Nemesis of the Nudist High Priest

Franz Edmund Creffield - "Joshua the Second" Strange indeed was his hold over women, and dire was the destruction and violence that followed in the wake of the prophet By Lewis Thompson Startling Detective magazine, March 1951, Vol. 42, No. 244

two homicides. certainly. For around his person and personality there whirled in the few significant years of his career. .IN WHATEVER low esteem the contemporaries of Franz Edmund Creffield may have held him. a suicide. would have charged him with being dull. an earthquake and an astonishing amount of sex promiscuity growing out of the most fantastic religious cult this country has ever known. none.

and that as a youth he came to this country and settled on the West Coast. a lean. had it not been solemnly sworn to. his eyes flashed scorn at the cynics. through divine revelation. which was to be called the Church of the Bride of Christ. bearded figure. But.To this catalogue of dubious fame may also be added the observation that Creffield's accomplishments involved an unparalleled degree of feminine gullibility and receptivity to the power of suggestion.. smoke cigars and drink beer with the boys. under the name of Franz Creffield. self-dubbed prophet had wearied of the sober. left early. he solemnly exhorted the eagerly listening matrons. for his converts were painfully few. who really believed he was batting 1. When this was pointed out to the leader. and loved it. Now. Moreover. behind curtained windows and locked doors. the women listened. Early in that year. But those among his hearers with longer memories recalled that he had been in Corvallis before. gaunt. of which he was a minor figure. Unfortunately. data on him abounds. But he must have had something – perhaps it was the beard and the glowing eyes – to cause a slowly increasing number of otherwise sensible folk to take him seriously. and decided that on future meeting nights. the Almighty had appointed him head of the new cult. For his part. The conclusion was inescapable that the new. wives. Joshua really went to work on his flock. After the year 1903. he was holding regular meetings at the homes of his flock. Something about the wrong vibrations of the night air. Before spring was well under way. sensitive fellow that he was. he had been bidden to found the The Church. with several dozen women. while their menfolk nodded solemnly. there appeared on the streets of Corvallis. A few noted that the new meeting time meant necessarily that all the menfolk would be at work. perhaps not inexplicable reason. spinsters and maidens to abjure the pomp and vanity of this wicked world and the evil of false pride. The story of Franz Creffield's formative years would undoubtedly constitute a rich source for students of the more esoteric aspects of psychopathology. Joshua noted their devotion. these details are not known. and instructing them in his guaranteed method of attaining salvation. he declared. with the title of Joshua the Second. Ore. . but less dramatic business. legitimate objectives of the Salvation Army. Creffield was beset by doubts as to the effectiveness of his approach. aside from the facts that he was born in Germany. At first. That left Joshua alone.000. In the autumn of 1902. however. and had decided to go into business for himself. who announced to the few listeners he could muster that. and decided the time was ripe to deliver the real punch line of his particular brand of faith. and on more worthy. he told the ladies that one little detail would have to be changed – that henceforth meetings would be held in the afternoon. pressing the limits of credibility. who were forthrightly banished. Creffield's voice had been heard on the town's streets as part of a Salvation Army group. and those from that mercurial fringe which continuously hops from one religious persuasion to another. some of it. For some. they'd rather bowl. when Creffield was in his late 30s. First.

