The online trail of a secret sex cult

By James Cook on October 24th, 2013

A glamorous London mansion, a phoney British Lord serving jail time, a television executive with access to the most famous people on the planet, a secure website filled with symbols, fake news articles and falsified statements from the Vatican… 

The story of The Secret Order of Libertines reads like the plot of a film. Perhaps that’s because it is one: this secret sex society is, as the story goes, the group that the 1926 novella Dream Story was based on. In 1999, or so the sex cult would have you believe, that book became the movie Eyes Wide Shut, a louche epic of nobility, fame, cults, and exclusive orgies.

The Kernel has identified some of the people behind a group which claims to host sex parties in at least five locations across Europe. In addition, we have uncovered a series of internet fabrications invented in an attempt to weave a 1,000 year history of sex and mystery, and linked the cult to a notorious address in London owned by a convicted fraudster and “fake lord”.

The Secret Order Of Libertines is the name of a lavishly designed website with two known web presences: secretorderoflibertines.com and secretorderoflibertines.org. The websites are near-identical, featuring an ominous white key symbol that links to a map of Europe.

The symbol of The Secret Order Of Libertines guards their secure website.

The symbol of The Secret Order Of Libertines guards their secure website.

The next page on the website shows the five bases of The Secret Order Of Libertines.

The next page on the website shows the five bases of The Secret Order Of Libertines.

The stern warning that accompanies the instructions for members to enter their card numbers.

The stern warning that accompanies the instructions for members to enter their card numbers.

After reaching the warning screen, a log-in prompt appears. Without a valid username or password, that’s as far as you can get. Or at least, that’s what they want. Attempting to find pages other than “terra” or “ostium” by entering random URLs results in a stern warning:

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But the site is not as polished and secure as it first appears.

In a line of HTML code on an empty subdomain on the site, we discovered an iCloud username for an account used to create a page on Apple’s now-defunct iWeb service. We traced the email address associated with that username to Mark Hiley, who also goes by the names Mark Hiley-d’Angeros and Hiley Dangerous.

Hiley is a television executive with a career history touching some of the world’s best-loved children’s television programmes. But our investigation reveals that Hiley has created something even more enthralling than The Tweenies – or even Eurotrash, for which he was a producer: the website of The Secret Order Of Libertines.

Public photographs on Mark Hiley's Facebook Timeline reveal a passion for masked parties.

Public photographs on Mark Hiley’s Facebook Timeline reveal a passion for masked parties.

In an interview from 2011, published on the website of Polish men’s magazine Logo24, Hiley, using the name “Mark Hiley-d’Angeros”, discusses feeling “honoured” to attend orgies with his famous model girlfriend. According to the interview, these parties were reminiscent of the film Eyes Wide Shut.

When contacted by The Kernel, Hiley denied giving those statements, claiming that he only agreed to dress up for a photoshoot to be published only in print and in Poland. He does, however, admit to having a former girlfriend who enjoyed sex parties.

According to Hiley, he received the original Polish text of his interview and sent it over to “a couple of Polish girlfriends” asking for them to translate it for him. After reading the contents of the article, he says they never spoke to him again.

He never admitted to attending “6 orgies with [Soho dandy] Sebastian Horsely”, he says. Hiley told us that following our reporting he has asked for the article to be removed from the internet.

Premium real estate

Mark Hiley has a public photo album on Facebook. Within it, he shares photographs of “The House”, a glamorous London mansion. The basement of the house features a sauna and specially built Jacuzzi in a private lounge that can be closed off from the rest of the basement.

The Kernel identified this address as 33 Portland Place, confirmed as the site of numerous sexually charged celebrity parties over the last few decades.

A photograph of the mansion's basement upload to Hiley's Facebook Timeline. One of his friends posted a comment that reads "if walls could speak ;)"

A photograph of the mansion’s basement upload to Hiley’s Facebook Timeline.

The private bathroom of Hiley's house, featuring a fox mask resting on a bust to the left of the oversized bath.

The private bathroom of the house, featuring a fox mask resting on a bust to the left of the ornate bath.

The full album on Facebook features many shots of the house’s lavish interior, along with masks and feathered hats.
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Despite having advertised on Facebook for someone to “look after the place” while he goes travelling, Hiley claimed to The Kernel that he merely rents an attic room at the mansion and that the property is “filled with tenants”.

