better to be leaving than arriving

This advertisement appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1961 and was reported in Time

FATHER CROWLEY’S LOSS IS YOUR GAIN. 1961 Mercedes-Benz 1905L, air-conditioned. This car is only 3 months old. Save $1,350.

image found here

The Rev. Richard Anthony Crowley, 51, has been reassigned by his bishop to a parish in Springfield, Ill., where a Roman Catholic priest might look a bit out of place in a $6,850, 105-m.p.h. white sports car with green leather upholstery. Last week the Vegas crowd threw Father Crowley a farewell party in the town’s flying saucer-shaped Convention Center.

Las Vegas convention centre (1959) found here

It began at 9 p.m. with an hour-long cocktail party and ended at 3:30 a.m., with the crowd singing God Bless America. In between, while klieg lights stabbed the desert sky, 9,000 guests milled and drank and watched an assortment of 64 entertainers ranging from acrobats and show girls to Stand-Up Comics Shecky Greene and Myron Cohen. The guest of honor, slight, grey-haired and merry as a grig, shook hands, soft-shoed with a bowler hat and sang Harrigan, That’s Me.

Myron Cohen and Phil Spector found here

Father Crowley won his popularity by ministering to show people and by strenuous relief work for the migrant farm workers who abound around Las Vegas. But what won him fame is the Mass that for the past three years he has been holding at 4:30 a.m. for around 500 show people, croupiers and early-bird tourists of the 24-hour town. Crowley held it each Sunday in the Stardust Hotel, which features the “Lido de Paris 1961 Revue,” with 13 bare-breasted girls. Such a broadminded willingness to bring religion to The Strip won him much gratitude: Wilbur Clark, owner of the Desert Inn Hotel, donated a $185,000 site near The Strip for a Catholic church, and an anonymous benefactor gave Father Crowley his Mercedes-Benz.

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Yet does any man of God, though his intentions are good and his boons indisputable, have to seek sinners quite so flamboyantly? Nevada’s Catholic Bishop Robert J. Dwyer gave his answer when he advised Catholics to boycott places of such “filthy and immoral” entertainment. Crowley took it in his stride. Comparing last week’s sendoff “bash” with the modest welcoming reception planned for his successor, he ruefully noted: “It is evidently much better to be leaving Las Vegas than to be coming here.”

cartoon found here

patience please for the prince

Evangelist Glenn Wilbur Voliva was a disciple of John Alexander Dowie who, in the late 19th century, set up the township of Zion City on the shores of Lake Michigan. Dowie, who had denounced sex, oysters and life assurance, became the victim of a power struggle with Voliva who took over as Chief Administrator in 1905.

more erotic nature to be found here

He gained nationwide notoriety by his vigorous advocacy of flat earth doctrine. He offered a widely publicized $5000 challenge for anyone to disprove flat earth theory. Voliva also frequently predicted the end of the world: his predictions that the end would come in 1923, 1927, 1930, and 1935 were incorrect.

Still from Encounters at the End of the World found here

Lipstick, scanty clothes, high heels and swimming costumes were all strictly forbidden, as were cigarettes and alcohol. There were no theatres or cinemas and no butcher, chemist or doctor was allowed to practice within the city precincts. Nobody was allowed to whistle or sing or drive a vehicle in excess of 5 mph.

Angie Dickinson in scanty clothes and high heels found here

Transgressors were subject to arrest by Voliva’s Praetorian Guard, a regime whose helmets were inscribed with the word ‘Patience’ and who carried miniature bibles instead of truncheons. Punishment included a one hour lecture on sin.

World’s smallest Bible found here

Here in Australia we have our own independent sovereign state ruled by His Majesty Prince Leonard of Hutt.

The Principality of Hutt River was created in 1969 as a province in response to a dispute with the government over what the Casley family considered draconian wheat production quotas.

