Ada Amelia Coffin was a high priestess of The Faith of the First Mother and the fourth wife of Silas Silver IX. Since her death in 1892, she has lingered inside The Strumpet’s Sister—rather than moving on to whatever’s next. Employed for many years in that establishment as a simple waitress, she has recently risen to rank of Barkeep.
Defined in her afterlife by her hatred of The Silver Family, she plays a pivotal role in the novel The Chains of Desire and will turn up again in The Elixir of Denial. The story of her death is told in The Seven Wives of Silver.
Appearance & Personality
Aside from the marks of strangulation upon her neck—which she typically hides beneath makeup—Ada looks exactly as she did when she died. She is a slender, well-endowed brunette with a mastery over body language and facial expressions which she honed during her years as a prostitute.
Her ability to charm the pants off potential customers served her well as the fourth wife of the notoriously cantankerous Silas Silver IX—as did her ability to play dumb. In fact, Ada thrives on being underestimated—and takes great pleasure in taking advantage of others’ miscalculations. She is a truly cunning woman, making up for what she lacks in “book learning” with an intuition that is unrivaled—and an even temper which, generally speaking, lets her pick apart even the most precarious situation without losing her cool.
And yet, while Ada is the master of her emotions in most situations, encounters with members of the Silver Family are consistently a challenge for her. Because of the way things ended between her and her husband, she finds it exceedingly hard to keep her cool when faced with one of Old Silas’ descendants.
Warning: Here there be spoilers.
Ada was born on Cape Cod in February 1865 to the unwed Delilah Dunlap, a priestess of the First Mother and a descendant of the Wampanoag peoples of Massachusetts. Because Ada was conceived during an orgiastic ritual, during which her mother copulated with several different men, the identity of her biological father remains a mystery. That said, she was adopted by the man her mother eventually married: Edgar Coffin.
Growing up poor, on what her husband would later call “the mudsill of society,” Ada nevertheless led a rich interior life. With a “witch” for a mother and the town drunk for a father, Ada grew up in a house with no shortage of stories. And that made it all the easier for her to lose herself in daydreams on the days when the so-called “real” world was all too much to bear.
She lost her father first, to the demons he’d brought home with him from the Civil War, and she lost her mother soon after that—to a gang of women who blamed their own husbands’ demons on Delilah’s “witchy” ways.
Taken in at age ten by the town brothel’s madam—a fellow priestess from her mother’s coven—Ada spent the remainder of her childhood cleaning house and tending to the needs of the working girls she took to calling Auntie This and Auntie That. Though a couple from the nearby town of Mashpee once came and tried to take her, claiming to be blood relatives of her mother, they were shooed off by the madam and her girls.
Though she had been privy to a great deal since coming to live in the brothel, Ada’s education in The Faith of the First Mother did not truly begin until she herself had bled for the first time. It was only at that point that the madam and the other priestesses who worked in the establishment began to truly take her under their wing.
Having picked up the theory of sex magic rather quickly, it took frighteningly little time for the precocious Ada to put theory into practice. She was casting spells of self-love by the time she was twelve, and advocating for an early First Touch by the time she was fourteen. But though she lay with boy after boy as a way to prove she was ready, and had even begun to flirt with the full-grown men who frequented the brothel’s parlor, her caretakers would not budge. Ada would wait until she was eighteen, just as each of them had before her.
Frustrated, she turned away from the Faith for a time and began to focus her energies on deciphering an old spellbook of her mother’s—some of it written in Wôpanâak, the Algonquian language of her Native American ancestors. And it was in these pages that Ada discovered the recipe for a potion which would unstick her in time.
Delighted by the discovery, Ada began to visit her dead mother each night to seek her counsel. Then, gradually, she began to venture further and further backward in time—using the power of the blood passed from mother to daughter to bring herself all the way back to a woman she took to be the First Mother herself. By the time the women she lived with were ready to allow Ada her First Touch, the confident young woman believed she had surpassed them all in arcane knowledge anyway.
And yet, that didn’t stop her from counting the days until her ceremony—just like every girl before her and every girl since.
On the night Ada turned 18, the brothel was closed and the parlor—the largest room in the house—was chosen as the site for the First Touch. Ada wanted far more than the requisite two witnesses to watch over her; in fact, she wanted every woman who worked in the brothel, priestess or not, to be present. She wanted them to see what she could do, wanted them to see the raw potential they’d been denying for so long.
For her partner, Ada selected the brothel’s most frequent customer: a whaler who’d been coming to the place for thirty years at this point. Over the course of his many visits, he had bedded every girl in the place—and made a name for himself as the consummate lover in the process. That was why Ada wanted him, of course. And yet, the man felt a certain unease about fucking the girl who’d been taking his coat at the door since she was 10—not to mention performing the act in front of the entire household. Only a healthy measure of whiskey gave him the gumption to carry on.
