Location: Collinwood is a large wooded cliff-side property located off Collins Road west of the tiny community of Collinsport, Maine, a fishing and artist community about forty miles from Bangor, facing distant Acadia State Park across the bay. The extensive property borders several acres of woods and even a few farmlands.
Home of at least twelve generations of the Collins family, Collinwood is a huge
estate covering rolling hills and thick woods of around almost a hundred acres.
It is bordered between Frenchman’s Bay to the west and Collins Road to the
east with a back road to Frid Street near Rose Cottage. Encircled by a
surrounding main drive, the property beyond the creek forming the northern
boundary is the Haskell horse farm. Several
buildings dot the property among a garage, barns, cottages, shacks and homes.
The largest house on the estate is Collinwood, an imposing three story structure
of indiscernible style incorporating both Gothic Romanesque and Old English
architecture with castle-like features, such as a three story tower and external
balconies and stairways. The interior is decorated with antiques and expensive
paintings, many of which feature prominent family members, such as Isaac
Collins, Joshua Collins, Geoffrey Collins and both the original Barnabas Collins
and the second Quentin Collins, named for a great-uncle. It has four wings and
forty bedrooms among a study, library, music room, grand dining hall, an
upstairs library, an extra small kitchen in the north wing and modernized
bathrooms with the main wing largely inhabited and partially restored west and
east wings. Sitting at the top of highest hill on the property, the encroaching
driveway veers up a huge hillside enforced and supported by a wall of stone and
brick, lined by pine trees at ground level. Numerous secret passageways and
secret rooms riddle the imposing mansion. The veranda at the back of the house
includes a garden and open gazebo.
Known as the Old House, the two story
ancestral home lies at the end of a path at the end of the veranda past the pool
house (formerly a greenhouse), through the trees and in a clearing at the
western fringe of the driveway, a paved cobblestone carriage path adjacent near
the main gates. Completely restored and partially renovated in 1972, it has all
the charm of the Eighteenth Century with candelabras, fireplaces in each bedroom
and a basement resembling a dungeon from out of the Middle Ages. Pillars around
the base of the structure support the extended roof; a cupola sits on the roof
adjacent from a door at the top of the stairs inside the foyer. The parlor is
decorated with antique Old English furniture including a Queen Anne clock.
The whole house is held and anchored together by long steel rods
extending the length and width of the house. The basement is adjacent to caves,
which run the length of the property.
Built in 1695, the McGruder House, now known affectionately as Rose Cottage, was acquired as the family in 1795 built the main house and acquired the surrounding land. Constructed like a Southern Antebellum mansion, five pillars support the extended roof that rests two stories off the ground. Overshadowed by trees of oak, elm, cedar and spruce, the modernized structure boasts a completely modern kitchen, a long living room, study and a spiral staircase to the second floor. Combining the Old World charm of the Old House and the opulent splendor of the main house, it consists of eight bedrooms atop a full basement.
The Collins Family has been at the top of the social scene in the Maine
aristocracy for over three centuries. Second to the Kennedys and Rockefellers
in New England's top families, the famous Collins Estate, affectionately
referred to as Collinwood, has been described as by visitors as entering upon a
modern version of Mount Olympus itself. In Collinsport, the local population has
been well aware of the legendary and supernatural reputation of the estate and
the long lost family members of whom they still share the grounds. Only the
Royal Family Of England with its numerous castles and mansions boasts more
spirits and phantoms.
The favorite of the earthbound spirits on the
estate is that of Josette Collins. Her story has been so repeated over the ages
that many varying tales differ on the details and causes of her demise. Dressed
in an ethereal bridal gown, her unsettling presence has been seen for years
drifting around the Old House and through its rooms. Even after the house's
restoration, she makes her presence known.
"She's harmless..." Angelique
Collins, the matron of the Old House, confides candidly. "She can be
playful as well as have a temper, but I've never lived in fear around her.
