Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cultists, Prophets and Frauds

Katherine Tingley
  One of the most reported aspects of Southern California is its fabled addiction to cults and cultists.  Migration is the explanation given by some, such as Dr. William W. Sweet, for the growth of cults in Southern California.  In the process of moving westward, the customs, practices, and religious habits of people underwent important changes.  Emma Harding, in her history of spiritualism believed that cults thrive on the Pacific coast because of the wonderful transparency of the atmosphere, the heavy charges of mineral magnetism from the gold mines which set up favorable vibrations, and the strong passions of those who moved here created “unusual magnetic emanations.”  Whatever the reason, the first major prophetess of the region was unquestionably Katherine Tingley.  Born in New England in 1847, three times married, she did not discover her “calling” until  she was in her 40s.  She moved to New York, where through her interest in spiritualism, she came to know the theosophist William Quan Judge.  Judge viewed her as the promised disciple, “The Purple Mother,” meant to continue the philosophy that all religions are attempts by higher beings to help humanity in evolving to greater perfection.  Although she had never been west, Mrs. Tingley, had, since childhood dreamed of “building a White City in a Land of gold beside a Sunset Sea.”  Raising a considerable sum of money, she established the Point Loma Theosophical community near San Diego in
Carroll Park as laid out in 1909
1900.  It attracted many followers, including John Carroll who established the area known as Carroll Park in Long Beach.  Many believe that Carroll laid out his housing tract in an unconventional manner because Tingley, a close friend of John and Jane Carroll, told the couple she saw "favorable" signs in designing streets in unbroken circles.
Yes, there is a park in Carroll Park,
 but it is not at the center of this quiet neighborhood.
John Carroll designed the central circle for homes and placed the parks
-- and originally there were 4 of them -- at the corners.
  After Mrs. Tingley’s appearance in Southern California, the region acquired a reputation as an occult land; theosophists and other movements termed “New Thought” began to converge throughout the area, including Long Beach.

"Holy Kiss" Controversy

In 1905 every church in Long Beach was debating the teachings of Dr. William Rosecrans Price, a former Baptist preacher, who had founded a new system of psychic research in Long Beach the previous year.  The aim of his association, the Society of the New or Practical Psychology, was to teach and live "practical" Christianity.   In little more than a year his society grew to number into the hundreds, composed of "thinking, practical Christian men and women,” who believed that Jesus taught a salvation that was practical in nature, and which was to be practiced in daily life.  By "tuning in" to these principles, an intuitive psychic power could be developed which would show the proper way in which to live life.  This eventually became known as "New Thought" philosophy, which Dr. Price set forth in his book The New or Practical Psychology.
On October 1, 1905, the corner stone was laid for the future home of the group, the Psychological Temple at 230 E. Second Street.  All of the churches in Long Beach were present at this dedication; however some later came to question Price and his methods.  The questioning started when Reverend Charles Pease of the First Congregational Church came across a book published in 1852 which duplicated Price's book The New or Practical Psychology. Pease accused Price of plagiarism.  Accusations also came from Mrs. Roselyn Bates, chairperson of the Psychic Research Society.  She claimed Dr. Price controlled people through his telepathic influence and made them do his will and bidding.  She cited the fact that when the Bank of Long Beach refused him a loan, Price told his followers that if they loved him they
Psychic Temple aka American Hotel 2001
would all withdraw their monies from the bank, and they did.  She also recounted how Dr. Price had used his mesmerizing influence to have a lawyer steal a loaf of bread and have him walk down the aisle at one of Price's meetings with the stolen loaf.  She testified that Price had telepathically controlled her husband time and time again in various ways to do his bidding, including financially backing the purchase of the lot for Price's $25,000 Psychological Temple.
Another controversial activity of the disciples of this new philosophy was the "holy kiss," which members conferred upon one another in greeting.  Mrs. Bates said Price kissed only a select few of his group, and it just so happened that all of those selected were young, pretty and female.  This "liberal" sexual policy infuriated the more conservative religious sects in the city.  Many claimed Price used telepathy to influence his "victims" and took "advantage" of his female followers.
In response to the plagiarism question, Price stated that the principles behind the “New Thought" philosophy were known by many enlightened scholars of the past, it was only natural that he used some of the same words as those that had gone before him.   He denied Mrs. Bates' charges and said she only said what she did out of spite because a business deal he made with her husband turned sour.  He just laughed at the accusations relating to him and his female followers.
It seemed that Dr. Price also was involved in selling worthless stock in the National Gold Dredging Company.  He made it look like such a deal, only allowing members of his Psychological Temple to buy shares. The company, Price avowed, owned eleven miles of the American River in Northern California, a river that panned up to $60 a day from a cubic yard of river rock. The stock, Price told his flock, was worth $3 a share, but was not on the market.  He, however, with his connections, could obtain shares for his fortunate followers for only $1 a share.  Many leaped at the opportunity only to find out later that the company didn’t own a foot of the river and what was being found was nowhere near the $60 return a day they had been led to believe. A big rubber and development scheme on lands in Mexico was also touted, but after a time when dividends failed to come in and extra assessments were made, some of the investors began to suspect something was amiss.  Since they were also members of Price’s flock, a rift appeared in the psychic society.  Dr. Price found himself involved in lawsuits, both civil and criminal. Judgment after judgment was secured and Price eventually lost everything, except his holdings in the Temple.  Finally the stockholders in the Temple held a meeting, declaring the doctor’s control illegal. They voted him out of office and forcibly took possession of the building, chiseling his name from the cornerstone.  Price left Long Beach and started the New School for Applied Christian Psychology in Los Angeles.  Here things also got out of hand.  In 1923 he was arrested for fraud over two gold mines in Alaska, an illegal plan to place homesteaders on the Irvine ranch in Orange County, and the revealing of  "the secrets of hermetics" for a price.    He died in 1925.
On September 25, 1911, the beautiful Psychological Temple on west Second street in Long Beach, planned and erected by Price and his flock as the home of a new religious society, was sold at auction for  $2,910.09, although the site and the building was valued at $25,000. Mrs. Anna Sewell, who held a mortgage of $12,000 on the temple, was the only bidder. The Sewells held heavy court judgments against Price and were the heaviest stockholders. Though the Sewells had managed to get back their money it did not look good for minor stockholders.

Psychic Powers Lead to Jewel Thief

Adelaide Tichenor
The entire town seemed enraptured with this "New Thought" philosophy, including Reverend Charles Pease of the Congregational Church who, though denouncing Price, still thought there was truth behind some
of this metaphysical thought.   When Adelaide Tichenor, one of the wealthiest women in town, told Rev. Pease that someone had stolen her jewelry, he told her he would use his spiritual insight to find out who did it.  Mrs. Tichenor, however, did give the Congregational minister a few clues to follow along the astral plane, namely that the only person that had access to her jewels and knew where the house key was hidden was her maid, Bessey Fleet.  Pease agreed, after hearing Adelaide Tichenor's arguments, that the maid was the best suspect.  With Pease’s support Mrs. Tichenor confronted Bessey.
Bessey and her husband, John, lived in a little tent alongside the Southern Pacific tracks on Daisy Avenue, between 4th and 5th streets. Bessey worked as a laundry woman while her husband was a gardener.  They had fallen on hard times, John having spent all their savings to join the gold rush in Alaska, coming home with nothing.  They certainly could have used the money from the stolen articles, but Bessey was outraged at the accusation. She claimed her innocence and brought a $10,000 libel suit against Mrs. Tichenor for alleged slander.
Rev. Charles Pease
In his testimony Rev. Pease denied possessing any occult powers, he said he made a study of the mind which enabled him to find out things not open to anyone not quite so gifted.  In probing Bessey’s mind he had come to the conclusion that she had not taken the jewels (in conflict with the earlier story).  Mrs. Tichenor, he testified, felt differently and confronted Bessey on her own.  The case continued for four years, passing through appeal after appeal, finally ending up with the California Supreme Court which ruled against Bessey Fleet's   charge of slander  (Fleet v. Tichenor, L. A. No. 2080, Supreme Court of California, 156 Cal. 343; 104 P. 458; 1909 Cal. LEXIS 330, September 29, 1909).  The jewelry was never found, or anyone  arrested for the burglary.

Mrs. Crandall's "Psychic" Husband

Many were attracted to this "New Thought" philosophy and gathered in Long Beach at the new Psychological Temple.   Some, however, weren’t quite all sane to begin with, such as Mrs. Mary Crandall, who insisted on being called Mrs. Henry E. Huntington.  Since joining Dr. Price's group she had become more and more peculiar.
In March 1904, Mrs. Crandall’s friends began receiving letters written by her signed with her new name: Mrs. H.E. Huntington.   When asked about her new name, Mrs. Crandall explained she could project her “soul body” across the River Styx, while her mortal body rested. It was here she met her soul mate – H.E. Huntington, the man who in a previous incarnation had been her husband.  On this psychic plane, with the eyes of the universe as witness, they were again united in matrimony, according to a Los Angeles Times article dated Apr. 30, 1905.   In late November 1905, Mary Crandall visited the Huntington Railroad Building and forced her way in saying that her husband, H.E. Huntington, had given her the presidency of the corporation and that from now on orders must be taken from her.  When it was revealed that Mrs. Crandall, dressed in heavy mourning, with a crepe veil thrown back over her bonnet, had a gun, police were called.  She was lucid enough when the officers arrived to explain that she carried a loaded revolver in her handbag because she lived in a part of Long Beach where she had to pass through a lonely neighborhood, and she felt more secure with a firearm.
Following this incident Mrs. Crandall was taken before a judge for a sanity hearing.  In checking her state of affairs they found she was a very wealthy woman, with over $200,000, mostly invested in real estate.  When the judge asked her if she was Mrs. Crandall, she replied in all honesty (according to newspaper reports) that she was Mrs. Huntington.  Following this admittance, her attorney made arrangements for the private care of his client in a sanitarium.

 For more about Price's Psychological Temple click here

Renovations in progress 6/26/2013