On May 9, 1969, Thomas H. Lipscomb of Prentice-Hall Publishers wrote a letter to Anton LaVey. His purpose was to pass on a glowing report he’d received from Marcello Truzzi, one that lit him up with the kind of editorial fervor that only the discovery of a hot, new writer can bring. Lipscomb invited LaVey to submit a manuscript or even just some ideas for book projects as soon as possible. “What I’d like to do is provide you with the influential forum for your views that trade book [hardcover] publishing allows.” For the author of The Satanic Bible, this was music to his somewhat-pointed ears, and LaVey wrote back in June to thank Lipscomb for his interest, refer him to the Hamilburg Agency and to return the compliments of their mutual friend Marcello. Lipscomb was encouraged to get in touch during an impending trip to San Francisco, and LaVey sent along a copy of The Satanic Mass LP. At this point, The Satanic Bible was still six months from publication, but The Satanic Mass contained a healthy portion of what had comprised LaVey’s occult writings to date.
At 32 years of age, Tom Lipscomb was the Boy Wonder of editors, one of the youngest in the field. Prior to his stint as editor-in-chief at Prentice-Hall, he’d been an editor with Stein & Day, and before that, Bobbs-Merrill.
Lipscomb’s enthusiasm and charm and his skills at persuasion were more than evident in his letter of July 1st, which began with the playful complaint that LaVey and his agency representative had simultaneously referred him to each other. “It looks like a diabolical plot to make me die of frustration and I want to warn you that I have placed a large pentagram around my office.”
After confirming that Avon was a very good paperback house and that he’d certainly want to maintain that association should future projects indicate it, Lipscomb went on to describe how he’d like to begin their working relationship:
“First of all I would like to hear your own ideas for future books, and then I will propose several. I generally do this, first of all because I’m lazy and will happily help you perfect one of your own ideas if it looks workable rather than originate something. But I also like to see the directions of your thought and the best way to do that for people who can’t sit down together and talk, is to have an exchange.” Keep in mind: Lipscomb hadn’t actually read LaVey’s writing at this point. From this paragraph, it feels like he’s thinking of how to package LaVey as a celebrity writer who may not have all that much to say for himself. He quickly learned otherwise.
He went on: “Thank you for the poster and the record. In a publishing house that makes several million dollars with Katherine Kuhlman’s and Norman Vincent Peale’s divine ruminations you can imagine what a stir the appearance of the competition has caused.” Kuhlman was an evangelist and Peale was a minister and popular author. Clearly, the S-word was not going to be a problem for Lipscomb.
LaVey was happy to comply with Lipscomb’s invitation and responded immediately, slipping merrily into the banter that would characterize their entire relationship:
“You can remove the pentagram (they don’t work anyway!). I’ve lifted the frustration spell and instructed my favorite demon to wisk [sic] away the ‘confusion powder’ he placed in your shoes. The prospect of the Devil getting his due in the company of a couple of his better-known detractors — Peale and Kuhlman — was too much for my Machiavellian pragmatism. So I’ve sat down and collected my fiendish thoughts.
“The next book I would like to do is a manual of applied witchery for every woman. This is a subject that, as you know, is the end result of all the studies and dabblings by women in the realm of the occult. If such a book were to exist, actually telling the secrets of female enchantment — the REAL secrets of fascination — every woman (and man) would want to read it. This book would eliminate all of the redundant ‘charm school’ success secrets. Instead, it would contain the most far-out, tabooed, underhanded, sneaky tricks imaginable — the ‘tricks’ necessary to compel men and control situations.
“The reason no one else has ever done such a work is simply because of the existing taboos brought about by our long-standing, Judeo-Christian tenets of propriety. Those few who have violated these standards — either accidentally or on purpose — have been my teachers, the results of such outrages being readily observable.
“Any woman can become a witch — a REAL witch — if she will apply the correct techniques and learn the right formulas. In this book will be found such topics as: my ‘Law of the Forbidden’; the right colors to turn on or turn off a man, relative to his personality; how to ‘type’ men for manipulative purposes; the importance of odors — and not the kind that come out of tiny bottles; the right food to serve the right man; music to charm — and banish; how to fall out of love; turning ‘beauty’ into ‘ugliness’ for the best results; the ideal time to cast a magical spell; the virtues of embarrassment; the ‘id’ side on the outside; love potions; etc.
“The fact that I am a Satanist and, to many, the very Devil himself, gives me the proper pedigree to write such a book, which will surely cause the Mrs. Grundys, young and old alike, to roll their eyes heavenward and set their brittle tongues a’wagging in condemnation. One thing is certain, though, it will give EVERYONE who reads it quite a bit to think about, and many women will never quite be the same! I would like to call the book ‘Practical Witchcraft for Women, or How to Trap a Man Through Witchcraft.’ Are you interested?”
Lipscomb responded within a week — by now it was the latter part of July 1969 — to say that he was very much interested and to start pushing LaVey around. “Your witch book sounds on right target [sic] to me and it could definitely profit from a general promotion and subsidiary rights campaign. I think I might like to title it THE COMPLEAT WITCH, OR WHAT TO DO WHEN VIRTUE FAILS.”
It’s pretty clear that Lipscomb knew a hot property when he saw one and wanted to nail down the rights to LaVey’s book immediately. The best way to do this is usually to bring up money. “So let us get to the root of all evil: how much? ...Frankly, I hate to give out advance money and I do it with an eye to the starvation level on which an author may just barely subsist and still deliver a manuscript. I much prefer to use our money for advertising and promotion and to snag some high reprint and subsidiary rights sales, which benefits authors and publishers a great deal more.
“But I suppose I will have to give the devil his due. How much dues do you want?”
Nothing if not completely honest in the most disarming of fashions, Lipscomb went on to describe his working method. “As a further note about myself, there are basically two kinds of editors: the first will do anything an author wants and would never think of arguing with his author (he is generally much beloved by his authors and frequently unemployed); the second is a son of a bitch who insists on serving the author’s best interests as he sees it, whether the author likes it or not. I think I fall more into the second category. But there’s nothing I like more than getting together with an author on a project and bringing it through with him.”
At this point Lipscomb had not read The Satanic Bible or even LaVey’s Letters To the Devil columns.
It took a month for LaVey to pen a response, but it wasn’t out of lack of interest. Sylva Romano, LaVey’s representative at his literary agency, had contacted Lipscomb on June 17, but her letter was something of a handoff, simply stating that LaVey was a writer of contemporary interest and that they should “exchange ideas.” Her next letter to LaVey on July 23rd covered issues with The Satanic Bible, and had nary a word about The Compleat Witch project. He wrote back to her immediately, describing his ideas for the witch book and asking about advances, rights, and if he should even be discussing these items with an editor when he had an agency representing him. He was quite clear in his enthusiasm for working with Tom Lipscomb over William Targ, the editor at Putnam’s who would ultimately turn down the hardcover Satanic Bible: “Targ seems reticent to stick his neck out concerning blasphemous statements against organized religion, socio-political implications, and our society’s moral code in general. As you know, I’m not one to pull in my horns, and practically anything I write would be rather blasphemous in one way or another. I, as well as the general public, am fed up with the trite, sanctimonious drivel that is on the market on the subject of witchcraft and Satanism. I don’t think there is much need for additional books which simply rehash the same old bunk. Lipscomb, on the other hand, seems to delight in (as he says) using P-H’s ‘good Christian money’ to shed a little light (or darkness) on the subject of Satanism and other areas of the occult.”
He had passed the encouraging letter from Lipscomb on to his contacts at the Hamilburg Agency, fervently requesting a quick response and a suggestion as to what to ask for as an advance. He’d received no feedback, and decided to move forward on his own — as with The Satanic Bible, he was feeling the pressure of a marketplace that was exploding with occult titles and he didn’t want to be seen as bringing up the rear, especially when his thoughts about true female witchcraft were so unique and sure to stir the cauldron.
On August 23rd, he wrote:
“First, I’d like to say I’m delighted with your title suggestion. It’s sure to appeal to both the occult and ‘straight’ market. As we know, in this new Satanic Age, virtue fails more often than not, and I’m sure the ladies would like instructions on alternative tactics — and the men will, of course, want to arm themselves against their attack or else know the delights awaiting them when in the hands of the shedevils.”
Lipscomb had requested the texts for LaVey’s infamous lecture series — both men were confident they could fashion one or more new properties out of the lectures taking place every week at the Black House, on a wide variety of occult and esoteric topics. But LaVey had to demur:
“In reference to your request for my lecture notes for the dates you listed, I don’t know if I’m proud or embarrassed to say: I have none! Unless you consider a 3’ X 5’ card with key words scrawled on it ‘lecture notes.’ Several of my disciples claim that they just wind me up or put a nickel in me and I’m good for a couple of hours. I have never been known to have stage-fright, nor am I one to become mildly interested in a subject. If something strikes a receptive chord in me, I plunge headlong into the study of it — collecting everything I can get my hands on and soaking up information like a blotter. You might say I have a ‘photographic’ memory, so when lecturing I merely need a few words to remind myself of the rather obscure details I might otherwise forget. This, combined with file cabinets crammed with clippings, photos, pamphlets, essays, and all sorts of strange and unusual odds and ends — from a private diary kept by a vampire (truly, I’m almost not kidding), to gris-gris pouches and shrunken heads — I manage to keep them coming back week after week. So, I’m afraid if you were hoping for actual outlines, I can’t comply. Let me assure you, though, when given the proper incentive, I can shuffle my files (and my brain) and come up with a suitable, well organized ‘diatribe’ on any of the subjects in which you have expressed interest and which I intend to use in my book for witches. Frankly, most of the material I’ll use will come from my own experimentation and invention. So most of what I would send you, if I were to send anything, would be stuff that I have long since weeded out and taken only those parts which have proven useful.”
LaVey went on to finally quote the dreaded number that he wanted for an advance — $5,000 — and to say that he was going to get in touch with The National Insider to ask them to forward copies of his column so that Lipscomb could get an idea of his writing style. It seems inconceivable, or at least very strange, to a modern reader, to hear that an author wouldn’t have copies of his published writing at hand, or at least in a form he could bring to a copy store. Maybe such things weren’t easily available, or were cost-prohibitive, in 1969. “Even if you have received the manuscript for my Bible, you would have only the sketchiest idea of my style and subject matter, as the Bible had to be written in a more formal and timeless fashion than my next book. On the other hand, I fully realize that anything I would write for the Insider would have to be tamed down for a broader market — for my personal amusement I often ‘put on’ the readers of that lurid tabloid (this I particularly delight in, since most of the readers are less than mental giants, and undoubtedly take me seriously), with instruction on Satanic toilet meditation, step-by-step tutoring on how to masturbate for fun and profit without ‘going crazy’, and other such subjects which would hardly do for the fine people who buy your wares. But, by the same token, the book is sure to make ‘witches’ like Sybil Leek blanche [sic] from the roots of their unkempt hair to the hem of their sexless robes, because of its no-nonsense, shocking advice. All ‘white’ witches will denounce me, of this I am certain — but the secretary, shop girl, coed, housewife, etc. will bless me, as will all enchantresses who are worthy of the name.”
A few days later, LaVey wrote directly to Mike Hamilburg at the agency, observing that he’d been waiting six weeks for a word from Sylva about the witch book, and had decided to take matters into his own hands. “I wrote to Lipscomb directly, quoted an advance figure and told him I would be dealing with him personally instead of through an agent, because I valued his interest and would not consider imposing on his good nature with inefficiencies in my dealings with him.”
This must have lit something of an infernal fire under a few seats at the agency, as a letter from Sylva swiftly dropped through the slot at Central. “I had a nice conversation with Thomas Lipscomb this morning. I think all the bridges of communication have now been mended. Lipscomb apparently did not receive my letter [THAT old chestnut?-PN], which we agreed was probably intercepted by a Judeo-Christian angel... Lipscomb is eagerly awaiting the expanded outline, which I told him he would have shortly. I told him that even at this early stage I would like to discuss the forthcoming book with European publishers when I go to the Frankfurt Book Fair... I’m so glad that the unfortunate misunderstanding has been cleared up. Onward!”
Onward, indeed. Tom Lipscomb’s letter of September 3rd mentions that although he never did get that copy of The Satanic Bible from the Hamilburg Agency, Nancy Coffey at Avon allowed him to peek at the manuscript itself. “I’m afraid it is a bit too formal for Trade publication, but... should do very well indeed in paperback.”
He continued: ”I’m glad you like my suggested title for the witch book. I think it has the virtue of not looking like a ‘how to’ book (you’d be surprised how many N. Y. girls tell you seriously they are already witches, and would be insulted by a ‘how to’ title), and yet also a twist that will pick up both occultists and the general market.” Lipscomb did affirm that he was going to need something more than a bright idea to get the project approved by his editorial board. “I have no doubt that you are going to bring off a delightful book, but then I am not going to be sending you a personal check for $5,000 either, and you are going to frighten some of our more sacrosanct souls, aren’t you? So give me 2 pages of ‘selling material’ and a general curse on my corporate enemies and I’ll get you your $5,000. I wouldn’t bother you for this ammunition if I didn’t need it. As soon as I get the outline I will staff the book and get right back to you, so we can get to work.”
On September 15th, LaVey sent off the outline for The Compleat Witch to Sylva Romano: “Here it is! I’ll be looking forward to hearing what you think of it. It would be terrific if you could get magazine serialization on it — it’ll make Sex and the Single Girl look like Mother Goose, but maybe Helen Gurley Brown will go for it.” An excerpt did appear in the November 1970 issue of Cosmopolitan, achieving cover blurb status (”The Compleat Witch: Time-Tested Ways to Cast a Spell Over a Man!”) alongside articles about virginity, pregnancy, abortion, body language, Elliott Gould and Joan Kennedy.
Sylva responded that she thought he’d done a fine job on the outline, and LaVey wrote back in October to acknowledge her praise. “I think I’ll enjoy writing it, because this type of thing offers me far more freedom in style and subject matter than the Bible, which had to be written in a rather formal, dateless fashion.” He went on to say that he was tentatively planning a trip to both Detroit and New York, and was hoping to meet with his Avon contacts and do some promotion for The Satanic Bible. The Detroit leg of the trip was originally going to include LaVey’s appearance at a large rock festival on Halloween, where LaVey would open the evening by reading an invocation from The Satanic Bible.
At the same time, Lipscomb had sent off the contract to the Hamilburg Agency and sat down to pen a longish letter to LaVey to explain aspects of it, and to discuss his working style.
“I am one of the last of the old-time editors. This means that when I get a manuscript from an author, I do not merely rustle the pages, see if I am praised lavishly enough in the acknowledgements and then send it off to the printer muttering ‘it’s the writer’s ass on the line, anyway.’
“I edit, and in your case it is going to be a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. You are undeniably brilliant, witty and full of all the requisite information, but your style, quite frankly, resembles more that of a medieval Christian theologian at times than of a minion of the angel of light. So we will have to search out a style together: a style natural to you, and a style that brings your writing as close to the quality of your speech as possible. You must have complete freedom and complete control. Neither is possible without the other, for as you know from carnival days, in order to freely exploit audiences, a pitchman must have complete control over what it thinks, feels and wonders. And how many poets, writers, etc. have admitted that they consider themselves as much mountebank as artist!”
But what was such careful husbandry of a new writer worth to an editor? Aside from bringing glory upon the publishing house that employs them, very little. Editors jump from house to house, and it was as true then as it is now, as we will see shortly. Lipscomb knew what glory tasted like between two slices of bread — he wanted money.
“What does this cost you? (For one never gets something for nothing, even or especially, from a friend.)” He went on to explain how he’d recently wangled giving “one of the most famous men in America” a greatly-reduced advance with the promise of his advanced skills in marketing foreign rights, and wound up tripling the man’s total sales abroad and setting a record for the highest price ever paid for translation rights in one instance.
“In your case, I have sent Sylva [at Hamilburg] a contract for precisely what you asked for in your letter: an advance of $5,000 with our standard royalty terms which are better than some publishers and worse than none.
“To be blunt, where Sylva will no doubt have palpitations of the liver is in the subsidiary rights section of the contract. In that area (in return for services rendered and in order to kindle my selfish interests in making your book succeed), I have asked for a healthy chunk of rights income. My feeling is that since I will be killing myself to make income in that part of the contract (not always a sure thing by any means), I deserve to be cut in properly. I do not sign contracts, like many publishers, for books in which I do not have a decent share of rights. ...The publishing contract does bind author and publisher together to mutual benefit. If you don’t make money, I don’t make money, and the more I make, the more you make. ...At least you are forewarned.”
Lipscomb went on to assure LaVey that he was happy with the outline and ready to get to work. He cautioned his author against talking about the witch book publicly. “You may think that you are creating advance publicity and you are, but sooner than you can say ELOHIM upside down and backwards, some hack will be grinding out your idea and selling it to a paperback house for a lousy $1,000 to keep his 67 year old common law wife from turning him in to the cops.” He further urged him to “keep your publicity posture lower and lower until we tell you to bust loose.” Not a very realistic suggestion, given that The Satanic Bible was two months away from hitting the stands and LaVey would certainly be promoting it everywhere he could!
LaVey got right back to him, but just to confirm that he’d be in New York from November 3rd through November 6th, after a stop in Detroit, where he visited with Marcello Truzzi but did NOT attend the rock extravaganza.
On November 6th, Lipscomb wrote to LaVey to express his pleasure at meeting both Anton and Diane LaVey when they visited New York. “Everything Marcello said about you was true enough and it is hard to live up to that kind of advance billing.” He went on to talk about the contract negotiations for the witch book that were transpiring between himself and Sylva Romano at Hamilburg. “I have told Sylva that I’m willing to back off that far and no farther, and I’m not bluffing. ... I think it would be a rotten shame if she keeps us from getting together by foolishly insisting on unreasonable terms. We’ve done a lot of work thus far that she’s had nothing to do with and it is not as if she either directed the book to me, or introduced us to each other. ...I hope you still feel the way you did the other day and will be willing to get her to stop quibbling and get us to work. Time is very important. This is, after all, a vogue and we must work fast to catch it at its crest.”
Lipscomb included a copy of his letter to Sylva and it pulled no punches. While repeatedly stressing that he believed the book could be successful, and that he could be an important part of that success, Lipscomb didn’t hand out any undue accolades. “It is not going to win the National Book Award, and Prentice-Hall is making quite a step (in the right direction) by taking it on... while you may get better terms elsewhere, you’re not going to have as big a success or make as much money in the end... while I would be sorry to lose this (particularly after creating the project, titling it, and shaping it, gratis), I’m not in business to bankrupt P-H to the greater glory of my friends.” Aware that his claim to creating The Compleat Witch might not exactly endear him to LaVey, Lipscomb made an annotation on the copy: “This is an exaggeration, obviously, but I do want to make the point to Sylva that you and I did a lot of work before she started throwing sand in the gears. I have revised the contract exactly as I discussed it with you at the Barbizon Plaza.”
Lipscomb’s letter to Sylva winds up with this stalwart claim: “I have been a good deal more than a printer in this case and I don’t expect to be offered a printer’s wages.”
Not surprisingly, LaVey had a few things to say about all this, and on November 17th, he wrote:
“While I realize you named the book, and am grateful to you for the clever title, it was my idea and I lack sufficient altruism to give you credit for ‘creating the project’ and ‘shaping it.’ Whatever work you’ve done on your end I’ll gladly acknowledge and appreciate, but I worked hard on the outline, which aside from your wondrous salesmanship abilities illustrated by being able to sell it to the fine old conservative firm of Prentice-Hall, Inc., might have helped in P-H’s decision to handle it. When it comes to ego games, I usually win — after all, with 7,000 + adoring disciples how could I [be] a lesser egomaniac than you! Now are you convinced I’m an evil man?”
Apart from defending his status as the book’s creator, LaVey’s letter begins to touch upon some of the topics that will become part of The Compleat Witch. “I’ve begun work on the book, and being the good, healthy fetishist I am, the first part to be completed is the one on the anatomy of the high heel. I have almost finished ‘The Definition of a True Witch.’ I’ll probably jump around like this and write the part that strikes my fancy at the moment, as it’s the only way I can get the best results in my writing. So I’ll send you a few parts every now and then as I finish them, that way you can do any editing as we go along, which will save time for any final work we might have to do after the entire manuscript is completed... I am just assuming that we will be working together, I haven’t actually signed the contract yet.”
Continuing to describe his personal method of setting his own productivity goals, as many writers do, LaVey explains: “In my daily life it is necessary to have ‘excuses’ to throw at would-be psychic vampires who think I have nothing better to do than act as a mentor to them, gratis. So if I say I’m working to make a deadline, it is automatically assumed I mean a publisher’s deadline and somehow them’s magic words!”
In any case, Lipscomb had clearly cast his own spell on LaVey, who included a Church of Satan membership card with the letter. “I am enclosing your honorary citizenship in the Infernal Empire, as we discussed in New York. You are a devilishly good fellow and I’m certain you will commit enough evil deeds to warrant membership.”
Within a week, the signed contracts went off to the Hamilburg Agency. LaVey told Sylva, “Since I’ve now written a few parts for the book, I’m beginning to get a better picture in mind of how it will be upon completion, and I truly feel the book will be very original in format and entertaining as well as informative to both women and men. I know I’m going to enjoy doing it.”
At November’s end, Lipscomb had received the signed contracts from LaVey’s agent and composed another avuncular letter, continuing the repartee the two men had been enjoying from their very first encounter:
“I’m glad you understood my note to you on the letter to Sylva... I wanted you to see what I had ‘in the other hand.’ ... of course, we all know who the guiding and originating genius is here, even me!”
In response to LaVey’s description of his self-imposed deadlines and creative process, Lipscomb offered this: “Send me your work schedule and I will make threatening and cajoling noises... some authors find this a definite help.” As for receiving the various sections as they were produced in response to LaVey’s flittering muse, Lipscomb encouraged it, observing that “it could also help to keep my suggestions flowing during your writing process rather than after your work was hardened. Writing is a bit like pouring concrete and a revise in course is generally easier than after completion.
“In any case many thanks for my honorary membership. I will try to live up to the responsibility it places upon me. Fortunately New York provides many more opportunities than San Francisco. Frankly I can’t imagine how you can meet your infernal quota in such a pleasant place. Yours in Christ...”
December and January saw LaVey nailing down last-minute arrangements and promotion of The Satanic Bible, which shipped during the last week of November 1969. In February 1970, both Lipscomb and Sylva Romano alerted LaVey to Lipscomb’s imminent arrival in San Francisco, scheduled for Friday the 13th.
While we can reasonably assume that any meeting between Lipscomb and LaVey went as well as their first, the editor failed to convey one vital fact during his visit: he was leaving Prentice-Hall for Dodd, Mead in the immediate future. That detail was communicated via telephone through Sylva Romano within days of Lipscomb’s return to New York.
By March 17th, Lipscomb was already writing to LaVey on Dodd, Mead stationery and passing along a New York Times article about their mutual friend, Marcello Truzzi. “...you can see that Truzzi is turning into as big a publicity hog as any sociologist in recent memory.” The article was focused on Subterranean Sociology, the micro-press newsletter that 34-year-old Truzzi was publishing to keep in touch with other sociologists. I will venture that despite Lipscomb’s snark, Truzzi was more than adept at this publicity thing, as convincing the venerable New York Times to write up an article about a photocopied newsletter with a circulation of 400, was no mean feat.
While this publishing-house switcheroo may have left LaVey feeling a bit trepidatious about the future of his book, that concern was quickly cleared up when Sylva sent along a contract for his signature, dated March 26th, 1970 — with Dodd, Mead.
Lipscomb wrote to LaVey again in the middle of May. In response to receiving promotional copies of the “Satan Wants You” poster and The Satanic Mass LP, he observed that “the salesmen will go out of their minds with joy to be the proud possessors of such diabolical inventions.”
But there was business to attend to. He went on:
“I cannot exaggerate the importance of completing that manuscript. More and more competition is popping out of the woodwork as American publishers without anything on the occult on their lists, are desperately translating foreign books, commissioning hack writers to knock off something rapidly, importing books that have already been published in England for centuries, and generally going frantic over the subject of the occult... I don’t want to scare you unduly for we’re not really in trouble yet but there’s nothing like running scared before the race begins to enable one to end up the winner for certain. We’re still out in front but the competition is gaining.”
And he was right about that. Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft had just appeared that year. Louise Huebner was out promoting Power Through Witchcraft, which she had released in 1969. Diary of a Witch by Sybil Leek appeared in 1968 and after publishing books about fortune telling, astrology and numerology, Leek was constructing The Complete Art of Witchcraft which also came out in 1971. Additionally, as Lipscomb pointed out, publishers were re-formatting older books about the history of witchcraft and jazzing them up with new packaging. The Dark World of Witches by Eric Maple, The Complete Book of Witchcraft by Rollo Ahmed and Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner all had new releases in 1970. LaVey’s own bibliography includes A History of Magic, Witchcraft and The Occult by W. B. Crow, and a 1972 edition of this same book uses the symbol of Baphomet on its cover. They knew which side of the bread had all the butter.
Lipscomb was also thinking ahead about a paperback deal. In those more traditional times, the hardcover always appeared first on the market, and if successful, paperback houses would start vying for the opportunity to bring a book to a wider readership. (The Satanic Bible was a rare exception to this rule.) “You might also let Peter Mayer know about this one,” Lipscomb advised, “ and see if you can pique his interest... it is important even this early in the game, to give Avon the general impression, which you know how to do so well, that they got you cheaply last time and are going to be expected to pay a reasonable price for what looks like an extremely successful book... we’ll discuss all this over the phone or when you come to New York next in order to get maximum pleasure out of the whole procedure. Ah, fun and games!”
The same week, LaVey received his executed contract from the Hamilburg Agency, along with his first advance for The Compleat Witch: $2,700. “By now the book is probably almost ready!” bubbled Sylva. Wishful thinking.
Within the next few weeks, LaVey had completed more sections of the book and on June 3rd, Lipscomb sent his reactions, which were mainly enthusiastic.
“I’m up through Part III and having a ball... One of the things that’s bothering me are the illustrations because it’s going to be difficult to use them as far as I can see at this point in quite the way you want to but I can’t make any really intelligent comment on this until I finish going over this 100 pages. The only problem I’ve seen thus far is that the explanation of the clock system, which I am sure is all too familiar to you... is pretty difficult to get down.” Here we have the first recorded incident of someone asking for guidance in understanding the Synthesizer, and plenty of people have been getting it wrong ever since. “I’m going to wade in this afternoon and see what I can do to straighten it out but I, myself, am not sure that I understand the system totally.”
Lipscomb went on to announce that Jean Shepherd had played the complete Satanic Mass LP on his radio show the previous Sunday evening; most of you will know Shepherd as the author of A Christmas Story. Dodd, Mead was publishing a book by Shepherd at the same time and it was probably The Ferrari in the Bedroom, a book of short pieces Shepherd had written for Car and Driver magazine.
Uppermost in Lipscomb’s mind at this point was that LaVey should finish his first draft, and perhaps pass on some promo copy to his pal Shana Alexander at McCall’s. Cosmopolitan magazine was also in Lipscomb’s sites and that paid off in an excerpt of The Compleat Witch appearing in their November 1970 issue [see above].
Three weeks later, the editor was writing to LaVey again to joyously acknowledge the receipt of more pages: “Now, I’ll go to work and let you know what we will need to fill in and make more clear some points in the book... The initial response of the people here in the office who have read it and won’t stop raving about it, ranges from delirium to complete insanity.” Lipscomb went on to request additional copies of the outline LaVey had initially provided, for promotion to several foreign publishers who were expressing interest. “The outline of the book won’t xerox, not well enough for a book on magic, anyway. I’m sure if I hold it up to the mirror, there won’t be any reflection.” In the age of emails and downloads, this is quite the reality check.
At around the same time, a letter from San Francisco went out to the Hamilburg agency relating, among other things, the encouraging reception The Compleat Witch had achieved at Dodd, Mead. A postscript confirms for all time that if the book went over well, LaVey “might follow it up with The Compleat Warlock!”
On July 15th, a longish letter detailing the corrections to be made within the already-submitted manuscript went out; there were apparently a lot of unfortunate typos as the typed script was sent to Lipscomb in a bit of a hurry. “We were in such a rush to get the ms to you that some parts were not even proofread before they were sent off.” At Lipscomb’s specific request, a footnote had been provided, clarifying LaVey’s statement about the sex determination of children. The communication concluded with some interesting history from the area of pseudo-Satanic crime:
“Just as the calls were dying down from the one murder case involving psuedo-Satanists [sic], another occurred! It seems that a couple more freaked-out hippies killed a social worker in Yellowstone Park and chopped off his head, cut out his heart (and ate it — they proudly claim to be cannibals), and when picked up by the police yesterday, they had bones of human fingers in their pockets. Naturally, they said they were members of the Church of Satan — but, of course, they are not... The phone started ringing around 8:00 a.m. today and didn’t stop until midnight.” The first murder this references is one that took place in El Cariso, California, where Stephen Hurd and Arthur Hulse, purporting to be “Sons of Satan,” killed a gas station attendant and a young mother, mutilating her body and using her heart in a “Satanic ritual.” Stanley Dean Baker and Harry Stroup were the “Satanic hippies” involved in the Yellowstone murder, and while the victim’s heart was also removed in this case, one of the perpetrators confessed to eating it raw.
