2004-06-09 12:02:38 UTC
The thing that really concerns me after reading a story like this is
that there are many other situations like this happening all in the
name of our Savior. What I mean, is some of the performers and
speakers and ministers that the Christian community embraces could be
(and some probably are) living lives like this when the curtain falls.
I am posting this story so that people, especially in the
charismatic/Word of Faith circles, will be able to recognize when a
ministry is not all that it seems to be. While this can happen in any
denomination, I find it interesting that this kind of immorality tends
to happen more within the charismatic type churches.
Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke
Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein
"I always wanted to write him a letter and say, Mike, when were you
able to have this coven of fifteen hundred people? About the most
exciting thing we used to do was play croquet."
One of Mike Warnke's college friends
SELLING SATAN: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke
This is the story of well-known comedian, evangelist, and professed
ex-Satanist Mike Warnke.
Known as "America's Number One Christian Comedian," Mike Warnke has
sold in excess of one million records. June 29, 1988, was declared
"Mike Warnke Day" by the governor of Tennessee. The Satan Seller has,
according to its author, sold three million copies in twenty years.
His 1991 Schemes of Satan quickly climbed the best-seller list. Mike
Warnke's press material includes credits for appearances on "The 700
Club," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Larry King Live," "Focus on the
Family," and ABC's "20/20." Mike has won numerous awards from the
recording industry, including the 1992 Grady Nutt Humor Award. He
continues to perform two hundred live shows a year. He is truly a
figure of national prominence.
Mike Warnke's ministry and public profile are based upon the story he
tells of his previous involvement with Satanism. As written in The
Satan Seller, the story goes like this: a young orphan boy raised in
foster homes drifted from whatever family and friends he had to join a
secret, all-powerful satanic cult. First, he descended into the hell
of drug addiction. Then he ascended in the satanic ranks to the
position of high priest, with fifteen hundred followers in three
cities. He had unlimited wealth and power at his disposal, provided by
members of Satanism's highest echelon, the Illuminati. And then he
converted to Christ.
A generation of Christians learned its basic concepts of Satanism and
the occult from Mike Warnke's testimony in The Satan Seller. Based on
his alleged satanic experiences, Warnke came to be recognized as a
prominent authority on the occult, even advising law enforcement
officers investigating occult crime. We believe The Satan Seller has
been responsible, more than any other single volume in the Christian
market, for promoting the current nationwide "Satanism scare."
Through the years, Cornerstone has received many calls from people who
felt something was not right concerning Mike Warnke. After our lengthy
investigation into his background, we found discrepancies that raise
serious doubts about the trustworthiness of his testimony. We have
uncovered significant evidence contradicting his alleged satanic
activity. His testimony contains major conflicts from book to book and
tape to book, it contains significant internal problems, and it
doesn't square with known external times and events. Further, we have
documentation and eyewitness testimony that contradict the claims he
has made about himself.
The evidence we present here includes testimony from Mike's closest
friends, relatives, and daily associatespeople whose names Mike
disguised or omitted entirely in his "official" testimony. These
people knew the real Mike Warnke, who was not a drug fiend or a
recruiter for Satanism. But he was a storyteller.
Michael Alfred Warnke was born November 19, 1946, to Alfred "Al"
Warnke and his wife, Louise. Mike's parents lived in Evansville,
Indiana, and according to their son's confirmation certificate, had
Mike baptized at St. Anthony's Catholic Church.
When Mike was five, the Warnkes moved to Manchester, Tennessee, where
Al opened Warnke's Truck Stop. Located on Highway 41, north of
town, the diner soon became part of the local landscape. On January
15, 1955, Louise, on her way home from town, lost control of the
family's brand-new Packard and was killed. She was thirty-seven; Mike
was eight years old.
Mike had other family, too, from his father's previous marriage. His
half sister, Shirley Schrader was twenty-two years older than he
was. She first met Mike in 1954, when Al brought his family to
California on a visit. As Shirley recalls, "Dad, Louise, and Michael
came out to California in the mid-fifties. Prior to that, I wasn't
writing my father. I didn't even know where he was. My dad had
abandoned me when I was little. He was an alcoholic, and maybe twice
in my childhood did he make any effort to communicate with my mother.
So I was working and they came to my office, very unexpectedly. He
says, I'm your father,' and he came on big and strong, Oh, my
daughter, my daughter.' They spent maybe a week in California, and
then went back to Tennessee."
When Mike's mother was killed, Al flew Shirley to Tennessee for the
funeral. During that visit, Al Warnke asked Shirley if she and her
husband, Keith, would move to Manchester and help run the truck stop.
"You always think, Wouldn't it be neat to know your own dad? That was
probably one of the biggest mistakes I ever made."
Shirley, Keith, and their six-year-old son Keith, Jr., came out to
Manchester in February of 1955. But Al and Shirley soon had their
problems. "He had me working days, with Thursday off, and he had my
husband working nights, with a different day off. Then there was the
fact that my father was a drunk. We weren't there but a few days when
he went off on a big binge and didn't show up again for a week. There
would have been enough money to support us all. But he forgot we were
supposed to be paid."
Al Warnke seems to fit the description given him by his son in his
books and records. But what about Mike Warnke? Shirley recalls Mike as
a little boy who spent a lot of time "sitting two feet from the
television. I tried to tell my dad, Hey, the boy can't see.' And he'd
say, Don't try to tell me about my son!' And my dad would give the
kid ten bucks and send him uptown. That was a lot of money for those
Disgusted with Al and his truck stop, but feeling empathy for Mike,
the Schraders returned to California. Two years later, Al Warnke was
dead of heart failure.
Mike Warnke's story of his life, The Satan Seller, opens just after
Al's funeral, with adults discussing Mike's future as he eavesdrops.
As the book indicates, the eleven-year-old boy was initially placed
with his two aunts, Dorothy and Edna, who lived in Sparta, Tennessee.
Warnke has a segment on his Mike Warnke Alive! album called
"Tennessee Home and Blankety-Blank," in which he describes how he
raised one aunt's dander with his crude, truck stop ways.
The first night I was up there this lady came out and she said, "Well,
honey, how do you think you're gonna like it here?" And I said, "Well,
this is a pretty nice blank-blankety-blank place. We oughta get along
pretty blank-blankety-blank well as long as you feed me blank-blankety
Aunt Edna Swindell denies any such child appeared at her Tennessee
home. "He was just a typical boy. We had no problems." What about his
claims about being a foulmouthed brat? "He wasn't that here."
Meanwhile, Shirley Schrader was trying to get custody of young Mike.
"We wanted Michael," Shirley recalls. "And we fought through the
courts for Michael for months before they let him come out here."
Aunt Edna notes, "He stayed with me seven months. I guess if I wanted
him, I could have kept him the entire time. His half sister in
California wanted him, and that's where he wanted to go."
Mike Moves in with the Schraders
During the summer of 1959, Mike went to live with his half sister and
her family near Riverside, California. Shirley confirms Warnke's story
of how his Aunt Edna sent him to California loaded down with
Shirley Schrader took the boys to churchthat is, she took her
eleven-year-old son Keith with her to Catholic mass and allowed
thirteen-year-old Mike to attend a nearby Protestant church. "And that
was fine for as long as he wanted to do it, because we weren't going
to force religion on him."
In Riverside, Keith, Jr., attended a parochial schoolSt. Francis
deSales. Mike eventually decided he wanted to go to that same
parochial school. "He went for a year, until we moved up on the
mountain," says Shirley.
In February of 1961, the Schraders and fourteen-year-old Mike moved to
Crestline, a small community planted among the pine trees atop the San
Bernardino Mountains overlooking the vast San Bernardino Valley.
The Schraders were well respected in Crestline. Community pillars,
they ran a tight ship at home. Keith, Sr., head of the Pilot Rock
Conservation Camp, was in charge of minimum security inmates assigned
to fight forest fires. "We took the boys on camping trips. We rock
hounded. We did things together," recalls Shirley. "We sat them down
and had the sex talk. We had the talk about alcohol. We were a regular
Keith, Jr., recalls, "Mike and I had a good time growing up together.
We were real close during high schoolwhen we weren't fighting."
Mike Warnke attended Rim of the World High School. His best friends
through these years were Tim Smith and Jeff Nesmith. "We'd
spend lots of time at each other's houses," says Jeff Nesmith, "go to
school dances together, proms, and one summer Mike and I worked for my
dad in the construction business. We weren't hellions, but we weren't
angels either. We had our parties, gate crashed some dances."
All of Mike's friends and family we were able to contact denied his
assertion that he drifted at one point to a "rougher" crowd. In fact,
most of the kids Mike hung out with were, by all reports, good, clean,
Catholic boys. Tim Smith and another local boy, David Goodwin,
were altar boys at St. Francis Cabrini Church. "Tim and I went to
morning mass every day before school," says Goodwin. "Sometimes Mike
Warnke attended mass with us." Tim's sister Terri explains, "I believe
Mike got interested in Catholicism from hanging out with us. He was
like a piece of furniture at our house."
One day Mike announced to the Schraders that he, too, wanted to become
a Catholic. In the spring of his senior year in high school, Warnke
was confirmed in the Catholic Church. His sponsor was Tim's dad, Paul
"Jerry" Smith. Two months after being confirmed, Mike graduated
with the rest of his class at Rim High in the class of '65.
