Ever since his death in 1997, many have wondered: who was Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan? While LaVey gave a thorough account of his life in The Secret Life of a Satanist: The Authorized Biography of Anton LaVey, many of the details were later refuted by a particular journalist who decided to delve into the life of LaVey. While it is difficult to extract the truth from a dead man, one thing is for certain: Anton LaVey was a showman who founded the Church of Satan and brought Satanism to Hollywood.
Howard Stanton LaVey was born in Chicago, IL, on April 11, 1930, to parents Michael Joseph LaVey and Gertrude Augusta Coultron. The LaVey family moved to San Francisco when Anton was still a child and he remained there for the rest of his life, eventually turning his childhood home into the Church of Satan headquarters. Aside from those basic facts - and even those particulars were sensationalized and wholly changed by LaVey - little is known about his life and accomplishments. The details are all a bit strange, but Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey facts, myths, and stories will leave you as captivated as a newly recruited member of Satan's league.
The Church of Satan was founded in April 1966 by LaVey. LaVey’s religious beliefs began when he was playing the piano at burlesque clubs on Saturday evenings and Christian tent revivals on Sunday mornings. LaVey noticed many of the attendants were the same at both events, which led him to being quite cynical about Christianity and the hypocrisy amongst people who practiced it.
LaVey began holding weekly seminars on the occult at his home along with what he referred to as “witches workshops." Satanism was involved in these early workshops and eventually LaVey named the group the Order of the Trapezoid, which years later would be renamed the Church of Satan. With beliefs inspired by Aleister Crowley and Ayn Rand, the Church of Satan consisted of atheists who did not worship the devil nor believed in him. But those beliefs don’t cause any of the controversies which LaVey included into his Church of Satan - it was the dark nature of the occult combined with LaVey's mysterious life and practices that grabbed people's attention, and would eventually spread throughout the world.
According to LaVey, he had met a young and unknown Marilyn Monroe in 1948 while he was working at a burlesque theater called the Mayan in Los Angeles; LaVey was in the band and Monroe was one of the performers, stripping to his music. LaVey claimed he wasn't paying too much attention to Monroe until he noticed bruises all over her thighs, which made her more attractive to him.
LaVey said they started an intimate relationship soon after which lasted for at least two weeks. During that time, the two lived together at a motel on Washington Avenue in Los Angeles. As proof of his relationship with Monroe, LaVey owned a copy of Monroe's Golden Dreams calendar, which featured a nude Monroe with the following handwritten note:
"Dear Tony, How many times have you seen this! Love, Marilyn."
There has been much speculation regarding the relationship between actress Jayne Mansfield and LaVey. Photos were taken of Mansfield and LaVey together in 1966, leading many to believe that they were apparently friends, if not more. LaVey's former girlfriend, Blanche Barton, has even gone on record stating that the two were lovers at one time. However, despite LaVey's people claiming there was indeed a relationship between the two, Mansfield's people report the opposite. A publicity agent by the name of Tony Kent later claimed he arranged the meeting between Mansfield and LaVey as a publicity stunt.
According to LaVey's biography, in order to avoid a draft from the army, he enrolled at San Francisco's City College and studied criminology. From there, he became a forensic photographer for the San Francisco Police Department. During this LaVey saw many gruesome photographs, such as children's deaths from hit-and-run accidents and many gory pictures of murder victims. It was at this time LaVey decided that there was no God because if there were, he wouldn't allow disturbing things to happen, such as what LaVey was witnessing.
For a 1991 Rolling Stone interview with LaVey, journalist Lawrence Wright contacted the San Francisco Police Department to ask about LaVey's career as a forensic photographer. He was told by the department that they had no record of LaVey working for them. LaVey told Wright that the department probably destroyed his employment record "to avoid embarrassment."