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.

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


 George Mitchell



Morning Oregonian (Portland) 7/4/1906 p1

Oregon Men Are Star Witnesses

(illegible) Creffield’s Unsavory Record to Jury

(illegible) Of His Strange Power

George Mitchell’s Defense is Now Clearly Outlined.

Inspired To Do Murder

(illegible) God Told Him He Must Remove Holy Roller Prophet From Earth--Talked With Spirit of Dead Mother.


Evening Telegram (Portland) 7/4/1906 p8

Called by God to Kill Prophet

George Mitchell’s Wrongs Had Unbalanced Him Says O. V. Hurt


SEATTLE, Wash., July 3.--(Special.)--


(Evening Telegram (Portland)) The trial of George Mitchell, executioner of Holy Roller “Joshua” Creffield, will be resumed tomorrow, proceedings being suspended today.


Two men of middle age, both substantial citizens of Oregon, heads of families and men of domestic tendencies, told in the Superior Court here today, how a wolf in sheep’s clothing skulked into their homes and destroyed their families and peace of mind. One man, Burgess Starr, of Portland, broke down and cried like a child as he told of Edmund Creffield’s sinister influence over Mrs. Starr, a power that drove her to abandon her children in the dead of night and to yield to the lecherous fanatic every command.


It was pitifully apparent as Starr spoke that his mental balance has been affected by the awful strain. Sobbing with his head between his hands, he declared during a recess of court that he would give his soul up to damnation a thousand times if he might thereby restore his family to the happy state in which it was before Creffield’s advent.


The other man was O. V. Hurt of Corvallis, who completed the story of Holy Rollerism which he commenced on Monday, filling in all the hideous details. Mr. Starr was on the stand but a short time, late in the afternoon, after Mr. Hurt had finished. He was able, however, to tell much of the wrongs he had suffered at Creffield’s hands. Although a man of robust stature and intelligent appearance, he was unable to control his emotions and cried like a boy all the time he was on the witness stand.




Today Mr. Hurt told of the growth of Creffield’s hideous power over his following, a power that enthralled its victims like the tentacles of a horrible devilfish destroying their reason and crushing out all healthy moral instincts. The witness gave a further insight into the theology of Creffield and Creffield’s victims, showing how the pernicious, self-styled savior and prophet started his religious career with simple teachings from the old Bible and culminated it with orgies that would have brought blushes of shame to the cheek of a satyr.


Hurt’s narrative today covered Creffield’s movements from the time he (illegible) his first appearance at Corvallis to his return to that vicinity after being released from the Oregon penitentiary. He told of the time that Creffield (illegible) secreted under the floor of the Hurt residence, whence he emerged when the husband and father was absent and conducted his soul-debasing practices in the name of religion.




The witness told his story in a straight forward manner and without any of the evidence of emotion that he displayed Monday when he was first on the stand. (illegible) he had accustomed himself to (illegible) trying story; but not withstanding his (illegible) -controlled voice and manner, the result of the wrongs he had suffered was (illegible) lacking in dramatic force. The jury (illegible) courtroom were moved by what they heard. Several of the jurors displayed marked irritation at the frequent interruptions of the state, with its objections to statements offered by Mr. Hurt in evidence. The majority of these objections were sustained.


This phase of the case reached a climax late in the morning when Attorney Morris, on behalf of the prisoner, arose (illegible) court, following a ruling against him, and demanded the privilege of defending the client under his legal and constitutional rights. Judge Frater had just (illegible) a portion of Hurt’s testimony on the ground that it did not bear directly on the case at bar. Mr. Morris (illegible) ted in to say that the question objected to was merely preliminary to the developing of evidence that was permissible. He was shut off by Judge Frater, who informed him that the matter had been passed upon.




Asking that they jury be removed from the room, which was done, Mr. Morris entered on the records of the case that he objected to the court’s obvious partiality and unfairness in his rulings; that the defendant’s constitutional rights had been violated time and again in these things; that the court persisted in ruling (illegible) questions before counsel for the defense was given an opportunity to make himself heard, and that counsel was restricted from making arguments to the state’s (illegible) objections.


