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Creffield and the Holy Rollers made page one headlines from 1903 to 1907. When I was researching Holy Rollers: Murder and Madness in Oregon’s Love Cult I spent months transcribing hundreds of articles. I’m not sure why I was so obsessive. Maybe it was my way of immersing my self into a cult without joining one. Anyway, I’m posting them all for those who are really interested in the story, or are interested the history of journalism, or are interested in how a scandalous story played out in the "media" in a by gone era. Since I no doubt made typos and unconsciously corrected papers' typos, these web pages should not be cited in anything serious (e.g. your dissertation). For such projects they should only be used as starting points and you should refer to the original sources. If you want a shorter version of the story, buy my book. Enjoy.

November 2, 1903: Fanatics In Court


Edmund Creffield
Joe Haege
as Edmund Creffield

Evening Telegram (Portland) 11/2/1903 p1

Fanatics In Court

Great Excitement Attends Examination of Leaders of the Holy Rollers. Edward Baldwin Makes Desperate Attempt to Get Daughter to Desert Ranks. Wife of Prominent Corvallis Man Removes Furniture from Beautiful Home.


[Telegram Coast Special]

CORVALLIS, Or., Nov. 2 -- The result of the examination as to the sanity of the two leaders, Krafel (sic) and Brooks of the Holy Rollers, has not yet been made public. The examination was held Saturday afternoon behind closed doors. Judge Watters and Drs. B. A. Cathy and Pernot conducted the investigation. The affair was most sensational.


Several converts to the faith were subpoenaed as witnesses, among others Mrs. Hurt, Mrs. Hartley, Frank Hurt, and Miss Baldwin, a daughter of Edward Baldwin, a respected citizen of this county. A startling scene occurred during the examination in the Circuit Court Room, adjacent to where the examination was being conducted, several witnesses being there in waiting. Edward Baldwin, father of a girl of 22 years, took his daughter away by force being assisted by others. Miss Baldwin remonstrated, and was taken from the Courthouse screaming, and wailing and pleading to remain. She yesterday went to her home and tried to get her trunk and clothes to take to the Hurt house to be burned with the other clothing, jewelry and furniture which was destroyed by fire yesterday.


When Deputy Sheriff Henderson with his assistants went to the house he was refused admission at first, but afterward got in, finding all the converts in one room, which was bare of furniture. Some were lying on their faces, others on their backs, and others in crouching position. Some were praying, some laughing, and others weeping. Mrs. Hartley and daughter went yesterday to their beautiful new home in Corvallis and removed all available furniture and had the same hauled to the Hurt house where it was burned. Louis Hartley, manager of the Great Eastern Mining District, arrived in Corvallis from Bohemia Saturday, but so far he and his son have been unsuccessful in inducing the wife and daughter to return home.


One of the principal doctrines of the members of this sect is that as soon as they are converted their names are inscribed on the “Holy Roll,” which makes them worthy of personal communion with God. Hence the term “Holy Rollers.” They also believe that only a limited number of names can be so inscribed, and consequently each member makes a special effort to convert his or her immediate relatives before the roll is closed.


Mrs. Hurt, her son and two daughters have been Holy Rollers for some time, and have done everything in their power to influence the husband and father to join them, but had so successfully withstood their prayers and those of their fanatical leaders that he had become known among the converts as the “Black Devil.” His final conversion day before yesterday seems to be the cause of the fanatical frenzy which has taken possession of the entire body.



Evening Telegram (Portland) 11/2/1903 p1 The Holy Rollers

Group of Holy Rollers, Religious Fanatics Having Their Headquarters at Corvallis, Oregon

(Under this is a photo of the group, Top row, left to right--Levin, Brooks, Mrs. Worrell, (Portland), Ester Mitchell, Rose Seeley, Florence Seeley, Wesley Seeley, Mrs. Frank Hurt, (nee Sandell), Frank Hurt, Edna Seeley, Ona Baldwin, Campbell. Bottom row--Mrs. Lewis Hartley, Olive Sandell, Mrs. B. E. Starr, Mrs. Clarence Star (her figure is obliterated by small stickers containing scriptures: “In the world ye shall have tribulations, be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. John 16:33,” We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22,” and “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. Psalm 25:14.”, Mae Hurt, Mrs. Maud Hurt Creffield, Edmund Creffield, Mrs. Victor Hurt, Sophia Hartley, Atta Bray)



[Telegram Coast Special]

CORVALLIS, Or., Nov. 2 -- The above picture was taken at an outing of this new religious sect some months ago and shows all the members of the organization at that time. Since the photograph was taken one of the members withdrew and the figure was obliterated by small stickers containing scripture verses as is shown in the picture. Copies of this picture were buried the other day together with the bicycles, guns dishes, baby buggies and miscellaneous household articles which for some reason were not burned together with a lot of clothing and furniture.



The light haired man in the front row with a book in his hand is Krafel, the acknowledged leader of the Rollers, and the smooth-faced man, second from the left in the rear row, is Captain Brooks. These are the men who were examined as to their sanity Saturday. The young man directly behind Krafel is Frank Hurt.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 11/2/1903 p4 Group Photo of the Holy Rollers

Holy Rollers’ Are Quiet at Present

Fear Was Entertained That a Child Had Been Served as Burnt Offering

--World Did Not Come to End Saturday


(Journal Special Service)

Corvallis, Or., Nov. 2.-- There is a lull in the operations of the religious fanatics known as “God’s Anointed,” or “Holy Rollers.” A feature of their recent outbreak which resulted in an examination of the leaders, Brooks and Creffield, for sanity, was the destruction of their personal and household effects by members of the faith. Dishes, lace curtains, furniture and other belongings were ruthlessly destroyed in the belief by members of the sect that the world was to end Saturday evening. Sacrifices were also burnt on a large fire and fears were for a time entertained that an adopted child of one of the families had been offered on the alter as a burnt sacrifice. This, however, proved untrue.


1906 Edison phonograph records advertisementMorning Oregonian (Portland) 11/2/1903 p10

“Holy Rollers” In Frenzy

Rev. John Glasco Exhorts His Hysterical Brethren.


In a meager room on Second Street, between Taylor and Salmon, the “Holy Rollers” held forth last evening toward the saving of sinners against the coming of an early judgment. The Rev. John Glasco, a Negro exhorter of the Southern camp meeting type, preached an alleged sermon, while hysterical women members of the society of “Rollers” became temporarily insane, shrieked, tore their hair, and experienced the “jerks.” Some of the male members also felt the “power,” and the meeting place took on the semblance of the violent ward of a madhouse.


Glasco, by some strange psychological power, played upon the emotions of his audience until it was lost in the wave of religious frenzy which swept through the hall. The meeting opened with the singing of the old-fashioned hallelujah hymns, and after a number of more or less eloquent prayers by volunteer talent, the black preacher began his harangue. It was largely of a personal character, and Brother Glasco, without batting an eyelash, compared himself to Christ, and severally and collectively to the various apostles. He shouted until the glass in the windows rattled and his shouts were echoed back in “amens” of equal fervor. After and hour of rambling, disconnected appeals to “git sanctified” the preacher, foaming at the mouth, and completely exhausted, his voice worn to a rasping croak, gave way to a testimony meeting, which lasted into the night.

Holy Rollers

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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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Newspaper Articles about Creffield & the Holy Rollers

1897-1899:Local Lore, News Of Corvallis and Vicinity Told in Brief B. C. (Before Creffield)

1900:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1901:Holy Rollers' Lives Before Creffield

1902:Holy Rollers' Lives Creffield

January 18, 1903: Fred Mitchell Attempts Suicide

June 10, 1903: Salvation Army Major Deserts and Joins the Holy Rollers

October 31, 1903: Zealot Worshipers Burn Furniture, Dogs & Other Things

November 2, 1903: Fanatics In Court

November 3, 1903: Had Promise of Tar and Feathers

November 4, 1903: Flight of The Apostles

November 5, 1903: Once-Esteemed Family No Longer Has the Sympathy of the Community

November 6, 1903: Rollers Take On New Life

November 7, 1903: Is Creffield Back?

November 11, 1903: “Apostle” Creffield Still Under Cover

November 24, 1903: Girl of Sixteen Almost Insane

November 25, 1903: In Pursuit of Creffield

November 27, 1903: The Lord May Starve Them

November 28, 1903: Holy Rollers Receive Unwilling Baptism

December 7, 1903: Demented Woman Suffers

December 8, 1903: Hurt Seen In Portland

December 11, 1903:Holy Rollers Roll Into Eugene Church

December 21, 1903:Holy Roller Victim Worse

December 22, 1903: Linn County Holy Rollers

December 23, 1903: Is Crazy Now

December 29, 1903: Holy Rollers’ Not Liked at the Dalles

December 30, 1903: Owner of Property Refuses to Permit Séances

January 6, 1904: Holy Rollers Tarred and Feathered

January 9, 1904: Their Welcome Departure

January 12, 1904: Editorial Comment: “Put yourselves in our place!”