Out of order

As for The Secret Order of Libertines, little is known about them. They have no Wikipedia page, nor any articles written about them. On conspiracy forums across the internet, it is theorised that the group employs people to remove web references to them.

But, in fact, the opposite appears to be the case. The people behind the group have posted fabricated information about themselves online, intending to concoct a sense of mystery around their activities.

Some of these falsifications are highly elaborate. Wikimedia user “Rimachehloue“, in his only activity on the site, writes: “The emblem of the Secret Order of Libertines (first known version, held in the Vatican Archives dated 10th Century and still in use today. Said to represent a key-shaped thyrsus”

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For a document from the Vatican archives said to be at least 1,000 years old, the seal of The Secret Order Of Libertines is in remarkably good condition. That is almost certainly because it was created by whoever designed the logo for the order’s website. Indeed, on the same page that he claims the seal is over 1,000 years old, the user who uploaded it lists it as their own work.

Wiki mischief

The Order has a long history of inserting historical references to itself in Wikipedia articles to build a sense of mystery around its parties.

A Wikipedia user named “Miles Dangerfield” has made 21 edits on the site. Almost all of them were to the profiles of famous Libertines, defined as one who is devoid of most moral restraints – certainly the kind of attendee that an exclusive orgy club would welcome. “Miles Dangerfield” created the only references to The Secret Order Of Libertines on Wikipedia, slipping them into an article about infamously immoral libertines.

When The Kernel asked Mark Hiley whether he is “Miles Dangerfield”, he denied that he has used that Wikipedia name. Hiley did, however, admit to attempting to “create a bit of a buzz … which may have included Wikipedia and posting all sorts of stuff on the internet”. He also later told us he “doesn’t remember” the specifics of his Wikipedia activities.

In addition to fake Wikipedia statements, someone connected with The Secret Order Of Libertines has falsified a statement from the Vatican. Various conspiracy sites online claim that Cardinal Raffaele Farina denounced the Order as a “sex cult” after a fictitious wave of publicity, including multiple Italian newspaper articles and coverage in Le Monde.

Whoever created this quotation likely chose Raffaele Farina due to his role as Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives. But Vatican sources told The Kernel that not only do the Vatican archives contain no imagery related any organisation by this name, no statement was ever made by a Cardinal Farina about the order either.

All the news that’s fit to print

The elaborate fabrications, allegedly by Mark Hiley, include making up fake newspaper coverage on the internet.

The Kernel found a link to a story purportedly published by the Daily Mail in October 2009, which was being used by the order as proof of “censorship”. According to anonymous online conspiracy theorists, this URL used to be home to an article linking Prince Wenzeslaus of Liechtenstein to the group via a photograph of a ring he once wore.

However, the Daily Mail has never used the domain name dailymailnewspapers.co.uk, and the unique article number actually originates from an unconnected article published in October 2009 about the Taliban. When contacted by The Kernel a source at the Mail denied that the newspaper had ever published such a story.

A cached version of the page from March 31 2012 displays “This article has been removed, due to legal reasons.” and an error code. Neither the legal notice or the error code are used by the Daily Mail.

This is all that remains of the fake Daily Mail article linking the Prince to The Secret Order Of Libertines.

This is all that remains of the fake Daily Mail article linking an innocent European Prince to The Secret Order Of Libertines.

The fake news website was used to falsely link a European monarch to The Secret Order Of Libertines, presumably to build intrigue around the group. But who is behind this campaign? The answer is found in the WHOIS record for the domain, which is owned by the same television executive, Mark Hiley.

The WHOIS listing reveals the same Apple email address accidentally revealed in the code of The Secret Order of Libertines’s website.

Mark Hiley admitted to The Kernel that he created the fake Daily Mail site as part of a “game”. He explained how he buys similar domain names to popular brands and point them to the actual sites, hoping that the company will pay him for the website. As for the fake Daily Mail site, he claims he “forgot” to redirect it.

The WHOIS record for the fake Daily Mail lists 33 Portland Place, City of Westminster, London as its owner’s address.

Portland Place is one of London’s most famous houses. Over the years it has been the location for a raunchy Kate Moss photo-shoot and its boozy after-party, the location for the music video of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab and also the set for Lionel Logue’s office in The King’s Speech. 33 Portland Place has over 100 rooms and 24 bedrooms.