Everybody we talked to who knew Mike Warnke at "Rim" remembers him
first and foremost as a chronic storyteller. His high school partner
in various escapades was Jeff Nesmith. Once, says Jeff, Mike had a
date but no car, and Jeff had his parents' Lincoln. "Mike talked me
into dropping him and his date off at a restaurant and then picking
them up after dinner. Before we picked up Mike's date, we stopped at a
local uniform store and got me a chauffeur's cap. From the moment the
girl got into the car, Mike spun this wild tale about me being an
orphan boy and how his family had taken me in, and how I sometimes
performed various services for them such as being their chauffeur. She
just soaked it all in."
The thing that always struck Nesmith about his pal was that Warnke
would never break out of character. "We'd go into some restaurant, and
Mike would pretend to be a Russian immigrant who couldn't speak
English. I'd translate Mike's order into English for the waitress.
Sometimesjust to get himI'd order something I knew he'd hate. But
Mike was always enough of a pro that he'd stick with it and wouldn't
say anything . . . until we got outside the restaurant and he'd yell
The Schraders also knew Mike as a boy with the gift of gab. "Michael
is a showman," says Shirley. "He is an actor, and he always swore he
would never make a living with his hands, that he would make his
living with his mouth." Keith, Jr., adds: "Mike is the kind of guy
that can sell somebody the Golden Gate Bridge. Or swamp land in
Florida. I gotta hand it to him. I wish I was as good a salesman."
In high school, storytelling had been a diversion, a way to get by.
According to his friends in college, it would increasingly become a
part of Mike Warnke's identity.
Mike Warnke at College
Here begins the critical period described in The Satan Seller, the
defining moment of Mike Warnke's later testimony and ministry his
involvement with and subsequent banishment from a satanic cult.
On September 13, 1965, Mike Warnke began school at San Bernardino
Valley College, a two-year school. Mike writes in The Satan Seller
that it was after he started college that he first was introduced to
drugs, sex, and finally Satanism. And, he continues, it was only after
the Satanists threw him out of their coven that he joined the navy.
Warnke's military records say he entered the navy on June 2, 1966.
Therefore, whatever happened in Mike's life regarding Satanism had to
have happened between September 13, 1965, and June 2, 1966. (See
sidebar ["Why the Dates Don't Work"], p. 18.)
Mike, in his 1991 book, Schemes of Satan, claims to have had no close
friends at college and to have virtually disappeared:
In my own case, being away from home at college and not having any
close friends there meant that almost no one could have known what was
happening to me except, of course, the members of the Satanic
Brotherhood, and they were not telling!
In reality, Mike Warnke simply did what countless other freshmen have
done: he found a new circle of friends. We found that new circle, and
they were not a part of the Satanic Brotherhood. None of these people
are mentioned by Warnke in The Satan Seller or anywhere else.
Greg Gilbert was one of Mike's first and closest friends at
college. Today an English professor at a southern California
university, Greg reflects upon the notoriety of his old college
roommate. "After Mike became a star, I assumed that since he had
gotten this far with his Satan story, he'd always get away with it. I
never knew what to do. Who could you tell?"
Right around the time college started in 1965, Greg met Mike through a
mutual friend, Dennis Pekus. Greg was living with his elderly
grandparents in San Bernardino and took Warnke to meet them. "When my
grandparents said they were from Tennessee, Mike said, I come from
Tennessee, too,' " Greg recalls. "Before the evening was over he had
us all convinced he was a long-lost relative. Next thing we knew, he'd
talked his way into living with us."
Greg's college girlfriend, Dawn Andrews, gave us her assessment.
"The first time I saw Mike Warnke was at Greg's house. He was
introduced to me as Greg's cousin," says Dawn. "He told everybody he
was. I remember how upset I was when The Satan Seller came out,
because what Warnke said was a lie. He has a very fertile
Dyana Cridelich was another of Mike Warnke's college friends
introduced by Greg. "After he got famous, I always wanted to write him
a letter and say, Mike, remember me? The one you gave the silver cross
to? When were you able to have this coven of fifteen hundred people?
Don't you remember, about the most exciting thing we used to do was
play croquet in Greg's backyard?' "
In The Satan Seller, Mike never mentions croquet. He was too busy
becoming a teenage alcoholic.
I attended classes regularly at first, but I wasn't about to cut down
on my drinking. As the days went by, it became harder to concentrate
on what the professors were saying, but I could still talk my way out
of anything, and this carried me through. I was drinking so much by
now, it was starting to wreck my stomach.
Was Mike a heavy drinker? Not according to those who knew him. "We
drank occasionally," says Greg, "but mostly we just talked about it.
We weren't of age, and alcohol was hard to come by."
This group of college freshmen often sat on the lawn between classes,
or got together in the student union cafeteria, The Tomahawk Room. It
was there that Lois Eckenrod, a girl who was soon to be his
fiancee, joins the story. "Mike and I met in September or October,
that first semester at Valley," Lois said. "It was only a couple of
months before we got engaged. Hardly a day went by that we didn't see
His friends remember Mike Warnke as thin, with thick glasses and short
hair. He was bright, he was mainly happythough Lois remembers he
could swing easily to depression. Yet Mike says in The Satan Seller
that when college started, he was a "heavyset, jovial guy" who only
later lost weight due to drug use. His hair, he writes, was already
collar length. Within a short time, he claims to have become a
I made a return trip to the Salvation Army and bought some black pants
and freaky shirts. My hair was longer than ever, and I bleached it
blond. I was really craving attention, and I got it. You know, weird
people attract chicks.
"He looked like everybody else," says Greg. He did have one constant
accessory, a silver cross. (This cross Warnke gave to Dyana, she
Warnke writes in The Satan Seller that he frequented a coffeehouse
called Penny University, where he danced, obtained hard liquor, and
got acquainted with the owner while practicing his fake English
Lois says that she and Mike did go to Penny University, "quite a bit
because Mike really liked folk music. But there was no room for
dancing. The place was full of tables and stuff."
Cornerstone also talked with John Ingro, who in 1965 not only
owned Penny U., but also was a district attorney (currently he is a
San Bernardino judge). "You couldn't dance there. It was very small,
and packed with chairs. As far as alcohol, we only served coffee at a
penny a cup. That's where the place got its name." As for remembering
Mike and the fake English accent? "No. Is this a joke?"
Storytelling in the Tomahawk Room
Storytelling developed into an art form among the Tomahawk Room crowd.
One student, Gary Manbeck, is remembered as having some of the best
stories. "Gary always told stories about being in the Green Beret,"
says Dawn. "He was very good, but I never thought any of it was true."
Mike Warnke joined right in. "Gary and Mike vied for attention with
stories, trying to be the life of the party," says George Eubank,
another of the Tomahawk crowd. "Who can one-up ya. That's a real good
description of the two of them together."
Warnke produced a never-ending stream of tall tales. "He claimed he
had some kind of white witchcraft background," recalls Greg Gilbert.
"He claimed he'd been reincarnated any number of times, that he was
born in the Irish Moors in the 1570s. Along with his other stories, he
claimed he'd once been a Trappist monk."
In The Satan Seller, Warnke paints himself as a freshman guru,
dispensing wisdom to an eager audience of disciples:
Most of my friends were the pseudo-intellectual type. We liked to lie
out on the lawn in the quad after classes and discuss psychology,
philosophy, religion, art, and politics. Other students began coming
around, and they seemed to look to me for answers to their questions.
Anything I said was okay with them. And it was certainly okay with me.
If they were that hung up for a leader, I was happy to oblige.
Greg Gilbert remembers things this way: "We sat out under the trees at
school, all right. And there were times we listened to Mike tell his
tall tales. But if Mike thought we believed what he was saying, or
that we looked at him like some kind of guru, he was greatly mistaken.
We were all part of the same bragging team."
It was difficult, at times, to know whether Warnke believed his own
stories or not. "I don't think it was in fun. I think he himself
wanted to believe it," says Phyliss Catalano, Lois's best friend.
"I used to sit there and be embarrassed, because I'd think, How could
somebody that young have done all these things? He'd done everything.
And everything he told was with a straight face."
Phyliss's mother, Mary Catalano, saw Warnke on a regular basis
when the gang gathered at the Catalano house. "He was a likable young
man when he visited our house," she says, "but anything brought up in
conversationhe'd done it. He said he'd been a Greek dancer, and he'd
dance for us, round and round. He said he'd been a professional
ambulance driver. And he was a monkhe'd come to the house all dressed
in black. Of course, we never believed him. We just said, Boy, is he
one big liar.' "
In college, as he'd done in high school, Warnke continued to costume
himself for his roles. Mike particularly liked being a priest. "I
remember at Halloween he dressed up like a priest and went around
pretending," says Dawn. "My parents saw himthey're very Catholic so
I heard about it." Another occasion for the priest impersonation was a
double date with Lois and Phyliss and her boyfriend David Gibbet.
"I'll never forget when he went dressed as a priest to Jay's
Coffeehouse," says Lois. "He met us there, and came walking in wearing
robes and a white collar. I about died."
Yet another student, Tom Bolger, recalls Warnke boasting how he'd
dressed as a priest and gone panhandling in downtown San Bernardino.
