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Introduction Utopian Literature Dystopian Literature Utopian Communities


Sensation Magazine. Dunellen, N.J.: Sensation Publishing Company, December 1941

The flamboyant, vaguely illegal and usually offensive practices of Riker and his followers drew much public attention. In this particular tabloid, the headline screamed joyfully: “Cupid dons a brown shirt and shoots swastikas in a free love camp!”

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Set off from the highway in the Santa Cruz mountains of central California, Holy City (1918-1954) was founded by William Riker, a former confidence man and alleged bigamist, who ran four times for governor of California on an openly racist platform. Most of his doctrine was a white supremacist form of religion he called the Perfect Christian Divine Way.

The 30 members of this settlement lived communally, separated by sex. A cross between a tourist trap and a Christian haven, the commune in its heyday in the twenties and thirties boasted such unconventional luxuries as alcoholic soda pop, peep shows, an ornately decorated gas station, a radio station and a zoo, all to lure passing motorists to the commune. Messages throughout the settlement screamed of the “World’s Perfect Government.” Riker’s theological writings consisted of hundreds of almost incomprehensible and often contradictory pamphlets and manifestos, some written in crayon.

The problem of finding what is “utopian” in this commune remains daunting. However, Riker, while offensive, nevertheless represents an example of a single personality inspiring communalism and looking to change his society—as distasteful as his aims may have been.