She has left the Archives in a state of chaos and he is faced with the monumental task of organising and recording several decades worth of statements about encounters with the paranormal.
John initially comes across as a rude and short-tempered man, being dismissive and condescending towards written statement givers and his assistant Martin Blackwood. He eventually admits that he is scared of the monsters and supernatural subjects of statements, but covers it up with a scornful exterior.
John shies away from violence, he panics if threatened and stutters if intimidated or scared. He doesn't have much courage but is very persistent. He also feels intense guilt for his actions and mistakes and mourns the loss of his humanity.
Over time, he has acquired several scars from various encounters. He has extensive and visible scars from worms burying into him in MAG 39. One of his hands has burn scars from MAG 89 and he likely has a scar on his neck from Daisy after she cuts him in MAG 91. Melanie stabs him in MAG 125, leaving another scar on one of his shoulders.
Several different characters have called him 'little,' but it is unclear if this is in reference to his stature or a condescending insult. Additionally, in MAG 79 John comments that the pipe he has been carrying is useless for defence, as he is getting tired just by holding it. John could be physically smaller or just weaker than Elias, who had no trouble using it.
John was born circa 1987 and comes from Bournemouth. His father passed away when he was two years old and his mother died a few years later, leaving him to be raised by his paternal grandmother.
John was a smart but difficult child. He got bored easily and would wander off. His grandmother found books were helpful for keeping him in one place, but he hated to read anything he felt like he'd already read before, meaning most authors could only provide him with one book.
His first experience with the supernatural occurred when he was 8 years old, around 1995/96 – an early encounter with a Web-related Leitner book that claimed the life of an 18-year-old that bullied him. He has had a fear of spiders ever since.
He took a job with the Magnus Institute's research department in 2011 and was made Head Archivist in 2015. When promoted, John requests Sasha James and Tim Stoker as assistants. Without telling John, Elias Bouchard also transfers Martin Blackwood to the Archives. He meets Martin on his first day in the Archives, just after Martin has accidentally let a dog into the Archives.
John used to smoke but quit in 2012. That same year, his grandmother passed away.
John starts out cranky at Gertrude and dismissive of many of the cases, believing that reports of the truly arcane or esoteric are few and far between, though events of late are starting to seem worrisome. He has done almost all of the audio recordings for the Magnus Archives. He is helped by archival researchers Martin Blackwood, Sasha James, and Tim Stoker, though he seems to hold Martin in particularly low regard, at least until after the latter’s encounter with Jane Prentiss. Jonathan Sims is keen to digitise the Archives; however, attempts to record certain cases onto his laptop have caused significant audio distortions, so he has had to settle for recording onto an archaic tape recorder.
Following Martin's encounter with Jane Prentiss and her subsequent siege of the Institute, he has become more and more concerned about the dangers of his job, including a sense that he and his co-workers are being hunted.
John survives the Prentiss attack with scars from the worms and significant mental trauma. He is convinced that Gertrude Robinson's death was not natural and there is some deeper mystery about the statements. He believes that she was murdered by someone at the Archives for what she knew, and is determined to find the truth.
After the attack on the Archives, John is forced to take a month off to recover. His paranoia builds after the reveal of his murdered predecessor, and John becomes suspicious of all the Archives' employees. He starts keeping two tape recorders - a normal one, and second supplemental to record his suspicions as he begins spying on the staff. Martin notices John's agitated behaviour and gives him a jar of Jane Prentiss's ashes in an attempt to assuage him.
During some of his time off, he sneaks into work at night to explore the tunnels under the Institute. In MAG 41 he chronicles his explorations, finding evidence of someone living in the tunnels, but eventually pauses exploring after a harrowing encounter in one of the lower levels.
John seems genuinely baffled at Martin's worry for him. He even goes so far as classifying his behaviour as suspicious, wondering if Martin is trying to hide something from him by making John take time off.
John stalks his assistants at their homes and spends a significant amount of time after work exploring the tunnels. He gets Basira Hussain to bring him tapes recorded by Gertrude from her murder investigation to understand what Gertrude was involved in.
John meets with Melanie King a few times. After learning from her that there is something wrong with Sasha James, he realises that Sasha has been replaced by Not-Sasha. John takes an axe to the web table held in artefact storage, knowing it is tied to what has taken Sasha and hoping to destroy it but finds that the table was actually binding and limiting its power. John flees from the freed NotThem before he rescued by Jurgen Leitner, who was living in the tunnels. Leitner tells him about the existence of The Entities; John that the Institute is a place of power for the entity known as 'Beholding' and that he belongs to it too. John is overwhelmed and leaves for a cigarette, but Leitner is murdered by Elias Bouchard before he returns.
Wanted for Leitner's murder, John hides out at Georgie Barker's house and gets Melanie King to find info for him from the Archives while he's unable to return.
