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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Sunday, March 28, 2004 - 07:59 am:   

I've been thinking about people who are, for one reason or another, Nexus Folk... a term I'm coining (someone else may have beaten me to it) for those men and women who for one or many reasons are useful to those of us who write speculatively.

One person who comes to mind in Benjamin Bathurst, the infamous walker around horses. If we knew what happened to Benji, he wouldn't be nearly as interesting a person... but what we have here is a British diplomat in Europe during the time of Napoleon going from Austria to his new post who simply freaking vanishes. I wrote about him in Quantum Britannia but I'm still thinking about Benjamin even now. I find him and his disappearance truly fascinating.

Hildegard of Blingen comes up for me too. Theologist, musician, linguist... there's a lot there to play with. Educated by an eccentric Anchoress in private, prone to ecstatic visions, an important and respected woman in the middle of the Middle Ages, you can do a lot with Hildegard.

I could list a lot more... I mean, hell, I haven't even mentioned Roger Bacon or Cyrus Teed yet... but I'm curious to see if anyone else has any nominees for Nexus Folk. The Comte de Saint Germaine? The Abbe de Villars? Lord Ferdinando Strange? Gerbert of Aurilliac? I'm keen to see what you think.
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Posted on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 08:33 pm:   

Are they anything like New Weirdos? Seriously, now, what about that Matthew Rossi guy?

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Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 11:02 am:   

John Dee would probably be one.

Possibly on the outskirts: Da Vinci, Shakespeare (there's been quite a spate of varied fiction about him of late.)
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Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 03:14 pm:   

St. Christopher, or any of the other saints portrayed as having dog's heads.

Ambrose Bierce.

James Loftus. <>

The (possibly) crazy Irish monks who settled the Faroe Islands.

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Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 10:49 pm:   

Speaking of saints, St. Philip K. Dick, you already know. :-)

I'll put forward Henry Cavendish as well, the discoverer of hydrogen and the first person to accurately calculate Earth's mass. He was quite eccentric too.

Another Cavendish, William Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, was an aristocrat who built a vast underground complex served by 15 miles of tunnels, where he lived in seclusion from the rest of the world. Servants were ordered not to acknowledge his presence, and fired when they did. He was so anti-social towards the end of his life, he even refused to let the doctor see him. Add to the fact that Bentinck-Scott looked somewhat like Abraham Lincoln, and lived in the same period of time, and you've got something in your hands.

And another aristocrat, Baron Rokeby, believed he was turning into a frog. Innsmouth influence, anyone?

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Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 11:03 pm:   

And William Blake! How could I forget William Blake, the man who spoke with angels and stopped to greet invisible people on the streets!
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Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 04:04 am:   

Sarah Winchester. Her mansion was the Navidson house.

Joeseph Smith, founder of Mormanism.

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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 05:09 am:   

I've been to Sarah Winchester's freaky house. It's smack in the center of Silcon Valley, which makes it better, in my opinion.

I hestitate to touch ol Joey S because, well, I know a lot of Mormons who don't have much of a sense of humor about him.

I'm kind of surprised no one's mentioned Ben Jonson yet. I mean, what's a guy got to do to get some attention? Also, Patience Worth keeps popping up in my head. And Luís, I'm certainly going to use your cave-digging friend in something.
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Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 08:35 am:   

Great thread, Matt. I wouldn't hesitate to add Rasputin, who has shown up in a bunch of comic books (such as Hellboy and AlterNation) and, I'm sure, other stuff.
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Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 09:48 am:   

Heh. How do they react to people calling him Joey S.?

I think this guy < uperstar.html>
should qualify.

Found the link here: <>
Where you'll find lots of fun reading material.
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 05:16 pm:   

Jack Parsons! Shit, yeah, he's great. Anyone who knew Crowley and Hubbard qualifies.

Mormons generally hate it when I call Joseph Smith Joey S. They generally hate it when I talk about religion at all, actually.

