"A more dislikable scoundrel you will never expect to find treading God's green earth." -Arthur Conan Doyle
"A lithograph of his naked visage, Dear Fletcher, was the inspiration for the shoggoth-a truly Cyclopean sight fit only for the howling dreams of a previous, long-dead world, one best left uncovered by those charlatans who have the audacity to call themselves scientists." -H.P. Lovecraft
"May it be said that Primp plays to an audience of one--Primp." -Oscar Wilde
"A God-damn quack." -Aleister Crowley
Civil War veteran, trainee butcher, hookah enthusiast, alienist, and proto-Crowleyian sorceror, Josiah Quintus Primp remains to this day an enigma, a madman, a living god, or a cautionary tale for those who would strive to push beyond the natural order of things-depending on who you ask.
Josiah was born on April 30, 1839 in Gloucester, Massachusetts to Malachi Augustus Primp, a Scottish beef exporter, and his Danish maid, whose name may have been Helge or Ulrike. He was the ninth child of Malachi Augustus, who, being a stern Calvinist and ardent paramour, believed that all his progeny should be treated equally. Therefore, all of the children, Thaddeus Martel, Grimson, Daphnia Theodora, Hebert Ashleigh, Hamish Bartholomew, Hieronymus Tammuz, Maeve Bathory, (deceased, no name found), and Josiah enjoyed sleeping in a barn; drinking from a water-trough; being homeschooled in Greek, Latin, arithmatic, and charcuterie; and receiving horse whippings from their avuncular paterfamilias. In later correspondence to his followers, Josiah described his father as an "a man to whom potency and pungancy reigned in equal measures, a veritable Hercules raising the twin pillars of Dominance and Reason. He fed and clothed us, provided a roof over our heads, and sang Scottish rebel tunes while dipping his whip in oil and cold water, alternatively, to keep it supple. I hated him in every respect."
Whatever Josiah's personal feelings towards Malachi, the relationship between father and son grew closer following Christmas Day 1850, when Josiah, held in Malachi's handmade stocks for the night after making unflattering remarks about the works of Hume, escaped the barn fire that consumed his eight siblings. Malachi decided that Josiah was selected by God for a divine purpose yet to be revealed. He allowed the boy to live indoors, and fed him steaks, mince pies, muttons, and ale almost every night. This of course led to the boy swelling to the rotund shape which he would maintain for the rest of his life.
Once Josiah was of age (around 15, as he had to catch up on a good four years of general education), Malachi sent him to Wiltshire Academy, a secretive but highly priviledged academy popular at the time. Located in Catullus, Maine, a town long abandoned and now known as T4 R2, Maine, Wiltshire offered young men of means education in Latin (which Josiah already knew thanks to Malachi), Sanskrit, The Calculus, and Industry Captaincy. Whether or not it was there that Josiah began to experiment with opium, historians cannot say, but we do know that a troupe of sadhus were always on hand to teach Sanskrit, at least up until 1853, when the townsfolk of Catullus forced them to flee to New Hampshire. Before being driven off "to the Granite State, where all such heathen folk belong" as one townsman put it, it is suspected that they taught the youth use of the hookah and the poppy.
As for Josiah himself, little is known about his personal feelings about his time spent at the academy. He refused to discuss it in letters, other than to say his roommate moved out on the first day, claiming to be unnerved by the three by four foot painting of Malachi holding Faustus, the family goat. He appeared to get on well with his studies, and bonded with several students, some of whom were to play a later role in his researches.
It was around this time that Josiah began to cultivate the look the world knows today: rotundity, combined with a greasy combover (the lad began balding after daily lye-treatments administered by Malachi), and curving muttonchops resembling the numeral 2. His voice deepend into a gravelly nasalness, and he adorned the topmost of his chins with a soul patch. Malachi was proud of Josiah, and hoped that he would continue on to an Ivy League university, or at least West Point, a maritime academy or even the Kansas City Academy of Sarcology and Associated Meat-Based Sciences. But for Josiah, graduating from the academy at age 22 (recall that he had begun four years behind), this was not to be so. The War Between the States had kicked off, and Josiah would be caught up in the whirlwind that had torn the nation asunder.
Malachi volunteered Josiah in late 1861, at a time the Northern armies were at their ebb, securing a position as Quartermaster's Assistant for his regiment, the Massachusetts 47th, which was assimilated into the Army of the Potomac under Joseph Hooker. Battle, it appeared, did not suit Josiah well. Entries from his journal at the time indicate that he was "beaten regularly by the toothless hellhounds that made up the group", who appeared "jealous of my well-lined waistcoat". Worst among the band was the quartermaster himself, a Sergeant Franks by name, who was killed after the Second Battle of Bull Run in a freak accident involving the porridge-bowl and Josiah's buckknife. Josiah was promptly promoted to quartermaster-a job he carried out surprisingly well. Noted the regiment's officer, Captain Dawes: "Young Josiah's combination of cowardice and gluttony ensure that he avoids danger, and thus so does our food which is ever his companion."
Eventually, however, the war grew too much for Josiah. One night in October 1863, Dawes, after leading the troops through a grueling day's march, went around the campfires talking to his troops. At some point during these rounds, Josiah stole off into the night. Captain Dawes finally made his way to Josiah's tent, only to find the food locker still intact. Josiah had only taken a hob of bread with him, which astonished and impressed Dawes, who had been expecting Josiah to abscond with all the food, so much that he decided on the spot to tell the rest of the group that Josiah had been shot. This spared the young man the compulsory birch-whipping and strangulation were he to get caught.
The next interstitial period in Josiah's life is not well documented. Josiah's own diaries and letters remain reticent on the exact locales, though his later memoir, Under the Sun, the Spirit Runs, indicate that he first traveled to Delhi (though how or why he managed to travel there is unknown--one suspects the sadhus expelled from Maine). It is also known that he visited, over a five-year period, Jodhpur, Karachi, Vijayangar, and Waukesha, Wisconsin. It was during this time that Josiah found his true calling--alienism and sorcery. His memoir recounts his exploits: his first attempts at levitation, his philosophy of offering a yajna to his stomach through vigorous eating rather than burning the food in the traditional sacred fire, and his expulsion from India following the deflowering of the daughter of Her Majesty's viceroy's cousin in Calcutta. Josiah had found himself. He claimed to have heard the "spirits of the world" calling him, and he believed that only through offering sacrifices to onesself, through mindless hedonism, that true spirituality may be found. It is unknown where what some would call his "most disturbing worldview" came from, but it is believed a combination of Rimbaud, opium, and reading the Bhagavad Gita sideways may have had something to do with it. Whatever the cause, invigorated, engorged, and somewhat sated, Josiah departed the subcontinent.
He made his way to Europe by taking trains, wearing out camels, sailing across the Black Sea, and taking more trains. On a Balkan backroad, he ran afoul of a team of Albanian bandits, but through sheer will, his strange charisma, and a promise to make them a lot of money, he convinced the brigands to join him on his spiritual quest. He invented a new persona for himself, Count Frederic de Langou, and had his Albanian band dress as a cadre of his elite lunch-wallahs, replete in Indian garb.
Appearance in Europe
In December 1868, the winter court of Franz Joseph I in Pest was presented with "a French nobleman, recently of the Far East and an expert in Asiatic studies, and his Marathi retinue"-none other than le Comte de Langou, né Primp. The fact that his "Marathi retinue" appeared very similar to lithographs of certain wanted Albanians did not stop the king from graciously accepting Josiah into the court. He soon took full advantage of royal hospitality-installation at sumptuous apartments at Buda, Bulgarian wines of the highest caliber, grilled lamb shanks for breakfast, and opium specially trekked over from Afghanistan. Josiah impressed and delighted the court with his recollections of his semi-truthful past: life in Castle Langou, training by monks and sadhus in the Alps, serving as the quartermaster for the British in the Crimean War. At this point, he claimed that he was abducted by Georgian pirates and sold into slavery, working the poppy fields. Josiah further stated that, amidst the poppies, God spoke to him, telling him to escape through sacrifice to the self. He claimed to slay his captors by sheer will and then escaped to India. To silence a Viennese heckler, Josiah proved his mind-over-matter claim by eating an entire calf in one sitting. After that he remained unchallenged by other courtiers.