Photographs uploaded to the 33 Portland Place website and Facebook page establish that it is the same London mansion Mark Hiley photographed for his Facebook profile.

The specially built Jacuzzi in the basement sauna of 33 Portland Place.

The specially built Jacuzzi in the basement sauna of 33 Portland Place.

An attic room at Portland Place filled with bedding, cushions and velvet drapes.

An attic room at Portland Place filled with bedding, cushions and velvet drapes.

Photographs of fox masks and red drapes are hardly evidence of exclusive parties. But The Kernel talked to a well-known media figure in London who preferred to remain anonymous. When we mentioned The Secret Order Of Libertines, they confirmed to us that they had been invited to an “outer sanctum” party.

The Kernel understands that these parties are invitation-only and open to people who are not members of the secretive society. After hearing of an online registration form for attendance of these parties, The Kernel used the phrase “outersanctum” to discover a subdomain on the Order’s website that included HTML code linking it to Hiley.

Hiley claims that the Secret Order Of Libertines never existed, that their website was never used, that no money was ever made and that it was a “bit of fun”, “a joke” and “a game” he created for a friend who does run sex parties. According to Hiley, no invitations were ever sent out and no parties were ever held. He does, however, admit to “occasionally wandering down” and attending the “wild” parties held at Portland Place.

Who’s your daddy

So if Hiley did not run The Secret Order Of Libertines, who did? One notorious London character is closely connected to the whole story: Edward Davenport, otherwise known as Lord Edward Ormus Sharington Davenport, or “Fast Eddie”.

Davenport is a convicted fraudster, orgy-organiser and all-round European society hell-raiser.

Davenport first rose to infamy over the Gatecrasher Balls, giant parties in vast stately homes such as Longleat House and Weston Park. Up to 10,000 wealthy teenagers attended each party. Here’s how one attendee described his intentions at the party.

I’m here to get drunk and get laid

Davenport acquired 33 Portland Place through nefarious means. He took out a lease on the property from the government of Sierra Leone. It had previously been used as their High Commission in London. However, as civil war struck the African country, Davenport swooped and claimed the property as his own.

After settling in, Davenport put the 100+ room house to work, hosting lavish parties, photo shoots, pole-dancing lessons, fashions shows and porn film shoots.

One of the most famous tales about the house has Alex James of Blur paddling a small boat across a large room filled with 1,000 litres of Courvoisier cognac.

Some of the famous figures seen in 33 Portland Place.

Edward Davenport with some of the famous figures seen in 33 Portland Place.

Davenport’s parties at Portland Place hosted some of the world’s most famous faces. His website also claims that Jessica Rothschild has hosted a birthday party there. There is no suggestion that the celebrities mentioned here have attended orgies, or are or were members of The Secret Order Of Libertines, but they have been associated with both Davenport and his mansion.

“Lord” Davenport’s luck ran out in 2011 when he was sent to prison over a giant money-laundering and fraud scam. He was sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison. The Kernel’s sources with experience of “outer sanctum” party invitations told us that the invitations stopped coming in 2011, the year that Davenport was sent to prison.

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Davenport’s former address is not his only link back to The Secret Order Of Libertines. A simple check of his Wikipedia page reveals a clue hiding in plain sight: the image on his article was uploaded by none other than “Miles Dangerfield” – the same user who spent over a year editing Wikipedia to slip in references to the secret society to popular pages.

The user describes the photograph as “My portrait of Edward Davenport, taken at his home on Portland Place”.

Mark Hiley denies being an employee, colleague or friend of Davenport. Apparently they don’t get along, and the tenants of 33 Portland Place are involved in a “legal battle” with Davenport. One of the only interactions that Hiley has had with Davenport was “helping him with his Wikipedia page”, which Davenport was apparently “obsessed” with.

There are two possible explanations for The Secret Order Of Libertines: an aborted and fanciful idea created by mischievous media types hoping to host some fun parties, or yet another orgy club created for a fraudster and friend to the stars .

In an attempt to clear this up once and for all, The Kernel tried to telephone Lord Edward Davenport in his new 100+ room London home: HM Prison Wandsworth. The staff explained politely that there was no way we could talk to him.