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.

Exclusive! Flapper Fashions Lead to Arrest, Disease

August 7, 1927

Bathing Beauty of 1927

Grandma knew better than to show her ankles on the street, but today’s young Jezebels think nothing of flaunting bare knees, backs, and arms in the public square. In a pair of exclusives to the Los Angeles Times, reporters covered the scourge of flapper fashions.

In woodsy Ellenville, New York, Chief of Police Ross bluntly described the problem facing his village. "They really don’t wear enough clothes, the girls who come here for the summer," he said today. Not that the town fathers objected to "short dresses and low-necked gowns, or even bathing suits" as long as the wearer appeared "to have at least a vague interest in swimming." Herein lay the problem. "Somehow a fad got started . . .," Chief Ross explained, "and now half of the girls are running around the streets dressed only in swimming trunks and blouses." On the streets, mind you, where children and the good town fathers might see them—and where no swimming ever took place. "Others wear some little jumpers that look like men’s track pants, sweaters and sandals," the law man continued, perhaps evidencing a more than professional interest in the topic. But woe to these sun-worshippers and their fans: Mayor Wells plans to call a meeting of city trustees next week to pass an ordinance compelling "the girls to wear more clothes."

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dr. Hoye E. Dearholt today announced that "[s]cantiness in women’s dress is primarily responsible" for a rise in "the white plague" of tuberculosis among young women. According to Dr. Dearholt (chief of staff at the Wisconsin Tuberculosis Association), girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 25 who diet to attain fashionably boyish figures and then dress in revealing clothing lower their resistance and set themselves up as easy prey for the disease. "There is a point in the race for scanty clothing at which a girl must stop, lest the body be chilled too much and weakened," the doctor noted before calling for "dress reform." Fashions "somewhere between the petticoat days of two decades ago and the extreme flimsiness of the present day dress would be ideal," he noted.

One only hopes Mayor Wells, Chief Ross, and Dr. Dearholt didn’t live to see the advent of the miniskirt and monokini in the 1960s.

Only Two Years, Three Months, & One Week til this Whole Thing Blows Over

July 22, 1927
Anaheim

costshomeMrs. Geraldine Haster was a product of her time—too bad her time was so terribly and sinfully debased!  It was bad enough that she had taken to wearing cosmetics (!) but then she had even gone so far as to bob her hair (!!)!  Why not just tattoo "SCAPEGRACE" across your forehead, Geraldine?

When Geraldine returned with her mother and a party of friends from a motor trip to Tijuana (need we say more?) she found herself locked out of the home she shared with her husband, prominent Anaheim rancher Richard Haster.  Geraldine filed for divorce, charging cruelty.

On the stand today Geraldine alleged that life with ol’ Dick was no picnic either:  he took liberties with other women, was adverse to frequent bathing, read magazines while guests were in the house (!!!), stayed at the lodge until 4am, and, most hurtful of all, when she wore cosmetics, was told by her husband that she looked like a “Piute Indian.”  She thus demands division of property valued at $100,000 ($1,102,998 USD 2006).

lutherans!Yes, the twenties were a time of tumult and turmoil as conventions unraveled, exposing lots of hypocrisy and kicked-up heels.  Lutherans took especial offence at all this gayety, closing their thirty-fifth annual convention today with the adoption of a resolution deploring the tendency of American youth toward “extravagance, immodesty, and disrespect.”

Lutherans sleep easy tonight knowing that American youth turned out just fine.