“I’m just a storyteller.”
—Mike Warnke from the 1979 album A Christian perspective on Halloween
In 1973, Evangelical comedian Mike Warnke wrote a book called the The Satan Seller. A book that would propel him to fame as one of the most trusted knowledge bases in the field of Satanism and the occult (“trusted” by idiots like Bob Larson, but I digress). Warnke’s book details his experiences with ritualistic killings, child murder, orgies and rape until he was “saved” by Jesus after a six-month stint in Vietnam.
Warnke was an instant sensation to legions of Christians, and became a beacon of hope in their never-ending war between good and evil. He released volume upon volume of recordings, comedic and otherwise and has told his story to Oprah, Larry King and 20/20. Many directly credit Warnke’s incredible popularity with the sudden panic about Satanic ritual abuse and cult activity in the late 80s and early 90s.
When I saw the edited clip below, taken from a VHS recording of his 1989 comedy stand-up performance called Do You Hear Me, I was unprepared for the moment when Warnke veers off his righteous path into NSFW territory and launches into a gruesomely detailed account of a satanic ritual to the audience. Dispensing this type of hellfire was a matter of routine for Warnke, but I was completely incredulous.
And so were others. In the late 80s, Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein, two Christian journalists working for Cornerstone Magazine decided to investigate Warnke’s wild claims. Their finds would go on to be published in a book called, Selling Satan: The Evangelical Media and the Mike Warnke Scandal.
Shockingly, Warnke’s own family and friends laughed at the idea when Trott and Hertenstein asked them if he had lived in witches coven with 1,500 people, was ever a dope fiend or did LSD. However it was Mike Warnke himself who made his exposure as a liar-liar-pants-on-fire recovering Satanist pretty easy. My favorite example of this is a story Warnke was fond of telling about how Charles Manson attended one of his blood-soaked sacrificial rituals in 1966. The problem with this juicy tidbit was that Manson was busy that year doing his second bid in Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution due to a parole violation. (I guess it was the 80s, and Warnke probably thought to himself “No one will call me out on this if they can’t google it!” (Or something.)
In addition to the fascinating Selling Satan, cult-busting website Holy Smoke has also posted articles and sidebar columns that were originally published in Cornerstone (volume 21, issue 98 in 1992) that contain much of the blow-by-blow on Warnke’s jaw-dropping tall tales. I highly recommend you read both if this has at all piqued your interest.
Although the allegations of out-and-out fabrication were quite specific and damaging to his credibility (to say the least), Warnke never addressed the charges of his critics in his book Friendly Fire (as excerpted on the Thanks Mucho blog):
I was in the middle of the worst period of my life. For nearly 22 years I had reigned as the number-one Christian comedian in the world, performing to sellout crowds around the globe ... My books and tapes were steady best-sellers ... I even had my own private plane.
Then suddenly, it all fell apart. In the summer of 1992, a Christian magazine published an article that called into question virtually every aspect of my life, my Christian testimony, and my ministry. I was accused of lying about my testimony—in particular my past involvement with the occult and as a satanist—and of operating a false ministry.
The fallout was immediate. My concert schedule dried up and disappeared. My record company pulled all my tapes from the stores and cancelled my contract. Many people I thought were my friends were no longer talking to me. For months I was subjected to a very brutal and very public whipping by the media, both Christian and secular…
Was I a fake, a charlatan, a deceiver, and a liar? No. I never lied about my testimony and I never ran a fake ministry…