The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Nick Toti presents … Mike Warnke



The Satanic Panic era was complicated. It’s easy enough to laugh at YouTube clips from the various “special reports” on the rise of a Satanic Underground in the American heartland, but the whole phenomenon demonstrated something dark in our collective national unconscious. It’s only natural that a folk hero should emerge from all that cultural chaos, and after much research I think that the best candidate for this role is Mike Warnke, a man who played a major role in both creating and then (inadvertently) ending the Satanic Panic.

I started researching Warnke a few years ago for a documentary project that never quite found its footing. To paint in broad strokes, he was a massively successful Christian stand-up comic from the late-70’s to the early-90’s. He first gained fame in the evangelical Christian community in 1972 when he published a memoir called The Satan Seller that chronicled his mid-60’s career as a drug dealer and satanic high priest before finding Jesus. The Satan Seller was a hit and Warnke became a popular speaker in the evangelical circuit thanks to his shocking testimony. According to Warnke, he started using humor to tell his story because otherwise it was too depressing. In time, he moved away from the more titillating Satanic material and focused almost entirely on wholesome family entertainment with a Christian message. His ministry brought in millions and basically created the Christian comedy industry.

Warnke’s story took a dramatic turn in 1992 when Cornerstone magazine, a Christian publication, ran a lengthy expose debunking nearly every claim that he had made about his nefarious past. They provided photographic evidence that, rather than having waist-length white hair and six-inch long fingernails as he had claimed, in the mid-60’s Warnke was a straight-laced, unassuming nerd. The article also revealed the scandalous details of Warnke’s multiple marriages and his ministry’s varied financial indiscretions. The article was devastating to Warnke’s career. His record label dropped him and Warnke Ministries closed its doors. The speaking engagements stopped and the world, having grown tired of Satan as the boogeyman de jour, dismissed Warnke as a hypocrite and a fraud.

If Warnke’s story stopped here, it would be a nice little cautionary tale about the wolf in sheep’s clothing duping a bunch of ignorant Christians. What makes Warnke particularly interesting, though, is that his story does not stop here.

After some initial push-back, Warnke acknowledged many of the accusations that had been made against him. In an attempt at salvaging his reputation as a minister, he submitted himself to the authority of a tribunal board made up of Christian ministers. This tribunal oversaw Warnke’s career for the next 13 years before eventually releasing him from their authority as a minister in good standing within the Christian community. It has now been 25 years since his career imploded, but Warnke is still traveling the world doing speaking engagements and releasing books, albums, and DVDs.

But the thing that makes his continued career of particular interest is the fact that, through everything, Warnke has denied lying about his past involvement with Satanism and the occult. He’s certainly toned it down in his act (which is now much closer to preaching than stand-up comedy), but he never admitted to making it up. Exaggerate? Yes, he admits that some of the details became embellished for the sake of spinning a good yarn. But he insists that his testimony was essentially true.

This puts the Mike Warnke story in an interesting place. The most typical response seems to be an immediate leap to presume that Warnke is, once again, lying. This is understandable, but there are some intriguing factors that complicate the matter.

The first complication came in 1979. Warnke had released three incredibly successful comedy albums for Word Records, but he wanted to shift to something more serious for his next release. He proposed an album on the dangers of Halloween that Word flatly refused to back out of fear that audiences would resent a non-comedy Warnke album and their cash cow would have been effectively slaughtered. Warnke believed in the project so much that he produced it independently and found a different distributor. This level of dedication (and personal financial risk) to the dangers of the occult would be odd in a man who was only looking to make money off of unwitting believers. This project was important enough to Warnke to jeopardize his growing comedy career.

The second complication came from Warnke’s third wife Rose Hall Warnke. In 1985 she published The Great Pretender, a book that chronicles (in the most flamboyantly bizarre fashion) the work that was then being done at Warnke Ministries. Rose’s account, which was published 7 years before the Cornerstone expose, openly discusses Warnke’s adulterous indiscretions, his unusual personal habits (including dressing in bishop’s robes while in the privacy of their home), and Warnke Ministries’s tempestuous relationship with the IRS. All of this information is presented openly in a book featuring full-color promotional photos and an introduction by Mike Warnke.

Last is the account published by Warnke’s tribunal. The advisory board that was established for the sole purpose of overseeing Warnke’s rehabilitation into good standing as a minister did not find the evidence against him sufficient to discredit his occult background. Having read the accounts against Warnke, I’m inclined to agree that the evidence the Cornerstone journalists provided is often flimsy and unfairly biased against Warnke. This certainly doesn’t mean that Warnke was telling the truth (and a tribunal board made up of evangelical Christian ministers hand-picked by Warnke can hardly be considered impartial), but it does paint a more complicated picture than most have been willing to acknowledge.

While I’d be a dummy to think that Mike Warnke was telling (pardon the phrase) the god’s honest truth, I think that it’s safe to say that he believes, quite sincerely, in what he has claimed. This leaves us with a few options: 1) Mike Warnke has some sort of mental illness and cannot distinguish between fact and fiction; 2) Mike Warnke is an unusually dedicated liar, despite the fact that his lies stopped advantaging him 25 years ago; or 3) Mike Warnke, despite his numerous and well-documented embellishments and exaggerations, told the truth about a Satanic conspiracy in America and his involvement in it.

Regardless of the truth, Mike Warnke represents a modern American iteration of the Faust legend. He sold his soul to Satan, gained great earthly power, and suffered terrible consequences. Faust’s redemption was sometimes granted and sometimes denied, depending on who was telling the story. I think it would only be fair to grant Warnke that same level of eternal ambiguity.





November 19, 1946 – Mike Warnke born in Evansville, Indiana to Alfred “Al” Warnke and Louise Warnke.

1951 – Warnke family moves to Manchester, Tennessee where Al opens a truck stop.

1955 – Louise Warnke dies in a car accident.

1958 – Al Warnke dies, leaving Mike an orphan. He spends rest of his childhood living with family either in Sparta, Tennessee or San Bernardino, California.

June 1965 – Mike graduates from Rim of the World High School in Lake Arrowhead, California.

September 1965 – Mike enrolls at San Bernardino Valley College but withdraws after one semester. According to The Satan Seller, this is the point at which he becomes a Satanist.

June 2, 1966 – Mike Warnke enlists in the U.S. Navy. According to The Satan Seller, it is during boot camp that Warnke becomes a born again Christian, though this has been disputed.

August 22, 1966 – Warnke graduates from boot camp and is assigned to serve as a hospital corpsman.

1967 – Warnke completes naval corpsman training and returns to San Diego to marry Sue Studer. They will later have two children together.

1969 – Warnke is deployed to Vietnam for a six-month tour of duty. He is awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during this time, though accounts of his injuries have varied greatly. Warnke’s various accounts have him spending much time detained, allegedly killing a man in battle, and surviving being shot several times, including once by an arrow.

1970 – Warnke returns to the U.S. After his return, he teams up with evangelist Morris Cerullo and the two begin touring in their “Witchmobile” to fight against Satanism and the Occult. Cerullo introduces Warnke to David Balsiger so that the two can collaborate on a book about youth occultism.

1972 – Warnke requests an early discharge from the Navy as a conscientious objector in order to focus full-time on ministry. His request is granted. Warnke then severs ties with Cerullo’s ministry to start his own and forbids Cerullo from using any of his material. Warnke (with writing help from Balsiger and Les Jones) publishes The Satan Seller later that year. The book quickly launches Warnke into stardom within the evangelical Christian community and he begins his work as a popular public speaker.

1974 – Warnke moves his family to attend Trinity Bible College in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He meets Carolyn Alberty and the two begin an affair. Warnke also meets Elijah Coady, an independent, schismatic bishop of the Syro-Chaldean Church, also known as the Assyrian Church of the East or the Nestorian church. Coady ordains Warnke as a deacon. Upon graduation, Warnke is again ordained and he moves with his family to Denver, Colorado.

November 1975 – At an Indiana coffeehouse, Warnke’s talk about his conversion from Satanism to Christianity is recorded and later released by Word Records as his first album, Alive.

December 1975 – Warnke divorces Sue Studer to marry Carolyn Alberty.

September 1976 – Warnke is featured on the cover of Harmony, a Christian magazine.

1977 – Warnke releases his second album, Jester In The King’s Court.

1978 – Warnke recounts his Vietnam experiences on his third album, Hey, Doc!

1979 – Warnke independently produces the non-comedy album A Christian Perspective on Halloween after his label, Word Records, refuses to release it. Warnke’s second book, Hitchhiking on Hope Street, is published. This same year, Warnke provides a short preface to The Todd Phenomenon, a book debunking a fraudulent ex-occultist.

November 1979 – Warnke and Alberty divorce. Soon after, Warnke marries Rose Hall, a thrice-divorced mother of three children, and moves to her farm in Kentucky.

1981 – Word releases Coming Home.

1982 – Word releases Higher Education, the first of two albums by Mike and Rose Warnke.

1983 – Growing Up, the final Mike and Rose Warnke album, is released. Independent bishop Richard Morrill of the Byzantine Catholic Church, Inc. ordains Warnke as a bishop.

1985 – Under Word’s Dayspring label, Warnke releases Stuff Happens.

May 16, 1985 – Warnke appears in a prime-time news report about Satanism, titled “The Devil Worshippers,” on ABC’s 20/20.

1985 – Good News Tonight is released. Warnke Ministries reportedly raises over 1 million dollars in contributions this year.

1987 – Warnke Ministries now reportedly raises over 2 million dollars per year.

1988 – One in a Million is released.

1989 – Warnke’s first VHS special Do You Hear Me? is released. Mike and Rose Warnke separate but remain married.

1990 – Totally Weird is released.

1991 – Out of My Mind is released both on VHS and as an album. Schemes of Satan, Warnke’s third book, is published.

September 4, 1991 – Mike and Rose Warnke divorce. Mike marries his fourth wife, Susan Patton, six weeks later.