Prince Leonard found here

In correspondence with the governor-general’s office, Casley was inadvertently addressed as the “Administrator of the Hutt River Province” which, under the application of Royal Prerogative, makes this recognition binding on all courts. After the government threatened him with prosecution, Casley styled himself His Majesty Prince Leonard I of Hutt to take advantage of a law that a monarch could not only not be charged, but that anyone who interfered with his duties could be charged with treason.

image found here

n 1976, Australia Post refused to handle Hutt River mail, forcing mail to be redirected via Canada. Following repeated demands by the Australian Taxation Office for the payment of taxes, on 2 December 1977 the province officially declared war on Australia. Prince Leonard notified authorities of the cessation of hostilities several days later. The mail service was restored and tax requests ceased.

Canada Mail found here

The Principality of Hutt River is situated 517 km north of Perth. Exports include wildflowers, agricultural produce, stamps and coins. Tourism is also important to its economy with 40,000 tourists visiting the principality every year.

Order your Hutt River stamps here

Although actual residents are very few, the principality claims a world-wide citizenry of 13,000. The Principality has no standing army, but a number of its citizens have been awarded military commissions. Honorary guardsmen attend the prince on formal occasions, and despite being completely landlocked, naval commissions have been conferred on supporters of the principality.

Prince Leonard and Princess Shirley found here

Prince Leonard is married to Her Royal Highness Princess Shirley, by whom he has seven adult children. His son, Crown Prince Ian, who is the Prime Minister of the Principality, has been designated as Prince Leonard’s eventual successor as “heir presumptive”.

just a tiny slither please

Ever since I read Stolen World by Jennie Erin Smith I’ve become fascinated by the people who are fascinated with snakes. There is even a religion devoted to the slithery creatures.

Snake (or serpent) handling in Alabama is practiced primarily by the members of the Church of God with Signs Following. The eccentricities and inherent danger of the church’s practices have made it an attractive subject for social scientists.

image found here

In addition to handling serpents, members of the sect also engage in glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and “laying on of hands” (a belief that illnesses and wounds can be healed with the mind) and drink the deadly poison strychnine. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of serpent handlers who live in Alabama—or nationwide for that matter—because the sect is not public or open in its practices.

image found here

One of the most recognized names in Alabama’s Church of God with Signs Following is Glenn Summerford of Scottsboro. Summerford had risen to a high level of church hierarchy as a preacher when his wife, Darlene, accused him of attempted murder in 1991. She was hospitalized with a series of snake bites and accused Summerford of forcing her hand into a box full of snakes. He was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in jail.

The highlight of the trial was when wife Darlene was on the stand. When asked if the congregation kept snakes, she replied “Yes, sir.” Then asked if they fed the snakes Darlene replied “Yes, sir.” Then when asked if they bred the snakes Darlene—without a pause—replied, “Oh no, sir…they do that all by themselves.” The court broke into hysterics. Darlene was a hit.

image found here

By the way, if you’re planning a visit to Israel, please stop off at Barak’s Snake Spa. Apparently snake massage has therapeutic value…

image found here

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 9:26 am  Comments (38)  
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the bewitching brokers

***Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was a celebrated and liberal preacher who advocated womens’ rights.


When Lucy Bowen, the 38 year old wife of a friend, was on her deathbed, she confessed to her husband that she had been committing adultery with the popular preacher. Henry Bowen was convulsed by jealousy and resentment but did not confront Beecher at the time.

Then the beautiful Libby Tilton, married to Theodore who was yet another of Beecher’s unsuspecting friends, also confessed to her husband that she had fallen under the preacher’s spell. When this news reached the ears of  Henry Bowen he saw a way to get his own back by pitting Theodore and Beecham against each other.


Around the same time, suffragette Victoria Woodhull became aware of the story. Victoria was a remarkable character who believed herself to be a clairvoyant and spirit medium. She and her sister Tennessee Claflin were the first women to have their own brokerage business and published a magazine espousing free love.


Victoria sent Theodore Tilton a message asking him to come and see her. With a shared dislike of Beecher, their attraction to each other was mutual and they became lovers. It did Tilton’s reputation no good at all to be associated with “Mrs Satan” and her scandalous doctrines especially when she announced she was running for president with a Negro reform leader as her running mate.


Victoria published the story of Beecher’s affair with Libby Tilton in her magazine. Suddenly everyone wanted to know whether Tilton was a cuckold and Beecher was a seducer. On 24 August 1874, Tilton swore out a complaint against Beecher, charging him with wilfully alienating his wife’s affections.

cartoon found at Bearskin Rug

The trial lasted 6 months and the whole nation was agog at the scandal. It was soon revealed that Beecher was accused of seducing Lucy Bowen as well as Libby Tilton. A newspaper cartoon at the time showed a Brooklyn businessman locking his wife in a huge safe with a notice on the door “Proof Against Fire and Clergymen” while another showed the latest style in mens hats – complete with cuckold’s horns.

“Magnificent Cuckold” poster found here

The court also learned that the wronged husband was not entirely innocent. He was alleged to have seduced the 17 year old daughter of a congressman in Connecticut and to have made an unsuccessful attempt to do the same to a maid in his own household. The story of his affair with Victoria Woodhull was also raked up.

The jury was out for 8 days; unable to reach a unanimous verdict they voted 9 to 3 against Tilton. Beecher went on a lecture tour and although he was booed in several places, he never failed to draw enormous crowds.

Theodore Tilton settled in Paris where he wrote romantic poetry and played chess. Libby, deserted by her husband and her lover, became a schoolteacher while the Woodhull sisters both married rich men and lived to a ripe old age.


*** from World Famous Scandals by Colin Wilson

Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 7:46 am  Comments (33)  
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bloody hell! all she needed was a big mac

There have been many people who claim to be stigmatics: Cloretta Robertson, Padre Pio, Louise Lateau and Gemma Galgani are just a few.


Therese Neumann, was born in 1898.

In 1918 Therese was partially paralyzed after falling off a stool while attending to a fire in her uncle’s barn. She sustained more falls and injuries during this period. After one particular fall she claimed to have lost much of her eyesight. In 1919, she was blinded completely. Bedridden, she reportedly developed horrible bed sores that sometimes exposed bone.


Therese reported that her eyesight was restored on April 29, 1923—the day Therese of Lisieux was beatified in Rome. She had been praying novenas in advance of this day. On May 17, 1925 Therese of Lisieux was fully canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church. Therese Neumann said the saint called to her and then cured her of her paralysis and bed sores.

Therese would later apparently develop the stigmata. On Good Friday, according to her own testimony, she witnessed the entire Passion of Christ in her visions. She displayed wounds on her hands and feet accompanied by blood apparently coming from her eyes.  By November 5, 1926, she displayed nine wounds on her head as well as wounds on her back and shoulders. According to several sources these wounds never healed or became infected.

From the years of 1922 until her death in 1962, Therese Neumann apparently consumed no food other than The Holy Eucharist, and claimed to have drunk no water from 1926 until her death.

Monstrance for holding Eucharist

In July 1927 a medical doctor and four Franciscan nurses kept a watch on her 24 hours a day for a two-week period. They confirmed that she had consumed nothing except for one consecrated sacred Host a day, and had suffered no ill effects, loss of weight, or dehydration.


Inedia is the ability to live without food. The word was first used to describe a fasting lifestyle within Catholic tradition, which holds that certain saints were able to survive for extended periods of time without food or drink other than the Eucharist. Breatharianism is a related concept, in which believers claim food and possibly water are not necessary, and that humans can be sustained solely by prana (the vital life force in Hinduism), or according to some, by the energy in sunlight.

you get these muscles by living on air?

“Wiley Brooks is founder of the Breatharian Institute of America. In 1983 he was reportedly observed leaving a 7-Eleven with a Slurpee, hot dog and Twinkies. He told Colors magazine in 2003 that he periodically breaks his fasting with a cheeseburger and a cola, explaining that when he’s surrounded by junk culture and junk food, consuming them adds balance.

Twinkie-henge found here

In the “Question and Answer” section of his website, Brooks explains that the “Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese” meal from McDonald’s possesses a specialbase frequency” and that he thus recommends it as occasional food for beginning breatharians. He then goes on to reveal that Diet Coke is “liquid light”.


Published in: on December 6, 2010 at 7:48 am  Comments (37)  
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Ronald loves Harry who loves Gaby who just wants a pearl necklace

Ronald Firbank (1886-1926) was already a published author and a fully formed personality by the time he entered Cambridge at the age of nineteen.

Ronald Firbank

“In 1907 he converted to Catholicism, a religion whose ornate rituals, costumes, symbols, and pageantry provided him with a vehicle through which to express his homosexuality obliquely. Firbank visited Rome with the intention of taking holy orders; however, as he later revealed in a letter to Lord Berners, “The Church of Rome wouldn’t have me, and so I mock her.” Accordingly, his fiction is populated with a ribald gallery of homosexual choirboys, lesbian nuns, cross-dressing priests, salacious bishops, flagellants, and self-canonized saints.


His last and most explicitly gay work, Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli, appeared in 1926, the same year as Firbank’s early death at the age of forty. The book begins with the cardinal baptizing a police puppy named Crack, and ends when the naked cardinal drops dead while pursuing a choirboy named Chicklet around his church.”


Gaby Deslys (1881-1920) was a famous French dancer and actress of the early 20th century.


“She had many admirers among royalty, most notably Manuel II of Portugal. Deslys became a celebrity following newspaper stories which gossiped about King Manuel’s infatuation with her. Manuel is thought to have given Deslys a pearl necklace worth $70,000 after first meeting her in Paris in July 1909. More gifts soon followed. One was a diamond necklace with black and white pearl drops set in a platinum band. Deslys cultivated a pearl fetish. She collected so many that before she died she said she owned her weight in them.


Her American feature film debut was in 1915 with Her Triumph costarring her dancer boyfriend Harry Pilcer. The film is lost but surviving stills show a scene with Deslys and Pilcer and also the intro card with Deslys’s picture in the credits. Deslys made only two more French silent films in 1918 and 1919, both with Harry Pilcer in the cast, before getting the illness that would take her life.


Her carved and gilded bed, in the form of an enormous swan, was bought at auction by the Universal Studios prop department, and was used in the 1925 film of “The Phantom of the Opera”. In 1950 it was in “Sunset Boulevard” as the bed of Norma Desmond.

According to Beverley Nichols, Gaby spent most of her stage career stalking up and down staircases in the traditional manner. When Ronald Firbank first saw Harry Pilcer dance, he was chasing Gaby up one of her staircases at the time. Firbank was so overwhelmed that he rushed out and bought a huge bunch of orchids which he sent to Pilcer’s dressing room accompanied by an invitation to supper.

“Whether Pilcer ever got the flowers we shall never know; he gave no answer. Whereupon Firbank, with tears streaming down his face, returned to the theatre. Still sobbing, he advanced to the front row and walked slowly along by the side of the orchestra pit, tossing cypripediums and odontoglossums with tragic gestures to the astonished musicians. “

Orchid Mantis found here

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 7:38 am  Comments (38)  
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falling into a state of frenzy


The American Revivalist movement coincided with the heyday of bundling which you may remember from this old post. One of the proponents of this practice was Lavinia Umphreville who advocated the renunciation of normal marriage in favour of more spiritual unions.


“Holy kisses” were regarded as specially praiseworthy and Lavinia’s young followers devoted themselves to the pursuit of these holy kisses and more.

The Rev. John H. Noyes saw with alarm the signs of a coming storm. He found that among this group of beautiful women, not a few of the more passionate creatures were falling into a state of frenzy, over which he feared that he could exercise no control. The preacher of holiness felt that in the presence of these seductions he was but a man, and liable to fall so he fled from the dangerous predicament.