Sometimes I feel her drifting nearby, or just get a brief glimpse of her rushing
out of sight, but I've never been intimidated by her presence. "
The late Joe Haskell, who owned the bordering
farm on the property, had told several stories of seeing Josette in his visits
to Collinwood. In his youth, he had dated Carolyn Stoddard and then Maggie
Evans, governess to the children, and he and his friends exploring the Collins
property experienced several things in the dark recesses of the estate. Often
cutting through the woods to Collinwood between the properties, he once claimed
to have seen Josette standing in an upstairs window of the then deserted Old
House brushing her hair as she stared out the main house. Sometimes, she's been
observed gliding along the path as if she's deep in thought, and on occasion she
has actually been seen in Collinwood itself. On the other hand, his son, Joseph
Haskell Jr., insists the thick woods on the property are creepy enough on their
Josette actually has several dozen spirits to
keep her company on the estate. The oft-seen form of her husband, Jeremiah
Collins, has been seen clad in old Seventeenth Century dress and with his head
all covered in bloody rags. The victim of a duel, the details of which still
obscured by time, his gruesome visage has been seen prowling the interior of the
Old House, but has now taken to wandering the family cemetery on the other end
of the estate near the back entrance.
In 1965, when eight-year-old David Collins,
the present owner of the Collinsport Ghost Society, first arrived on the estate
with his father, he used to roam the property and explore the then still
abandoned Old House. He was often bringing back stories of talking to
"But I don't actually remember any
replies...” He confesses today. Now in his fifties, he also owns a computer
firm and two local restaurant eateries. "My memories are hazy today, but I
recall her standing near me, in a very hazy, ethereal sort of way, as I talked
to her. She'd bring me things too, and even when I was in my room in the main
house, I could still feel her presence. She was always covered in a scent of
"After Uncle Barnabas restored the
house," David confesses abashedly today. "I still used to sneak in and
look for her. By this time, she wasn't as ethereal; she was practically as real
as you or I and I think she finally spoke to me. I also have a hazy memory of
getting into the cellar and getting scared out of my wits by the sight of a
coffin. When my father and Uncle Barnabas came back, it was gone."
Another spirit David fondly remembers is the
ghost of Sara Collins. The sister of the first Barnabas Collins, she was only
ten years old when she died. When David first saw her, he didn't know she was a
"We'd play in the clearing around the Old
House," David recalls. "We'd run and swing, but when I'd ask her where
she lived, she pointed to the Old House. I never understood why until I realized
sometime later that she was a spirit. Once I realized she was a ghost, she
stopped appearing to me."
While she hasn't been seen since 1974, Sara
sometimes appeared to Barnabas and Angelique's son, William
Collins, after he was born in 1971. Angelique would hear her then infant
son, now a field director for the CGS, cooing and making noises and then he’d
suddenly start giggling, as if someone was in the room. She’d go and check on
him, but no one would be near him. Sometimes seen along with Josette and
Jeremiah, Sara was often felt around William as if she was protecting him, but
she stopped appearing altogether after William's sister, Sara, was born in 1974.
"I remember hearing the voice of a little
girl singing through the baby monitor while I was downstairs." Angelique
adds. "I'd rush up to see who was singing and no one was ever there."
She adds that since her son has been around ghosts since infancy that he has
never been fearful of them. As far as her daughter, Sara, is concerned,
Angelique is sure that her daughter is the reincarnation of the earlier Sara
Collins, explaining why her ghost is no longer on the estate.
David also remembers a story involving a close
friend of the family who had been murdered in 1966. A floor manager from the
local Collins Family Cannery, Bill Malloy was mugged and killed on his way home,
and his body was tossed off the cliffs before getting washed up on the cliffs in
the proximity near the estate. About a week after the murder, the governess at
the time, Victoria Winters, was asleep in an upstairs room when she said she saw
Bill Malloy come to her in the dark, glowing and dripping of seaweed.
She screamed and his surprised visage vanished. No one believed Victoria
as having seen him, but later they found wet seaweed in the room without any
logical explanation of where it had come from.
For a short time in 1968, the ghost of Quentin Collins II, who had departed left Collinwood in 1898, was being felt,
heard and even seen in the main house along with the apparition of Beth Chavez,
a former maid rumored to be his mistress. Lurking often in the then unused rooms
of the west wing, his presence would intimidate and strike terror into all who
saw him. On the contrary, Beth’s spirit would continue with her former
household duties cleaning and dusting rooms and putting things away in a
scenario similar to “The Turn of the Screw.” While Quentin was briefly seen
for one moment in 1972 to Matilda Johnson, the then-current housekeeper, Beth
still makes her presence known especially around Quentin's great-grandson,
Quentin Collins III, now living on the estate.
