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The Strange Saga of Papa Pilgrim Elishaba Testifies Part 6....Conclusion.
Papa Pilgrim..Abused Daughter Testifies


Dec 2, 2007

The spark plugs had been removed. Papa Pilgrim headed down the
mountain valley at first light toward McCarthy to pick up a barrel of
fuel. He would be back before dark. He took the last good

Two of his daughters, Elishaba and Jerusalem, started packing as soon as
he left. And now they discovered he had pulled the spark plugs from
the two old machines that remained. He wanted to keep Elishaba
trapped there, with her mother and nine younger siblings, at the cabin
in the far reaches of the snowy Wrangells, the place he called Hillbilly

The sisters were wilderness-hardened and strong and ready for what they
had to do. Jerusalem, 16, went to search a tool shed. Elishaba
kept loading, warm snow pants beneath her long prairie dress: rice,
tools, sleeping bags. Two white sheets.

Their voices rang eerily in the mountain morning. Papa put them on
silence days ago, so they hatched the escape plan in secret whispers.

But now he was gone, and they no longer worried the youngest children
might report violations of Papa's law.

Robert Hale's world was beginning to crumble.


Elishaba, 29, had suffered beatings and forced sex by her father for
years. Her brothers finally found out, and days earlier the five
oldest Hale boys had fled. They sneaked away in the middle of the
night, pushing their snowmachines down the trail to start them out of

In the isolated and tightly controlled world of the family known as the
Pilgrims, the boys' departure was an unthinkable breach. Now Elishaba
was ready to go as well.

She knew she would face the wrath of Papa. She was convinced if she
went to authorities, they would send her back to her father.

And she had an even greater fear. The most precious thing in the
world was her eternal salvation. And she knew, in the depth of her
heart, that if she went out to the world in a spirit of rebelliousness,
she was damned. It was a lesson woven into the fiber of her being by
a lifetime of Papa's instruction.

At first Elishaba purposed to stay as a hermit in the wilderness, closer
to salvation. It was the third month of the year 2005; the

Pilgrims did not use the pagan-based names of months; and the
days were getting longer. Her plan was to head for a cabin she knew
on the Nizina River, with enough supplies to last six months
Jerusalem insisted on coming along.
That morning Mama Rose reached her oldest son, Joseph, who urged
Elishaba to come to Glennallen instead. Let us take care of you, he

So the plan changed. But the hours were passing. It was 14 miles
down the steep-walled valley of McCarthy Creek, and there was only one

Jerusalem found a spark plug. The sisters said goodbye to their
mother and took off. A half-mile down the trail, the engine belt
broke and they stopped in a broad white meadow. Jerusalem pulled out
the plug and ran back toward the cabin.

She filled the gas tank of
the second snowmachine, inserted the plug, and did not see the pinhole
leak in the fuel line.

On the trail Elishaba waited, trying to fix the broken belt with wire
and pliers. She gave up and looked at the waist-deep snow. It was
too deep to run through and too far to the forest. She listened in
the mountain vastness for the sound of her father returning.

She was petrified. "It was like a dream where you run for your life and
nothing's working," she said. "Where you try to run and you can't


The hidden tale of Papa Pilgrim emerged in court last week, as a state
judge sentenced 66-year-old Robert Hale to 14 years in prison for rape,
incest and coercion.

The judge said Hale's wife and 15 children were all victims of the
beatings, isolation and psychological torture that reached their worst
on the homestead in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. But the legal
victim in the case was Butterfly Sunstar, born in the hippie years
before Hale became a born-again Christian and switched to biblical

Her family calls her Elishaba.
>From the witness stand Monday she described her years of torment,
sparing few details about a savage three-day imprisonment in a wannigan
shack in McCarthy in January 2005.

When the court proceeding was over, when she had looked her father in
the eye and told him what she thought, she decided it was now all right
to tell her story openly; to finish telling it, and then to move on.

And so last week, with her family and her sister Jerusalem gathered
close, Elishaba described the nine months between the attack in the
wanigan and her father's; the time of the awakening, and the escape from
Hillbilly Heaven.


Elishaba's return to the homestead that January after the attack in
McCarthy shocked her family. Her face was bruised and swollen "like a
black-and-blue basketball," Jerusalem said. Her father made excuses,
had her wear a ski mask.

