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Following in the footsteps of British occultist Aleister Crowley, Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan with an impressive talent for showmanship.

In 1966, a young American occultist named Anton LaVey founded the Church of Satan in California. While the name of his church alone was controversial, that was just the beginning.

From hosting wild orgies to publishing a Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey became infamous in the press as the “Black Pope” and the “evilest man in the world.” Though LaVey was actually an atheist at heart, he wanted to celebrate Satan as a symbol of human liberation and freedom. And since he was a natural showman, he also enjoyed getting a rise out of people.

Following in the footsteps of controversial British occultist Aleister Crowley, LaVey used theatricality to promote his church — to huge success.

Even Anton LaVey’s physical appearance was stark and memorable. He stood over six feet tall with a clean-shaven head and the goatee of a movie villain. His intriguing allure bred a devoted following and even sparked rumors that he portrayed the Devil in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.

He lived in a pitch-black Victorian house in San Francisco, which became the headquarters of his newfound Church of Satan. It was a turning point for the hippie generation’s carefree spirit, which became fertile ground for alternative religions — like LaVey’s mission to spread the word of Satan.

But before LaVey became an entrancing figure of America’s counterculture movement of the 1960s, he came from humble beginnings. While the “father of Satanism” was never an angel, he grew up in modest conditions before he made the fateful decision to nurture a hedonist flock. This is his story.

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