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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
certainly. a suicide.IN WHATEVER low esteem the contemporaries of Franz Edmund Creffield may have held him. none. an earthquake and an astonishing amount of sex promiscuity growing out of the most fantastic religious cult this country has ever known. For around his person and personality there whirled in the few significant years of his career. . would have charged him with being dull. two homicides.
they'd rather bowl. But. After the year 1903. of which he was a minor figure. But those among his hearers with longer memories recalled that he had been in Corvallis before. Unfortunately. and instructing them in his guaranteed method of attaining salvation. some of it. The story of Franz Creffield's formative years would undoubtedly constitute a rich source for students of the more esoteric aspects of psychopathology. while their menfolk nodded solemnly. with several dozen women. and that as a youth he came to this country and settled on the West Coast. however. At first. That left Joshua alone. who really believed he was batting 1.. bearded figure. he declared. left early. Ore. legitimate objectives of the Salvation Army. had it not been solemnly sworn to. when Creffield was in his late 30s. spinsters and maidens to abjure the pomp and vanity of this wicked world and the evil of false pride. A few noted that the new meeting time meant necessarily that all the menfolk would be at work. and had decided to go into business for himself. wives. behind curtained windows and locked doors. Early in that year. Joshua really went to work on his flock.000. Moreover. Creffield's voice had been heard on the town's streets as part of a Salvation Army group. aside from the facts that he was born in Germany. . for his converts were painfully few. he solemnly exhorted the eagerly listening matrons. First. In the autumn of 1902. The conclusion was inescapable that the new. who were forthrightly banished. a lean. he had been bidden to found the The Church. Before spring was well under way. and loved it. Now. pressing the limits of credibility. his eyes flashed scorn at the cynics.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. and on more worthy. For his part. 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. which was to be called the Church of the Bride of Christ. For some. Joshua noted their devotion. the women listened. these details are not known. and decided that on future meeting nights. Something about the wrong vibrations of the night air. smoke cigars and drink beer with the boys. data on him abounds. the Almighty had appointed him head of the new cult. but less dramatic business. with the title of Joshua the Second. Creffield was beset by doubts as to the effectiveness of his approach. through divine revelation. there appeared on the streets of Corvallis. and decided the time was ripe to deliver the real punch line of his particular brand of faith. gaunt. under the name of Franz Creffield. self-dubbed prophet had wearied of the sober. perhaps not inexplicable reason. When this was pointed out to the leader. sensitive fellow that he was. he was holding regular meetings at the homes of his flock. he told the ladies that one little detail would have to be changed – that henceforth meetings would be held in the afternoon. and those from that mercurial fringe which continuously hops from one religious persuasion to another. who announced to the few listeners he could muster that.
in which he declared that the women of the flock were to construct. could not be kept secret. The only difficulty was that. and their friends' friends. and be born anew! For I am your prophet. BUT this turned out to be a pushover for such an imaginative leader as Joshua. after cold reason had quenched the fires of their fanaticism. Within minutes. the problem of space began to be a critical one. dragging and hammering by dozens of women. at one climactic meeting. The ladies. several of those involved testified that Joshua invoked some peculiar practices in this process of selection. For one thing. . of all ages. Their friends. all shouting praise to the Prophet. The faithful heeded the call with a zestful willingness. it became apparent that the Church of the Bride of Christ needed larger quarters. Now. If Joshua was not an honest man. Such goings-on. the floor was a writhing and rolling mass of nude and partially nude bodies. and stalk out to mutter publicly about the scandalous behavior of some of the town's most respected women. from time to time. Joshua gave the ladies another jolt. He had another revelation. which are a curse! Away with this curse! Destroy it. At the time. however. he had been directed to select the one who was to become the Mother of a Second Christ. the zealots among the ladies became missionaries in search of new material. he began to weave in and out of the congregation wearing nothing more than a glint in his eye. all gripped in the hysteria of religious fervor. for. Considerably later. he stood erect. and. being short of cash. were really sent. Others of the proselytes. bellowed: "And the most sinful vanity of all is the vanity of clothes. he said. and even before he'd finished his pronouncement. and all eager to see that the Prophet's revelation was fulfilled swiftly. it was no sooner said than done. the Second. might deem necessary. particularizing on the theme of the wickedness of vanity. including flagellation. Joshua could get no established contractor to erect the necessary buildings. At just about this time. 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. in the a Williamette River. at the meetings. For soon. Joshua's performance of this interesting phase of his cult only increased the numbers of his flock and their adherence to him. As the summer of 1903 approached. and out of the trees God had provided on the island a huge meeting hall and other smaller buildings which Joshua. A few of the newcomers stayed only long enough to sniff. 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. however – a surprisingly large percentage – were converted. who was business manager as well as Prophet of the organization. he was certainly a thorough one. outraged. were invited to come to the afternoon meetings and be redeemed. with their own hands. cast a speculative eye about for a suitable site. it appeared. of course. and soon the island was astir with chopping. Joshua. Joshua. and I ordain it!" With Joshua.This can best be described as the softening-up process. Having established the evilness of clothes and the righteousness of nudity. Indeed. From among their number. as the numbers swelled. and gratitude for the sweet opportunity to be saved. the prophet now pronounced another revelation of specific and very personal import to each of the faithful. on which Corvallis lay. and fastened on wooded Kiger Island.