of all ages. and I ordain it!" With Joshua. The ladies. particularizing on the theme of the wickedness of vanity. he began to weave in and out of the congregation wearing nothing more than a glint in his eye. and their friends' friends. . BUT this turned out to be a pushover for such an imaginative leader as Joshua. the problem of space began to be a critical one. and out of the trees God had provided on the island a huge meeting hall and other smaller buildings which Joshua. and gratitude for the sweet opportunity to be saved. at the meetings. From among their number. it became apparent that the Church of the Bride of Christ needed larger quarters. and soon the island was astir with chopping. at one climactic meeting. the Second. cast a speculative eye about for a suitable site. on which Corvallis lay. Now. with their own hands. it was no sooner said than done. Joshua gave the ladies another jolt. he said. from time to time. however. there was scarcely room in an average sized parlor for each present to really roll her sins away without getting a neighbor's elbow in the eye. who was business manager as well as Prophet of the organization. of course. As the summer of 1903 approached. Joshua. Joshua's performance of this interesting phase of his cult only increased the numbers of his flock and their adherence to him. he retired to the seclusion of another room with one or another of the candidates to test their suitability for the dedicated role he had described. for. Their friends. The faithful heeded the call with a zestful willingness. Within minutes. At the time. were really sent. could not be kept secret. Having established the evilness of clothes and the righteousness of nudity. in which he declared that the women of the flock were to construct. Such goings-on. the zealots among the ladies became missionaries in search of new material. and all eager to see that the Prophet's revelation was fulfilled swiftly. He had another revelation. the floor was a writhing and rolling mass of nude and partially nude bodies. For one thing. several of those involved testified that Joshua invoked some peculiar practices in this process of selection. The only difficulty was that. Indeed. all shouting praise to the Prophet. he stood erect. and. as the numbers swelled.This can best be described as the softening-up process. however – a surprisingly large percentage – were converted. and fastened on wooded Kiger Island. For soon. after cold reason had quenched the fires of their fanaticism. he had been directed to select the one who was to become the Mother of a Second Christ. and even before he'd finished his pronouncement. Considerably later. which are a curse! Away with this curse! Destroy it. and be born anew! For I am your prophet. and stalk out to mutter publicly about the scandalous behavior of some of the town's most respected women. A few of the newcomers stayed only long enough to sniff. If Joshua was not an honest man. dragging and hammering by dozens of women. outraged. in the a Williamette River. he was certainly a thorough one. might deem necessary. the prophet now pronounced another revelation of specific and very personal import to each of the faithful. Joshua. bellowed: "And the most sinful vanity of all is the vanity of clothes. including flagellation. At just about this time. it appeared. all gripped in the hysteria of religious fervor. Joshua could get no established contractor to erect the necessary buildings. were invited to come to the afternoon meetings and be redeemed. Others of the proselytes. being short of cash.

Hunt. these researches were conducted in the sequestered. Hunt. apparently was working on the theory that if you keep shocking them. and daughter. reported it: "Certain caprices of religious fanaticism have been manifested at the house that are so unusual as to suggest a condition bordering on insanity. one of the town's most respected citizens. they told themselves. and the antiphonal responses of his audience." All hell broke loose. found a haven in the home of O. the wild stories about nudity could not possibly be true. vernal arbors in which the island abounded. By now. unlike his Biblical namesake. snapped at the height of the nude frenzy of a "meeting. Back trooped the faithful to Corvallis.P. and still unexplained miracle. He hung up a sign over his door which read: "Positively No Admittance Except on God's Business. Of course. particularly the menfolk. And. which was now becoming alarmed. Walks about the house have been torn away. Daily. all over town. Joshua the Second. and when. although they undoubtedly sprang from sincere conviction. and through some minor. Maude. He looked about in Corvallis. the construction was completed and the meetings of the flock resumed with all the old enthusiasm and fervor. this continued to be the case as the year drew to a close. . he'd have to find more adequate shelter. of a photograph on Kiger Island. The Prophet and the ladies stripped and rolled. so far as his followers were concerned. summer sun to stand still. Unfortunately. at frequent intervals. they'll keep coming around.In a matter of days. were experiencing serious misgivings. Joshua was a man to recognize a portent when he saw one. autumn came to the Kiger Island community. and the Prophet noted that some of its members." and gave himself over to other peculiar practices. and realized that to save his followers from the apostasy of clothing. but still. did nothing to improve the assessed valuation of his property. it was certainly an unposed one. as well as his wife. was convinced that Joshua was pretty big stuff. the Hunt house rang with the preachments of the Prophet. this Prophet fellow would bear looking into. While it was a group picture. which. In the course of time. could not command the hot. Joshua continued the quest for the Mother of a Second Christ. Much of the furniture has been reduced to ashes in a bonfire on the theory that God wills it. were beginning to regard sweaters and dresses with a certain amount of favor. himself." Joshua. and it is reported that house cats and dogs have been cremated. to guard against the cold rains. As the local newspaper of the town. But a number of those outside the select circle. with the dissemination. Kitchen utensils have been beaten to pieces and buried. This judicious attitude was given an abrupt shock.

