The Secret Life of a Satanist
By Blanche Barton
What Manner of Man is This?
One couldn't dream of a more diabolical-looking man. With his head shaven in the tradition of carnival strong men, and a
black, Mephistophelean beard tracing up thinly around his lips, Anton LaVey's appearance is decidedly barbaric. His amber
eyes look more leonine than human. The small gold ring in his left ear conjures childhood images of gypsies and pirates.
Many would see him as their nightmarish vision of the Devil himself.
My impression of Anton LaVey matured slowly, over a period of some 10 years before I ever met him. My father (a dyed-
in-the-wool Satanist if ever there was one, though he emphatically denies any theistic label) raised me on generous portions
of Kipling and London, with enough Robert Louis Stevenson thrown in to instill me with an early fascination with the hidden
and the fantastic. By the age of 13, I was already a jaded occult connoisseur. I pored over all available magical texts ancient
and modern, from Albertus Magnus to Diary of a Witch, and could feel only disdain at their flaccid meanderings.
It's not surprising then that for a long time I resisted reading The Satanic Bible, saving myself from certain frustration.
During my sexually and intellectually seething adolescence, I had my own ideas about Satan -- thoughts that surely no living
soul could understand but me. I was wrong. When I finally cracked open LaVey's now-infamous book, I felt a thrill of
satisfaction. There were others like me out there, and they called themselves Satanists.
I read Burton Wolfe's The Devil's Avenger to find out whether this strange, bald-headed man wasn't just posturing --
mouthing-off from a cloistered tower, play-acting his cynicism. But knowing more about LaVey only made me more curious
for answers to my questions.
The High Priest of the Church of Satan doesn't look much different than he did in 1967, when he burst into international
prominence by performing the world's first public wedding. With so few new photographs released during LaVey's ten-year
media hiatus (roughly from 1976-1986), I can be forgiven for expecting to see a paunchy, balding, good-natured fellow by
the time we finally met. LaVey is not paunchy, nor is he good-natured. The intervening years have served to accentuate the
angles of his face, making him look more severe than ever. He is also more cynical, bitterly misanthropic, and violently
determined in his role as founder of the Church of Satan.
This book attempts to peek into the world of a heretic. Not a cardboard devil or the comfortably menacing fiction that
religionists have, for centuries, earned their living denouncing from every pulpit. If LaVey were a cooperative scapegoat, he
would be an inarticulate, posturing dilettante who could be trotted out on talk shows, righteously set upon and vanquished.
He has not obliged. Nor is he a pretentious self-proclaimed evocateur who can be safely snickered at for spouting what he
claims to be the Dark Prince's given word.
Anton LaVey is a complex, and in many ways a frighteningly deceptive man. "No one in the world is more justified in
being cynical and bitter than me," says LaVey. "Everyday I think less and less of what others are going to think." It's this
"justifiable bitterness" that spurs expressions of biography, LaVey has become increasingly reclusive and fiercely protective
of what he has achieved. He prefers to limit companionship to that of his daughters, a few close, Cerberean friends and
After finally being granted an initial interview with LaVey in 1984, it became clear to me that if I wanted to more
thoroughly explore this Black Magician's heart and mind, I would have to become woven into the fabric of his everyday life.
And so I did. He needed a Girl Friday and seemed satisfied with my enthusiastic determination. Over time, it became my role
to arrange interviews with reporters, students and members; iron out travel itineraries; generate informational literature;
handle correspondence; straw boss; and generally keep complications to as dull a roar as possible. Along the way, I watched,
I listened. To Stories, jokes, long-neglected tunes, movies that contained the germs of LaVeyan Satanism. And, as
unobtrusively as possible, I began to take notes.
Upon first meeting Anton LaVey, many are disarmed by his good-natured wit, extraordinary talent and almost self-
deprecating manner. Those who have the opportunity to be around him for any length of time eventually see a seething,
brutal side to LaVey. There is, at times, an almost unbearable oppressiveness to his intolerance and anger. Here is a man who
can spend hours delighting in playing forgotten songs, or playing with an animal, yet will become monstrously callous when
he feels the need. LaVey is idealistically against hunting and would be the first person to stop to help an injured animal along
the road, yet put a nickel in him and he will enthusiastically advocate putting a bounty on selected humans. He speaks with
such fervor one doesn't need to question his sincerity.