I should mention that Rasputin's one of my favorites, too. Hmm. Does that mean Gurdijeff should get an entry? I think maybe Urbain Grandier and Francis Barrett are good lesser-known Nexus types, lots of stuff around them.
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Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 06:05 pm:   

Rasputin's prolonged and rather . . . complicated death alone is the stuff of legend.

Check out Fernando Pessoa too, he had around 80 heteronyms, fully developed and often contradictory personas through which he channelled his poetry. And he was a friend of Alastair Crowley to boot! Also, I suggest you hunt down and read José Saramago's THE YEAR OF THE DEATH OF RICARDO REIS for a great fictional treatment of Pessoa.

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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 08:02 am:   

Luís talk about Bentinck-Scott dovetailed with the Marquis of Waterford for me - so I wrote a little ditty about Springheel Jack.
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 09:23 am:   

I should point out that Jess Nevins quite rightly mentions that the Marquis of Waterford couldn't really have been Springheel Jack in most of the cases after 1837-38. Certainly he was dead by 1859, so that would make it even harder for him.
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Friday, April 09, 2004 - 06:40 pm:   

You know, I honestly think that Porter Rockwell may deserve to be our 'Mormon Nexus Folk' more than Joseph Smith. For one thing, I think Rockwell actually believed in the religion (I'm not so sure of Smith) and secondly, Rockwell, to quote a page I read on him somewhere, was "Originally a bodyguard to Joseph Smith, he was promised by Joseph that no bullet would ever fell him if he kept his hair long like Samson. Over the course of several decades, as he also provided personal security to Brigham Young, he had plenty of encounters that should have proved Joseph wrong, but didn't. Legend has it that he walked away from gunbattles with several armed opponents, having taken them all out, shaking their bullets out of his coat. He's about the closest thing we have to a Mormon folk hero."

Granted, a Mormon folk hero who may have also killed at the behest of Smith himself and who was nicknamed "The Destroying Angel" but still.

I mean, there's a lot you can do with that, I think.

I also think Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope are worthwhile if only for the carnage they caused by offering huge cash rewards for dinosaur fossils.
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Posted on Saturday, April 10, 2004 - 07:17 am:   

Speaking of Mormonism, this was in the news this morning:

I also saw a re: the Gov. of Illinois apologizing for the murder of Joeseph Smith Jr.

Two more nominations:
Doc Holiday <>

Howard Hughes

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Ron Dingman
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 04:36 pm:   

How about:

Benvenuto Cellini (1500 - 1571): "a celebrated sculptor, goldsmith, author and soldier, but also a hooligan and even avenging killer," as stated on:

I seem to recall reading that he also supposedly participated in a summoning of demons in the Coliseum, which is a "straight line" for a writer of speculative fiction if I've ever heard one. If memory serves, he made the claim in his autobiography.

Giordano Bruno (1548 - 1600): I believe Colin Wilson once wrote to the effect that the English took their preeminent philosopher/scientist/occultist/alchemist (Dr. John Dee) and made him an advisor to their monarch, while the Italians took theirs (Bruno) and immolated him.

The 1st hit on Google is:

A well-received novel about Bruno, _The Man in Flames_ by Serge Filippini, was published in France in 1990 and has recently been translated into English by Liz Nash; it's available from Dedalus (_sic_) Books, a small UK press. Their page contains links to blurbs of reviews praising the novel:

Christopher Marlowe (1564 - 1593): what's *not* to like about "The Muse's Darling"? You don't even have to buy into the whole "Marlowe is Shakespeare" stuff to see loads of possibilities with him: a possible candidate for the first "M," secret agent for the Queen, tool/foil of the marvelously shady Walsinghams (Sirs Francis & Thomas), drinking buddy of Sir Walter Raleigh (and possibly mathematician James Heriot), at least *an* early influence on Shakespeare (_Titus Andronicus_ in particular), apparently the first English author to write of the Faust legend and to have characters say things like "I count religion but a childish toy/And hold there is no sin but ignorance" (_The Jew of Malta_), the possibilities are enormous. And what *were* those "matters touching on importance to his Country" that he was working on when he was supposed to be at Cambridge? Hmm.

