Henry Collins was the oldest uncle to Elizabeth and Roger Collins. Born some time around 1887, he grew up as part of the New York branch of the Collins family. By the early 1900s, Henry had become a wealthy investor in the Broadway theater industry, and lived in a spacious penthouse suite at the Ritz Hampton Hotel in Manhattan.
Henry was married, and had a child, but by the beginning of World War I, his wife had developed tuberculosis and became an invalid. He found himself emotionally incapable of caring for either her or his infant son, and gave the child away to be raised by his wife’s sister.
While living in New York, Henry hired a business associate named Benjamin Willard. Benjamin managed all of Henry’s professional affairs, but despite being an employee, the two became extremely close friends.
The showgirl[edit | edit source]
Henry began having an affair with a showgirl named Winifred Ray. For the first time in his life, Henry found true love. He loved Winifred with a passion that he could never hope to experience with his wife. Benjamin however disapproved of the affair, and hated Winifred and the effect she had on Henry.
By 1916, Winifred had begun having her own affair with another man. She bore a child with this man, but the infant died of an unspecified ailment shortly after its birth. On October 16th, Winifred prepared to go to a Halloween costume party hosted at the Madison Square Roof. Heavily inebriated, she stopped at Henry’s hotel suite to brag about her affair and the fact that she had a child with another man. She neglected to tell Henry that the baby died however. Devastated and enraged, Henry slapped Winifred across the face. Winifred scooped up a letter opener and attacked him. In self-defense, Henry grabbed her by the throat in an effort to keep her at bay. During the struggle, he accidentally strangled her, and Winifred died moments later. He asked Benjamin Willard to help him dispose of the showgirl’s body. Henry and Benjamin took Winifred’s body to an abandoned parking lot and left it there.
The girl’s disappearance made instant headlines and tabloids began sensationalizing her possible murder. Henry found himself caught up in the scandal, and his illicit affair with the showgirl haunted him for months. Benjamin Willard testified that he had seen Winifred getting into a hansom cab on her way to the Madison Square Roof on the night of her disappearance. As luck would have it, the cab driver died in an accident hours later, and authorities began to suspect that he may have been responsible for her murder. Suspicion against Henry Collins began to wane. On December 18th, the police found her remains in the abandoned lot. With little evidence to go on, they soon called off the investigation. Despite their final feud, Henry Collins deeply loved Winifred, and her death would torment him for the rest of his life.
The secret room[edit | edit source]
By 1927, the Ritz Hampton Hotel fell under new ownership, Henry – obsessed with the hotel room where Winifred Ray died, purchased the suite and all of its furnishings and had it shipped piece by piece to his family’s New England Collins House estate in Collinsport, Maine. Henry’s younger brother was the head of the New England branch of the family and allowed Henry to recreate the suite in a special room on the third floor of the rear wing of the mansion. Informally known as the secret room, construction crews went through great pains to insure that it resembled the Ritz Hampton suite in every detail.
With the exception of Benjamin Willard, no one was allowed to enter this room, not even housekeepers, without express permission from Henry himself. Henry remained at Collins House for several years, but eventually returned to New York with Benjamin to continue his work on the Broadway circuit. Through the decades, Henry and Benjamin returned to Collins House for extended vacations, but never stayed for more than a few weeks and they spent most of their time in New York. During this time, he hired Benjamin’s son, Jack as his personal chauffer.
The governess[edit | edit source]
In July of 1967, Henry’s health began to falter. Age had caught up with him and he was prone to suffer from intermittent seizures. He arrived at Collins House for one final visit, where he intended to spend his last days in his special, secret room. Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the matriarch of the family at this time prepared Henry’s special room for him. Elizabeth’s brother, Roger, hated the old man with an irrational passion and spared no expense at making the eccentric Henry Collins feel as uncomfortable as he possibly could.
Elizabeth introduced Henry to the family governess, Victoria Winters. Victoria was an orphan and always nursed an unspoken suspicion that her family roots may lie somewhere within the Collins family tree. Henry became instantly infatuated with Vicki and remarked upon the fact that she was the spitting image of his beloved Winifred. He began inviting Vicki up to his room for special visits, much to the dismay of Benjamin Willard. Benjamin, fearful that he was about to see history repeat itself instigated several attacks against Vicki in the hopes of keeping her away from the old man.
Henry gave Vicki a valuable velvet-lined box, which contained a set of emerald jewels including a necklace, a bracelet and two earrings. He once gave these same jewels to Winifred and now passed them along to Vicki, citing that they belonged to her. Vicki began to wonder if Henry Collins was her grandfather.
The psychic[edit | edit source]
While Henry and Vicki grew closer together, Roger decided to take it upon himself to expose any skeletons that may lie hidden in the old man’s closet. To this end, he hired a psychometrist named Rupert Harvey to come to Collins House to perform a psychic reading on Henry Collins’s secret room. Henry was reluctant to entertain such foolishness, but his poor health denied him the strength to voice his concern with any true conviction. Rupert performed his psychic reading, and began to learn some of the mystery surrounding the death of Winifred Ray. As he perceived each fresh vision, Rupert began shouting in a thunderous voice, “Agony! Hatred! Anger! A scream!” The histrionic behavior and fear of exposure was too much for the old man’s ailing health. Henry suffered a massive seizure and passed away. Elizabeth arranged for Henry’s funeral and buried him at the family cemetery in Collinsport.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- By the 1960s, Henry required a silver-handled cane to walk with.
- The nature surrounding the enmity between Henry and Roger Collins has never been fully explained.
- Henry carried a locket with a photograph of Winifred Ray. He also possessed a gramophone recording of her voice.
- The names of Henry’s wife and child were never revealed. However, it has been confirmed that he shares no blood relationship with Victoria Winters.
- The name of Henry’s brother was not revealed in the source material. In the continuity of the Dark Shadows television series, his brother would have been Jamison Collins.