January 13, 1904: Where Brooks Went

January 19, 1904: Our Brainy Contemporaries

January 25: Holy Rollers’ in Hobo Camp Life

February 1, 1904: Camp In Linn County Is Broken Up By Officers

February 6, 1904: How They Tell The Holy Roller Story In Far Off Scotland

February 11, 1904: Medium Mystify Corvallis People

March 1, 1904: The “Holy Rollers” Offend Humanity

March 16, 1904: Holy Rollers to Be Arrested on Serious Charge

March 17, 1904: Where is the Apostle?

March 21, 1904: Reward For Creffield's Capture

March 23, 1904: Fugitive Creffield

March 28, 1904: Reward is Offered

April 1, 1904: “Holy Roller” Chief Very Badly Wanted

April 18, 1904: Holy Roller High Priest Is Seen

April 29, 1904: Urania Seeley is Arrested

May 2, 1904: Frank & Mollie Hurt are Committed to the Asylum

May 4, 1904: Maud Hurt-Creffield & Sophia Hartley are Committed

May 7, 1904: Attie Bray &Rose Seeley are Committed

June 11, 1904: Attie Bray Escapes

June 17, 1904: Mae Hurt is Committed

June 29, 1904: Sarah Hurt is Committed

July 22, 1904: Holy Roller on Death Row

July 29, 1904: Creffield Found Half Dead Under Hurt’s House

July, 30 1904: Armed Guards Protect Creffield

July, 31 1904: Corvallis Could Not Raise a Mob

August 1, 1904: Creffield says, "I am Elijah"

August 2, 1904: Creffield Does Not Dislike Prison

August 4, 1904: Creffield Says He Is Entirely Purified

August 5, 1904: He Does Nothing Unless Directed by God

August 6, 1904: Creffield Believes in Satan and Eternal Punishment

August 9, 1904: No Flowers For Creffield

August 13, 1904; The Holy Rollers And The Man Who Made Them

August 16, 1904; Creffield Reward Will Be Returned

August 19, 1904: Followers in Asylum Stick To Faith

August 23, 1904: Creffield Will Fight His Own Case

August 28, 1904: Creffield Destroys His Revelations

September 16, 1904: Creffield is Guilty

September 21, 1904: Holy Rollers go in and Out of the Asylum

March 22, 1905: Prison Life Of Joshua Creffield>

April 8, 1905: Life In Corvallis Returns to Normal

December 12, 1905: Frank & Mollie Hurt Have a Baby Girl

April 24, 1906: Creffield Establishes a Camp Near Waldport

April 30, 1906: Donna Starr Leaves Children to go to Her Spiritual Love, Joshua Creffield