This sudden disappearance of the preacher only fanned the fire at Brimfield. Two days after his departure from the town, Mary Lincoln and Maria Brown found their way into the Rev. Simon Lovett’s room, awoke him from his sleep, and suffered themselves to be taken in the act.

When they found out that Mary had been banished (cast out, as they said, for the sake of Christ) her friends came flocking to her side ; Maria Brown, Abby Brown, Flavilla Howard and many more who then began to praise the Lord, to sing, and dance, and kiss each other in a frantic way.


It quickly became a custom for fervently religious young ladies to enter the bedroom of a preacher in the middle of the night for bundling and other purposes. The clergy responded enthusiastically and it was only when the three ladies who had initiated the movement overstepped the mark by running naked through the countryside that authority brought the practice to an abrupt end.

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 8:00 am  Comments (37)  


Edvard Westermarck (1862-1939) was a Swedish sociologist who wrote about the history of marriage and associated ancient customs around the world.

In Madagascar, the women had a unique way of choosing a husband. The man in question would stand at a certain distance from a proficient athlete and be obliged to catch between his arm and side every spear that was thrown at him. If he displayed fear or failed to catch any of the spears he was rejected.


Among the Dongolowees, if two men are suitors for one girl and she has difficulty deciding between the rivals the following method is adopted. The girl ties a knife to each forearm so that the blades project below her elbows. She sits on a log of wood, the men on each side with their legs loosely pressed against her. Raising her arms she leans forward and slowly presses the knives into the thighs of her suitors. He who best undergoes this trial becomes her husband. Her first duty after marriage is to dress the wounds she herself inflicted.


Among the South American Uaupes a swollen calf is considered one of the best attractions a young lady can possess, the result being that girls wear a tight garter below the knee from infancy. The Hottentots are charmed by women’s long and pendulous breasts which can assume such monstrous dimensions that the usual way of giving suck when the child is carried on the back is by throwing the breast over the shoulder.


Among the Arawaks and some people in the province of Paria, a virgin bride had to spend the first night with the local priest. In Venezuela, legitimate wives, but not concubines, were deflowered by priests and it was considered a great crime not to conform to this custom. Among the Senegalese the king not only has the power of life or death over his subjects but also le droit du seigneur everywhere in the tribe and no girl can marry until she has been deflowered by him.


Every year the Kurds have a great feast, assembling in a large room for promiscuous intercourse. After the congregation have kissed the priest’s hand he cries out “I am a great bull.” The most recently married woman steps forward and replies “I am a young cow”, after which the lights are dimmed and the orgies begin.


On the coast of Malabar, Brahmans act as deflowerers of brides. They are not always willing to preform this duty and often oblige husbands to pay four or five hundred ducats to make it worth their while.  In Central Africa when a young girl is “danced” or “initiated” a father has to pay a man to sleep with his daughter by giving him a fowl, a bowl of flour and a small bowl of beer.


Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 8:51 am  Comments (38)  
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Cinderella of my heart

Pierre Arnold Bernard (1875-1955) had an abiding interest in Tantra

“Known in the popular American press as “Oom the Omnipotent,” Bernard became notorious throughout newspapers and journals as a spiritual leader and philosopher as well as a philanderer, seducer of women and purveyor of scandalous indecencies.


Wily con man, yogi, athlete, bank president, founder of the Tantrik Order in America and the Clarkestown Country Club …the remarkable “Doctor” Bernard was all of these.

Bernard simulating his own death

In 1904, Bernard established a clinic in San Francisco where he taught his own versions of self-hypnosis and yoga, which eventually became known as the “Bacchante Academy.” Even then, Bernard had become something of a scandal in the California press, who charged that the Academy “catered to young women interested in learning hypnotism and soul charming by which they meant the mysteries of the relations between the sexes”


Teaching Hatha Yoga downstairs and offering secret Tantric initiation upstairs, his Oriental sanctum quickly became an object of scandal in the New York press: the notorious “Omnipotent Oom” was charged with kidnapping and briefly imprisoned, though the charges were later dropped. “I cannot tell you how Bernard got control over me or how he gets it over other people,” said one of the alleged kidnapees, Zella Hopp, “He is the most wonderful man in the world. No women seem able to resist him.” The press reported “wild Oriental music and women’s cries, but not those of distress”


Apparently, Bernard also believed that for certain individuals (particularly overly-repressed women of the Victorian era) more drastic surgical measures might be needed to liberate their sexual potential. Sexually unresponsive women could be helped by a form of partial circumcision in which the clitoral hood was surgically removed, an operation believed to improve female receptivity by exposing the clitoral gland to direct stimulation.


