A sergeant in the United States Army, Orton was part of the abortive 1916-17 Pancho Villa Expedition to the Sierra Madres. Whilst separated from the main force, Orton's squad discovered a cave in which a group of Mi-go were working on a bizarre machine. During the ensuing battle between the soldiers and aliens, he was badly wounded and presumed dead by the survivors.
In the aftermath, the Mi-go who would come to be known as Mr. Stone rebuilt Orton using parts from both the alien and human dead, and while Orton could now pass as human by concealing his body beneath heavy clothing, his face was hideously disfigured. Orton and Mr. Stone then travelled to Arkham, Massachusetts, where he took the name Phillip Avery.
Establishing a successful import business specialising in esoteric artefacts with the ulterior motive of gathering equipment and supplies for Mr. Stone, Avery became a highly-influential figure in Arkham, and soon joined the Silver Twilight Lodge, a cult dedicated to the service of dark gods.
After finally locating all of the pieces of the Shard of Panestes required by Mr. Stone, Avery was granted his wish by the Mi-go: to become immortal. However, this wish did not take the exact form he had hoped for, and his brain was transferred into a Mi-go cylinder.
Following this, Avery, Mr. Stone and several members of the Silver Twilight Lodge travelled to N'kai to harvest the parasitic Feeders from Within as part of their scheme, but were ultimately thwarted by the combined efforts of Mark Harrigan, Diana Stanley and Carolyn Fern. Avery's brain cylinder was left to the tender mercies of the Great Old One Tsathoggua, who had been awakened during the course of their activities.
- Orton was stated to have come from a well-bred Arkham family, but what happened to the others is never revealed. They may simply be living normal lives, unaware that Johnathan had returned as Avery. Alternatively, he may have been the last of his line.
- Although Avery ran the successful Avery Imports, he was also involved in the thriving bootleg liquor trade, and presumably its associated criminal enterprises, given that he was able to easily enlist the aid of organised criminals.