with a liberal coating of tar and feathers.P. These took the form of reducing him to what he himself had described as his favorite condition – the nude – and then covering him. on a day in late August. In mid-May. Mrs.Fifteen shocked and outraged husbands took drastic measures.P. was not long to be kept in the dark. was remarkably skittish about showing himself in public. The small boy was Roy. escorted the Prophet to the edge of town. and public-spirited citizens looked. On the evening of January 4. to dig up a much larger worm than he'd ever imagined. THE object of all this not-so-solicitous attention. never for a moment. They did not know he had gone to Portland because of a hankering to test the fitness of a certain follower. this optimism seemed borne out. they dealt with source of what they considered all this deviltry. . before a week had passed. and there submitted him to certain ministrations. but hadn't gotten around to. over a good section of Oregon. O. in the meantime. concerned with the ancient and honorable pastime of fishing. Joshua and Maude Hunt were married. Corvallis gulped. no doubt. it appeared. entirely. came upon bits of food and other evidence which suggested that the place was inhabited by something human. What the town did not know was that. but they couldn't turn up Joshua. The police looked. that Joshua was wanted by the police. Hunt. and brought him back to the house. on Kiger Island. had Maude's husband abandoned the conviction that he was duty bound to continue the hunt for the Mother of a Second Christ. two of whose residents. Maude. too. Hunt. as he still called himself. believing. a delegation firmly. Joshua and Maude appeared to be settling down in connubial regularity. It fell to a small boy. in conjunction with others of the town's males. 1904. and not at all politely. where they helped restore his batterered person and outraged dignity. For the next day. The Portland hushand. whom he had noticed. it became known that Joshua was resting comfortably in the Hunt home. had gone to Portland for a visit. Joshua would cease to be a menace to the modesty of the female population. had surprised his wife and the Prophet and had sworn out a warrant for Joshua's arrest on a charge of seduction. and obtained a divorce. 1904. who long since had soured on his son-in-law. they left him. In this condition. But what the committee in charge failed to realize was that when you start pushing around a prophet. however. word reached the town. had moved to Portland with her husband. who. with the strong advice that he get out of Corvallis. Then. Hunt and her daughter. and his outraged daughter promptly sued for. and stay out. Then. Corvallis. gave concrete warrant of this feeling when he offered a reward of $150 for Joshua's apprehension. you have to contend with his followers. had searched for him the previous evening in the woods. an adopted son of O. found him. and the town breathed even easier when it heard that the Prophet. to compound this sensation and really give the town something to talk about. that under his new status. and half a dozen fathers sent their daughters to cool off in corrective homes. and the horrified ears of Maude Hunt Creffield and her father. while looking under the Hunt home for a bait can. however. and who. For weeks. and then generously swallowed the event.

