“The Atheist complains about the wind. The Christian prays for it to change. The Satanist adjusts his sails.”—Anton LaVey
If there is one thing that has always alarmed people and organizations of Christian thought, it’s those whom they suspect of doing the Devil’s work. It’s almost inevitable, then, that cults devoted to Satan or some other form of evil have arisen, sometimes purely to shock the general public and get attention. Enter Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan. At first glance, the so-called "evilest man in the world" might either be a deranged cultist or a delusional fraud who managed to convince others of his exploitative lies. However, there might be more to LaVey than most realized; read these 42 facts and decide for yourself!
Anton LaVey Facts
42. What’d You Expect From Manson Country!
Although he went by the name Anton Szandor LaVey, he was actually born Howard Stanton LaVey in 1930, in Chicago, to a mother whose parents had immigrated to the US from Eastern Europe. We can see why he dropped the name "Howard" when he formed the Church of Satan.
41. Legend or Liar?
A lot of LaVey’s claims about his life have been heavily disputed by various sources, or else there has been little evidence found to substantiate LaVey’s claims. Thus, you’ll hear the terms "allegedly" quite a few times in this list, sorry to say.
40. Sex Sells
When LaVey first founded the Church of Satan, he was determined to get attention and support for his movement. He staged a series of Satanic rituals at nightclubs involving topless witches and a bikini-clad "inquisitioner" who claimed to be a former counselor for the Evangelical leader Billy Graham. Safe to say that would get people’s attention, in the most basic way possible.
39. We’re Not Weird Like Those Guys!
Despite their name, the Church of Satan does not identify as devil worshippers and goes to great lengths to distinguish themselves from said devil worshippers. Maybe LaVey should have picked a different name?
38. High School for the Big Top
LaVey went to Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California, until he dropped out at the age of 16. According to LaVey, he left to join a circus and work with the big cats that were on display. However, there’s no evidence that LaVey worked in a circus besides his own word on the matter.
37. My Bibliography
In 1969, LaVey published The Satanic Bible for his followers to truly understand the Church of Satan and its goals. He followed this up with four more books: The Satanic Ritual (1972), The Satanic Witch (1989), The Devil’s Notebook (1992), and Satan Speaks! (1998).
36. Fallen Angels? More Like Lazy Angels
There is a long-running tradition of former Christians renouncing God and taking up a new calling in the Church of Satanism. However, many of these claims made by new Satanists are not backed up by any real evidence that they were practicing Christian who actually attended church or took part in Christian ceremonies. It seems that their devotion was a bit exaggerated for dramatic effect.
35. The Devil’s Music
During his youth, LaVey showed great musical talent. His specialty was in the keyboard instruments such as the pipe organ and the calliope. No word on if he also played these instruments while wearing a half-mask and singing operatically at the same time.
34. I Would Like to Thank…
In earlier prints of The Satanic Bible, LaVey provided a long list of dedications to people whom he considered an inspiration. This diverse list included the likes of PT Barnum, Mark Twain, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Grigori Rasputin. Can’t say he didn’t give credit where it was due!
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33. Early Days, My Friend
The first formation of the Church of Satan went by the name of the Order of the Trapezoid. LaVey built a name for himself in San Francisco, and attracted several people to his side, including fantasy writer Fritz Leiber and Chester A. Arthur III, whose grandfather had been President of the United States. As LaVey delivered lectures on the occult, someone eventually suggested that he had enough basis on which to form a new religion.
32. Always Those Teenagers…
According to a 2001 FBI report, the average Satanist is a Caucasian male in his 20s who discovered Satanism in his late teens. To be honest, that isn’t super surprising in this day and age anymore.
31. If You’re Gonna Borrow…
LaVey’s second book, The Satanic Rituals, presents nine different rituals and ceremonies, some of which were actually inspired by such groups as the Illuminati, the Knights Templar, and the Freemasons—so he’s clearly in good company.
30. Money Where His Mouth Is
Among the rituals described and explained by LaVey in The Satanic Rituals is a baptism for children into the Church of Satan. LaVey practiced this very same ritual when initiating his daughter, Zeena, as part of the first ever Satanic baptism. Certainly a fitting world record for the leader of the church to have!
29. All Hail Cthulu!
Surprisingly, there are so many different Satanic groups that there is an encyclopedia dedicated to them. The Encyclopedia Satanica contains sixteen noted satanic groups. Just like with the various Christian sects, these satanic groups vary in their philosophies. And yes, there is an official Cult of Cthulu among them!
