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Creffield and Mystical Manipulation

Want to have a mystical experience? Chant for hours, maybe days, on end. Fast. Don't sleep. Do these simple things, and chances are you will experience something that seems mystical. If you're lucky, God will speak to you. At the very least you will probably have a hallucination where you believe God has spoken to you.

Cult leaders persuade their flocks that such mystical experiences are "proof" of their possession of the "truth." This is what Dr. Lifton calls "mystical manipulation" or "planned spontaneity."

If a cult leader is successful in this, his flock will see themselves as the vanguard of "some imminent law of social development." Those questioning the validity of theses mystical experiences--even those that are close family and long time friends--will be viewed as "stimulated by a lower purpose, to be backward, selfish, and petty in the face of the great overriding mission."


Franz Edmund Creffield was a master at mystical manipulation. Like all cult leaders, in order to succeed he had to get people to believe he had some sort of "direct connection" with God, that he was a special messenger from God--if not His exclusive messenger--sent from Heaven to reveal the "divine truth."

He did this by keeping his flock in a state of frenzied excitement. He had them rolling, praying, rolling, wailing, rolling, groaning, rolling, singing, rolling, clapping, rolling, stomping, rolling, tumbling, rolling and rolling and rolling for hours and hours.


An excerpt from Chapter Two of Holy Rollers
in which Creffield uses Mystical Manipulation, apparently spontaneous events,
to convince his flock that he is "God's Elect"

Creffield PreachingAfter a time Creffield claimed he personally had reached such a state of spiritual perfection that: "God revealed himself to me. He came in the form of messages. He spoke to me. I heard his voice."

At such a statement, no one fell to the ground prostrate in front of him and asked for his divine guidance. They needed more to go on than his simply saying God spoke to him. After all, the town drunks--there were a few even in as idyllic a place as Corvallis--routinely said God spoke to them. So Creffield [who now referred to himself as God's Elect] was asked to elaborate on how God revealed Himself to him--did He come in spirit, or in person? Or maybe He used the telephone as Corvallis had recently been wired.

"That cannot be explained or described," Creffield answered. "It can only be experienced." Anyone, he said, could experience the "power of receiving messages from God," anyone. Soldiers in the Salvation Army. His doubters. Even Methodists. . .

"God, have mercy," Creffield said in a thunderous tone.

Some in the gathering sat there rolling their eyes at one another, summing up their of opinions of Creffield, God's Elect, by tapping a finger on their foreheads.

But at least one woman knelt with her eyes closed and whispered: "God have mercy."

"God will have victory tonight," Creffield said.

"God will have victory tonight," she whispered.

Some left the gathering--but not all.

Those that stayed knelt in prayer . . .

They all prayed for an hour, and, at Creffield's direction, the gathering began asking for forgiveness for their sins.

They all prayed for yet another hour, and without their realizing it, three hours had elapsed, and then four.

Creffield passed his hands back and forth over a woman, saying that "all forms of mental and bodily suffering could be cured by the laying on of hands."

When was the last time someone had said something like that at a Methodist service? . . .

The women among them [shook] so hard that their hairpins came loose, letting their hair flow freely about their shoulders. . .

"God will have victory tonight!" the gathering cried, each individual sounding as though he was trying to outdo the others in righteousness.

More time passed. Five hours, six hours, then seven. By then the gathering were no longer asking for forgiveness for their sins--they were begging for it. They were doomed to burn in Hell if they didn't receive redemption now. They could practically hear the screeching of those who repented too late and were burning already.

"When you get God's best, you become unmanageable, irresistible; you're not afraid of clay faces any more," Creffield cried. "Fear of man is burned out, and all you see is the soul plunging into an everlasting, burning, seething Hell, and your cry becomes, 'Holiness or Hell.'"

"It is either holiness or Hell," the gathering cried, clapping and stomping. "The Scripture cannot be broken."

"Be ye holy!" Creffield bellowed.

After eight hours of prayer--or was it nine or ten or eleven? Did any of them know? Did any of them care? All were pleading for the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Creffield was still going strong. "God, have mercy! God will have victory tonight!" He said that anyone who believed he'd sinned--and who doesn't believe he's sinned at some point--needed to seek forgiveness by lying on the floor and rolling over and over until his sins had been atoned for. Some began to roll about the floor, beating it with their hands and feet and praying at the top of their lungs. On and on they rolled and prayed. And rolled and clapped and rolled and stomped and rolled. And rolled. And rolled until after twelve hours of this religious frenzy all were physically and emotionally spent, their bodies exhausted, and their minds unbalanced. Not just unbalanced, but spinning. They were glorying in heaven for their prayers were answered--God spoke to them. Personally. God Almighty spoke to them. Personally! To them. Ordinary sinners. Hallelujah!

Creffield told them they were now God's Anointed. . . .

And they, God's Anointed, were now sure about the spirit of God. Not only that, they were now sure about Creffield's link to God. In Creffield, they now trusted. After all, hadn't he told them that with his help they too would be able to receive messages directly from God--no small feat--and isn't that exactly what happened? This man Creffield--no, not just a man, but God's Elect--obviously he knew what he was talking about. And since he had been right about this, what else was he right about?

Had any of them received a message directly from God while they were with the Salvation Army? No. How could they have? The Salvation Army's people were not entirely of God--or so Creffield, God's Elect, had told them. So, all of God's Anointed deserted the Army.
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Holy Rollers

Buy Holy Rollers: Murder & Madness in Oregon's Love Cult as an eBook for a measly $3.99 or get an autographed paperback for $15.

Holy Rollers is a story that has everything a good read should have: sex, religious fervor, mass insanity, the downfall of prominent families, murder and sensational court trials.

And it's all true.

John Terry, the Oregonian's 'Oregon's Trails' columnist says of the book: "A dandy piece of research and a good read. Lots more stuff than I was aware of. It deserves an audience"













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Sample Chapters from Holy Rollers:
Murder and Madness in Oregon's Love Cult


The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers


Holy Rollers' Asylum Commitment Papers


Info for Book Groups

Book Reviews


1903 to 1907 Newspaper Articles About the Holy Rollers

1906 Editorial Calling for Gun Control
After Multiple Murders Involving the Holy Rollers

Stewart Holbrook Holy Rollers Article

Advertisements from 1893 to 1913


Oregon Insane Asylum
Where the Holy Rollers Were Committed

Creffield, Brainwashing & Thought Reform

Early Cases of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

1906 Autopsies Of Holy Rollers
Forensics Before CSI

Holy Roller Bizarre Divorce Decree
Hartley describes trying to kill his wife's lover


Comedians on Edmund Creffield

The Shadow Testament
A Play About The Holy Rollers

How the Fire Fell
A Movie About The Holy Rollers


Life in Corvallis in the early 1900s

Life in Waldport, OR in early 1900s

Heaven's Gate

Facts & Stats about 1906
And How The Holy Rollers Measured Up

Oregon State Penitentiary
Where Creffield Was Incarcerated


Info about Cults

Could you ever be lured into joining a cult?

Share your thoughts about, and experiences with, cults


Creffield's Preachings

Creffield Vs. Crefeld

The Salvation Army Opening Fire in 1886

Holy Roller Theology

Reverend Knapp's Bible Songs of Salvation & Victory
Songs Sung by the Holy Rollers


About the Authors

Theresa (T-) McCracken

Robert B. Blodgett

In addition to writing, McCracken is a cartoonist.

To see some of her 'toons, go to the Home of McHumor Cartoons mchumor.com

McCracken's Blog

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Snail Mail
Theresa (T-) McCracken
890 North Bayview Loop
Waldport, Oregon 97394

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken