John King was a popular personality who had appeared to mediums for two decades. As a spook he was ordinary which made Helena Blavatsky’s interest in him surprising. His first appearance seemed to have been in the 1850s to an Ohio farmer-medium, then he controlled the famous Italian medium Eusapia Palladino. However, no matter which medium he controlled in what country John King’s characteristics were the same, a raucous phantom-about-town, a rough ex-pirate who enjoyed recounting his adventures not only through mediums but by the Ouija Board and automatic writing.
The spirit of John King seemed to have fascinated Helena Blavatsky since she quickly dismissed her other spirits but let King hang around. But, the fascination seemed to be not purely for affection., although she called him “my John King.” While he attended her seances he also wrote letters to her friends, particularly Olcott which mysteriously appeared in the notebook that he carried in his pocket. Also, King painted on satin.
It was no secret he became an irritant to Michael Betanelly. There was no mistaking that King was making some sort of earthly love to Helena, and even kissed her on the lips. Although she did protest she seemed to enjoy it. Once she told Betanelly, she hated his kiss but let him call her “his lass Ellie,” “a fine Spanish wench,” and “a fancy she-dumpling.” This was before Betanelly began considering King a rival.
On the day she wedded Betanelly she hurried sent a postcard to an acquaintance telling him that she was going to send him a self-portrait done on white-satin by John King. She made no mention of her wedding.
The marriage to Betanelly was crumbling at the end of ten days. What helped the destruction was Helena’s discovery that her marriage for security was for nothing. Betanelly`s business was in trouble and he was virtually bankrupt. She began referring to John King as “my only friend,” and claiming to be “founder of him than anything on earth.” She, also, praised King for “transforming” her.
To a Russian acquaintance Alexander Aksakov Helena wrote, “John and I are acquainted from old times.” And, to the person to whom she has sent the white-satin self-portrait she added these details, “for fourteen years John King had been with her daily and saved her life in the shipwreck of the Eumonia and at the battle of Mentana. `He loves me. I know it.'”
From such statements it is recognized that she appears to have identified King as her protector in childhood. Eventually, however, John King would become replaced by more distinguished spirits such as the secret Mahatmas or Masters of Wisdom. A.G.H.
Meade, Marion, Madame Blavatsky: The Woman Behind the Myth, New York, G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1980.