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Satan's Den in Great Disrepair

          archive/1999/01/25/MN77329.DTL ]

Subject: Satan's Den in Great Disrepair
	        Relatives of S.F. hellhound Anton LaVey 
		battle over `Black House'
	   Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer   
		Monday, January 25, 1999
   If the condition of the infamous Black House is any indication,
   San Francisco's Church of Satan has really gone to hell.
   For three decades, this sinister Richmond District home, painted
   black and smoky purple, was the worldwide headquarters of Anton
   LaVey, whose blend of sex, Satan and showmanship made him the
   media's favorite devil worshiper.
   Today, the property at 6114 California St. 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
   Adding insult to injury, some blasphemous graffiti artist has
   scrawled the words ``Jesus Rulz'' on the mail slot.
   LaVey, 67, died of heart disease in 1997, two days before
   Halloween, at (of all places) St. Mary's Hospital in San
   Often called ``the Black Pope,'' LaVey has left behind a messy
   legacy of lawsuits, family infighting and decaying real estate.
   Earlier this month, lawyers for LaVey's two grown daughters,
   Zeena Schreck and Karla LaVey, along with an attorney
   representing Blanche Barton -- his last consort, high priestess
   and mother of his 5-year-old son, Xerxes -- appeared before a
   probate judge in San Francisco Superior Court.
   Friday, a tentative settlement was reached in the case.
   At issue was a handwritten will dated March 9, 1995, in which
   LaVey left Barton ``all writings, artwork, property and
   holdings.'' Continuing royalties from his books, including his
   1969 manifesto, the ``Satanic Bible,'' were to be held in a trust
   for Xerxes ``unless Blanche Barton deems otherwise.''
   Karla LaVey challenged the will in a lawsuit filed last year,
   contending that her father ``was not of sound and disposing mind
   and was under the influence of medication.''
   She further alleged that Barton had ``undue influence'' over her
   ailing father because, as his only caregiver, she ``threatened to
   leave him if he did not do what she wanted.''
   In response, Barton posted a proclamation on the Internet, a
   favorite vehicle for satanic communication, accusing Karla LaVey
   of falsely ``claiming the title of High Priestess of the Church
   of Satan for herself.''
   ``Though she has reluctantly agreed to a handful of interviews
   over recent years,'' Barton wrote, ``she hasn't participated in
   the actual operation of the Church for a very long time.''
   Barton has also sought to deny any inheritance to Anton LaVey's
   younger daughter, Schreck, noting that she joined a rival satanic
   sect, the Temple of Set, and publicly denounced her ``un-father''
   in 1990.
   Both Karla LaVey and Schreck were the product of LaVey's
   common-law marriage to Diane Hegarty from 1962 to 1986. One of
   the highlights of that unholy union was Schreck's 1967 satanic
   baptism at the Black House, when she was 3 years old. The liturgy
   featured a naked 30-year-old priestess draped over the altar,
   breathing heavily, while Anton LaVey intoned, ``Hail Satan!''
   LaVey lost ownership of the Black House 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.
   Included among the devilish artifacts were a shrunken head, a
   reproduction of King Tut's sarcophagus, and a stuffed wolf.
   Despite the liquidation sale, the Black Pope was able to remain
   in the Black House by selling the property to a friend, San
   Francisco real estate developer Donald Werby, who let LaVey live
   out his final years in the notorious home.
   After LaVey's death, Barton started a fund-raising campaign to
   buy the house back and turn it into a historic landmark, hoping
   to create a San Francisco shrine to the birthplace of latter-day
   devil worship.
   Just before she was evicted last summer, Barton sent a letter to
   members of the church, calling the property a priceless piece of
   satanic history.
   ``Its roots went all the way to Hell,'' she wrote. ``Now Anton
   LaVey is gone, and the people who own the property want to tear
   it down to build an apartment complex.''
   While Barton tried to raise money to save the Black House,
   several would-be satanists complained to The Chronicle about
   lengthy delays in processing their $100 membership fees to join
   the church, which they sent to a San Francisco post office.
   ``The Church of Satan is dead as an entity,'' said one
   disgruntled member. ``Its High Priests and Magisters have become
   nothing more than absentee landlords trying to convince those
   inside and out that they still exist so the money keeps coming
   High Priestess Barton, who is now living in San Diego, declined a
   request for an interview.
   But another church leader, Magister Peter Gilmore, disputes
   reports that the Church of Satan has gone to hell.
   ``The church is fine,'' said Gilmore, a church leader in New York
   City. ``Part of the application process is testing people to see
   if they have patience.''

