Mike Warnke – the evangelical preacher who fraudulently claimed to have once been a Satanic High Priest and helped kick-start the Satanic Panic – warns of the dangers of Samhain.
Mike Warnke was one of the pioneers of what would become known as the Satanic Panic in 1972 when his book The Satan Seller became a best-selling exposé of Satanism from an insider. The book told of how Warnke had been initiated into a Satanic cult at a young age, witnessing orgies, human sacrifice, drug dealing, rape and murder – not to mention summoning actual demons and casting magic spells. He also found time to serve in Vietnam, where he was wounded twice – or possibly five times, depending on when you asked him. On returning to the States, he converted to Christianity and became an evangelist.
Well, that was his story. The book made Warnke an evangelical superstar and he was soon an ordained minister, a touring preacher and a stand-up comedian. Yes, you read that right. Warnke was a ‘top Christian comedian’ – a field in that you might expect not to be hugely overcrowded – and he would become a recording artist, releasing albums that were part autobiography, part comedy and part Satanic hysteria. He became especially in demand on the latter subject in the 1980s when the Satanic panic was in full flow – he appeared on ABC’s 20/20, which ran an episode called The Devil Worshippers in which Warnke talked about the sort of clothes that Satanists wore, showed off a scar that he said was where he was cut during Satanic rituals and generally was exactly what the producers of the hysterical show wanted from a former Satanist – an eyewitness to back up the wild claims that viewers might understandable otherwise find hard to swallow. Warnke would become a darling of the religious Right, working with the likes of Jack Chick and Bob Larson.
Unfortunately, it all fell apart from Warnke in 1991 when his claims of Satanic involvement were exposed as utter hogwash. Amusingly, it was the Christian magazine Cornerstone that carried out the investigation and revealed him as a fraud. They proved that at the time he claimed to be a long-haired, long-fingernailed junkie Devil worshipper, he was actually a preppy square, that Charles Manson was in prison at the time Warnke claimed the pair of them had attended a Satanic ritual together and that Warnke was already involved in Christianity at the time he claimed to be a leader in a cult that numbered some 1500 people. Warnke later reduced this number to thirteen but otherwise stood by his claims despite the huge amount of evidence disproving them. Initially, many people stood by him but as further investigations also revealed evidence of financial misappropriation and tax dodging, his record label dropped him and his ministry closed. Nevertheless, Warnke started to make a comeback on the evangelical trail in 2000, now passing himself off as a Christian martyr who had been unfairly attacked by his own people – and his public appearances would often still refer to him as a former Satanist.
In 1979, Warnke produced the album A Christian Perspective on Halloween, which his record label Word Records disliked and refused to release. Warnke released it independently and also sold copies to Christian radio stations that would broadcast it as a one-off special. You can no doubt imagine the sheer hysteria and nonsense to be found in this recording “from a very famous man who probably knows more about Halloween than anyone else” – a claim as dubious as any Warnke ever made. Opening up with jolly piano music, you could be mistaken for thinking that this will be a fun look at how Halloween is fun ‘n’ all but be careful of the evil aspects, but no – it’s just a mix of a Warnke ego-trip and desperate fretting about dangers that don’t exist.
Gather round, boys and ghouls, and enjoy this slice of Satanic finger-wagging, but remember – it’s all make-believe…
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