However enthralled by Josiah-who some say set the archetype later used by Rasputin-the king's closest advisors were growing tired of the plump sorceror. He was proving to be an embarassment at the court-the constant orgies, impregnation of various court ladies, and sheer cost of feeding were all too much to bear. Additionally, the Albanians had taken to whoring and drinking, as well as shooting random passersby from atop Buda steeples for sport. Events came to a head after the French ambassador watched Josiah smoke out of an eight-foot hookah known as "Big Bear". He immediately claimed an audience with the king's advisors, insisting that there was no such place as Castle Langou, and further, that Josiah's French was "ghastly, worse than someone from Brittany". It was decided, despite Franz Joseph's protests: le comte had to go. Thus, in 1870, Josiah, his Albanians, and Big Bear were expelled from the court and the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Surmising that his French alias was his undoing, Josiah decided instead to keep things simple and honest. He moved with his band into a farmhouse in Bromley, then an up-and-coming village being slowly engulfed by London, under his real name. This time he denied nothing of his personal history, save the Albanians, who he insisted where Marathi. On the spiritual side, however, he continued to make outrageous claims-professing his belief that hedonism was the only way to salvation. This attitude soon earned him the attention of several rich matrons, from whom he purloined extensive amounts of money. At first, his location south of the Thames kept the press and authority at bay, which displeased and pleased Josiah, respectively, as he craved attention but feared incarceration.
Eventually though, the "Magickal Yank" gained notoriety in 1872 after the impregnation of debutante Lady Carlington-Hawes, who claimed that Josiah had "seduced and pandered, performing lewd acts while covered in honey and pig grease". The "Revulsion in Kent" was soon plastered all over every London newsstand, and Fleet Street was soon running out of foolscap to stay on top of his exploits. Fearing expulsion or worse, return to America, where an enraged and disgusted Malachi was dipping his whip in oil and cold water in preparation, Josiah decided to stay low for a while. He ate less, dropping to a mere 350 pounds and losing a chin in the process. He also restricted his Albanians to robbing three horses a week and kidnapping one farmgirl a month. In short, he dropped out of sight.
The Memoirs and Spells
As much as he feared the law, however, Josiah craved the limelight. He had written his memoirs, again claiming that the only way to salvation was through self-indulgence, and also wrote a book of "spells". Not traditional spells in the historical or Crowleyian sense, Josiah's Methods were more a combination of a recipe book, meditation guide, and Kama Sutra. Particularly potent was the "roasted quail and missionary" spell, through which Josiah claimed that one could attain a vision of "All the great figures of history, Caligula, Alexander Pope, Semiramis, even Catherine the Great".
The books sold like wildfire, despite condemnation by the government and the Church of England. Josiah was back in the spotlight. Joined now by some of his fellow students from Wiltshire, several of whom had been shipped to London to look after family business, his retinue grew in popularity and size. He published several more books: Journey through Night's End, Recipes for Vision, Essential Parts of the Cow and their Respective Psychopompic Activities, and The Wyrd, all of which made him a rich man. In addition to his retinue, he himself grew in size, blowing up to almost 400 pounds, making him the second-heaviest man in Britain after Scottish farrier Big John MacArdle.
Incident at Gramald Pass
As sated and full as he was, and despite his claims to levitate objects and set others on fire (well-documented incidents, the methodologies of which have yet to be shown), Josiah grew tired of his Bromley barn and his new Park Lane flat. He decided to travel, to see more of Europe. To that end, he opted on visiting Germany, having been banned from France for the crime of "impersonating a Person of Quality", which at the time was punishable by wearing an iron-dunce hat in the middle of the Boulevard Hausmann.
