Willie Loomis

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Willie Loomis is a fictional character on the ABC-TV gothic horror soap opera, Dark Shadows, which aired from 1966 until 1971. The character was first played by actor James Hall for a total of four episodes, who was subsequently replaced by John Karlen beginning with episode #206. Karlen continued to play the role of Willie Loomis for the remainder of the series. He appeared as Willie Loomis in a total of 106 episodes.


In 1967, Willie was a drifter, and a friend/accomplice of fellow con man Jason McGuire. Following Jason's lead, Willie became an unwelcome houseguest at the distinguished New England mansion known as Collinwood, and mooched off the Collins family while Jason planned a blackmailing scheme against the Collins family matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. He quickly proved to be a very unpopular man in the mansion and in town, especially among young women, Victoria Winters and Maggie Evans included. At one point even Elizabeth's daughter, Carolyn Stoddard, felt it necessary to protect herself from his advances with a gun.

Meanwhile, leaving Jason to his own scheme, Willie Loomis went secretly searching for the legendary Collins family jewels at the Eagle Hill Cemetery outside of Collinsport, Maine. His foraging through the Collins family library, and from answers to questions he posed to the housekeeper Mrs. Johnson, and the youngest Collins, David, ultimately brought him to the family mausoleum. There, the inquisitive and jewel-happy Willie discovered a coffin sealed with locks and chains. Suspecting the jewels were locked inside, he pried the chains loose, but upon doing so, released a vampire named Barnabas Collins. Barnabas attacked Willie, turning him into his unwilling slave and manservant.

The extreme shock of the attack and the loss of his freedom woke Willie up to his own humanity. He found a new empathy for people and felt remorse for his past actions. He did his best to make amends with varied success. Coward as he was, however, he always told Barnabas exactly what he thought, often rubbing salt into the wounds of his master's deeply hidden conscience.

Barnabas soon set his sights on a local woman named Maggie Evans who was a look-alike for his lost love, Josette du Pres. He lured her to Eagle Hill Cemetery but Willie placed an anonymous phone call to Maggie's friend, Victoria Winters, revealing the missing girl's location. Maggie was rescued, and Barnabas blamed Willie for this, but could never prove it. In spite of this, however, Barnabas beat Willie severely with his cane. Later, the marks on Willie's body led Jason to suspect that something was going on that Willie wasn't telling him about. Jason could not resist the thought that there were jewels and riches Willie wasn't sharing, so he broke into the Old House at sunset, and Barnabas, waking up, found Jason and killed him. Later, Barnabas forced Willie to bury Jason with his own hands.

Meanwhile, he forced Willie to help him with his dastardly plans to reclaim Maggie and turn her into his vampire bride, and beat Willie for every little mistake. He also psychologically abused him by threatening him with painful death, or worse. At one point, Barnabas offered to make Willie a vampire, but Willie, knowing the evils of vampirism, refused. Willie lived in constant terror for his own life, and horror at what evil Barnabas was perpetrating on his own family, and the village of Collinsport. He had to spend his waking hours guarding Barnabas' coffin while at the same time make renovations to the Old House without benefit of electricity. It is interesting to note that he never got credit for his hard work, except once, when he received a compliment from Victoria Winters, as Barnabas took all the credit. Eventually Barnabas succeeded in kidnapping Maggie and Willie often bodily protected her even though he was unable to free her or allow her to harm Barnabas as he slept. She proved too strong, however, and resisted all Barnabas's attempts at brainwashing her into believing she was Josette DuPres. He planned to outright murder her instead of making her his eternal bride but Maggie escaped through a secret tunnel to freedom with the help of a ghost child. Maggie's father, with the help of the sheriff, and her boyfriend, Joe, decided to stage Maggie's death to protect her from the unknown, feared killer who might still be after her. She was secretly admitted to Wyndcliffe Sanitarium under the care of Dr. Julia Hoffman who decided to investigate what had happened to the girl. Posing as an historical researcher Dr. Hoffman infiltrated Collinwood and learned Barnabas's secret. Fascinated by Barnabas himself, and the scientific opportunity he presented, she erased the memory of Maggie's ordeal through hypnotism in order to protect both of them. However, Barnabas decided to play it safe and kill Maggie anyway.

Sheriff George Patterson and local physician Doctor Dave Woodward suspected that there was still an evil monster afoot in Collinsport and used Maggie as bait to set a trap for her mysterious stalker. In yet another effort to warn Maggie against Barnabas' intentions, Willie sprung the Sheriff's trap, whereupon Patterson's deputies shot him five times in the back, critically injuring Willie. He was taken to the Collinsport Hospital in a comatose state, and, with the encouragement of Barnabas Collins and Dr. Hoffman, was diagnosed as mentally ill, and later framed by Barnabas for the kidnapping of Maggie. His safety secured, Barnabas dropped his vendetta against Maggie. Under the supervision of Dr. Julia Hoffman, Willie was transferred to Wyndcliffe Sanitarium, from which he was released in 1968, a seemingly changed and broken man, though it was soon revealed that he remembered more than he let on. Later, the authorities and Maggie came to know, as did her father, Sam Evans, that Willie was not responsible for what had happened to her. The two formed a friendship and it became obvious that Willie had fallen in unrequited love with Maggie though the knowledge of what she had endured at his hands caused him grief and guilt.