He goes to Jude Perry and Michael Crew for statements. As Michael Crew finishes his, police officer Alice "Daisy" Tonner knocks on the door and tries to kill John. Basira Hussain saves him, and they go interrogate Elias about Gertrude's murder.
John and Daisy later capture and interrogate Sarah Baldwin about The Unknowing, which gets the attention of Nikola Orsinov, who first tries to get him to find the ancient gorilla skin Gertrude stole, but later kidnaps him, intending to use his skin for the ritual herself. Michael shows up to kill him before she can, but is replaced by Helen, who is now The Distortion and decides to rescue John instead.
John travels to China and America. In the latter, he meets Trevor Herbert and Julia Montauk. He talks to Gerard Keay in the Catalogue of the Trapped Dead and learns about the entities in greater detail. After being away from the institute for weeks, he finds out he has a "physical dependence" to statements, ending up sick if he goes too long without them.
John stops The Unknowing with the help of his assistants but ends up in a coma.
While in a six-month coma, John is visited by Oliver Banks, who reveals that death is the final step required to become an avatar of an entity. John flatlines, then wakes up from his coma. He subsequently starts referring to himself as "The Archivist," marking his acceptance of being an avatar of the Beholding.
After he gets out of the hospital, he resumes his position in the Archives and comes back to find Melanie and Basira have moved into the Institute as it's too unsafe outside, Tim is dead, Daisy is missing, and Martin is absent. He's worried about Martin working with Peter Lukas, but stays away after Martin asks John to leave him alone.
John finds out Daisy is still alive - trapped in the coffin. Breekon breaks into the Archives meaning to attack John but ends up fleeing after John forcibly extracts a statement from his mind, leaving the coffin. John discovers he could go into the coffin and have a chance of coming back if he has a physical anchor - a body part - left behind to come back to. After attempting to chop off a finger for an anchor and healing supernaturally, Melanie takes John to Jared Hopworth the Boneturner, who is trapped in Helen's door after his attack on the Archives. In return for his freedom, Jared agrees to take one of John's ribs out. John offers another rib to Jared for his statement. He goes into the coffin and finds Daisy, but is stuck inside with her. They only escape when John is guided back by the dozens of tape recorders replaying statements on top of the coffin. The tape recorders are later revealed to be left there by a worried Martin.
John and Basira travel to Ny-Ålesund to stop what they assume is the Dark's ritual, The Extinguished Sun. They meet Manuela Dominguez, who is guarding what is left of the Dark Sun. John looks at the Dark Sun despite Manuela's warnings, and he collapses after looking at it. The star is extinguished.
Martin gets a statement from a woman claiming to have been harassed by John. After finding out John forced the statement from her and subsequently appeared in her dreams, Martin delivers the tape to Daisy, Melanie, and Basira. The three hound John, and he admits to forcing and 'feeding' on the statement of five people total, including the aforementioned woman from MAG 142. Basira calls John a danger and a monster, and John admits he's not sure he can control it. He worries he might be being controlled by the web.
After going to the house on Hill Top Road and reading a statement from Annabelle Cane, John confessed he's not being controlled. Taking live statements feels good and even though he could stop, he doesn't want to. He feels guilty feeling that way. Under the watch of the girls, he stops taking live statements and records more 'stale' ones. It doesn't feed his hunger, but it stops him from starving. Similar to post-coffin Daisy, he goes through withdrawal and is constantly weak and hungry.
John looks through a box of Gertrude's old tapes and tries to focus on the ones he isn't drawn to. One particular tape he has trouble forcing himself to press play. The tape is the statement of Eric Delano and details his method to escape the hold the Eye has over him - to remove his eyes. John curses, but confronts Martin with the idea, asking him to gouge their eyes out and run away together. After being rejected, he presumably tells the girls the method, of who only Melanie ends up going through with it.
Finding a tape left on his desk, John discovers Martin has gone with Peter Lukas to the centre of the tunnels under the Institute. He tries to get help from several different people, but ends up going alone after the Institute comes under siege by Julia Montauk, Trevor Herbert, and Not-Sasha. John is guided to the panopticon in the centre of the tunnels by Elias, who tells him Peter has taken Martin into the Lonely. John goes in after them.
In the Lonely, he finds Peter Lukas, who tries to dissuade John from finding Martin and convince him that if he stayed in the Lonely, he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone else. Not fooled, John compels a statement out of him. Peter refuses to tell John what Elias' plans are though. John compels him so hard that the act of defying the Archivist kills Peter. John finds Martin and together they leave the Lonely.
