Nikola Orsinov is a recurring character in the Magnus Archives and is either an acolyte or an aspect of The Stranger. She appears as a plastic female mannequin dressed as a circus ringmaster, although she can disguise herself as human using stolen skin and a 'borrowed' voicebox. She is the main antagonist of Season 3.
Before being transformed by the Stranger, Nikola Orsinov was Joseph Grimaldi (born 18 December 1778), an English actor and entertainer who was in his time the most famous clown in London. At some point (presumably after his retirement and descent into poverty in 1823) Grimaldi grew to resent his life and wandered into Circus of the Other. The Circus' ringmaster, Gregor Orsinov, created Nikola from what was left of Grimaldi to serve as the lead dancer for a future attempt at The Unknowing.
At some point during the latter half of the 20th century, Nikola decided Gregor had become 'boring' and murdered him, taking over the Circus and becoming the new Ringmaster. Though she retained this position until 2017, her control of the circus proved unpredictable. At some point the Circus lost ownership of a key component for the Unknowing ritual, the gorilla skin, causing Breekon and Hope to leave the Circus.
In the early 2010s, Nikola seems to have begun making preparations to perform the Unknowing, and reconnected with Breekon and Hope to this end.
In August 2013 an apparition resembling Joseph Grimaldi attacked Danny Stoker (brother of Magnus Institute archival assistant Timothy Stoker) while he explored the ruined Covent Garden theatre; the same apparition was later seen by Tim after Danny disappeared. Four years later, Nikola claims that this apparition was her, saying she is still sometimes Grimaldi "for special occasions".
In Autumn 2013 she appears to have stalked and murdered department store manager Lana Billings, presumably as a source of skin for the ritual.
In Autumn 2014 Nikola was preparing for the ritual in a compound in the Gwydir Forest; these preparations included harvested human skin, living mannequins, and living severed heads. The compound seemed to be run by a woman named Megan, who may or may not be Nikola in disguise, who lured Sebastian Skinner into the complex, hoping to introduce him to her 'boss'. Sebastian escaped, and Orsinov asked Jude Perry to burn down the complex, destroying any evidence.
In May 2017 Nikola broke into Georgie Barker's flat to interrogate the Archivist, Jonathan Sims, demanding the return of the gorilla skin (Stolen from The Trophy Room by Gertrude Robinson). Shortly afterwards, she sent Breekon and Hope to kidnap John, holding him captive at the House of Wax Museum in Great Yarmouth for around a month, intending to use his skin for the ritual, until he escaped with the help of Helen. Nikola eventually had her agents rob the graves of Gertrude Robinson and Jurgen Leitner for their skin to be used in the ritual.
On August 6th-7th, 2017, Nikola and her agents began the Unknowing at the House of Wax but were interrupted by a team from the Magnus Institute comprised of Jonathan Sims, Tim Stoker, Basira Hussain, and Alice "Daisy" Tonner. Tim was able to detonate the plastic explosives the team had planted under the museum before they entered, killing both Nikola Orsinov and himself in the process.
Nikola Orsinov has not been seen since the destruction of the House of Wax. After extracting a statement from Breekon, John believes Orsinov was destroyed in the explosion. He later restates this with greater certainty.
- Joseph Grimaldi was a real-life entertainer who lived in the late 18th century. He was an English actor, comedian, and dancer who rose to fame during the Regency era.
- Tim telling Nikola to see Grimaldi perform is a reference to a famous joke that dates back to the 18th century. In the joke, a deeply depressed man seeks help from a physician. The physician encourages him to visit the theatre, as a very famous actor is performing in town, but the man reveals that he is the actor in question. Modern variations of the joke often use the name Pagliacci after it appeared in the visual novel series Watchmen, a reference to the Italian opera Pagliacci. Historical versions refer specifically to Joseph Grimaldi, who was notably depressed near the end of his career and through his retirement.
- Nikola is voiced by Jessica Law who was in the band The Mechanisms with writer Jonny Sims and fellow voice actors Frank Voss (Basira Hussain) and Tim Ledsam (Jordan Kennedy).
- In The Mechanisms, Jessica played "The Toy Soldier," a living wooden automaton with some similarities to the plastic Nikola Orsinov such as both having stolen someone's voice box.
- Nikola's character was created with Jessica in mind for the role.
- There are conflicting dates for this event:
MAG 128 implies it happened before Breekon and Hope took over Alfred Breekon's company in 1993.
MAG 96 implies it took place later as Gertrude kills Daniel Rawlings when she steals the skin and he was not taken by the angler fish until 2006.
- MAG 128: Heavy Goods
- MAG 104: Sneak Preview
- MAG 119: Stranger and Stranger
- MAG 83: Drawing A Blank
- MAG 87: The Uncanny Valley
- MAG 97: We All Ignore the Pit
- MAG 99: Dust to Dust
- MAG 101: Another Twist
- MAG 118: The Masquerade
- MAG 165: Revolutions