Mr. Shipley arose when Mr. Morris had finished, and added to the statement made by his associate.


“We wish to object further to the feeling displayed by this court in the presence of the jury in passing upon the questions submitted by us. We submit that the rulings are unfair and partial.


The jury was then brought back into the courtroom and the examination of witnesses proceeded with. It was noted that the defense was allowed more latitude after this protest.




As on Monday’s Hurt’s testimony was entered under the head of conversations that he had had with Mitchell prior to the killing, and which tended to affect Mitchell’s mental state, inasmuch as they fired his imagination and inflamed his mind against Creffield.


Witness first told of Creffield’s release from the Oregon penitentiary a few months before the shooting, and his efforts to get his followers together, which resulted in the bleak and pitiful camp on the Pacific Coast where several of the women nearly died of hunger and privation.


“I told Mitchell,” said the witness, “that his sister, Mrs. Starr, together with my son, Frank Hurt, and his wife, Olive Sandell, Mrs. Sandell and others had gone to the Coast with Creffield. I told him that his sister Esther had walked all the way from Corvallis, a distance of from 90 to 100 miles, to reach Creffield’s camp.


“The day before my son Frank left with the women for the lonely spot where Creffield had directed them to go, I had a talk with Frank, in which I told him he was crazy to quit his job and leave his home to go out on a career such as that on which he was embarking. He got mad and threatened to have nothing more to do with me. I asked him if he expected to meet Creffield at the place. He said he supposed the man would be there. I told him that I doubted it, as the people of Oregon would not permit such a fiend to live in the state. He insisted that it was God’s desire he should meet Creffield.




Mr. Hurt then related a conversation with Mitchell, in which it was shown that the defendant’s mind was affected as regards Creffield and that the defendant himself was the victim of a religious hallucination.


“Mitchell told me,” he said, “that he was going out to that Creffield camp. This was after the women had gone there and the camp had been established. I tried to argue him out of the plan, and told him Creffield was armed with two revolvers and would brook no interference. I also told him not to use violence, as my son Frank and my daughter Maud, Creffield’s wife, were there. He told me he would not hurt Frank or Maud, but that he was going after Creffield.


“He laughed at the idea of being hurt by Creffield. He said: ‘God has commanded me to remove that man from the earth. I am going to follow God’s word and remove him as easily as possible. I have no fear. God will take care of me.’”


“Then I commenced and told him,” continued Mr. Hurt, “of the time, just before Creffield was sent to the penitentiary, when the ‘Holy Roller’ was hidden under the floor of my home. There was a reward of $150 out for him, and the authorities were hard on his trail, but there was no trace of him. He had apparently left the country.


Maud, Sarah & Mae Hurt
Maren McGuire, Alana Crow and Sara Robbin as
Maud, Sarah and Mollie Hurt



“I did not know it at the time, but later learned that my wife and daughters harbored him, and when I was away at work he would come out from under the floor and hold his orgies in my home, where his followers would assemble. During this time, his influence was at its height. During this time, too, my wife said to me, ‘I hate you, but I love Edmund Creffield.’


“There were prayer services and purification services almost daily. Creffield taught them that what he commanded them to practice did not partake of the quality of lust, but was the will of God.”


Witness added that Creffield was particularly solicitous as regards the spiritual welfare of the young people of his flock.


“Their doings eventually became such that the Rollers were examined as to their sanity, and my family was sent to the insane asylum. With his food supply cut off Creffield had a hard time of it under the house. He was discovered by my little boy, or he might have died of hunger. The boy was going fishing and happened to look under the house for something. He saw an object move and started to run. Creffield called after him, but the boy came direct to me and told me what he had seen.




“I got the Chief of Police at Corvallis and went to the house. Then I shouted for the man underneath to come out. He said he was too weak to move. I told him I would come under him and move him in a way that he would not like if he did not crawl out. He lost no further time. He had not a stitch of clothing on. His beard had grown a foot in length and he was a hideous sight. He seemed to be too weak to stand up, and was a skeleton from forced fasting. We got him some old clothes and took him quietly to jail telling no one, for fear of mob violence against him.”


