Satanism is, by its very design, macabre and uncomforting to the masses. Because of this, it occasionally comes up as a topic in discussions of human peculiarities. As a result, Church of Satan representatives have sometimes accepted invitations to appear in writings, at events, and on talk shows all about the strange and unknown.
Arguably the most famous of these talk shows is Coast to Coast AM. Born out of earlier shows led by Art Bell (1945-2008) in the late 1970s, Coast to Coast AM is a nationally-syndicated radio show on the strange and paranormal. The show’s current host is George Noory. Past Church of Satan guests have included Magistra Blanche Barton and Reverend André Schlesinger. It was a listener of my own podcast, Satansplain, who had recommended me as a guest on Coast to Coast AM. Within a week, the show had contacted me. We set up a time slot, and I was asked to provide a list of fifteen suggested questions to help give them an idea of what I would be “prepared to discuss at length”, some of which ended up being used to help generate conversation. The producer rejected a couple of them and asked me to send in five more.
Coast to Coast AM is not only a live show, but a late night show. Given that I live on the American coast opposite of them, this meant being interviewed between three and five o’clock in the morning. Thanks to some caffeine and oddly-placed naps throughout the day, I managed to get through it.
What I found a little strange about the interview on the whole, was having to reiterate a couple of the same points over and over again. Namely, that Satanism is a non-theistic religion, and that we’re not going to (nor should) change the name. Whether the host just wanted to get through his own entire list of questions regardless of what I said, or he just felt it important to reiterate these two points for listeners who may have tuned in late, I don’t know. I had no direct contact whatsoever with host George Noory aside from the actual on-air conversation; even during commercial breaks guests are essentially put on-hold. To be fair, I guess when one has to do several hours of interviewing new people every night, there’s not a lot of time for side socializing.
The full interview spanned two hours, though minus the commercials ended up being a little over 70 minutes. The first half was just the host and I, then in the second half we took phone calls, interspersed by even more questions from the host.
Many people have been asking me where they can listen to the whole interview. Alas, the episodes themselves are obviously copyright Coast to Coast AM. On-demand playback of previous episodes is, I believe, something they only offer to paid subscribers. However, about 25 minutes of the interview has been made publicly available. You can listen here:
The total number of callers we talked to was, by Satanically poetic coincidence, nine. As these calls were not included in the public sample of the show, I would like to describe them below.
OH HEAR THE CALLS:
- The first caller was a man who called in to praise The Satanic Witch. I corrected him on the author, who was Anton LaVey. The caller had thought for some reason the entire book was written by his daughter, who had only written the introduction in one of the past editions. I also corrected his assumption that the book was out of print, when in fact you can still buy it. Still, I was happy to hear his enthusiasm, and was glad the calls started off on a relatively enjoyable note.
- Omar in Washington called in to babble something about adrenochrome, which neither myself nor the host had heard about. It turned out to be one of many debunked conspiracy theories within the whole “Qanon” phenomenon. The caller also rambed about Archangel Michael. My response was that Batman is a much cooler fictional character.
- A caller named Maria was next. After hearing me explain Satanism that night, she came to the conclusion that she may very well be a Satanist herself! So that was good. I directed her to the site and The Satanic Bible to read more and see where it goes.
- A fellow named Eric called in to sincerely ask about older “Satanic” traditions before LaVey, such as devil worship or Luciferianism or what not, and what book (if any) they used. I explained that while devil worshipers and the accusatory word “satanism” with a small “s” had both been around for centuries, there really wasn’t an actually developed religion calling itself Satanism until the Church of Satan in 1966, but added some thoughts on some prior devil dabblers.
- Norm in St. Louis was somebody who had a near death experience. Nice anecdote, but still not evidence to me of a soul. So I politely explained that while I acknowledge his personal experience was very moving for himself, it’s just another anecdote to me, and while I’m not on the show to convince him he’s wrong, I’m not buying it for myself either. He also expressed confusion as to what I had said in the show earlier regarding the Church of Satan’s policy on politics, as he had seen supposed “Satanists” in the news doing political stunts. My response to this was interrupted with a commercial break, but I was allowed a full response when the show resumed. In this day and age of clickbait articles, we do get asked rather frequently about film maker Cevin Soling’s political stunt group.
- The next caller “just felt compelled” to call, and “didn’t care” who I was, but “knew” I was his “enemy”. He babbled more about God and plugged his website. Which was probably his real reason for calling.
- Then another Eric called, not grasping that I don’t believe in an afterlife. Maybe anybody with access to the full interview should play a drinking game, where you listen to the episode and take a drink every time I explain we don’t believe in deities or an afterlife.
- And now we get to the asshole of the night. Gino called to say he had three questions. Actually, they were four accusations. He used the popular technique of firing off some unfounded accusations, then following up directly with questions, expecting me to just answer the questions and let the initial accusations stand uncontested. First, was that we had picked Satanism “only for shock value”. Second, was that Satanists are “embarrassed to tell you what their [real] names are”. (Knowing that nuts like this would be calling, why would I make it that easy?) Then what he called question number one was, “What would happen if one of your congregation [sic] exposed other people in your congregation”. Second was, “You say you’re a Mah-GHEE-stur,” (yes, that’s how he pronounced it, rhyming with “keister”, despite the host pronouncing “Magister” correctly throughout the show), and “What did you have to do get that title, or did you make that up too?!?” Third was, “What commandments do you have? What are the commands of your say-so religion?”, with more accusations thrown in like, “You’re just doing what you want and calling it a religion.” I quickly jotted down his accusations and loaded questions as he babbled away in his ignorance and self-righteousness. Then it was my turn for a rebuttal.
I explained that no, we didn’t choose the name Satanism just for shock value. I reiterated the point I make in the recording of each and every episode of Satansplain: Satan is an apt metaphor for what we actually believe in. I explained the hierarchy titles and how and why they get granted. I explained that members who try to maliciously expose personal information of other members will find themselves kicked out. I explained that our “Commandments”, as far as an itemized list for what we’re about, can be seen in the 9 Statements, 11 Rules of the Earth, and 9 Sins. But wow, what an asshole.
- Ryan called to say he was making his first call into a radio show, ever. He mentioned he had worked in a prison, and told a short story about a “temple” of some sort built in the prison to accommodate the religious choice of prisoner “Satanists”. I thought he was going to ask about the Church of Satan’s stance on prison amnesty. Instead, he asked about how big the Church of Satan membership numbers were. I gave the answer.
The host then finished with questions about the membership fee, and if we had a pope. I answered. Finally he asked, “If we were to interview him [Magus Peter H. Gilmore], would he echo most of the things you’ve just said tonight?” I said yes. After a pause, the host replied, “Interesting take.” I’m not sure what to make of that. While it wasn’t my best interview experience, it was hardly the worst. I’m sure to George Noory I was just one of thousands of strange and eccentric people he has interviewed throughout the years. But I’m still proud to have been part of a wild and historic show that has a legacy on interviewing the fringes of the human experience.
Thanks again to Bogues for dropping them my name!
—Magister Bill M.