Lipscomb responded immediately upon receiving this missive. “Given the time you had to work on this, I think you did a very good job. Certainly with Satanists chopping people’s heads off and eating people this week, your life could not have been entirely tranquil.”
The editor had some plain truths about LaVey’s plan to begin each chapter of The Compleat Witch with a pithy, socially-redeeming quote. “First of all, the various quotes with which you would like to preface each section would only distract from the cold, hard sense of the book itself. I would not consider them an asset in any way but rather what will look to the general public like an attempt to ‘class up’ a book which is in the class of a kick to the middle section rather than a collection of memorabilia. I believe in truth in packaging. It is the clean, bald, factual aspect of the book which attracts people, despite parts which might turn them off, and keeps them coming back for more. This collection of Victoriana et al is too close to the old porno tactic of writing a filthy book about two young men and their Doberman pincher [sic] while bestrewing it with quotations from Shakespeare and Keats. So on my side, at any rate, I’d drop them — all of them.”
Deleted from The Compleat Witch
I’ll bet you’re wondering; here are the quotes with page numbers that corresponded to LaVey’s manuscript. I am quoting his instructions; remarks between [ and ] are mine for clarity.
“The opening page should contain the following quotes, in the order shown:
O Thou who didst with pitfall and with gin
Beset the Road I was to wander in,
Thou wilt not with Predestined Evil round
Enmesh and then impute my Fall to Sin!”
— Anonymous, Confessions of a Taxi Dancer
Could you hurt me, sweet lips, though I hurt you?
Men touch them, and change in a trice
The lilies and languors of virtue
For the roses and raptures of vice.
— Swinburne, “Dolores”
When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.
— Thomas Paine, Common Sense
“Ms. pg. 21, beginning of Part II [Part Two, heading]:
Knowledge is power.
— Hobbes, Leviathan
“Ms. pg. 48, top of page ‘Name’ [Part Two, section ‘The Power of Certain Names’]:
‘Er petticoat was yallar an’ ‘er little cap was green,
An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat — jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen…
— Kipling, “Mandalay”
“Ms. pg. 73, top of page [Part Three, heading]:
Beshrew your eyes,
They have o’er-looked me, and divided me;
One half of me is yours, the other half yours.
— Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, III, 2
“Ms. pg.80, top of page ‘Sound’ [Part Three]:
Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low, and excellent thing in woman.
— Shakespeare, King Lear, V, 3
“Ms. pg. 85, ‘MUSIC’ [Part Three, section begins ‘Music is one of the surest means of enchanting someone’]:
There’s music in the sighing of a reed;
There’s music in the gushing of a rill;
There’s music in all things, if men had ears…
— Byron, “Don Juan”
“Ms. pg. 99, following ‘Tea for Two’ quote [Part Three, section ‘Taste’]:
Everyone to his taste, as the woman said when she kissed her cow.
— Rabelais, Pantagruel
“Ms. pg. 120, ‘Make-up’ [Part Four]:
Now if it wasn’t for powder and the store-bought hair,
That gal I love, she wouldn’t go no where.
— W. C. Handy, “The St. Louis Blues”
“Ms. pg. 125, top of page, ‘Fur’ [Part Four]:
Not ten yoke of oxen
Have the power to draw us
Like a woman’s hair.
— Longfellow, “The Saga of King Olaf”
“Ms. pg. 131, ‘Law of the Forbidden’ [Part Four]:
Teacher, teacher, I declare!
You forgot your underwear!
— Anonymous, children’s chant
“Ms. pg. 144, top of page [Part Five, heading]:
She wears long tresses and nice tight dresses,
Oh! Oh! What a future she possesses!
— B. G. De Sylva, “If You Knew Susie”
“Ms. pg. 169, ‘Color Clues for Witches’ [Part Five]:
The human eye is an imperfect instrument; its range is but a few octaves of the real
‘chromatic scale’. I am not mad; there are colors that we cannot see.
— Ambrose Bierce, “The Damned Thing”
“Ms. pg. 175, top of page [Part Six, heading]:
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
— Kipling, “The Female of the Species”
“Ms. pg. 184, ‘How and When to Lie’ [Part Six]:
The magician answered, ‘…We can’t get along without a little humbug. The people like it, and if you don’t indulge in it, you can’t keep up with your competitors.’
‘But suppose they find out…?’
‘How are they going to find out? Even if they did, they would only laugh. You know that Barnum has been a colossal humbug all his life, but everybody likes him, and he never fails to please the people. Well, you have pleased the people, and that is the main point.’
— Horatio Alger, Jr., Facing the World
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
— B. Disraeli
“Ms. pg. 209, ‘Means of Divination’ [Part Seven, heading]:
So far as I am aware, there is not to be found anywhere a race of men, no matter how civilized or cultured, or, for that matter, how utterly savage and brutish, which is not firmly convinced that there are portents that point to coming events, and that certain persona are able to recognize these portents and to predict from them what the future holds in store.
— Cicero, De Divinatione
Never smarten up a chump.
— W. C. Fields
“Ms. pg. 221, ‘Ceremonial Magic’ [Part Eight, heading]:
Women act through carnal desire, which is insatiable in their case: hence, to sate their lust, they have dealings even with demons.
— Malleus Maleficarum
“Ms. pg. 235, ‘How to Become a Succubus…’ [Part Eight]:
Dream lover, fold your arms around me,
Dream lover, your romance has found me,
I’m held in your spell,
Knowing full well,
Dreams never tell.
— Clifford Grey/Victor Schertzinger, “Dream Lover”
The manuscript of The Compleat Witch was clearly making the rounds within and without the confines of the Dodd, Mead editorial offices. “So far, the book is getting interesting responses. Women love it and most men scream with outrage to think anyone would give such terrible advice to the pure flowers of their acquaintance,” wrote Lipscomb. “Since women buy over 60% of the books sold in this country, I think we’re on the safe side.” This is in direct contrast to how the book is received by the various genders today; my experience has been that many younger women reject the entire concept of using their sexuality to manipulate men and thereby empower themselves. A careful reading of The Compleat Witch reveals that it’s not all about sexuality, nor is it all about using it on men. But I digress.
Lipscomb included a photograph of the initial design for the book jacket, and also encouraged LaVey to consider a publicity tour. “You must be good children and not eat anybody, or at least not until it will help the sales of your book.” He went on to report that Shana Alexander had the manuscript on her desk at that moment, and that Peter Mayer was thinking about it for a paperback release from Avon.
“In the meantime, congratulations on the completion of a totally honest and totally outrageous book. It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing what the general reading public thinks of it.”
A quick letter from Sylva Romano at Hamilburg arrived at the end of July, and she assured LaVey that she was hearing only good things. “Talked to Tom Lipscomb and he sounded wildly enthusiastic about THE COMPLEAT WITCH. It sounds like a winner! If it does as well as Tom seems to think it’s going to, I’m sure Tom will want THE COMPLEAT WARLOCK.”
In mid-August, James Pike of Dodd, Mead’s sales department sent a copy of their Books For Fall 1970 catalog to San Francisco. On page 17, The Compleat Witch, Or What to Do When Virtue Fails occupies an entire page; the text is identical to the dust jacket copy on the original hardcover. The book is listed at 256 pages, $5.95, and is scheduled for October 1970. [On the opposite page, Dine With the Devil by Janet Gregory Vermandel is listed, a novel that promises some terror and romance featuring a sexy anti-hero, Peter Angel. Pant, pant.]
On August 25th, LaVey wrote to Sylva again to ask some pertinent questions about a promotional tour for The Compleat Witch. Since this would preclude his usual sessions with private students and clients, a couple of weeks from home would mean a sudden drop in income; were authors typically compensated for their time by the publisher? As LaVey had just finished taping The Steve Allen Show in Los Angeles, he was well aware that TV appearances paid little to nothing for the guests’ time.
The efforts by LaVey to organize his time around an upcoming promotional tour, and promote his next book while still adhering to Tom Lipscomb’s admonition not to spill ALL the beans, elicited a letter from Lipscomb dated September 15th:
“I can see that once again I have underestimated the LaVey Corporation’s masterful use of publicity and have placed myself in the position of trying to teach my grandmother to suck eggs... Apologies.” The letter reveals that the appearance on The Steve Allen Show was LaVey’s first meeting with another guest, humorist Roger Price, and that while he was in Los Angeles LaVey also met with James Pike, Dodd, Mead’s West Coast representative. “Pike was very impressed... went off filled with new enthusiasms.” Roger Price and Anton LaVey struck up a lively friendship with this meeting which continued for years. Price was one of the founders of the publishing firm, Price Stern Sloan, and the inventor of Mad Libs, which kept many of us in juvenile hysteria for generations.
The next letter to Lipscomb announced the distribution, at last, of Witchcraft ‘70, a documentary about modern-day witches made by the Italian production company, Caravel Films. The assistant director, Mauro Sacripanti, went on to work on films like The Italian Job and Ladyhawke. Reference is made to a fresh article in the L.A. Times. LaVey hadn’t seen the complete cover proof for The Compleat Witch at this time and wanted to emphasize that it should contain his photo, and the first half of the galley corrections were also included.
LaVey was concerned that there were parts of his manuscript that seemed to be missing from the galleys, and he was determined to correct any “correction” that may have led to their being edited out. One of these was “the part dealing with sex determination of unborn children and the footnotes pertaining to same.” There was also a page defining “witch, glamor, fascination, etc. It really should be included because it gives a ready answer to any ‘purists’ who would criticize the book for not being on witchcraft.”
There is also a reference in the letter to an interesting edit in the galleys, which were returned to the publisher and thus not available for examination. The edit is in the section “Your Fur,” which is about hair and hairstyles. The published version is, “Most hairdressers will agree that a few hairs straying in the right manner can add rather than detract from an attractive coiffure.” There seems to have been an attempt to differentiate a “normal” hairdresser from some other type of hairdresser. The reaction from LaVey was on point: “This implies that some hairdressers aren’t normal. You are probably referring to homosexual hairdressers, but don’t forget — homophiles consider themselves as normal (if not more normal) as heterosexuals.” LaVey was firm in not wanting to be criticized for the same thing he abhorred in others: bias against those of differing sexual orientations, and said so.
The second half of the corrected galleys went on to Lipscomb only a couple of days later, accompanied by a most anxious letter about even the smallest of corrections being overlooked. “It’s a pity there had to be so many revisions in the galleys, but the whole project was done in such a rush... As you know, it is imperative that a writer be allowed to let a manuscript ‘set’ for awhile and then return to it when he’s fresh — at the very least a couple of weeks later — and make all the revisions he feels are necessary... We are aware of the necessity to expedite matters and therefore gave the galleys our undivided attention immediately upon our receipt of them... I’m sure you’re accustomed to the sort of paranoia many authors undoubtedly display when their publication date draws near.”
The subject of cover blurbs came up, and LaVey was hopeful that they could get a few from people like Roger Price or Dan Mannix, as opposed to some figure of occult notoriety, as he was “trying to dispel most preconceived notions about witchery, and practically anyone in the field would probably be somewhat sour-grapes about the book.”
The next letter to Dodd, Mead went out a couple of weeks later and was addressed to Margot Shields, Lipscomb’s assistant editor, who was presumably working on the actual copy. Via a recent phone call, she had soothed any apprehension on LaVey’s part that the corrections, errata and missing parts were being handled, and promised that a galley copy of Arthur Lyons’ Second Coming book was on its way from New York.
The response from Miss Shields a week later included a request to be sent, once more, the page of witch definitions, referenced above, which had been left out of the galleys. After examining all the related archives available, I can only guess that these “witch definitions” were incorporated into the body of the section we know as “Are You a Witch?” Shields also stated that Tom Lipscomb was on vacation and nothing much would happen until his return. Indeed, a lovely postcard from Firenze, Italy arrived a couple of weeks later, in mid-October 1970:
“I’ve gotten a good rest at last and I’ll be ready to get everything going on THE WITCH on my return next weekend. I didn’t appreciate getting sick for a week of vacation, though probably a spell cast by fellow workers jealous of this trip! Best, Tom Lipscomb.”
An actual letter quickly followed the postcard, this time from the good ol’ USA and accompanied by the sketches rendered for the inside of The Compleat Witch. “They are really good! I’ve also got a spare color proof of the jacket, which I hope you will return with the plates. The only reason I want them back is to give us some ammunition at paperback time and I will need them to show around.”
On October 16, 1970, Sylva Romano mailed LaVey his second payment for delivering the completed manuscript of The Compleat Witch: $1,800.
Lipscomb may have felt the sketches were “really good!” but Anton LaVey was not happy with them. A flurry of objections and corrections were conveyed back to New York, prompting this statement in a letter from San Francisco on November 24th: “Have you fully recovered from the ordeal of correcting the illustrations? ...You may have been right when you said other authors would not place as great an importance on the perfection of the illustrations, but then they are not dealing with the Powers of Darkness, at least not on a subjective level. And you know what happened to sorcerers in the past who have fouled up on one of the ingredients in their magical formulae...”
Most interestingly, this letter contains a postscript asking for one more correction. At the eleventh hour, LaVey realized the negative connotation the last line of the book could have. “‘Move on to the final solution, might be misinterpreted to mean Hitler’s gas chambers, which were known as the final solution... If at all possible, please change it to read ‘...move on to the final triumph.’ We don’t want the book to be boycotted because of possible misinterpretation of the closing thought.”
In early January, 1971, LaVey heard from Lipscomb again:
“As I told you, we are now publishing THE COMPLEAT WITCH on Valentine’s Day. I delayed publication first because the change in those damned illustrations cost us a month, and finally (as you know) because bookstores didn’t want to move it as a pre-Christmas item.” No surprise there.
Lipscomb went on: “But the salesmen are virulently enthusiastic and we are going to go all out. We have orders for over 4,000 copies already, which isn’t half bad. This should enable us to at least double it before publication. When you consider that LOVE STORY had an advance of 4,000 copies and THE GREENING OF AMERICA an advance of 6,000, it gives you an idea of how good 8-10,000 would be. So we are rolling along famously.” The change in the illustrations also cost money — $155.54, which was charged to LaVey against any upcoming royalties.
But all was not well in the land of new books on the occult; Lipscomb reported that The Second Coming: Satanism in America was not selling. “Unfortunately Art’s book got off to a bad start... Are you sure an evil spell hasn’t been cast on this book?”
A pretty little Valentine’s Day card arrived from New York right on time: “Happy Publication Day! This is going to be fun. — Tom Lipscomb.”
The Witch Tour — February 1971
Tom Lipscomb and Dodd, Mead did indeed plan a lot of fun for Anton LaVey, and socked it to him with a schedule that on the surface of it, would have required all his Satanic stamina to navigate. It’s a good thing LaVey really WAS an experienced showman, as well as a High Priest. On February 12th, he hit the road.
His first stop was Los Angeles, and only two hours after his flight from San Francisco touched down, he was appearing on The Virginia Graham Show. Graham was a well-known media figure in her time, a sort of cozy celebrity interviewer who knew everyone and also hosted a show called Girl Talk. LaVey’s appearance was taped at the Hollywood Video Center on North Vine, for later broadcast. He was flown back to San Francisco that same evening, where he began packing his bag for the main part of the tour.
Three days later, on February 15th, LaVey was back in Los Angeles for a full day of work. He spent two nights at the Continental Hyatt House on Sunset, now the Andaz West Hollywood. This place is famous as a rock’n’roll hotel, the choice of stars like the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Little Richard, and is referred to as the “Riot House” in the film Almost Famous.
The next day at 7:30 in the morning, he appeared on a morning talk show called simply A.M., produced by Bella Stumbo for KABC and filmed at ABC’s studio on Prospect Avenue. Bella Stumbo went on to a colorful career as a journalist, writing profiles of Hugh Hefner and Marion Barry, among others. She was a tough interviewer and her subjects were said to have been “Stumboed.”
At 11:30 a.m., LaVey walked into KHJ-TV’s studios on Melrose, to do a show called Tempo. This was a three-hour show that aired live, and Lipscomb’s note to LaVey was that it was an “extremely important interview show.” My research hasn’t been able to verify who the host was the day LaVey appeared, but there is a strong possibility that it was Regis Philbin, who hosted the show for three years, with a series of co-hosts.
With barely an hour to freshen up his horns and curl his mustache, LaVey was whisked off to NBC’s studios on Alameda in Burbank, where he met with producer Pat Silverman for a pre-interview for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show; this was in preparation for the actual appearance which would take place later in New York. We can presume the interview didn’t take long, because at 5:00 p.m., LaVey was taping an episode of The Steve Allen Show at KTLA-TV Metromedia on Sunset Boulevard.
Can we assume some cocktails were downed back at the Riot House? I think we can. But not until he’d rewarded himself with a juicy steak at Stear’s in Beverly Hills, where a lavish dinner rang up to only $30 in 1971.
The next day, February 17th, it was wheels-up at 8:30 a.m. as LaVey flew TWA to Pittsburgh. “Breakfast on flight!” his schedule specifies. I hope that helped. His flight was scheduled to land at 3:55 p.m. and he had to be at KDKA Radio at Gateway Center by 5:45. He was the only guest scheduled on “Open Mike” with Mike Levine; this was a three-hour live show with call-ins. LaVey retired to the Pittsburgh Hilton right next to the studio.
Bright-and-early is not a phrase I would associate with the Anton LaVey I knew. Add morning appointments to Eastern Standard Time and one has to wonder if he just stayed up all night. At 8:30 a.m. on February 18th, LaVey was back at KDKA, this time in their Westinghouse TV studio, to appear on Contact with host Marie Torre. This one-hour, live television show had a largely female audience and featured call-ins. While local to Pittsburgh, it went out to four other states. Marie Torre was no “girl reporter:” she was one of the first woman anchorpersons in the USA and the very first on KDKA.
LaVey’s schedule shows an open slot for the early afternoon where some eager publicist attempted to squeeze in another appearance, but the Fates were merciful. He had a few hours to kill in Pittsburgh before his 3:35 p.m. flight to Chicago, the place of his birth. He was staying at the Sheraton Chicago on Michigan Avenue, home to the world famous Kon-Tiki Ports Polynesian restaurant, which featured outrageous Tiki decor and a lava rock wall. The Sheraton Chicago was built in 1929 as the private, lavishly-appointed Medinah Athletic Club, accessible only to Shriners.
Landing in Chi-Town at around 4:15 p.m., LaVey had to be at WLS-TV, ABC’s studios on State St., by 7:30. He was one of several guests on Chicago, hosted by Howard Miller. The show would be taped and broadcast later at, appropriately, midnight. While Chicago turned out to be a short-lived gig, Miller went on to create a show called The People’s Lobby, utilizing a very early audience participation format that pre-dates both Morton Downey Jr. and Rush Limbaugh.
LaVey’s day didn’t end there. After the TV appearance, he was due at WIND Radio on North Michigan Avenue, to appear with host Dave Baum on a call-in show, also called Contact. A four-hour show with a different guest for each hour, LaVey was scheduled for the last segment, ending the show at midnight. Imagine being a listener for this appearance, snapping off your radio, then turning on the boob tube to see LaVey popping up at midnight on the show he’d just taped — a Satanic invasion of the Chicago airwaves.
WGN-TV on Bradley Place was LaVey’s first stop the next morning at 8:45. He’d be appearing on the Jim Conway Show, a well-regarded contemporary talk show that aired live for 90 minutes. Conway went on to become a bit of a legend, and his morning show is thought by many to have formed the template for Good Morning, America. LaVey’s printed schedule contains a couple of “possible” appearances that may or may not have actually happened, including one with “Kup’s Show” on WMAQ-TV, and another called “At Random” with John Madigan for WBBM-TV, that promised to be a panel on witchcraft if they could find more participants in time.
A day to wander Chicago, free of press obligations, would have been more than welcome and LaVey already had plans. At some point during his free time in Chicago, LaVey did enjoy cocktails at the brand-new John Hancock Center, and it is marked within his notes. However, while the allegedly-haunted building was the site of a series of tragedies over the years, it’s nowhere near where LaVey was born: the Franklin Boulevard Hospital.
His itinerary contains a list of places to see, to shop, to dine. Bookstores were prominent: he hoped to hit Kroch’s and Brentano’s, Chicago’s largest bookstore; Oak Street Books, a beloved institution owned and operated by a colorful woman named Carol Stoll; Stuart Brent Books, managed by one well-read man who didn’t stock his books by algorithm. The Field Museum of Natural History also beckoned — this place came into being as a result of the Columbian Exposition of 1893, and was originally housed in the Palace of Fine Arts. Café Bonaparte at the Sheraton Blackstone is mentioned — a classically swanky French restaurant, President Truman was among its patrons, and I have to wonder how similar it may have been to LaVey’s San Francisco favorite, the Cyrano.
He also listed Well of the Sea, a restaurant best known for being a Total Environment, where guests dined under ultraviolet lights to simulate being underwater, and the walls were decorated with abstract undersea murals. Its beautiful mid-century dinnerware by Richard Koppe is still highly sought-after by collectors and featured in museums. Another place he though he might visit was a restaurant called Blackhawk; while notable for its “Spinning Salad Bowl,” it’s far more likely that its history as a venue for big bands and crooners was what appealed to LaVey.
Duty eventually called. At 8:00 p.m. he had another gig at WGN Radio on Bradley Place, to do Extension 720, a now-legendary radio talk show that ran live for two hours. The notes indicate that the host that evening was Dan Price, although Milt Rosenberg is cited as its regular host and creator.
LaVey was again free for most of the next day, Saturday, February 20th, and then at 9:00 p.m. was due for Talkback on WTAS-FM Radio at Olympia Plaza, Chicago Heights, with host Earl Vieaux. The next afternoon, he flew to Washington, DC, where he had a room reserved at the venerable Hay-Adams Hotel.
Aside from its fabulous views of the city, the Hay-Adams has quite a history. Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart were guests, and former President Barack Obama stayed here with his family prior to their move into the White House in 2009. It even has a ghost: Marian Hooper Adams is said to have committed suicide on this site, and her shade walks the floors, trailing the scent of almonds. There’s no indication of whether LaVey encountered her, but his experience as a ghost-hunter would certainly have prepared him.
Monday morning, February 22nd, saw LaVey up and at ‘em and headed out to appear on The Claire Show at WMAL-TV, an ABC affiliate with studios on N. W. Connecticut Avenue. This was a live one-hour “women’s” television show, and its host, Claire Klees Lyon, was reputed to be no shrinking violet. In a contemporary history of broadcasting by Ted C. Smythe and George A. Mastroianni, it was a “shock show — this is where ladies sip tea and discuss homosexuality with neither raised eyebrows or lowered pinkies.” LaVey would have been just their cup, then, and his ability to charm would have worked wonders. But with only an hour between, he was off again to tape The Betty Groebli Show for WRC Radio at NBC’s N. W. Nebraska studios. Another “women’s” show, it was slated to be aired later that evening and again the next morning. Betty had an interesting career that started with a role in a stage production of “Bell, Book and Candle.”
Then it was back to the airport, and a flight to the Big Apple, where there was a tentative plan on the itinerary for LaVey to appear on The David Susskind Show, “if scheduled.” There is no confirmation that the appearance was ever confirmed, and in either case, the plan was for LaVey to continue on to Philadelphia the same day.
In Philadelphia, LaVey had a room at the Bellevue Stratford at Broad and Walnut. This beautiful, landmark building had served many famous dignitaries, a number of Presidents, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, and in their Royal Suite of eleven rooms, Queen Marie of Romania. It was the headquarters for both the RNC and the DNC in its dim past, but its biggest claim to fame: it was the hotel where Legionnaire’s Disease first broke out, an event that led to the hotel closing its doors in 1977.
That night at midnight, LaVey appeared on The Frank Ford Show, a radio talk show on WPEN-FM, an NBC affiliate with studios on Walnut Street. In the course of his career, Ford had interviewed other guests like Abbie Hoffman, Lenny Bruce and Eleanor Roosevelt, and was an establishing partner of the Westbury Music Fair.
LaVey was up again the next morning, February 23rd, to appear on live television at 8:30 a.m. The show was McLean and Company for the KYW-TV network, an NBC affiliate that filmed at their studios on Walnut Street. The host, Bob McLean, also hosted Dialing for Dollars. In the afternoon, LaVey taped a half-hour radio show called Conversation with host William Fox. The studio was inside an apartment building Fox owned in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and the broadcast antenna for the station, WIBF-FM, which Fox also owned, was planted firmly on the roof. At 10:30 p.m., LaVey was back in the same building, this time in Fox’s television studios for WTAF-TV to appear on News Probe, a live call-in show with hosts Stanley Siegel and Hardy Mintzer. I don’t know how LaVey entertained himself in between these two gigs in Jenkintown, but I hope he was with Bill Fox, who seems like just the kind of independent thinker who would have found LaVey fascinating, and vice versa.
He may have been getting used to the routine of rolling out of bed and talking about witches. On Tuesday, he was due at 9:15 a.m. at WFIL-TV on City Line Avenue for Target, another live call-in show hosted by Connie Roussin and Charles Burke. Roussin had had an earlier gig as “Miss Connie” on Romper Room for the Portland, Maine local affiliate. That afternoon at 4:00 p.m., LaVey would tape a five-minute interview at a studio on South 26th Street for F.Y.I., a feature of WKBS-TV; these mini-interviews were shown on and off all day, presumably as fillers. Then at 6:13 p.m., he was off once again to New York City, courtesy of Metroliner #108.
Where would you put up a High Priest of Satan? I’ll bet it’s the same place Dodd, Mead did: the Waldorf Astoria. You can read whole books about this New York institution, but I’ll pull out a couple of facts for you: it was the world’s tallest hotel for over 30 years, and, in 1957, Marilyn Monroe attended the April in Paris Ball, held there every year.
LaVey had little time to enjoy his posh digs because he was doing the Barry Gray Show at 10:45 p.m. for WMCA Radio. Fortunately, their studios on Madison Avenue were just a short walk from the Waldorf, and LaVey’s segment of the live call-in show finished up at 1:00 a.m.
On Thursday, February 25th, LaVey had time for a Waldorf breakfast as he wasn’t due at WNEW-TV on East 67th Street to tape Midday Live with Lee Leonard until 11:30 a.m. Midday was a very popular show in New York, and was still brand-new when LaVey appeared. Lee Leonard went on to be the first announcer to announce a game on the fledgling cable channel ESPN in 1979, and in 1980, he hosted People Tonight on CNN. Shortly after completing the Midday appearance, LaVey went off to 30 Rockefeller Plaza to tape a segment with Ted Brown for NBC’s popular radio show, Monitor. Monitor had a wide variety of programming and a Who’s-Who of hosts over its many years of existence.
Dodd, Mead’s publicity department tried very hard to get their money’s worth out of LaVey and packed his itinerary with appearances that were as-yet-unconfirmed when he hit New York. Among these were WOR’s Joe Franklin Show, The David Frost Show on WNEW-TV, Dimension with Mike Wallace for CBS Radio, and another appearance with Johnny Carson. LaVey did have a pre-interview scheduled during the Los Angeles leg of his trip [see above] but it’s been difficult to confirm that this planned appearance, possibly LaVey’s second or third for the Tonight Show, actually happened. LaVey appears in several TV Guide listings for The Tonight Show in 1967 and 1969, but his name seems to have been expunged from many of the databases that purport to be a complete resource of information about every individual episode of The Tonight Show.
On the afternoon of Friday, February 26th, LaVey went to WOR-Radio’s studios on Broadway to appear on The Barry Farber Show. Farber was a radio legend, known for his conservative views, his dabbling in politics and his vast knowledge of other languages — he was said to be familiar with 25 languages, including Mandarin Chinese. This must have been a very satisfactory experience for LaVey, who wrote to Farber later on to remind him of the wonderful things he’d said about The Compleat Witch, which the radio journalist had actually read: “…throw all review copies bearing ‘witchcraft’ in their titles against the farthest wall,” asserting that LaVey’s book was “twenty years ahead of its time” and “unjustly relegated to a noxious category — the occult market.”
LaVey’s itinerary gave him the weekend off in New York City. One of the contacts on his list was a family member who lived on Gramercy Park, a generous cousin who had earlier provided him with an Egyptian canonic jar for the ritual chamber and the podium for his lectures at the Black House. He was also eager to visit the American Museum of Natural History, where he was in communication with the director of their Arachnids department. Greater New York was home to quite a number of Church of Satan members in 1971, and it appears LaVey may have been entertained at several locations in the area, including out on Long Island at Montauk and in the Hamptons.
There were plans for LaVey to fly to Toronto after New York, but it looks like these were cancelled and on Monday, March 1st, he flew directly to Detroit, where he had a reservation at Stouffer’s Northland Inn in Southfield. However, his notes indicate a plan to hook up and stay with his good friend, Marcello Truzzi, who lived in the area and was such an important supporter of his work. In any case, the next morning it was back to the grind and a 7:30 a.m. gig on The Morning Show hosted by Bob Hynes, with studios on West 10 Mile Road. This was a live, 90-minute show similar in format to The Today Show. After this, it was on to WJR Radio in the Fisher Building, for another live appearance on Focus with J. P. McCarthy.
I’m sure LaVey was more than happy to drag his weary bones onto American Flight 91 from Detroit to San Francisco that evening. After such an ordeal of travel and public relations, it couldn’t have been pleasant to receive a letter from Dodd, Mead’s accounting department a few weeks later, pushing LaVey for better itemization of his expenses on the road — they were quite concerned about the $154 he spent over two weeks of feeding himself and taking taxis. Cheap chiseling bastards.
In June of 1971, four months after the appearance of The Compleat Witch, Dodd, Mead returned all materials related to the book’s publication, and also provided LaVey with 500 5” x 7” copies of his author photo, for which they charged him $45.
More pleasantly, a wonderful gift arrived courtesy of Tom Lipscomb: a specially-bound copy of The Compleat Witch: “I had this bound up for you and I hope you will enjoy it for many years to come. I certainly think you should be proud of having authored such an enjoyable and well-written book, and those with an improperly irreverent mind always seem to find shrewd and very human insights readily at hand.”
Lipscomb went on to relate some concern about safety at the Black House, regarding security issues LaVey seems to have discussed with Art Lyons, who passed them on to Lipscomb. “I hope there is no reason for that fear… The actual gun-toting kook is a great rarity and we don’t see them all that often. I think you are almost respectable by this time and certainly familiar to millions… You also have a lot of friends and that is in itself a lot of protection, for when we talk about you we create a feeling of goodwill and correct misimpressions.” It’s interesting to see someone explaining Lesser Magic to LaVey, with the hope of reassuring him.
LaVey was thrilled with the surprise gift. “You are a true wizard!” his thank-you letter effused. “The beautifully bound edition of The Compleat Witch arrived just when I needed the lift that only something fine and meaningful can bring. Your accompanying letter was like an invocation and lent the proper script to the magical working. Thank you for your timely thoughtfulness… Being a Devil is not always the easiest task, and gestures such as yours are truly what keep me going. One can receive all manner of sycophantic praise from hangers-on, but it is recognition from one who counts that will be registered as sustenance to the will.”
He went on to reassure Lipscomb in turn. “Don’t let Art Lyons worry you too much, although I appreciate his concern. I have never been one to quit because of a broken window (even if it was a $1,200 Tiffany that took the guy a month to make). If it had just been any old Libby Owens Ford job, I would have entertained your stoicism, albeit a slight desire to draw the fingernails of the kid who threw the brick, had I apprehended him. The glass involved, however, will be difficult to replace, so my mutterings must have sounded ominous indeed to Art.”
[Libbey-Owens-Ford was a glass manufacturing company that made glass for cars and buildings; most readers will be more familiar with the division of Libbey that creates household glass tableware.]
LaVey did wax more philosophically about the idea that Satanism might be “almost respectable.” “You are correct in your observation of changing philosophical and religious values. We most certainly shall prevail after the last-ditch stand of our latter-day Jesus Freaks destroys itself. The new ‘back to Christ’ movement is the best thing that could happen for us; it will drive the ‘straight,’ so-called Christians right into our camp, and, with its blatant insanity, cause us to appear as a rational alternative.”
By January 1972, La perfetta strega, ovvero quando la virtù fa fiasco, had been published by Ferro Edizioni in Milan, Italy. Jonathan Dodd of Dodd, Mead sent LaVey his two author’s copies, along with a royalty report. Proceeds for La perfetta strega were $1,400, minus returns and Dodd, Mead’s 35 percent. The only foreign version of the book published during LaVey’s lifetime, it doesn’t include the notorious Bibliography that has led so many readers to discover authors and subjects that have proven "occult” in the truest sense of the word. Its translator was Ettore Capriolo, coincidentally also the translator of The Satanic Verses. In July 1991, Capriolo was attacked and stabbed by a stranger posing as someone seeking a translator for a Muslim publication.
In 2000, Second Sight Books published an authorized German version, and in 2009, Camion Noir published the title in French. There are Polish and Portuguese versions out there as well, but I can’t confirm their authenticity.
Tom Lipscomb sent LaVey a birthday card in April 1971, with the joyous news that he’d sold The Compleat Witch paperback rights to Lancer for $20,000. To the best of my knowledge, this was the largest payment LaVey ever received for one of his books. LaVey was pleased with the paperback version, but wrote to Dodd, Mead’s publicity agent, Kay Radke, that “…it’s a pity Lancer couldn’t have included a reproduction of the synthesizer clock." She wrote back shortly to encourage LaVey to return to New York for more promotion of the paperback.
Dodd, Mead never reprinted The Compleat Witch after its initial run, and in January of 1976, LaVey wrote to Jonathan Dodd of Dodd, Mead. “It has been at least a couple of years since my book, THE COMPLEAT WITCH, published by you in hardcover and Lancer Books in paperback, has been in distribution. During that time we have continued to receive requests for information on how copies may be obtained… Under the terms of my contract with Dodd, Mead & Co. I am to inquire as to whether or not you have any further publication plans for the book. If not, I am to provide you with six-months’ notice of my intention to attempt republication through my own channels. Please accept this letter as such notification.”
Dodd wrote back and explained the delay in his response: “I have been attempting to figure out exactly what the situation is with respect to Lancer and their paperback edition of THE COMPLEAT WITCH… According to the terms of our contract with Lancer, should that company go bankrupt (which it did), the contract is null and void… Lancer has never replied to any of our letters.”
Lancer Books dropped out of communication almost immediately after producing the little red paperback with which we’ve all grown so familiar. After over a decade of publishing mainly genre novels, Lancer had declared bankruptcy and dissolved their business in 1973. My records do not indicate whether LaVey or Dodd, Mead ever received a sales report from them, and I am not able to confirm how many copies of the paperback were ultimately printed or sold.
Jonathan Dodd went on to say that they would not want to revert the publishing rights back to LaVey until they sold out their back stock, which was comprised of 768 hardcover copies of The Compleat Witch. LaVey responded, inquiring as to whether they could set up a mail order procedure for the many individuals who were still trying to acquire the book. Dodd responded right away, confirming that his company had no plans to reprint The Compleat Witch in any form, nor did they wish to handle a mail order distribution of the title.
Instead, he proposed a plan: Dodd, Mead would sell the remaining copies to LaVey for one dollar each plus shipping, and consider all rights reverted to its author. The Church of Satan immediately began selling the original hardcovers of The Compleat Witch directly to its members via mail order through The Cloven Hoof.
LaVey attempted to interest Avon Books in another paperback version in 1977, but was turned down. “It wasn’t right for us,” their letter states. “A bit different from BIBLE and RITUALS… did find it interesting reading.”
In August 1979, Michael Hoy of Loompanics Unlimited approached the Church to arrange for direct sale of The Compleat Witch through its catalog. Many readers of this article may have enjoyed delving into the notorious catalog over the years, as Loompanics truly lived up to its tagline as a “Seller of Unusual Books.” Their catalog did list LaVey’s book for several years. As LaVey had the last cache of copies, and Lancer Books was no longer communicating, the only retail sources for The Compleat Witch narrowed to Loompanics, used book stores, and the Church of Satan itself.
With the publication of Michelle Remembers in 1980, the Satanic Panic began to form and emerge. It’s unlikely any publisher would have taken on the bad press and harassment that surely would have accompanied the publishing of any book that was friendly toward Satanism, and certainly not one written by its most prominent figurehead. The Compleat Witch seemed condemned to obscurity, a forbidden book that only fringe dwellers were able to acquire; it became “occult” in the truest sense of the word.
And that’s the way it remained… until 1988, when a champion appeared.
With increasing access to home computing, desktop publishing and digital technology, more and more independent thinkers, writers, movers and shakers were pushing forth a bit of a revolution of independent publishing. Small presses, whether they put out books, journals, comics or even music, were becoming a cultural phenomenon. From this milieu stepped Adam Parfrey.
Mutual acquaintances had placed Adam into LaVey’s orbit in early 1988, and LaVey was so impressed with Adam that he sent him a Church of Satan membership. In May of 1988, Adam arrived at the Black House to meet LaVey, and later that month, wrote to ask about reprinting Chapters 3 through 5 of The Satanic Bible in the upcoming Amok title, Rants & Incendiary Tracts. Instead, LaVey offered “Misanthropia,” an essay that was part of his as-yet-unpublished collection, The Devil’s Notebook, and had previously appeared in a 1977 issue of The Cloven Hoof, available only to Church of Satan members.
Adam was one of the founders of Amok Press, that had recently published his now-legendary collection Apocalypse Culture. Prior to his association with Amok, Adam had helped to launch EXIT Magazine, but now back on the West Coast where he’d grown up, he was ready to start his own press.
Feral House was born, and The Compleat Witch was its first title. Anton LaVey signed the contract with Feral House on October 26th, 1988.
