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Elizabeth Collins Stoddard was the name of several characters that appeared in the Dark Shadows franchise. The first and most well known version of the character was played by Joan Bennett in the original 1966 television series. She debuted in the first episode and remained a steady cast member throughout the entirety of the series. Bennett reprised the role for the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows, which itself, was a quasi-remake of the series. The character was also featured in the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series, this time played by actress Jean Simmons.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Elizabeth Collins Stoddard was the matriarch of the Collins family that lived in the town of Collinsport, Maine during the 1960s and 1970s. Along with her brother Roger, she ran the family business which consisted of a fishing fleet and cannery.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Jamison Collins and was born in the year 1917. In the 1940s, she married a man named Paul Stoddard who came to live at Collinwood with Liz. Paul's close friend and confidante, Jason McGuire, insinuated himself into the family and attempted to befriend Liz, but she was never able to completely trust McGuire.

In the winter of 1947, a young girl named Victoria was born. The identities of her parents were unknown, but she was left at the threshold of the Hammond Foundling Home in New York with a note pinned to her that read, "Her name is Victoria. I cannot take care of her". Victoria received an envelope containing $50.00 every month until she reached adulthood. The envelopes bore a Bangor, Maine postmark. Though it has never been satisfactorily confirmed, it has been speculated that Victoria was the illegitimate child of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. [2]

In 1949, Elizabeth was pregnant with Paul's child. One evening, Paul and she had an intense argument, which resulted in Liz bashing her husband across the back of the head. She believed that she had killed him when in fact, he was only stunned. Liz ran from the room frightened, leaving Jason McGuire to clean up the mess. Jason helped Paul to his feet and convinced him to leave Collinwood. He told Liz that Paul had died and fabricated a story about burying his remains in the basement of the house. McGuire was now in a position to blackmail Liz for anything that he wanted, though he would wait nearly twenty years to call in that marker.

Fearful of her greatest secret being exposed, Liz became a recluse, refusing to ever leave the estate. She fired the entire house staff, keeping only a cook, Sarah Johnson and a groundskeeper named Matthew Morgan. That same year, her daughter Carolyn was born. Carolyn grew up believing that her father had abandoned the Collins family, which was actually the truth, but Liz reinforced the story so she would never suspect that she may have actually murdered him.

In 1966, Elizabeth's brother Roger sought to find a governess for his troublesome young son, David. Although they allegedly went through an agency, fortune sought to bring the now-adult Victoria Winters into their lives. Vicki came to Collinwood seeking a new life for herself outside the foundling home, but she always suspected that her true family origins lied within Collinwood. If there was any true family connection between Victoria and the others, Elizabeth never gave any indication of it. Vicki's stay at Collinwood was off to a rocky start, but within time, she acclimated to the Collins' eccentricities and became like a true daughter to Elizabeth.

The following year, Jason McGuire came back into Elizabeth's life. Accompanying him was a mousy seaman named Willie Loomis. In need of money, Jason began blackmailing Elizabeth into letting him stay at Collinwood. He pretended to act as a dear friend, but always reminded her of the secret locked inside the basement.

For several months Jason inveigled his way into every aspect of the Collins lifestyle. Willie and he began living at Collinwood and he extorted Liz for money, a management position at the family business and even a proposal of marriage. The rest of the family members knew that Jason had some sort of hold over Elizabeth, but she remained ever tight-lipped about the nature of her relationship, exclaiming that every decision she has made has been of her own free will.

The time eventually came when Roger, Carolyn and the others could no longer sit idly by and do nothing. They knew that Jason's hold over Elizabeth was directly tied to a secret within the basement. They discovered the trunk which allegedly contained Paul Stoddard's remains. When they opened it, no body was to be found. The truth was out and it became known that Paul Stoddard left Collinsport more than eighteen years ago. Roger Collins ordered the sheriff's department to arrest Jason McGuire, who fled the scene. Though Liz would never know it, Jason met his ultimate end at the hands of Liz's "cousin", Barnabas Collins, a vampire, who murdered Jason and drank his blood.

Though Liz was now free of the dark secret that had haunted her all those years, she still remained at Collinwood, never leaving the property and only rarely moving from the great house itself.

Elizabeth became obsessed with the notion of her own death, and was convinced that she was going to be buried alive. She made plans to construct her own private mausoleum, equipped with an alarm system that she could activate upon awakening. Roger Collins feared what such a thing might do to the family's already bizarre reputation and tried to convince her to renovate a section of the Collins family mausoleum instead. (DS 614)

Notes & Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Actress Joan Bennett is the only Dark Shadows cast member to appear in both the first and final episodes of the series.

The Vicki Connection[edit | edit source]

It was never established through the course of the series whether Liz was Victoria Winters' mother or not. Media published after the show's cancellation attempted to resolve the mystery and at least two sources posited that Liz was in fact Vicki's mother. One was the 2003 play Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood, which was set thirty years following the cancellation of the series. The other was the novel Dreams of the Dark written by Dark Shadows luminary Lara Parker. The novel included an epilogue in which Elizabeth revealed that she was in fact Vicki's mother. None of the expanded material shed light as to why Liz abandoned her daughter at the Hammond Foundling home.

See also[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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