It occurred to me the other day just how fortunate we fans are to have DARK SHADOWS. Just look at what happened to THE EDGE OF NIGHT, a mystery and crime-based soap opera that is the closest contemporary show we have to which we can compare DARK SHADOWS. THE EDGE OF NIGHT went on the air way back in 1956 and ran on CBS until 1975, when it moved to ABC and ran until 1984. I never watched it, but as a small boy I do have some memories of it. Most of the episodes of THE EDGE OF NIGHT—which was originally entitled THE EDGE OF DARKNESS and interestingly enough began its “life” as an adaptation of the Perry Mason radio drama before being retooled and transitioning to television—no longer exist. They were erased.
The process of “wiping” used to be standard procedure at the time when THE EDGE OF NIGHT and DARK SHADOWS were airing. Wiping was simply the practice of recording over audio and video tape rather than preserving the recordings and buying new tapes for new ones. It was common practice, especially for soap operas, which ran five days a week, right up through the 70s. Just crank ‘em out and record over ‘em. Nobody thought about preserving the work for posterity, or could imagine that anyone would have wanted those recordings had they been made. We are fortunate in the extreme that all those episodes of DARK SHADOWS weren’t “wiped.” Had that happened, it would exist only as a memory for those who were around to watch it during its original run. I don’t think anybody back then realized just what they had when they had it, how much of a cultural touchstone the show would end up becoming, but thankfully they cared enough to preserve the recordings. Of the 1225 episodes of DARK SHADOWS, only one of them, episode 1219, was lost.