On this date in 1926 Aimee Semple McPherson disappeared from Ocean Park Beach near Los Angeles. What happened next continues to be a matter of controversy. “Sister Aimee” was a radio evangelist with millions of followers. Her Foursquare Church was her platform for her preaching that was in its time even more popular than Billy Sunday. At that evening’s service her Mother announced her death by drowning. There followed a series of handwritten ransom notes (in handwriting very similar to Aimee’s) demanding a ransom for her return. On June 23rd she stumbled out of the desert in a small Mexican town across from Douglas, Arizona. She claimed to have been kidnapped by three people, “Steve”, “Mexicali Rose” and an unidentified third person. But various witnesses testified she was spotted shacked up with her married boyfriend Kenneth G. Ormiston in Carmel-by-the-Sea. There followed grand jury investigations and a trial but through missing evidence, witness recantations and evidence that was determined to be fake (which may or may not have been planted by one side or the other) no determination of fact was ever made. Her case was made famous again in 1964 when Pete Seeger recorded The Ballad of Aimee McPherson that contains the lyrics
“They found a cottage with a breakfast nook,
A folding bed with a worn-out look.
The slats were busted and the springs were loose,
And the dents in the mattress fitted Aimee’s caboose.”