Arizona played a part in one of the great hoaxes of the 1920s when Aimee Semple McPherson, a popular Hollywood show business evangelist, was allegedly kidnapped by a band of rogues.
Aimee Kennedy was born on the family farm near Ingersoll, Ontario in 1890, the daughter farmer and a zealous tambourine-thumping soldier in the Salvation Army. Early on she became steeped in rigid, fundamentalist Protestantism. She learned her trade as a little girl by lining up her dolls and then preaching sermons to her “congregation.”
She grew up endowed with unique evangelistic talents and a silver tongue. While still in high school converted to the Pentecostal faith and began her life-long crusade against evolution.
At the age of seventeen she met Robert James Semple, a Pentecostal missionary from Ireland. They were married a few months later and embarked on an evangelistic tour of Europe, followed by another to China. Shortly after they arrived both contracted malaria and on August 19th, 1910 he died and was buried in Hong Kong. A month later the nineteen-year-widow gave birth to a daughter she named Roberta Star.
Aimee returned to New York and joined her mother, Minnie, who was working for the Salvation Army. Shortly afterwards she met and married an account named Harold McPherson. Nine months later a son, Rolf Potter Kennedy McPherson was born.
By 1913 Aimee had launched her evangelistic career in Canada holding tent revivals and drawing standing room only crowds. Her fame was growing and she began holding revivals across the U.S. In San Diego the National Guard had to be called out to control the 30,000 people who came to hear her preach.
In 1916 Aimee and her mother traveled the Southern states in her 1912 Packard touring car, named the “Gospel Car.” Painted on the side were the words, “Jesus is Coming Soon-Get Ready.”
In 1921, her husband divorced her, citing abandonment as the reason.
The money was rolling in and Aimee decided to establish her base in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles where she built a huge domed church that she named the Angelus Temple. It could hold over 5,000 people and was filled to capacity three times a day, seven days a week. It eventually evolved into its own denomination, The International Church of the Four Square Gospel.
To complement her other talents, Aimee had blossomed into womanhood with a body splendidly endowed by Mother Nature. It was only a matter of time before she headed off to Hollywood to seek her fortune.
Aimee had fame and fortune as a faith healer. She had no problem using the media or the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. She didn’t hesitate to “use the devil’s tools to tear down the devil’s house.”
She was a pioneer in the art of using the media, especially radio to preach her religion. By the mid-20’s she headed multi- million-dollar religious empire.
“I can’t stand the jingle of coins,” Sister Aimee told her adoring admirers, mostly male, adding “make it a silent offering. I can’t hear paper money.”
It might have been one of those rare times in history where husbands dragged their wives to church rather than the other way around.
In the early 1920s Aimee’s church evolved into the Four Square Church. Her charitable and faith healing had become the stuff of legends and by 1926 Aimee had become one of the most charismatic and influential people in America.
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