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

by T. McCracken and Robert B. Blodgett

THE PROLOGUE

Creffield Found This is a story that has everything a good read should have: sex, mass insanity,the downfall of prominent families, murder, and sensational court trials.

And it's all true.

When Edmund Creffield and his cult followers made headlines in Oregon in 1903, it was page-one news--and not just in the Pacific Northwest, but around the country.Yet few today know who Creffield was, not even many folks in Waldport, where the final chapter of his story takes place.

Waldport is a small town--fewer than 2,000 today--the sort of place where everybody knows everything about everyone else.They even know everything about everyone else's parents and grandparents.The old-timers make sure of that.Go crabbing at the dock with one and he'll tell you about fishing in the old days "when you could walk across the Alsea Bay on the backs of salmon--which was a good thing because there wasn't a bridge in those days."

He'll gladly tell you all about the Indians, the homesteaders, the loggers, and the lumber barons. He'll even tell you about the scoundrels and the madams.  If you want to hear about something really outrageous, he'll tell you about Bo and Peep, a music professor and a nurse who not long ago convinced some in town that if they followed them, leaving behind everything--even their children--they would find salvation in a spaceship.

But asking an old-timer about Edmund Creffield is an offense."We were always told to not talk about him," the old-timer will murmur, eyes cast down, "and I'm not going to.  Why dredge up the dead?  It'll only hurt the living.  It was a one-time thing.  Nothing like that could happen again.  Or, anyhow, it couldn't ever happen again to normal people.  Sane people.  People like you and me."

What little most folks in town know was gleaned from a magazine article a student at Waldport High happened upon in the 1950s.The girl had never before heard of Edmund Creffield, but she knew almost everyone else mentioned in the piece."Do you know who these people are?" she asked after reading the article aloud on the school bus."Whose mothers these are?Whose fathers these are?"Everyone on the bus knew who they were because everyone in town knew who they were.They were some of the town's earliest settlers and some of the town's best-respected citizens.

That--not murder--may be the most unsettling part of this story. Unsettling because these were normal people.  Sane people. People like you and me.If things like these could happen to them, things like these might happen to anyone.

When the Waldport High students asked their parents for more information about the doings of Creffield and his followers, all were shushed up and told to never bring up the subject again. A group of men went up and down the coast buying and destroying every copy of the offending magazine they could find.

The young people obeyed their parents and never did bring up Creffield again.

And neither did anybody else in town.

Until now.

Waldport, Oregon

September 2001

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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Holy Rollers Paper Back

Get an autographed paperback for $16.95 (that includes postage and handling for U.S. addresses)

Want to write a check instead of using a credit card? I'm trusting. e-mail that you want the book and I'll send you a copy. You don't send a check until you get the book with an invoice.

Theresa (T-) McCracken, 890 North Bayview, Loop Waldport, Oregon 97394 (541) 563-3112

***

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

The Prologue

Part 1: The Seduction

Chapter 1: Trust Me, Brothers And Sisters
(Life Before Creffield [B.C.])

Chapter 2: God, Save Us From Compromising Preachers
(Creffield's Preachings)

Chapter 3: The Flock
(Profiles of the Holy Rollers Were)

Chapter 4: The Holy Rollers
(Things Start to Get Wild on on Kiger Island)

Chapter 5: Housecleaning
(There's a Sacrificial Bonfire)

Chapter 6: Community Concerns
(Officers Visit)

Chapter 7: Esther, The Chosen One
(Creffield Plans to Marry 16-Year- Old)

Chapter 8: Tar and Feathers
(The Men of Corvallis Act)

Chapter 9: Sane People Don’t Go Bareheaded
(Holy Rollers are Committed to the Asylum)

Chapter 10: More Beast Than Man
( Creffield is Arrested)

Chapter 11: God Will Plead Creffield's Case
(Creffield in Court)

Chapter 12: Scandal
(Shocking Testimony at the Trial)

Chapter 13: Calm Before the Storm
(The Holy Rollers Resume their Lives)

Chapter 14: Giving Up The Ghost
(Men are Gunning for Creffield)

Part Two: The People V. Creffield

Chapter 15: I Got My Man

Chapter 16: The Widow Creffield

Chapter 17: Killer or Hero

Chapter 18: The Trial

Chapter 19: An Inherited Streak of Insanity

Chapter 20: Testimony

Chapter 21: Two Other Murders

Chapter 22: The Verdict

Part Three: The Madness

Chapter 23: Seeking Reconciliation

Chapter 24: Another Holy Roller Page One Murder

Chapter 25: What Can Papa Do For You?

Chapter 26: Human Life is Too Cheap In This Community

Chapter 27: Grief

Chapter 28: Insanity?

Chapter 29: Poison?

Chapter 30: The Final Chapter
(What Happened to Everyone Afterwards)

The Epilogue
(Heaven's Gate)

***

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

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The Cast of Characters
Photos and Bios of the Holy Rollers

***

Holy Rollers' Asylum Commitment Papers

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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

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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

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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

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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