Strangers at Collins House.jpg
Strangers at Collins House



Paperback Library




Marilyn Ross




September 1967



Dark Shadows Strangers at Collins House

Strangers at Collins House is the third of the novels written by Marilyn Ross as part of a separate continuity. For Victoria Winters, the secret room at Collins House holds the mystery of her past – and a threat to her future.

Publisher's summary[edit | edit source]

Victoria Winters at last feels she has a clue to her own identity when she meets elderly Henry Collins. He secretly gives her the jewels which once belonged to his lost love – a woman Victoria strongly resembles.

After receiving the gift, Victoria is suddenly terrified by attacks on her life which are masked as accidents. Surrounded by danger, Victoria wonders if she is to be the victim of ruthless thieves – or a hidden murderer desperate enough to keep her from learning about her past.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

Elizabeth Collins Stoddard receives word that her aging uncle, Henry Collins, is arriving at Collinwood to spend the final days of his long, lonely life. Elizabeth’s brother, Roger regards the news with great disdain. Roger never cared for his uncle, and he makes no reservations about showing his enmity.

Henry Collins arrives along with his business associate and travelling companion, Benjamin Willard. Benjamin brings along his son and daughter-in-law, Jack and Molly Willard.

Henry stays in a special “secret room” designed specifically to cater to his interests. The room itself is a recreation of his old hotel apartment at the Ritz Hampton Hotel in New York City. It his only link to his past, and a haunting reminder of the greatest tragedy in his life. Elizabeth tries to placate Henry’s eccentricities and respects the fact that he almost never leaves his special room, but Roger never misses an opportunity to chide the old man and show his scorn.

Henry meets the Collins governess, the orphan, Victoria Winters and becomes instantly infatuated with her. He invites her to his room where he gives her a velvet jewelry box containing a set of exquisite emerald earrings, a bracelet and a necklace. Vicki feels that she cannot accept such a valuable gift, but Henry insists, citing that the jewels belong to her. He instructs Vicki to keep them some place safe and to tell no one of the fact that he gave them to her. Vicki places the jewels inside of a removable ceiling panel in the closet of her bedroom. Vicki, having always suspected that she might be related to the Collins family, wonders if Henry could be her grandfather.

The following day, Vicki meets Henry’s assistant, Benjamin Willard on the beach near Widow's Hill. Benjamin tries to cajole Vicki into revealing what took place during her conversation with Henry, but she doesn’t reveal anything regarding the old man’s gift to her. Willard becomes agitated and brusquely storms off back towards the house.

Later that evening, Vicki meets her friend, the wealthy man-about-town known as Burke Devlin at a bar named the Blue Whale. She tells him of her suspicions concerning her possible relationship to Henry, but Burke warns her about getting her hopes to high. Revealing some bias against the Collins, Burke chides that being related to a Collins is not exactly a feather in her cap.

The next few days prove to be particularly devastating for Vicki. She experiences at least three acts of deliberate mischief made against her. First, she enters her bedroom where she believes to see the ghost of a young woman from the 1900s calling her name. Vicki tells Elizabeth of this incident, but the older woman simply dismisses Vicki’s claims.

Later, Jack and Molly Willard nearly run her down on the highway outside of Collinwood. Jack explains that the accelerator pad in his car had been stuck, but Vicki is not convinced of the sincerity of his explanation.

The following afternoon, Vicki goes down to the wine cellar at Collinwood. The lights flicker out and she witnesses the same ghostly apparition from the night before. Elizabeth comes downstairs to check on Vicki, but the ghost disappears.

Events become even more bizarre around Collinwood. Roger invites a man named Rupert Harvey, to stay at the great house. Rupert is a psychometrist from Augusta, and Roger thinks that it might be fun to have Rupert use his psychic abilities to rout out some of the house’s old ghosts. Roger and Rupert tell Vicki some of the mysterious history surrounding Henry Collins. Later, Rupert is found skulking about Henry Collins’ room. Both Vicki and Benjamin Willard are forced to keep Rupert away, less he upset Mister Collins.

Roger finally tells Vicki about Henry’s past. Henry had been in love with a showgirl named Winifred Ray in 1916. However, on Halloween night, Winifred disappeared. Her body was found two months later, dead of strangulation in an empty parking lot. Apparently, Winifred was the spitting image of Victoria Winters. Henry recreated his New York hotel room at Collinwood, because it represents the last time he had ever seen Winifred alive. His entire existence has been spent in morning over his one true love. Vicki is now convinced that Winifred was her grandmother.

That night, Vicki goes into town again to meet with Burke. On her way back, she finds a tree blocking the road. Behind the tree, floating across the highway, Vicki believes she sees the ghost of Winifred Ray again. As she gets out of her car, someone jumps her from behind and begins to strangle her. Vicki faints and awakens several moments later with Rupert Harvey standing over her. Apparently, Rupert arrived just in time to scare the attacker away. Neither of them managed to get a good look at the attacker.

The next evening, Roger invites Rupert to do a psychic reading in Henry’s room. Rupert analyses the vibrations in the room and becomes excited and starts screaming, “Murder! Murder!” His antics are so boisterous that he causes Henry Collins to have a seizure. He dies moments later.

After the funeral, Benjamin Willard meets with Vicki on the captain’s walk on the roof of Collins House. He tells her that Henry Collins was the man who murdered Winifred Ray. Winifred had visited the hotel room on October 31st 1916 to gloat to Henry that she was having an affair with another man and had sired a child by him. Henry slapped her and in a fit of rage, she attacked him. Henry reacted in self-defence and strangled her. Benjamin and he sneaked the body out of the hotel and planted it in the parking lot. Benjamin always hated Winifred and his hatred transcended to Vicki because of her physical similarity. He knew that Henry had given Vicki Winifred’s emeralds and so he arranged for Jack and Molly to stage all of the fake ghost sightings in order to terrorize her. The ghost of Winifred Ray was never present at Collins House.

Benjamin, seeking to finally put an end to the madness of Henry Collins and Winifred Ray attacks Vicki, and she fights back pushing Benjamin over the captain’s walk. Burke Devlin arrives at the house in time to help Benjamin, but the man sustains serious injuries.

Benjamin is taken to the hospital and dies a few days later from his injuries. On his deathbed however, he tells Vicki that Winifred’s child died in infancy and that she is not the granddaughter of either Henry Collins or Winifred Ray.

Characters[edit | edit source]

Background information and notes[edit | edit source]

  • Collinwood is referred to as Collins House in this story.
  • Barnabas Collins is featured on the cover of this book, but does not make an actual appearance in the story.
  • References are made regarding Elizabeth and Roger's father and grandfather. These characters would be Jamison Collins and Edward Collins (respectively), though they are never mentioned by name in this story.
  • There are several characters mentioned throughout this novel, that seem to have no real description or bearing on the story whatsoever. Such characters would include: Charles Dana Gibson, Evelyn Nesbit, Harry K. Thaw, Irene Langhorne, Olive Thomas, Sanford White and Ziegfried.
  • This story takes place in July, 1967, one month after the events from Victoria Winters.
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