But the older brothers started talking among themselves. A Christmas
visit with the Buckinghams, a large and prayerful Christian family in
Palmer, had kindled something. They got Elishaba to talk. Then
they confronted their father.

Joshua, 25, called Papa deceitful. Pilgrim broke Joshua's nose.
The boys could never dishonor their father by striking back. They
left the homestead.

Papa kept arguing to those who remained that he was right, insisting the
Bible said a father may have one special daughter. And every night he
made Elishaba come to him.
"Now, looking back, I can see I was not sure how much longer I would
live," Elishaba said to her father in court last week. "If I cried
out, you would tear me to pieces. Those were your words of what you
would do to me."

Her father's words played in Elishaba's mind as she sat in the snowy
meadow, waiting for Jerusalem. At last her sister arrived on a
working snowmachine and they reloaded and raced off, Elishaba driving,
Jerusalem in back, weeping.
"I cried for the reality that it had come to this. That we were not
the family that we claimed to be, that I had to make that separation,"
Jerusalem said. "It was a hard thing in our hearts, whether we were
doing this for the Lord's sake or being rebellious."

The day was overcast and warming, but the trail was in good shape. As
they climbed a steep slope away from the creek, their snowmachine
died. They were out of ga; the hole in the fuel line. The silence
closed in. They listened for the sound of an approaching

"We were afraid he would kill us if he found us," Elishaba said.
But only steps away from where they ran out of gas waited the family's
last snowmachine. Papa left it there when he was cutting logs, on top
of the hill, beyond walking distance from home.

They smiled."We felt the Lord was with us at that point," Elishaba said.
They found a place by the riverbank where they could pull off the main
trail and their track might not be seen by someone coming in the other
direction. They drove into the snowy woods and pulled out the two
white sheets and covered themselves.
Fifteen minutes later, they heard a snowmachine coming. They watched
their father race by, heading for home.

The rest of the way to McCarthy, Elishaba drove fast and both girls
prayed out loud.
Something went wrong in McCarthy, which shrivels in winter to a ghost
town. They couldn't find their brothers. They knew their father
would come looking for them as soon as he got home.

The sisters crossed the Kennicott River and took shelter under a big
tree where they could watch the McCarthy Road.

They waited under thetree for five days and nights, with temperatures at
20 below, no tent and afraid to make a fire, eating cheese and raisins,
listening to the
whine of their father's snowmachine as he searched the town.

The boys finally found them. Their brothers went back to get
15-year-old Hosannah from the homestead and then drove all three girls
to the Buckinghams in Palmer.


It wasn't over yet.
The Hale children agreed they should never tell anyone about the
beatings from Papa. That would mean foster homes, the family
scattered to the four winds.

Slowly, through the summer, the Buckingham parents won Elishaba's
trust. Here was a devout family of 11 that lived several steps removed
from the
commercial culture of the Valley, but not in hostility to the world.

Martha and Jim Buckingham were concerned by hints of abuse she let out;
they had their suspicions when the Pilgrims all visited over
Christmas; but they could not put the picture together. They were
worried about the seven small children still on the homestead.

The turning point came in August, when 18-year-old Israel returned to
McCarthy to pick up horses for hunting camp. Papa found him in town
and threatened him. Israel said he'd call the troopers if his father
hit him. Papa kicked at the horse Israel was shoeing, they struggled,
Israel pushed him to the ground. Papa got up and punched Israel twice
in the face.

Israel ran through the town to the church, where he locked the doors and
called Jim Buckingham, who told him to call the troopers. A state
trooper drove out from Glennallen. Israel told him about the fight
with his father.

Then he told him everything else he knew.
Even that didn't end it. Israel's knowledge of his father's misdeeds
was vague. Prosecutors weren't sure what to make of the growing stack
of complaints about Robert Hale.

But at the Buckingham home in Palmer, the time had come for Elishaba.
She watched how Jim Buckingham, a retired Army officer, stepped in to
protect Israel. She thought of her own little brothers and sisters
still back at the homestead, and something clicked.

Elishaba went to the Buckinghams and told them about the wanigan.
"I was sick to my stomach," Jim Buckingham said. "This was way over
the line of where I thought it was. At that point, the dam broke.
Buckingham was on the phone right away to the state troopers.