Hurt next told of a letter he had received from Creffield after the fanatic had been released from prison. The letter was written in California, and was in response to a letter from Hurt warning the Holy Roller not to come back to Oregon, if he valued his life. The communication read as follows:

Hurt: God has resurrected me. I have now got my foot on your neck. God has restored me to my own. I will return to Oregon and gather together all my followers. Place no obstruction in my way or God will smite you. CREFFIELD.’”




Regarding Mitchell’s demeanor at the time he told him all these things, Hurt said the defendant acted like a crazy man, and claimed to have had a message from the spirits telling him to kill Creffield. Witness was then excused from the stand for the day.


Charles Shires, a mill owner of North Yamhill, told of having employed Mitchell five years ago, and of his good reputation at the time, after which Mr. Starr was called to the witness stand. While he added much valuable testimony to the records, the bulk of Mr. Starr’s testimony is yet to come.


In a broken voice, and with tears welling from his eyes so that he had to dry his cheeks continually with a handkerchief, Starr described the drawing of his wife into the web of Creffieldism. He said the climax came when she took to rolling around the floor of their home all night and refusing to sleep. He admitted that she was the most fanatical of all Creffield’s followers, and gave details of her practices that would not bear publication.


She had not hesitate, he said, to leave her children behind when Creffield summoned her to the Holy Roller camp on the Pacific, 90 miles from Corvallis. He said he told Mitchell, his wife’s brother, of these things, which news seemed to affect the young man strangely, causing him to say he had talked with his mother’s spirit, and that God had detailed him to kill Creffield.




The last time witness saw Mitchell was a few weeks before the killing. Mitchell called at his home, cried over the little children his wife had deserted and declared to them that he was going to where their mother was and bring her back to them.


Starr was briefly cross-examined by Deputy Prosecutor Miller, and an adjournment was then taken to July 5. Public interest in the case here seems to increase rather than to diminish with the progress of the trial. The rush of spectators became to great today that Judge Frater issued an order excluding all who could not be comfortably seated. Heretofore every inch of standing-room has been taken, and an officer has been kept at the door to fight back the mob waiting for an opportunity to get in.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 7/4/1906 p1

Tell How Homes Were Broken Up

O. V. Hurt and B. E. Starr, of Corvallis, Testify in Mitchell Trial

Feared Crefeld’s Power

Apparently Hopeless Effort of Fathers to Protect Homes Rehearsed


Two men from Corvallis, Or., O. v. Hurt and Burgess E. Starr, occupied the witness stand in the courtroom where George Mitchell is on trial for his life, yesterday, for almost the entire day and told the unprintable details of the alleged ruining of their families and of their own disgrace.


Starr, in the course of his testimony, said:

Two or three years ago I first mentioned to George Mitchell that Esther, his sister, was attending the meetings of Crefeld, and I told him that I did not think it was an appropriate place for her to go. She was sent to Portland, but got back to Corvallis and had to be taken back from Corvallis to Portland and placed with the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society. I told him that my wife had been approached by Crefeld to get Esther out of the school.


“I had a talk with George Mitchell when he was in the hospital, early in April this year. He said he had been talking with his mother’s spirit and said: “She told me to look after Esther, that she was in danger of getting into Crefeld’s power again.’ He seemed ‘off’ at that time, and told me he was going to kill Crefeld. I thought him crazy. He said God had told him to kill Crefeld.




The witness stated to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John H. Miller, who elicited the information, that Mitchell was suffering from measles in the hospital, that he was feverish and delirious.


Two things marked the testimony of O. V. Hurt yesterday morning, apart from the details of Crefeld’s power over the followers, and of his gathering of the sect together again near Waldport, on Yaquina Bay. One was a letter which Hurt said Crefeld had written him, and which read, he said, somewhat as follows:

Hurt, it is now time for me to answer your letters. God has resurrected me. I have got my foot on your neck. God has given me back my own. I will return to Oregon, and again gather up all my people. Place no obstacle in my way or God will smite you.”


This letter, the witness said, was from Los Angeles, where he had sent a request and a warning to Crefeld to stay away from Oregon after his release from the penitentiary.


