Fervour, Scandal, Altered States …
Aimee Semple McPherson
Aimee Semple McPherson was one of the most glamorous women in the US in the 1920s. The evangelical preacher put on theatrical church services and used ground-breaking radio broadcasts to teach the gospel – but one mysterious episode in her life has never been fully explained.
On May 18, 1926, Aimee went for a swim in the Pacific Ocean and did not make it home.
The female assistant who’d gone with her had to leave to make a short phone call from a nearby hotel. When she returned she couldn’t see the evangelist anywhere.
As evening fell, McPherson was still missing and her followers rushed to the beach to join the search.
Her mother tactfully made the announcement at the end of a sermon by declaring “Sister is with Jesus.” Aimee’s flock freaked out. One would-be rescuer drowned, and another died of exposure. For a solid month, the country played detective, looking for her body. Until the day when — praise Jesus! — she stumbled out of the desert with a story of kidnapping, drugging and torture. But at least she was home. Hallelujah!
For all her savvy business sense, Aimee didn’t quite think her story through. For one thing, she claimed she escaped her kidnappers and managed a 13-hour trek through the desert. Yet she looked as fresh as a daisy – she wasn’t dehydrated or sunburned, her clothes didn’t have that I-just- traversed-a-desert look. So that didn’t quite sit right with investigators.
Then there was the matter of Aimee’s so called kidnappers, “Steve” and “Mexicali Rose,” who she said chloroformed her before stealing her away in their car.