Most of the church’s followers were fanatics, cultists, and weirdos

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

In April, 1966, a former showman named Anton LaVey created a new role for himself, shaving his head and forming the Church of Satan:

LaVey organized his church around a philosophy of self-indulgence and excess—aptly mirroring the times—but still played around with devil worship motifs, vamping in a cape, and wearing a bulbous ring that he claimed could grant little children their wishes. His Jaguar even had a personalized license plate: SATAN9. “People like to have a hell of a time, don’t they?” LaVey asked during an interview around that time with Joe Pyne, a syndicated talk show host.

LaVey's Black House

P.T. Barnum had a circus tent, and LaVey had the Black House, where he kept a pet lion and performed rituals. He would sometimes don a hood with two horns and surround himself with nude women in front of a fireplace that he’d converted into an altar. LaVey’s theatricality attracted the attention of some Hollywood players, like Sammy Davis Jr. and the actress Jayne Mansfield, who was rumored to have had an affair with LaVey. Black-and-white photos from that era show the two posing together campily. In one, Mansfield playfully clutches a skull while LaVey fans his cape out beside her, and in another, she prepares to drink from a chalice that he cradles in his hand.

LaVey and Mansfield

It sounds like LaVey’s dark magic worked just fine. Years later an informant claimed LaVey was plotting Ted Kennedy’s death, so the FBI investigated:

The FBI’s San Francisco office pulled records it had on LaVey dating back to the mid-’70s, when a tipster told the bureau that LaVey had purchased handguns, a shotgun and a rifle. Other files showed that LaVey had once supposedly been “interested” in joining the National Socialist White People’s Party, which had been known, in an earlier incarnation, as the American Nazi Party.

LaVey had no arrest history, but he’d been linked to a tragedy once before. His relationship with Mansfield had reportedly ended with LaVey’s putting a curse on Sam Brody, the actress’ attorney and boyfriend, promising that he’d die in a car crash. In 1967, not long after the hex was supposedly cast, Brody and Mansfield were killed in a wreck on a highway near New Orleans.


For a man who referred to himself as the “Black Pope,” the notoriety of being linked to an FBI investigation might have been a welcome development when he was first seeking attention for his church. This older version of LaVey, though, decided to come right out with it: He had nothing to do with any assassination plot.

“LaVey advised that of any political official, he has the highest regard for Senator Kennedy and his family,” according to the FBI records. And LaVey could sympathize with the threats that Kennedy often received; he told the agents that he had been the victim of physical and verbal attacks because of his position in the Church of Satan.

LaVey checked his recent phone messages, and noticed that he’d received calls from the Chicago area on October 23 and October 27. But he told the agents that he didn’t know the identity of the caller and hadn’t tried dialing the number that had been left for him.

And then LaVey shared some surprising news with the agents: His role as the head of the church was all a charade. Most of the church’s followers, he said, were “fanatics, cultists, and weirdos,” the records show. “[H]is interest in the Church of Satan is strictly from a monetary point of view,” the agents noted, “and spends most of his time furnishing interviews, writing material, and lately has become interested in photography.”


  1. C Matt says:

    It is preposterous that he would plot against the Kennedys. Why would Satan attack his own?

  2. Harry Jones says:

    My understanding was he shut down the church because he was disappointed in the quality of members it was attracting. He seems to have hoped for people at the opposite extreme of several bell curves.

    People who are out of the mainstream are extremely diverse, much more so than the mainstream, which is blandly homogenous by comparison. Mundanes fail to grasp this. Many of those disaffected with the broader society are that way because the broader society rejected them first. The geniuses and the freethinkers and the free spirits are all ill adapted to a society built and run by and for mundanes. But so are the morons and crazies.

  3. Lu An Li says:

    I thought that was Matt Cimber killed with Jayne.

    Anton in Hollywood circles is called a “hanger-on”? But he was more than that?

  4. Voatboy says:

    LaVey was Jewish. LaVey was a psychopath. History records many similar psychopaths who had similar careers. In particular, the endless efforts to control public narrative while seeking to undermine broader society are familiar.

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