The Marilyn Ross Paperback Series

The early storylines of Dark Shadows were clearly inspired by classic Gothic tales -- with a sad, beautiful governess wandering the grounds of a mysterious mansion. So it's fitting that the show spawned a series of Gothic novels set at the spooky estate of Collinwood.

Starting in 1966, Paperback Library published the 32-volume set. All of the books were written by Canadian author Dan Ross, using the pen name Marilyn Ross. (In 1970, he also penned the novelization of the film House of Dark Shadows.) Fans of the Collins clan snapped up millions of copies, making it one of the most successful TV tie-in book series ever published. Due to this popularity, copies of the books are still plentiful today, making them some of the least-valuable of the vintage DS collectibles. Later volumes went through fewer printings and are less readily available.

Though the books definitely have their fans (myself included), some DS devotees aren't intersted in them, because the stories they tell aren't directly related to the storylines on the TV series. Many volumes include familiar Collins characters, like Roger, Elizabeth, David, and Carolyn, but there is little continuity from book to book. Ross invented some present-time characters who weren't featured on the show, most notably a brother for Elizabeth and Roger as well as a cousin -- a melancholy violinist who romances governess Victoria Winters in the first few volumes.

The first five volumes feature Victoria as their focus character: Just as she did on the TV show, the orphaned young woman settles in at Collinwood (called Collins House in early volumes) to work as a governess and to search for some clues about her roots. Despite quite a few red herrings, she never finds out who her parents are: When Alexandra Moltke left the show, Vicki was written out of the book series and Maggie Evans moved to Collinwood to work as governess. (See a list of the plots, and the books' covers, below.)

When I was a kid, the book series really captured my imagination. In fact, it was my introduction to the world of Dark Shadows; the TV series went off the air before I was old enough to watch it. (Click here to read an essay about how the DS books impacted my childhood.) I got caught up in the core mystery of the first few volumes -- Victoria's quest for answers about her past. I collected most of the books before finding out that the mystery was never resloved, but by then I was hooked and I had to complete the set.

Years later, I interviewed Dan Ross for my first book, The Dark Shadows Collectors' Guide, and we began a written correspondence. (Click here to read a transcript of our first interview.)

Finally I had a chance to go right to the source, so I asked him if he had thought about who Victoria's parents were, in the book series. It turned out he had developed a story, which he pitched to the editors at Paperback Library back in the 1960s. It was never published, but Dan shared the basic story with me. I was so thrilled to finally learn the "truth" that I wanted to share it with my fellow DS fans.

With Dan's permission and input, I fleshed it out into a multi-chapter short story, consciously writing in a style that emulated his. He was pleased with the result, and I published it in a fanize called Victoria Winters. To read this story, The Secret of Victoria Winters, click here. (Be prepared for a few surprises; Dan's story definitely does not go along with Victoria's origins on the TV show, which were finally revealed in the play Return to Collinwood, presented at the 2003 Dark Shadows Festival.)



The Paperback Library Novels:

Dark Shadows
First Printing: December 1966
# 1

Victoria Winters arrives at Collins House (called Collinwood in later volumes) to serve as governess to young David Collins. Visiting the house is Ernest Collins, who is grieving for his wife. (Elizabeth and Roger's cousin Ernest was not a character on the TV show.) In no time, Victoria finds herself falling in love with Ernest, though she is the focus of a number of mysterious attacks and wonders just how Ernest became a widower....

Note: This volume was first printed before Jonathan Frid joined the cast of Dark Shadows as vampire Barnabas Collins. Its original cover only featured a painting of Vicki in front of Collinwood. After Barnabas became extremely popular, this volume (as well as numbers 2 through 4) was reprinted with a photo cover featuring Frid and Alexandra Moltke. Even though Frid/Barnabas is shown on these covers, Barnabas is not in any of the stories of these first five books. (He joins the cast of characters in the sixth book, appropriately titled Barnabas Collins, which only features a cameo appearance by Victoria.)