28. I Know How to Name ‘Em!
LaVey had two daughters and a son in his life. In true keeping with his faith, LaVey named his first daughter Karla Maritza LaVey, his second daughter was named Zeena Galatea LaVey, and his son got the name Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey. Impressive.
27. Pay Your Dues
While it only cost $2 to become a member of the Church of Satan when LaVey first formed it, that amount has grown to $200. Curse you, inflation!!
26. Not Exactly a Gold Record
The Satanic Mass was a spoken word album released by the Church of Satan, originally released as an LP vinyl in 1968. One of the tracks is a recording of the first Satanic baptism ever held. Most of the album is made up of LaVey reading verses of The Satanic Bible over music by such composers as Richard Wagner and Ludwig Van Beethoven. No doubt they would have been thrilled with that privilege.
25. Creepy Convictions…
In a rather unsettling revelation, LaVey was completely in support of eugenics. He felt that eugenics was very important for the future of humanity. Maybe the Church of Satan really was a sinister organization after all!
24. Life Inspired by Art
One thing which helped popularize the idea of Satanism was the Roman Polanski film Rosemary’s Baby, which came out in 1968, just in time for LaVey to capitalize on the new attention towards the occult.
23. That was Me, I Swear!
LaVey even tried to claim that he was involved in the making of Rosemary’s Baby itself, but this is unproven at best. To be fair, we see why he’d want to be involved in anything that terrifies or infuriates the Catholic League of Decency as much as a movie featuring the devil!
22. One More Time!
LaVey’s third book, The Satanic Witch, was actually a reprinting of a previous LaVey book titled The Compleat Witch, or What to Do When Virtue Fails. This original book was first released in 1972, while The Satanic Witch came out in 1989. We can only assume it was due to popular demand.
21. The Bathroom’s a Nightmare to Find
The Church of Satan’s infamous headquarters, known as the Black House, stood in San Francisco. It was supposed to have been a former brothel, though this claim was denied by LaVey’s relatives. LaVey went all out making it a proper headquarters for the Church of Satan, though. He is said to have filled it with secret passageways and trapdoors—presumably hoping that the Scooby Gang would eventually come by to investigate.
20. Taking After Dad
LaVey’s second daughter, Zeena, became a High Priestess of the Church of Satan in 1985, just in time for the "Satanic Panic" which hit the US after a false report-turned book from a psychiatrist that claimed Satanic ritual abuse, as well as a strange trial where investigators got hundreds of children to say that they had been abused as part of a Satanic ritual. Zeena would go on to defend her father’s church and debate with Christian scholars on such talk shows as Entertainment Tonight, The Phil Donahue Show, and The Late Show. Too bad it didn’t happen today; we could have watched Zeena and Jimmy Fallon get into a water war!
19. Sell My Book, Sweetie
Zeena LaVey also contributed an introduction to the 1989 reprinting of her father’s third book The Satanic Witch. By that time, LaVey was no longer interested in making media appearances, so it fell to Zeena to promote the book—and get into more debates with angry Christians in the process.
18. Is That You, Pastor?!
According to LaVey, his first ventures into the sinister side of men was when he worked as a musician in a strip club, while also working a second job playing music in a local church. He first noted the hypocrisy of religion when he began to notice the same men visiting both establishments where he worked.
17. Unbiased Opinion?
A biography on LaVey’s life was released in 1990, titled The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton LaVey. People seeking to find the truth about LaVey, however, should be cautioned that this biography was written by Blanche Barton, who was LaVey’s last romantic partner before his death. Safe to say that the biography might be a bit subjective as a result!
16. My Week with Marilyn
One of LaVey’s taller tales was that he had an affair with a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe when she worked as a dancer in the Mayan Theatre. As you can well imagine, people who knew Monroe personally have denied this story categorically, and the former manager of the Mayan Theatre denied that Monroe ever danced there. Nice try, Anton.
15. My Second Favorite Marilyn
LaVey’s final book, Satan Speaks!, was published after his death. It contains several essays written by LaVey before he passed away, and it even includes a forward written by shock rocker Marilyn Manson, in perhaps the least surprising celebrity endorsement we’ve ever heard of.