"I think she believes he's her
Quentin." Maggie Evans-Collins, the former governess now married to the
current Quentin Collins. A radiant auburn-haired beauty, she was David's
governess in 1968 during the height of the hauntings by her husband's ancestor.
"I remember being upstairs at the top of
the landing." Maggie recalls the incidents vividly. "The hallway there
stretches almost the entire house, and I heard this man's laughter. There was no
one in sight, but I heard laughter as if he was laughing at me. That was
probably my first experience with the ghosts of Collinwood."
While Quentin delights in frightening the
living, Beth is quite the opposite. She once distracted a physician on
sabbatical in Collinwood and led the female doctor all the way across the estate
to the caretaker's cottage where a tenant staying in the house was deeply
injured. Josette has shown the same beneficent level of caring. When Jamison
Collins had a heart attack in 1931 while exploring the Old House by himself, an
unknown woman called for paramedics!
Around the currently living Quentin Collins,
Beth might have competition in the ghost of Daphne Harridge, the wife of the
first Quentin Collins, who left Collinwood in 1840 and died in New York City.
Particularly fond of the children living on the estate, the former governess has
been seen watching the Collins youths from afar since her own death in New York
in 1872. Jamison Collins, Quentin’s son, has seen her shadowy form at least
three times in his life. His sister, Amanda, however, has been blissfully
unaware of the ghosts of her ancestors.
Another person who has seen many of the ghosts
of Collinwood was Maggie's predecessor, Victoria Winters. Now married and living
out of state somewhere, her current whereabouts are unknown, but she became
particularly fond of Josette and even visited her gravesite and had it restored.
According to Barnabas Collins, Victoria had confessed to him that she even once
saw Sara on the top of the landing in the Old House at a party given for its
restoration and as well followed Josette's voice to save David when he nearly
died in an inexplicable fire in 1966.
Victoria also seems connected the house's
past. Another Victoria Winters, presumably an ancestor, was nearly hung as a
witch in the Collinsport of 1795. Legend claims as that as this Victoria was
removed from the noose, she had mystically removed herself from the gallows and
replaced herself with another current Collins governess and vanished! On the
contrary, the courthouse records tell she was actually spared her life by a
lawyer named Peter Bradford and given her freedom.
When the modern Victoria Winters was dating
her husband, Jeff Clark, in early 1968, the two of them were confronted by the
specter of a phantom minister in black in the Collinwood drawing room. He
appeared to them reaching his hand out, issued a warning to her, and then
vanishing from view, never to be seen again. Barnabas surmises that this was the
ghost of Reverend Silas Trask, the accuser of the original Victoria Winters,
crying out for forgiveness from the grave.
Another much known haunted location on the
property is Widow's Hill, the highest spot on the nearby cliffs where three
women reportedly tossed themselves into the sea at different times after their
husbands lost their lives in Collinsport's early history. Numerous witnesses
have heard the howling of the widows' moaning from the cliff.
Before his death in 1795, Jeremiah Collins is
said to have exorcised their spirits by "kicking them from the
cliffs." Yet, when storms roll in, the sound of wailing comes from the
cliff and spectral glowing lights appear huddled at the cliffs crying and
William Hollingshead Loomis, the former
caretaker, now married into the family, is another of several family members to
have seen the ghosts. During his years of tending the grounds, he was often
called from afar by voices from nowhere or saw people who vanished. He reported
tools that vanished in his restoration of the Old House, footsteps from empty
rooms, faces peering in through windows of strange people and heard doors that
slammed shut by themselves. In 1971, while restoration of the East Wing of
Collinwood was going on, he found a playroom sealed up behind a closet. Still
filled with old dusty toys and an antique dollhouse, he described once getting
too spooked to be up there by himself because there seemed to be someone
watching him. On occasion, the toys changed positions within seconds of being
moved and even returned to the room after being relocated to the attic.
