Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, died in 1997, two days before Halloween. In his black and smoky purple San Francisco house were a shrunken head, a human coffin, a stuffed wolf, a bed of nails, a Byzantine phallus, a rocking chair that allegedly belonged to Rasputin and a calendar autographed by Marilyn Monroe, with whom LaVey claimed to have copulated. His more recent consort, High Priestess Blanche Barton, fought his daughters for possession of the house, claiming "its roots went all the way to Hell."
Howard Stanton Levey's roots only traced to working-class parents named Mike and Gertrude -- but once he took the name Anton LaVey, he became as mythic a creature as the werewolves and vampires he lectured on. It's said that he was born with a vestigial tail; that he played the organ for a church in the morning and a Sunset District strip club at night and couldn't abide the hypocrisy; that he'd worked as a psychic investigator, a police photographer and a lion tamer. He did have a pet lion named Togare.
On April 30, 1966 -- Walpurgisnacht, the witches' sabbath -- LaVey founded the Church of Satan. Two decades and countless publicity stunts later, the movement had people so worried they decided Mister Ed's theme song, "A Horse Is a Horse," was "Someone sung this song for Satan" rendered backward. Teenagers staged a burning of Mister Ed records.
They were perhaps taking it all a bit too seriously. LaVey's Satanism was more of an armchair deduction: "It occurred to me for many, many years that there was a large gray area between psychiatry and religion that was untapped," he told a documentary film crew in 1968, sipping a cocktail while watching a naked woman offer her body as an altar. "No religion had ever been based on man's carnal needs or his fleshly pursuits. All religions are based on abstinence, rather than indulgence. And all religions therefore have to be based on fear."
Except the devil's own.