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Jun-9-2010

The Richmond District’s satanic past

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.

Sarah B.

Resources:
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


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6:19 am | Posted under History, Real Estate | 15 comments
  1. Rob said (06/9/10; 8:20 am):

    Great story. I love this kind of stuff. Where are the wax figures? MT’s?

  2. Administrator said (06/9/10; 8:22 am):

    Glad you enjoyed! Not sure about the wax statue, but I would guess with the Church of Satan which is still active.

    Sarah B.

  3. cf said (06/9/10; 8:48 am):

    awesome article, thanks

  4. Tweets that mention The Richmond District’s satanic past -- Topsy.com said (06/9/10; 8:58 am):

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff McC and Richmond SF Blog, SFPL_6thFloor. SFPL_6thFloor said: RT @richmondsfblog: What's strange about this building? It's the key to the Richmond District's satanic past. http://bit.ly/cPAVYb [...]

  5. Tom Prete said (06/9/10; 9:14 am):

    When my now-wife and I were dating she lived at the corner of 23rd and California, across from what’s now that little pizza place, so I passed by the black house regularly. You could see it from her front stoop.

    Occasionally in the 1990s one would see the gate and garage door open. According to one of my wife’s roommates, one of the neighbors apparently went over one such time and talked to the people standing outside, who said they were shooting a music video or a commercial (the detail was unclear even then). The garage was either lit with red light or painted black and red on the inside (maybe both), and there was an old but very highly polished car inside.

    Once I saw an old woman from the neighborhood pass by the house and cross herself without looking up.

    One evening in the mid-1990s, as we were leaving my wife’s house, we saw an ambulance outside the black house. I asked the paramedic who was standing outside what was going on, and he replied, “Man had a heart attack, I guess.” He wouldn’t say any more. As my wife and friends and I were getting on our bikes to leave, we saw LaVey carried down the front stairs on a gurney and loaded into the ambulance. He didn’t look scary then. He just looked like a pale, sick old man.

  6. 22ndAve said (06/9/10; 10:07 am):

    thx for the neighborhood history.

  7. Anna@InCirclePets said (06/9/10; 10:46 am):

    Great article! I’ve walked by this place on a number of occasions. Now I have another great story to tell friends who visit from out of town. Thanks for the neighborhood history.

  8. Linda said (06/9/10; 5:02 pm):

    Great story about the Richmond District’s devilish past. Thanks.

  9. Jenny said (06/9/10; 9:28 pm):

    This was a great article! Very interesting read, I had no idea this was in the Richmond District!

  10. Marcus said (06/10/10; 8:27 am):

    I heard about this church.

    The Church of Satan originated as a big “screw you ” to the Christian/Catholic religions when they came to America. It was formed by pagans who wanted to still practice their religion while wanting to make their oppressors scared and panicky with religious nonsense.

  11. Marcus said (06/10/10; 8:30 am):

    Forgot to add this part in:

    About the numbers. I think the best bet is the one who is removing them is a follower of a church who lives nearby. If it were an other CoS member they would leave it up, after all why remove a number which means something to you? If they put up the numbers again and hide video cameras with night vision capability they will find it is a christian/catholic follower who is removing them.

  12. cf said (06/13/10; 7:12 am):

    here’s another awesome article about LaVey — lol @ Satan goign to the Jack In The Box on Geary

    http://bit.ly/aiaPOy

  13. Should people be allowed to have dangerous pets? Opens April 1 at the 4-Star | Richmond District Blog of San Francisco (richmondsfblog.com) said (03/23/11; 11:25 am):

    [...] used to have our own lion living in the neighborhood. Church of Satan High Priest Anton LaVey lived out on California near 24th Avenue. He was well-known by neighbors for his pet lion which he [...]

  14. ernie garcia said (02/28/12; 7:06 am):

    I took a special trip to San Francisco in the mid 70’s to try to see what this unique church was all about. I had read many articles in various men’s adult magazines which were always accompanied by somewhat provocative pictures of nude ladies lying on altars and LaVey dressed as a devil. I somewhat had a secret admiration for LaVey. I felt he had the gutts to open a Church for Satan? OMG in the 1960’s? I remember going to the front door which had a round glass window. I peeked inside and saw a long hallway and at the end was an antique white bust of a person. It looked Victorian. I did not take a camera. Darn! A sign was posted “DO NOT DISTURB” and though my heart was beating really fast I knocked anyways. A bald man in a black robe came to the door (but it was not Anton LaVey). I told him that I had come all the way from Long Beach to get some kind of information to join. He asked that I wait and came back with some garrish neon purple and pink paper with lots of writing. He asked that I read it carefully before making my decision. I still have it somewhere in my garage as I never throw anything away. It just meant something to me. A friend of mine was witing in his car and asked me what that place was. When I told him he asked me if I was crazy. I explained that I was merely very curious and he adviced that I stay away from those people. I was in my twenties then. Anyways, I always try to look for photos of the inside. I am now 64 and that place still remains in my mind. I was actually sorry to see it torn down. I felt it would be one of San Francisco’s most famous places to visit if it was there now. The same applies to the famous Pink Palace in which High Priestess and film star Jayne Mansfield lived in. It was part of our famous history whether we approved or not. What is wrong with city officials?

  15. ernie garcia said (02/28/12; 7:45 am):

    Just for those who are curious about Anton LaVey and his strange history, it has been confessed by his daughter Zeena LaVey that her own son Stanton LaVey (who has an unbearable resemblance to Anton) was born out of incest. She claims LaVey had sex with her when she was fourteen. I remember photos in magazines that show this little blonde girl in some ritualistic photos. She made news when was even baptized in this strange church. She now speaks with vengeance against her father. Stanton, her son, claims that his mother once tried to kill him. The whole family apparently was very disfunctional. The lion “Togare”, who was Anton’s beloved pet, apparently ended up being taken to Tippi Hedren’s famous lion farm, where he eventually died of old age. Anton LaVey looked rather frail in the end. He loved listening to 1940’s music and one of his favorite songs was “Paper Moon”. Perhaps because he could associate with the lyrics…”and it’s a Barnum and Bailey world”. In any case (curiously enough) Anton died of heart failure at St. Mary’s Hospital under the good care of the Catholic nuns. In any case, his church drew many curiosity seekers including stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and others. The Church was “in” when it started. His books still sell and his grandson is currently selling rare original neg photos on facebook for about $100 each 8X10. I am reallly surprised that a movie has not been made on this man and his famous Church of Satan. I currently found a used bookstore in Long Beach that had copies of his books. I immediately bought them out of curiosity.

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