Linda Crew, author of Brides of Eden--a true story imagined
Brides of Eden: a novel by Linda Crew based on a true, famous northwest story. It is set in Oregon--Corvallis and the coast-- and in Seattle.
Description and Overview: This is an historical novel based on a true story about a charismatic leader who moves to a local town in Oregon in the early 1900s. The reader learns not only about the past, but about the sociological dynamics of destructive groups. The story also forces us to think about our constitutional rights and about recent events involving destructive groups. In the early 1900s "Joshua" Creffield is a narcissistic man with a mysterious past who starts his own unique church, gathering mostly young women as members. Much of the action takes place in Corvallis, Oregon, and continues on the Oregon coast--and in both Portland and Seattle. Joshua, and the town's outraged response to him, resulted in murder, suicide, a major Seattle news story, and broken families. There are social and ethical lessons to be learned from reading about a hundred years old series of events.
Linda Crew, the Author: Born in 1951 and still living in Corvallis,Oregon, where the story takes place, Ms. Crew has written nine books, mostly prize winning juvenile fiction. This book is a "cross-over" that is also read by adults. Find her biography and comments on how she researched this story on her website: http://www.lindacrew.com/brides_of_eden__a_true_story_imagined_55442.htm
The Lifton Brainwashing Criteria: "Brain-washing" techniques are used by leaders of destructive groups (social, political, and religious) to manipulate others into believing that the leader has special powers and that the leader's life is more valuable than their own. A sociological theory regarding the techniques that destructive leaders use is described in the Lifton Brainwashing Criteria file below. As you read, determine which techniques are used by Joshua, the main character, to get people to follow him against their best interests. A question you can ask yourself as you read is why people did follow him--and what it took to resist. Do the Lifton criteria fit Joshua Creffield's actions?
See the PowerPoint file at the end of the "Destructive/Extremist Groups" section for a summary of the Lifton Brainwashing Criteria.
A movie was made about this event (How the Fire Fell), but has not yet been distributed. Here is a trailer (preview) for the film. Without dialogue or much detail, the trailer will give you a sense of the mood of the story.
Historical Context: Look at photos of early Corvallis, and read a summary of the events from the novel on pages 50-56 in this memoir of life in 1900. Corvallis is home of the Oregon State University which was an agricultural college at the time. Life was slow. The newspaper for the town listed notable events--such as a farmer painting his house and barn, bicyclists riding after dark without headlights, and women gathering for tea.
Women's roles in American middle class society centered on the household and women did not often work outside of the home. If women worked, they often were nurses or teachers; but these women did not always marry. Careers were not common for women; society thought that marriage and children were most important for women. Even so, many women were unaware of the sexual realities of marriage prior to their weddings. What was considered "worldliness" (knowing a lot about sexual matters or mens' business, for example) was distained in women. In Corvallis, Oregon--as in most of the country--the people were almost exclusively Caucasian and Christian.
Photos of Corvallis, Creffield, and "Holy Rollers"
Below is a photo of Corvallis, Oregon, in 1915. In the year 1900 this town had eight to nine churches, and a population of less than 2000 people.
Joshua's real name was Edmund or Edward. He changed it, as he repeatedly changed the name of his church.
Edmund (or Edward) Creffield serving time for adultery in 1904.
Photos of Church Members; Eva Hurt's family is prominent.
Destructive/Extremist Groups are controlled and negatively affected by their leaders. Below are more modern examples of such leaders. See the PowerPoint at the end of this section for Lifton Criteria and modern groups.
Heaven's Gate: Marshal Applewhite in California
Heaven's Gate charismatic leader, Marshall Applewhite. This southern California group lived together and died together, committing suicide in the group home. Applewhite fits the Lifton profile.
Below is the Heaven's Gate website, still on the internet as it appeared before members committed suicide together. http://heavensgate.com/
David Korresh and Branch Davidians, in Waco, Texas: Questions remain about what led to the deaths of those in David Korresh's group.
David Korresh's group compound in Waco, Texas; this group held out in the against federal agents who were concerned about weapons in the compound. Years later, there is confusion over what happened, but many died-- including children-- in the fire that ended the stand-off.
Aum Supreme Truth in Japan: Aum members released the poison gas sarin in a attack on trains in the Tokyo subway system, killing 13 people and seriously injuring 54.
Aum Supreme Truth leader: 1995 subway deaths in Japan using sarin gas.
Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana: hundreds killed themselves at the prompting of their leader, Reverend Jim Jones, who moved his headquarters and most of his followers from the US to Guyana in South America.
Jonestown Massacre, Guyana: group members (900) drank poison at the command of the leader, Jim Jones, who had become deranged.
Power Point on Extreme Groups: Brainwashing techniques were used in each of the groups shown in the PowerPoint file, below. As we read the novel about the Joshua Creffield in Corvallis, compare the more modern leaders and situations to the one in Oregon in the early 1900s. What do they have in common?
Non-fiction Version of the Brides of Eden story: Although you are reading a novel that dramatizes events, the story of Joshua Creffield is true. Below is a non-fiction book about the events covered in Brides of Eden. It is available via google-books for free, and lists the characters in the beginning. This book is titled, Murdering Holiness, by Jim Phillips and Rosemary Gartner, 2003, University of British Columbia Press.