Back in Collinsport, Willie once again found himself in the service of Barnabas Collins who had ordered his release as he needed a dependable assistant to help him regain his humanity with the help of a scientist named Dr. Eric Lang. Lang had developed a cure for Barnabas' vampirism which required transferring Barnabas's essence into a 'Frankenstein's Monster' of sewn together body parts. Willie was shocked to discover that Barnabas was now completely human; however, the cure was worse than the disease, and Barnabas soon reverted to type. Still somewhat fearful of the former vampire, Willie continued to exhibit all the signs of suffering from what would become eventually known as Stockholm Syndrome. During the experiment to build a mate for the monster, Adam, Barnabas wanted to use Maggie's essence to inhabit the new body, which was made of parts that Willie was forced to dig up. Willie really did kidnap Maggie at this point, but only in order to save her from possible death from the loss of her essence. In familiar territory again Dr. Hoffman's hypnotic conditioning unraveled and Maggie remembered all that had happened to her. She eventually escaped from Willie and made it home, much to Barnabas' dismay that she would reveal his secret other life. However, Nicholas Blair, a warlock who desired to control Adam, his mate and all their descendants for the purpose of evil, needed Barnabas to control Adam so he magically erased her memory again.

During the arc of the Adam plot, and after considerable torture at the hands of Nicholas Blair and Angelique Bouchard, another witch/vampire and Barnabas's chief nemesis, Barnabas's character on the show changed from haunted Villain to outright Hero. As an infrequent vampire and as a human he became the protector of the community and the family that he had tormented. He risked his life for their benefit many times as he battled against various witches, werewolves, vampires, zombies and malevolent spirits. Willie and Dr. Hoffman became his most trusted companions and sidekicks, often doing all that was in their power to aid and abet their dear 'friend.' Willie, in particular, saved his former master's life many times.

When the 1897 story arc started, Willie left Collinwood, where he reportedly worked at Windcliffe and another hospital, doing, one supposes, maintenance and handyman type work. Then he came back to Collinwood and brought with him a fiance, Roxanne, who he professed to love, and who he wanted to marry. At one point, he was forced to stake Megan Todd, a vampire that Barnabas had created and could not control. Then, due to pressures at Collinwood, and because he did not want his beloved to be exposed to the insanity and danger that abounded there, he gave her up and sent her away. He remained at the original family estate with Barnabas and Dr. Hoffman, and continued to go to great lengths to make sure that Barnabas' sordid past remained Collinsport’s best-kept secret.

Other tasks included: babysitting the monster Adam, digging up dead bodies, stealing cursed paintings out of Collinwood, running errands to Bangor and Clearwater in all sorts of weather, protecting Barnabas, staking rogue vampires, carpentry, kidnapping, washing dishes and other equally disturbing tasks.

In the Audio Dramas that continued the story of the Collins clan it was revealed that Willie's fate was a good one. He married a Wyndcliff nurse named Jessica and settled down in Collinsport to a life of normalcy.

House of Dark Shadows[edit]

In 1971, John Karlen returned to the role of Willie Loomis for the feature film House of Dark Shadows. The movie loosely adapted plotlines that first aired in episodes 210-230 of the original series, but with the added benefit of a higher budget, which allowed the production crew the ability to film on location rather than on a studio lot. As in the TV show, Willie is responsible for discovering the chained coffin of Barnabas Collins and setting the hungry vampire loose upon Collinsport. He suffers much the same fate as the TV version of Willie, and in the end, dies protecting Barnabas. Willie's character also appeared in the House of Dark Shadows novelization by Marilyn Ross.

1991 revival[edit]

In 1991, Dan Curtis Productions revived the Dark Shadows series as a one-hour weekly night time program on NBC. The character of Willie Loomis was reimagined as the nephew of Collinwood family housekeeper, Mrs.Johnson, this time played by actor Jim Fyfe. Fyfe's version of Loomis proved to be an exaggerated version of the character as first defined by Karlen. He was often seen tripping over his own feet, or shuffling nervously, or loping about with his arms flailing wildly above his head. Like Karlen, Fyfe's Loomis spoke with a perpetual stammer – a quirk that has practically become a trademark for the character. This version of Willie found personal redemption much more rapidly than the original, and by the fourth episode of the series, he became Barnabas Collins' trusted and loyal confidante. Jim Fyfe appeared as Willie Loomis in all thirteen episodes of the revival series.

2004 revival[edit]

Dan Curtis Productions (working alongside John Wells Productions) filmed a one-hour television pilot for what was to become a modern incarnation of the Dark Shadows series. The series was originally intended to air on the WB network occupying the time slot vacated by the cancelled Joss Whedon series, Angel. However the pilot was rejected and the series was never produced. Actor Matt Czuchry was originally slated to play the role of Willie Loomis, and portrayed the character as both self-sure and street wise, while at the same time, innocent of the evil that was Barnabas Collins.

2012 film[edit]

In the 2012 film adaptation directed by Tim Burton, Loomis is played by Jackie Earle Haley. This version of Willie and Barnabas's relationship is based on the original series, but does not show any physical violence between them. Also, in this version Willie seems much older and is far more loyal to Barnabas and less afraid of him. Another way that this version of Willie differs is the fact that he has had a relationship with the Collins family for a long time and is already employed by them when he falls under Barnabas's power. He is not the one responsible for reawakening Barnabas. Furthermore, Willie is shown more as a drunk than a punk when the viewers first meet him. He also has a strong dislike for anyone who doesn't do their job or who doesn't do their job well. As an example, he admits that he doesn't care much for Dr. Hoffman, whereas in the TV series they were good friends. However, as in the film House of Dark Shadows, he does get the enormous task of renovating the Collins family mansion. As in the original television series, Willie is sometimes threatened by Barnabas when the two are doing something dark and sinister (like throwing Dr. Hoffman's body into the ocean). Although he is better treated by Barnabas in this version, Willie is still seen by Barnabas as just a servant and employee.

Audio dramas[edit]

The character (portrayed by John Karlen) has more recently appeared in a number of audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions.

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