reached the final victim.

Description of the curse[]

In each case, the victim would have a dream where they would hear three knocks at a door, open it and see the next victim beckoning them to follow them to another door and pass through it. Once they passed through the door, the next recipient would slam the door, locking the dreamer inside. The dreamer would then hear the melody from Josette's music box followed by the beckoner reciting a verse:

Through sight and sound and faceless terror;
Through endless corridors by trial and error;
Ahead a blazing light doth/does burn;
And one door leads to the point of return.

There are some differences in the actual wording, and some controversy as to the actual wording, especially the "Ahead a blazing light...: part. Listening to it spoken by various characters, it seems like what they're really saying, in some cases, is "A head of blazing light..." which could refer to the skull in the first door.

The "A head of blazing light..." version gains some credence when one listens to Maggie Evans describing the dream to someone, Jeff or Julia, and clearly and distinctly says "... A blazing head of light..." and later, when Julia recites the riddle to Dr. Lang, she also clearly and distinctly says the same thing. I guess at this point, only an original script would give us the answer.

At this point the lights would come up and a series of doors would appear. Behind each one was one of the fears added to the dream of previous dreamers, and the final door opened would reveal a new terror. The victim would then wake up screaming, unable to rest until they passed the curse on to the beckoner. Once they passed the curse on by telling the dream to the beckoner, who then became the new victim, they would then forget the dream, remembering little about it except it was terrible.

Victims of the curse[]

The Dream Curse was utilized in 1968 by Angélique to return the curse to Barnabas Collins, who had escaped it with the assistance of Dr. Eric Lang. Angélique first warned Barnabas of the impending curse before actually casting it (477). The first recipient of the curse was Maggie Evans because Angélique noticed her resemblance to Josette Collins and assumed Barnabas had already developed a relationship with her (478).

The recipients of the curse, and what aspect they brought to the dream were:

Note: Not every victim saw every aspect. For instance: Willie only saw the skull, the guillotine, the bride, and the wolf.

Effects of the curse[]

Some people passed on the curse very quickly, but some people, such as Mrs. Johnson and Sam Evans, hold out for a long time because they do not want to pass on the curse, preferring to live with the side-effects rather than the guilt. Cassandra had placed David Collins under a spell to keep him from talking or writing so that he could not tell his father that he saw her kissing Tony Peterson at the gazebo (489). Cassandra had to figure out how to remove the affliction from David without jeopardizing her relationship with Roger before the dream curse could continue. Professor Stokes volunteered to become a victim because he believed he could escape the curse. Sam Evans nearly died before passing on the curse to Victoria Winters, and was kept alive only by Angélique's magic until he passed on the curse. Once Victoria was persuaded to pass the curse to Barnabas, the curse failed, due to Adam's existence.

Willie Loomis only had a chance to tell Carolyn about the first part of the dream in order for her to begin to have it (506), but she was able to resist having it completely because she was so afraid she would die (507). However; later that day Julia and Stokes brought her to The Old House so that Willie could tell her the dream and try to stop it.

In each case, the effect added to the curse was highly individualized. Maggie saw a skull, representing Death, which she had been known to fear (224)(248). Jeff, as Peter Bradford, was publicly executed, and would fear the guillotine, Dr. Lang had guilt over his experiments, and Julia could be interpreted as being afraid of Josette (the ultimate ghost bride) or of being an Old Maid.

Solving the curse[]

Barnabas told Julia that Angélique had visited him in a dream and warned him to beware of the dreams of others because that was how the curse would return. After Julia had the dream, she sought help from Prof. Stokes, whom she learned about from Vicki (487). She tells Stokes who all the recipients of the dream were, presumably Dr. Lang told her about Maggie or Jeff, and about the dream itself. At which point Stokes tells her it is a rare Dream Curse, which usually ends with "a sudden death". Stokes then visited Maggie Evans to learn the details of the dream before confronting Barnabas about knowing the identity of the witch. Barnabas tells him it is Cassandra, but does not explain that she is really Angélique (488). Barnabas tells Julia that Stokes resembles his ancestor Ben Stokes so much that he fears he may be under Angélique's power like Ben was.

When Willie told Carolyn about his dream, Carolyn was in The Old House under the care of Julia and Stokes. Stokes used hypnosis to help calm Carolyn and to see him in the dream instead of Barnabas. He believed that Barnabas would be the beckoner because of his closeness to Carolyn (508). He then used meditation and willpower to thwart the curse. First he refused to open the door until the beckoner identified themselves. When a man answered the door, he opened it and heard Angélique's laughter. He then refused to be led to the door and repeated the riddle himself. Once inside the door he refused to open the first door. It finally did open, and Angélique walked through. They spoke for a bit about her power over his ancestor, Ben Stokes, and he accused her of being lazy and out of her century. She made the same mark on his hand she placed on Jeremiah and Josette Collins, which seemed to frighten him, but when she ordered him to feel his heart racing and to be mute, he showed his willpower to be superior to hers. She finally faded out. Stokes awoke from his dream believing he had won, then Sam Evans and Joe Haskell showed up at the door. Stokes refused to tell Sam about the dream, other than the fact he had never met Evans previously, but he was in the dream. Stokes believed the curse was abated, but did go to the Evans cottage later to tell Sam to please contact him if he had a dream which began with three knocks at the door and Barnabas at the door (509).

Unfortunately, this only worked for a short time. After Adam attacked Sam, nearly killing him, Angélique was forced to give Sam a potion in the hospital to give him the dream (517). She also had to use this on Victoria Winters (528) since Sam died before passing the dream on to her (518). Barnabas has the dream, when he awakes there is a knock on the door and a bat attacks him. (535)

Technical aspects[]

Many of the curse scenes were technical nightmares. The four doors were in frames and not connected to walls. In between the doors were buckets of dry ice producing fog. Stage hands could sometimes be seen in the background, and particularly in the footage with Grayson Hall which was reused, the buckets of dry ice were extremely visible. The stick which held up the skull was often visible, other times it actually seems to glow.

Although this story line is widely regarded as the only original idea in the entire series, at the first Dark Shadows festival, writer Ron Sproat stated that it was based on a book called The Dreamers. There are numerous books with that title, but it appears that the 1957 novel by Roger Manvell. The review in Good Reads is: "Five inhabitants of a village near London are subjected to the same dream, after one has told it to the other, and the fifth dreamer nearly becomes its victim. The tracking down of its power, its source and its lethal potential is entrusted to ... Dr. King, and through his handling of the five the evil effects are dispersed and new relationships come into being. NOT before sleeping."