LaVey can appear infirm one minute and possessed of a madman's supernatural strength the next. Well-trained in firearms
and judo, I've seen him deal swiftly and savagely with rowdies who have dared to approach him. On the pistol range, I once
made the mistake of bringing up a subject I knew produced a violent reaction in LaVey. Answering my question with barely
controlled rage, he hit a perfect bull's eye 200 feet away. He prefers to work his 14-foot bullwhip to siphon off pent-up
aggressions, snapping the end off a cigarette just as skillfully as he did when he learned fancy whip cracking from Col. Tim
McCoy 40 years ago. With all the elements of daring, mystery and intrigue, Anton LaVey seems less like the neurotic,
cramped contemporary than an imposing, complex fictional character out of the pages of Jack London or Somerset
The idea behind starting the Church of Satan was not to gain millions of dependant souls who needed activities and
organized weekly meetings to keep them involved. LaVey started an organization for non-joiners, the alienated few who felt
disenfranchised because of their independence, and who pridefully adopted Satan, the original rebel, as their patron. LaVey
wanted to make Christianity, which he sees as fostering stupidity and dull complacency, obsolete. The gulf between our
social evolution and our scientific and technological advances was getting dangerously vast. LaVey wanted to give us tools
for a revolution against artificial "morality" before the intellectual cramping became fatal for us all. In Satanism, Anton
LaVey provided Christianity's coup de grace.
Yet despite his influence, LaVey, for the most part, has been ignored by the avatars of our media-centric culture. Visit the
"New Age" section of you nearest bookstore. You'll see the entrepreneurs who have taken up LaVeyan ideas, slapping a more
palatable name on them to their critical and literally "Satanic" influences in the modern world, plainly drawing from LaVey's
philosophy, routinely give not so much credit as a notation in their in their bibliography. And then there are Johnny-come-
lately pseudo-Satanic groups, some claiming to have taken over where the Church of Satan left off," but most, as LaVey says,
still afraid of the dreaded "S" word.
You can't avoid seeing, on book racks or on talk show panels, an impressive range of Satanic "experts" (usually claiming
affiliations with law enforcement, academia, or counseling centers) who adroitly spin their heads around avoiding
confrontations with real Satanism. Christian alarmists tremblingly hold aloft tattered copies of The Satanic Bible into the eyes
of television cameras while muttering inane and unsupported balderdash about bloody sacrifices and unspeakable crimes
against children. Knowing Anton LaVey as long as I have, my mind whispers a question: is ate a pro-Satanic backlash? At
these times I get the idea Anton LaVey must be the most dangerous man in the world.
The outsider, the alien, will always receive a meager amount of credit. LaVey knows that's an inevitable consequence of
being an accuser -- people don't like to hear what you have to say. Still, maybe we're due for a renaissance of the brutal,
principled film noir anti-hero. In this new Satanic world of his own making -- expect that the Devil will get his due.
Satanists Are Born, Not Made
If the Gods have any sense of the dramatic, it should have been a dark and stormy night on April 11th, 1930--the night
Anton LaVey was born. Somewhat prophetically assigned by birth the sign of Aries (symbolized by the horned ram), Anton
LaVey is a mixture of French, Alsatian, German, Russian and Rumanian stock. Even at birth, his overabundance of silky
black hair and strange amber eyes hinted at his Mongolian heritage and his Gypsy blood. Throughout his life he has been
mistaken for a Latino, Prussian, even an Oriental, because of this unusual blending. Though born in Chicago in the shadow of
where the black, trapezoidal-shaped John Hancock Building now stands, his parents relocated to the San Francisco Bay area
soon after his birth. Tony, as he would be known in his younger years, spent much of his boyhood in adjacent towns, where
he had the freedom to explore the ranging, undeveloped swamplands that have since been developed into tract homes and
Augusta LaVey and her husband Joe, a liquor distributor, raised Tony as they would any other bright, even-tempered boy,
attempting to instill useful middle-class values without pressing any particular religious dictates on him. By the time he was
seven, he grew absorbed with tales of the supernatural and occult which would obsess him for the rest of his life. Unable to
fully understand what he read because of his younger age, he consulted his maternal grandmother, Luba Kolton (born
Lupescu-Primakov, from a Gypsy father and a Jewish mother), who regaled Tony with the mysteries of her Transylvanian
homeland--superstitions passed from generation to generation and incorporated in the greatest vampire legend of all,
Dracula. Dogs baying when their masters died, fears that having your picture taken would rob you of your soul, what it meant
when a bird flew into a house--all these were night-fears that threaded through Grandma Kolton's stories. Accounts of
bloody battles fought against Turkish and Russian invaders, between Hungary and Rumania over the rights of rule, spurred
Tony's imagination. His grandmother also digressed about the eccentrics in his own family--her late husband, Boris Kolton,
a Trotskyite and lifelong iconoclast from the ancient Togarma Tribe in Georgia (from whom Togare, the famous Eurasian
wild animal trainer, took his name), and her brother who traveled with carnivals and circuses from the Black Sea to Hungary
as a bear trainer. Young Tony soon allied himself much more with the personalities he read and heard about than with any of
the boys who were expected to be his peers.
Not entirely satisfied by his grandmother's stories, Tony started exploring the foundations of the apocryphal tales she told
him. Spared a highly religious, superstitious background, Tony began an autodidactic tour through the darkest realms of
occultism. He avidly read anything he could find on the subject--classic ghost and horror stories, Bram Stoker's Dracula,
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and the most popular expression of the dark side of its time, Weird Tales magazine. By the age
of 12, Tony had already skimmed, and been disappointed by widely-circulated grimoires like the Albertus Magnus and Sixth
and Seventh Books of Moses. He found Montague Summers' and Arthur Waite's magic treatises laden with useless
obfuscation and concentrated on the real magic of hypnotism and stage effects. After devouring Dr. William Wesley Cook's
Practical Lessons in Hypnotism, Tony was quickly able to apply its methods with great success. Looking back on childhood
explorations, LaVey recalls, "I looked through all the grimoires and all I saw was junk. Casting a circle to protect yourself!