14. This Will Show Them!
In 1970, a documentary was made which delved into the Church of Satan, titled Satanis: The Devil’s Mass. It featured live footage of the Church of Satan’s followers, as well as hosting interviews with LaVey, his followers, his family members, and even some Christian missionaries. When it was released, the display ads came with a message describing the documentary as “perhaps the most shocking film of our time.” No doubt LaVey himself would have loved that.
13. Enough to Fill Isengard
At one point, LaVey’s Church of Satan contained over 10,000 members! Admittedly, that’s pretty small compared to the membership numbers of the churches that LaVey despised, but it’s still probably more than you imagined it to be!
12. Best of Both Worlds
LaVey once described the Church of Satan as a way to “fill the gap between religion and psychiatry” in which the older religions and their traditions were out of place in the enlightened world and psychiatry ignored or denied the fantastical and spiritual elements to be found in the world. Seems pretty reasonable when he puts it like that!
In the early 2000s, the Church of Satan tried to spread their message by having schoolchildren in Florida get access to their books. However, the books were deemed to be "propaganda," and the books were banned from the schools. No doubt the Church of Satan members had a good time shaking their fists at the establishment asking why Bibles didn’t count as propaganda.
10. Did You Properly Cite Your Sources?
Those who read The Satanic Bible expecting a myriad of sinister secrets from the Lord of Darkness may be a bit disappointed in their endeavors. LaVey borrowed heavily from such sources as Ragnar Redbeard’s Might is Right, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, H. L. Mencken, and Friedrich Nietzsche’s work. One could argue that an Internet persona had a point when he described The Satanic Bible as “old libertarianism in a shiny new wrapper.”
9. Cult of Celebrity
Incredibly (or not, depending on how cynical you are), some of the people who followed LaVey’s teachings were actually well-known celebrities. Renowned Rat Pack member Sammy Davis Jr. was said to dabble in the Church of Satan, though the details are a little unclear. Other names associated with LaVey include Hollywood bombshell Jayne Mansfield, though to be fair, given her own desire to make the biggest news splashes, her devotion to the Church of Satan is under some scrutiny.
8. This is Our Kind of Religion!
One group of people which the Church of Satan attracts to this day are atheists. While this might make you tilt your head, remember that the Church of Satan does not acknowledge God or Satan, and claims that no deity is in charge of our lives or destinies.
7. Can We Keep Looking?
In a twist of true irony, LaVey died in St. Mary’s Medical Center, a Catholic hospital. The reason that LaVey went there was because it was the closest available hospital that could admit him at the time.
6. Respectable Sales
Incredibly, LaVey’s The Satanic Bible has been reprinted over thirty times, has been translated into over half a dozen languages, and has sold over 1 million copies since its first release. It still has quite a way to go before catching up to the original Bible, though.
5. A Wild Moon and an Unlucky Number
LaVey died of pulmonary edema on October 29, 1997. As a final, haunting note to go out on, his death happened to occur thirteen days after a full moon. We’re almost wondering if he planned it that way to mess with everyone.
4. Didn’t Expect That…
Despite what most people would humorously assume, LaVey was very much opposed to drug use. He also voiced an extreme dislike for rock and metal music, even if it promoted Satanism. Next thing we’ll find out is that LaVey loved tea parties and playing backgammon!
3. Thou Shalt Not Kill?!
Despite what many people have fearfully claimed about the Church of Satan, they are not, in fact, supportive of sacrifices of any kind. The Church of Satan only permits violence of any kind if it is either violence against an animal for the purpose of eating it, and violence in the act of self-defense. Not exactly a terrifying or implausible way to live, to be honest.
2. Family Squabble
LaVey’s eldest daughter, Karla, was made a High Priestess of the Church of Satan, but she eventually clashed with Blanche Barton, LaVey’s third and final partner, after LaVey’s death. Karla and Barton fought over LaVey’s alleged will, and it led to a schism within the Church of Satan. Barton relocated the Church’s headquarters to New York City, while Karla, following in her father’s footsteps, formed the First Satanic Church in San Francisco. As of 2018, she hosts a weekly radio show and continues to sponsor Satanic events and concerts.
1. The Prodigal Daughter
Eventually, LaVey’s daughter had enough of her father’s church, and severed all connections with the Church of Satan. Zeena’s reasons for leaving the Church were reportedly the disillusionment that she felt at finding out that a lot of her father’s claims were lies, and that his work was reportedly full of plagiarism. She left the Church of Satan in 1990, changed her name, and refused to respond to the name "LaVey" in any form ever again.