One of the wealthy men associated with Bernard was Ed Browning, better known as Daddy Browning.

Real estate multi-millionaire Edward West Browning married Nellie Adele Lowen in 1915. He built a 24 room Manhattan penthouse for them that included an interior aviary, a miniature lake stocked with Japanese goldfish, and a turtle and frog garlanded fountain that spewed the colors of the rainbow. In 1918 Nellie adopted three-year-old “Little” Marjorie, and in 1920 five-year-old Dorothy “Sunshine.” But by 1923, Adele had had her fill of Edward, and she ran off with a dentist, taking Little Marjorie with her. Divorce followed.


Browning tried to make up for the loss by providing Sunshine with ponies and miniature railways. For transportation she selected a peacock-colored, stretch Rolls Royce “equipped with a 4 foot high motion picture screen.” The child, however, still suffered from loneliness and Edward placed adoption ads in 1925: there were 12,000 applications from which he chose 16 year old Mary Louise Spas. The adoption was later annulled as it was discovered she was 21.

To assuage his failure at marriage and adoption, Edward became active in sponsoring youth-oriented dancing clubs and high school sorority dances where he met Frances Belle Heenan, a tenth grader. She was described as buxom, with a peaches and cream complexion. “Peaches is the Cinderella of my heart,” he said. Thirty-seven days later, on her sixteenth birthday, fifty-one-year-old Daddy married Peaches.

Daddy doted on Peaches, spoiling her with a four and one-half carat diamond ring and Fifth Avenue shopping rampages. There was much activity after their marriage, including social engagements and a stroll along the Long Beach boardwalk with their pet African Honking Gander on a red ribbon leash. But six months after the marriage, Peaches left Daddy, claiming abuse.


Court room details of Peaches’ assertions of Daddy’s excessive eccentricity, included contact with the “Love Cult” High Priestess of Oom, sandpapering shoetrees at night, prowling and barking on all fours, and placing at the end of his lit cigar a white tablet that produced a large snowflake.

Michael Greenburg has written a book about their exploits called “Peaches and Daddy”. And on this site here you can see more photographs like the one below of their pre-marital abode.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 8:10 am  Comments (37)  
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rector rectifies laxity

Matthew Parris’s interesting book The Great Unfrocked tells tales about some assorted miscreants

In 1963, Reverend Eric Weeks outraged the parishioners of Ashbrittle by whacking his dairymaid with a walking stick during an argument. In response, the dairymaid, Mrs Mable Moon threw a bucket of dirty water over his head.

dairymaid’s smallpox

In January 1956, Reverend Richard Smart was reprimanded by his bishop after he undressed and spanked a bride-to-be in the vestry. He claimed he was angered by her laxity in religion and was trying to remedy this.


Reverend Eric Betteridge was gaoled for three months after he organised a strip teaseshow in his church while 74 year old Reverend Hugh Proctor was given a 6 month suspended sentence for playing strip poker with two youths.


Reverend Richard Mayes, known fondly as Ric the Vic, was gaoled in December 1977 for drug dealing and again in 1979 for assaulting a police officer. The following month he was arrested after two girls encountered the former curate stark naked in an Essex woods. On seeing the girls it is alleged he called out “Come over here my darlings”. When the police investigated he explained he had ‘a marvellous thing about primeval man’. Ric the Vic was last heard of living in a teepee near Aberystwyth.

not this teepee

Published in: on September 11, 2010 at 9:53 am  Comments (35)  
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