Aimee Semple McPherson
On May 18, 1926, Canadian-born evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappeared while swimming at a Los Angeles beach. As rescue teams searched for her, one team member died, and a grief-struck follower of the charismatic religious leader drowned herself in despair. Five weeks passed, and McPherson turned up in Mexico, claiming to have gone off the grid in the course of fleeing would-be kidnappers. The kidnapping story seemed shady and was investigated as a possible fraud. However, it remained unresolved until McPherson’s actual death in 1944.
In September, 1930, Crowley, a self-proclaimed prophet and founder of the religion Thelema, jumped off a cliff near Lisbon, Portugal. Or so he made it seem. Three weeks later, he turned up alive and well in Berlin. Turns out, it was all an elaborate hoax that he’d planned with an acquaintance, the poet Fernando Pessoa. His motives remain unclear, but it’s possible he did it to get away from a woman with whom he’d been travelling and with whom he’d grown bored. Is it any wonder Crowley’s been called “the wickedest man in the world”?
Juan Pujol Garcia
When World War II ended in Europe, British spy Juan Pujol Garcia, with the help of his MI5 handlers, faked his own death by malaria in order to keep a surreptitious eye on Germany. His wife never believed it and wasn’t surprised when he turned up four decades later, having been outed by an investigative reporter, Nigel West. Garcia was nicknamed “Agent Garbo” (because of his esteemed acting skills) and is one of Europe’s most celebrated spies.