MAG 160 sees John and Martin in one of Daisy's safe houses in Scotland. John reads one of the statements Basira brought him while Martin goes for a walk. The statement starts with the usual - name of the statement giver and description of events - but it's revealed that Elias put that there as a front, and the real statement is Jonah's Magnus retelling of events. John is compelled to read the letter and is physically harmed if he tries to stop. Jonah reveals that his ritual required the Archivist to have an encounter with every Fear entity, and lists the ones John has had, the Lonely being the last one. Jonah explains that every other ritual has failed because they attempted to bring just one Fear into the world when all the Fears are connected. John is forced to read an incantation, and all Entities are brought into the world at once.
After the Change, John and Martin shelter in the cabin for an indeterminate amount of time. They eventually leave and head toward the Institute, looking for a way to undo the Change.
In MAG 200, John kills Jonah Magnus and becomes the pupil of The Eye. Martin arrives and after a last-ditch debate, stabs John to release the powers into new worlds. Once the world has returned to normal, neither John nor Martin are found in the rubble of the panotpicon and it is unclear what has become of them. It is assumed both are deceased.
- Persona - When recording a written statement, the Archivist takes on the voice and persona of the statement giver, reading the story with audibly different tones of voice and occasionally changing pitches to match the statement giver's. The Archivist is notably absorbed in the statements, becoming irritated if interrupted. John has shown worry over Martin reading multiple statements, possibly insinuating it's the statements themselves that affect the reader.
- Compulsion - The Archivist is able to compel others to answer a question or give a statement. It is implied that it can be taken a step further and compel someone to physically do something against their will. It is possible to resist the compulsion, but almost everyone who has successfully resisted has been affiliated with an Entity or is an Avatar themselves. In MAG 92, Elias describes the feeling of being compelled as 'quite nice' and 'tingly.'
- Knowing - The Archivist is able to Know certain things without having prior knowledge of them. This most often happens with relevant information to statements or the situation at hand. John has experienced pain while purposely trying to Know what an Entity is planning.
- Understanding - John has been shown to understand written and spoken languages he has never learned. It is unclear if he can respond in those languages, as he has only ever spoken English.
- Archivist's Presence - When the Archivist is present in the Archives, statement givers are able to eloquently and coherently tell their stories in a narratively interesting statement, regardless of their background or emotional state. This is highlighted in MAG 100 when John is absent from the Archives and cut off from the Beholding. The statement givers tell short, curt statements, often going off-topic or needing encouragement to tell details.
- Inhuman Healing - The Archivist recovers from physical wounds remarkably fast. The more powerful the Archivist becomes, the quicker the wound heals. When John tries to cut his finger off, the cut heals as soon as he withdraws the knife.
- Feed Your Patron - When the Archivist records or takes a statement, wounds heal faster. John was able to recover enough from his coma to be able to leave the hospital after reading just one statement. It is a double-edged sword, however. After John stops forcing live statements from people, he gets weak and hungry, going through a sort of withdrawal. Jude Perry used the phrase "Feed [your god]... or it will feed on you." Similarly, when John is away from the Archives for weeks without reading a statement in MAG 107, he reports feeling sick, dizzy, and confused, and admits feeling better after reading one.
- Reliving Nightmares - After statement givers tell their story to the Archivist, they frequently relive their experience in a nightmare, sometimes taking on the roles of the creature they saw. The Archivist shares these dreams and is always present to the dreamer, observing the events giver but never interfering. Elias Bouchard reveals in MAG 120 that John has these dreams every night, cycling through those who have given their statements. Institute employees and other avatars are exempt from these dreams.
- Convenient Tape Recorders - Tape recorders frequently show up and start recording on their own when important things are happening, or a statement is being given. This most frequently happens around John but has happened to several others associated with the Beholding as well. John has stopped manually turning on recorders, assuming they will record on their own if it's important. Unclear if this power stems from the Archivist or some other source.
- Knowledge Insertion - In MAG 165, John demonstrates a similar power to Elias' when he forces Not-Sasha to experience the suffering she inflicted on her victims.
- Role Reversal - In the post-Change world, John has the power to shift The Eye's focus; turning a watcher into the watched, the feared to being afraid, and vice versa. Revoking someone's watcher status destroys those whose existence depends on being feared. Turning someone into a watcher releases them from being tormented and makes them feed on fear instead. MAG 187 shows that this ability is reliant on the Eye being able to focus on the subject, which makes shapeshifters like The Distortion more difficult for it to target. However, focusing in on a detail about the creature that it cannot change can seemingly bypass this.
Marks from Entities
John has been marked in one way or another by every Entity. Almost every mark has been orchestrated by Elias Bouchard. Marks take the form of scars, injuries, or encounters. Elias has called John a "chronicle of fear" in reference to the gathering of these marks.
- Web - John's childhood encounter with A Guest for Mr. Spider. He would've been eaten if not for his childhood bully taking the Leitner away and getting enthralled in John's place.
- Corruption - Jane Prentiss's attack on the Archives, which left John with pockmark scars where the worms burrowed into his skin.