1992 – Warnke releases Full Speed Ahead, his final album for nearly a decade. Mike and Rose Hall Warnke publish Recovering from Divorce, which will be Mike’s last book for the next 13 years. Cornerstone magazine publishes Volume 21, Issue 98 “The Mike Warnke Story” by Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott. The story uncovers evidence that much of Warnke’s testimony has been fraudulent as well as exposing various personal indiscretions.

July 29, 1992 – Further investigations by Kentucky reporters at the Lexington Herald-Leader reveal that Warnke Ministries has engaged in financial misdeeds.

August 5, 19992 – Word Records drops Warnke from the label.

September 30, 1992 – Warnke Ministries closes its doors.

1993 – Hertenstein and Trott publish a book-length expansion of their Cornerstone story, titled Selling Satan. This same year, Warnke submits to the authority of an assembly of ministers “acting as elders” (also referred to as his “tribunal”). He acknowledges his “ungodliness”, his “multiple divorces”, his “failure as husband, father, and friend”, and admits to “embellishment and exaggeration … in an attempt … to entertain.” Nonetheless, Warnke continues to “stand by [his] testimony of former Satanic involvement.”

December, 1996 – Warnke suffers a heart attack.

December 5, 1996 – Mike and Susan Warnke’s Celebrations of Hope, Inc. is granted 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.

2001 – Warnke releases Jesus Loves Me!, his first album in 9 years.

2002 – Destiny Image publishes Warnke’s Friendly Fire: A Recovery Guide for Believers Battered by Religion, his first book in 10 years.

2005 – Warnke releases Serious as a Heart Attack on DVD, his first comedy special in 14 years.

2006 – Warnke releases The Storybook, an album consisting largely of previously released material.

December 5, 2006 – Warnke’s tribunal makes a formal statement announcing the “successful completion of the recommendations that were placed on [Warnke] and [his] ministry by the Advisory Council 13 years ago in January of 1993. All restrictions have been met and are hereby lifted.”

2008 – Warnke re-releases his 1989 special Do You Hear Me? on DVD with a new introduction and concluding message. Notably, this version has edited out large portions of the original special in which Warnke discusses Satanists and Satanic ritual abuse of young children in graphic detail.

2015 – Warnke releases his comedy special Still Alive on DVD.





The Satan Seller – 1972

Disclaimer from the copyright page: “Some of the names in this book have been changed to protect the individuals involved. The events are absolutely as described.”

This is the book that started Warnke’s career. It tells the story of how, as a nineteen-year-old, Mike Warnke rose through the ranks of modern occultism, ultimately leading a coven of 1500 members as a High Priest in the Church of Satan. He had an unlimited supply of drugs, his own car and driver, access to private jets whenever he needed, and two sex slaves living in his pitch-black Satanic bachelor pad. It was, by Warnke’s own admission, a great life…until the drugs and stress got the better of him and he was betrayed by his coven and left for dead. In an act of desperation, he joins the Navy where, through the insistent meddling of his evangelical Christian bunkmates, he finds the saving grace of Jesus Christ. From that point forward, he would dedicate his life to fighting the forces of Evil.


Hitchhiking on Hope Street – 1979

Largely consisting of adapted transcriptions from Warnke’s first three comedy albums, Hitchhiking on Hope Street also contains numerous letters ostensibly written to real people in Warnke’s life. In an interview from the year before its publication, Warnke referred to the book by a different title: Letters to Those that Live at the Edge.

Disclaimer from the copyright page: “The stories in this book are true: however, to protect the privacy of individuals involved, certain names, dates, places, and likenesses have been altered.”


The Todd Phenomenon – 1979
By Darryl E. Hicks & Dr. David A. Lewis
(Featuring a Foreword by Mike Warnke)

John Todd was an influential conspiracy theorist among the evangelical Christian community of the 1970s. His background contained dubious claims of occult involvement and firsthand knowledge of the Illuminati. This book was written by concerned members of the evangelical community to expose Todd as a fraud. Ironically, they turned to Mike Warnke to write the book’s foreword. Warnke warns readers: “We as Christians have to be careful of those who take the name of the Lord in vain.”


The Great Pretender – 1985
by Rose Hall Warnke

A truly bizarre book by Warnke’s then-wife and business/ministry partner at the height of their popularity. A nearly unreadable mess, at times this book seems like it has to be a joke. Most famously, it lists Spinal Tap (yes, Spinal Tap!) as an example of the type of Satanic rock band that stands as a threat to good Christian values. The book also chronicles Warnke’s flirtations with adultery and the couple’s persecution at the hands of the IRS. At one point she makes casual reference to Warnke wearing the robes of a traditional Catholic bishop while relaxing at home. (It is worth noting that this information was voluntarily published seven years before the Cornerstone article “exposed” some of these same details.) The book also includes original poetry and advice on parenting. The author comes across as disturbingly naive and sincerely terrified of Satan.


Schemes of Satan – 1991

This book is a training manual for uncovering hidden Satanic and occult influences at work in everyday life. The usual suspects are all accounted for: horror movies, rock music, Dungeons & Dragons, etc. At 300 densely-packed, heavily researched pages, the book is exhaustive enough to expose the occult influences in anyone’s life.


Recovering from Divorce – 1992
(Co-authored with Rose Hall Warnke)

Just as the Warnke scandal was about to break, he and his newly-ex-wife published this book on divorce. More than anything so far in his career, this book demonstrates Warnke’s tendency to deflect blame through perceived victimhood. The Warnkes do not present themselves as fully responsible for their failed marriage; instead, they are “victims of divorce.” It’s difficult not to interpret this book’s publication as an attempt by the successful couple to “stay ahead of the scandal” the their divorce. Unfortunately for Warnke, he chose the wrong scandal to get ahead of.


Cornerstone magazine, Volume 21, Issue 98 – 1992
“The Mike Warnke Story”

This is the 20,000+ word expose that all but ended Warnke’s career. Its details have been widely covered elsewhere (see virtually any other article or blog post about Warnke). The evidence presented is compelling and quite damning. Warnke, however, claimed that the article was unfairly biased against him…a point that is actually worth considering. The authors seem willing to publish any account that makes Warnke look bad without establishing the credibility of their sources.


Selling Satan – 1993
by Mike Hertenstein & Jon Trott

After the success of their Cornerstone article, authors Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott expanded it into a 400+ page book with extensive notes and references. Most commentators are content to treat this book as the final word on Warnke even though he has continued working as a career minister for more than two decades since its publication.


Friendly Fire – 2002

Ten years after the Cornerstone scandal broke, Warnke made his definitive public response with this book. Rather than directly answering his accusers, though, this is a book on how to “weather the storm” when the Church turns against one of its members. For anyone expecting any sort of accounting for the various discrepancies in Warnke’s biography, this book will prove hugely disappointing. For those interested in watching the mental gymnastics of a man insistent of his own victimhood in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it is a treasure trove.

Disclaimer from the copyright page: “Take note that the name satan and related names are not capitalized. We choose not to acknowledge him even to the point of violating grammatical rules.”



Alive! (1976)


Jester in the King’s Court (1977)


Hey Doc! (1978)


A Christian Perspective on Halloween (1979)

Coming Home (1981)


Higher Education – with Rose Hall Warnke (1982)


Growing Up – with Rose Hall Warnke (1983)


Stuff Happens (1985)


Good News Tonight (1986)


One in a Million (1988)


Totally Weird (1990)


Out of My Mind (1991)


Full Speed Ahead (1992)

Jesus Loves Me! (2001)


The Storybook (2006)





10 minutes of Warnke’s 1989 stand-up special Do You Hear Me?


Additional (crudely edited) footage from Do You Hear Me? featuring some of Warnke’s graphic descriptions of Satanic ritual abuse. Much of this footage was edited out of the 2008 DVD re-release.


Warnke’s 1991 stand-up special Out of My Mind in its entirety.


Raw footage of Warnke being interviewed by a Christian journalist around 1979.


Warnke helps advertise Youth Alive television program.


20/20 special “The Devil Worshippers” (featuring Mike Warnke as an expert on Satanism), broken up across three videos.


Both parts of Christian teen television program Fire by Night’s two-part “Satanism Unmasked” special, featuring special guest Mike Warnke (in Part 1 only).


Word Records 1991 promotional video (featuring Warnke in numerous interstitial comedy sketches).


Further Reading

* The Cornerstone series on Mike Warnke – This page has links to the original article and various responses from Warnke and others.
* Lexington Herald-Reader articles about Warnke
* Excerpts from a message board Q&A with one of the Cornerstone editors
* From Subculture to Major Industry: Mike Warnke and The Roots of Christian Stand-Up Comedy
* How Many Gods Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb? Just One. – As good of an article on the “Christian comedy industry” as you’re likely to find.
* Mike Warnke’s Tribunal Board – 13 years of updates from Warnke’s spiritual advisers
* Mike Warnke’s Wikipedia page
* Mike Warnke: The Man Who Sold Satan
* A message board account from someone claiming to be Warnke’s former road manager – If the writer is who he says he is, this has some good insight into Mike and Rose’s relationship.
* Still Selling Satan: Mike Warnke Update – A brief interview with Mike and Rose from shortly after the scandal broke.
* Laughs stopped for Christian comic Mike Warnke offers fans new outlook after ministry’s crash – An article on Warnke’s post-scandal comeback.
* Friendly Fire book review – An incredibly harsh review of a book that deserves every bit of it.
* Mike Warnke’s official website
* Mike Warnke’s official Facebook page




p.s. Hey. This weekend we’re super lucky because we have this fascinating and rich post by the fine filmmaker, writer, and more Nick Toti to devour. Mike Warnke is a handful, as you will see, and there’s a lot to get lost inside and compelled by up there. So, why not do that? And thank you. And, yes, please talk to Nick over the weekend about … well, whatever you end up thinking with his help. Thank you ever so much, Nick! Otherwise, some people around here expressed curiosity about the Matthew Barney/Brandon Stosuy ‘Remains Guide’ event that I participated in a few weeks ago. Paste Magazine has posted a short report and photos from the event, and, if you’re curious, you can find that here. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! I’m glad you got to have that long, good visit with your friend. Your proposal for the SCAB post sounds great! Yes, however it would be cool and interesting for you, and I’ll assist on my end as much as needed. I hope the self-help group meeting goes really well today, and that it portends a very good weekend for you in general. My day wasn’t a whole lot to speak of, but it was fine, no complaints. Today I’m back to a full day’s work on the new Gisele Vienne piece, and that should be my day pretty much. Have a swell next two days, and let me know what happened. ** H, Hi. Yes, the Tooth Fairy Museum was a special idea, for sure. Good that ‘Jubilee’ ended up holding your interest. I should re-see that. And, as you can imagine, I only envy your chances to see ‘The Devil, Probably’ in an actual theater. I’ve only seen it that way, i.e. fully, twice, I think. Enjoy everything. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. I liked ‘Come Back to Five and Dime …’ I remember the performances being pretty wonderful mostly: Sandy Dennis, Karen Black especially. It’s true about the late, not so great Altman. I do remember wondering why in the world he made ‘Dr. T & the Women’. I for one would be extremely interested to read your extended thoughts on the Cars, so I hope you will do that. Rip Ocasek produced a Guided by Voices album — their most commercially successful one, I think — and their probably most well known song ‘Teenage FBI’, which has a kind of Cars-ish vibe in the background, and that endeared him to me, of course. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Well, definitely impossible in the US at the level he was working at for sure. It’s much easier to stick to your special guns in France, at least. I do so hope that Shelley Duvall is now getting the help she needs. That’s heartbreaking. Wonderful news that ‘Raised By Hand Puppets’ is nearing the finish line! Literary agents definitely exist in numbers. Like I said, mine is in the UK and not really recommendable. Do you know writers who have done or do work in memoir, nonfiction, etc. who could help you on the agent front? An agent who knows that field and the editors who are especially interested in it would be the best way to go. Everyone, the honorable David Ehrenstein has nearly completely his legendary, long-awaited memoir ‘Raised By Hand Puppets’, and it’s time t get an agent to help it mingle with publishing houses. Does anyone within the reach of these words have any ideas, suggestions, words of advice for David? That would be great. You can talk to him here or reach him via social media or privately. Thank you! ** Bill Hsu, You’re back! And you have a full name! I would have pulled my car off the road for Foamhenge, that’s for sure. That is unexpected about Joy Williams not having seen ‘Three Women’. Weird. Surely by now. N.J. Campbell’s ‘Found Audio’ is a book I’ve meaning to read very much. I’ll use your mention as the nudge I need. And mainly, get that sleep. ** Jamie, Bonjour! I’m good, thanks. You? If the Museum of Shit had been defunct, I would have found it, I think. I spent way, way too much time hunting in the weirdest, furthest reaches of the net for those museums. I don’t know, I kind of think your day was very poetic. I like terse, minimalist poetry. Did the Writing Gang round everything out with a bang? A good bang, needless to say? Did the gang give Hannah an appropriate response, i.e, tears, cheers, … beers? Well, normally I would say — re: Jonathan’s awayness — the cat’s away, the mice can play, etc., but I’m guessing your flights of genius would be in risk of being normalized or whatever when he returned, no matter how tanned he got? Friday was fine, nothing really noteworthy, apart from getting to FaceTime with a great friend I don’t get to see very often. My weekend is dance rehearsals all day today, meeting up with the visiting filmmaker Jonathan (‘Tarnation’, etc.) Caouette on Sunday, … geez, I don’t know. I’ll fill the days out with stuff, that’s for certain. Heavily enjoy yours and linguistically share its booty. #1 single in Bosnia and Herzegovina love, Dennis. ** Nick Toti, Hi, Nick! Let me thank you personally right here for the fantastic post. I’m so grateful, and I hope/am sure the weekend will go very well. Whoa, great, I will follow your link as soon as I punch the ‘Publish’ button. Everyone, your guest-host for weekend Mr. Nick Toti is … well, he’ll tell you. I’ll just add that hitting the link he’s about the share is an extremely great idea. Nick: ‘FYI – One of my shorts is currently being featured on Fandependent Films (along with a brief interview) if you or anyone else is interested.’ ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Well, I guess that means my GIF work was a success! Thank you for riding with your eyes so wide open. Hm, why do you think prostitution in general bothers you? I’m not talking about the irrevocably awful manifestations like sex trade and evil pimps and drug addicts using it to pay for their habits so on, which is the most glaring and discussed kind of prostitution but is not in fact the norm. Of course I’ve known a number of people who do that work, and I think to a one they either enjoyed it or felt pragmatic and undisturbed by doing it. I suppose your being contradictory is an answer. And you are the one and only Misanthrope. I’m sorry, G., but I find it just a little hard to believe that you don’t like Harry Styles’ looks. That just kind of makes no sense at all to me. I think I go to the same melancholy place as you about a lot of those failed museums. Bon weekend! ** Okay. Let Nick Toti and Mike Warnke sweep you far, far away until I see you next. On Monday.


  1. David Ehrenstein

    August 19, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Merci Nick Toti for venturing where few of us want to go. I shall never forget the McMartin Pre-school hysteria. There was a “New Yorker” article about a decade and a halfback about the nationwide Satanic Panic involving pre-schools that swept the country — McMartin being but one example. The best film about all of this is of course Ken Russell’s masterpiece “The Devils.”

    • David Ehrenstein, Sadly, most of the innocent people who got swept up in all that nonsense still suffer the effects of it today and have really never recovered. Even with complete exoneration, just having one’s name attached to a term like “pedophile” or “child molester” can ruin one’s life. Fucking sad.

  2. Nick Toti! Wow, tres interesting subject here. Another reason that makes this place so great. And on top of everything, Warnke has a bit of Ron Jeremy about him looks-wise which makes everything kind of comical to boot.

    Dennis, Back to contradictions: As fucked up and perverted as I am, there’s this part of me that is very trad and conventional and that believes in things like love, monogamy, fidelity, the sacredness of intimate relations, etc. It’s something that pulls at me, generally. I don’t think it’s my upbringing, or my upbringing didn’t have that intent. It’s something very personal for me. I’ve had the one-night stands and all that and just felt fucking empty afterwards, no matter how good the sex was or how into each other the other guy/girl and I were. I always wanted more or expected more.

    Maybe it’s hating being rejected, even though I wasn’t rejected sexually but was otherwise in the long run. Who knows? I just think, for me, things like sex are really heavy and meaningful. I don’t really know why, and frankly, I’m okay with it.

    Of course, I think Harry Styles is very cute. But like I always say, I’m so into him for everything but his looks. Yes, that drew me to him initially, but that’s not why I became a superfan of his and stayed one. It’s all the other things about him that I love. I don’t jerk off to pics of him, I don’t search for nude or sexy photos of him (granted, if some popped up, I’d look at them, but then again, I’ve watched the Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian videos too and just because they were there), I don’t at all fantasize about him. If anything, I think it’d be nice to be friends with him.

    With someone like Harry, it’s all about everything else, it really is. The way he’s so open to and accepting of everyone, his goofy ass sense of humor, his intelligence, the decisions he makes as an artist and person, etc. I just find him to be a really good guy who happens to have really interesting views on things and who treats other people really well, which I find very refreshing.

    And frankly, I always found Niall from One Direction much more sexy, but I have no interest in his career or music because beyond those cute looks of his, I’ve found nothing else there, really.

    Or take my interest in the fitness YouTuber, David Laid. There are dozens and dozens of guys who do the same thing (and get a lot more likes and subscribers and views) and who are better looking, but man, these guys are so fucking boring, no humor, no interests, it seems, beyond the fitness thing and what they look like, nothing smart or interesting about them at all. So yeah, his looks drew me to him initially, but it’s all the other stuff that made me stay.

    So yeah, I can be a very shallow fuck initially, but it’s so much more than that in the long run.

    As far as the prostitution and all that and the people who do it…go for it. Do your thing, be you, do what you want (as long as you don’t hurt other people or yourself), but it’s just not for me personally. I do find it all very interesting and all that, but I stop short of it being something that’s okay for me personally on either side.

  3. I don’t want to jump into the prostitution debate, which I recall Misa having argued about once before, but it’s really annoying to read otherwise intelligent feminists suddenly drop a line like “feminist porn is an oxymoron” or “there’s no such thing as legitimate sex work.”

    Even if there really is a Satanic conspiracy that Mike Warnke participated in, it could never compare to the damage the Catholic Church and its pedophile priests have done over the years.

    I feel so sick of American politics that I have no interest in going on Facebook to do anything but post about music and movies and read whatever responses I get. But I don’t want to stick my head in the sand. I feel like the left may be on its way down a very dark path – note: I am not saying anything remotely like “antifa are as bad as fascists” or there’s a moral equivalency between the non-existent alt-left and the Nazis who call themselves the alt-right – and we’re in the very early stages. Perhaps it will take an American Castro or Chavez to defeat Trump. Maybe I’m totally being paranoid and rambling,

    • steevee, You won’t find me arguing anything like that re: sex work or prostitution or whatever one may call it. My feelings about it are totally personal and have only to do with how I feel about it on a one-to-one type basis. In other words, it’s not for me. But I understand the theoretical arguments and really have no opinion on them either way.

    • Hi Steve,

      Your comment about the Catholic Church is apt. One of the many ironies of Warnke’s story is that Jesus People USA (the religious community that ran the publication that debunked Warnke) was later exposed as a hotbed of child abuse!

  4. Christ almighty, this guy, this fucking guy!! Thanks Nick for this bonkers ride!

    Dennsterz! How are things since a few days ago?
    Shame you weren’t free on Thursday, we went to the Jeu de Paume; very good shows. Especially the Ismaïl Bahri one. I think you’d like it. 5/5 would see again, recommend. Very slow, thoughtful video pieces that mix just the right amount of atmospheric and formal. The longer piece (30 or so minutes) is really great; if you go do wait for the English-subtitled one to start if you can.
    The Van der Elsken show was good too, but somehow did not grab me quite as much. Too human, maybe (*audience laughs*).

    Meanwhile back in London, nothing very interesting apart from dreadful bizarro weather and hardcore work-stress. I fuck off for a 5 days break and I come back to piles of emails and multidimensional freakouts to deal with. What’s even the point or taking a break, I ask you. Damn. Fucking ‘work’, man – it all feels so futile. I reckon I’m about 4 years away from going to live in a derelict farmhouse in Ass-end, Bumfuckshire and herd goats (*audience boos and bleats*).
    How is the dance-piece going?