Victoria Winters
First Printing: March 1967
# 2

While violinist Ernest in away on tour, his mansion near Collinwood is rented to Henry Francis and Henry's two daughters. When cruel attacks on her begin, Victoria wonders if Francis might be a murderer. She wants to put her trust in the handsome artist Paul Caine but fears that he too is a suspect.


Strangers at Collins House
First Printing: September 1967
# 3

When Uncle Henry Collins arrives to spend the summer in a mysterious "secret room" at Collinwood, Victoria thinks she may finally have a clue to her identity.Henry presents Victoria with jewels that once belonged to a woman she strongly resembles. Then Victoria becomes the target of a series of strange accidents that threaten her life.


The Mystery of Collinwood
First Printing: January 1968
# 4

Roger and Elizabeth's brother Mark arrives at Collinwood under the alias Professor Mark Veno. (Mark is another character who was never mentioned on the TV show.)

Mark, a hypnotist, wants his daughter Linda to marry Ernest and sees Victoria as a threat. Soon the legendary Phantom Mariner is seen haunting Collinwood and Victoria finds herself once again threatened with death.


The Curse of Collinwood
First Printing: May 1968
# 5

After she receives the shocking news that Ernest has been killed in a plane crash, Victoria fears that she is losing her mind as she begins to see zombies wandering the grounds of Collinwood. She turns her romantic attentions to Burke Devlin, a Collinsport resident with a mysterious past.

Note: This volume was only published with a painting cover; there was no corresponding volume with a photo cover. A couple of the future volumes included brief appearances by Victoria Winters, but she never graced another cover.


Barnabas Collins
First Printing: November 1968 
# 6

Victoria happens across a mention of Barnabas Collins in an old family journal, prompting her to ask Elizabeth what she knows about her ancestor. This provides a setting for a flashback to 1899 when Elizabeth's grandmother, Margaret was the matron of Collinwood and was first visited by the mysterious cousin from England tainted with a vampire curse.


Secret of Barnabas Collins
First Printing: January 1969
# 7

Barnabas recalls his past in a flashback to the story of Lady Clare Duncan who wanted to marry him and followed him to the United States, where tragedy and the shocking truth about Barnabas greeted her.



Demon of Barnabas Collins
First Printing: April 1969

Movie star Rita Glenn falls in love with Barnabas. She introduces him to a doctor who temporarily cures his vampire affliction. However he soon finds himself in battle with an evil vampire, fighting for his life as well as Rita's -- and forcing him back to his thirst for blood.


Foe of Barnabas Collins
First Printing: July 1969
# 9 

A flashback to 1910 tells the story of Paula Collins Jennings and her husband, Christopher, a werewolf. As Paula s life is threatened, Barnabas comes to her aid but then must face the reincarnation of Angelique.


Phantom and Barnabas Collins
First Printing: September 1969
# 10

Exploring the Collins cemetery with Barnabas, Maggie Evans faints and awakens in 1880. She becomes the victim of Dr. Giles Collins, whose experiments have claimed several lives. After a nightmarish adventure, Maggie awakens in present time with only vague memories of her experience.


Barnabas Collins vs the Warlock
First Printing: October 1969
# 11

David and his playmate, Amy Jennings, claiming to be under the power of a mysterious old man, nearly lure Maggie to her death in a swamp on the Collins estate. Barnabas rescues her and the pair try to determine what is behind the children's strange behavior.


Peril of Barnabas Collins
First Printing: November 1969
# 12

In Queen Victoria's London, Barnabas meets Diana Hastings and is inspired to try to end his curse. Together they travel to Collinwood where an evil doctor promises to cure Barnabas but ends up threatening his life as well as Diana's.


Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious Ghost
First Printing:January1970 
# 13

A down-on-its-luck ballet troupe holds a performance at a deserted chapel on the Collins estate. (In the Marilyn Ross universe, the grounds surrounded Collinwood hold an amazing number of deserted and/or ruined sites.) The star ballerina is found murdered and her replacement, Diana Samson, juggles a love affair with Barnabas and the threat of her own murder. 


