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Unholy Roller: The Fall of Arizona Satanism

Updated on July 8, 2017
Adrian Woodhouse
Adrian Woodhouse

Can some people actually see into the future? If so, can these prophets prophesy about future prophets prophesying? Can these prophets prophesy even farther into the future to find out if those other prophet's prophesies came to pass? And if so, what's stopping these prophesying prophets from profiting from other prophet's prophesies?

Pinsetters at NCOL league night finals
Pinsetters at NCOL league night finals

One local prohibition era personality claimed to possess such a power. A Satanist, Seer, Occultist and avid bowler by the name of Adrian Woodhouse.

As leader of the Arizona chapter of the secretive Non-Denominational Church of the Luciferian--an openly Satanist organization--Woodhouse threw his weight around. No one became a member unless they received Woodhouse's highly discriminating approval. But because of a heavy public outcry to banish what papers of the time called "organized sorcery, from Arizona -- the NCOL resorted to holding meetings in the private residences of its own members.


Unlike more recent Satanic organizations like Anton Lavey's Church of Satan in San Francisco, which had enveloped such celebrated Satanic brethren as Sammy Davis Jr., Jane Mansfield, and Liberace in its congregation, and rode into the mainstream on the coat tails of the sexual revolution -- Satanic organizations of the 1920s Southwest like the NCOL, had to keep a low profile, and attracted a menagerie of more closeted Satanists.

Occasionally, the NCOL were able to conduct their business secretly in the back rooms or cellars of a handful of select public establishments around the valley. One such establishment is rumored to have been a small, rectangular former prohibition era speakeasy that stood near the intersection of Central Avenue and Pierce St. which doubled as a bowling alley. It was on a brisk Autumn night in 1927 that the NCOL conducted a meeting in downtown Phoenix that would put the nail in the coffin of Phoenician Satanism virtually overnight.

Pin Boy James Tolleson
Pin Boy James Tolleson

Before automatic pinsetters were invented, bowling alleys used "Pin Boys" to replace bowling pins onto the lane after each turn. Woodhouse, having bowled a near perfect game over nine frames, was moments away from his first perfect game. But when Pin Boy James Tolleson suddenly sneezed, it caused Woodhouse's ball to quickly careen into the gutter. Insisting that the Pin Boy had caused the disastrous imperfection, Woodhouse flew into a frenzy. According to reports, Woodhouse then bludgeoned Tolleson to death with the 7 pin.

According to reports, Woodhouse exited the building, got into his car, and drove off into the night. Never to be seen again.

Rumors persisted that he had fled with his two Rottweilers to the Scottish Highlands, although there was little evidence suggesting this besides drunken Satanic hearsay.

Some argue that in his 1925 book titled Hell is a Dry Heat, Woodhouse seemed to foretell the technological and social evolution of the Phoenix Arizona to come.

Book IV: Chapter VIII: Verse X: Microwave Ovens

"Thou flesh is warm, but thou heart is ever cold. A starving man counteth the seconds of his life."

Book I: Chapter XXI: Food Trucks

"Chariots of fire that burn as sulfur, align themselves in the great city. Thou burnt offerings are worth not thy gold."

Book III: Chapter VII: Verse XI: Suicide Lanes/Road Rage

"Thou courage runneth thick whilst thy inside thy chariot of iron, and thou anger boils. A bird singeth not, yet it speaketh the words of a man. Thy path is blocked. Can't thou readeth the signs of the times?"

Book II: Chapter X: Verse XXI: Phoenix, Arizona or Sesame Street

"The air is as honey under the wings of the fiery phoenix. The peoples that thou meeteth in the street all beware the green demon of the bottomless pit."

Book X: Chapter III: Verse XIII: Valley Metro Light Rail

"And there was a madman riding a serpent that shineth as silver armor winds through the desert, devouring in the west and excreting in the east."


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      19 months ago

      Keen I just have to say "what? what the hell?" i really enjoy your true crime writing, thought your Bryan Miller pieces were really exceptionally well done. Even the Sunnyslope Dog Kidnapper piece was good. WHich brigs me to Unholy Roller..... well written but Keen, What? What the hell?

      Please let me know what was going on in this one because you lost me at the bludgeoned pin boy. was the Gold Spot even a bowling alley i the 1920s? Adrien Woodhouse? Its a dry heat?

      I am a fan but please let me know. This is gonna drive me crazy until I know whats up. I missed the punch line or something?


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