BY DAVID B HARRINGTON
In the West End of London where the wealthy and well-to-do gather in the coffee shops and in the opium dens, there was a brothel over in Rosemont on Cranston Street by the name of Bardow Parlours. Bardow Parlours was a high-class bordello run by Madame Dupree which catered exclusively to aristocrats and dignitaries. The courtesans working there were young, beautiful and expensive. Of the dozen or so strumpets who offered their services at Bardow Parlours, there was one exceptionally audacious tart by the name of Madalyne who was so popular among Madame Dupree’s clientele that she even had her own private penthouse which only the richest of the rich could afford to visit. Madalyne was of Flemish descent and looked exquisitely charming and foxy, with long auburn hair and big blue eyes resembling those of a Siamese cat. The lady’s soft, supple skin was perfectly flawless and silky smooth to the touch. Her flowery scent was sweet and intoxicating like apple blossoms. Unlike the other prostitutes at the brothel who donned gaudy colourful hats and long flowing skirts, Madalyne always wore her hair down and dressed scantily in slinky scarlet and purple skirts, sashes and scarves with roses, magnolias and lilies embroidered in fine silk. Everyday Madalyne would sit at her vanity methodically brushing her long silky hair, and gaze at her reflection in the looking glass, saying to herself with pride, “I am so beautiful. Every man desires me.”
Sir Francis Draconian was the only son of a wealthy sea merchant who made his fortune sailing the seven seas selling and trading silk, furs, spices and many other valuable commodities throughout London and beyond. Sir Francis inherited the noble Draconian estate and all his father’s wealth at the age of eighteen and carried on the tradition as a hardworking maritime entrepreneur. He had a reputation as a savvy businessman who dealt only with the upper echelon in Europe, Asia and Africa. Sir Francis Draconian was also very fond of Madalyne and on Friday and Saturday evenings he would take his chauffeur and two of his finest thoroughbreds and ride to Rosemont on Cranston Street to spend the night in her penthouse suite. Whenever he came calling on Madalyne he always showered her with exotic gifts and treasures from around the world to enhance her lavish and luxurious lifestyle. He presented her with dazzling jewellery, jade and cinnabar from the Far East; ivory, Wedgewood, crystal balls, and shiny mirrors, as well as a rare collection of intricately painted miniature figureheads carved from the finest ebony, rosewood and aquilaria. He brought her sweetly fragranced incense and candles, perfumes and scented bath oils from France; sumptuous shawls and furs of mink, sable and fox, magnificent sculptures and paintings by the Masters from Spain and Italy; bronze and marble statues, vessels of silver and gold encrusted with precious stones, and alabaster from the north of Africa. And of course Madalyne’s favourite piece, a stunning eighteen carat gold salamander brooch from 15th century France which she wore wherever she went. The stickpin was beautifully engraved in delicate detail. The back was set with a line of alternating mother of pearls and Persian turquoise cabochons, the eyes set with two large radiant emeralds from Egypt.
Sir Francis’ infatuation for this beautiful young harlot became an obsession and he soon found himself falling hopelessly in love. Sometimes he would take her out to the theatre where they would put on quite a show themselves. She would then escort him to a fancy restaurant by the wharf or go on a long carriage ride along the Thames before returning to her penthouse for the night. Out in public Madalyne’s sultry, skimpy outfits often caused quite a stir, but she was really a perfect gentleman’s lady. In bed the baron could always count on her to be a real nymphomaniac, experimenting with sexual pleasures and fetishes he had only dreamed of in his youth. Naturally all the other bawds at Madame Dupree’s brothel were jealous of Madalyne and they would lash out at her and shout wretched insults as she passed by. But Madalyne was too vain to give a damn, she just ignored them and strutted proudly by. As for Madame Dupree, she pretty much stayed out of Madalyne’s way and let her carry out her business in any manner she chose. She was after all her bread and butter. The 25% earnings that Madame Dupree received from the classy call girl kept Bardow Parlours in operation.
Madalyne considered most men to be nothing more than shallow, gluttonous slobs with only three things on their minds: strong drink, red meat and loose women. To her men were just dull, disgusting, horny little pigs that could be discarded like rubbish. But Madalyne felt very differently about Sir Francis. She thought highly of him and treated the baron with the utmost dignity and respect. He was an extraordinarily handsome, sophisticated and distinguished gentleman, always kind and courteous and he cherished her dearly.
After nearly a year of courtship Sir Francis Draconian and Madalyne Vandeveer were finally married in Saint James’ Church. The wedding ceremony was extravagant and glorious with over a hundred of their wealthy aristocratic friends in attendance. The reception banquet later that evening was held in the ballroom at Draconian Palace on Cromwell Road and included some of the finest exotic cuisine in all of Europe. The atmosphere was gay and festive with plenty of song and dance and an overabundance of brandy and vintage wines from France and Italy. Later that evening there was a massive orgy with many well-known celebrities and other distinguished guests from all over England. The wild party lasted all night. Madame Dupree and all her strumpets from Bardow Parlours were there, providing non-stop entertainment for all the wealthy barons and magnates.
One evening while travelling abroad, conducting business in the Mediterranean port town of Marseilles in southern France, Sir Francis Draconian was robbed by a couple of thugs near the docks and left for dead. His body was found floating in the bay by some passers-by the next morning and his remains were sent back to London for interment in Saint James’ Abbey. Sir Francis Draconian and Madalyne Vandeveer bore no children, nor did they have any living relatives, which according to his will made Madalyne the sole beneficiary of the baron’s estate and the spacious twenty-five room Draconian Palace in Kensington.
