California · Crime Scene Photography · Religion

Teen cult priestess’s body discovered 

October 6, 1929 
Los Angeles, California 
The body of a priestess of the Blackburn Cult, also called the Divine Order of the Royal Arms of the Great Eleven, is found 

The priestess, Willa Rhoads (16), died of a tooth infection 14 months before her body was discovered buried beneath the floorboards of the Rhoads’ home, wrapped in spices and salt, and surrounded by the corpses of 7 dogs. When questioned, the cult stated they were attempting to resurrect Willa.

Other rituals performed by the Blackburns include animal sacrifices, sex scandals, and allegedly cooking one of their members to death in an oven. Since Willa had died of an infection and the death of cooked cult member was only an allegation, no charges were brought against the Blackburns for these deaths. However, one of the cult’s leaders, May Otis Blackburn, was convicted of stealing $40,000 (over $500,000 today) and imprisoned. Shortly after, the cult dissolved. 

Below is a pair of photographs of Willa’s corpse. Also included is a high-resolution JPG of an article from the Los Angeles Times which delves further into the cult, courtesy of newspapers.com. 

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