   ``We want people to live their own lives, so we leave them
   hanging to see how they respond,'' he said. ``You are your own
   Attempts to reach Schreck and Karla LaVey through their attorneys
   were unsuccessful.
   On Friday, lawyers for all three of the feuding devil worshipers
   filed a tentative settlement in the lawsuit over LaVey's estate.
   Barton, Karla LaVey and Schreck agreed to split future royalties
   to Anton LaVey's works, including ``Satanic Rituals,'' ``The
   Devil's Notebook,'' ``The Complete Witch'' and ``Satan Takes a
   Personal property -- including a bed of nails, a devil-horned
   cap, a cape with red lining and and an autographed Marilyn Monroe
   calendar -- will be divided among the three.
   Schreck and Karla LaVey agree ``to release any and all right to
   operate, manage or direct the operations of the nonprofit
   corporation known as the Church of Satan.''
   Meanwhile, the future of the Black House remains uncertain.
   Barton nows says she has called off her campaign to raise
   $400,000 to buy the property, saying donations fell way short,
   and promises that donors' money will be returned.
   ``We aren't abandoning all hope for the Black House,'' she wrote
   in a follow-up letter. ``We have been in contact with a number of
   organizations in San Francisco who make it their business to see
   that historically significant homes aren't destroyed.''
   Werby, the owner of the property, has his own troubles. He
   pleaded guilty in 1990 to two misdemeanor counts of statutory
   rape of underage prostitutes and to two misdemeanor counts of
   contributing to the delinquency of a minor by offering a place
   for drug use.
   Executives at Werby's Grosvenor Properties referred questions
   about the Black House to Werby's son, Todd, who said the home has
   been devilishly difficult to sell.
   ``We've talked to a few brokers, but it's not easily marketed as
   a house,'' he said. ``It is in such a state of disrepair.''
   Property records show that a separate company, the Cass-Bagley
   Corp., has been set up as the legal owner of 6114 California St.
   Todd Werby said that corporation has no other holdings, and is
   partly owned by his father.
   ``We haven't applied for a demolition permit, but we look at it
   as a development site for condos,'' he said. ``You could put
   three units there.''
   In her latest missive to fellow satanists, Barton says she still
   hopes a dark savior will appear to save the Black House.
   ``If someone's in the market for a notorious home that needs love
   and attention, he need look no further,'' she wrote. ``Please do
   all you can -- call that distant rich aunt of yours and convince
   her she really needs a change of scenery.''
   How some of Anton LaVey's personal property would be divided in
   an out-of-court settlement filed Friday in San Francisco Superior
   Court, possibly ending a bitter fight over Church of Satan
   -- To High Priestess Blanche Barton -- Rasputin chair, bed of
   nails and vintage Gramophone.
   -- To daughter Zeena Schreck -- Vampire boy painting, devil
   horned cap, Tyrone Power ``Nightmare Alley'' movie poster and
   one-third of LaVey's cremated remains.
   -- To daughter Karla LaVey -- Skull from ritual chamber, Satin
   Doll pinball machine, coffin and examination table.
   -- Items of property to be divided by Karla LaVey and Zeena
   Schreck -- autographed Marilyn Monroe calendar, magic mirror with
   demons and Byzantine phallus.
   1999 San Francisco Chronicle  Page A1
   [Chronicle Sections]  Go Your destination for departure. 

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