There's a review of several fictionalised treatments of Marlowe at:
; this review includes a brief look at Anthony Burgess' superb swan song, _A Dead Man in Deptford_.

Adam Weishaupt (1748 - 1811): founder of the Order of the Illuminati; sure, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson pretty much set the standard for fictionalised treatments of him in their _Illuminatus! Trilogy_, but that's no reason he couldn't be dusted off and shown in a slightly different light. What about that wheeze about Weishaupt being the *real* first president of the United States, owing to his uncanny resemblance to George Washington...?

The fact that Mary Shelly has Victor von Frankenstein matriculate at Ingolstadt, where the "White Captain" himself was born, raised, and made Professor of Canon Law, also raises some interesting possibilities....

Aaron Burr (1756 - 1836): officer in the Revolutionary War, organizer of the Democratic Party, 3rd U.S. vice president (who arguably should've been president instead of that Jefferson fella), possible traitor, would-be emperor of Mexico, slayer (in a pistol duel sparked by somewhat mysterious causes) of Alexander Hamilton; let's face it, the man should've had much more ink spilled on him in the history books. Gore Vidal's excellent novel _Burr_ probably remains the gold standard for fictionalised treatments of him, but that hasn't stopped johnny-come-latelys like David Nevin, whose recent novel _Treason_ takes a far less sympathetic view of "the Napoleon of the West" than Vidal did.

Kaspar Hauser (c. 1812 - 1833): the great mystery child of Europe, possible scion of nobility, arguably the most famous real-life "feral child" (his fame exceeded only by the fictional characters of Tarzan and Mowgli), various books and movies about him do not yet seem to have solved the riddles his existence posed.

A couple of sites:

I'm sure I can come up with more candidates....

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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Thursday, April 15, 2004 - 04:45 pm:   

Well, by all means do. Hauser and Burr and Weishaupt are of course familiar to me, and Bruno I know through his effect on the so-called 'school of Night', that pack of British intellectuals and mystics that included (possibly) Marlowe, Dee, Raliegh, Spenser and Bacon. But Cellini is new to me, and I appreciate you bringing him up.

Right now I'm obsessed with Grace O'Malley, she-pirate of distinction, who vanished in 1603 after a long life of harrassing the British.
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Ron Dingman
Posted on Friday, April 16, 2004 - 05:01 pm:   

OK, in the hope that I'm not carrying coal to Newcastle, herewith for your consideration: Tiridates III (Arshaguni; his dynasty is usually rendered in English as "Arsacid," but apparently "Arshaguni" is the preferred spelling; see the citation from the Armenian Youth Federation of Greece, *below*) and/or Gregory Pahlavuni the Illuminator, the "Apostle of the Armenians."

The entries from _Who Was Who in the Roman World_, ed. by Diana Bowder (NY: Washington Square Press; 1984; reprint of UK edition, published in 1980 by Phaidon Press Limited, Oxford and Cornell University Press; ISBN: 0-671-50160-7) are short enough to permit me to quote them entire (an asterisk [*] indicates a cross reference to a separate entry in the book):

"TIRIDATES III -- First Christian king of Armenia c. AD 287 - 318/330 (?).

"Consistent Roman support enabled Tiridates to withstand Persian interference; his position was assured by the crushing victory of *Galerius over *Narses in 298. Mighty signs performed by *Gregory the Illuminator in the king's own palace convinced Tiridates that he should impose Christianity on his people and destroy their ancient national shrines. **The events were so traumatic that the king's conversion came to form the national myth of Christian Armenia** [emphasis added].

"BIBL. M.-L. Chaumont, _Recherches sur l'histoire de l'Arménie_ (1969)."

-- pps. 542-43

"GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR (c. AD 240 - 332), 'Apostle of the Armenians'.

"Gregory was an Armenian noble, but was brought up a Christian in Roman territory. His mission at first met with persecution, but his miracles at court (which in Armenian tradition included the transformation of his monarch into a wild boar) convinced *Tiridates III that Armenia should become Christian (traditionally c. 301). Tiridates invited Gregory to become first Catholicos (primate) of the Armenian Church, an office which became hereditary in his family.