The Prophet was unceremoniously hauled off to Portland where Multnomah County authorities promptly brought him to trial on the seduction charge. it appeared. Joshua informed the otherwise intelligent and appealing girl that the ultimate mantle had fallen on her. to Los Angeles. and begged sanctuary. And Joshua knew just the site .a lonely. Would she not put away the evil thoughts concerning him she had once entertained.was hedging his bets. The Church of the Bride of Christ. but pointed out that it could not be a crime. and then settled down to live with. She promptly replied that of course she would remarry him and urged him to come to her at once. however. with the encrusted dirt of months clinging to his hide. the officers flushed from its hiding place an object which they recognized as Joshua. had beat his way from Portland to Corvallis. south of Waldport. He reminded her that he was still God's appointed. and from there began to write letters. where. and his wife. who in turn called the police. he had to bring Hunt and his wife into his camp. the faithful could gather and live in accordance with the True Word. Frank Hunt. since he had acted under divine direction. for the latter body of the state of Oregon permitted Joshua his freedom after serving only fifteen months of his sentence. believed it. as expounded and interpreted by the only true Prophet. and join him again as his wife in the great undertakings which lay before him? Maude was a pushover. a statement he rightly guessed she had never quite disbelieved. Wash. beautiful. The prisoner admitted the specific act named in the indictment. but accomplish it he did. Joshua was sentenced to two years in state's prison. for at the same time he wrote to his ex-wife. he admonished. isolated spot on the Oregon coast. The Prophet was never guilty of not recognizing a good thing when it was right under his nose. and off. he moved in with his proposition. God and parole boards sometimes move in mysterious ways. One of these was to a Corvallis girl. Joshua reached Seattle in early March. in idyllic unity. admitted the truth. Tearfully. It had been revealed to him. and told her he was about to resume his work. It was now her solemn responsibility. But the Prophet. in all sincerity and earnestness. stark naked. The released man immediately hied himself south. he told them. in Seattle. they said. Joshua. Frank Hunt. that she was to be the Mother of a Second Christ. who had been of the faithful in the Prophet's Corvallis heyday. who was living with her brother.He called his father. presumably to brush up on the prophet business and figure out his next operation. But it took an uncommon amount of imagination to do so. married Maude. the two were as ardent followers as he had ever had. After a brisk ten minutes of poking and shouting. . the Hunt women. Before long. mother and daughter. By what exhortations he achieved this will never be known. and indicated decisive disagreement with this explanation by finding him guilty. 1906. The Prophet was thin to the point of emaciation. blonde 17-year-old Esther Mitchell. he had moved up to San Francisco. and when Joshua realized this. Esther received the letter and. for her to await his instructions regarding the time and place to fulfill her great destiny. he said. Before long. Maude. presented himself to them secretly. his brother-in-law. The all-male jury listened with skeptical ears. needed a new Eden in which to take up the glorious work which had been interrupted by the sinful men who had clapped him into prison. First.

However. Obediently. the Waldport property was bought. He would need cash on the line with which to take title to the property. The next day. this petty item need cause no great concern. bidding goodbye to his relatives. and your names will be blessed!" Here the Prophet paused. "but now you may know that the disbelievers and the wicked are doomed! The evil will fall. at Newport. were dispelled when they heard the news that was electrifying not only the West Coast.. "You have been chosen for a great mission! Those who come to be saved will remember that you helped prepare a place for them. and turn the money over to him. Finally. She was among the first to make the pilgrimage. "The hand of God is on the three of you!" he intoned. Women left their husbands. With so much accomplished. To Esther Mitchell. "I have not told you before. Joshua figured it was a good occasion for a speech. the population of the Waldport colony swelled. For her. the time of fulfillment was at hand." he declaimed.. from where they would ferry across Yaquima Bay to Waldport. That did it. 1906. but the entire world. borne-out predictions to convince herself that his word was the word of God." If some in the town were timid. he went on. Joshua got busy with his pen and ink.. the Prophet had a couple of more convenient revelations. San Francisco was being shattered by earthquakes and gutted by fire! When a self-styled prophet calls such a shot as that. he explained. The Hunts didn't have a chance. they would have to build themselves. The latter group. and the scoffers be destroyed! I tell you there is a curse on their cities! Corvallis is doomed! Portland is doomed! Seattle is doomed! San Francisco is doomed!" The departing trio nodded solemnly and swung aboard the train. were to be alerted by him. From Seattle. . the fragile young blonde. Joshua peppered the female population of Corvallis with exhortations and commands. THE two trains daily to Newport on the Corvallis & Eastern Railroad were jammed with pilgrims headed for the Heaven-on-earth the Prophet was providing. He told Maude and the Hunts that they had been chosen to to precede him to the new Eden and ready it for the triumphant return of himself and the rest of the faithful. ther reluctance vanished when the Hunts got word to Corvallis of the prediction Joshua had made on the Seattle station platform. "Come to Waldport at once. and she needed no dramatic. who were taking a train to Newport. any cynical doubts they might have had that the Prophet had been talking through his hat. only the inevitable can happen. the faithful found that whatever living accommodations they were to enjoy.There was only one minor detail. whom Joshua had informed from San Francisco of her chosen role as the Mother of the Second Christ. Girls and women poured out of the town literally in droves. the Prophet stood on the platform of the Seattle railway station. She had never wavered in her firm faith in the prophet. it was enough that he had established the new Paradise and summoned her. Joshua added casually. while his relatives got busy with preparations for the journey. Throughout the month of April the trek continued. days later. On the very morning after the Prophet's dire forecast. if the Hunts would merely sell their house. on the morning of April 17. On reaching it. and as it did so. ." he commanded. and daughters their parents. sucked in a mouthful of air and then went on with his exhortation. through the mails. Ore. "Corvallis will soon be destroyed. and. Now. they did as Joshua suggested.

