David Collins was the son of Roger Collins and lived at the family estate, Collinwood in Collinsport, Maine. When David was ten-years-old, Roger hired a young woman from Boston named Maggie Evans to work at Collinwood as a governess to young David. David was a troublesome child and was prone to test Maggie's nerves by playing various cruel pranks upon her.
In June of 1970, David created a harness and pretended to hang himself from the closet of his bedroom. Maggie discovered him and shrieked in horror, believing the boy to be dead. She ran downstairs to alert his father and aunt, Elizabeth Stoddard. When they arrived in David's room, they found the closet empty. David had fooled her yet again.
That same evening, David turned up missing. Roger wanted the boy found, but had little interest in actually searching for him himself. He instructed Maggie Evans to patrol the grounds of the estate and find him. Maggie eventually walked over to the ruins of the original family mansion, commonly referred to as the Old House. She knew that David liked to play there, and in all likelihood, that was where he could be found. Indeed, David was at the Old House and he locked Maggie inside one of the upstairs bedrooms. He raced back to Collinwood and tried to get to his room unnoticed. Maggie's boyfriend, Jeff Clark caught him trying to sneak back into the house.
Shortly thereafter, David suffered the greatest trauma of his young life. A vampire began terrorizing Collinsport, and had murdered his cousin, Carolyn. David tried to put forth a strong façade at Carolyn's funeral, but the shock of her death left a permanent scar upon him.
After the funeral, David went down to the empty remains of the old indoor swimming pool. He began bouncing a tennis ball off of the concrete walls singing, "If I catch this one – Carolyn isn't dead". As luck would have it, he was partially right. Carolyn Stoddard had risen from the grave as one of the undead. She appeared before David in the gloom of the swimming pool and began beckoning him. David feared that Carolyn intended him harm, and raced back to the main house. He excitedly exclaimed that Carolyn was alive, but the rest of the family dismissed his ravings as the byproduct of extreme grief.
A few weeks later, the identity of the vampire was discovered. It was his distant relative, Barnabas Collins. Barnabas was eventually destroyed, but not after he had managed to kill several more people including David’s father.
David left Collinwood shortly after this calamity. Where David went, and under what circumstances, has never been revealed (Night of Dark Shadows).
- In the continuity of the original Dark Shadows television series, David's mother was Laura Collins. The identity of his mother in House of Dark Shadows has never been revealed.
- In the television show, Victoria Winters was David's governess during the early Barnabas Collins storyline, and not Maggie Evans. By the time of the filming of House of Dark Shadows, Alexandra Moltke had left the series and Maggie Evans had been hired as David's governess in the story. The script for the film reflected the then-current cast situation on the series.