"He said he'd made fifty dollars." And finally, Greg recalls Mike
unsuccessfully using the priest bit to get drinks. "He got the robes
at a costume shop, went to Corky's Liquor Store, and tried to get
Christian Brothers wine for the mass. They just laughed him out."
"The Satan Seller" And the Way Things Really Were
According to The Satan Seller, though, things are by now getting
serious. The story is set in motion by the mysterious college-age
individual named "Dean Armstrong," who Warnke alleges was a satanic
high priest. Mike says Dean lured him into drug use, sexual
promiscuity, witchcraft, and Satanism. We will examine these elements
of the story, then compare each with what witnesses remember. For
starters, Mike's associates at school affirm that none among them
remotely resembled the Dean character in The Satan Seller.
According to the book, Mike was encouraged by Dean to quit drinking so
much and start smoking marijuana. Mike tells Dean no, but later an
unnamed roommate brings up the subject again:
My stomach was still hurting. I tried everything I could think of,
except giving up drinking. My new roommate suggested I try . . .
[grass], and not wanting to be left out, I finally went along with it.
. . .
. . . I really liked marijuana.
Regarding drug use, Greg laughs. "Drugs? No way, not at Valley, and
not in 1965. Two years later there was plenty of grass around, but
back in '65 we still believed Reefer Madness."
Did Warnke ever talk about drugs around anybody else? "None of us were
into drugs," says Dyana. "We didn't even smoke cigarettes." Yet in The
Satan Seller, Warnke and his friends are allegedly full-blown into
drug use early in the year:
When we tried the peyote, we decided it was better and heavier than
pot. We also started eating mescaline in our food in increasing
quantities, and from there we went on to reds. . . .
. . . Some doctors came to the campus to conduct controlled group
experiments on [LSD]. My friends and I decided to volunteer for the
Not only do Mike's friends deny controlled or uncontrolled
experimentation with drugs, but according to the records, no LSD
experiments took place on the campus of San Bernardino Valley College.
This was underscored in our conversation with Dr. George Zaharopoulos,
head of the Social Sciences Department at Valley. "I taught here
during those years, and we never, ever, asked for or had any LSD
experiments take place here. This is only a junior college."
In The Satan Seller Mike not only claims to have used drugs, but to
have been a major-league drug trafficker:
One time I took some money for a drug payoff down to El Centro, a burg
in the desert of California, not far from the border town of Mexicali.
A really big load was involved, and this caused quite a flap. It was
the most money I had ever seen at one timefifty thousand dollars in
bundles of hundred-dollar bills.
On his Mike Warnke Alive! album, Mike further claims:
I'd had hepatitis four times from shooting up with dirty needles. I
had scabs all over my face from shooting up crystal. I was a speed
freak. I weighed 110 pounds soaking wet. My skin had turned yellow. My
hair was falling out. My teeth were rotting out of my head. I'd been
pistol-whipped five or six times. My jaw had been broken. My nose had
been almost ripped off. I had a bullet hole in my right leg. Two
bullet holes in my left leg.
Greg Gilbert and the others saw Mike on a daily basis, and say that it
is totally impossible for Mike to have had hepatitis, facial scabs
from injecting "crystal," and wounds from being shot three times.
"Without us knowing it? It's a lie," Greg says.
Lois's reaction to Mike's tale? "That's just make-believe," she
states. "Mike never fell in with drugs. My dad was an alcoholic, and
because of our family situation, I'd had to move in with the
Catalanos. So I was really sensitive to things like that. Second, I
was training to be a nurse, and I think I would have known if he was
using drugs. I wouldn't have dated Mike if he was drugged. I didn't
even allow people to drink around me."
In The Satan Seller, drugs and sex were the magnet that drew Mike
Warnke along. Warnke gradually found himself running errands for Dean,
attending occult discussion meetings, until, finally, Dean decided his
charge was ready for the real thing: a satanic ritual service.
The Black Mass in an orange grove turned out to be just what anybody
would expect who's seen Rosemary's Baby or other films of this genre:
black robes, a naked woman on the altar, blasphemy and incantations.
"After the Invocation of Satan, I listened intently to the Offertory,
where the members offered their souls to Lord Satan."
According to The Satan Seller, Warnke signed his name in blood to give
his soul to Satan, and a few pages later took over the coven from Dean
as the new High Priest.
I swung the now screaming cat over the smoking caldron and then over
the heart of the girl on the altar. Then, when the sword point touched
the cat's belly, I thrust it in.
"Now!" I suddenly shouted. . . . I drew an upside-down star on the
girl's stomach, with the freshly spilled blood. From the weird
utterances that now came from her mouth, I knew we were being graced
by the presence of one of the denizens of hell.
Just before he published The Satan Seller in 1973, Warnke brought
manuscript copies to his old high school friends Jeff Nesmith and Tim
Smith, and asked them to sign affidavits swearing the events depicted
were true. Jeff Nesmith had lost track of Warnke after high school and
had little idea what he did during college or who he hung out with. On
a rare visit to Mike's apartment during his college days, Mike asked
Jeff to join a "coven." But Jeff laughed it off, thinking it was one
of Mike's stories. In any event, when Warnke asked Jeff to sign the
affidavit, he refused. "My initial reaction to the book was, Come
on, Mike! This is poppycock!' "
Tim Smith dropped out of college after only two months, but notes, "I
had contact with Mike off and on all the way through the fall of 1965
until the summer of 1966." Tim states he never saw Warnke with long
hair or in the drug-induced emaciated state he claimed to be during
that period. "Sign the affidavit? I told him, Nope. Can't do that.' "
Warnke's two high school buddies saw him sporadically throughout the
year, but not every day. Yet Mike brought Jeff and Tim the affidavits,
but not Lois, Greg, Dawn or the others. It does not speak well for the
veracity of Warnke's claims that he did not ask those who knew him on
a daily basis in San Bernardino Valley College to endorse his story.
The College Crowd and the Occult
Interestingly, most of Mike's college friends did dabble in occult
activities. "Some of them were into seance and Ouija board type
stuff," says George Eubank. "But it wasn't serious, just the kind of
stuff freshmen in college play with. Especially sheltered freshmen in
college that are all of a sudden free from their parents, spreading
their wings, so to speak."
Bill Lott, another college student who is now a Christian, took
the experimentation more seriously. "People were messing around with
stuff like reincarnation, tarot cards, Ouija boards. Mike was one of
those people. But he never talked about Satanism or being a devil
worshiper," Lott says.
"People talked about witches and Ouija boards," says Dawn. "It was
that era. None of us belonged to a coven, and none of us were witches.
If we'd have thought anybody was serious, it would have scared us to
death. We did table tipping once, and the table tipped and that was
that. No more table tipping for me."
Warnke and a few of the guys created a not-so-secret society. "We
started a club called The Royal Order of the Lantern," says Greg. "We
played chess, drank beer, and told tall tales. It was a group that
really never took off."
Adds George Eubank, "The Royal Order of the Lantern had to do with
this lamp we'd stolen from somebody's driveway. Warnke wanted to get
an apartment and have a group of guys. I don't think it was supposed
to be secret. It was supposed to be fun and games. It flopped because
nobody was willing to put the effort into it. Mike carried it as far
as he could at the time. It was kind of a defunct fraternity that
never got anywhere." The Royal Order of the Lantern is a far cry from
The Satan Seller's fifteen hundred followers in three cities, financed
by a worldwide network of Satanists.
Mike eventually did get his own apartment, and the place became a
favorite hangout for the Tomahawk Room crowdthe guys in particular.
Mike gave both Greg Gilbert and Bill Lott keys. The apartment "was
above a garage," says Greg. "There was an exterior stairway that went
up to a room with an open-beam ceiling, the gable coming to a point."
In The Satan Seller, Warnke describes the exterior of his apartment in
this way: a second-floor apartment approached by an outside stairway.
The interior, however, was redecorated by the Satanists after Warnke
became high priest:
A long, low, oxblood leather couch replaced the sagging old brown
horsehair one, and there were two sets of bookshelves full of books
[on the occult]. . . . The biggest surprise was on the floortwo
chicks sitting on a white rug . . . .
. . . "We hope you like it, Mike, because we come with the apartment,"
said the blonde one named Lorraine.
The two women allegedly remained at Warnke's beck and call, rarely
leaving the apartment unless it was to get groceries or drugs. "It's a
fantasy," says Dennis Pekus, who knew Mike in both high school and
college. Greg Gilbert says he never knew Mike Warnke to have a
girlfriend in college besides Lois Eckenrod. None of the college
friends who frequented the apartment ever saw occult books, an oxblood
leather couch, or two love slaves.
Mike says plenty of "soft pink sex" is at the center of his
satanic experiences. These begin with the orgies Warnke says initially
drew him into the coven:
Then they split off into couples. It was great, because there was a
girl for every guy, not like most places I had been where there is a
chronic chick shortage.
Cool-looking, sexy girls, too. . . . These chicks were free-lovers. .
"Come on over here, Mike," a blonde said.
Then there's the sexual recruiting Mike says he helped organize and
rituals that degenerate from cat killing to the rape of an innocent
virgin. (Warnke is careful to exclude himself from direct
participation in the rape, though he writes that it was his idea.)
