This article is about a fictional subject in the Wild Cards universe that has a non-fiction inspiration. For an article on Wikipedia about the real world subject, see Wikipedia:Giuseppe Balsamo.
Black John Balsam
Biographical Information
Real NameGuiseppe Balsamo of Palermo
AliasesCount Cagliostro, Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, John Joseph Balsam, Black John Balsam
Social Information
Citizenship1790's American resident, deceased
OccupationCult leader
AffiliationsEgyptian Freemasons
RelativesLorenza (wife), Marc Balsam (descendant)
First AppearanceAces High
CreatorLewis Shiner

Black John Balsam is a character from the Wild Cards series of books.


Giuseppe Balsamo of Palermo, better known as Count Cagliostro, took a tour of the English countryside in 1777 and had a surprise encounter with a Ly'bahr. The alien, whom he later referred to as the "Star Brother" was an agent of the Network, visiting Earth to determine the progress of humanity once every two-hundred years. The encounter left him a changed man, and also left him in possession of a subspace transmitter and a warning of a threat from another world: TIAMAT. With his new knowledge, and an increase in his apparent mystical power, Balsamo insinuated himself into the ranks of the Freemasons and later founded a more secretive subgroup he called the Egyptian Freemasons.

Balsamo was captured by the inquisition some time around 1790 and thrown into a dungeon. Curiously, he vanished from the cells and was never seen again. He had already established links with the Illuminati by this time, so later research suggested he may have been aided in an escape by them, but the full story behind his escape has never been revealed.

Then in the 1790's a European man settled in the hills near Shandaken, New York with his wife and young son. Calling himself John Joseph Balsam, he soon came to be regarded as a witch.

In August, 1809, the sheriff's daughter went missing. Villagers broke into Balsam's house and found the girl stretched out naked on an altar. Balsam was wearing monk's robes and a dog mask at the time, and was armed with a huge knife apparently poised to conduct a ritual killing. The mob promptly hanged Balsam, burnt the house, salted the ground, and blocked the road to the house.

His gravestone is a plain marble rectangle, outside the churchyard's white picket fence and well away from the other graves. The inscription reads, "John Joseph Balsam. Died 1809. May He Burn In Hell."

Wild Card Traits Edit

None. Black John Balsam predates the initial release of the Wild Card virus.

Appearance Edit

Light hair, large full lips and a bit of a big nose, yet somehow engaging and maybe even considered handsome.

Personality Edit

It is implied that Balsam is a driven and obsessive man. His actions following his encounter with a Ly'bahr earned him a reputation as a crank before he gained notoriety as a witch.

Trivia Edit

  • Black John Balsam is only mentioned in Aces High as an historical figure researched by Fortunato. He is not actually used as character.
  • Balsam was actually Earth's first 'abductee' by members of the Network. They gave him the Shakti device and taught him how to use it.
  • The Black John Balsam of Wild Cards is an alternate reality version of Giuseppe Balsamo.

Gallery Edit

Selected Reading Edit

Wild Cards Volume II: "Pennies From Hell"

References Edit