Dateline: Seattle, March 2016
Holy shit. I was sipping a whiskey in Seattle the other day, after seeing Nightwish (and Delain and Sonata Arctica). The label on the whiskey was “Madame Damnable.”
“Curious name,” I pondered.
So I did what curious girls do these days: I Googled the bitch.
Okay, listen. Seattle is known worldwide as a legit cosmopolitan city. When locals aren’t playing on their boats, hiking in the legendary forests or sipping a Starbucks coffee, they work at companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing.
But apparently Seattle wasn’t always the center of high-tech sophistication. It was once a rough-and-tumble frontier town, filled with hard men like lumberjacks, women of ill repute, and crusty old sea captains. One such sea Captain of a whaling ship grew tired of the shrew he regretfully married. So he left her marooned in a port near Seattle, much to the relief of his crew, and to the eventual dismay of even the most hardened settler in Seattle.
(An item of note here is that her husband was apparently such a badass his name was “Bull Conklin.” Or perhaps he got the nickname for anatomical reasons. In either case, he was no match for his woman.)
I can imagine a young Mary Ann Conklin giving her sea Captain ex-husband a big, double-fisted “EFF YOU!” as he sailed away. She was free. Thanks for the ride out of prudish Pennsylvania, I don’t need you anymore.
Mary Ann ends up running a hotel, with her own side business upstairs. That’s right, our heroine becomes the proprietor of a house of impropriety.
Dark woman, she.
Not a fool, she spoke six languages, and was renowned for her ability to curse so profusely, hardened sailors withered under her verbal assault. You heard that right, this foul-mouthed brothel madame could dress down lumberjacks and sailors in six languages; Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish.
As one story goes, the US Navy Decatur was stationed in the bay for protection of the residents of Seattle. The military had to put a new road through town, which was to run right past her “establishment.” In doing so, the men had to clear back some of the shrubbery that provided a degree of discretion for her clients. She attacked the soldiers with an apron full of rocks and a mouth full of curses. Lieutenant Thomas Phelps called her a “demon in petticoats” and relates the story:
“The moment our men appeared upon the scene, with three dogs at her heels, and an apron filled with rocks, this termagant would come tearing from the house, and the way stones, oaths, and curses flew was something fearful to contemplate, and, charging like a fury, with the dogs wild to flesh their teeth in the detested invaders, the division invariably gave way before the storm, fleeing, officers and all, as if old Satan himself was after them.”
Is it any wonder that she become known in Seattle as “Madame Damnable?”
Asking the bartender for another dram, I continued reading. (Yes, guys, I’m that hot girl at the bar wearing black with her nose in her phone. I have a two million dark souls who read my site and count on me to tell these dark tales!)
This story would be good enough if it ended there. But that’s not all.
Madame Damnable died at the ripe old age of 70 and was buried in plot that would be exhumed and moved only eleven years later. The Seattle P.I. (still the local paper of record) quotes the contractor hired by the city to move the hundreds of bodies so the City could build Denny Park in that location.
According to Oliver C. Shorey, as quoted in the newspaper:
“Last week among the remains taken up and removed were those of Mrs. Mary Conklin…We discovered that the coffin was very heavy, weighing at least 400 pounds and it took six men to lift it out of the grave. On removing the lid to the coffin we found that she had turned to stone. Her form was full sized and perfect, the ears, finger nails and hair being all intact. Covering the body was a dark dust, but after that was removed the form was as white as marble and as hard as stone.”
Her dark soul was so hard, it turned her lifeless body to stone.
Bartender, give me one more before I slink out into the night. Make it a double, neat.
What’s that? Yes, another shot of Madame Damnable Whiskey. I feel a dark kinship with the old gal.
Seattle, you skanky little town. You pretend you’re a classy woman, but you have a past just like the rest of us.
I’ll drink to that.
Born, Mary Ann Boyer, “Madame Damnable” was marooned near Seattle by her husband, the sea captain of a whaling ship.
A rare photo of a Seattle brothel. Notice the erotic photos on the wall. Most women of the evening were exploited Native Americans or Chinese. But desperate white women who had traveled west to find a husband often found themselves turning to Madame Damnable to survive.
The Felker House, known later as the “Conklin House” or “Mother Damnable’s” as it stood in the late 1800s. It burned to the ground in the Great Seattle fire.