Over the next seven years, Ada made a name for herself in the brothel. Though she was in high demand at the start, being the freshest face of the bunch, her talents kept her amongst the most requested girls for far longer than anyone who had come before her. And so it was that she came to the attention of her future husband in the second half of 1890.
The recently widowed Silas Silver IX, though forty-six at this point himself, was still searching for a woman who could make him a father—a quest he‘d been set upon by his own mother while she lay on her death bed. After one night with Ada, he felt certain she would be the one.
They married in October 1890, with Ada only consenting to the union if Silas would tear down his house for her. Within five minutes of her first visit to the place, she determined it was haunted by the foulest of evil spirits. And though she remained uncertain that removing the old colonial would drive away the unhappy haunts, she knew that it couldn’t hurt—and she wanted to see just how far Silas would go to please her.
In the enormous Victorian which Silas had built atop the ruins of his mother’s home, Ada searched for the perfect room in which to conceive. According to the short story “The Tale of Old Silas,” the newlyweds made love in each of the new house’s eleven rooms—but only their libidos were sated, never their desire for a child.
And it had truly become their desire, for Silas’ longing for an heir was matched only by Ada’s desperation to save her mother’s bloodline from oblivion.
In 1892, nearly two years into their marrage—and still without so much as a lost pregnancy to show for it—a demoralized Ada finally conceived the spell that would help her conceive. As documented in both The Seven Wives of Silver and The Chains of Desire, Ada concocted a version of her family’s ancient unsticking potion which allowed her to bring someone back to life.
Using flakes of dust taken from the inside of the boot of her husband’s late father, Ada called Silas Silver VIII through time to do what his son could not: get her pregnant. But as Ada told Silas once the deed was done, no one would know, and “no one need know.” The line of Silas Silver would continue. Did it matter how that glorious result was achieved?
Yes. It mattered. It mattered to Silas.
In the aftermath of Ada’s bizarre ritual, Silas strangled his wife in a crime of passion and fear. “Who knows what wicked growth dwells inside of you now?” he spat at Ada, as he choked the life out of her. “It may be the spawn of the devil or a mere figment of my tortured imagination, but I will chance neither. If a father I am meant to be, a father I will be. But not this way. Not. This. Way.”
But the life of Ada Coffin would not end with her death, nor would the life of her child. Silas’ murderous actions would simply spin the yarn of the Coffins and the Silvers in its strangest direction yet.
In the wake of the time manipulation which had brought Silas VIII back to life, the child that Silas VIII and Ada conceived began to develop at a far faster rate than it should have. And that was a lucky thing for Ada, because it was the fact of her blood flowing through a living thing which allowed her spirit to linger—to linger long enough to witness the birth of her son.
After the murderous Silas IX passed out at the site of his dead wife’s belly swelling with an ungodly pregnancy, a living baby emerged from the cold womb of Ada’s cooling corpse. Ada watched, with a mixture of horror and delight, as the child she had longed for came into the world.
And then, a hand on her shoulder told her it was time to go.
The then-Barkeep of the Strumpet’s Sister had come to collect Ada and bring her to that purgatorial place. Together, they took the baby from the Silver home—not daring to think what Silas might do with it—and deposited upon the doorstep of the family which would call him Leonard Gates. Then the Barkeep brought Ada inside The Strumpet’s Sister, and the long captivity of her afterlife began.
And yet, despite being trapped within the four walls of that otherworldly bar, Ada continued to have an impact on life in the outside world.
In 1915, she gathered the ghosts of five of her husband’s other six wives from across time and space to render judgment upon the time-traveling interloper that was his first love—and together they hired an assassin to put an end to the woman.
In 1990, she rescued a piece of newsprint from fireplace to help her descendant Robin Gates avoid the awful fate that destiny had planned for her.
In 2003, she counseled Robin and tried to keep her inside the walls of The Strumpet’s Sister until the day she was to be murdered had passed. She didn’t succeed, but she nearly did—with Robin not emerging from the place for two years.
And those are just the incidents we know about at present. Little birds tell us that more may eventually be revealed in the final two novels of The Stains of Time series: The Elixir of Denial, due out in December 2021; and The Dance of Dreams, which is should arrive in 2022.
Yes, her meddling did eventually lead to the very death she was trying to prevent—her goading of one of Robin’s fans to kill Robin’s “nasty” girlfriend ending in Robin’s murder instead—but Ada never stopped trying to get what she wanted out of life, not even after she was dead herself.
Behind the Scenes
Ada Coffin was the lead character in E. Christopher Clark’s stage play The Boot, which had its world premiere at the Players’ Ring in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in July 2012 as part of An Evening of Grand Guignol.
Erika Wilson played the part of Ada in that production, and the character wouldn’t be the same without her influence.