Barnabas Collins and Quentin's Demon
First Printing: February 1970
# 14

In 1895, Quentin Collins is so haunted by the recording of a waltz that he seeks out its composer. A romance ensues between Quentin and Lara Balfour, the composer's daughter. She is attracted to the young man but becomes frightened when she learns that his first wife was brutally murdered and the killer was never found.


Barnabas Collins and the Gypsy Witch
First Printing: March 1970
# 15

Carolyn and Maggie find a cameo engraved, "From Barnabas to Roxanna, 1895." When they press Elizabeth for details about Roxanna Collins, she tells them the story of another young woman Barnabas wooed. Following a warning from a Gypsy witch, Roxanna became involved with Barnabas who ended up the main suspect in the murder of her father and brother.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy's Curse
First Printing: April,1970
# 16

Professor Anthony Collins brings his collection of Egyptian relics to Collinwood, including the mummy of King Rehotip, who died more than 2,000 years earlier. When a young woman is found murdered, Maggie suspects that the mummy has been brought back to life. Professor Collins threatens her into silence and she fearfully waits for the murderer to strike again.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging Ghost
First Printing: May 1970
# 17

Carolyn's friend Celia Dalton visits Collinwood with her family and promptly begins suffering fainting spells during which others are violently attacked. Carolyn wonders if her friend may be possessed by the spirit of a murderer who recently cursed the Collins family before committing suicide.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Nightmare Assassin
First Printing: June 1970
# 18

Knocked unconscious in an auto accident, Carolyn awakens in 1870 and meets Barnabas and Quentin. Suffering under the curse of the werewolf, Quentin arranges to be assassinated but later changes his mind. Once the die is cast however, the assassin may be unstoppable.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Crystal Coffin
First Printing: July 1970
# 19

Betty Ward arrives at Collinwood and finds her twin sister dead in a crystal coffin. Suspecting foul play she seeks help from Barnabas despite rumors that he is a vampire. 


Barnabas, Quentin and the Witch's Curse
First Printing: August 1970
# 20

Anita Burgess accompanies her brother, Jeff, to Collinwood as he seeks revenge against Quentin for the death of his best friend. The Burgesses learn that Quentin has established a coven at Collinwood and they enlist Barnabas' aid to destroy it. 


Barnabas, Quentin and the Haunted Cave
First Printing: September 1970 
# 21

Trying to recover from the shock of the murder of her husband, Harriet Turnbridge turns to Barnabas. When both her brother-in-law and father-in-law are found dead with their throats ripped open, Barnabas suspects werewolf Quentin is to blame.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Frightened Bride
First Printing: October 1970
# 22

A newspaper reporter from Ellsworth visits Collinwood seeking information about Ann Hayward, a World War 1 nurse who spent time at Collinwood. This leads to a flashback in 1920 when Ann and her husband John shared a haunted honeymoon at the great estate.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Scorpio Curse
First Printing: November 1970
# 23

Barnabas and Diana Collins, patients at the same sanitarium, become suspects when other patients are stabbed to death and marked with the sign of the scorpion, the zodiac symbol of death. Diana is thought to be insane when she insists she has seen a werewolf stalking the grounds.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Serpent
First Printing: December 1970
# 24

Following the Civil War, archaeologist Gerald Collins and his daughter Irma settle at Collinwood, bringing with them an odd collection of rare animals including, it is rumored, Quetzocoatl the feathered serpent of Aztec legend. When a murder is committed, Irma asks Barnabas to help her discover if her father has unleased a monster onto Collinsport.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Magic Potion
First Printing: January 1971
# 25

Carolyn becomes marked for murder when the owner of an antique shop where she works discovers what he believes is a serum providing eternal youth. After his daughter tries the serum and dies, her ghost haunts Carolyn. Barnabas insists that Carolyn stay on the job long enough to gather evidence that her boss is a murderer.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Body Snatchers
First Printing: February 1971
# 26

An alien spaceship lands in Collinsport and its occupants kidnap Roger and scientist Murdoch Gray. Two of the aliens disguise themselves as the men and take their places. Barnabas, Quentin and Carolyn work together to expose the alien's plot.

