A Most “Pernicious, Revolting, Nefarious and Immoral” Love Cult

Love CultistsMarch 11, 1927
Los Angeles

Fifteen-year-old Lloyd Alley, arrested today in Los Angeles, is said to have made statements “tantamount to a confession” of his involvement with the “Sacred School of the Great White Brotherhood,” an Oakland-based “love cult” with branches in San Francisco, San Jose, Portland, Chicago, and Texas. At the same time the teenager was spilling the beans in L.A., San Francisco police raided the cult’s Bay Area headquarters, where they found an “effigy of a woman with a sword piercing her heart, incoherent messages, cards bearing linked names of males and females and other equally weird evidence.” Cultists are said to have “encouraged free love in its most exotic forms” in its attempts to breed a “superman” and “superwoman.” “Mystical marriages” were arranged and “the sacred phallic laws” studied. Also in custody in Los Angeles is Russell Alley (Lloyd’s father, cult name “Omar”). Cult founder and high priestess, Mrs. Gertrude Wright (“Zareda” to her followers), is being held in Oakland, along with her disciple, Irma Gibbs (“Ermengarde,” a domestic in the Wright home). All were charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors: Lloyd Alley, plus two young women, Thelma Reid, 17, and Caroline Merwin, 18.

Lloyd Alley and Irma Gibbs both made confessions said to “be reeking with unprintable details,” though the paper managed to squeeze in a mention of two “new Messiah” ceremonials Lloyd performed with Caroline Merwin. Caroline (whose stepmother’s complaint set the raid in motion) was quite the little minx: when she appeared in juvenile court later in the week she relished telling the judge that she wore only “filmy underthings” during her initiation ceremony, and that her “vibration robes” were scanty as well. When she “admitted intimacies with Lloyd Alley,” the two of them laughed until the judge admonished them to be quiet.

Times columnist Harry Carr thought the juicy case was nothing but “Bunk”:

The attempt to paint these girls—and their beef-fed sheiks—as innocent, wide-eyed victims of a freak religion is enough to make anybody laugh.

Girls of this day and age are wise guys.

And any one of them knows that a so-called religious cult that involves being “initiated” in the presence of men with most of clothes off is merely an excuse for a debauch.

There is at least some hope for a girl who is frank enough to laugh.

Caroline Merwin was eventually released into her stepmother’s custody. Lloyd Alley was remanded into the custody of the Juvenile Detention Home and was later made a ward of the court. In May 1927, a jury deliberated for ten minutes before it found Russell Alley guilty of contributing to the delinquency of minors. Gertrude Wright and Irma Gibbs flew the coop before they could be tried; they remain at large.

Baby Farm

 

March 10, 1927
Bellflower

baby farm headline

Police received a tip that next to the home of Ray Foss in Bellflower, several people had been observed burying something that may have been the body of an infant. Thankfully, no bodies would be found. Police had discovered however, that Ray had an outstanding felony warrant from 1925 for operating a "baby farm" in Moneta (near Gardena). The fear of being nailed on the baby farm charge loosened his tongue, and Ray Foss began to relate a sordid tale of baby trafficking, illegal adoption, an alimony racket, bigamy, and narcotics addiction.

Ray told the cops that a woman being held in County Jail on forgery charges under the name of Minnie Williams was actually his wife, and that she had been the proprietress of the Moneta baby farm.

The baby farm had come to the attention of the authorities in 1925 when Minnie sold a baby girl to a woman who gave her name as Mrs. Johnson. The infant was found to be blind, and Mrs. Johnson returned the child and demanded a refund. The child later died. Mrs. Foss gave the woman $25 in cash, and in lieu of the remaining $35, she gave her another baby! Ray and Minnie fled a short time later to avoid standing trial.

During the next two years Minnie trafficked in babies, ran an alimony racket, and fed her drug addiction. She provided infants for women to carry into court when seeking alimony. Prior to being identified as Minnie Foss, she’d tried a variation of the alimony con in Judge Hardy’s court. Using the Williams alias, she made an emotional plea for probation on the forgery charge, alleging that she was about to become a mother. The court soon discovered that she was not actually Minnie Williams, and that she was wanted in the Moneta baby farm case. With the masquerade over, Mrs. Foss began to confess to Deputy District Attorney Costello.