In a later book, Schemes of Satan, Warnke suggests that sex was a
routine part of the rituals:
On more than one occasion, I regret to admit, we participated in
ritual sexual abuse that even involved rape. Most of the time I was
too doped up to perform sexually, but I would watch these lust rituals
with great desire.
Such tales of perversion and criminal activity raise serious
questions. If Mike led in acts of rape and other violent crimes, why
(after his conversion) didn't he turn himself in and aid the police in
apprehending his old satanic friends? If, on the other hand, his rape
and abuse stories are not true, what does this say about the
imagination of their author?
Mike's college crowd completely rejects these stories of violence and
sexual perversion. "Oh, my goodness, no," says Phyliss. "To talk about
sex orgies and all these drug parties. He didn't do them with Lois and
me, that's for sure!"
"I never slept with him," says Lois. "We kissed and hugged, but I
never would have had sex with him because I was a very devout
Catholic, and I wanted to be a virgin till I got married. Thank God I
didn't marry him."
There always seemed to be a story. In college, as in the high school
role-playing with Jeff Nesmith, Warnke refused to drop out of
character. "He played it to the end," says Greg. "He never gave up.
That was the remarkable thing about him. We'd question him about his
stories and he always came up with some half-baked answer. And you
couldn't disprove what he was sayingthat was the common thread. It
was never anything we were likely to have the real answer for or the
time to check into. So he could say anything he wanted."
Warnke's refusal to admit to his own storytelling made him
untrustworthy in the eyes of some members of the group. "I didn't know
anything about his past, so I didn't know what was true and what
wasn't," says Dawn. "I didn't feel like he was sincere in anything he
did. If the situation required him to be macho, he was macho. If it
required him to be mean, he was mean. He just sort of blended into the
situation and tried to monopolize everyone. There was nothing real
Mike and Lois Plan Their Marriage
By Christmas of 1965, Mike and Lois were seeing each other on a daily
basis. "It was pretty fast that we said we were going to get married,"
says Lois. "Within two or three months of school starting, he gave me
a rose ring with a diamond in it. It cost $60. He had to make payments
on it. I thought he really loved me. And I thought I loved him, too."
In The Satan Seller, Warnke has gone through his drugs, sex, and
promotion to high priest before Christmas of 1965. (Trying to fit the
long list of his claims onto a real calendar is a challenge. See
sidebar ["Why the Dates Don't Work"], p. 18) Shirley Schrader says
Mike had Christmas dinner in Crestline with the family. "He didn't
seem emaciated by drugs to me," she says.
College records show Mike Warnke left school after the first term.
"Most of us dropped out after the first semester," recalls Lois. The
group continued to hang out together at Mike's apartment, the
Catalanos', and elsewhere. What about the Mike in The Satan Seller who
flew around the country on satanic business trips to San Francisco
(where he allegedly met Anton LaVey), New York, and Salem,
Massachusetts? "You're a real traveling salesman for Satan, Mike, and
we want you to go to Salem and get more hip with some really serious
"How could he fly when he didn't have two pennies?" asks Lois, who
adds that Mike never went anywhere, and when he did it was with her.
"If he says he was a Satanist between September of 1965 to June of
1966, he's lying. How could I not know my boyfriend was into Satanism?
I don't remember there ever being a time when we didn't see or talk to
each other every day."
Every day? "Yes," says Lois. "We went to movies together, I went to
the country club with him in the mountains, we went to the beach. We
used to go to Jay's Coffee Shop in San Bernardino. That was the big
thing. He introduced me to hot fudge sundaes. I spent the majority of
that year with him."
Lois says she and Mike used to play pool over on Highland Avenue in
San Bernardino. We read her a story from Warnke's book Hitchhiking on
Hope Street. In it Mike writes that he got into a gunfight with Ray, a
local pimp, at the pool hall:
I was drunk as a skunk when I shot at him with the .44, because I
missed him by a country mile and blew off the corner of the pool
table. . . . The two of us went roaring down the street, screaming and
shooting. . . .
. . . he . . . got off a lucky shot. It hit me in the leg and knocked
The predictable reaction: "Oh, my goodness. You're kidding. . . ."
Lois dissolves into laughter.
According to The Satan Seller, Mike Warnke's reign as a satanic high
priest ends, apparently sometime in the spring of 1966, when Warnke
crumples under the strain of too much responsibility and too many
drugs. On a "Focus on the Family" radio broadcast, he described his
appearance at this time: "I had white hair. It was about down to my
belt. . . . I had six-inch fingernails; I painted them black."
(See picture, p. 8, taken April 30, 1966.)
Warnke says he was intentionally overdosed with heroin by one of his
live-in love slaves and thrown, naked, on the steps of a local
hospital. After a few weeks of drying out at the hospital, Warnke
escaped by joining the Navy. On the Mike Warnke Alive! album, he
describes his hair length the night before boot camp: "It hit me just
below the pockets." He continues:
The night before I went to boot camp I went to this party. . . . I
smoked a bunch of dope and ate a bunch of reds and got crashed out in
a corner. . . . But the girl I was with decided the thing that would
really be cute is if she braided my hair. . . . She put beads with the
first bunch, feathers with the next bunch, a piece of red ribbon about
that long with the last bunch, braided it all together, and hung a
jingle bell on the end of each braid.
Lois says she was the girl who gave Mike his going-away party. When
she heard this story for the first time in 1979, she was furious. "I
couldn't believe it when I heard that!" she says. "I'm the one who
gave him the going-away party! We never touched drugs. He never had
long hairhis hair was short, short, short!"
Greg and Dawn, who had just gotten married, offered Lois the use of
their apartment for the party. "I bought a big cake decorated with a
navy boat," Lois remembers. "It said Ship Ahoy, Mike.' Dawn and I
made food and pop, and we had a bunch of people over. It was just
clean fun. I took him to the bus stop, put him on the bus to go to
boot camp," Lois says. "We were supposed to get married when he
Mike, Sue, and Campus Crusade
On June 2, 1966, Mike Warnke joined the U.S. Navy. During the time he
was there, he and Lois stayed in touch by letter. According to
Warnke's official story, boot camp is where he meets two Christians
who are such a bold witness for Christ that the ex-Satanist converts
According to his service records, Mike Warnke graduated from boot camp
August 22, 1966. His fiancee, Lois, and the Schrader family
attended graduation. "I went down with a friend and gave Mike a St.
Christopher medal," says Lois. There was a fifteen-day leave after
camp ended. During this time Lois noticed a change in Mike. "He was
different. He was carrying a Bible. I asked him about it, and he said
he'd found Christ at boot camp. He was real excited about being a
Christian, finding God." Within days Mike told Lois "he'd had this
Christian conversion and he had to go on. That this was it. I didn't
see him anymore after that."
The Satan Seller, once again, tells a different story. There is, of
course, no mention of Lois Eckenrod before or after boot camp.
Instead, when Warnke returns home from boot camp, he begins dating Sue
Studer, a fellow Rim High alumnus who was soon to become his first
wife. "I turned around and was surprised to see Sue Studer, the girl
who had always dated the football heroes. Sue was still as pretty as
Warnke writes that he then told Sue of his recent conversion to
Christ, and to his delight Sue replied she, too, had become a
Christian. "Sue had worked on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ
at the Arrowhead Springs Headquarters."
In The Satan Seller, Mike Warnke says that he was chased by Campus
Crusaders attempting to convert him when he was the campus Satanist.
However, Lois and several others do remember Mike Warnke taking some
interest in religion and Campus Crusade before boot camp. "I remember
him starting to get interested in religion," Lois says. "He'd go up
the hill to Campus Crusade's headquarters."
Just how early Mike dabbled with Christianity is unclear, but at least
one witness says she saw him proclaiming faith in Christ in 1965, a
whole year before The Satan Seller says he became a Christian.
Charlotte Tweeten, a 1964 Rim graduate who attended Valley
College, told Cornerstone, "It was in the fall of 1965. I know that
because by winter I had already left school. Mike Warnke came up to me
while I was sitting there drinking coffee and started proselytizing
me. It was the born-again thing. Mike was doing his religious thing
and Sue Studer was with him."
On September 7, 1966, Mike Warnke reported to Hospital Corps School in
Mike gives us our choice of stories as to why he chose to become a
medic. In The Satan Seller he writes he joined the Hospital Corps
because "I could be of more use to God mending guys than swabbing
decks." On the album Hey, Doc!, he says he joined the Hospital
Corps because of drugs and nurses: "Dope and women . . . for pay . . .
In late 1966, Warnke graduated from medic school and, after training
with the marines at Camp Pendleton, went to work at the naval
dispensary in San Diego. Marriage records show Mike and Sue Studer
were married May 13, 1967, in Crestline. Soon after, the couple
moved onto San Diego's Louisiana Street.
While in San Diego, the Warnkes visited Scott Memorial Baptist Church,
pastored by now well-known church leader and author Tim LaHaye and his
wife, Beverly. In The Satan Seller, Warnke offers one version of what
happened when the LaHayes visited the Warnke home. Mike says he told
Tim LaHaye about the Illuminati.
I had already told him I had been to an occult conference. "There were
some weird guys that seemed to be the real backers of the whole thing.