This is, by far, the most unusual book in the series. Not only is it an all-out science fiction tale, it is the only volume told in the omniscient point of view (the reader isn't limited to what the focus heroine can see, as in the other books). It also features a rare appearance by Julia Hoffman, and Barnabas' vampirism is openly discussed by Elizabeth and Carolyn.

Barnabas, Quentin and Dr. Jekyll's Son
First Printing: April 1971
# 27

Visiting Collinwood in 1908 with Barnabas is Dr. Henry Jeckyll, son of the notorious English murderer. The beautiful Emily Collins is torn between Barnabas and Dr. Jekyll but wonders if one is a violent killer.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Grave Robbers
First Printing: June 1971
# 28

In 1830 Englishwoman Paula Sullivan is waiting for Barnabas to propose marriage but evil Dr. Nicholas Bentley beats him to the punch. Disgusted by his patronage of grave robbers, Paula refuses the doctor. His revenge follows her to Collinwood and may cost her life.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Sea Ghost
First Printing: August 1971
# 29

Norah Bliss and her father, both salvage experts, attempt to recover a sunken treasure in Collinsport Cove. Norah however becomes the victim of ancient curse and thinks she will die at the hands of a pirate ghost if Barnabas cannot intervene.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Mad Magician
First Printing: October 1971
# 30

Carolyn and a friend, Beth Mayberry, are working for a world-famous illusionist during his Collinsport appearance when Beth suddenly dies. Carolyn suspects the magician of murdering her friend, but when the body count grown, the residents of Collinsport point a finger at Barnabas and Quentin.


Barnabas, Quentin and the Hidden Tomb
First Printing: 1971
# 31 

Set in the Civil War era, this volume tells the story of Ellen Drury, who falls in love with Barnabas after becoming engaged to an evil vampire -- the twin brother of the man she originally planned to marry. 


Barnabas, Quentin and the Vampire Beauty
First Printing: 1971 

Model Adele Marriot thinks she is undergoing a surgical procedure to make her eternally thin. When she awakens from the surgery, she's shocked to learn she has been turned into a vampire. Horrified by her new condition, she flees to Collinsport, seeking the only two people who can help her: Barnabas Collins and Dr. Julia Hoffman. This volume is unusual because it's the only one where the heroine can really understand Barnabas' thirst for blood -- and it's interesting to read about her adjustments to life as a vampire.


House of Dark Shadows  

Just as the film HODS takes place in a world separate from that depicted on the TV series, the novel isn't related to any of the other Ross books. By the end of the novelization, pretty much the whole Colilns clan, plus Julia and Prof. Stokes, have all been wiped out by a very nasty version of Barnabas. It's one of the best novels in the series, because it stands alone and tells an interesting story that involves lots of characters that fans know and love. Ross captures the tone of the movie in a way he doesn't quite capture the tone of the TV show in the other books. It also includes several pages of black-and-white movie stills.



Special visitor to DSO:
Marilyn Ross

In early 2006, I got an email from Marilyn Ross, widow of Dan Ross, author of the Dark Shadows book series. Dan was one of the most prolific authors of modern times, penning more than 300 books.

Because women were the target audience for many of his gothic tales, including the DS series, he used the name of his wife as a pen name.

With the help of a tech-savvy friend, Marilyn had just discovered some sites featuring information about Dan and his books -- including Dark Shadows Online. She shared the above photo, so DSO readers could get a recent look at the "real" Marilyn.

Click here to read an interview with Dan from the early 1990s.


Main Close-up Page
DS Book Overview / Paperback Library Closer Look /
Dan Ross Interview
/ Secret of Victoria Winters novella




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The contents of this Web site are copyrighted by Craig Hamrick © 2005
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