King George Hotel – Los Angeles, California - Atlas Obscura
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Los Angeles, California

King George Hotel

Where a great scandal unfolded with a famous female revivalist at its center. 

The King George Hotel is not much to see among the vivid murals and classic Art Deco architecture that runs rampant in Venice, but it holds its own mystique as the location of a popular LA scandal.

Surprisingly, this controversy wasn’t swirling around a starlet or a leading man, but a popular female evangelist of the 1920s and 1930s, Aimee Semple McPherson. McPherson was the founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and was a pioneer of modern evangelism, incorporating entertainment and media such as radio into her weekly sermons at the Angelus Temple.

The popular revivalist was staying at the King George hotel, a common party spot for celebrities and LA someones when she mysteriously vanished while swimming on May 18, 1926. Assuming the water had overtaken her, her followers pitched themselves into a panic, and divers searched the waters in vain. Two men involved in the search, one a parishioner and one a professional diver, lost their lives in the pursuit for answers, but Aimee was nowhere to be found.

The media and hundreds of mourners converged onto the beach, and Upton Sinclair wrote a touching poem about the tragedy. The world said goodbye to the enigmatic woman of God, stolen by the sea. But McPherson had not actually drowned in the Pacific, and over a month later, she turned up in the Mexican town of Agua Prieta with a hard to swallow story about chloroform and kidnapping, torture at the hands of a sinister couple, Steve and Mexicali Rose. After a valiant escape and a 12 mile walk through the blazing desert, she claimed to have fought her own way back to freedom.Unfortunately for the once widowed and once divorced Aimee, her story had an astonishing amount of holes in it, and her disappearance just happened to coincide with the disappearance of a married staff member of her radio show.That, along with sightings of the two at a cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea, foiled her grand story.

After being charged with obstruction of justice by a grand jury, McPherson turned her trials and the trial itself into more fodder for her radio show, making her more popular than ever. She never admitted to the affair, or any other for that matter.