May 1, 1906: Creffield Takes Credit for The San Francisco Earthquake

May 3, 1906: Creffield In Fear Of His Life

May 7, 1906: Holy Roller Shot Down Like A Dog

May 8, 1906: Medal to Be Given Mitchell in Recognition of His Killing

May 9, 1906: Oregon Prosecutor Would Aid Mitchell

May 10, 1906: Shows No Emotion At Husband’s Grave

May 11, 1906: Bail Is All Ready

May 12, 1906: Mitchell Denied Bail

May 13, 1906: Creffield is Due To Rise Today

May 14, 1906: Creffield’s Widow Watches At Grave

May 15, 1906: Corvallis Starts Fund for Defense of Mitchell

May 16, 1906: Holy Rollers Starving Near Heceta Head

May 17, 1906: Public Sentiment Favors Mitchell

May 18, 1906: Creffield Railed in Vermont

May 19, 1906: Mitchell to Enter Plea of Not Guilty

May 27, 1906: Joshua Says Not to Worry

June 1, 1906: Morris Claims Mitchell Rid World of a Fiend

June 16, 1906: Prosecution and Defense are Making Last Preparations

June 19, 1906: Many Witnesses For Mitchell

June 24, 1906: Trial Will Cost Taxpayers Ten Thousand Dollars

June 25, 1906: George Mitchell on Trial For His Life

June 26, 1906: Mitchell Jury is Selected With Care

June 27, 1906: Mitchell Trial Held Up By Squabble

June 28, 1906:  Jury is Secured to Try Mitchell

June 29, 1906: Trial is Now on in Earnest

June 30, 1906: Mrs. Creffield's Testimony

July 1, 1906: Creffield’s Ghost Controls His Flock

July 2, 1906:  Esther Mitchell on Stand Refuses To Aid Brother

July 3, 1906: Hurt Tells of Debauched Wife and Debased Sisters

July 4, 1906: Creffield’s Unsavory Record Presented to the Jury

July 5, 1906: Expected Admissibility of Evidence Will Arouse Controversy

July 6, 1906: Others Testify They Wished to Kill Creffield

July 7, 1906: Insanity Expert on the Witness Stand

July 8, 1906: Plan To Revive Holy Rollerism

July 9, 1906: Killing of Judge Emory May Effect Mitchell

July 10, 1906: Mitchell Case Goes To Jury

July 11, 1906: Not Guilty

July 12, 1906: General Rejoicing at Mitchell’s Acquittal

July 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Kills Her Brother!

July 14, 1906: Mitchell Boys Are Done With Esther

July 15, 1906: Hurt Will Come to Aid of His Daughter

July 16: 1906: Will Mortgage His Home for Daughter

July 17, 1906: Let’s Think When We Talk

July 18, 1906: Mrs. Starr’s Life Threatened

July 19, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Weeps in Jail

July 20, 1906: George Mitchell’s Attorney Offers Aid to Murderesses

July 21, 1906: Mitchell Boys to Stand by Esther

July 22, 1906: Hurt Thinks Both Women Are Insane

July 23, 1906: Frater Favors a Commission of Alienists

July 24, 1906: Mackintosh Will Oppose Calling Commission

July 26, 1906: Is Reconciled to Holy Roller Wife

July 27, 1906: Holy Rollers Seek Home in Wyoming

July 28, 1906: Mitchell Juror is Insane

July 30, 1906: Esther Will Deny Committing Murder In The 1st Degree

July 31 1906: Esther Mitchell Says Not Guilty

August 1, 1906: Relatives to Help Esther Mitchell

August 4, 1906: Creffield Greatly Hurt True Religion

August 6, 1906: Mitchell Boys in Drunken Row

August 8, 1906: St. Louis Woman Coming to Convert “Rollers”

August 12, 1906: Esther Mitchell Close to Death from Typhoid

August 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Not Seriously Ill

September 1, 1906: Four Charged with First Degree Now in County Jail

September 10 1906: To Examine Minds of Slayers

September 12, 1906: Hurt Thinks His Daughter Insane

September 13, 1906: Esther Mitchell Objects to Help

September 14, 1906: Women Not Agitated

September 15, 1906: Mrs. Creffield’s Trial Set for Next Month

September 17, 1906: Mrs. Creffield on Stand

September 18, 1906:  Maud Creffield Anxious to Hang

September 19, 1906: Are They Sane of Insane?

September 21, 1906: Both Women May Go Scott Free

September 22, 1906: Where is This Thing to End!

September 23, 1906: Murders Must Be Tried

September 24, 1906: Must Not Deport

September 25, 1906: Judge Frater is in Very Small Business

September 28, 1906: Insanity Board Not Paid

October 1, 1906: Holy Roller Woman Dies While in Trance

November 9, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Said to Be in Very Nervous State

November 17, 1906: Maud Creffield Dies in the County Jail

November 18, 1906: Death May End a Hypnotic Spell

November 19, 1906: Reviews Findings in Examination of Brain

November 20, 1906: Mrs. Creffield Killed Herself with Poison!

November 21, 1906: Poison Is Found In The Stomach Of Mrs. Creffield

November 22, 1906: Esther Says Maud Did Not Kill Herself

December 4, 1906: Washing Dirty Linen

December 17, 1906: Sad Christmas For Holy Roller

February 21, 1907: Esther Mitchell Goes to Asylum

April 30, 1907: Esther Mitchell Still Believe in Creffield & His Return

April 6, 1909: Esther Mitchell Leaves Asylum

April 9, 1914: Esther Mitchell Marries James Berry

August 3, 1914: Esther Mitchell is Dead By Own Hand

1953 Stewart Holbrook's Murder Without Tears

1951 Startling Detective Magazine: Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest

A List of All the Articles


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

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken