Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan

Published Nov. 11, 1997|Updated Oct. 2, 2005

Anton Szandor LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan and played the devil in the movie Rosemary's Baby, has died. He was 67.

Mr. LaVey, dubbed the "Black Pope," died of pulmonary edema Oct. 29 after years of heart problems.

"We will continue in his footsteps to do as he directed to keep the Church of Satan going and keep it strong," daughter Karla LaVey said.

Born in Chicago, Mr. LaVey was a man of many interests. He worked over the years as a lion trainer, professional organist, crime photographer, artist, hypnotist and psychic. But he was always drawn to the unexplored and unexplained, family members said.

He founded the Church of Satan in 1966 and made national headlines the next year for performing a satanic wedding, then baptizing his first daughter in the Church of Satan.

But Mr. LaVey's brand of Satanism was not about evil or animal and child sacrifice, family members said. It was more about rational freethinking and a disdain for the hypocrisy he believed corrupted Christianity.

He preached living for the day, instead of for an afterlife that nobody can prove exists, they said. He did not believe in the devil as an anthropomorphic being with horns and a tail, but rather as a Jungian archetype conjured up by mankind.

"My father was considered by some as the world's most dangerous man, but he would never hurt a living thing," Karla LaVey said. "My father loved animals and children."

Still, Mr. LaVey played the image to the hilt. He was often seen walking around the neighborhood, bald head gleaming, black cape flapping. For years, he kept a lion and a tarantula as pets, and he spent hours each day playing eerie organ music that could be heard on the sidewalk outside his home.

The family home, a late 1800s Victorian hidden behind a chain link and barbed wire fence, is painted black throughout with red ceilings, pentagrams and satanic statuettes. Daggers and skulls hang on the walls next to a coffin with a plastic owl perched on top.

He wrote five books, including The Satanic Bible. There are more than 1-million copies in print combined. Each has been translated into nearly every major language.

His final book, Satan Speaks, is scheduled for release next spring.