having to do with rail connections. daughters.32 revolver.32. and where the legally constituted authorities of a large section of Oregon had been unsuccessful. they were notably unsuccessful. Guns cocked. . Then and there. plus cartridges. but the gun failed to fire. back in Corvallis. Joshua. Therefore the Corvallis men trekked to Waldport and to the very heart of Joshua's woodland retreat. and the Corvallis cavalcade got wind of his destination. and more avidly to do his bidding. where eager reserves waited poised for action. they decided to telephone the alarm to Corvallis. When they reached their destination and had an opportunity to relate to their sisters in salvation the miraculous event. went underground. the male population was progressively stunned. frantic and then furious. Joshua. at thus literally missing the boat. sweethearts – many of them gone. it did nothing to lessen their ardor for their now most pressing objective in life. provide unwitting cause for the errant females to swoon more quickly at the sound of Joshua's voice. "How ridiculous of the man to try to kill me: I am Joshua the Second and therefore indestructible. at the slip. soared even higher. already well above par. One thing wrong with Hartley was his timing. the boys who had been left behind first regretted their temperate conduct on a previous occasion when they had Joshua the Second in their too tender hands. just as the ferry was blowing its customary three blasts to indicate that it was under way and about to enter the navigable waters of Yaquima Bay. whose hide he hoped to puncture. Again. A hurried council-of-war resulted in the decision that it would be inexpedient for those in the field to take up the chase for the fleeing fugitive. Aboard the ferry. All he got for his pains was a feeble click." Although this abortive effort discouraged the enraged Corvallis male community. IT IS possible that their opinion might have changed. The chase led him to Newport." The ladies listened and believed. at the same time. He arrived." he pointed out to his awe-struck coterie. they went out to find him. Joshua was in the process of shepherding a dozen of his followers to the new Canaan. Armed with an excessive amount of righteous indignation and a . drew a bead on the figure of Joshua leaning over the rail of the retreating vessel. "How ridiculous. always the actor. Hartley drew out his . and pulled the trigger. much out of breath. and then overground. Joshua's stock. and. he had been informed. for a while. Wives. and the enormity of the situation realized. His direction in this latter phase was toward Seattle. was quick to exploit the advantage of this unpredicted miracle. Joshua was an old hand at hiding out. Hartley set out. they still figured. should be rubbed out. He tried again and again. had they heard the diagnosis of the laconic gunsmith who subsequently examined Hartley's revolver. but of the bearded wolf. where. the motley Corvallis contingent could hardly expect greater results. "It's a center-fire pistol and you were using rim-fire cartridges. they determined to correct this grievous error.Meanwhile. It fell to Louis Hartley to get first crack at the quarry. and thence to the ferry slip. For the most practical of reasons. Frustrated and cursing. not so much in pursuit of the strayed lamb. Joshua. "How did you think this would go off?" the gunsmith asked. After the first shock had subsided.