Things got off to a strange start when Minnie was asked to state her name for the record. She told the Deputy DA that her last name was really Hines, not Foss. She said that she’d married Ray Foss when she was only 15 years old, and then met Clarence Hines in 1921. The three lived together in a ménage a trois until Foss left. Minnie claimed that she then married Clarence, but never went to the trouble or expense of divorcing Ray.

How did Minnie end up trafficking in babies? According to her, she was in fact, a "serial adopter". In 1922 she had noticed a newspaper ad about adopting a baby. She said that she went to the Mexican quarter near the Plaza and met with a couple who told her that they had a child they couldn’t keep. Minnie took the baby home and passed him off to Clarence as his own child. She told him that the child had been born to her while she was away in Burbank!

Clarence may have been a very dim bulb, because over the next few years Minnie said that she brought home several other infants including a set of twins, and that she had informed him that he was the father! According to Minnie, Clarence never questioned her about any of the babies, so she continued to adopt.

Maybe Clarence wasn’t quite as gullible as Minnie had thought, however. When questioned by police, Clarence told a slightly different story. He said that he’d known that his wife sometimes placed “not wantedâ€Â babies. He also told investigators that he was aware of a black trunk which may have been used to store baby clothes or as a coffin for some of the unwanted babies. The trunk was later found at a home near Bakersfield that had once been occupied by Ray Foss.

baby farm trunk

When the trunk was examined by police it was found to contain baby clothes, a hypodermic needle, and a marriage license issued to Ray Foss and Minnie Magnolia Williams. Also found in the trunk were approximately twenty-four photographs of young girls and babies.

Even though Minnie said that she’d adopted the infants, the most likely scenario was that she occasionally kept unwanted babies born to women in her care. Where did all of the babies go? Police traced many of the children to foster parents who subsequently adopted them. Several infants remained unaccounted for.

Although there were many unanswered questions – particularly regarding the fates of the infants who could not be found, Deputy DA Costello dropped the baby farm charges because Minnie and Clarence had confessed everything to his satisfaction – including an addiction to narcotics for which Minnie was treated with Narcosan. The DA’s office couldn’t pursue the bigamy charges because the statute of limitations had run out.

Minnie pleaded guilty to issuing a fraudulent check and was given a sentence of from one to fourteen years in prison. Clarence received a similar sentence.

The Dyak Go Green

March 9, 1927
Borneo
justonloan

On the one hand, the Dutch government’s Eurocentric cultural imperialism is wiping out the native culture of Borneo; on the other, they’re teaching headhunters the benefits of recycling.

The Dyak have long needed a nice fresh human caput for any and every sort of local ritual, but the generations-long war against the practice by their clogphilic, decapitated-headphobic overlords, has shown them the benefits of conservation (long practiced in the densely populated liberal parliamentary democracy that is Holland).

It is reported that now, the Dyak just borrow heads from neighbors for celebrations such as the birth of a child or the ending of a period of mourning. In fact, a paltry few heads are passed around in a tribe where just a generation ago each family had a bag of its own.

(According to Dr. William O. Krohn, Chicago alienist, there’s still no lack of headhunting when absolutely necessary—a rajah’s death demands craniums, for example, and victims thus beheaded are regarded as members of the monarch’s heavenly retinue.)

Despite the Dyak’s newfound respect for Westernized ideals, Borneo’s 1957 independence from windmills and tulips removed such colonialist standards of civility. The wild and wooly Americas, though, never had a break from her fascination with beheading.

Closer to home, LAPD became head-hunters of another kind when in January 1939, Cleveland Chief of Police George Matowitz received a letter postmarked from Los Angeles that read in part:
policeheadhunterspostagedue

(Relatedly, while there are few great films about Los Angeles, there are fewer great films about headhunting. And Los Angeles.)