. . . I heard the word Illuminati."
"The conversation really wasn't like he put it in his book," says Dr.
LaHaye. "I brought up the term Illuminati first. I had been
reading a book on the subject, and I tried testing him to see if he
really knew anything about it. He didn't seem to have ever heard the
"Mike gave us a little of his testimony," says Beverly LaHaye, who
is now the head of Concerned Women for America. "He said a book about
the leaders of the Satan church had disappeared off his shelf when he
became interested in Christianity." Dr. LaHaye sums up, "His type of
personality tells stories for effect, not for accuracy."
Mike in Vietnam
In November of 1967, the Warnkes moved back to Camp Pendleton and
Oceanside. In May of 1969, Warnke was transferred from Pendleton to
the Third Marine Division, Vietnam. Warnke says he spent his time
in Vietnam, like so many who served there, anesthetized from the
experience of war by drugs.
The following is a list of the other things Mike Warnke says happened
to him while in Vietnam:
My faith was weakening fast! A buddy of mine was killeda mortar
shell landed directly on him, disintegrating him except for his
shoes. I was existing from one bottle to the next. The message
[a spy] was carrying was a detailed description of myself and the
skipper, identifying us as prime targets for the Viet Cong. . . .
. . . I shot a spy, went to my tent, cooked dinner, and ate. And
something died inside of me. I was the first to enter the tent [of
marines who had been "fragged" killed by their own people].
Anyway, one day we were into this fire fight. . . . Everybody is
shooting at each other. . . .
. . . All of a sudden: zooooom, zonk, and my arm is pinned to the
ground with an arrow! I look over at this other Marine Corps sergeant,
who goes, "Only you, man, only you!"
One time I went through a village and was handing out candy bars to
little kids. Just standing in the back of my Jeep. . . .
When I get done, I'm putting the box back and this twelve-year-old kid
goes in his house, comes back out with a gun, and shoots me.
Add to the list this story from Keith Schrader, Jr.: "Mike told me
that he killed a man in a bar fight in the Philippines."
Despite the impression such a long list may give, records show Warnke
was in Vietnam for only six months.
In The Satan Seller Mike says that he was wounded twice. In his second
book, Hitchhiking on Hope Street, he says he was wounded five
times. Military records obtained by Cornerstone show that Mike
Warnke, hospital corpsman, second class, service number B98 05 49,
received one Purple Heart, and, along with the rest of his unit,
several additional medals. The Third Marine Division he was connected
to was withdrawn from Vietnam in October of 1969 and sent to
Warnke was sent back to the U.S. in the spring of 1970 and for the
first time was able to see his infant son, Brendon Michael, born
December 2, 1969, while Mike was overseas. In return for reenlisting
for six more years, Mike was enrolled in cardiopulmonary school. The
Warnke family settled in San Diego.
George Wakeling, who worked with young drug addicts, says he was
contacted by Mike around this time. George was the founder of the Drug
Prevention Center, or "the Hotline," a ministry to addicts at the
Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim. Mike started spending time at
the Hotline, and getting instruction from Hotline speaker Dick
Handley. It was through the Hotline that Mike made his first contacts
with Jesus Movement-era Christianity.
Mike Meets the Jesus Movement
Melodyland was one of the Southern California centers of the
charismatic renewal movement then sweeping the Church. The ex-addicts
and others who ran the Hotline were among the original Jesus People,
part of a new youth counterculture uniquely compatible with the
charismatics. Both preferred informal gatherings and a vital,
experience-oriented faith. The culturally conservative Melodyland
crowd thus understood when the exuberant young hippies suggested
"getting high on Jesus."
Both groups majored on the theme of acceptance. The mainstream church
was sadly out of touch with the needs of counterculture youth and,
even more sadly, unwilling by and large to reach out to them. But
Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God seemed to
grasp what God was doing among children of the sixties. Uncritically,
without attacking the cultural preferences of the young, many
charismatics and Pentecostals shamed their mainstream peers by being
(in Paul's words) all things to all men.
But as with nearly all revivals, there were problems with the newly
revived. The mix of uncritical acceptance plus emphasis on experience
was easily taken too far. It opened the door for various cults among
the Jesus People; it also opened the door for those with fascinating
though unprovable conversion stories.
"A lot of people came to the Hotline and told their drug testimonies,"
says Ron Winckler, a leader there. "Mike Warnke came with the
added attraction of the Satanist experience, which was a big hit with
the Full Gospel Businessmen and charismatics. The times were right for
that sort of testimony."
Hotline speaker Dick Handley and friends in Crestline had introduced
Mike Warnke to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Through Handley, Warnke
met Dave Balsiger, a writer who had done promo work for Melodyland and
now was media director for charismatic evangelist Morris Cerullo.
After starting a youth ministry in San Diego, Cerullo had come in
contact with kids dabbling with the occult and decided to write a book
on the subject. Balsiger was assigned the job. It was during this time
he met Mike Warnke and enlisted his aid. The book was to be called
Witchcraft Never Looked Better. They also created a specially
outfitted trailer, purchased to house "research materials" such as
voodoo oil, graveyard dust, and fortune-telling spray. The vehicle,
dubbed the "Witchmobile," was to be unveiled at an upcoming Morris
Cerullo convention, The Seventh Deeper Life Conference.
Cerullo's vision, Warnke's story, and Balsiger's media talents
combined to make the January 1972 meeting a smash. A twelve-page
tabloid on Cerullo was inserted into the San Diego Evening Tribune.
Warnke and the Witchmobile were introduced to the media at a press
conference, and at the Saturday night youth rally.
Christianity Today covered the event, noting that Cerullo "bore down
heavily on the theme that satanic forces are loose in the nation."
Mike Warnke, who gave a seminar on the occult, was one of the
After the January 1972 conference, Warnke and Balsiger parted with
Cerullo and decided to write a book together about Mike's Satanist
experience. We asked Dave Balsiger about evidence for the story told
in the book. Was he concerned about that? "Oh, yes." And what was the
evidence Mike offered for The Satan Seller's fifteen-hundred-member
cult, the all-powerful Illuminati, the intricate rituals complete with
various knives, candles, books, and robes? "Mike took me to some of
the sites." (The reader should recall that Mike's experiences had
allegedly occurred six years before the book was written.) "I saw
where there had been a fire started. And there were some indications
of cultic writings and graffiti."
During the first half of 1972, Warnke had been working hard (with the
help of Morris Cerullo's organization) to get out of the navy so he
could go full-time into the ministry. "I helped him write letters,"
recalls Cerullo staffer Jean Jolly, "and I got hold of
[Congressman] Del Clawson's office. We got him out of the navy." On
June 2, Warnke was granted an early discharge on
"As soon as he got out, Mike sent a letter to Morris Cerullo's
headquarters and said we were forbidden to use his name or his
material," recalls George Eckeroth, who headed Jolly's department.
"And Balsiger left Cerullo around the same time."
Mike launched his ministry under the banner "Alpha Omega Outreach." In
mid-June, Warnke went to Explo '72 in Dallas, a sort of Campus Crusade
version of Woodstock attended by over eighty thousand. Guideposts
was running a feature on Warnke's story, and his book was due in
The Satan Seller a Best-seller
Logos International released The Satan Seller in early 1973. At
that moment, Christian publishing was in the midst of an unparalleled
boom with the success of blockbusters like The Late Great Planet Earth
by Hal Lindsey and the Praise books by Merlin Carothers. While the
party lasted, Logos was the life of the party, the industry leader in
both output and income.
Yet, as a former Logos editor has admitted, the boom-time books were
often "too quickly written." That same year, Logos published
Michael, Michael, Why Do You Hate Me?, the purported story of
born-again rabbi Michael Esses. A later exposé revealed Esses' bogus
credentials and immorality.
Into this heady atmosphere The Satan Seller was born. The book was
positively reviewed in publications ranging from Moody Monthly to The
Christian Century, with nary a question as to its credibility.
"The only thing I remember about that book is that it sold better than
we thought it would," says Logos founder Dan Malachuk. Indeed, by
April 1973, The Satan Seller was a religious best-seller.
Other ex-Satanist testimonies followed Warnke's. John Todd's warnings
about the Illuminati and a conspiracy of witches were promoted in a
series of Jack Chick comic books. According to Ron Winckler, Todd
visited the Hotline once with a group of underlings to check out Mike
Warnke. "There was a backstage confrontation," says Ron Winckler.
"Todd accused Warnke of stealing his material about the Illuminati."
Another alleged ex-Satanist, Hershel Smith, purchased the Witchmobile
from Morris Cerullo and began his own tour. Smith's testimony, seen in
the 1974 book The Devil and Mr. Smith, coauthored by Dave Hunt, was an
apparent effort to one-up The Satan Seller.
Hershel Smith eventually dropped out of sight. Todd's story was later
discredited. When a book debunking Todd was written, Mike Warnke wrote
the foreword. "We as Christians have to be careful of those who take
the name of the Lord in vain," said Warnke. In Ron Winckler's
analysis, "Mike Warnke had the jump on John Todd. He understood the
Full Gospel mind-set better."
Now a published author, Mike Warnke found increasing demand for his
story and told it in coffeehouses and churches beyond the West Coast.