"BIBL. Grousset, _Historie de l'Arménie_ (1947)."

-- pps. 236-37

I readily confess to being stymied over the works cited being in French....

The website of the Armenian Youth Federation of Greece contains a bit more information, such as:

"The arrival of Christianity in Armenia traditionally traces its origins to two of Jesus' twelve apostles, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, who came there to preach and proselytize in the 1st century AD. For this reason, the Church of Armenia is designated as Apostolic. As the religion took hold, persecutions became widespread and holy sacraments were conducted secretly in caves.

"By the end of the 3rd century AD Gregory Pahlavuni, after being sent to Cesaria in early childhood to escape the feud between the Pahlavuni and Arshaguni families, where he was educated in a Christian environment, returned to Armenia to preach the new religion with great zeal and enthusiasm. King Tiridates III, recognizing a potential adversary in Gregory Pahlavuni, ordered him to be thrown in the Pit of Khor Virap, near Ardashad. Some 15 years later, King Tiridates III, ordered the slaying of the Christian Virgins of Hripsime and **thereupon became afflicted with lycanthropy** [emphasis added], a hallucinatory disease which causes a person to imagine himself a wolf. His Christian sister, Khosrovidukht, implored Tiridates to cease the persecution of Christians and to allow Gregory to come to the palace and try to cure him of his illness. After restoring Tiridates to good health, through a miraculous cure, Gregory proceeded to convert the royal court, as well as the common people, to Christianity. Considering the new religion as the best means of resisting both Sassanid and Roman cultural influences, King Tiridates III, declared Christianity to be the state religion in 301 AD."


The first thing that grabbed me was the bit about Tiridates' imposition of Christianity upon his people as being traumatic; sure, this is no real surprise to anyone with a nodding acquaintance of European history, viz. the Albigensian Crusade, the Teutonic Knights, etc., but this is still a much-neglected aspect of the rise of "Christendom."

The other thing that piques my interest is the lack of information as to what sort of religion the Armenians *used* to have. Sure, a rough familiarity with the religions of the time and place suggest a few possibilities: probably a Mithraic cult or the worship of some sort of weather god and/or fertility god(dess), with Zoroastrianism a distinct possibility (note the reference to "Persian interference" in the first entry cited from _Who Was Who_) -- and, to perhaps stretch a point, some form of the worship of the Yezidis/"Order of the Peacock" (who seem to have, like the Persian Mithraists, some relationship with the Parsis or Zoroastrians -- possibly they are offshoots of Zoroastrianism) seems not totally out of the question. The website of the Armenian Youth Federation of Greece appears to be notably silent on this matter.

The final thing that sticks out for me is the interaction between Gregory and Tiridates: either Greg turned him into a boar (as indicated in _Who Was Who_), a wolf/werewolf (as on the AYFG's website), or made him *think* he was turning into a boar or lycanthrope (in fairness, AYFG's site says that Gregory *cured* Tiridates of a mental illness -- *not* that Greg had anything to do with said mental illness in the first place, oh no, of course not...). Sure, the rationalist in me says that Gregory likely made judicious, clandestine use of magic mushrooms (probably fly agaric, methinks) or ergot, or some other now relatively obscure hallucinogen (such as laurel leaves....); but the Fortean/special effects geek in me wonders, "Hey -- *why not*?"

Then there's that cryptic mention in _Who Was Who_ of "mighty signs," which implies that Gregory did a lot more shamanistic/divine (depending on your POV) wonder-working than simply making the king wig out for a while. (Not to cast any aspersions on the character of Tiridates III, but one suspects that seeing one's ruler go absolutely mental couldn't have been *that* unusual an experience for most folks back then....) What sort of feats of magick and/or chicanery were performed? And what's up with that "Pit of Khor Virap," and, if it was so horrible, how could Gregory abide being stuck at the bottom of it for fifteen years?

