Aimee Semple McPherson evangelist scandal rocked Los Angeles 85 years ago

When the famous falter, people pay attention. That’s as true today as it was 85 years ago, when the most prominent evangelist of the day suddenly vanished. Aimee Semple McPherson disappeared from Los Angeles on this date in 1926.

The woman at the center of this mystery seemed to have everything – beauty, eloquence, the fame that accompanied one of the first major multimedia ministries. Pentecostal minister Aimee Semple McPherson established the 5,000-seat Angelus Temple based on her Foursquare Gospel.

She built her ministry over years of tent revivals, newspaper columns, radio broadcasts and charismatic flourishes that included faith healing and elaborate costumes. All that collapsed after the celebrity known as “Sister Aimee” went for a swim in the Pacific and didn’t come back.

During the month she was missing, the faithful feared her death, the law deployed men and boats to search for her and the newspapers followed every lead on her whereabouts. When McPherson surfaced, she said someone had kidnapped her for ransom.

But she couldn’t quash rumors that she’d dallied with a radio operator from Angelus Temple who’d also disappeared while she was away. Aimee Semple McPherson may have arisen from the dead, but her evangelical fame never did.

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