Anton LaVey

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Anton Szandor LaVey (born Howard Stanton Levey, 11 April, 193029 October, 1997), was the founder and High Priest of the Church of Satan, author of The Satanic Bible, founder of the philosophy known as LaVeyan Satanism.

He claimed no supernatural “inspiration” for this religion, but rather synthesized his understanding of human nature and the insights of earlier philosophers who advocated materialism and individualism.


Born in Chicago, Illinois, as Howard Stanton Levey, the son of a liquor distributor, his parents soon relocated to California where LaVey spent most of his life (in the San Francisco Bay Area). His ancestry was a mixture of French, Alsatian, German, Russian, and Romanian stock. His parents were Jewish but "in no way religious", and supported the development of his musical abilities as he tried his hand at various instruments. Mainly attracted to the keyboards, he could reproduce songs heard by ear.

In his youth, Anton developed an interest in dark literature and legends, from his eastern European grandmother's tales, and classics such as Dracula and Frankenstein. He also read horror and science fiction pulp magazines, the works of Jack London, and became interested in historical figures such as Cagliostro, Rasputin and Basil Zaharoff. He dismissed the available occult literature, seeing white magic as sanctimonious, and focused on hypnotism and manuals for handwriting analysis.

A conscientious outsider, LaVey never desired to be “one of the boys”. He despised gym class and team sports and often cut classes to follow his own interests. He watched films and took his role models from the hard-boiled anti-heroes of American film noir, and was impressed with the cinematographic techniques of German expressionist films such as M, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Hitlerjunge Quex, Morgenrot and the Dr. Mabuse films.

LaVey dropped out of high school in his junior year, and purportedly ended up working in the circus and carnivals, first as a roustabout and cage boy in an act with the big cats, later as a musician playing the calliope, though none of the circuses he claimed to work for have any record of his employment. Seeing many of the same men attending both the bawdy Saturday nights shows as well as the tent revivalists on Sunday mornings supported his cynical view of religion. He later had many stints as an organist in bars, lounges, and nightclubs. While playing organ in Los Angeles area burlesque houses, he claimed to have had a brief affair with the still-unknown Marilyn Monroe, but that was later disproved by Anton's former wife Diane LaVey when she admitted to signing the Monroe calendar Anton used as his proof of his affair. It was also disproved by Harry Lipton, Monroe's agent at the time.

The legend that LaVey moved back to San Francisco and worked for awhile as a photographer for the Police Department is false due to the fact that The San Francisco Police Department have no record of a Howard Levey or Anton Lavey ever working there. He was involved in underground Zionist groups in San Francisco which helped smuggle arms to the Irgun during the Israeli War of Independence. Another rumor that Anton was avoiding the draft during the Korean War, by enrolling in San Francisco City College as a criminology major is also proven false as SFCC has no record of him ever attending that college. He met and married Carole Lansing, who bore him his first daughter, Karla Maritza LaVey, in 1952.

During the 1950s, LaVey worked as a “psychic investigator,” investigating “nut calls” referred to him by the police department. In 1959, LaVey met and became entranced by Diane Hegarty, and divorced Carol in 1960. Hegarty and LaVey never married, but was his companion for many years, and she bore his second daughter, Zeena Galatea LaVey in 1964. Becoming a local celebrity through his “ghost busting,” and live performances as an organist (including playing the Wurlitzer at the Lost Weekend cocktail lounge), he would attract many San Francisco notables to his parties. Guests included Carin de Plessin, Michael Harner, Chester A. Arthur III, Forrest J. Ackerman, Fritz Leiber, Dr. Cecil E. Nixon, and Kenneth Anger.

LaVey began presenting Friday night lectures on the occult to what he called a “Magic Circle” of associates who shared his interests. A member of this circle suggested that he had the basis for a new religion. On Walpurgisnacht, 30 April, 1966, he ritualistically shaved his head, declared the founding of the Church of Satan and proclaimed 1966 as "the year One", Anno Satanas—the first year of the Age of Satan. Media attention followed the subsequent Satanic wedding ceremony of Radical journalist John Raymond to New York socialite Judith Case on February 1st, 1967 (photographed by Joe Rosenthal). The San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times were among the newspapers that printed articles dubbing him "The Black Pope".

On May 23rd, LaVey performed a rite of Satanic baptism for three-year-old Zeena. In December, 1967, a Satanic funeral was conducted for naval officer Edward Olsen (complete with a chrome-helmeted honor guard in attendance). In 1968, a record album titled The Satanic Mass was released, featuring a cover graphic LaVey named the “Sigil of Baphomet". It featured part of Zeena's rite of baptism, in addition to the LaVey reading excerpts from, the as-yet-unpublished, The Satanic Bible over music by Beethoven, Wagner, and Sousa.