and realized that to save his followers from the apostasy of clothing. 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. summer sun to stand still. Joshua was a man to recognize a portent when he saw one. and daughter. of a photograph on Kiger Island. he'd have to find more adequate shelter. and still unexplained miracle. apparently was working on the theory that if you keep shocking them. But a number of those outside the select circle. He hung up a sign over his door which read: "Positively No Admittance Except on God's Business. unlike his Biblical namesake. they told themselves. the wild stories about nudity could not possibly be true. Hunt. at frequent intervals. Kitchen utensils have been beaten to pieces and buried. one of the town's most respected citizens. and when. Joshua the Second. the construction was completed and the meetings of the flock resumed with all the old enthusiasm and fervor. all over town. were beginning to regard sweaters and dresses with a certain amount of favor. so far as his followers were concerned. this continued to be the case as the year drew to a close. Walks about the house have been torn away. . could not command the hot. himself. found a haven in the home of O.In a matter of days. to guard against the cold rains. and the antiphonal responses of his audience. with the dissemination. and it is reported that house cats and dogs have been cremated. was convinced that Joshua was pretty big stuff. Of course. Daily. As the local newspaper of the town. this Prophet fellow would bear looking into." All hell broke loose. Maude. did nothing to improve the assessed valuation of his property. and through some minor. they'll keep coming around. Unfortunately. Much of the furniture has been reduced to ashes in a bonfire on the theory that God wills it. This judicious attitude was given an abrupt shock. the Hunt house rang with the preachments of the Prophet. it was certainly an unposed one. vernal arbors in which the island abounded. as well as his wife. Back trooped the faithful to Corvallis. The Prophet and the ladies stripped and rolled. but still. snapped at the height of the nude frenzy of a "meeting. autumn came to the Kiger Island community. and the Prophet noted that some of its members. although they undoubtedly sprang from sincere conviction. these researches were conducted in the sequestered." and gave himself over to other peculiar practices. which was now becoming alarmed. particularly the menfolk. He looked about in Corvallis. which. were experiencing serious misgivings. And." Joshua. Joshua continued the quest for the Mother of a Second Christ. Hunt. By now.P. While it was a group picture. In the course of time.
and stay out. never for a moment. however. it became known that Joshua was resting comfortably in the Hunt home. with the strong advice that he get out of Corvallis. Joshua and Maude appeared to be settling down in connubial regularity. who long since had soured on his son-in-law. a delegation firmly. In mid-May. but hadn't gotten around to. that Joshua was wanted by the police. and not at all politely. The Portland hushand. What the town did not know was that. before a week had passed. and there submitted him to certain ministrations. O. they dealt with source of what they considered all this deviltry. that under his new status. on a day in late August. and the town breathed even easier when it heard that the Prophet. and who. too. and the horrified ears of Maude Hunt Creffield and her father. had searched for him the previous evening in the woods. was remarkably skittish about showing himself in public. and brought him back to the house. and then generously swallowed the event. Joshua and Maude Hunt were married. 1904. had gone to Portland for a visit. but they couldn't turn up Joshua. an adopted son of O. who.Fifteen shocked and outraged husbands took drastic measures. For the next day. Hunt. The police looked. word reached the town. had moved to Portland with her husband. But what the committee in charge failed to realize was that when you start pushing around a prophet. and his outraged daughter promptly sued for. escorted the Prophet to the edge of town. It fell to a small boy. was not long to be kept in the dark. to dig up a much larger worm than he'd ever imagined. had surprised his wife and the Prophet and had sworn out a warrant for Joshua's arrest on a charge of seduction. . this optimism seemed borne out. Then. Then. had Maude's husband abandoned the conviction that he was duty bound to continue the hunt for the Mother of a Second Christ. where they helped restore his batterered person and outraged dignity. found him. to compound this sensation and really give the town something to talk about. Corvallis. They did not know he had gone to Portland because of a hankering to test the fitness of a certain follower. in conjunction with others of the town's males. The small boy was Roy. Maude. and half a dozen fathers sent their daughters to cool off in corrective homes. For weeks. with a liberal coating of tar and feathers. as he still called himself. and public-spirited citizens looked.P. it appeared. over a good section of Oregon. you have to contend with his followers. believing. whom he had noticed. two of whose residents. they left him. came upon bits of food and other evidence which suggested that the place was inhabited by something human. however. and obtained a divorce. on Kiger Island. In this condition. no doubt.P. gave concrete warrant of this feeling when he offered a reward of $150 for Joshua's apprehension. 1904. Joshua would cease to be a menace to the modesty of the female population. concerned with the ancient and honorable pastime of fishing. THE object of all this not-so-solicitous attention. Mrs. Corvallis gulped. These took the form of reducing him to what he himself had described as his favorite condition – the nude – and then covering him. Hunt and her daughter. while looking under the Hunt home for a bait can. entirely. On the evening of January 4. Hunt. in the meantime.