The other circumstance of the morning was the protest made by Attorneys Morris and Shipley against the rulings of the court, which they claimed amounted to a “partial and unfair treatment of the defense in violation of his constitutional rights.” Mr. Shipley protested against what he termed the “heat and feeling displayed by the court in the presence of the jury in passing on questions submitted for ruling.” This, he claimed, was prejudicial to the cause of the defendant. These protests were made a matter of record, in the absence of the jury.




Hurt told of the efforts he had made to free the mind of his wife from the influences of Holy Rollerism before Crefeld’s arrest. He said he seemed to be fighting all the time against some unseen influence. After his wife was sent to the asylum, the “unseen influence” was discovered in the person of Crefeld under the Hurt house, stark naked. Of the orgies that had gone on in his home in his absence he learned subsequently. The sending away of Crefeld’s followers had stopped the mad from getting food, and when taken out from his den, the man seemed, or pretended, to be almost too weak to stand up.


The only other witness of the day was Charles Shires, or North Yamhill, who testified as to Mitchell’s conduct while working in Shire’s lumber mill in Yamhill County, Oregon.


The witnesses for Thursday, according to present plans of counsel, will be Perry Mitchell, the Illinois brother of the defendant, who took charge of Esther, and William D. Gardner and Prosecuting Attorney John H. Manning, or Portland. Mr. Gardner is in Seattle today, and Mr. Manning will arrive tomorrow morning.



Seattle Daily Times 7/4/1906 p1

Mitchell Weeps While Starr Testifies

For First Time Since His Arrest Slayer of Creffield Allows Feelings to Get Better of His Self-Restraint.

Story of His Parting From Sister’s Little Ones Before Starting Out to Hunt Joshua Unmans Him for Moment.

Pretty Young Woman Who Conceals Identity and Brings Defendant Roses Adds Mystery to Proceedings.


By E. O. Kelsey


For the first time since he was placed on trial for the killing of Joshua Creffield, George Mitchell yesterday afternoon permitted his emotions to gain ascendancy over his stoicism which has marked his demeanor ever since his arrest. From Monday morning when he listened to Attorney Shipley’s graphic recital of the almost unbelievable practices of the Holy Rollers until the close of court yesterday afternoon this farmer boy has been under the terrible strain of hearing the story of his sisters disgrace unfolded to a carping public and although the leash in which he has bound his feelings has tightened to the breaking point time and again it held true until this moment.


It was the sobbed out story of Burgess Starr, Mitchell’s brother-in-law, which broke down the barrier of self repression the latter has maintained throughout the weary days he has spent in court while the men who are defending him and the women who are doing the duty they are sworn to perform for the state blocked and counter blocked in an effort to influence the jury, Burgess Starr had reached that part of his story where he told how George Mitchell had come to the Starr home and had read the letter left by Mrs. Starr and when she crept from her husband’s side in the early morning hours and started on the long tramp to Creffield’s camp near Waldport.




“George took my little ones on his knees and wept while he caressed them and told them that he would go and bring their mother back,” said Starr.


Before this there had been tears in Mitchell’s eyes, but now he laid his head on his arms and his shoulders shook with sobs. It was only for a moment, however, and then the boy straightened up and from that time on gave no evidence that the proceedings held even a passing interest for him. When court adjourned he was as cheerful as ever and had a ready smile for those of the audience who spoke to him as he went down the stairs to the jail.


Mitchell, his attorneys and the officers of the court are confronted by a mystery in which there is a tinge of romance and their baffled efforts at solving it are causing considerable amusement. This mystery takes the form of a young woman, well dressed and good to look upon, who is a constant attendant at the trial and who at the end of every session of court comes up to the defendant, shakes him by the hand, and at the conclusion of the words of cheer presents him with a bunch of roses.


She was first noticed during the latter part of the week given over to securing a jury and has been in court every day since. So far she has refused to give her name, none of the others in the audience appear to know her and she comes and goes alone. It has become customary for the deputy sheriff who escorts Mitchell to and from the jail to the courtroom to allow him a few minutes conversation with the young woman who looks to be about 30 (illegible) years old, before taking him back to his cell after adjournment. Always during the afternoon session Mitchell wears one of the roses she has given on the lapel of his coat, and occasionally during the day turns around to give and receive a smile of recognition.