At the end of 1969, LaVey melded philosophical influences from Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Mencken, and Jack London with the philosophy and ritual practices of the Church of Satan into essays introduced with reworked excerpts from Ragnar Redbeard’s Might is Right and concluded it with “Satanized” versions of John Dee’s Enochian Keys to create The Satanic Bible. It was followed in 1971 by The Compleat Witch (rereleased in 1989 as The Satanic Witch), a manual of “Lesser Magic” (reading and manipulating people) compiling the teachings of his “Witches’ Workshops” (using glamour, feminine wiles, and the exploitation of men’s fetishes). A companion volume to The Satanic Bible called The Satanic Rituals was published in 1972. LaVey was the subject of numerous articles in the news media throughout the world, popular magazines such as Look, McCall's, Newsweek, and TIME, in men’s magazines, and on talk shows such as Joe Pyne, Phil Donahue, and Johnny Carson. LaVey performed rituals and explained the philosophy of the Church in a feature length documentary called Satanis: The Devil's Mass in 1969. LaVey attracted a number of associates, including celebrities such as Jayne Mansfield, Sammy Davis Jr., King Diamond, Robert Fuest, Jacques Vallee, Aime Michel, Boyd Rice, and Marilyn Manson.

Hegarty and LaVey separated in the mid-1980s. She sued for palimony and the claim was settled out of court. A Bay area TV station reported they had a "devil" of a time deciding who should receive certain items.

LaVey’s final companion was Blanche Barton, who bore him his only son, Satan Xerxes Carnacki LaVey on November 1, 1993. She succeeded him as the head of the Church after his death.

An eclectic individual, LaVey was fond of music, painting, antique automobiles, firearms, and animals (particularly the big cats). He was an accomplished musician and made recordings of traditional music on which he played all the instruments on his keyboard synthesizers. LaVey also painted as a hobby throughout his life.

Anton LaVey died on October 29, 1997, in St. Mary's Hospital, San Francisco of pulmonary edema. He was taken to St. Mary's, a Catholic hospital, because it was the closest available. In keeping with his love of show, his family deliberately listed the time of his death incorrectly as the morning of Halloween, two days after the fact. They kept his death secret for a week, as they said, so as not to ruin for his followers their enjoyment of the festival of Halloween. A secret Satanic funeral for LaVey, invitation only, was held in Colma, and his body was cremated. He was 67 years old at the time of his death. His ashes were not buried, but were eventually divided amongst his heirs as part of a settlement, on the assumption that they possess occult potency, and can be used for acts of Satanic ritual magic. His obituary was carried in newspapers around the world.


In 1998, estranged daughter Zeena Schreck and her husband Nicolas Schreck released a document titled "Anton LaVey: Legend and Reality". It claims LaVey deliberately misrepresented a number of the facts of his life. In "The Georges Montalba Mystery", LaVey’s biographer, Blanche Barton, replies to these accusations.

The San Francisco tabloid SF Weekly published a cover story on June 17, 1998 by Jack Boulware called "Has the Church of Satan Gone to Hell?" It was later reprinted in issue 50 of Gnosis, a now-defunct esoteric journal.

It could be argued that LaVey's eclectic mix of philosophies constitutes a form of pseudophilosophy.

Books by LaVey

Books featuring writings by LaVey

Books about LaVey


  • Invocation of my Demon Brother (short, uncredited role as Satan, 1969)
  • Satanis: The Devil's Mass (featured, 1970; released on DVD by Something Weird Video, 2003)
  • The Devil's Rain (technical advisor, role as High Priest, 1975)
  • The Car (creative consultant, 1977)
  • Doctor Dracula, aka Svengali in the USA (technical advisor, 1981)
  • Charles Manson Superstar (research consultant, 1989)
  • Deathscenes (narrator/host, 1989)
  • Speak of the Devil (featured, 1995)

Recordings of Anton LaVey

  • The Satanic Mass, LP (Murgenstrumm Records, 1968; re-released on CD with one bonus track, "Hymn of the Satanic Empire, or The Battle Hymn of the Apocalypse," by Amarillo Records, 1994; Mephisto Media, 2001)
  • Answer Me/Honolulu Baby, 7" single (Amarillo Records, 1993)
  • Strange Music, 10"EP (Amarillo Records, 1994; now available through Reptilian Records)
  • Satan Takes A Holiday, CD (Amarillo Records, 1995; now available through Reptilian Records)

External links


Writings by LaVey

Interviews with LaVey

About LaVey

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