The most unusual phenomenon is a rather
unusual room at the end of the West Wing. It's a huge suite with its own
bedrooms, fireplace and living quarters. The phantoms of living individuals have
been seen in it trapped in reliving events from their own lives. In 1970,
Professor Thomas Elliot Stokes christened it "the parallel time room"
because he thought the room bumped into the events occurring in other alternate
quantum realities of Collinwood. Despite all attempts to lock the doors to the
room, the room keeps unlocking by itself. A wall to close off the room from the
rest of the house even vanished completely without any explanation.
It also bears mentioned that several other
locales in Collinsport also have ghost stories attached. Shipwreck Point is
haunted by the specter of a murder scene involving former Collins employee Bill
Malloy, Caleb Sayers Collins lurks around his old home now known as Seaview
beyond the grounds of the Collinwood Estate (the house is now the home of
William and Ally Collins) and the House By The Sea a few blocks over is
reputedly been the home of phantoms in black. Parker’s Field where a few
witches were reportedly buried during the witch-hunts is a teenage gathering
site to look for wandering spirits. Outside of Collinsport on the road to
Rockport, a beautiful blonde hitchhiker in a flowing white dress waits for
drivers to pick her up. A few drivers have also reported seeing a headless
horseman charging through the trees. The headless horseman stories date back to
the founding of Collinsport and may have inspired “The
Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving.
History: A nobleman and wealthy landowner from England, Isaac Collins founded
Collinsport in 1680 and one of the first structures he built was the Old House
that was then known as Collinwood. His dream was to create a settlement that
would grow to be as grand as the family estate near Lyme Regis in Devonshire,
England. The land was reportedly unfavored by the local indigenous Shinnecook
and Penobscot Indian tribes who thought it was cursed. Not at all superstitious,
Collins built his mansion as a gift to his wife and son coming to join him and
moved in as building finished around them. Other structures on the present
property were built by other settlers such as Isaac’s partners, Benjamin Drew
and Joshua Harridge, patrons of two of Collinsport’s other founding families.
However, as Isaac kept increasing his boundaries, he bought out other settlers
of their stakes including the McGruders and the Harridges. The boundaries and
size of the estate has not changed since then.
Isaac’s descendants, Jeremiah and Joshua
Collins started building the main house, modern-day Collinwood, in 1790 and even
built around and connected two houses already on the site which explains the
unique size, shape and style of the mansion. Joshua had hoped to leave the estate to his eldest son,
Barnabas Collins, but the future scion of Collinwood departed to return to
England to avoid embarrassment in the accidental slaying his brother in a duel.
His descendants visited the estate over the years with the last descendant
coming to live permanently in the Old House on the estate in 1967.
Isaac’s youngest son, Daniel, inherited the
house and he passed it on to his son, Quentin Collins I. In 1840, Quentin was
accused of murdering his brother-in-law in a court trial that resembled the
Salem Witchcraft Trials and was defended by his cousin, Barnabas Collins II,
from England. Found innocent of the charges, Quentin could not live with the
public disgrace and left the estate to live on property in New York City still
owned by the family. Collinwood passed out of his family line and was left to
his brother, Gabriel. A paraplegic confined to a wheelchair, Gabriel lived only
briefly enjoying his acquirement. Without a will, his wife Edith became the
first female matriarch of the house. Outliving her three sons, she left the
house to her only granddaughter, Judith, rather than the often absent eldest
Edward’s son, Jamison owned the estate
through the early Twentieth Century and reputedly snuck bootleg liquor through
the caves under the Old House during Prohibition. During this time, Angelique
Collins, daughter of Barnabas Collins III, and Quentin Collins III, stayed
briefly on the estate. Jamison passed ownership to his eldest daughter,
Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard. After her husband abandoned her, Elizabeth let go
all of the servants but one to tend to her and her daughter, Carolyn, but then,
her brother, Roger Collins, returned home a widower, dragging with him his son,
David. It was during her lifetime that the last Barnabas Collins returned home
to Collinwood and restored the Old House with the help of William Loomis,
namesake of his son. Before her death, Quentin Collins IV, a descendant of
Edward and Judith Collins’s brother, Quentin Collins II, came and romanced the
current governess, Maggie Evans, who he had married, eventually restoring the
McGruder house back into Rose Cottage for her.
