Like any antisocial latchkey kid, I went through a collectibles phase. Collectibles were the friends that you played catch with, because you certainly couldn’t ask that from your dead dad. My obsessions were the standard stuff that any 7 to 13 year old boy could love: Star Wars action figures, classic Superman comic books, bootlegs of the Necromonicon that were supposed to help you tell your dead dad you finally got a “B” in math class. But the one thing that always fascinated me in my routine trips to any flea market or antique store were the “lost” baseball cards of Diatemacia. Widely considered one of the most coveted baseball card series in the world, I could never afford a set (a loose pack of “decent condition” cards alone is valued at $2,000). But they are, in a word, unreal.
Diatemacia, in case you’ve never heard, is a lost religion that originated in the American South, sometime between 1860-1890. Not much information on it can even be found on the internet, but we can be glean a bit from the newspaper ribbon in which the cards came packaged. Founded by a wealthy denim producer, Graham Carmichael, Diatemacians believed that the world would one day come to an end, but then be reborn. On the day of rebirth, believers would be “cleansed” by the Divine Babysitter and spend eternity in paradise, contemplating and correcting the errors of mankind. Non-believers would go about their lives as if nothing had ever happened. Except that all male Non-believers would be given enhanced sexual libidos. Because Diatemacians believe that ignorance breeds ineffectiveness, they felt that people of low intelligence had a tendency to also massively reproduce. Diatemacians believe that these people should not be punished for that instinct, but they should learn how to moderate it. That’s why these new libidos will drive men to stick their dicks into literally anything it could fit into: tree knobs, mailbox slots, a hole in their shoe, phonographs, radiators, bath tub faucets, garden hoses, etc. Because God is merciful and wise, he would never make a Non-believer bring any kind of sexual assault or crime upon another Non-believer. On the contrary: around other people, a male Non-believer is no more attracted to a man or woman than he was before the world ended. However, leave him alone in a room full of lamps with no lightbulbs… be careful when you walk back in there.
From what I could gather, Diatemacians valued style and common sense. In their Holy Book of Holy, dozens of chapters are dedicated to the sacrament of a full handlebar mustache. Not to mention they seem surprisingly progressive for a niche religion, preaching that the beauty of woman was should be judged by how many employees she managed.
The baseball cards were originally marketed towards the children of faithful Diatemacians. Carmichael acknowledged that the gravitas of the faith could be easily lost on kids, so he set out to create an extension of the Holy Book of Holy for a younger audience. The cards featured the patron saints of Diatemacia, who received their sainthood at birth. From there, the Saints were groomed for their destiny as spiritual leaders of their faith. Children could spend months collecting and trading a single series of cards, all of which – when assembled together – told the story of each of the 12 Saints in full. Amongst them was Saint Irma of Birmingham who brought industry to Southern farming, and was also believed to be President Ulysses S. Grant secret night-night storyteller.
Today, the market value of these cards alone makes a single pack worth owning – that is if you can find or afford it. In a recent auction in Laos, a pack of cards from a 1933 12th series sold for $500,000. It was one of the few packs today not owned by Vincent J. Pestonschraud, the last practicing Diatemacian left in this country. Pestonschraud is the great-great grandchild of Carmichael himself, and a noted recluse. His estate can be found in a swamp ranch outside of Jacksonville, Florida. His property is rumored to not be far from the burial ground of his somewhat famous grandfather. Thousands of journalists, fans, and “wanna-be” converts have tried to reach out to Prestonschraud over the years, but he refuses to associate with a world that is doomed to fail. In a statement that his lawyer released in 1995, he famously wrote “You’ll never get my grandfather’s baseball cards, you secular basset hounds. Not for all the tea in China, or $300 – which is what all of that tea is worth. The cards will die here on my property and my corpse with them. Any of you ‘Smithsonians’ try to raid my house to take them, will be met with an unpleasant doom – far worse than what God has waiting for you.”