When I started devising my own rituals, out of frustration with all I had seen, I shaped a glowing pentacle to attract these
forces. Then I found [William] Mortensen [photographer who wrote The Command to Look]. And I realized this is magic.
This is what I've been looking for. But it can't be. This is just a little book on photographic techniques. I went through
squabbling within myself. But finally realized this was real magic. I realized this as real magic. I relied more on fiction for
magical truth. Lovecraft, Hodgeson's Carnacki, Long's Hounds of Tindalos--that's where I found food for thought that I
couldn't find in the so-called `dangerous' dark books of magic.
"Hadn't anyone called forth the demons before as their friends? I thought surely they had. It makes one believe that
people probably were doing it on a carefully guarded underground level--and maybe they didn't let it out because they were
It became increasingly clear that Tony's interests were not the same as the average boy's. He was never much for sports,
which stigmatized him as "unhealthy." But he never had any trouble making friends and his home was always full of kids
expecting Tony to devise some interesting activities for the day. He organized mock military orders and secret societies but
got disgusted because the other boys broke character or lost interest too easily. More often than not, his interaction with other
boys parasitically drained LaVey. "They'd come over to my place, enthused as hell about what I was doing, bust up my stuff
and then go home." LaVey didn't find his inability to fit in particularly distressing. "I never was a `rebel' because I was never
a part of anything to rebel against. I was never accepted by groups in the first place."
Nor did Tony have a need to be particularly rebellious toward his parents, though he never felt either of them had the
capacity to understand him. "My mother was sort of a flibbertigibbet type--always had to be rearranging the furniture, or
worse, had to move us to another house for some petty reason or another. I hated being moved around so much but my father
was not the kind of man to kick up any fuss. People called him a real prince. To me, they both seemed rather indecisive
people, who never had many opinions about anything. From a young age, they followed my advice on things like what kind
of cars to buy, anything that involved an aesthetic eye. They pretty much let me do what I wanted, except my mother always
cautioned me not to hurt my hands--you know, `play nize, don't fight'--because of my music. Of course, as I got older, I
didn't tell them much about what I was doing because I didn't want them to worry."
From the time LaVey began school, complications began. School was a place for Tony to escape from. He was never
happy being "one of the guys" and found he was much more intensive in his studies whenever he cut school so he could
study the things that interested him most. While most boys looked forward to summer, Tony didn't. I would mean an
intrusion on his long, liquid days alone. The streets would again be filled with loudmouthed kids who would expect him to
join in their baseball and football games. He waited for the days to grow short again, when they would return to their
confining classrooms and he could resume his studies elsewhere. He was delighted with his solitude, and the few friends he
accepted into his world were, like him, outcasts.
Huey Long, Rasputin, Sir Basil Zaharoff, Milton, London, Nietzsche, Capone and other "de facto Satanists" who
practiced or wrote of rational pre-Church of Satan seminars, nascent imagery is often all one needs for a strong influence.
"You don't need to know all about their lives, be a scholar about everything they ever wrote or did. Fictional characters, like
Ming the Merciless, weren't nearly as important to me as a person who actually lived. If I appeared different it's because I
was different. My first expression of that ingredient surfaced in an image of existing outlawry. I was derisively labeled a
pachuco or hood because I wore a hat and zoot-style clothes because they were the only clothes I felt comfortable wearing. I
wasn't trying to be different--just doing what came naturally."
He recalls an incident with another boy and a bird in his backyard when he was 11 years old. Impulsively shot the boy in
the back with a b.b. gun as the boy was about to fire his own gun at a bird sitting on a branch all of ten inches away. The
intrepid hunter dropped hid gun with a howl of pain. This was Tony's first lesson in "Good Sportsmanship." He got hauled
down to the police station for a big lecture on how only a coward shoots another boy in the back, and after all, "it was only a
There were plenty of adventures available to a boy during the thirties. When the Golden Gate Bridge opened as the
engineering marvel of the century in 1937, LaVey was one of the first to stroll from one end to the other, when pedestrians
were allowed free rein before opening it to cars. LaVey recalls, "It was a thrill to be one of the first people across the Golden
Gate Bridge. Of course, there were a lot fewer people then so it was fun to be on this wide expanse where cars were supposed
to be. Not like it was when they closed the bridge to cars for a few hours during the 50th anniversary celebration in 1987. The
planners didn't anticipate the crowds. 800,00 people packed on there--so thick you couldn't see the roadway. They flattened
the natural arc of the span. It would have been quite a celebration if it had collapsed." Since he was there when it opened,
Title: Gigamoire et Galatea
Author: Michael Dunlap
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