and his wife. Joshua. She promptly replied that of course she would remarry him and urged him to come to her at once. and off. But the Prophet. The Prophet was thin to the point of emaciation. beautiful. But it took an uncommon amount of imagination to do so. his brother-in-law. . however. who had been of the faithful in the Prophet's Corvallis heyday. presumably to brush up on the prophet business and figure out his next operation. as expounded and interpreted by the only true Prophet. The Prophet was never guilty of not recognizing a good thing when it was right under his nose. where. admitted the truth. in Seattle. Frank Hunt. Joshua informed the otherwise intelligent and appealing girl that the ultimate mantle had fallen on her. and join him again as his wife in the great undertakings which lay before him? Maude was a pushover. Maude. a statement he rightly guessed she had never quite disbelieved. he moved in with his proposition. they said. he told them. By what exhortations he achieved this will never be known. One of these was to a Corvallis girl. Joshua reached Seattle in early March. the officers flushed from its hiding place an object which they recognized as Joshua. married Maude.was hedging his bets.He called his father. to Los Angeles. It was now her solemn responsibility. but pointed out that it could not be a crime. Before long. He reminded her that he was still God's appointed. And Joshua knew just the site . After a brisk ten minutes of poking and shouting. presented himself to them secretly. he had to bring Hunt and his wife into his camp. Would she not put away the evil thoughts concerning him she had once entertained. for at the same time he wrote to his ex-wife. The Prophet was unceremoniously hauled off to Portland where Multnomah County authorities promptly brought him to trial on the seduction charge. he admonished. had beat his way from Portland to Corvallis. for her to await his instructions regarding the time and place to fulfill her great destiny. Joshua was sentenced to two years in state's prison. and then settled down to live with. but accomplish it he did. that she was to be the Mother of a Second Christ. with the encrusted dirt of months clinging to his hide. who was living with her brother. The Church of the Bride of Christ. in all sincerity and earnestness. Wash. believed it. the two were as ardent followers as he had ever had. since he had acted under divine direction. and begged sanctuary. and when Joshua realized this. south of Waldport. 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. and from there began to write letters. blonde 17-year-old Esther Mitchell. Esther received the letter and. isolated spot on the Oregon coast. and indicated decisive disagreement with this explanation by finding him guilty. Before long. stark naked. mother and daughter. and told her he was about to resume his work. for the latter body of the state of Oregon permitted Joshua his freedom after serving only fifteen months of his sentence. Tearfully. First. The prisoner admitted the specific act named in the indictment. in idyllic unity. it appeared. the faithful could gather and live in accordance with the True Word. Frank Hunt.a lonely. he had moved up to San Francisco. It had been revealed to him. he said. The all-male jury listened with skeptical ears. God and parole boards sometimes move in mysterious ways. 1906. who in turn called the police. The released man immediately hied himself south. the Hunt women.