who planted him in Lakeview Cemetery. he will rise again. but the frustrating and ulcer-inducing feature of the situation was that a large part of the testimony was so salacious as to be unprintable. who might have laid claim to being one of the most deluded women of her time. From the very beginning. in a body. took her new widowhood with a high degree of savior faire. At this point. they returned a verdict of not guilty. In accordance with the statutes. It may be that the incidence of ulcers among the assorted newspapermen who covered the trial took a drastic rise during the proceedings. Seldom has a prisoner at the bar been more admired by those who watched the proceedings against him. They were hunting sensationalism and they found it. Maude. and how this bore on George Mitchell's motivation. the designated Second Mother. who sat throughout the entire trial as though the matter was of no concern to her. the Prophet. sure in the righteousness of his cause. in front of Quick's drugstore. and along with his life gave up his claim to indestructibility. at a cost of one cent. The summons could not have reached a more responsive ear. Joshua and his wife. and at this writing – nearly a half century later – he has not yet ascended from the narrow confines of his piece of Seattle real estate. but with what must have been little personal appetite for their work. Apparently. and in late June. the authorities of King County indicted Mitchell for murder. His body was turned over to the Bonney-Watson funeral establishment. For the main body of the evidence concerned the life and times of Franz Creffield. it was a bad day for miracles. on July 10. "This man thinks he's killed my husband. The twelve good men and true surprised no one when. The next morning he was in Seattle and managed to be hot on Joshua's trail before noon. in deference to the local city ordinances. The scene of the resultant dramatic incident was First avenue. women in the courtroom blushed. "But my husband is Joshua. 1906. brother of Esther.In this squad was George Mitchell. and fired a bullet into his head back of the left ear. lowered their eyes. Maude. Joshua made a liar out of Maude. both fully clothed. paused so that she might test her estimate. In three days. just off Cherry. . brought him to trial. male jaws dropped. the only one in the courtroom who appeared unmoved by it all was Esther Mitchell. Indeed. and the judge moved uneasily behind his bench. the defendant's sister and ardent believer in Joshua the Second. The men of Corvallis supported him. the verdict was almost a foregone conclusion. against a weighing machine. and covered their faces with their fans. silently walked up behind Joshua. even though the Prophet had found it expedient to trim sharply his flowing beard. As Maude stepped on the scale. As witness after witness trooped to the stand to tell what they knew of the magnitude and frequently strange nature of Joshua's exploits." she announced to the gathering spectators and the police officer who laid a restraining arm on George Mitchell. for Joshua fell to the sidewalk." Indelicately. George Mitchell. at the end of the trial. and who refused to testify in her brother's behalf. This was on the afternoon of May 6. with their persons and their purses.

however. she found the prophet's widow stiff and cold – a suicide by strychnine poisoning. she died in Waldport – within hailing distance of the ill-fated New Paradise created by Joshua the Second. The pale. she had been selected as the agent of vengeance. didn't he? What else was there for us to do?" She went on to explain her use of the plural pronoun. on the fringe of the crowd." The court committed her to the Washington State Asylum. Maude saved the county the expenses of a trial. she said. with Esther and Fred close behind. had agreed that should George's trial result in an acquittal. too. For Esther. Fred and Perry caught sight of Esther. which included Fred and Perry Mitchell. did not want to congratulate George. George and Perry were ahead. George's brothers. George died instantly. where she spent the next three years. A few weeks later. Shaking their heads sadly and heartily sick of the violence in Franz Creffield's wake. Days ago. was found not guilty of George's murder "by reason of insanity. He killed Joshua the Prophet. Maude had bought the gun. for when a matron went to her cell one morning. stood before the Bar of Justice and. Joshua's widow. reached the Seattle railroad station in time to catch the 4:30 train. the Seattle authorities clapped Maude and Esther in jail and obtained murder indictments against them. and asked their sister if she. thrust the barrel to within a few inches of the left side of George's skull. she and Maude Creffield. and exchanged a few words with him. At the end of that time. pearl-handled revolver from under a coat she carried. it was a small favor. this circle toasted and banqueted its hero and then George prepared to return to Corvallis. she was released as having regained her sanity. Esther suddenly produced a small. although she refused to so plead. approached George.The state withdrew its restraining hand on George Mitchell and restored him to his admirers and well-wishers. In the waiting room. For two days. Esther. Esther calmly justified the shooting to astonished police officials in this wise: "Of course I killed George. After they had traversed a few feet of the waiting room. they would themselves mete out retribution for the slaying of their beloved leader. Then the four Mitchells began to walk toward the station platform. along with eighty of his fellow townsmen who had attended the trial. Arrested on the spot and taken to a police station. and fired. . Since Esther would have closer access to her brother. intense girl appeared to fall in with the suggestion. The group.