His Majesty Requests

March 6, 1927
Los Angeles

Not every L.A. woman has the chance to be wooed by royalty, but Mrs. Edith Brown of 4720 ½ Mascot Street proved singularly unimpressed by the stream of letters emanating from the pen of Lionel I, self-proclaimed King of America. The lady, apparently a democrat, called the cops. They took His Majesty (otherwise known as Lionel Craviato) before the judge, who sent the regal fellow off to City Jail to learn that even a king should not annoy a lady.

An excerpt from one of the offending missives read: "All the American army and navy love me and they recognize me as their first chief and want me to be king of their country. I will conquer and civilize the whole world!"

Hmm, maybe the problem was that this would-be king never learned how to write a proper love letter. Lionel, Lionel, Lionel, no woman wants to read about how much the army loves you! Also, for future reference, we like rubies.

You Know, For Kids

March 5, 1927

auntdolly

 

 

 

 

couponsBeginning in 1923, Aunt Dolly’s Page occupied its own corner of the Junior Times, a Sunday supplement that urged young Angelenos to try their hands at blank verse, cartooning, and other feats of skill for fabulous prizes. There were also picnics, parades, community service projects, and a near-constant series of elections for the President of the Times Junior Club

Today, Aunt Dolly urged the youngsters to register for the Junior Jubilee, to be held at the Echo Park Recreation Center. Young readers were tempted with refreshments, a large band, a big show, sports, contests, monkey bars, and a parade.

Boys’ coupons enlisted the tikes in a "best-decorated bike" race and parade, as well as a "Ride-the-Plank" contest, though the wording on girls’ registration forms was equally odd: "I, (your name here) wish to enter your paper hat contest. I promise to parade at the Echo Park playground."

Nothing quite like a forced march in a paper hat to brighten up one’s Saturday afternoon!

The persona of Aunt Dolly was gradually nudged from the Junior Times in the late 1920s, appearing only to write a serial entitled "Snoopy in Do-Do Land." The feature abruptly ended in 1931 — perhaps Aunt Dolly got a buyout?

 

snoopy

A Back Alley Death Leads to A Witness’s Collapse

Mrs. Bernice ClancyLos Angeles
March 4, 1927

Late last summer, 21-year-old Evelyn Frances Taylor and her 22-year-old friend, Mrs. Bernice Clancy, visited the offices of Dr. W.E. Williams at View Larger Map” target=”_blank” title=”Dr. Williams’s office”>1548 West Sixth Street. Evelyn, it seems, was a girl in trouble—she was looking for what the Times referred to as an "asserted illegal operation." Williams provided one, but there were complications, and Evelyn Taylor eventually died from the botched abortion (exactly when was open to question—the Times gave three different dates during their ongoing coverage of the matter). When the State brought murder charges against Dr. Williams in October, Bernice Clancy became the star witness for the prosecution. After all, she had accompanied Evelyn Taylor on the fatal day, and, she told the grand jury, Williams explained the details of the operation to her.

Clancy began receiving written and oral threats. Then, as she stood on the back porch of her father’s house one day in January, "a gloved hand closed over her face and mouth and she lost consciousness." Half an hour later, her father found her in the yard on the other side of the house. "A dish towel had been tied over her face and her feet bound." Clancy recovered from the attempted kidnapping.

Today, as the trial looms closer, Bernice Clancy collapsed in a faint at the home of Inspector Horn, where she has been living under guard. Apparently, "a lineman working on … the property made some joking remark to her, which she misinterpreted [or so says the Times]. She was unconscious for almost half an hour and it was necessary to call a physician to revive her," the Times reported. As a result, the district attorneys prosecuting the trial have ordered that she be held incommunicado "with instructions to not permit her to out on the street unless accompanied by an armed escort."

Update: Bernice Clancy testified without incident on March 9, 1927. On March 24, after twelve hours of deliberation, the jury found Dr. Williams guilty of manslaughter. His motion for a new trial was granted, but before it began, the original charge against him was thrown out on a technicality. The State of California wasn’t done with Dr. Williams just yet, however; in June, he was listed as one of six physicians who were to appear before the State Board of Medical Examiners on charges of behavior "inimicable to their profession."

The Candy Man Can

candy man headline

March 3, 1927
Los Angeles

"Who can take a sunrise,
Sprinkle it with dew,
Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?
The candyman, the candyman can,
The candyman can ’cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good."