Adam got to work right away. He planned the book for a Spring 1989 release, and was in touch with Dodd, Mead to ask about using their photo offset page layout. He was already talking to his distributors about the book, and how it might be received by the market. And naturally, LaVey had his own ideas, one of which was to change the title to what it should have been in the first place, discarding the on-trend use of the word “compleat” and placing the book neatly into the Canon of LaVey as The Satanic Witch.
“My distributors,” explained Adam, “are emphasizing that they are looking for a crossover audience for this book, to place this book in occult and self-help/psychology sections. (Chain buyers traditionally buy for one section only, but managers of each store are allowed to shelve the book in two sections.) This crossover gambit creates a problem, inasmuch as I must hew to self-help/psychology book conventions. The title THE SATANIC WITCH could not make the crossover.” We know how that one worked out, but LaVey had also suggested that the cover feature a photo of the type of sexually-appealing witch his book extols. “A Hurrell 30’s type portrait,” Adam agreed, “…With the proper photo on the cover, no doubt would be left as to the type of witch you are referring to.” George Hurrell was a glamor photographer whose photos of Hollywood icons have become classics.
The cover that did eventually grace The Satanic Witch echoed that of The Satanic Bible in visual impact, containing only the title, author and displaying the Church of Satan’s Sigil of Baphomet as a graphic. It was also brilliant orange, and popped out beautifully on the otherwise dark and foreboding shelves of the occult section of any bookstore. The LaVey Personality Synthesizer appears on the inside front and back covers, and the author photo by Bobby Neel Adams includes Boaz the snake, and was taken in the kitchen of the original Black House.
As is inevitable, The Satanic Witch wasn’t quite on time, but did appear in August of 1989. It was announced in the first two issues of The Feral House Intelligencer:
“Second, revised edition of THE COMPLEAT WITCH, published in 1971 and then withdrawn by the publishers Dodd, Mead, after an avalanche of complaints. A guide to the hidden motives of human behavior…”
“…[a] rich soufflé of erotic gamesmanship, Social Darwinism, and sybaritic indulgence caused a motley gaggle of Christians, Wiccans, feminist extremists and other Hays Code-style guardians of public decency to lobby Dodd, Mead for the first edition’s removal from circulation… The only bookstore chain brave enough to stock The Satanic Witch is B. Dalton and Company. The other major chains have banned The Satanic Witch (along with LaVey’s Satanic Bible) from their stores. The reason cannot be a lack of interest, as evidenced by the recent onslaught of anti-Satanic hysteria, fueled by opportunistic electronic ‘Christians’ and cynical media grabs for ratings. Whatever the case may be, the same mega-corporate booksellers who feign a pretence [sic] of courage & free speech activism by selling The Satanic Verses (note the derivative title) refuse to touch a book with Satan in its title if penned by the original American Satan. Coincidence? Conspiracy? What, are you nuts? This is America!”
Feral House also released a “Fact Sheet” about the book that states that the Dodd, Mead hardcover sold over 25,000 copies, and the Lancer paperback over 100,000.
The launch and promotion of The Satanic Witch wasn’t without some controversies involving several personalities along the way; as Adam said to LaVey in a letter that August, “You have said, and now I believe it, that it is the small things that drain you.”
Feral House became one of the most notorious independent publishers of the 1990s, known and respected for bringing forbidden ideas and transgressive material to light. In 2003, Adam Parfrey contacted me about a fresh edition of The Satanic Witch, and asked me, as the new High Priestess of the Church of Satan, to write an updated introduction. Blanche Barton provided the Afterword, which added to the author’s biography by placing the book in a historical context, and the road-hazard orange cover was updated with red typography and a psychedelic purple-pink spiral. This edition is still in print today.
One of the greatest legacies and most profound influences of The Satanic Witch, has been its Select Bibliography. More than just a list of books in his library, it could be construed that LaVey used it to leave signposts for subsequent generations of readers, dropping seeds and pointing to his thought process as he amassed ideas from a number of places to create not only the philosophy of Satanism but the application of Lesser Magic through the practice of what he felt was real witchcraft. The obscurity of many of the titles on this list has always fascinated Satanists.
When LaVey was writing The Compleat Witch in 1970, it should be kept in mind that he didn’t have the Internet, and neither did bookstores or libraries. His own bookshelves probably weren’t organized alphabetically. So his notes indicate to me that he created his Select Bibliography by pulling the books he wanted to cite off his shelves and placing them in a pile for his typist. They are not listed in alphabetical order, or by category, nor are they grouped by author in his drafted list.
There are several instances of different editions of titles being swapped between LaVey’s notes and the final, published list. The Interpretation of Dreams by Wilhelm Stekel doesn’t appear in LaVey’s notes. The published citation is for an edition from 1943 from Liveright Publishing, and this was actually a two-volume publication. But LaVey’s notes cite a 1951 book entitled How to Understand Your Dreams from Eton Books in New York. I think it’s a safe assumption that they are the same book, repackaged, but one would have to compare them. Another swap was for the Alan Hull Walton title, Aphrodisiacs — From Legend to Prescription, which refers to a 1958 edition from Associated Booksellers in New York, while LaVey’s notes call for a 1963 edition from Paperback Library, Inc. in New York. Finally, LaVey’s first listing for Wilhelm Reich’s The Function of the Orgasm cited a 1967 Bantam, New York edition. This listing was crossed out, and farther down the title appears again, citing the Orgone Institute Press, New York, edition from 1942, as published.
Perhaps more intriguing are the titles that were simply left out. New Approaches to Dream Interpretation by Nandor Fodor (University Books: New Hyde Park, NY, 1951) and The Ego in Love and Sexuality by Dr. Edrita Fried (Grune and Stratton: NY, 1960) are on LaVey’s list, not crossed out or distinguished in any way; they simply didn’t make it to the book. I wonder if it was just a paste-up error. If you look at the published list, Freud appears before Fosbroke, when he should have appeared after him. Perhaps the list was broken up here for space, or an over-active X-Acto blade got busy. Certainly, there were plenty of other titles on the list that covered the same subject matter.
These two, however, aren’t the only titles missing. There were last-minute corrections that missed the deadline and two of these were additions to the Select Bibliography: The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney (Viking Press: NY, 1961) and The Creep by Jeffrey Frank (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: NY, 1967). This oversight was corrected by Blanche Barton, who included both titles in the reading list for We Are Satanists (Aperient Press, La Quinta, CA, 2021), and before that in The Church of Satan (Hell’s Kitchen Productions, Inc., New York, NY, 1991).
The 62nd issue of the Church of Satan’s in-house newsletter, The Cloven Hoof, published in July/August 1976, contained an article from one Church member who had struggled to purchase an additional copy of The Compleat Witch for a friend. “But the most important part of the Witch was not the content, or even the subliminal and electrifying philosophy of Satanism, as expounded by Anton Szandor LaVey…as much as the references. The bibliography became my Baedeker.”
Since he passed away in 1997, Anton LaVey didn’t have the opportunity to witness the profound influence his Select Bibliography had on subsequent generations of his readers. In 2012, publisher Kevin I. Slaughter began a blog that became The Compleat Witch Illustrated Bibliography Project, and other Church of Satan members, notably Reverend Byrd and Magistra LKRice, stepped up to participate. The blog was designed to “showcase each title, highlighting content and synopses, variations of editions, cover art, etc.”
Reverend Byrd felt the work would be most impactful if a complete collection of the physical books was on hand to reference, so he began collecting. “I have also tried to get the specific editions cited in the bibliography whenever possible so that it is the very same as what Magus LaVey read.” Byrd has amassed an impressive number of titles: 168 of the 170 books cited. “The two missing are extremely rare: La Forme Humaine by C. Siguad and Zauberei Geräuschen by Felix Möbius. As of the last time I’ve researched them, only two copies of La Forme Humaine are known to exist in the US… and no trace of Zauberei Geräuschen has ever been found and nothing is known of the author.”
“LaVey produced a synthesis of occult knowledge from many fields,” Magister Slaughter asserts. “He harvested the wisdom and insight of a spectrum of explorers and thinkers both laureled and unheralded. My own lifelong study has been directly influenced by his work and also the brio of his omnivorous study. Underworld Amusements, my publishing work, provides a powerful roster of books that are connected by a Satanic thread, sometimes apparent, often veiled… To me, my Union of Egoists project is the cultural study of the philosophical core of Satanism; what it is to others is nothing to me… I began The Compleat Witch Illustrated Bibliography Project as a deep-dive personal study program. With it, one can be taught great lessons, and be delighted by great stories, and be girded by invigorating aphorisms — without once accepting or condoning or taking responsibility for the foibles of those very same teachers.”
Although technically incomplete and occasionally on hiatus, The Compleat Witch Bibliography Project is hosted online by Magister Slaughter at http://www.compleatwitch.com/about/. Reverend Byrd maintains a social media presence for the project both on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CompleatWitch) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/compleatwitch/). He graciously shares his collection by celebrating author birthdays or books that are relevant to holidays throughout the year, making memes with poignant and pertinent quotes that illustrate the de facto Satanism inherent in these books.
In 1970, LaVey expected and intended his advice to be shocking. The Compleat Witch kicked clunky heels, sexless fashions and societal conventions to the curb and stated the uncomfortable truth that in an overwhelming number of situations, a woman could get what she wanted most easily by making a man give it to her. Furthermore, any individual could gain allies and vanquish their enemies by understanding a carny’s view of human nature, placing individuals in categories that made it easier to evaluate and influence them — and by internalizing the viewpoint that we all are animals, and respond to sounds, sights and scents as any animal will. Today, The Satanic Witch is often dismissed as an out-of-date book of dating advice for cis-women, with little to offer this century’s culture where gender role flexibility and a more equitable base of power among the sexes is the expected norm. Smart witches across every spectrum know better. Some things will always work, even while we laugh at ourselves and watch them working.
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