This Gothic mansion in Tarrytown, New York has been maintained as a museum since the 1960s. The mansion and its grounds has also been used as a filming location for movies and television shows, including Dark Shadows.
Lyndhurst (also known as the Jay Gould estate) was built in 1838. The house was designed by famed architect Alexander Jackson Davis. It was built for New York City Mayor William Paulding Jr. The limestone used on the mansion's exterior was mined from a quarry run at Sing Sing Prison (now Ossining Prison). The mansion wouldn't be known as Lyndhurst for many years. The original name for the mansion was the "Knoll." Locals nicknamed it "Paulding's Folly", due its unusual shape and design.
The mansion was given the name "Lyndenhurst" by its second owner, George Merritt. Merritt, a wealthy merchant, hired Davis to return and further expand the mansion in 1864, doubling its size. The mansion passed into the hands of railroad developer Jason "Jay" Gould in 1880. Gould shortened the mansion's name to "Lyndhurst" during his ownership. Gould's other changes in the property were primarily made in its landscaping. He had swamps on the property drained and the area surrounding the house transformed into a beautiful park.
The house remained in the Gould family until 1961, when the mansion passed into the ownership of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was declared a historical landmark officially five years later in 1966.
Dark Shadows Movies
Lyndhurst Mansion was used in the productions of both House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971). Both movies were inspired by the popular television soap opera Dark Shadows. Lyndhurst served as the fictional Collinwood estate for both exterior and interior shooting. The mansion had originally been in the running to be used for exterior shots of Collinwood used in the productions of the Dark Shadows TV show, but lost out to Seaview Terrace (now Carey Mansion) in Newport, Rhode Island. However, other parts of the Lyndhurst estate other than the mansion were used in the production of the TV show.
Lyndhurst likely won out for use in the film House of Dark Shadows due to its relatively close proximity to ABC Studio 16, where the Dark Shadows soap opera was shot. That would have been easier on those cast and crew members that were simultaneously involved in the separate productions of the movie and television show. As it was a few of the characters had to be written out of the show temporarily, because it would have been impossible for the actors to be involved with both the soap and the movie at the same time. It was during this period in the TV show that the character Barnabas Collins was chained inside of a coffin in an alternate universe by that world's version of Willy Loomis (the caretaker who had freed Barnabas from his centuries of entrapment in the original storyline). This was done to free up actor Jonathan Frid (Barnabas) for the movie in which he was heavily featured as the villain.
Another factor that likely caused Lyndhurst to be used in the production of both films was that since the mansion was full of antiques, very little was needed to be done in the way of set dressing. It allowed the films to appear as though they had a far larger budget than they actually did. This also means that visitors to Lyndhurst will likely recognize items around the mansion from the movies.
The Dark Shadows tourism of the mansion didn't wait until after the movies were made. During the course of production, Lyndhurst was still conducting guided tours of the home. Many fans of the TV show went on the tour in hopes of seeing some of the film's production or getting a glimpse of an actor from their favorite soap opera.
Story has it that during the first few days of shooting House of Dark Shadows, a crew member captured a bat somewhere on the estate. The bat became a mascot for the crew, who named it "Barnabas." The bat was kept inside a cage and fed top sirloin during its captivity.
Along with the mansion, other locations on the Lyndhurst property were used in the films. Among them is the greenhouse, the stables and the administration building. The admin building served as the Jenkin's cottage in the movies.
In a further tie between Dark Shadows and Lyndhurst, House of Dark Shadows shot scenes in nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (see Sleepy Hollow Cemetery & Old Dutch Burying Ground). The mansion's original owner, William Paulding Jr. is buried there.
Dark Shadows TV Show
Besides being used for the movie versions of Dark Shadows, the Lyndhurst estate did provide locations for shooting of the TV show as well.
The Spratt House, which used to stand on the property, was used as the exterior of the old Collins family mansion on the television program. It was the original home of the Collins family while the larger Collinwood mansion was being constructed. Called "The Old House", the mansion was left abandoned for centuries until Barnabas Collins arose from his grave to once again call it home. Unfortunately, an arsonist burned down the Spratt Mansion in 1969.
The stable house at Lyndhurst was used as the exterior of the caretaker's cottage on the show. The cottage served as a home for multiple characters during the run of the TV show. It also was the setting for a ritual that resurrected villainous witch Angelique Bouchard.
The Halloween That Almost Wasn't
The 1979 TV movie The Halloween That Almost Wasn't (AKA: The Night Dracula Saved the World) was also shot at Lyndhurst Mansion. The movie oddly echoes the struggles between heroic vampire Barnabas Collins against Angelique Bouchard the witch that both loves and hates him. The Halloween That Almost Wasn't deals with a heroic Dracula (played by Judd Hirsch of Taxi fame) having to save Halloween from a villainous witch (Mariette Hartley) who ultimately seems to have a thing for him. The end of the movie has the two reconciling and then disco dancing together.
Lyndhurst continues to function as a museum in modern day. It offers both guided and self-guided tours of the mansion and grounds. The museum is open throughout the entire year, with limited hours from November through mid-April (check the web site listed below for details).
During the October Halloween festivities in nearby Sleepy Hollow (see Sleepy Hollow, New York) (formerly North Tarrytown) the Lyndhurst Mansion hosts Boo Fest. It is an event based on 19th century Halloween parties and celebration. Ghostly guides give tours of the mansion sprinkled with spectral inhabitants during this family-friendly event. Other features of Boo Fest include hundreds of scarecrows, barn dancing, story-telling witches, fortune-telling and trick-or-treating.