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Introduction Utopian Literature Dystopian Literature Utopian Communities


Action. N.D., N.P.

Riker subscribed to several National Socialist periodicals and used their rhetoric in his own treatises on religion.

In 1942, Riker openly declared his support for the Axis powers and wrote several “fan letters” to Hitler. Hitler’s secretary wrote back thanking him for his support. When the FBI, using these letters as evidence, tried Riker for treason, he was acquitted but gained further notoriety in California.

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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.