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

November 18, 1906: Death May End a Hypnotic Spell


Seattle Daily Times 11/18/1906 p1

Death May End a Hypnotic Spell

Observers Are Watching for the Effect of Maud Creffield’s Decease on Esther Mitchell, Her Partner in Crime.

Natural Traits May Now Be Developed.

Members of Insanity Commission Discuss Physical Condition of Women at Time of Investigation.


Will Esther Mitchell, but the death of Maud Creffield, be released from the hypnotic spell under which some believe she has been held by the influence of the older woman?


All the evidence in the hands of the state as to the murder of George Mitchell shows that the crime was coldly and carefully planned by Maud Creffield, widow of the infamous leader of the Holy Rollers whom he had slain. After her arrest Mrs. Creffield calmly confessed that she had urged Esther Mitchell to the murder of her brother and had provided the weapon from which was fired the shot that ended George Mitchell’s life in the Union Depot on King Street.


What influence congealed the natural fountains of sisterly affection in Esther Mitchell; what stimulant to perversion so prejudiced her mind against the brother who had sought only to save her from worse than death, steeled her heart and strengthened her hand to cold-blooded fratricide? These are the questions which, ever since the murder, have attracted and interested lawyers, doctors, alienists, as well as scores of dilettante students of mental and moral conditions.




At the outset it was held by a few adherents to the extreme theories of hypnotism that the mental and physical domination which Franz Creffield, the unspeakable, maintained in life over all who came within his influence, extended even from the grave and impelled his widow, Maud Creffield, to the planning and his victim, Esther Mitchell, to the commission of the murder by which his wrath was primitively avenged.


But the two women themselves repudiated this suggestion and blasphemously attributed the inspiration for their crime to the highest source of human idea.


“God had commanded it,” they said.


Later on, among those who had studied the participants in the crime and their antecedents and had observed the conduct of the women in their incarceration, the belief gained ground that the mind of Esther Mitchell was dominated absolutely by Mrs. Creffield. Whether the influence arose from long association in the madness of frenzied religion, from mere mental superiority, from animal magnetism or from hypnotism, there were few who would venture to say. Those few have persisted in holding to the theory of hypnotic influence, established prior to the commission of the murder of George Mitchell and continuing during the confinement of the women in the King County jail


Whether this hypnotic influence will hold from out the land of shadows into which Maud Creffield has passed, or whether it has ceased and determined with the flight of her spirit, is the question which now compels the attention and invited the discussion of such theorists--a question which they incline to believe will be settled in the natural course of events during the next few days either by a change of demeanor of Esther Mitchell or by the continuance of the stolidity that has come to be considered by her jailers as characteristic.




So far there has been little apparent change. Esther Mitchell has shown no grief at the death of her cell mate and partner in crime. The sudden end of Mrs. Creffield is accepted by this strange girl with the same perfection of indifference that she showed when she declared, immediately after murdering her brother, that she had done right and was ready to pay the penalty fixed by the laws of men.


She admits only that she is lonely. In her darkened cell she misses the woman who had been her sole companion and only intimate during the months of restraint. She does not grieve. It is but the selfish instinct against solitude that seems to stir.


And yet it is the first manifestation of any sort of human instinct that has come from Esther Mitchell. May it be taken to indicate the dissipation of the shadows that have surrounded her? Is it the first faint glimmer of light within?




“I believe that Esther Mitchell will commit suicide within a short time. The attachment between her and Mrs. Creffield was such a close one that I believe the woman, with her weak and unsound mentality, will grasp the first opportunity that offers itself of taking her own life.”


Such was the statement made last night by Dr. R. M. Eames, one of the members of the commission that pronounced both Esther Mitchell and Mrs. Creffield insane.


“I do not believe that Maud Creffield committed suicide,” said Dr. Eames. “She was not the kind of woman that would take her own life. I do not believe Esther Mitchell would think of suicide were Mrs. Creffield alive. But I do believe that, with Mrs. Creffield dead, the chief thought in Esther Mitchell’s brain is to take her own life.


“The attachment existing between those two women was, I believe, without a parallel. Esther Mitchell depended upon the older woman as a child would upon a parent.


“I am inclined to believe that Mrs. Creffield died of Heart disease. While the hearing as to their sanity was being conducted I made a physical examination of Mrs. Creffield. I was certain that the woman had what is popularly called ‘valvular heart trouble’ in a mild form. The other two physicians did not agree with me in this, but they did not strongly oppose my belief. The fact that the autopsy showed the heart to be normal is not proof that she did not die of heart disease. an autopsy held upon a person known to have died from heart disease is likely to result in the heart being found in a normal condition.


