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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.

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


Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/8/1906 p9

St. Louis Woman Coming to Convert “Rollers”

Mrs. von Porten Wants to Stop “Burning of Children.”


Troubles of the Holy Rollers are unceasing, and what few of the Rollers there are left are now threatened with an attack of missionaryitis. It has remained for people in St. Louis, Mo., to discover that the Holy Rollers need reformation, and to accomplish this end they are preparing to send Mrs. Bertha von Porten here.


Fame of the Corvallis fanatics spread over the country a few years ago, when Creffield first organized his crowd in the little Oregon town. Since then the assassination of Creffield by George Mitchell and the subsequent murder of Mitchell by his sister, Esther, made the Holy Rollers even more prominent. The genuine Holy Rollers are practically disbanded, but the name has been given to other small bunches of fanatics, one such being in California. It was recently announced in the dispatches that the Holy Rollers (California brand) were preparing to immolate their children. This is what caused the St. Louis crusaders to act.


Some one in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has written the following weird description of what the crusaders imagine is an every day affair with the Holy Rollers:

Picture to yourself, if your imagination, has the strength, a meeting of the Holy Rollers, where men and women shout frenziedly, draw themselves into contortions and then roll about the floor as if they were wild beasts or humans possessed by demons. Intensify the picture by giving it as a companion one in which the Holy Rollers are offering a sacrifice. See a great fire surrounded by women and children who hold loved things in their hands and cast them forth in the flames as they are moved by the words of a leader. See, also, mistily, however, the same flames blazing as if they waited for more, and think of the little children that are to be their human fuel, if the press dispatches from the West correctly forecast the future intentions of the curious sect.”


After reading the foregoing literary gem, it is not to be wondered that Mrs. Bertha von Porten began making plans to convert the members of the flock and show them the error of their way. Mrs. von Porten cannot speak a word of English, but is confident that she will be able to open up a line of conversation with the benighted Corvallis people. She lays great stress on the alleged fact that the Holy Rollers believe in sacrificing children.


The date of Mrs. von Porten’s departure for the scene of her missionary work has not been set, and unless she hastens there will be no Holy Rollers for her to convert.




Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/8/1906 p12

Woman Robs Husband to Join Holy Rollers

Los Angeles Cripple Deserted by Spouse, Who Takes Child With Her.


(Journal Special Service.)


Los Angeles, Sept. 8.-- Emil Hugo, a crippled blacksmith, living at 1308 East Ninth street, last Wednesday reported the disappearance of his wife, with their 7-year-old daughter Lillian. He attributes their departure to “Holy Rollers.” Hugo says his wife and a male companion forcibly took $110 from him as he was hobbling along near Eighth and San Pedro streets.


The Hugos came from Pennsylvania about a year ago. Soon afterward the husband was stricken with paralysis. Since then, Mrs. Hugo has been working in a laundry and her friends say that it was her own money which she took from Hugo.


It is said, however, that Mrs. Hugo has sought refuge at the home of the Swedish minister, where her husband claims she is under control of the “Holy Rollers,” whose meetings she has been attending.



Evening Telegram (Portland) 8/8/1906 p9

Roasts the ‘Rollers


TELEGRAM’S SALEM BUREAU, Aug 8.-- “Holy Rollerism is of the devil, free lovism is anti-Christian, and no man is either honorable or Christian, and no man is either honorable or Christian to preach or practice them. Holy rollers are free lovers are both alike and under the spell of delusion. Rev. M. L. Ryan, of the local Holiness Mission, in an exhaustive article in the Mission’s publication called the Light. In explaining the difference between the belief of his particular sect of religious workers and the Holy Rollers of the Creffield type, and in defense of his church against the charge or inference that his people were tending toward Holy Rollerism as criminal fanaticism under the guise of religion. “The devil is the author of fanaticism,” he says, “and he has launched it for the purpose of thrusting directly at the true faith of Christ. There should be, and probably will be a law enacted to restrict and imprison fanatics whose teachings uphold crime in the practice of religious worship. Such a law would not be unconstitutional, neither would it be against free religious worship of this country. God’s word declares that men shall be visited with strong delusion in the last days, and what more convincing proof is there of the truth of this prophecy than exist all around us? Rollers with free love proclivities are religious perverts. Holy Rollerism is not inspired by God, but by demons. These are the days of all kinds of perverts, religious, moral and otherwise. Holy people are clean, honorable and law-abiding, while Holy-Rollers are deluded, fallen and tending toward crime.”



Seattle Star 8/11/1906 p1

Are Like the Holy Rollers

Oklahoma Sect To Be Prosecuted On Charge Of Immoral Habitation--Leader Claims Divine Power.


(Star Special Service.)


OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., Aug 11.--A man named John Sharp with about 40 followers, has turned up near this city and claims that he is God Almighty. The band is living in tents. They claim all sorts of nonsensical foolishness and live together in disregard of moral or civil law.


Charges have been filed in the district court of this city and a legal battle will be vigorously prosecuted to rid the community of the objectionable crowd.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 8/25/1906 p12

Holy Roller Makes Human Torch as Sacrifice

California Woman Pours Oil Over Herself, Lights It and Dies From Burns.


(Journal Special Service.)


San Bernardino, Cal., Aug. 25.-- In an excess of religious zeal following the advent of the Holy Rollers in southern California, Mrs. Josephine Burton Young yesterday deliberately set herself on fire, hoping by martyrdom of flames to reach the heavenly throne. the woman had become a religious fanatic following continuous attendance of these frenzied meetings, and only a few days ago had been ordered confined in a hospital.


She escaped from there in men’s clothes, making her way back home. Her daughter saw her drink oil from the lamp, pour more oil over her hair and dress and when the frightened girl returned with her father they beheld the unfortunate mother writhing in flames.


Screaming she ran through the yard, her agonized cries being succeeded by prayers such as Holy Rollers use. Her husband caught her and smothered the flames, but the woman died last night.


Mrs. Young was one of several women in this community who had been rendered flighty after persistent attendance at the meetings of a strange sect which teaches that sacrifices like those in ancient days are still necessary.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 9/4/1906 p1

White Women Join Negroes in Frenzy of Religious Orgy


(Journal Special Service.)


Los Angeles, Sept 4.-- A wave of religious fanaticism that has swept over southern California reached a climax last night when at a ramshackle Negro church on Azusa street scores of seemingly respectable white women and a few white men rubbed noses with greasy Senegambias, who were most eager for young, unattended white girls to join the church.


At the height of the meeting, a prepossessing white woman arose, and after waving her hands to secure silence, testified that she left her husband and children in order to follow a Negro. she declared the Lord had told her to leave her family, and in her frenzy threw her arms about the one-eyed Negro leader and shouted his praises. Pandemonium reigned supreme when the meeting was practically turned over to the Negroes at 10 o’clock. Black wrenches threw themselves on the floor and cackled and gobbled. All claimed entire satisfaction. The police were frequently compelled to interfere with the meetings to prevent the maniacs from harming themselves or others.

Holy Rollers

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

(541) 563-3112


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Theresa (T-) McCracken