It is possible that Mitchell will be placed on the witness stand. His attorneys have not yet decided this question and the final decision will be determined by later developments. It is not often that a defendant in a murder case is made a witness and particularly in a case where the conditions are as in this one, but Mitchell’s attorneys are considering such a move.


Mitchell has expressed a desire to tell the jury of the feelings which actuated him when he killed Creffield. He does not take kindly to the insanity plea advanced by his attorneys, but declares that he was performing a divine injunction and that he received his command to rid the world of the man who called himself God by spiritual communication.


Always he has maintained that he is able to talk to the spirit of his mother and that she has time and again commanded him to watch over his sister Esther. He says that since the killing he has talked to his mother and that she has commended his act.




With at least a week in sight before the Mitchell case will be given to the jury, proceedings are beginning to drag and for the men who are compelled to be in attendance the interest has long since ceased. There is no lack of interest on the part of men and women who have crowded the courtroom each day, however, and despite the heat there is no lessening in the number of spectators, except such as has been made necessary by Judge Frater’s ruling of yesterday that when all the seats are filled no others shall be admitted.


Fearing that because of this order something will be missed a number of people spend the entire noon hour in the courtroom or in the corridor where they can be on hand to secure a seat at a moment’s notice. Those who are unsuccessful in so doing wait patiently around the door and jam their way in whenever an opportunity presents itself.


So far all of the testimony has been along the lines indicated by Attorney Shipley in his opening statement to this jury. O. V. Hurt hewed closely to this line during the time he was on the stand and so did Burgess Starr, who was the only witness examined yesterday afternoon. A variance from the monotony of this repetition of a story of broken homes and ruined lives is furnished by the wordy skirmishes between the opposing attorneys over the legality of certain evidence.


Attorney Will Morris, for the defense, and Assistant Prosecuting John Miller were the star actors in these little divergences from the main theme, but before the day had ended even they became weary. Outside the courtroom the men engaged in the construction of the wing of the wing of the courthouse engage in their labors noisily and twice Judge Frater was forced to suspend proceedings while one of the bailiffs went out and demanded more quiet on penalty of putting a stop to operations.




Burgess Starr, husband of the woman who caused Creffield to be sent to the Oregon penitentiary, was the only witness during the afternoon session. as was the case with O. V. Hurt, Starr was called upon to lay bare his family shame and he wept during the telling. There was less of the tragedy in his recital than in that of Hurt, for Starr is made of different clay than the man who preceded him. He allowed the tears to fall unreservedly.


He told, as he had previously told Mitchell, of the coming to Corvallis of Creffield, of the casting of the spell over the women fold of that town, and of the effect on his wife, Mitchell’s older sister, Donna Starr. He said that he had forgiven his wife after the trial in the Oregon court and that they had lived happily until Creffield was discharged from confinement, but that as soon as Creffield had communicated with Mrs. Starr she had fallen under the old influence, and finally deserted him.




Starr said that he believed George Mitchell to be crazy because of brooding over the fate of one sister and the impending fate of the other, but said he had urged George not to do anything rash when the latter had talked of carrying out a divine command to kill the cause of all the trouble.


Under cross-examination Starr stated that at the time George Mitchell had said that he was going to kill Creffield nothing had been said as to how he was going to carry out his intention. Mr. Miller wanted to know if it seemed commonplace to Starr to hear a man talk about killing another and asked him why he did not tell the officers of the law if he believed Mitchell to be insane and dangerous.


Starr answered that he did not believe George would do what he said he would, as the latter had told him there would be no trouble, as he was commanded by God to remove Creffield.




There is no court today and the men on the jury are being given a chance to stretch their legs, Judge Frater making an order yesterday afternoon directing the bailiffs to take them out to the lake or on the Sound, in fact to give them as good a time as possible under the circumstances.


Tomorrow morning Perry Mitchell, a brother of the defendant, who is here from Illinois, will be placed on the stand, and if it is possible, William D. Gardner, superintendent of the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society, the institution where Esther Mitchell and May Hurt were confined for a time, and Prosecuting Attorney Manning of Multnomah County, will also be called. Gardner spent a part of yesterday afternoon in the courtroom sitting at the table with Mitchell and his attorneys. He was admitted on a special order of the court, the general rule being to keep all witnesses outside until they are called to take the stand.