In August of 1973, Warnke spoke at a Christian music festival in
Pennsylvania. The Jesus Movement had spawned its own music, and Warnke
gravitated toward this fraternity of musicians. Tim Archer of the
group The Archers, told the crowd at Jesus '73, "Mike Warnke is the
Chaplain of Gospel Rock."
In his travels, Warnke had met Charles Duncombe, an elderly
Pentecostal evangelist. "Brother D," who started in the ministry under
English preacher Smith Wigglesworth, was loved and respected by all
who knew him. In 1974 Mike, Sue, four-year-old Brendon, and newborn
Jesse all moved to Oklahoma near Duncombe's small school, Trinity
Bible College. Mike would attend school while Sue tended children.
Trinity Bible College was a nine-month preparation for ministry,
located in a big country house outside Tulsa, Oklahoma. The thirty
students were mostly new converts, many from a counterculture
background and eager to learn. "Within two weeks of our conversion my
wife and I were in Trinity," says John Witty, who with his wife
Vicki Jo had been a nightclub comedian.
Fellow students Bob and Karen Siegal ran a Jesus People ministry
in southern Illinois and had met Brother D at a Full Gospel
Businessmen's meeting. "We were the token hippies at FGBM," says
Karen. "They'd bring us in there and have us give our testimonies."
Student Bill Fisher, known as "Wild Bill," was a colorful local who
later became Mike Warnke's traveling partner and confidant.
In some ways Mike Warnke was the star pupil, since he was already
doing what everybody else was just learning to do: ministering in
churches around the country. "Here was a guy who was going out on the
weekends and leading hundreds to Jesus," says John Witty. "He was a
hero to us all."
On local gigs, Trinity students would tag along, sometimes even
joining Warnke on stage. "Mike liked to introduce me as a former
hippie or drug addictwhich I'd been, but I wasn't proud of," Karen
Siegal says. "Then he started introducing me as a former prostitute,
which I'd never been. I had to ask him to stop."
Another new convert at Trinity, one with a sensational testimony of
her own, was to see her real-life story blended with Mike Warnke's.
"Part of the program at Trinity was tell your testimony," she says. "I
got up and said, My name's Carolyn Alberty and I'm third-generation
Mafia. My father ran gambling houses, and my mother ran brothels. We
had connections in political circles and the entertainment business.'
This story caught Warnke's interest, says Carolyn. "Mike told me he
knew me from some parties I had given in California." He convinced her
he'd been to some, though she didn't remember him. "Then he started
inquiring about my connections and ability to promote."
Carolyn rattled off a list of things Warnke needed to do to further
his ministry. "Mike brought me to his home, introduced me to Sue, and
said, I really think Carolyn can help us.' " Carolyn assembled his
first real promotional package and called churches to make connections
for speaking engagements. She says she told Mike, "Ease up on the
satanic stuff and concentrate on the funny stories you've started to
It didn't take long for the relationship to move beyond a professional
level. "Mike started telling me he and Sue had different ideas about
what they wanted out of life, and that he didn't love her anymore,"
says Carolyn. "Mike began passing notes to me in class, with stuff
like Hubba, hubba' written on them."
As the year wore on, Karen Siegal realized something was up. "Carolyn
and Mike started getting really hot and heavy," says Karen. "I
confronted them and said, This is not godly.' They basically told me
it was none of my business." Karen took her concerns to fellow
students, but they suggested she was being judgmental.
Brother D was taken by Warnke's sincerity, says Karen. John Witty adds
that the rest of the class was too naive to realize what was
happening. "Back then, Mike and Carolyn seemed to be just what Jesus
freaks would call brothers and sisters in the Lord.' I now realize
the relationship had warning signs all over it from the beginning."
Karen Siegal protested one last time. "I'd repeatedly told Mike he
needed to clean up his act with Carolyn," she says. "One time he came
over to our house when nobody else was home. I made the mistake of
confronting him again. All of a sudden, he said, It's not Carolyn or
Susie I love. It's you.' He grabbed me. It freaked me out and I pushed
him away. I yelled, Get out of here! I love my husband!' "
Carolyn Alberty admits her relationship with Warnke took the
inevitable turn near the end of the school year. "We'd been assigned
to paraphrase the book of Isaiah. Mike rented a cabin outside Tulsa to
do his work, and he offered to help me with my homework there. I
thought that sounded reasonable, since I was living with the Siegals
and had no privacy."
After they'd worked at the cabin for awhile, Carolyn says, the two
went for a drive, and Warnke stopped at a convenience store. "He asked
what kind of cigarettes I used to smoke, and I said, Pall Mall Gold.
Why?' He just shut the door and kept on walking. I went, Uh-oh.' "
Warnke returned to the car, says Carolyn, with "two bottles of Annie
Greensprings wine, two packs of cigarettes, and a package of peanut
butter cookies." That day they began an affair that would lead to
marriage two years later and divorce two years after that. "I guess
from day one I was wrong," says Carolyn.
Meanwhile, recalls John Witty, "Mike's testimony was just starting to
break nationally. He was beginning to get calls from big churches."
Among the churches calling Warnke during this time was the Golden
Heights Christian Center in Brockport, New York. Pastor Don Riling
tried his best to disciple the young Christian musicians and speakers
who came to his church. "I loved Mike Warnke as a son," he says. But
soon problems cropped up. "We had a woman in the church who'd just
become a Christian. She began to hang out with Mike Warnkehe seemed
to have an eye for people with weaknesses," Riling says. "Later, she
confessed to me she'd met him a number of times in hotels for sex when
he was in the area."
The Syro-Chaldean Connection
During the Trinity '74-'75 school year began one of the strangest, and
longest-running, chapters of the Mike Warnke story. Elijah Coady, an
independent bishop in an Eastern Orthodox splinter group called the
Syro-Chaldean Church, ordained Warnke a deacon.
Warnke had met Coady on the road, and expressed interest in the
bishop's brand of independent Eastern Orthodoxy. Several Trinity
students remember Bishop Coady's visit to Tulsa. A few were present
when Coady ordained Warnke at a local church. "The bishop wore a
strange hat, like a stack of pancakes," says Bill Fisher, who adds
that Charles Duncombe expressed some concerns about Coady. "Brother D
told us to be cool. He'd gotten a real check in the spirit about the
Another ordination was bestowed upon Warnke by Brother Duncombe on his
graduation from Trinity in the spring of 1975. After graduation,
Carolyn says Warnke made promises to her but would not be rushed. "He
told me he was going to divorce Sue, that I should wait and be
patient, that he needed to set up his escape."
Soon afterwards, Warnke did a show at The Happy Church in Denver,
where he met Pastor Wally Hickey and his wife Marilyn. Mike and Sue
Warnke decided to move to Denver with their two children, and Mike
invited Bill Fisher and Carolyn to join him there. The entourage
arrived in Denver in August of 1975, where Mike and Sue settled.
Mike had promised Fisher and Carolyn jobs with Happy Church, but the
jobs didn't materialize. Mike leased a 270-acre mountain retreat
called Joy Ranch in Evergreen, Colorado. "Mike would go catch the
plane in Denver, and I would keep the place together up there," notes
The relationship between Warnke and Happy Church is unclear. Bill
Fisher says Mike was "a kind of evangelist for them," not on the
payroll but working under Marilyn's Life for Laymen organization. An
article in the Denver Post in October '75 identifies Warnke as "an
evangelist with Life for Laymen, a Denver-based movement." The
Hickeys refused to talk with us, but their spokesperson said Warnke
and his wife attended the church during the seventies, primarily for
According to Carolyn, Warnke now began to push for a divorce from Sue.
The Hickeys tried to reason with him. "Mike told them he and Sue would
try to work it out," says Carolyn. "But he told me he wanted out of
the marriage." Not long after, the relationship was broken between
Mike Warnke and The Happy Church.
In November 1975, Mike was invited to do a show at the Adam's Apple
coffeehouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Christian artists Nancy
Honeytree and Phil Keaggy were recording a concert that night. The
tape kept rolling during Warnke's part of the show. A proposed
Keaggy/Honeytree live album didn't materialize, but the Warnke tape
found a buyer in Myrrh Records, a subsidiary of Word, Inc.
Another Christian artist Mike had done concerts with on the road was
Randy Matthews. Randy, along with Wes Yoder, was co-owner of Dharma
Artists Agency, a fledgling Christian management company based in
Matthews' garage in Nashville. After talking with Matthews, Warnke and
Carolyn flew to Nashville, where he signed with the company.
"While Wes was signing Mike, he asked me to work with Dharma," says
Carolyn. "Wes said he'd split my bookings down the middle,
fifty-fifty. Mike said, I can't beat that. He may get half of me, but
I get half of it back.' So I became a working member of the team."
During this time Brockport, NY, pastor Don Riling continued to
befriend Warnke. He was growing more and more concerned over what was
going on in Mike and Sue's marriage. "On several occasions Mike had
told me and my wifecrying and the whole bitSue doesn't love me.
She's kicked me out,' " Riling says. "Mike kept saying how all he
wanted to be was a family man, to raise his two boys. I told him he'd
have to choose between the road and his family." According to pastor
Riling, Marilyn Hickey then visited the Rilings. "I asked Marilyn,
Isn't there anything we can do to persuade Sue to go back to Mike?'
