Molly May’s Witnesses for the Lamb (2021)

The arrival of new books at the library is always a matter of interest to me. Partially because I consider it research for this blog but also partially because I’m nosy and just want to see what’s new that I might like! A few weeks ago, Mary-Esther pulled this one aside and asked me if I’d heard about it or the crime in question. I hadn’t, but I was intrigued. Thanks to Mary-Esther for the excellent suggestion! This is a fascinating book about a bizarre crime that happened virtually next door to us forty years ago.

I’m really curious how many of our long-time residents remember a hot July day in 1982 when two members of an obscure local cult called FOU hijacked a bus in Jasper, Arkansas, and demanded that police kill them so that they could rise again, as they believe was prophesied in the Bible. A standoff ensued between law enforcement and the married hijackers, Keith and Kate Haigler, with the Haiglers puzzled and dismayed that nobody wanted to help them fulfill the prophecy. Meanwhile, the ostensible leader of their cult, Emory Lamb, an eccentric business owner the Haiglers believed was the Messiah, refused to make an appearance to help defuse the situation. As you an imagine, things don’t end well. . . .

This is a short book–under 200 pages–and easily read in an afternoon. Author Molly May delves into the backgrounds of all involved, not just Emory and his two followers, but also the various other people, including the bus driver, the local sheriff, and Kate’s boss. She does a good job of providing context for the Haiglers’ actions neutrally. Many locals liked the two, including several law enforcement officers who were at the bridge that day, and remain confounded by their actions.

Their recruitment story will be familiar to anyone who’s read about cults before, though as former Newton County sheriff Ray Watkins grimly notes toward the end, he had a hard time viewing them as a cult when only the disaffected, lonely Keith and Kate seemed to buy into Lamb’s message. Everyone else was pretty weirded out by him, which greatly diminished his success at expanding.

I don’t want to write too much about the events that transpired in case, like me, you were unaware of what unfolded on that bridge, but even if you are familiar with the story, I think you’ll still find a lot of new material in the book on the background events. I highly recommend Witnesses for the Lamb to anyone interested in local history and true crime. It’s a concise, interesting read.

What are you reading? What’s your favorite local history book? Had you heard about this story before? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on this item or to place it on hold.

Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

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