Yes, the easy answers to the last one are either "It wasn't so horrible," or "He wasn't stuck in it for fifteen years" -- but those aren't the *interesting* answers....

A troll through turns up brief references to Tiridates III in various books; including, just to make things even more (complicated) interesting, an apparent dismissal of Armenian claims of being the first nation to proselytize Christianity to other nations by an author of a history of -- wait for it -- Azerbaijan. Thanks to Amazon's "Look Inside the Book" feature, I was able to read that, on p. 41 of Charles van der Leeuw's _Azerbaijan: A Quest for Identity_,

"Armenian historians claim that the Christian faith was introduced by Armenia into Albania when Tiridates III occupied Albania in the late third century (see previous chapter), but these have been dismissed by Azeri scholars."

Anyway, this is just a thought; sorry if it's a repeat or of absolutely no interest whatever. Grace O'Malley sounds interesting too: pirates are good, she-pirates (Bêlit!) are better....
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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Friday, April 16, 2004 - 07:59 pm:   

Well, I've danced with the Yezidi before (they're in the book) so it's certainly not uninteresting, and I'm always up for weird saints and strange signs and portents.

Interestingly enough, my copy of Yuri Stoyanov's The Other God (excellent book, btw, everyone shoul have it) lists Tiridates IV as a Zoroastrian who is converted by St. Gregory the Illuminator.

"Early in the fourth century the Arascid king of Armenia, Tiridates IV, who began his reign as a zealous Zoroastrian, was converted to Christianity by St. Gregory the Illuminator, himself from a branch of the old Arscaid royal house, and the old cultic centers of the Zoroastrian divinities, the yazatas were turned into Christian sites. Yet in subsequent centuries Zoroastrianism still found support among many Armenian nobles, who defended some of the Zoroastrian shrines by force, while the Sassanids launched three major campaigns to reconvert Armenia to Zoroastrianism." This is obviously late Zoroastrianism with heavy elements of Zurvanism in it.

Interestingly, this was around the same time as the Nestorians finding refuge in Sassanid Persia and also interestingly, the Arscaids were the Persian royal house that the Sassanids replaced in ad 226 in Iran, roughly ten years after the birth of Mani himself, the father of Manicheanism.

Definitely need to find more sourrces for this one.
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Ron Dingman
Posted on Wednesday, April 21, 2004 - 09:21 pm:   

Thanks for the tip on Stoyanov's _The Other God_; it definitely sounds like a book I'd like to read eventually. I'd like to finally read Zoé Oldenbourg's _Massacre at Montsegûr_ before too many more moons slip by (I snarfed up the reprint when it came out a couple of years ago), and Stoyanov's work sounds like a good companion/background piece. Of course, there are at least two new(er) books about the Albigensian Crusade that have come out in the last three or four years....

I wonder if Stoyanov's reference to a Tiridates IV as being "the first Christian king" is a typo, or if new research has come to light; the _Encyclopaedia Britannica_ seems to still cite Tiridates III (see: ). Then again, they tend to err on the side of extreme conservatism, so if Stoyanov was working from new research, it'll probably take _EB_ a while to vet the info...

My apologies for any repetition in my suggestions for "nexus folk;" I ordered your book from on 5 April, but it hasn't even shipped yet. Sorry!

In the interest of variety being the spice of life, I'd like to propose a candidate who seems to have less obvious religious or mystical significance: Sidney Reilly, "The Ace of Spies."

He was a Russian Jew whose original name was "Georgi" Sigmund (or Salomon, according to some sources) Rosenblum; he was born in 1874 and *officially* died in 1925, but apparently new research suggests that he became an advisor to the head of the Soviet secret police, the Cheka. If he wasn't exactly the founding father of the British intelligence service, he was certainly a Trailblazer Emeritus. Opinion seems to be sharply divided over the date and circumstances of his death, how many countries he worked for, what his moral character was, etc., etc.