Joshua added casually. Joshua got busy with his pen and ink. Joshua figured it was a good occasion for a speech. days later. through the mails." he declaimed. bidding goodbye to his relatives. "The hand of God is on the three of you!" he intoned. She had never wavered in her firm faith in the prophet." he commanded. "I have not told you before. he went on. Throughout the month of April the trek continued. only the inevitable can happen. the Waldport property was bought. "Come to Waldport at once.. Joshua peppered the female population of Corvallis with exhortations and commands.There was only one minor detail. he explained. from where they would ferry across Yaquima Bay to Waldport. the fragile young blonde. He would need cash on the line with which to take title to the property. "Corvallis will soon be destroyed. . and she needed no dramatic. they would have to build themselves. the Prophet stood on the platform of the Seattle railway station. this petty item need cause no great concern. and turn the money over to him. However. the population of the Waldport colony swelled.. who were taking a train to Newport. 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. were dispelled when they heard the news that was electrifying not only the West Coast. it was enough that he had established the new Paradise and summoned her. and your names will be blessed!" Here the Prophet paused. San Francisco was being shattered by earthquakes and gutted by fire! When a self-styled prophet calls such a shot as that. the faithful found that whatever living accommodations they were to enjoy. For her. were to be alerted by him. whom Joshua had informed from San Francisco of her chosen role as the Mother of the Second Christ. With so much accomplished. they did as Joshua suggested. Women left their husbands. Now. She was among the first to make the pilgrimage. Ore. From Seattle. Obediently. To Esther Mitchell. On the very morning after the Prophet's dire forecast. but the entire world. borne-out predictions to convince herself that his word was the word of God. . at Newport. Finally. any cynical doubts they might have had that the Prophet had been talking through his hat. while his relatives got busy with preparations for the journey. 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. if the Hunts would merely sell their house. Girls and women poured out of the town literally in droves. "You have been chosen for a great mission! Those who come to be saved will remember that you helped prepare a place for them. ther reluctance vanished when the Hunts got word to Corvallis of the prediction Joshua had made on the Seattle station platform. 1906. The Hunts didn't have a chance." If some in the town were timid. and. the Prophet had a couple of more convenient revelations. sucked in a mouthful of air and then went on with his exhortation. That did it. and daughters their parents. 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.. "but now you may know that the disbelievers and the wicked are doomed! The evil will fall. The latter group. The next day. on the morning of April 17. On reaching it. the time of fulfillment was at hand. and as it did so.
"How did you think this would go off?" the gunsmith asked. should be rubbed out. and where the legally constituted authorities of a large section of Oregon had been unsuccessful. Hartley drew out his . they still figured. they decided to telephone the alarm to Corvallis. much out of breath. Joshua. sweethearts – many of them gone. Armed with an excessive amount of righteous indignation and a . frantic and then furious. Joshua was an old hand at hiding out. After the first shock had subsided. having to do with rail connections. Joshua's stock. at the same time. they determined to correct this grievous error. daughters." he pointed out to his awe-struck coterie. Joshua. "How ridiculous. IT IS possible that their opinion might have changed. they were notably unsuccessful. plus cartridges. Frustrated and cursing. Then and there. the male population was progressively stunned. Wives. for a while. where eager reserves waited poised for action. and then overground. drew a bead on the figure of Joshua leaning over the rail of the retreating vessel. was quick to exploit the advantage of this unpredicted miracle. where. always the actor. All he got for his pains was a feeble click. and the enormity of the situation realized. Guns cocked. he had been informed." Although this abortive effort discouraged the enraged Corvallis male community." The ladies listened and believed. When they reached their destination and had an opportunity to relate to their sisters in salvation the miraculous event. He tried again and again. Aboard the ferry. whose hide he hoped to puncture. Hartley set out. already well above par. had they heard the diagnosis of the laconic gunsmith who subsequently examined Hartley's revolver. 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. and thence to the ferry slip. and. His direction in this latter phase was toward Seattle. at the slip. soared even higher. Joshua was in the process of shepherding a dozen of his followers to the new Canaan. The chase led him to Newport.32. it did nothing to lessen their ardor for their now most pressing objective in life. but of the bearded wolf. provide unwitting cause for the errant females to swoon more quickly at the sound of Joshua's voice. 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. and the Corvallis cavalcade got wind of his destination. and more avidly to do his bidding. not so much in pursuit of the strayed lamb. For the most practical of reasons. went underground. Again. back in Corvallis. they went out to find him. Joshua. "How ridiculous of the man to try to kill me: I am Joshua the Second and therefore indestructible. He arrived.32 revolver.Meanwhile. but the gun failed to fire. at thus literally missing the boat. It fell to Louis Hartley to get first crack at the quarry. One thing wrong with Hartley was his timing. the motley Corvallis contingent could hardly expect greater results. Therefore the Corvallis men trekked to Waldport and to the very heart of Joshua's woodland retreat. and pulled the trigger. "It's a center-fire pistol and you were using rim-fire cartridges. 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. .
