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Near to God and far from man, Marie Ogden founded a religious community in the wilderness of Dry Valley, 14 miles north of Monticello in San Juan County, in 1933. She called it the Home of Truth.
Ogden, a widow from Newark, N.J., was an educated woman and talented amateur pianist. Married to a successful insurance executive, she raised two daughters and was active in community affairs and welfare reform.
After her husband, Harry, died from cancer in 1929, the grieving widow turned to metaphysics and spiritualism to communicate between this world and the next.
Encouraged by spiritualist William Dudley Pelley's tales of otherworldly encounters, she briefly supported his mission.
An American extremist claiming the ability to levitate, Pelley's politics may have caused a rift in their relationship. In 1933, Pelley organized the anti-Semitic Silver Legion in honor of Adolf Hitler.
Parting ways, Ogden wove astrological elements, numerology and the principles of pyramidism into her metaphysical study, and touted this esoteric philosophy across state lines. She lectured on the occult, natural disasters, pre-ordained catastrophes, final judgment, reincarnation, resurrection and redemption.
Believing herself "divinely informed," Ogden communicated with God through a typewriter. One revelation delivered through its keys led the psychic to Utah's high desert to purchase 1,000 acres of land.
Another "automatic writing" prophesied a cataclysmic meltdown of the world, a transformation in southeastern Utah from arid desert to tropical paradise and the "rebirth of society" from within the commune's faithful.
True believers from New York to Boise descended on the new utopia.
The Home of Truth comprised three physical groupings, constructed several miles apart, called "portals." In the outer portal, colonists built a communal home, single men's dormitory, wood shop and guest quarters. The middle portal contained residential homes, multi-use buildings, a commissary, chapel and an unfinished cobblestone church.
The inner portal, according to Ogden, was sited on the "exact center of the Earth's axis," guaranteeing everyone's survival. This complex included cabins for single women, Ogden's domicile and, later, her grand piano.
At its height, 100 colonists relinquished their personal possessions and financial assets that, collected by Ogden, went toward the betterment of the community. They cleared ground and built a windmill-powered water pump, concrete cistern, homes and furniture. They gave up tobacco, alcohol and wrestled with celibacy. Some unsuccessfully prospected for gold in the Blue Mountains. Others, unable to farm the hardscrabble land, leased garden plots near Monticello or worked for hire. A few raised chickens and purchased local beef and mutton. After another revelation, some ceased eating meat.
In 1934, Ogden bought the San Juan Record, and as publisher/editor added a column on metaphysics. She received ongoing communication from God. Convinced she could raise the dead, she offered promises of an afterlife.
Cancer-riddled Edith Peshak, of Boise, took stock in the seer's self-promoted restorative powers. She and her husband were colony members and contributed generously, hoping for a spiritual cure. In 1935, Peshak died.
News of her death was kept quiet because the poor woman was "between worlds." To "stimulate" Peshak's pledged revival, Ogden applied resuscitation therapy ritualistic washings, forced feedings and the laying on of hands three times a day for four months.
By the time the county sheriff learned of the corpse, he determined Peshak's mummified body posed no health risk because the climate was so dry. Two years later, Ogden publicized her intent to again revive Peshak. The state and the Peshaks' son requested a death certificate. No body was found.
Ogden insisted neither death nor suggested cremation had occurred, and members fled.
Largely abandoned, she lived in the colony for nearly 40 years. She wrote metaphysical papers, taught piano to Monticello children and used her typewriter to converse with God and Mrs. Peshak.
At 91, Marie Ogden died in a nursing home in Blanding with no resuscitation requested.
Eileen Hallet Stone, an oral historian, may be reached at email@example.com.
Source: University of Utah Marriott Library Special Collections