Fact or Fiction: Are They Evil?

Recently, the Church of Satan has been in the news, at least in Oklahoma. The decision to put a statue of the Ten Commandments at the State Capitol has opened the door for a lawsuit over a statue of Satan as Baphomet.

This link will take you to an MSN article about the dispute:

The question has been posed, will this be good or bad for practicing pagans in America. Let’s learn about the Church of Satan (C of S) and more about it’s founder, Anton LaVey.


Anton Szandor LaVey (April 11, 1930 – October 29, 1997) was the founder and High Priest of the Church of Satan, as well as a writer, musician, and actor. LaVey was born in Chicago, Illinois. The family soon relocated to California, San Francisco to be exact, at a time where the brightest and darkest manifestations of the American Dream were taking place. This was a very fertile environment for a sensitive, artistic and impressionable child to grow up in.

LaVey learned from his Eastern European Grandmother all of the superstitions that are still honored in that part of the world. From his Grandmother’s tales, LaVey became interested in dark, gothic literature such as Dracula and Frankenstein. He searched out pulp fiction novels, and befriended Weird Tales authors Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Barbour Johnson, and George Hess. His imagination was captured by dark characters out of the works of Jack London, in comic strip characters, such as Ming the Merciless (I always thought LaVey looked a bit like Ming the Merciless), as well as historical figures with a  bit of a dark bent-Cagliostro, Rasputin and Basil Zaharoff. He was more interested in books of obscure knowledge such as Dr. William Wesley Cook’s Practical Lessons in Hypnotism, Jane’s Fighting Ships, and anything on handwriting analysis. The occult books of the day left him dry, feeling that they were fluffy bunny, sanctimonious white magic.

LaVey’s musical ability manifested early. His parents gave him free reign to try various instruments. He found the keyboards to his liking due to their versatility and scope. He could easily play what he heard, and never had the need for music books or sheet music. This talent was to be a major source  of income for LaVey for many years. “Answer Me” by LaVey was released on his album, Satan Takes A Holiday

Honolulu Baby

Take a listen, you may be surprised by the content. Not what one would imagine. His keyboard skills were of extreme import during his days with the carnival as a calliope player. He would also do stints as an organist in bars, lounges and nightclubs throughout the Bay Area.

LaVey’s interests marked him as odd, and he did nothing to dispel these feelings or did he ever choose to ‘be one of the boys’. LaVey was not interested in sports, and actively despised gym class. He would often choose to cut classes to follow his own interests. An avid reader and film buff, LaVey would watch such German expressionist film such as M, The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari, and the Dr Mabuse movies. He was a flashy dresser, and his style alienated him even more from the mainstream. Dropping out of high school, LaVey hung around with what would be considered hoodlum types of the day, and he gravitated toward working with the circus and the carnivals. He started as a cage boy and roustabout and later as a musician. He was able to learn and work with big cats and the mechanisms behind the spook shows. LaVey was well versed in the many rackets that were used to separate the patrons from their money, and excelled in the psychology behind what lead people to these pursuits. He played his music for the strip shows on Saturdays, and then played for tent revivalists on Sunday’s. He would often seem the same individuals at both. This is where his cynical worldview began to evolve.

After carnival season, LaVey would supplement his income by playing organ in the burlesque houses in the Los Angeles area. LaVey said it was during this time that he had a brief affair with the then unknown, Marilyn Monroe. After moving back to San Francisco, LaVey worked as a photographer for the San Francisco Police Department, and during the Korean War, he enrolled in San Francisco City College as a criminology major so he could avoid the draft. (As a side note, this is where my cousin, John, met him.) His job and his studies revealed the grim insights of human nature. He met and married Carole Lansing, who gave him his first daughter, Karla Maritza, in 1952. A few earlier LaVey began exploring the writings of Aleister Crowley, and in 1951 he met some of the Berkeley Thelemites. LaVey was unimpressed. He felt that they were more spiritual and not ‘wicked enough’ to be disciples of Crowley’s libertine creed.

In the 1950’s, LaVey supplemented his income as a psychic investigator. He would investigate ‘nut calls’ referred to him by friends in the police department. Through this experience, LaVey learned that many individuals were inclined to seek a supernatural explanation for phenomena that had more commonplace explanation. His rational findings would often disappoint those that were making the claims and complaints, so LaVey invented exotic causes to make them feel better, giving him insight as to how religion would affect and function in people’s lives. (Remember, he is an actor.)

LaVey purchased a Victorian house on California Street in the Richmond District of San Francisco. The year was 1956. He painted it black; later it would become the Church of Satan. After his death in 1997, it remained empty until the real estate company that owned it demolished the house. The demolition took place on October 17, 2001.

Diane Hegarty entranced LaVey in 1959; he then divorced Carole in 1960. Never married to Hegarty, she bore him his second daughter, Zeena Galatea in 1964 and Hegarty was his companion for many years. They later separated, and she sued for palimony in a case that was settled out of court. Blanche Barton, who bore him his only son, Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey on November 1, 1993, was his final companion. In accordance to laVey’s wishes, she succeeded him as the head and high priestess of the Church after his death on October 29, 1997. In 2001, she passed on her position to long time Council of Nine member, Peter H. Gilmore. He heads the Church today.

Through his psychic investigating and his gigs as an organist, LaVey became a local celebrity and his holiday parties would attract many of San Francisco’s most notable residence. Guests have included Carin d Plessin, known as ‘the Baroness’ since she had been raised in the royal palace of Denmark, anthropologist Michael Harner, Chester A Arthur III (grandson to a U.S. President), Forrest J. Ackerman (the publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland and expert on science fiction), author Fritz Leiber, local eccentric Dr. Cecil E. Nixon (creator of the musical automaton Isis) and underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger. From this group, LaVey created what he called a ‘Magic Circle’ of associates who shared his interests in the bizarre, the hidden side of what moves the world. As laVey’s expertise grew, he began to present Friday night lectures that would summarize the results of his research. In 1965, LaVey was featured on a humorous children’s program hosted by marionettes called The Brother Buzz Show. The focus, LaVey’s ‘Addams Family’ lifestyle-making a living as a hypnotist, psychic investigator, and organist. They also focused on his very unusual pet, Togare, a Nubian lion.

While in the process of creating his lectures, LaVey was led to construct a very unique philosophy based on his life experiences and research. When a member of his Magic Circle suggested that he had the basis for a new religion, LaVey readily agreed. He decided to found the Church of Satan as the best means for communicating his ideas. In 1966, on the night of May Eve-the traditional Witches’ Sabbath-LaVey declared the founding of the Church of Satan as well as renumbering 1966 as the year One, Anno Satanas-the first year of the age of Satan.



Official Church of Satan Website

LaVey: The Devil’s Avenger 1974 by Burton Wolfe

Secret Life of a Satanist 1990 by Blanche Barton