When local school children crave a hand full of gum drops and a pint of whiskey, where can they go? Rumor has it that if they visit Frank Belioi’s candy store at 5973 South Broadway, they may leave with a few new cavities and a major buzz.

Sgt. Childers was in charge of the squad that raided the local sweets shop, and revealed in court that although the police department had reports that Frank was selling liquor to minors, they had failed to produce evidence against him.

Frank was lucky – the only thing the cops managed to bust him for was the one and one-half gallons of whiskey on the premises. He said he kept it on hand for party guests.

Frank pleaded guilty to the possession charge, and Judge Ambrose fined the candy man $300 [$3,639.31 current USD].

I could go for a pint of gin and a chocolate bar right about now. Are you with me?

Of Pachydermatae and Murder

shootinMarch 2, 1927
Los Angeles

The Wonderly shooting of Emerson over an elephant’s affection has been continued until March 15th.

George “Scottyâ€Â Wonderly is the keeper of the bloodhounds for the studios, George Emerson, trainer of the lions at Universal City.

The story has a Old West theme to it to boot: on 15 February last, the two were arguing over the affections of said elephant at Universal. Wonderly called Emerson out; Wonderly strapped on his single shot .45 and there, on a rain-soaked muddy street, surrounded by wooden shacks and gambling dens and dance halls, Emerson staggered and twisted and slowly fell, a bullet through his breast, out his back, and lodged into the Last Chance Saloon. Elephants and the Old West, together again.

emmerson

Here, Wonderly shows how his beloved raised its trunk…and went on to maintain that he acted in self-defense.

And of the love that dare not trumpet its name…the true heart’s desire of the elephant remains a sweet mystery.

The Great Phallusy

March 1, 1927

womenswoes“Feminism is destructive of women’s happiness,â€Â declares Gina Lombroso Ferrero, Italy’s first woman physician and daughter of Cesare Lombroso (who, with Gina’s husband, wrote The Female Offender). You may know Gina as author of the Italian 1922 antifeminist classic The Soul of Woman.

“It endeavors to bring women to the enjoyment of all privileges enjoyed by man; it encourages woman to copy man in the understanding that in this way woman will enjoy all pleasures which she formerly enjoyed as well as those which only man enjoys.


"Woman and man are different,â€Â states the plucky Gina, "and suffer and derive pleasure from different things. Aspirations which are in the one case strong and permanent are in the other case minor and transitory. The aspirations toward glory, independence, riches, power are permanent and powerful in man, incremental and impermanent in woman, whereas aspiration to love and of loving, or reuniting one’s self to continuous life are stable elements in woman and comparatively passing and irrational impulses in man.â€Â Therefore, woman can never fine happiness in doing man’s work, because it is too alien to her real interests.

Ya see, "once the man has ceased to love the woman from the viewpoint of the usefulness she can have for him, her altruism, her gentleness, her devotion to him, then he ceases to desire woman because of gratitude for the services she can render him, casts her aside as a permanent companion and sees in her only the female who can excite and satisfy his senses.â€Â

She may sound terrifically reactionary, but take solace in knowing that Mussolini exiled her in 1930 for being antifascist. Although to be honest, she was only exiled for being terrifically reactionary; GLF was also a staunch and vocal opponent of the wonders of the machine age.

Modes of Banditry, 1927

February 28, 1927
Los Angeles

Drivers in lonely climes like Topanga Canyon have recently been distressed when stopping to check on a "possum bandit" found napping in the middle of the road. Of course when the do-gooder leans over the prone figure, he leaps up with a gun, steals their valuables, and races off much faster than any marsupial.

Meanwhile, at 317 1/2 South Berendo, two dandified thieves of an agonizing refinement relieved Albert Zigman of $125 cash and $700 in jewels in his own apartment. The victim described one man as having kept his hands in his pockets while gazing at a picture on the wall, as the other flicked cigarette ashes from his lazy perch on the davenport. Shortly afterwards, they relieved neighbor Michael Kreel of his extraneous possessions before slipping off into the night with a yawn and a whip of their cashmere scarves.