To go along with her enchanting charm and radiant beauty was the harlot’s strange supernatural ability to vanish at will or mysteriously turn men into stone. She was well practiced in the ancient art of magic and witchcraft, and could seduce even the most savage of brute or beast with just one glance from her piercing blue eyes. As a sorceress Madalyne delved deeply into the occult, conjuring up spirits, casting spells on unsuspecting victims, and even reading men’s minds. Sometimes she would invoke or unknowingly attract the undead, like vampires, werewolves, and other shadowy shape-shifting fiends. Even the foulest of evil spirits and demons from the underworld found it favourable to follow the young temptress around and terrify anybody who came near. On one occasion, while shopping for lace scarves and shawls in the fancy boutiques on London’s posh West End, Madalyne was ambushed by a pair of mudlarks who were intent on robbing and ravishing her. When they came at her to tear off her clothes, she simply looked them in the eyes and they fainted where they stood and turned to stone.
Weary of leading the life of a wealthy widow, Madalyne Vandeveer secured the services of a broker to liquidate her assets and sell the elaborate Draconian Palace she had inherited and purchase a quaint little cottage by the sea near Dover in Kent. One day Madalyne took no less than a half dozen strongmen to guard and protect her, climbed aboard her elegant calash, and set off through the English countryside toward the coast. Now she was perfectly capable of protecting herself from just about anything. The escorts were nothing more than a display of power and prosperity who went along strictly for her own amusement. Along the way she would entertain herself by putting on peep shows for the rough and tumble guards just to pass the time, knowing that she could have any one of them any time she pleased. Madalyne enjoyed watching them get aroused and all worked up as they watched her strip through the carriage window. Their insatiable lust and frustration for her burning up inside them like an unquenchable fire. Outside, her ethereal beauty could tame even the wildest of savages, but inside her scandalous heart was like a ravenous wolf, full of contempt. When they finally reached their destination she opened up her coffers and paid the escorts quite handsomely, then sent them on their way, knowing perfectly well that they would just waste it all away on strong drink and the comfort of the cheap floozies waiting in the alleys.
When Madalyne was out and about in Dover, the townspeople would stop and stare as she passed by. The women and children scoffed at her from the street corners while the young men flocked around and tried to proposition her in any way they could. She rode into Dover one day with much fanfare, and everybody in town knew who she was, where she had come from, and all about her lavish lifestyle and promiscuous past. What they didn’t know was that Madalyne Vandeveer was a powerful and cunning witch with a wicked heart and a bitter distaste for men.
Sometimes when the weather was fair Madalyne and her entourage would make the day-long journey to Maidstone and lodge for the night in the most luxurious inn with full accommodations. If it was sunny, the next day she would visit Penenden Heath, notorious site of the hangings of a handful of accused witches in the mid-1600s. This always raised a lot of eyebrows from the townspeople, especially the archbishop and magistrates who followed her around from stone to stone.
Oftentimes Madalyne would take the ferry across the channel to France or Belgium and hire a chaperone to chauffeur her into Paris or Brussels, always lodging in the most luxurious suites at the fanciest chateaus. In the evening she would glide vigorously through the streets of the red light district to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the nightlife, attracting attention wherever she went. Sometimes she would stop in for a drink or two at the secret swanky underground nightclubs around town to mingle with her old vampyre friends and other nefarious creatures. On one occasion, while Madalyne was away in Paris, the archbishop and all the magistrates in and around Dover and Maidstone consorted to devise a clever plot that they might falsely accuse her of some callous and dreadful transgression and put her to death. In her absence they dispatched a spy to Folkestone to watch for the ferry returning from Calais. Later that night they disguised themselves in hooded cloaks and masqueraded under the cover of darkness to
Penenden Heath to desecrate the graves of the heretics that Madalyne loved. They opened up thirteen of the unholy graves and removed the detached skulls. Then they surreptitiously carried them back to Dover and buried them in a circle in the woods behind Madalyne’s cottage to make it appear like some bizarre and twisted ritual that she had performed.
Two days later word came from the lookout that Madalyne’s ferry had docked in Folkestone and that she was on her way back to Dover. The spy followed her into town, staying about five furlongs behind so as not to be noticed. When Madalyne arrived back at her cottage later that evening, the archbishop and magistrates were waiting with constables to arrest her. They falsely accused her of witchcraft and necrophilia for digging up and desecrating the graves at Penenden Heath. When she heard the news she wept hysterically and flatly denied knowing anything about it, claiming that she had been out of town so how could she have anything to do with the crimes? The constables detained her nonetheless and brought in the bloodhounds to search her property. It didn’t take them long to sniff out the skulls buried in the woods. They immediately arrested Madalyne, whipped her thirteen times and threw her into a dungeon for the night. The following morning they brought her back to the cottage in shackles. But instead of hanging or burning her at the stake as was the customary practice for executing those convicted of witchcraft in these days, they chained her up inside a coffin and clandestinely buried her alive in the middle of the skull circle, leaving her to die in agony. Her tormented moans and desperate cries for help could be heard coming from the woods all night until she finally succumbed the next day.
To this day it is rumoured by many that the ghost of Madalyne Vandeveer still haunts these woods. It has been reported that her desperate and agonizing cries for mercy left unanswered can still be heard coming from the woods at night. For nearly two and a half centuries since Madalyne’s execution, there have been numerous sightings of strange and eerie spectres and ghost-like figures near the site of her old cottage. The cottage has long since disappeared, but the woods are purported by many to be haunted by evil spirits, including the wayward ghost of Madalyne Vandeveer.