Elizabeth, however, passed on in 1990 and her brother Roger followed in 2002. Her daughter, Carolyn Collins Stoddard-Loomis, became the new matriarch after Roger’s son, David Andrew Collins, expressed no desire to run the household. Much more interested and involved in his businesses, he still lives in Collinwood from time to time. Carolyn has chosen William Collins, Barnabas’ son, above her own three children to inherit Collinwood in the unlikely event of her death. Admittedly, of all the haunted locations he has visited in the world, Collinwood is his favorite.
Identity of Ghosts: There
are countless ghosts said to be haunting Collinwood, each of them named by the
people who knew them: Josette Dupres as the spectral bride, Jeremiah Collins as
the bloody wraith, Sara Collins as the eternally youthful waif, Quentin Collins
II as the ghostly scoundrel, Beth Chavez as the phantom housekeeper, Daphne
Harridge as the protective spirit and reportedly several other unidentified
ghosts in Collinwood beyond those already named. Rumors of people vanishing in
and around the estate go back to 1798 when witch-hunter Silas Trask from Salem,
Massachusetts vanished. His bones were finally found in the basement of the Old
House when it was updated in 1972. No
one knows how he died, but several family members believe his spirit is the one
seen by Victoria Winters, the 1965-1968 governess. The coffin seen by David
Collins is presumed to be a place memory from one of three vampire scares in
1798, 1840 or 1897.
The Collins family has never allowed a serious professional examination of
Collinwood, seeking instead to preserve their privacy and the museum interior.
However, in March 2006, William finagled an almost covert, non-public tour of
the estate for Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of the Atlantic
Paranormal Society and A.C. Fielding from the Mid-Western Ghost-Hunters Club
in return of favors allowing him to join them on some of their investigations.
Their examination of the main house was largely confined to the attic,
considered a “hot spot” but didn’t register much evidence. Cold spots
believed produced by the successive secret passageways linked to the
sub-basements of the mansion and caused by winds blowing up through the
structure. However, their full examination of the Old House, ironically
corresponding with the absence of William’s parents who own the house, came up
with a combination of photographic, audio and personal experiences. Everything
was taken by Hawes and Wilson back to Rhode Island to be studied by their team.
A tape recorder left recording in the bedroom of Josette DuPres picked up
incoherent echoing voices saying, “Can you see us?,” “I didn’t do
it.,” “Good night.,” and asking “Where’s Sara?” in a female voice.
The only female on the site was Dawn
Rochner, a psychic for the CGS and she
hadn’t entered the room that night. Grant asking for a response from the house
recorded a male voice saying, “You boys shouldn’t be here.” Of the
photographic evidence, Fielding caught a shadow in gray standing by an upstairs
column as he photographed from outside a bedroom as well as a persistent bright
orb that stayed around Grant as he moved through the house. Another photo showed
a black shadow in the spot on the basement where Trask’s body was discovered
in 1972. Rochner later added she had the feeling that not all the ghosts were
conscious of each other, which explains why separate séances on the estate over
the years have given different numbers of the ghosts on the estate. She guessed
there could conceivably be as many as 200 surviving consciousnesses and place
memories on the estate. When asked to search for the ghost of Josette Dupres,
she perceived the spirit of Josette Collins (1810? - 1830), the daughter of
Daniel Collins, instead, but when she tried to find out why this Josette had not
passed over, Dawn instead slipped into another tangent, sensing the ghost of a
Victoria Winters instead and announcing “(she) had been here before she ever
arrived.” What this comment means and which Victoria she is referring to is
In an odd footnote to this visit, William’s mother, Angelique Collins, an avowed Wiccan and Spiritualist with psychic gifts, confounded her son with a response before he could confess to the unauthorized examination of his parent’s house. Seemingly sensing the agitated demeanor of the Old House ghosts having been placed under scrutiny, she confronted her wily son and asked him, “Did your friends enjoy the company of the ghosts in our absence?”
Comments: Dark Shadows (1965-1972/1990/2004) Hauntings based almost entirely on
the series but inspired by Franklin Castle in Cleveland, Ohio, Hollingsworth
House in Statesboro, Georgia, Hampton Plantation in Towson, Maryland, Hickory
Hill in Harrisburg, Illinois, Highcliff Hall in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and
Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island.
Thanks to Amanda Collins for her help on her family history!