The Tarrytown Diaries of Professor Stokes




When the Q&A came to an end, we filtered outside and waited until everybody had obtained a sticker from the gift shop before continuing to the mansion. There were so many of us that only groups of 20 were going to be allowed through the house at a time. The three actresses were among us, and I could hear them whispering to each other from time to time, pointing out areas of the house that had changed, or discussing their scenes. I made it into the first group, and our particular ‘tour guide,’ the man who had played Barnabas in the Haunted Room and was still wearing his costume, was very informative. He told us exactly which scenes had been shot in which rooms and even knew the precise blocking. When leading us through the front entrance, he’d stated, “Mrs. Johnson stood right here and Carolyn collapsed right in that corner.” It had been a couple of years since I’d seen the movies and I don’t think I would have recognized the locations without his help. Our guide told us that occasionally, Curtis & crew set up partitions to cover doorways and disguise the way that the rooms were arranged in order to make the movie house seem larger or more elaborate. This was done in ‘Maggie’s bedroom’ for instance in order to create the ‘secret panel.’ Also, the sequence in which some scenes were shot made second floor rooms appear to be on the first floor, etc. The house itself is beautiful, but for such an immense building, the rooms within are surprisingly tiny. It was hard to believe that Dan Curtis had managed to get all of his equipment, crew, and cast into the various locations. I think I would have been able to appreciate the mansion much more if there hadn’t been so many other people. It was difficult to see what was in each of the rooms since most of them were roped off at the doorway and we were only allowed a glimpse of a few seconds before moving on to let the next person have a look. Sometimes it was difficult to simply turn around, let alone walk. Even though we’d been broken into groups before entering, the additional tour parties were filtering in close behind us and at times our respective groups meshed, making the hallways and rooms even more packed. I felt guilty because I had brought along my video camera (which I didn’t even use) and so was carrying around the large camera bag and my purse. It must have been rather annoying to the people around me who were trying to squeeze past. There were renovations in progress in the mansion that day, complicating our tour just a bit because certain sections were roped off. Mainly what I remember being able to see were the ceilings in the rooms. They were elaborately and brilliantly painted and some even had carvings. There were some impressive statues scattered throughout too, and I was tense about not bumping into anything. Fortunately, we received the special privilege of being able to go down the ‘back stairs’ that Todd Jennings had taken in order to meet vampire Carolyn in House of Dark Shadows; this area had earlier been roped off, but was opened for us. From there, we went through the kitchen (which served as Julia’s laboratory in House) and outside. Unfortunately, we were not allowed into the infamous tower room (now that would have been a squeeze, but if they could fit cameramen and equipment inside…) Later, I learned that the reason for this is a NY code that prohibits people from being in any area without fire escapes, and there is no fire exit in the tower.


Hanging Tree

Hanging Tree

Once outside, we were taken to Angelique’s hanging tree where Lara posed for several photos. The tree looks much different in person than on film. For one thing, the ground slopes, almost like a hill, and the tree doesn’t look quite so tall. One of the guests told the story of how he had visited Lyndhurst one day since it was near his home, and had been shocked to find Dan Curtis with his film crew and Angelique dangling from the tree. The signs advertising the filming of Night of Dark Shadows that were posted around the grounds took him aback as well because by this point the show had already gone off the air. 

The tour group continued in one direction, but I remained behind with a few friends to take pictures of the mansion and the tree. Gradually, we made our way to the greenhouse, from which all the glass had long since been removed.   The ground inside was made up of engraved bricks and it was fun to read some for the inscriptions. A fountain was running beneath the greenhouse dome, and it added beauty to what was otherwise a fairly stark building.


ProfStokes At Gazebo

ProfStokes At Gazebo

The rose garden was nearby, and it was absolutely lovely.  Surrounded by a fence and closed gates, it took a moment before we were able to find our way in.  As soon as I stepped inside though, I could feel a difference in the air.  It seemed fresher and more moist.  The grass in this area was almost impossibly green.  Rows of various colored flowers surrounded a white gazebo in the center of the garden.  I think that was probably my favorite place on the grounds.

From the greenhouse, VAM and I returned to the carriage house for lunch where we were soon joined by our friends Dolores and Walter. Our booth was in what has once been a horse’s stall, and we joked that it might have been the one where James Storm had saddled Quentin’s horse.  After lunch we went our separate ways.  VAM was intent on trying to see the tower room, and I believe Dolores was on her way to the poolhouse, which was open for a charity auction.  Although I hadn’t yet seen that, I preferred to return to the hotel. It was already past two, and that was the time that our group’s tour was supposed to end.  Walter and I tried to find our way out of the massive maze-like estate, trying all the while to keep out of the way of the many cars that had a habit of sneaking up on the road behind us.  At once point, we became so turned around that we ended up in the area for private houses.  A jogger was kind enough to point out the proper exit.