Welcome to this week’s round of Welcome to the Insta-hood. Where I interview fascinating and interesting people and their accounts. This week I interviewed IG: @tonytrigilio
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
” I’m a poet, scholar, editor and musician. I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, a small rust belt city, and I’ve lived most of my life in Boston and Chicago. I teach Creative Writing and Literature courses at Columbia College Chicago. As a writer, I’m drawn to subject matter that explores obsessive, anxious states of consciousness, such as the newest book in my ongoing Dark Shadows project and recent poems I’ve published on the Betty and Barney Hill alien abduction case.”
2. Can talk about your latest book you wrote?
“My new book, Ghosts of the Upper Floor, is the third installment in my multivolume experiment in autobiography, The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood). A hybrid mix of poetry andprose, it was published in August 2019 by BlazeVOX Books, a press that specializes in experimental poetry and fiction. I’m watching all 1,225 episodes of Dark Shadows for the project. Ghosts of the Upper Floor covers 122 episodes. I compose one sentence in response to each episode and shape each sentence into autobiographical poetry and prose. Some episodes trigger wildly detailed memories from my childhood, while other episodes focus squarely on the minute particulars of the present
moment. Sometimes, though, I just let the show’s relentless, low-budget kitsch speak for itself. After eight years and three volumes, I haven’t lost my appreciation for the show’s chaotic mashup of daytime soap melodrama, Gothic horror, and deliciously bad acting and special effects.
While I can’t predict exactly how many books the project will encompass, my hunch is that I’ll need at least 4-5 more volumes to watch, and write about, the full run of the show. Sometimes the project feels like a race against time. Will I live long enough to write my 1,225th sentence? I’m a future dead person, but I continue the project year after year with the faith that I’ll finish it before I take my last breath. I might seem like I’m making light of my own mortality, but I’m as worried about death as anyone else, and I often write about my fear that I won’t outlive the project. And I’m aware that, ironically, the backdrop for my death anxieties is a supernatural soap opera in which very few characters actually stay dead.”
The book is available directly from the publisher here:
Ghosts of the Upper Floor
And it’s available from Amazon here:
Ghosts of the Upper Floor
3. How did you come across Dark Shadows? What was your first impression when you
“I watched the show every day with my mother when I was a young boy. She was a stay-at-home mom, and we sat together in the living room day after day with her favorite soap operas. Barnabas Collins produced incessant nightmares in me as a kid—nightmares so frightening that I went to sleep at night with my shoulders hunched, thinking I was somehow protecting myself from that inevitable moment when he’d break my bedroom window with his wolf’s-head cane and lunge for my jugular. I’d wake up with my shoulders relaxed and my neck exposed. Right away, I’d check for bite marks.
Eventually, my vampire fears grew even more elaborate and absurd, and I became convinced Barnabas lived inside the walls of our house. He didn’t have to break my window anymore. He was like a vampire termite, waiting inside the walls for me to let down my guard and fall asleep. Of course, this was a real pain for my parents: their imaginative little insomniac boy crawling into their bed constantly after nightmares about a soap opera vampire. We’d go through periods when my mother wouldn’t let me watch. But I threw tantrums until she changed her mind. I’d resume watching, then the nightmares would start all over again. What a little masochist I was.”
4. What are your top 3 favorite Dark Shadows episodes and why?
“1) Episode 210: The first appearance of Barnabas Collins—released from his coffin by jittery grave-robber Willie Loomis. Willie breaks the chains securing Barnabas’s casket in the secret room of the Collins family tomb. He lifts open the coffin lid, expecting to find jewels to pluck from the casket’s skeletal remains. Instead, he triggers the Dark Shadows primal scene: Barnabas’s ruffled sleeve rises from the opened coffin, his left hand closing itself around Willie’s throat. And so it begins. Barnabas returns from the dead, saving the show from cancellation and, in the process, inserting himself into my childhood nightmares.
2) Episode 635: Barnabas is caught on camera picking his nose, the dread vampire of my
childhood nightmares rooting around inside his right nostril with his pointer finger and then flicking away the booger—unaware the camera is focused directly on him. I know that ABC, the network that produced Dark Shadows, skimped on the budget for retakes. But I still find it hard to believe that Dan Curtis, the show’s creator and executive producer, approved this scene. I can’t imagine Curtis saying, “The vampire just picked his nose and flicked the booger. Yeah, that’s awkward. But, you know, it’s really not that bad. Let’s keep it.”
3) Episode 691: This is the only episode that actually rattled me as an adult. Watching as a child, I was scared of everything; I was too young to understand the camp and kitsch that delight me now. But this episode, one of the last ones I write about in Ghosts of the Upper Floor, actually put a fright into me as an adult. In the opening scene, the mute, mutton-chopped ghost of Quentin Collins tries to strangle Maggie Evans with a purple curtain sash. The spectral homicide is interrupted by the Collins family maid, Mrs. Johnson, dressed in an angular panic-black dress, hair pulled back so tightly it must’ve given her a headache. Little David and Amy, enchanted children possessed by Quentin, watch the whole scene in weird nineteenth-century period costumes—David flailing about in a double-breasted frock coat and floppy bow tie, Amy right behind him in a neck-high, floor-length lace gown.
Later, they walk in creepy circles around Mrs. Johnson, warbling as they shuffle to the tune of “Quentin’s Theme” playing on the Victrola. Amy works herself into a frenzy—until Quentin, sick of the child’s braying, waves his hand in
front of her face and literally strikes her blind. The episode ends with David cackling in
sociopathic deadpan, “It’s too late. It’s too late to be afraid.” Typical Dark Shadows over-the-top pandemonium; but this time, as an adult, it shook me, watching a ghost who can sweep his hands over children’s eyes and make them go blind. The show lost its mind for that episode, and I absolutely loved it.”
5. Is there any exciting events or news that you would like to share?
“I’ll be doing readings for the book in the Midwest this year, and I’m in the process of setting up East Coast and West Coast readings for 2020. The full 2020 schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, but folks can go to my readings webpage:
Also my Facebook:
I can also be contacted directly at my email address:
to set up further readings.