“I gave much thought to the cases of the two women during the hearing and since. I am satisfied both women were insane.”


Dr. Kenneth Turner, another of the physicians that determined that Mrs. Creffield and Esther Mitchell were insane, is at a loss to account for Mrs. Creffield’s death. Less than two months ago Dr. Turner made a full, complete and careful examination of Mrs. Creffield. He found every organ in her body to be in a healthy condition that would have made the development of any fatal organic disease in the space of two months exceedingly improbable.


Speaking of the theory advanced that Mrs. Creffield died of heart disease, Dr. Turner said:

I made a most careful examination of the woman’s heart. I found that she had a neurotic heart--that is a nervous heart. She told me that when she was excited she suffered sometimes from palpitation and occasionally had a pain in the region of the heart. The condition of her heart, however, was no different from that of thousands of other persons who work heard and live long lives. There was nothing in its condition to make it probable that any heart disease would cause her death within a space of a few months. The autopsy, I have been informed, bears out the finding of my physical examination, showing that Mrs. Creffield had a normal heart.




 “All of her other organs were in a healthy condition. I am totally at a loss to account for her death.


“As to the suicide theory, I have not ventured even to form an opinion. I do not know. I can’t satisfy my own mind. During the hearing, the woman admitted that she had often considered committing suicide. In despondent moments she said that the thought had often come to her. She said that she would have killed herself had she not been commanded by a voice from Heaven not to yield to the thought. If she heard the voice of her husband calling to her to commit suicide, I would not be at all surprised if she did.


“When I read the report of Mrs. Creffield’s death, the first thought that occurred to me was, ‘How long will it be before Esther Mitchell commits suicide.” The influence that Mrs. Creffield had over Esther was wonderful. I have never tried to account for it. The elder woman certainly had complete control over the younger. I have never considered the question as to how she obtained her power over Esther. I found the fact and never settled in my own mind what was the cause of it.”





Seattle Daily Times 11/18/1906 p4

Mrs. Creffield’s Father Coming


Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 11/18/1906 p26

Only What He Expected


Sorrowful Comment of Faithful, Heartbroken Father of the Fanatic.


(Special Dispatch to the Journal)


CORVALLIS, Or., Saturday, Nov 17.--”This is what I have been expecting for a long time,” was the only remark O. V. Hurt made upon reading the telegram this morning announcing the death of his daughter, Mrs. Maud Creffield, at Seattle. Hurt and daughter, Mae, left this noon for Seattle. The mother does not go. Hurt will not bring the remains here. Hurt, who has been lavish in his attentions to his wayward daughter all along, and recently sold his little home here, supposedly to get funds to defend her, was overcome with emotion on the receipt of the news. The townspeople generally, while sympathizing with the father, say that the death was a merciful solution to the problem.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 11/18/1906 p4

Cause of Death Not Determined

Autopsy Physicians Fail to Find Out What Caused Mrs. Creffield’s Demise

Coroner Thinks Uraemia.

Fluid in the Dead Woman’s Stomach to be Examined by Chemist.


The autopsy performed on the body of Mrs. Maud Creffield yesterday failed to reveal to the coroner the exact cause of death. From the evidence he found she may have died from uraemia, neuralgia of the heart or poison taken into the stomach. The first named is believed by Coroner Carroll to have been the cause of death.


A chemical analysis of the dead woman’s stomach will be made by a chemist. The examination will take at least forty-eight hours, and the coroner does not expect to get a report on the matter until Monday night.


“Although poison may be found in the stomach,” said the coroner, “I do not believe the woman poisoned herself. The autopsy showed that the woman had been suffering from uraemia, and that is the most probable cause of death. The vital organs of the body showed a healthy condition.




The autopsy was performed at the morgue of the Bonney-Watson Co. yesterday morning and was very extensive. The surgeons did their work so well that the embalmers were unable to keep the embalming fluid in the body after the post mortem examination, and the corpse cannot be shipped to Oregon for burial as had been planned by Frank Hurt, Mrs. Creffield’s brother. On account of the fact that he wished to use every means in his power to ascertain if there was any trace of poison in the body, the coroner ordered that no embalming fluid be used on the body until after the autopsy. Then it was impossible for the undertakers to preserve the remains, and the body will have to be buried in Seattle within a very short time. It was the express wish of Frank Hurt, brother of the dead woman, that no morbid persons be allowed to see the body of his sister. When the bodies of Franz Edmund Creffield and George Mitchell were at the morgue hundreds of people came to see them. In the case of the third of the Holy Roller deaths the curious crowd will be denied an opportunity of looking upon the face of the dead.