Investigators began taking long statements from the older children.
Richard Payne, a Palmer assistant district attorney, made sure Hale was
not at the homesite, then flew in a trooper helicopter over the
mountains to Hillbilly Heaven.

While the children played in the helicopter, Payne sat in the cabin and
Mama Rose told him everything. The prosecutor said he felt the hair
stand up on the back of his neck.


Two years later, the dreams still come to Elishaba, the ones where she
tries to run and can't get away.
They came again last week, as she prepared to speak the truth in court
about the things her father had done. She cried out and awoke, tears

This time the arms that reached out to her were the comforting arms of
her husband.
Elishaba and Matthew Speckels were married in May. He sat with her in
court when she spoke. She calls him her protector. She said he has
gently rebuilt the trust in her heart, and she is the happiest she's
ever been.

Her two oldest brothers have married Buckingham daughters, and they have
babies. Everyone lives on Lazy Mountain within a few miles of the
Buckinghams, whose hand-built log home is now bursting with two dozen
people. The youngest Hales, sleeping in bunks and dressed in
secondhand clothes, are learning to read and write and look a stranger
in the eye.

It's way more than the Buckinghams ever bargained for, but they say it's
clearly God's plan. The Lord has been merciful and good to her, Elishaba
said. And so has the world. Indeed, to her surprise, the world
turned out to be very
much on her side.

The words that play in her mind now are those of Superior Court Judge
Donald Hopwood. He listened to the children's stories and said he
believed them. He listened to her father's claim of innocence and
called it a lie.

"The judge saw right through to the truth of it all. When I think of
it," said Elishaba Speckels, feathering her palm at neck level, "I get
tears up to here."

Find Tom Kizzia online at
Published: December 2nd, 2007 06:34 AM
Last Modified: December 2nd, 2007 03:50 PM

Papa Pilgrim Testifies

Robert Hale Sentenced to 14 Years, Denies Assaulting Kids


Published: November 28th, 2007 06:39 AM Last Modified: November 28th,
2007 03:52 PM

For three hours Tuesday, Robert Hale blamed his wife and family for his
troubles, denied ever assaulting his children, and said he only "gave
corrections" out of biblical duty and a father's love.

Then the judge cut him off, called him a liar, and sent him to prison on
a 14-year sentence for rape, coercion and incest.
Thus did Papa Pilgrim's long journey end this week in an Anchorage

After the previous day's bloodcurdling testimony from Hale's wife and 14
of his children, who described whippings and sexual abuse and years of
psychological torture at his hands, Hale got his chance to speak Tuesday
morning. He called his family liars.

"I can hardly believe the lips of my children, using words like 'beat
unmercifully,' " said the gray-bearded prisoner in a slow drawl. "My
children don't even know what it means to be hit."

As Superior Court Judge Donald Hopwood told him to bring his
autobiographical rambling to a conclusion, panic entered Hale's voice.
He said his family -- especially the daughter he'd admitted raping in
his plea deal -- risked eternal judgment unless they repented for lying
about him.

"I'm asking my daughter to, please, it's got to be done," he said, his
voice rising to a high whimper.

When it came time to deliver the sentence, Hopwood praised the victim
statements delivered the day before by the Hale children. He said their
words were "a huge first step in extricating themselves" from years of

"One thing quite remarkable here was the courage of (the rape victim)
and the other family who have made these statements," Hopwood said.

The judge called it "one of the worst cases of domestic violence I've
seen." Hale's practice of beating his daughter until she would no longer
resist his sexual advances is "just about as bad as it gets," he said.

Afterwards, the eldest children said it was a great relief to hear an
authority figure like the judge say he believed them.
"I was really pleased with how the judge was able to see through what he
was saying," said Joseph Hale, the oldest son.


Hale was indicted in September 2005 on 30 felony counts, including rape,
assault and kidnapping. His sentencing this week came under terms of a
plea agreement first made a year ago, in which he pleaded no contest to
three consolidated counts. With two years already served, Hale faces
eight to 10 more years behind bars, where he is receiving medical
treatment for advanced cirrhosis, diabetes and blood clots.

If the 66-year-old Hale lives that long -- and doesn't violate a court
order by trying to contact his family -- he would be eligible for parole
when he is 74, his defense attorney said.

Hale's lawyer, Paul Maslakowski with the state Office of Public
Advocacy, said Hale would pose little risk, comparing him now to the
unmasked "man behind the curtain" in the Wizard of Oz.

Hopwood disagreed. "It is apparent to me that Mr. Hale still believes he
is omnipotent," the judge said.

At the urging of assistant district attorney Richard Payne, Hopwood
recommended the parole board "carefully consider" the danger Hale poses
to his family. Hale will also face a decade of probation.

Hale's children, taken in by a large Christian family in Palmer named
Buckingham, have "begun to blossom," the judge said. The children said
it was only when they spent time in the Buckingham home that they saw
what parental love could mean.

The children said Tuesday they were not surprised their father showed no
remorse. They said he would sometimes apologize for his anger and soften
his ways, but only as a tactic for regaining control inside the family.
Against the outside world, he was always the blameless victim.

In his three-hour self-defense, Hale described his well-to-do upbringing
in Texas and denied distant suggestions that his FBI-agent father had
anything to do with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Hale
said it was the suspicious death of his teenage bride, the daughter of
future Texas governor John Connally, that set him on a hippie quest at
18. "So I became a pilgrim," he told the court.

He took the name Pilgrim when he moved his family to Alaska in 1998.
They performed together as a bluegrass group and were involved in a
high-profile battle with the National Park Service over access to their
remote McCarthy-area home.

Hale blamed the Buckingham parents for poisoning his family's minds
against him.

He blamed the mother of his 15 children, Kurina Rose Hale, for many
troubles through the years, including his drinking.
Hale said his children had broken God's commandments in bearing false
witness against him.

"It's like there's this whole thing of blame everything on Papa," he
He described his conversion to Christianity, and quoted Scripture from
memory in describing the independent course he took: "You need no man to
teach you. The Holy Spirit will teach you all things."

He also quoted from the book of Proverbs to justify "correcting"
children with a rod, but said his punishments were always gentle and
administered with love. His children described such punishments as the
whipping barrel, where their father drew blood with a braided-leather
riding crop.

In his summation, Payne, the prosecutor, recalled that when Hale was
first arraigned and asked his occupation, his response was: "Father."
"I really don't believe he knows what that means," Payne said.

Find Tom Kizzia online at or call him at


Papa Pilgrim Dies In Jail

Anchorage Daily News |
Published: May 25th, 2008 01:27 AMLast Modified: May 25th, 2008 07:33 AM

Robert Hale, the 67-year-old wilderness patriarch who found fame and
notoriety in Alaska as Papa Pilgrim, died Saturday night at the
Anchorage Correctional Complex, the state Department of Corrections

Hale had been in declining health since his arrest on rape and incest
charges in September, 2005. He was in hospice care in the Anchorage jail
at the time of his death around 9 p.m.. A chaplain and some family
members were present, a corrections official said. The head of a family
of 17, Hale moved to Alaska from New Mexico in 1998 and settled in
McCarthy in 2002, where he engaged in a high-profile battle with the
National Park Service over access to his remote land.

He was a devout self-guided Christian who kept his family isolated from
outside influences, including churches.

His family finally broke with him in 2005 and eventually reported to
Alaska State Troopers that he had beaten and raped his eldest daughter
repeatedly for years, keeping his actions secret from the family.
Hale was indicted and arrested, and finally pleaded guilty to charges of
rape, assault and incest.

At his sentencing last November, family members spilled out horrifying
tales of beatings and psychological torture under Papa Pilgrim's rule.
Hale was sentenced to 14 years, under terms of his plea agreement.
Lawyers said they did not expect him to live out his sentence because of
poor health.

At his sentencing, Hale's lawyer said he had been receiving medical
treatment for advanced cirrhosis, diabetes and blood clots. He was
unrepentendent to the end!

A private burial is being planned, with no date or place yet decided,
the family said Sunday.


Note: Above articles of Part 6 by Tom KIzzia are posted in full.

This conludes my Strange Saga of Papa Pilgrim!
I really enjoyed this story a lot.Thanks for posting.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller
Thanks for your nice comments Keith. I am pleased that you enjoyed reading it. Considering how he was so deranged it is no telling what he actualy might have done to young Kathleen or the scary influence he might have had on her. I previously had several photo links of the family, but they seemed to have disappeared.

Thanks again!


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