May 18

This Day in History

Crime

May 18, 1926:

Popular evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappears

Aimee Semple McPherson, a nationally known evangelist, disappears from Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California. Police dispatched planes and ships in an effort to find her, but she was nowhere to be found. Authorities later discovered that radio announcer Kenneth Ormiston, a friend of McPherson, had also vanished.

McPherson was the Billy Graham of her time. In 1923, she opened Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, where she consistently amassed overflowing crowds. McPherson claimed to have faith-healing abilities and put on wonderfully entertaining shows for the public. Because of her religious nature, McPherson's relationship with Ormiston created something of a scandal in 1925, and their disappearance in 1926 made headlines across the country.

A month later, McPherson turned up in Agua Prieta, New Mexico, with a wild tale of being kidnapped, but reporters quickly uncovered information to prove that she had been with Ormiston the entire time. Although obstruction of justice charges were filed against her, they were later dropped, allegedly because McPherson came up with $30,000 to appease law enforcement officials.

McPherson attempted a comeback evangelism tour after the scandal had died down, but it flopped and she slowly faded from the public's memory. Even still, she remains the answer to a good trivia question: Who baptized Marilyn Monroe?

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

What Happened on Your Birthday?

Pick a Date