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  • Lobasha, A Psychic Boy Detective December 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Had something stolen? A close friend has been murdered? Or has there been a kidnapping in the family? Help unfortunately is not at hand. The FBI are busy with the Patriot Act, the A Team are lost in the Los Angeles Underground and Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin is regrettably fictional. However, do not despair for the Lobasha is on the other end of the phone. The Lobasha was a psychic boy detective, with a serious drug habit, called out to solve unsolvable crimes in the Empire of Abyssinia, c. 1900. (Beach feels a series of airport detective novels coming on.) This report dates to 1903 and came from a man in the know Alfred Ilg (obit 1916), a Swiss engineer and long-time special advisor to the emperor Menelik II: he was actually, for several years, the Foreign Minister of the Empire! His reflections on the Lobasha were first printed by the Neue Zuricher Zeitung and from this Lobasha’s fame made its way around the world. (Perhaps the airport novels should have the Lobasha hired out to solve mysteries in other countries? The Lobasha in the Congo; The Lobasha in AmericaThe Lobasha in the Land of the Soviets.) There follow three of the Lobasha’s most celebrated cases with (invented) titles from one of the doubtless bastardised versions of the Zeitung article from further downstream.

    The Mysterious Case of the Flame and the Runner

    On  the  occasion  of  an  intentional  incendiary  fire  at  Addis  Abeba,  the  Lobasha  was  called  in.  He  was  made  to  drink  a cup  of  milk  in  which  a little  green  powder  had  been  dissolved,  after  which  a pipe  of  tobacco  was  given  him  to  smoke,  in  which  a black  powder  had  been  put.  The  child  passed  into  the  hypnotic  state  and  after  a  few  minutes  got  up  quickly  and  started  towards  Harrar.  He  ran  incessantly  for  sixteen  hours.  The  professional  runners,  who  followed  him,  were  tired  out.  Near  Harrar,  the  lobasha  suddenly  quitted  the  road,  entered  a  field,  and  touched  the  hand  of  a Galla  at  work  there;  the  Galla  confessed  his  crime.

    The Case of the Remorseful Murderer

    One  case  was  personally  examined  by  the  Emperor  Menelik  and  by  the  engineer  Ilg: it  was  that  of  an  assassination,  followed  by  theft,  committed  near  Addis-Abeba.  The  lobasha  was  brought  to  the  place  where  the  crime  was  perpetrated,  and  was  thrown  into  a  peculiar  psychic  state.  He  ran  round  and  round  the  spot  for  some  time,  then  be  went  to  Addis-Abeba,  entered  a church  and  kissed  it;  he  went  to  another  church,  and  kissed  it also.  On  reaching  a  spot  where  there  was  water – water  breaks  the  enchantment,  according  to  the  belief  of  the  country  – the  child  awoke.  He  was  hypnotised  again,  and  then  started  off  once  more;  he  went  round  several  dwellings;  on  reaching  the  door  of  one  of  these,  he  stopped  and  awoke  again.  The  proprietor  of  the  dwelling  was  absent; he  was,  however,  arrested;  at  first  he  denied  his  crime,  but  in  his  house  were  found  some  of  the  objects  which  belonged  to  the  victim,  and  he  was  compelled  to confess.  When  summoned  before  Menelik,  the  latter  enquired  what  he  had  done  after  committing  his  crime.  It  was  found  that  his  actions  corresponded  with  those  of  the  lobasha.  He  confessed  that,  seized  with  remorse,  he  had  visited  two  churches  in  succession  and  had  kissed  them.

    The Case of the Empress’s Missing Jewels

    [The Emperor] Menelik,  wishing  to have  further  proof  of  the  faculties  of  Lobasha  took  possession  of  some  jewels  belonging  to  the  Empress.  The  lobasha  was  brought;  he  ran  first  to  the  Empress’s  apartments,  then  to  those  of  Menelik,  then  into  other  rooms,  and  finally  threw  himself  on  Menelik’s  bed.

    ‘M.  Ilg  attempts  no  explanation  of  this  marvellous  gift.’ And nor should we…

    Anything else on the Lobasha: seems to be nothing in anthropological works, drbeachcombing At gmail dot com Was this an office or an individual? i.e. was Lobasha something like Dalai Lama or just ‘Fred’?

    Bruce T, 30 Dec 2017: It seems to me either James Bruce or Richard Burton mentioned the Lobasha, but I’m not 100% on either. I have heard of him before, though. Arthur Rimbaud, died 1891, spent the last 10 years of his life in Harar and was a very close friend of Haile Selassie’s father. As Arthur liked to sample “the fruits of the forest” and desert, and wherever else, he would have been damned interested in what was up with a cranked up kid, and where he could get a few samples in the adult dose? Two, he was affiliated with the Ethiopian govt. and represented European coffee and arms co. in the region. Arthur stopped writing for literary purposes in 1875, but the man was a writer none the less. He must have left quite a paper trail w/ the companies and govt. agencies he represented? Arthur is the right man, in the right place, in the right Ethiopian circles to have seen the Lobasha in action. Burton would have been doing his wandering around the region about a half century before Ilg, a decade or so before Rimbaud, and Bruce a century before Burton and Rimbaud. The green inhaled substance was likely Khat, a mild stimulant. Combined w/ the nicotine alone from a very finely ground snuff being blown up his nose, a powerful neurotoxin and no wonder the kid was up and going? Ethiopia is the home of coffee, both it’s domestication and use as a stimulant drink. I’ve got to think the “drink” was chock full of caffeine along with other psychoactive plants that make our modern day “5 Hour Energy Shots” look like something you’d give a teething infant to help it go to sleep? Whatever it was, it sounds like the kid was ripped out of his gourd. What I find interesting is the reaction of the culprits when Lobasha shows up. The accused denies it a couple of times and then meekly confesses. It strikes me as more a morality play in the way it works out than it does an investigation. Of course, the Lobasha represents a very powerful man. Perhaps the accused knows his fate is sealed when the hopped up brat comes knocking on the door and the protests of innocence before confession are to save face in the accused circles? It strikes me more as an office perhaps used to control the actions of the Ethiopian aristocracy? Sending a nearby adult peer loyal to the Emperor out to arrest a known scofflaw from a noble family, could cause local and regional conflicts among the aristocracy. Using a whacked out brainwashed kid sent by the Emperor sidesteps that issue nicely. Not a lot on him, I’ve ran into the same story about him in the Chicago Tribune from 1903. If he is a ritual personage, he may be much like the living Goddesses of Nepal  who lose their status when they hit puberty? If so there should be other mentions of the official “Lobasha” in diplomats, traders, and Ethiopian records. Axum and Kush have been well known of and traveled to by people from the Med. basin for 3000 years. Cushite and and other Afro-Asiatic speakers are spread widely from the greater Sudan, to the Med, and from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. I know there are vestigial pre-Islamic rituals centered around dancing boy mediums on the verge of puberty in the Rif of Morocco and the mountains of northern Algeria among the Berbers, but the boy there seems to be an agent of chaos to be tamed by the women, not an agent of state justice. However fired up on “kif”, a combination of strong local cannabis mixed with a heavy dose of strong local tobacco, the boys have been known to dance themselves to death over the three day period following Eid.-al-Fitr. Perhaps there is something closer to the Lobasha further south, where agricultural states sprung up across the expanse of the Sudan in the 1st Millennium B.C. influenced both by Nubia and Ethiopia and central authority was stronger? The horse and later the camel made two way contact from Meroe to the Senegal via the savannah south of the Sahara very possible if you were so inclined both before and after this period.