- Spiral - Helen Richardson's statement drew the Distortion's attention to John. He has gone through the doors several times and been stabbed once by Michael. He has had multiple encounters with both versions of the Distortion. Elias commented that John is deeply marked by the Spiral.
- Stranger - Not-Sasha's infiltration of the institute and John's close encounter with her, as well as The Unknowing.
- Desolation - Jude Perry, an avatar of the Desolation, gave John her statement and shook his hand, burning him.
- Vast - Mike Crew, an avatar of the Vast, gave John his statement and let him experience the sensation of the Vast firsthand.
- Hunt - Daisy's attempted murder of him, interrupted by Basira Hussain. Planned by Elias in that he "[left] the matter of Jonathan Sims up to [her]", and requested she kill him quickly.
- Slaughter - Melanie King, infected with a bullet that fuelled her with rage, stabbed John when he attempted surgery to remove it. Elias hired Melanie as a way of keeping her in the Archives until she could mark John.
- End - John's attempt to stop the Unknowing left him in a coma where he was "all but brain dead," during which he was approached by Oliver Banks, an avatar of the End, and then died before fully becoming the Beholding's avatar.
- Flesh - John had two ribs removed by Jared Hopworth, an avatar of the Flesh.
- Buried - John's descent into the coffin to rescue Daisy. Elias purposely sent Basira away to give John a chance to go in.
- Dark - In Ny-Ålesund John looked upon the Dark Sun, a star left behind from the Dark's failed ritual, and destroyed it. It was said that only powerful followers of the Dark could safely look at it.
- Lonely - Peter Lukas, an avatar of The Lonely, had taken Martin into a pocket dimension of the Lonely. John went in after them and killed Peter in the process.
As the main character of the show, John appears in almost every episode - thus it's easier to simply list the episodes he hasn't been heard in. Asterisks* mark episodes he still features prominently in as the subject; bold marks episodes where he is not even mentioned.
- In official transcripts, the Archivist's name is shortened to John. This was an intentional choice by author Jonathan Sims in order to psychologically distance himself from the character that shares his name. However, both John and Jon are considered acceptable spellings.
- John sings for just a few seconds in MAG 31 at the 13:25-14:15 mark (differs depending on where you listen).
- John says "I love you" to Martin in MAG 161. Before that, The Admiral was the only character John had been recorded saying "I love you" to.
- John is implied to be asexual in MAG 106 and he has shown romantic interest in both men and women. Writer Jonny Sims has confirmed that the Archivist was written as asexual in the Season 4 Q+A Part 1 and on Twitter, but he isn't sure what the Archivist himself would identify as since he's not the kind of person to openly talk about feelings or sexuality.
- All characters refer to John as 'him' but the show notes for MAG 132 refer to John as 'they'. Jonny Sims has clarified on Twitter that the show notes are not written by him and this is not indicative of any deeper canon meaning, but as the Archivist's gender will likely be unimportant to the plot, there is also nothing to contradict a non-binary interpretation of the character.
- In the season 2 Q&A, Jonny Sims speculates that the Archivist might enjoy reading non-fiction and watching documentaries in his spare time.
- In D&D John would be a warlock who thinks he's a druid.
- Gertrude Robinson and Jurgen Leitner are voiced by Jonny Sim's real-life parents, Sue Sims and Paul Sims.
- MAG 39: Infestation
- MAG 22: Colony
- MAG 26: A Distortion
- MAG 142: Scrutiny
- MAG 81: A Guest For Mr. Spider
- MAG 185: Locked In
- MAG 2: Do Not Open
- MAG 106: A Matter Of Perspective
- MAG 63: The End of the Tunnel
- MAG 1: Angler Fish
- The Magnus Archives Liveshow
- MAG 80: The Librarian
- MAG 107: Third Degree
- MAG 132: Entombed
- MAG 143: Heart of Darkness
- MAG 146: Threshold
- MAG 147: Weaver
- MAG 156: Reflection
- MAG 157: Rotten Core
- MAG 102: Nesting Instinct
- MAG 89: Twice as Bright
- MAG 92: Nothing Beside Remains
- MAG 158: Panopticon
- MAG 105: Total War
- MAG 131: Flesh
- MAG 122: Zombie
- MAG 142: Scrutiny
- MAG 160: The Eye Opens
- MAG 79: Hide and Seek
- MAG 91: The Coming Storm
- MAG 82: The Eyewitnesses
- MAG 125: Civilian Casualties
- MAG 120: Eye Contact
- MAG 159: The Last
- Author commentary & Author commentary
- MAG 93: Contaminant
- MAG 161: Dwelling
- Jonny's Twitter
- Jonny's Twitter, again
- Season 2 Q&A
- MAG 160.02 - Season 4 Q+A Part 2