Born on Stony River Ranch in the village of Gawler, South Australia, in 1831, Franklin Mackenzie Keyes was the son of a colonial surveyor and horse rancher who supplied New South Walers, Thoroughbreds, Clydesdales and other riding and working stock to European settlers arriving in the newly-formed British province. The Keyes family business prospered during the early days of South Australia’s expansion. In the Barossa Valley, copper mines and vinelands opened while rangeland and farmlands were established in the coastal regions surrounding Adelaide. As settlers pushed further inland into the outback, “Frankie,” at age 10, assisted as camp cook and foot soldier during short stints when his father and two uncles served as territorial guides, helping to establish cattle stations in Port Augusta, Lake Eyre, Clarence Springs and the Richards Desert.

As a young man, Keyes represented Stony River throughout Southeast Asia, personally overseeing the delivery of livestock to overseas buyers in Burma, Borneo, and New Guinea. In late summer of 1848, at the conclusion of one such transaction with the British East India Company, Keyes unexpectedly enlisted to fight in the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1849), under noted cavalry Lieutenants Harry Burnett Lumsden and William Hodson. He stayed on for the Second Anglo-Burmese War (1852-53) and afterwards was discharged with honors and merits of service – awards which he promptly discarded into the sea. He returned to Australia sometime later, highly critical of Imperial military and parliamentary leaders, and disillusioned by what he described in his personal journals as the “perennial, self-obsessed squabbles between creed and culture.” Nevertheless, drawn preconsciously to warfare and conflict, Keyes once again found himself in uniform little more than a year later when he reenlisted to fight in the Crimean War. He was among British landing troops at the ill-considered Siege of Taganrog (1855-56) and took four Russian bullets at the Old Stone Steps. When he returned home once more, it was as the hardened and embittered war veteran, an image that would characterize him for the rest of his days.

Keyes cared for his ailing father until his death in 1866. Thomas Murray Keyes was laid to rest in Gawler village cemetery beside Keyes’ mother, June Jane Keyes, who died in childbirth. Not long after, the Stony River estate was parceled out and sold.

In 1870, drawn this time by ever-increasing stirrings of the Black Epiphany, Keyes traveled to the United States of America. He stayed for the next ten years, touring the Old West and the U.S.-Mexico border, eventually choosing to lend a hand in the American Indian Wars. As a civilian tracker, Keyes rode with the 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment, the U.S. Army scouts, militiamen and mounted infantry of the Arizona and New Mexico Territories, Missouri frontiersmen, and Texas cattlemen, under such historical figures as Brevet Major General George Crook, Captain Reuben F. Bernard, and Colonel Wesley Merritt. He was present at the Battle of the North Fork, the Battle of Turret Peak, the Battle of Buffalo Wallow and the Second Battle of Adobe Walls. He was a participant in many scores of major and minor engagements and was wounded more than a dozen times.

In 1881, compelled once more by Epiphanic influences, Keyes gravitated to the East Coast and New York City, where he was employed by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Pinkerton was mostly a frustration for him. He wrote in his personal journals that the Agency had “nothing to do with legitimate detective work,” that the job was “more about Labor intimidation, goon squads and graft” and that he felt little more than a “paid hood or thug.” Keyes’ discontent was short-lived, however, cut short less than a year later when he was beset by the Black Epiphany’s “baptism of nightmare” and consigned into the ranks of a secret society of communal dreamers called the Assembly. Keyes withdrew from public life immediately thereafter, as most new Assembly recruits were prone to do, dissociating himself from world affairs altogether and joining the Assembly’s ongoing covert investigations of the Cults of the Ten Thousand Churches, the equally secret, murderous cult armies of the Great Old Ones. Years later, however, Keyes broke from Assembly code and, for reasons unknown, joined the British South Africa Company’s Police in Southern Rhodesia where he fought with the First Rhodesian Horse in both the First (1893) and Second (1896-97) Matabele Wars. At the outbreak of the Great War, Keyes broke with Assembly tradition a second time when he rode as a colonel with the 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment, seeing action in Turkey and the Middle East, and distinguishing himself – at the age of 86, though with the outward appearance of a man in his mid forties – in the famous cavalry charge at Beersheba in 1917.

Among the quasi-immortal Assembly, the soldier turned scholar was provided a comprehensive education in the means and methods of the Ten Thousand, as well as an essential understanding of the occult and the supernatural. Following the example of other Assemblymen, Keyes fortified his new-found knowledge with traditional academics, his unusual longevity affording him the time and opportunity to study at numerous universities throughout Australia, the Americas and Europe. At the time of the writing of Catalogue of the Ten Thousand Churches (circa 1970?), Keyes held multiple PhDs in archaeology, anthropology and paleontology, including Professor of Epigraphy and Ancient Inscriptions from the University of Canberra, Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology from the University of Madrid, and Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he was also a senior research fellow in archaeology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as a special field consultant to Oxford University, Brown University, Miskatonic University, Carnegie Mellon University, Tel Aviv University, and the Centre for Ancient Studies at the University of Heidelberg.

Nothing is known regarding Colonel Frank Keyes’ final disposition. To date, no information about how or when he died … or if he died … has ever come to light.

~  Author of the Catalogue of the Ten Thousand Churches  ~