AIMEE SEMPLE MCPHERSON AND PATRICIA HEARST
Like the sparrow in her wandering, like the swallow in her flying, So the curse without cause does not come and alight [on the undeserving].
In the 1920s, Aimee Semple McPherson was a Christian evangelist who moved in the power of God with numerous documented testimonies of healings and miracles that were even published in local papers. She was the founder of Angelus Temple, dedicating the building in 1923, and had over 30,000 followers in her services. Even the Hollywood elite would come out to her services, including Charlie Chaplain.
On May 18, 1926, Aimee disappeared from Venice Beach, California after going for a swim. She reappeared in Mexico five weeks later, stating that she had escaped from kidnappers there. It was a bizarre story for sure. She said that a young couple had approached her on the beach and asked her to come and pray for their sick child. When she went with them and looked in on the bundle in the back seat of their automobile, they shoved her into their car and held a cloth over her face, later speculated to be chloroform.
On June 23rd, she stumbled out of the desert in Sonora, a Mexican town across the border from Douglas, Arizona. A Mexican couple who saw her collapsed body on the ground there thought she was dead. She was transported to Douglas, Arizona hospital. Though she was emaciated and barely recognizable, a journalist recognized her from covering past revival meetings that McPherson had. Once she was properly identified, her family and local Los Angeles authorities came to the hospital.
Aimee Semple McPherson’s return to LA from the Arizona desert was met by some 30-50,000 people. Her story became international front page news.
All of this commotion sparked days long media coverage that was in part fueled by William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper syndicate. Hearst gave rise to yellow journalism, which is the term now used for using lurid features and sensationalized news to attract readers and increase circulation. Newspaper stories about Aimee Semple’s kidnapping became more sensationalized, including a column from the San Diego Herald about McPherson and her “ten days in a love shack.” Another publisher who printed the Herald story was later sentenced to 2 years in Leavenworth Federal Prison over an obscenity charge.
Based on the press, a grand jury was conducted led by Los Angeles District Attorney Asa Keyes. Keyes said he had irrefutable evidence of the affair between McPherson and Ormiston. Over $500,000 dollars was spent by the prosecution—several million dollars by today’s standard—and most of the money was being paid by the newspapers to assist the investigation against McPherson.
Although the case was revived a few times, the evidence District Attorney Keyes claimed to have was fake and the testimonies were perjured. He finally asked for case dismissal in January 1927.
However, District Attorney Asa Keyes later became convicted of bribery in an entirely unrelated case! There were witnesses, diaries and ledgers with handoffs recorded, evidence that Keyes could not defend himself against. Asa Keyes was charged and sentenced in 1929. Aimee Semple McPherson later visited him in San Quentin Penitentiary to wish him well.
William Randolph Hearst had created the largest newspaper, magazine, newsreel and movie business in the world. His media empire had profited greatly off the wild speculations of Aimee Semple McPherson and the “fake kidnapping.” In a bizarre twist of events, William Randolph Hearst’s granddaughter Patricia Hearst was born 28 years later, on February 20, 1954. She was one of the heirs to the Hearst media fortune.
On February 4, 1974, 19-year old Patricia Hearst was kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, CA by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). According to testimony at the trial, the SLA wanted to leverage the Hearst family’s political influence to free 2 of their SLA members who had been arrested.
The Hearst family was unable to get the SLA members liberated. Faced with the failure to free the imprisoned men, the SLA demanded that the captive’s family distribute $70 worth of food to every needy Californian. Patricia Hearst’s father took out a loan and arranged the immediate donation of $2 million worth of food to the poor of the Bay Area, an operation called “People in Need.”
When Aimee Semple McPherson had been indicted in 1926, she paid out over $100,000 in legal fees. This money would have likely been pulled out from the ministry of Angelus Temple. And yet, Angelus Temple was the only place in Los Angeles at that time where anyone could get a meal, clothing and blankets with no questions asked. Almost 50 years after the McPherson trial which Randolph Hearst’s media empire profited from, the same Hearst family gave out 2 million dollars to the poor, in response to a demand from Patricia Hearst’s hijackers.
Unfortunately, Patty Hearst was not released by her kidnappers, nor was she able to escape. She was repeatedly threatened with death and was allegedly raped by some of the SLA members. She was forced to memorize their SLA political tracts and was confined in a closet for weeks.
On April 15, 1974, Patty Hearst was recorded on surveillance video wielding an M1 carbine while robbing a bank in San Francisco. She was indicted in June 1974 for that robbery. Patty Hearst was imprisoned for 7 years and suffered a collapsed lung while in prison.
Actor John Wayne came out in defense of Patty Hearst saying that people had accepted that Jim Jones had brainwashed 900 individuals into mass suicide but that people would not accept that the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) could have brainwashed young Patty Hearst.
Today, Patty Hearst currently works with several foundations, charities and fundraising activities. We might conclude that Patty Hearst was a victim to a curse upon the media empire which profited by slandering McPherson. Psalm 105:15 says, Do not touch My anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm.
Though not widely discussed now, Aimee was vocal against Darwinsim, and the theory of evolution. One photo showed Aimee raising her fist toward a King Kong figure that overshadowed her with the caption: God or Gorilla? Sister Defends God’s Word in Debates Against Evolution. Although the common person loved her, her ministry threatened “the powers that be” at that time. Jealousies, even amongst the other religious establishments, and crime syndicates had “money in the game” to bring about her downfall.
Did Satan have an open door to attack the Hearst family due to the unfair treatment of Aimee Semple McPherson in the media? The curse would not have come, according to Proverbs 26:2 unless there had been some justification for it.
The media had painted an unjust picture of Aimee Semple McPherson, believing that her story of kidnapping was too bizarre to believe and that it was more likely that she had an affair. Patty Hearst was treated unfairly in much the same way. Her condition was referred to as the Stockholm Syndrome in court.
The Record stated “the McPherson sensation has sold millions of newspapers, generated fat fees for lawyers, stirred up religious antagonism … and advertised Los Angeles in a ridiculous way.” H. L. Mencken said McPherson was not responsible for the controversy and called it a “dirty shame.” Officials and others continued to investigate, even years later, but were unable to prove her kidnapping story false.
The Court of Historical Review and Appeal in San Francisco, which holds no legal authority, is made up of members of the bench who examine and retry historical cases and controversies. In April 1990, a decision was handed down regarding the matter of McPherson’s kidnapping story. George T. Choppelas, the then presiding judge of the San Francisco Municipal Court, ruling for the Court of Historical Review, found the issues involved both serious and fascinating. He concluded that “there was never any substantial evidence to show that her story was untrue. She may not have been a saint, but she certainly was no sinner, either.”
Luke 6:37 says: Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Romans 14:13: Therefore let us stop judging one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.