Marilyn about fell out of her chair. She said, What are you talking
about? Sue loves Mike. She wants to save their marriage. Mike is the
one who wants to end it.' Then it was my turn to be surprised. All I'd
known about the marriage problems before this was that Mike said Sue
was cheating on him."
Riling flew to Denver in the late summer of 1976 on a desperate
mission to try to save the marriage. On arriving, Riling said he found
Mike had left Sue and the two children and had moved into an apartment
with Carolyn. So Riling met with Sue. "She wanted to get back together
with Mike. Sue said at one time she had dated another man, but she was
plugged into Hickey's church and her attitude was I just want to be
with my husband.' I think Mike saw it as his chance to dump Sue."
(Carolyn told us that Mike had urged both Sue and herself to go out
with others when he was away on the road. Finally, Carolyn says, Sue
did go out once with her to a dance hall.)
After talking with Sue, Pastor Riling stayed with the Hickeys but
spent most of his time with Mike and Carolyn. Riling got his
information about Carolyn from Warnke: "Mike was out on the road, and
he had supposedly led this gal Carolyn to Jesus. Before then, she had
run these houses of ill repute. Mike told me he had to bring her home
to help rehab her, and she lived right there with Sue."
During the visit, Riling didn't let up. "Every opportunity I could, I
pleaded with Mike to go back to Suefor the sake of his marriage, for
the sake of his ministry. Mike wouldn't hear anything about leaving
Carolyn." Riling was in a restaurant with Warnke when Mike told him
Sue was being served with divorce papers that very moment. (The
summons is dated August 20, 1976.) His mission a failure, the
pastor returned to New York.
Upon receiving the divorce petition, Sue Warnke called Ron Winckler
and George Wakeling, along with others, and asked for prayer, saying
Mike had run off with another woman.
It was at this point that Dr. Walter Martin, a well-known counter-cult
apologist and founder of Christian Research Institute (CRI), was asked
to speak to Mike about his marriage difficulties. (Dr. Martin died in
1989.) Gretchen Passantino was Martin's senior research consultant at
the time, in charge of CRI's research staff, and her duties
included overseeing Walter Martin's travel arrangements.
"Dr. Martin had a speaking engagement near Denver and asked me to book
a couple extra days so he could speak with Mike Warnke and his wife,
Sue," says Gretchen. "When he got back, he took me aside. He said, I
had this real difficult meeting with Mike and Sue Warnke. I hope what
I did was enough.' Realizing that Mike was determined to leave the
marriage, Dr. Martin had prayed and counseled with both of them,
advising Mike he needed to leave the ministry."
Mike & Carolyn in Music City
Harmony magazine was the Christian music magazine in the
mid-seventies, and in September 1976, Mike Warnke was on the
cover. During this era, Mike relocated to what was becoming the
center of the contemporary Christian music business. Jesus music began
to be shaped by the powerful influence of Nashville, country music
capital and home of the Gospel Music Association (GMA). The "music"
part was welcomed in Music City. As for Jesus, insiders there have a
saying: "Nashville has changed more Christians than Christians have
Mike and Carolyn pulled into town with a U-Haul trailer. "Mike and I
moved into an apartment together," says Carolyn. "Once we'd moved in,
Mike went and bought cases of whiskey, different wines, and beer." At
the time, of course, Warnke was still married to Sue. Among their
Nashville Christian music friends, the only ones to protest Mike and
Carolyn's living arrangements was a couple they had met on the road,
Mike and Karen Johnson.
Though many of our readers may be unacquainted with Mike Johnson, he
was a Jesus music pioneer, starting his first Christian band in 1968.
According to many Jesus music historians, Johnson never received
recognition equal to the dues he paid and miles he and Karen logged on
the coffeehouse and church basement circuit.
When Mike Warnke came to town with Carolyn, Karen Johnson wanted to
know what was going on. "We said, Hey, what about Sue?' Mike told us,
She's running around on me.' I called Sue, and she said that wasn't
true. She said Mike found this other woman and he wanted to marry her.
And the only way you could get a divorce in the Christian community
was to say somebody had been unfaithful."
Out of their concern, the Johnsons orchestrated another meeting with
mutual acquaintance Don Riling. "We thought Mike Warnke was a mess and
wanted him to get help," says Karen. "Don Riling was the only pastor
that Warnke opened up to and submitted to in any form. He was like a
father figure to Mike." Mike Johnson told the Rilings that Warnke had
asked him to be best man in his wedding with Carolyn. "We pushed for a
meeting," says Karen Johnson. "Wes set it up. Don Riling flew to
The meeting was held at the Dharma offices. Riling, Mike Johnson, Wes
Yoder, and Mike and Carolyn were there. "You'd have never guessed that
this was a meeting of Christians," says Riling. "Mike and Carolyn were
swearing the whole time, and they must have gone through a whole pack
of cigarettes." The meeting went on for hours in an effort to get
everything out on the table with Warnke. "He moped around, saying his
life was a mess," says Riling. "I tried to convince him to go back to
Sue and save his ministry."
At one point in the meeting, Carolyn brought up Warnke's continuing
affair with the woman at Riling's church in Brockport. "Mike was still
very involved with her," says Carolyn. Pastor Riling was struck by the
bizarreness of the situation: "I'm sitting there listening to this
woman Warnke was committing adultery with talk about how Mike was
cheating on her."
As the meeting bogged down, Riling took Wes Yoder aside and tried to
make him understand the gravity of the situation. "Wes wouldn't deal
with it," says Riling. "He knew Mike Warnke had a problem, but Wes was
young and inexperienced. Wes said to Mike, Do whatever you want to.
Stay with this woman. Go back to your wife. It's okay. I'm behind you,
because we have to keep the ministry going.' Mike Johnson was
horrified by this," says Riling.
Carolyn says she also gave Wes advice: "I thought Mike Johnson was
being sanctimonious and Don Riling was a joke. Wes came to me and
said, What's going on?' I said, Look, the guy's a joke. He's trying
to get his paws on Mike, but you've got him signed and if you don't
keep him it's your fault.' So it was really us against them."
Wes Yoder says of those days, "I should have run Warnke out of town
when he first showed up with Carolyn. I was stupid. I didn't miss it.
I just didn't know what to do about it. I was sinful in allowing him
to use me as a cloak of decency for what he was doing. The Lord
doesn't bless in things like that." Karen Johnson forgives Wes
for his part in the debacle, saying, "Here he was, this young guy
trying to be a part of Christian music, and he's involved with all
these crazy people."
Carolyn says the meeting accomplished nothing. "Nobody I ever met who
was around or who was connected with Mike Warnke in any way ever had
any effect on him." The day after the meeting, Mike Johnson left
Dharma. His path then began to lead downward by degrees. It was also
after this meeting, says Carolyn, that Mike Warnke initiated her in
what he called an Indian ceremony. "We were at a motel, and he said,
I'll show you how much I love you.' He took a pocket knife and cut
his wrist, and cut mine, and mixed our blood. He said, Now we are
one.' He gave himself the name Many Horsesbecause I was part American
Bill Fisher said, "Mike told me he got the name Many Horses from an
Indian medicine man." Bill Fisher told us, explaining the Indian
identity as one of Warnke's many "mojos": "Mike would personify
himself as various characters at times. Mike had his Indian mojo, or
sometimes he'd be a Scotsman, or Jewish, or a Catholic priest, or
Jeremiah Johnson, or black--he wanted to think he had black blood
because Andre Crouch told him he had soul."
The divorce of Mike Warnke from Sue was finalized on December 3,
1976. Mike and Carolyn were married four months later.
Instead of Mike Johnson, Wes Yoder was best man.
Downhill into the Bigtime
In his books and on his records, Mike Warnke goes from Satan to
Christ. In Nashville, the path led from rags to riches. Warnke had no
money or credit when he came to town, says Carolyn. The bang-up
combination of a hit record and the Dharma Agency soon changed
that. And the money started rolling in. "Lots of money," says
Carolyn. "Not all of a sudden. But it wasn't uncommon for us to make
five thousand dollars on the road, spend two to three thousand a day,
buy whatever we wanted, go where we wanted, do whatever we wanted."
The Dharma Agency prospered. During this period, they moved their
offices from Randy Matthews' garage to Music Row, and later to a
penthouse suite in the United Artists Towers. They hired additional
booking agents. Dharma's star rose with the fortunes of something
that was now called contemporary Christian music.
Writes Christian media observer William D. Romanowski,
The industry scaffolding began to go up as concert halls replaced
coffeehouses and church fellowship halls, as record labels replaced
custom recordings, and as contemporary music radio formats replaced
tapes of preachers. . . .
Christian entrepreneurs were building a Christian entertainment
industry that paralleled its secular counterpart not just in musical
styles and trends, but in marketing techniques, management, concert
production, publicity, and glamorization.
The whole atmosphere surrounding the music changed. "We took our eyes
off what had been very precious and innocent," says industry veteran
Dan Hickling, "the joy of being a Christian and going around and
singing music for people that would bring them closer to God."
Buddy Huey, Word Records' artists and repertoire man, who had signed
Warnke, was part of the big change. "What we were trying to do
was have better distribution to get the Word out. We ended up
compromising lots. When I was with Word, the intent of the company was
nothing more than trying to find those people who had a voice or a
platform. And then all we could go on was what they told us."