Indeed. and in late June. "But my husband is Joshua. the verdict was almost a foregone conclusion. at a cost of one cent. In accordance with the statutes. he will rise again. 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. at the end of the trial. the defendant's sister and ardent believer in Joshua the Second. both fully clothed. brother of Esther. and how this bore on George Mitchell's motivation. As witness after witness trooped to the stand to tell what they knew of the magnitude and frequently strange nature of Joshua's exploits. in deference to the local city ordinances. and along with his life gave up his claim to indestructibility." she announced to the gathering spectators and the police officer who laid a restraining arm on George Mitchell. and covered their faces with their fans. and the judge moved uneasily behind his bench. As Maude stepped on the scale. who planted him in Lakeview Cemetery. From the very beginning. His body was turned over to the Bonney-Watson funeral establishment. Seldom has a prisoner at the bar been more admired by those who watched the proceedings against him. they returned a verdict of not guilty. the Prophet. The summons could not have reached a more responsive ear. . paused so that she might test her estimate. For the main body of the evidence concerned the life and times of Franz Creffield. At this point. Maude. took her new widowhood with a high degree of savior faire.In this squad was George Mitchell. Joshua and his wife. in a body. who might have laid claim to being one of the most deluded women of her time. who sat throughout the entire trial as though the matter was of no concern to her. the authorities of King County indicted Mitchell for murder. in front of Quick's drugstore. but with what must have been little personal appetite for their work. against a weighing machine. brought him to trial. 1906. The men of Corvallis supported him. the designated Second Mother. sure in the righteousness of his cause. silently walked up behind Joshua." Indelicately. In three days. Joshua made a liar out of Maude. on July 10. the only one in the courtroom who appeared unmoved by it all was Esther Mitchell. and fired a bullet into his head back of the left ear. for Joshua fell to the sidewalk. "This man thinks he's killed my husband. even though the Prophet had found it expedient to trim sharply his flowing beard. The twelve good men and true surprised no one when. Apparently. It may be that the incidence of ulcers among the assorted newspapermen who covered the trial took a drastic rise during the proceedings. Maude. The scene of the resultant dramatic incident was First avenue. The next morning he was in Seattle and managed to be hot on Joshua's trail before noon. 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. just off Cherry. lowered their eyes. George Mitchell. women in the courtroom blushed. it was a bad day for miracles. This was on the afternoon of May 6. with their persons and their purses. male jaws dropped. They were hunting sensationalism and they found it. and who refused to testify in her brother's behalf.
she had been selected as the agent of vengeance. on the fringe of the crowd. Esther calmly justified the shooting to astonished police officials in this wise: "Of course I killed George. . and exchanged a few words with him. Maude saved the county the expenses of a trial. Then the four Mitchells began to walk toward the station platform. the Seattle authorities clapped Maude and Esther in jail and obtained murder indictments against them. Esther suddenly produced a small. didn't he? What else was there for us to do?" She went on to explain her use of the plural pronoun. she said. After they had traversed a few feet of the waiting room. this circle toasted and banqueted its hero and then George prepared to return to Corvallis. 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. For Esther. reached the Seattle railroad station in time to catch the 4:30 train. Maude had bought the gun. George died instantly. A few weeks later. however. Shaking their heads sadly and heartily sick of the violence in Franz Creffield's wake. stood before the Bar of Justice and. had agreed that should George's trial result in an acquittal. For two days.The state withdrew its restraining hand on George Mitchell and restored him to his admirers and well-wishers. she was released as having regained her sanity. did not want to congratulate George. which included Fred and Perry Mitchell. Joshua's widow. The pale. He killed Joshua the Prophet. George's brothers. The group. for when a matron went to her cell one morning. Days ago. she and Maude Creffield. and fired. pearl-handled revolver from under a coat she carried. with Esther and Fred close behind. In the waiting room. and asked their sister if she. where she spent the next three years. although she refused to so plead. Esther. Arrested on the spot and taken to a police station. was found not guilty of George's murder "by reason of insanity. At the end of that time. they would themselves mete out retribution for the slaying of their beloved leader. along with eighty of his fellow townsmen who had attended the trial. approached George. Since Esther would have closer access to her brother. it was a small favor. too. thrust the barrel to within a few inches of the left side of George's skull. George and Perry were ahead. Fred and Perry caught sight of Esther." The court committed her to the Washington State Asylum. intense girl appeared to fall in with the suggestion.
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