Coroner Carroll does not consider that an inquest is necessary and will probably not hold one.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 11/18/1906 p4

Esther Mitchell Refuses Visitors

Sees Brother and Police Matron and Spends Greater Part of Day in Tears.


After witnessing the death of Mrs. Maud Creffield, her closest friend, with dry eyes, Esther Mitchell has at last been moved to tears, and yesterday she spent nearly they entire day weeping over the loss of the companion who is held to be responsible for the situation i which the girl now finds herself--a prisoner behind steel doors, awaiting trial for the murder of her brother. During the night which marked the death of Mrs. Creffield, the girl showed sorrow in the loss of her friend, and before the body was taken away spent her time caressing the cold face, but she answered the questions put to her in a calm and collected manner and seemed physically unmoved. Yesterday morning this manner changed. She became unusually nervous, and tears came. She refused to see visitors during the entire day, giving special instructions that no press representatives be allowed in her cell.


Police Matron Kelly and Frank Hurt, a brother of the dead woman, called in the morning and talked with her, but no others were admitted. Mrs. Kelly spent a part of the night with the girl. Hurt merely talked with her while she was packing up some of Mrs. Creffield’s clothing, in which she is to be dressed for burial.


Hurt stated to the jailers that there is no question but that the death of his sister was caused by heart disease, and in support of his assertion declared that the woman has had a number of attacks during the past few years.


Jailer vanMeer also declared that Mrs. Creffield has had many fainting spells, which she laid to heart trouble. Esther Mitchell stated to the jailers that there is nothing she can say that will add to what is already known. She made the remark, however, that before her death Mrs. Creffield told her things which she could not and would not tell to her own parents. What these things are she declares she will never tell under any circumstances.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 11/18/1906 p4

Girl May Attend Funeral Services


If the funeral of Mrs. Maud Creffield is held in this city W. A. Holzheimer, formerly attorney for the woman, will ask the superior court that Esther Mitchell be allowed to attend the funeral in company with a deputy sheriff. Mr. Holzheimer received a telegram from O. V. Hurt, father of the dead woman, in which he states that he will be in the city today, if it is possible to get here, and at that time arrangements will be made for the funeral. Mr. Holzheimer believes that the woman will be laid to rest by the side of her dead husband as he declares that would have been her wish if she could have expressed herself on the matter.


As soon as he learned of the death of Mrs. Creffield, the attorney paid a visit to the girl Esther. She received him in her cell with the statement, “I am all alone now,” and seemed greatly depressed. Later, however, she grew brighter upon receiving the assurances from Mr. Holzheimer that he would see that the dead woman got every care and would notify the father.



Seattle Post Intelligencer 11/18/1906 p1

Classified Ad Section


CREFELD--In this city, Nov. 16, 1906, Ida Maud Crefeld, aged 26 years. Announcement of funeral hereafter. Remains at the private parlors of Bonney-Watson Co.



Oregon Daily Journal (Portland) 11/18/1906

Poison May Have Caused Death

Autopsy to Reveal Secret of Mrs. Creffield’s Sudden Demise.


(Special Dispatch to The Journal)


Seattle, Wash., Nov 17.--The autopsy on Maud Creffield, performed at 11 o’clock this morning by Coroner Carroll and other surgeons, showed that the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys were in a healthy condition. The stomach was taken out and will be analyzed tomorrow or Monday. Carroll says that death might be due to poisoning, neuralgia of the heart or uraemia.


Lawyers who have been preparing the defense of Esther Mitchell, indicted for the murder of her brother George, have signified their intention of laying the blame of the homicide to the sinister influence Maud Creffield exercised over the girl murderess. It was established at the time of the killing that Mrs. Creffield bought the revolver and urged Esther Mitchell on to the commission of the crime. She acknowledged her part in the plot, shortly after her arrest, and said that she and Esther had a perfect understanding in the whole matter, and Esther was selected to do the shooting because she, as the avenging wife of her husband’s murderer, would be watched too closely.


This influence was exercised over the murderess during the many days the pair have shared the same prison cell. The younger woman followed her companion around like a dog would stay at the heels of its master. Companions frequently remarked that Esther Mitchell looked like a subject under hypnotic spell. On these grounds, asserted by the attorneys for the girl, whose hands are stained with her brother’s blood, they will seek to secure her release from imprisonment or incarceration in an insane asylum.


They say that the girl is brighter and happier since her companion died.

FBI Anti Piracy SealThe unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment