If you walked by the building at 6118 – 6122 California Street today, you wouldn’t think much of it. It’s a fairly new, modern looking building with smooth concrete out front and warm colors on its facade.
But look more closely and you might begin to realize something is awry. Faintly painted on the driveway is a black arrow pointing directly at the house.
Look at the house numbers and it gets even stranger. The 6, or the first number of each of the three units is missing. Just gone, like someone yanked them off. If they were there, they would form a “666”.
There’s a reason for these strange behaviors at this non-descript building. It used to be home to Anton Szandor LaVey, the founder and original High Priest of the Church of Satan.
LaVey’s home, which was also church headquarters from 1967 until 1997, was painted all black inside and out. He was known for holding satanic rituals inside the home including a Satanic wedding ceremony of radical journalist John Raymond to New York socialite Judith Case in February, 1967. LaVey also peformed Satanic funerals and baptisms, including one for his second daughter, Zeena.
In 1969, LaVey published his Satanic Bible, which followers say has sold close to 1 million copies worldwide. In 1968, he also claims to have served as a technical adviser for the movie “Rosemary’s Baby” and played the role of the devil in the film as well.
LaVey was also well-known by neighbors for his pet lion which he kept in a cage in the house. On the Outside Lands website, one former neighbor writes, “He would drive around in a station wagon with a lion….yes a real live lion…in the rear of the car.” That is until the neighborhood could no longer stand the animal’s bellowing roars. He was eventually shipped off to the zoo and then to a private animal farm.
LaVey actually lost ownership of the home in 1991, when a San Francisco judge ordered him to sell the property, along with his satanic memorabilia, and split the money with his estranged wife, Diane Hegarty. Included among the devilish artifacts were a shrunken head, a reproduction of King Tut’s sarcophagus, and a stuffed wolf.
Despite losing the house, LaVey, sometimes called “the Black Pope”, was able to remain in the black house by selling the property to a friend, who then let LaVey live out his final years there. He passed away in 1997 from heart disease.
According to court filings, some of his possessions were to be divided among his children and church members. Church of Satan High Priestess Blanche Barton was due to receive a Rasputin chair, bed of nails and a vintage Gramophone, while his daughter Zeena was to receive LaVey’s Vampire boy painting, devil horned cap, Tyrone Power “Nightmare Alley” movie poster and one-third of LaVey’s cremated remains.
After his death in 1997, the Chronicle was there to cover a press conference held by his daughter, Karla LaVey, a high priestess in the church who vowed to carry on her father’s legacy. “Black velvet curtains kept the autumn sunlight out of the living room in the Richmond District Victorian. Daggers hung on the wall. A skull perched on top of the organ,” wrote the Chronicle.
By 1999, LaVey’s family and church members were fighting over the house and it quickly went into disrepair. In January 1999, the Chronicle wrote that “the property at 6114 California Street looks like the Addams Family home after a Saturday night frat party. Smashed furniture and a soiled mattress lay amid a mountain of garbage in the small front yard, behind a tall chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.”
The missing “666” house numbers on the front of the building
Church of Satan members tried to raise enough funds to buy back the Victorian style house, which was originally built in 1905 and estimated to be 2,205 square feet. But they did not succeed and The Black House was finally demolished on October 17, 2001. The three-unit building that stands there now was built in its place.
Even though the original Black House is no longer there, long-time neighbor David H. tells me they still see “worshippers” drop by on occasion, sometimes drawing wax pentagrams and other symbols on the driveway. From the looks of it, the black arrow currently on the driveway was done in wax.
As for the missing house numbers, David says that as soon as the current owners put the 6’s back up, they get torn down so they don’t even bother anymore. It’s a mystery who actually removes them each time.
There’s a lot of information about Anton LaVey online and my brief bio in this article barely scratches the surface. How much is fact vs. hyperbole in the name of good copy remains to be seen; LaVey was clearly versed at using the media to further his devilish cause. The occult was big business in the 1960s and 70s, and from my research, it looks like LaVey knew how to make the most of it.
Despite all the online information, I did not come across any detailed photos of the Black House. So if anyone out there was brave enough to snap pics when it was still around, let me know! I’d love to add it to the story of the Richmond’s satanic past.
Special thanks to David H. for helping me with this story.
Wikipedia: Anton LaVey
Wikipedia: Church of Satan
The Church of Satan website
Satan’s Den in Great Disrepair, SF Chronicle, January 25, 1999
Satanist’s Daughter To Keep the `Faith’, SF Chronicle, November 8, 1997
Anton LaVey, America’s Satanic Master of Devils, Magic, Music and Madness | Washington Post, February 23, 1986
Outside the house in 1991. Photo by psychedelicsister