Sam Neill played Reilly in a mini-series named after Robin Bruce Lockhart's book, _Reilly: Ace of Spies_; it aired in the early 1980s on PBS, I believe on their _Mystery!_ series. The episodes that I saw were the best thing I've ever seen Neill in, and I've often sighed to see him in subsequent roles (_The Piano_, _Sirens_, or, worst yet, _Jurassic Park_; ironically, the closest I ever saw him in a Reilly-like role was in the movie adaptation of David Hare's play _Plenty_ [1985], which was starred Meryl Streep, Sir John Gielgud and Tracey Ullman).

The only overtly fictional treatment of Reilly that I know of (apart from the aforementioned mini-series) is in one of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Comte Saint-Germain books, _Writ in Blood_, which opens just prior to the "Guns of August" (to use the title of Barbara W. Tuchman's excellent book) that signalled the start of WWI. (I believe _Writ in Blood_ is a prequel to the fifth [in order of publication] Saint-Germain book, _Tempting Fate_, which was set during WWII.)

Anyway, there appear to be several sites that mention Reilly; a detailed primer that I found is at:

Amazon has over 20 books that at least mention Reilly; a more recent book that they list is Richard B. Spence's _Trust No One: The Secret World of Sidney Reilly_ (November 2002). Their page for this book is at: ef=sr_1_2/102-6424585-0408916?v=glance&s=books

Another author of a recent book on Reilly, Andrew Cook, has his own website devoted to it; the book's title is _Ace of Spies: The True Story of Sidney Reilly_ (October 2002), and the URL is:

Again, just a suggestion; doubtless you've already decided whether or not to include him. Even if does prove to be "a world class confidence man," at minimum I think this would give him a seat at the table with Cellini, Cagliostro, Casanova, the Comte Saint-Germain, Barnum and Clifford Irving....

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Matthew Rossi
Posted on Thursday, April 22, 2004 - 06:17 am:   

I should point out that at this point, this is all just for fun's sake: while I'd like to do something with the idea of Nexus Folk, possibly a book, I have not started even planning one yet. I haven't decided anything about including or excluding anyone.

A few others, while I'm in an expansive mood myself:

Blaise Pascal, whose obsessive mathematical talents and obsessive religious leanings dovetail in surprising ways. Designed a mechanical calculator: abandoned math for religion and later tried to mathematically prove that religion was worthwhile.

E.W. Barton-Wright, who brough jujitsu to the west and who was probably a charlatan. Inspiration for the martial art 'Baritsu" in the Sherlock Holmes tale "The Empty House". He brought Yukio Tani, the man who taught him jujitsu, to England in 1899 - Tani would go on to teach British agents in WWI, and his students possibly did the same in WWII.

William Walker. Financed by Cornelius Vanderbilt, he took over Nicaragua in 1855 alongside the 'Fifty-Six Immortals' and then double crossed the man. He was driven out of Nicaragua in 1857 and was executed by Honduras in 1860.

Moses de Leon, who either invented Qabbalism out of whole cloth or rediscovered the tradition in Al-Andalus when he wrote/found The Zohar.

Morris Cohen, aka "Two-Gun" Cohen, aka 5 Percent Cohen, arms dealer and bodyguard to Sun Yat Sen. His fans describe him as equal parts bodyguard, man of intrigue and patriotic supporter of China and eventually Israel (he was raised in London) while his detractors think of him as an opportunist.

Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger
If all they'd ever done was write the Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches, or as I like to call it, The Mallet of the Malefactors) they'd deserve consideration. But they both did more - Kramer worked to defend Papal Supremacy and was Nuncio and Inquisitor of Bohemia and Moravia, where he opposed the Waldenses and the Picards until his death in 1505. Sprengler served in the Dominican order as a reformer, lectured at the University of Cologne (eventually becoming Master of Theology there as well as Prior and Regent of the Cologne Convent) and ended his life as Inquisitor Extraordinary for Mainz, Treves and Cologne... despite his role as a witch burner extraordinare, his death was said to be nearly sanctified. These guys practiced what they preached, and one can easily imagine depicting them either as zealots who burned innocents or true believers on a quest to uproot evil.

That should do for now, I think.

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