He sailed by ferry from Harwich to Rotterdam, and thence made his way swiftly through the Netherlands (the no-nonsense Dutch put him in a specially-designed train to prevent him from getting out into the country) and into Westphalia. There, Josiah met with angry crowds, whose disgust and skepticism turned to astonishment when he managed to levitate the local Elector in the air while eating a handful of grapes and a ram's head. He kept on the road, however, with crowds following him becoming a "damnable mob", as one Cologne official put it.
Tiring of the weather, Josiah decided to travel to Italy. At the time, severe storms had closed down most of the transalpine passes save one-the little-used Gramald Pass, which carves through southeastern Switzerland. Getting on the train, Josiah bid farewell to his German followers, saying, prophetically, "I do not expect to return to Germany. Perhaps in the future, my friends, we will meet again."
The night of April 7, 1883 was a stormy one. The train creaked under the weight of Josiah's prodigious bulk. According to one observer, everybody was in a melancholy mood: the Albanians whittled new hookahs for themselves, morosely staring at passing farms and the buxom women that dwelled therein. Josiah's fellow Wiltshirites looked at their ledgers and sighed at the squandering of New England fortunes. As the train neared the tunnel under the Weisskopfberg, Josiah announced that he would use the facilities. Removing the Marchioness of Grimesby from his lap, he proceeded to the rear of the car.
What happened next, few could determine at the time. Looking back, it appears the lightning struck the rails just as the train entered the tunnel, panicking the conductor, who accidentally accelerated the train just as it entered a curve. There was a rumbling as the car jumped the tracks, the rear slamming into a rock wall before exiting the tunnel. Miraculously, no one appeared to be killed in the crash, but as the bewildered passengers disembarked, staring into the rain, they couldn't help but notice that the lavatory compartment was smashed and crushed. Josiah, it seemed, had been sealed inside forever.
However, as the rail officials and emergency officials unblocked the train the next week, questions abounded. The only thing found inside the compartment, when horses and workmen finally pried it open, were the semi-digested remains of a wood-pigeon and Bavarian beer, and Josiah's clothes. No sign of the man himself could be found.
Immediately, different theories were promulgated. Josiah enjoyed nudity, it was known, and may have been sick due to the train's erratic movements. His followers claimed a Christ-like disappearance. Josiah claimed the only thing he could not perform-yet-was teleportation. Could it be, the dusty Albanians and weak-chinned Ivy Leaguers asked themselves, that he managed to pull it off?
The world religions and governments thought it a different matter. He had been hit with a thunderbolt-the writing was on the tunnel walls. Surely God had struck him down for his wickedness. He had drunk too deep from the well of forbidden knowledge. Immediately, they began a system of suppression. The Albanians were imprisoned, the other followers dispelled or exorcised by grim Lombardian priests. His books were collected and burned. In short, he was systematically erased from history.
However, memories of him remained. His followers secretly communicated to each other, and his books remained published underground. Later claimants such as Crowley, much as they denied him, studied and applied some of his methods.
He was laid to rest in absentia beside Malachi, who had died a few years earlier, and his numerous siblings, in a cemetery in Essex, Massachusetts. His empty coffin, to give the illusion of reality, was custom-designed, and several oak trees had to be felled in its making. He left behind an undisclosed sum, which, while large, was diluted among his twenty to thirty bastards. The tombstone was simple, with one word: PRIMP. This was the legacy he left behind.
However, there still remained (and remain) those who claim the man never died, even to this day. The Latin American legends of the chupacabra, the forest-demon that eats farm animals whole, describe a modus operandi similar to Josiah's. Additionally, all of the Albanians to a man, despite thrashings and water-dunkings, insisted that he visited them in prison. Lastly, there was the tale of Jocinda Barras, a streetwalker who plied her trade near Josiah's barn, now a disused piston workshop. She claimed to be ravished by a "large man, smelling of Bulgarian wine and goat-meat." One wonders if it be Josiah, still practicing spells and striding the earth. Or maybe he survives only in spirit, and quails at the thought of meeting Malachi in the afterlife, who no doubt is waiting, humming his Scottish rebel songs, whip at the ready.
Piracy Quest 2007