  5. So weird. I’m having trouble viewing the new post. Got it earlier and read it, however, when I come back, I’m seeing “0 comments” and I know there were at least 3 earlier. Is it just me?

    • Okay, now that I’ve logged in and posted, I can see everything. Interesting.

    • Not just you, Misa. I could not see the post until about 5 hours after it was posted: it was not showing on the main page. Kept refreshing and wondering why Uncle D was not posting 😉
      I am also still seeing ‘1 comment’ now even though there’s at least 10. And seeing ‘3’ for Friday’s post, when there are many more.

  6. Great day! I picked up The Satan Sellers at a thrift store years ago and it is a really entertaining read. I also had that Halloween LP at one point. Interesting but not surprising that he’s never publicly admitted to fabricating his story.
    Dennis, the GIF piece the other day was phenomenal.

  7. Dennis, glad you’re enjoying my book. And that it exists as an object in paris. It’s officially out next week–next week I’ll put together my stuff for your blog day. I go in and out of feeling fine about it coming out, and then weirding out, which I’m sure you understand. Needless to say, going through your blog today made me feel less weird, especially the escort day, an especially cute selection, and your glorious new gif work. Have a great weekend, Love, Axo

  8. Ocasek obviously has taste that’s more non-mainstream than most of the Cars’ music would indicate, although as I said earlier I can hear Wire on PANORAMA. He produced the Bad Brains’ ROCK FOR LIGHT, not exactly a synth-pop album, in addition to the Guided By Voices album.

    My attempt to review the new Dardenne brothers film failed, because the website of its US distributor, IFC Films, kept telling me I needed to download the latest version of Adobe Flash to watch it even after I’d already done so and installed it in order to watch the film! I E-mailed the publicist to see if there’s any other way to watch it; my review is due next Thursday, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to write it. I find it very strange that IFC Films held no press screenings for a new film by directors as important as the Dardenne brothers and just sent out video links to critics.

  9. To be honest, one big reason I haven’t done any music posts lately on Facebook is that while I’m still listening to new music, I’ve been listening to tons of classic punk and post-punk for the most part: the Clash, Wire, X, Patti Smith, the Flesheaters, Mission of Burma. I think the Flesheaters are still underrated and deserve more attention, but anyone who is informed about the history of rock music would probably agree with me that HORSES, PINK FLAG and LOS ANGELES are among the greatest rock albums ever made, and I don’t really have anything new to say about them. Maybe I should try to do a post on the Flesheaters. FOREVER CAME TODAY is a really amazing album, and it was out of print for decades- Chris D. has publicly complained about this and wished he had the rights to all his music – until someone who used to work at Slash started a reissue label and was finally able to license the rights

  10. Thank you everyone for your generous comments! And thanks again, Dennis, for sharing the post (and the link to my movie). I’ll keep the community here updated if there’s ever any development on my future Mike Warnke projects!

  11. Hey, Nick Toti! Nice post. What a funny character. Can I ask how you became interested in Warnke, if you’re reading? I really enjoyed your film that posted the link to too – Molli Pee’s pretty great.

    Ahoy Dennis! How was your weekend? Mine’s been decent: Writing Gang was a success and a joy, as always; watched and loved John Wick; hunted for artists, art-styles, animations etc, made a cheesecake (1st time – it’s currently setting. I’ll let you know how it goes.); watched and liked some of The Handmaid’s Tale; listened to Kate Bush to scratch and itch; now waiting for Hannah’s parents to arrive for dinner wherein aforementioned cheesecake will be topped with sliced bananas and served.
    Hope it was nice to see and hang out with your pal and the dance rehearsals went very well.
    May your Monday add a new concept to the idea of ‘good days’.
    Secretive about its profound ticklishness love,

    • Hi Jamie,

      Thanks for watching my movie! And, yes, Molli Pee is wonderful.

      To answer your question: Warnke taps into a lot of my interests, particularly weird corners of Christian culture in the U.S. (but also Satanism/the occult, standup comedy, etc.). As I mentioned in the introduction to the post, I started researching him with the goal of making a documentary. I have another movie that touches on the Christian punk scene in the late 90s and another (unfinished) documentary about an event that happens every summer where 70,000 Vietnamese Catholics make a pilgrimage to a small town in Southern Missouri to celebrate the Virgin Mary.

  12. David Ehrenstein

    August 20, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    <A HREF="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91HsA7wdPvY"JERRY EST MORT!

    He was in the hospital for over a month so this comes as no surprise. But it’s still very sad. He was a great artist and a very complex and contradictory man.

  13. Hi!

    Thank you, okay, amazing! I’ll send you the post/my ideas sometime during the next couple of weeks!
    The self-help group wasn’t the best we’ve ever had but it wasn’t particularly shitty, either, so… I’d say there’s room for improvement but it was okay. I also found two empty positions in two nearby bookstores so I sent my CV to them. I hope at least one of them will get back to me!
    How did the rehearsals go on Saturday? And what else happened? I hope you had a nice weekend!

  14. @ Nick, thank you for this Mike Warnken overview. For whatever it’s worth, he strikes me as the type of person who doesn’t even know what the truth is anymore.

    Those are some nice Remains Guide photos, I enjoyed the feeling of being there by proxy. It looks to have been a supercool evening’s entertainment.

    The whole Yuck ‘n Yum as a business-thing is dominating my thoughts right now. YNY as an art distribution operation, the website as a gallery, the concept as kind of art label. This thing is gonna need a lot of conversations and a lot of graft. I’m quite prepared to put that in. The exciting news is that Donna is already preparing November’s NEoN for hosting the AGK. I’m heading down to Leeds on Tuesday for a family wedding, and I’m readying myself to deflect any pressure to look for a part-time job.

  15. nick-

    i’ve heard of this guy and this whole satanic panic era is a huge fascination for me. thanks for making my weekend!

    dennis dennis dennis dennis dennis-

    guided by voices are coming to vegas in october and my friend just sent me a ticket! they are playing at this tiny bar called the bunkhouse that re-write dept used to play like all the time before we broke up. now, i know you’re gonna be west coasting it a little bit before that and i have a crazy idea. since you got me into gbv and the bar they’re playing is max capacity of like 120, you should totally come to town and go to the show with me. because you know you wanna see pollard in a tiny bar and maybe if you’re there we can convince them to play for 4 hours. i’ll buy yr ticket and everything. you know you want to.

    i’m only half kidding, but not really. the show’s on 27 oct and it’s the same bar where i saw/met deerhunter back in january and also bob mould a couple years ago and the breeders around the same time. and i can show you what little cool shit there is in vegas (like the little vinyl-only record shop by bunkhouse where, on the night of the deerhunter show, i snagged a copy of cheap trick’s ‘found all the parts’ 10″ EP for $6 while record shopping with josh, their bass player (who remembered me from the last time they played vegas because i got them to play ‘wash off’ during the encore)).

    i will only be a little bit sad if you can’t come to the show.

    anyway, things have been pretty cool here otherwise. my swing bartender, josh, and i have been hanging out a lot. he’s a great dude. we have the same days off, so i usually just crash on the couch at his over our weekends and we go to the lake, day drink, cook, smoke a lot of weed, etc. i think tomorrow, we’re going to the lake to eat mushrooms and watch the eclipse while his son’s at school. should be an interesting day.

    how’s tricks with you? PGL looks like it’s coming together nicely. getting any writing done?

    hope everything is lovely on yr end. come to gbv with me! or don’t. you know, if you can’t. talk soon.



  16. @Nick Toti

    oh man, this post is so good

    the stand up clip of Warnke telling cornball jokes mixed with graphic descriptions of skinned babies feels like a bizarre but somehow peculiarly American kind of thing. i was an evengelical church kid in the 90s and a lot of this stuff brought back some interesting memories of preachers / teachers / friend’s parents talking about satanic spirits and things like that, especially when it came to pieces of entertainment. great satanic conspiracy kind of stuff. anyway i found all this very interesting, thanks for putting it together and sharing it. i could see Warnke being in some kind of Tim and Eric skit or something


    thanks so much for the guest post !! i really appreciate it, i’m happy about it

    the NYC show looked really cool, Zola Jesus’s outfit was amazing

    i’m trying to think of something interesting to say, but i can’t think of too much

    i’m psyched to watch the new twin peaks in half an hour !! the last episode was especially good imo, one of the best so far. only 4 episodes left. when u have the time, do u think ur gonna binge watch it, or ration it out? twin peaks would be a binge, i think, because it feels so much like one long movie. do u binge watch things very often, or ever? for me binge watching tv shows has always coincided with getting really stoned all weekend, and now that i’m not really smoking anymore the desire to do that has sort of left me completely, it seems.

    hope ur having a good morning !! byeee

  17. Hello, Mr. Toti! This post is entirely new to me. So nice that you made a day on Warnke. Please let me explore it tonight. Thank you.

    Dennis, did you know tomorrow is solar eclipse day? So poetic or interesting and mysterious, isn’t it? You have any special plan for it, if you’d care? Your friend Zac is back?

    I skipped ‘The Devil, Probably’. I got inexplicably irritable this weekend. So I stayed inside and edited that Akerman piece and kept up with reading. But I think I will see it in a theater soon. For some reason, I tend to think Bresson’s are great date films at least for me, if I meet a right person, but my recent summer date asked me to see a doctor for my Bresson love. So I broke up with him. It didn’t feel right.

    • Hello, I realize it’s not happening to you and other Parisians!! Apologies. Blame my childhood bad education.

      I think I might go to Coney Island to observe the eclipse. It sounds like it will happen in the day. Blanchot mood in an amusement park…I’m sorry for sounding lighthearted — been trying to keep my routine somewhat detached and happy and it might result in James Tate kind of surrealism, both in work and in living.

  18. Hi Nick,

    I’m in the process of making a small run of books (like 10 copies) about preachers who claimed to be practitioners of Satanism. Would it be possible to use this post in the book? I’m happy to pay.

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