Seattle Daily Times 7/4/1906 p1

Comes to Testify in Behalf of Mitchell

District Attorney Manning of Portland Is in Seattle to appear as Witness for Slayer of Creffield.

Reiterates Former Statement That He Would Never Have Issued Indictment Had Killing Occurred in Oregon.

Also Repeats Assertion that No Conviction for Murder Could Be Secured in Courts of States He Represents.


“If George Mitchell had killed Creffield in Multnomah County I would never have issued an indictment against him. In fact, even if I had been willing to prepare an indictment there could have been found no complaining witness in that part of the country who would have attached his or her name to the complaint.


“There is no possibility that Mitchell or any other man who would have had the nerve to put Creffield out of the way would have ever had to suffer any penalty for an act that would only have been considered in the light of a public benefit. No court in the state of Oregon would ever have convicted Creffield’s slayer of any criminal act in removing such a beast from the face of the earth.”


This is the statement mad this morning at the Rainier-Grand by John Manning, District Attorney at Portland, the man who was responsible for Creffield’s serving a term of two years in the Oregon penitentiary for adultery with Mrs. Hurt (sic), Who, with her family was numbered among the converts of the “Second Joshua.” Mrs. Manning has been subpoenaed as a witness in the trial of George Mitchell now going on in the circuit court of this city, and has come to Seattle to testify in the case.




What Mrs. Manning’s testimony will amount to as a bulwark for the defense is easily gathered from the opinion expressed by Mr. Manning himself to the effect that if he is allowed to go on the stand and tell what he knows about the case there is no possibility that Mitchell will ever be convicted. Mr. Manning’s testimony will be in line with that given yesterday by O. V. Hurt, the husband of the woman for adultery with whom Creffield paid the penalty of two years in the penitentiary. The details of Mr. Manning's testimony are too shocking for publication, but every phase of his story is corroborated by facts gathered from unfortunate men and women who were among the misguided flock of the dead prophet.


Mr. Manning, it will be remembered, addresses a letter to Prosecuting Attorney Mackintosh, shortly after Mitchell was indicted for the murder of Creffield, in which he asked that he be subpoenaed as a witness in the case and virtually made the same statement which heads this article.




In regards to the comment that has been made as to his seeming laxity in only securing a sentence of two years for Creffield when he was tried in Oregon for adultery, and also in reply to the caustic criticism called forth by his letter from many people who were of the opinion that Mr. Manning should have put some of his opinions into practice while the impostor was within his jurisdiction; Mr. Manning stated that two years was the limit of the penalty for the crime with which Creffield was charged, and that unfortunately there was no other statue upon the books of the state under which the man could have been indicted for the other offenses against decency and morality upon which he stood convicted in the minds of the people.


That Mr. Manning will prove a bad witness for the prosecution is apparent to him and he expresses a doubt that he would be allowed to testify, being of the opinion that the prosecuting attorney would fight strenuously against his going on the stand.


Daily Oregon Statesman (Salem) 7/4/1906

Starr Testifies in Mitchell Trial

Brother-in-Law of Defendant Relates Revolting Story of Doctrines Taught by Holy Roller Creffield---Tells Jury How Self-Styled Apostle Sought Ruin of Mitchell’s Young Sister.


SEATTLE, July 3.--Burgess Starr, the husband of Mitchell’s sister was the chief witness for the defense this afternoon and told a revolting tale of the doctrines taught by Creffield, and of Mitchell’s revelation from his mother’s spirit that he must kill Creffield to save his sister Esther from Creffield’s power.


The witness said: “I told him (Mitchell) that my wife had been approached by Creffield to get Esther out of school. He (Creffield) told my wife Esther was the virgin and he had to bring forth the Christ to take up his work when he was killed.” The witness told of the confession of his wife to him of Creffield’s teaching that his flock must eat his flesh and drink his blood.


Prosecuting Attorney John H. Manning of Multnomah County, Oregon, arrived and may be a witness Thursday.

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