Including Warnke's satanic story? "It was just accepted," says Huey.
"That's one of the things you'll find in the industry. You see
something that might be salable, marketablethat's what you look at.
It saddens me that I was a part of setting up things in the industry
that I wish I had a chance to undo."
Romanowski writes, "Evangelism was the rhetoric, business became
reality." The manipulation of language, he says, transformed
"money-making into ministry, easing the consciences of those few who
earn healthy incomes off the music."
"You could see a kind of downhill slide," says Larry Black, a one-time
Christian deejay who is now an actor. "To see the marriages
dissolve, to see them slowly begin to justify various vices." Was this
behavior common knowledge in the industry? "Yeah. I think there was
general knowledge. But you're caught in that old trap of not wanting
to criticize a brother."
We asked Buddy Huey if there was any company policy regarding
Christian artists who were exhibiting non-Christian behavior. "No,
there really wasn't," says Buddy Huey. "I didn't personally do
cocaine, for instance, but I was present when others did cocaine.
Looking back at that, I think my silence was worse than them doing the
Scott Ross, who now works for CBN Television and back then was the
country's foremost Christian disk jockey, recalls how kinky things had
gotten. "There was a lot of immorality, drugs, and booze."
Says Karen Johnson, "Mike [Johnson] tried to stay so straight, for
eight years. Then everything fell apart after we'd been in Nashville
for a while. Mike looked around and realized that Warnke and his
friends were making lots of money and fooling around on their wives.
My husband thought, What difference does it make?' He started
drinking, smoking grass. He started hanging around with these
Christian music people that didn't care if you were moral or not."
Says Mike Johnson, "I was one big mess." Adds Karen, "When my Mike
came home from being on the road with Warnke, he'd confessall in the
name of repentanceto all this drinking and going to discos."
In the fall of 1978, the future seemed bright for Mike Warnke. His
albums were "the most popular Christian comedy records ever produced
anywhere, with sales reaching to nearly 200,000." Doubleday
Publishing was assembling a book of material from the first three
albums. With dates around the world, 1979 was slated to be his biggest
tour ever. Mike asked Bill Fisher to travel with him.
At home, Carolyn says she and Mike had been fighting, and that several
times he had hit her. Because of this, Carolyn's mother, Peggy
Alberty, had moved to Nashville to be near her daughter.
Enter Rose, Exit Nashville
Warnke was on the road almost constantly. "We figured it out one
time," says Bill Fisher. "We traveled over 280,000 air miles in about
ten months that year, with three days off a month." About halfway
through the whirlwind ten-month tour, Warnke performed in Hazard,
Kentucky. It was there, says Rose Hall, that she first met Mike
Carolyn confirms this story. "While Mike and I were still married, he
went to Kentucky to do a show, and that's where he met Rose." Carolyn
says Mike came home very excited about something. "Then he went down
to a jewelry store where we'd established credit and began buying
jewelry for someone else, who I later found out was Rose."
The story of Mike Warnke's romance with Rose Hall is told in her book,
The Great Pretender. Rose never mentions Carolyn or the fact that Mike
was married to Carolyn during his courtship with Rose. She says she
met Warnke in various cities and stayed in the hotel with himin
separate rooms. "Looking back, it had never occurred to me to say,
You're a minister, an evangelist; are you married?' It never entered
During the time she was traveling around with Warnke, Rose says she
went with him to Nashville. There, she writes, both his road manager
and his agent objected to the relationship. Wes Yoder says, "Rose
came along before Mike and Carolyn were divorced. The whole thing with
Carolyn, I couldn't deal with personally. With Rose I did. But I was
still there. I was so wrong."
Mike Warnke's relationship with the Johnsons went from bad to worse.
As Karen Johnson tells it, "Mike called on the phone and said he
wanted to come over, because he knew I was angry at him over what had
happened to my Mike. I told him no, that I felt he was leading people
astray, and I didn't want him associating with my husband because he
was helping destroy our marriage. But later Warnke came over anyway
and said, Karen, I don't want you to dislike me. I want us to be
friends.' I said, Then change what you're doing. You're deceiving
people. You're committing adultery.' He said, I can't change.' "
After Karen told Warnke to get out, "He came at me like he was going
to kill me." Mike Johnson says of this episode, "I was in pretty good
shape back then, and I was ready to go at it there in the living
room." Warnke left, says Karen, "screaming obscenities at me."
The end for Mike Warnke and wife Carolyn was, as she tells it, the
stuff of melodrama. "We were fighting and he threw me into a wall and
split my head open. He said, If you go to a local hospital and tell
them what your name is, I'll kill you. I don't have to do it
physically. I can do it from another room or another state.' "
"There was a revolver in the nightstand," Carolyn says. "I took it out
and said, If you hit me again Mike, I'm gonna kill you, because I'm
tired of your beatings. I just can't take any more.' " Carolyn says
she jumped into her car, started driving, and didn't stop until she
reached Pensacola, Florida.
Tom Carrouthers found Carolyn in a convenience store in Pensacola that
summer night in 1979, dazed and bleeding. "Carolyn said she and her
old man had gotten into it," says Carrouthers. "She had a big
gouge on the top of her head, and a wad of dried blood. I took her to
the hospital. When we got there, she was like a kid and didn't want me
to leave. She stayed with my sister and me for a week or so."
Carolyn gave us a note she received from Mike. "Dear Carolyn," it
reads, "I don't know how we ever got to this place. All I know for
sure is that we are here. . . . I can't blame you for not wanting to
be around me right now. Nor can I condemn your disgust at my rages and
tantrums. I'm trying hard to get control. . . . I'll always be there
when you need me. The scar on my wrist will never fade. . . . Peace to
you. Many Horses."
Carrouthers remembers Carolyn talking with Warnke on the phone during
the two weeks she was there; things seemed to be improving. But when
Carolyn finally returned to Nashville from Florida, she was in for a
surprise. "I came home and there was a For Sale' sign on the house.
All the locks had been changed, and everything in the house was gone.
In just a matter of days, I had no funds, no furniture, nothing," she
Carolyn didn't go back to Dharma. She felt most of the people she knew
in the industry had been siding with Mike, who was telling everyone
the stories about her unfaithfulness. In a bizarre twist, Carolyn got
a job working as an undercover narcotics operative with the Regional
Organized Crime Information Center, a law enforcement organization in
Mike and Carolyn's divorce was final on November 29, 1979. Mike
Johnson says Warnke told him that Carolyn was rubbed out by the mob,
"bludgeoned to death in a ditch." A friend from the Trinity days,
Clarence Benes, heard from Warnke that Carolyn had been killed in a
boating accident. Don Riling says he was told by Warnke that
Carolyn had drowned.
From Carolyn's viewpoint, "Mike is one of the greatest con artists
I've ever known in my life. And coming from my background, that says
quite a bit."
Mike and Karen Johnson divorced two years later, and he is no longer
in Christian music. "Mike Johnson has really reaped what he has sown,"
says ex-wife Karen. "He has no family, no friends, no career, no
money, no life. It makes me angry that Mike Warnke, on the other hand,
seems to be making money, going on with life, and continuing to
Among the friends that took a different path than Warnke at the end of
1979 was Bill Fisher. "Mike and I parted when he moved to Kentucky to
be with Rose," says Bill. "He was divorced, but that's not grounds for
moving in with someone. Mike said, We married each other before the
Lord.' I said, Do it before the state, too.' "
Holy Orthodox Catholic Church in Kentucky
Mike Warnke married Rose Hall in Paintsville, Kentucky, on January 2,
1980. It was his third marriage, her fourth. With the marriage
came several changes: Rose was often onstage and on record with
Mike; Warnke left Dharma Agency and began to book his own
concerts; the public focus shifted from onstage concerts to the
ministry back home. As Mike has said: "When you get right down to
it, I'm just a glorified cheerleader. The real work of our ministry
goes on back there."
The name of the "ministry back there" was Warnke Ministries; its
nonprofit status was listed under "The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church
in Kentucky" (HOCCK). This built on Warnke's previous 1974 ordination
in Tulsa by Bishop Elijah Coady while Warnke was attending Trinity
Bible School. With HOCCK, Mike Warnke joined the ranks of
"independent" Eastern Orthodox churchmen who founded their own
autonomous denominations. During the early eighties, Warnke met James
Miller, a local bishop in the American Orthodox Church. Miller told us
he ordained Warnke a deacon and then a priest in early 1983. He
suspended the ordination later when Warnke failed to submit regular
And then Mike Warnke became a bishop. This final ecclesiastical step
occurred when another independent bishop, Richard Morrill, consecrated
Warnkean event we have verified by speaking to three other bishops
who say they were told by the late Morrill that he had indeed made
Mike Warnke a bishop.
Bishop Richard Morrill had officiated over Mike and Carolyn's marriage
in Nashville. According to Elijah Coady, Morrill was an itinerant
cleric given to flamboyance and the founding of organizations, many of
which seemed to exist only on paper. In 1981, Morrill incorporated in
Texas under the name "The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church, Eastern and
Apostolic." One year later, Mike and Rose incorporated as "The
Holy Orthodox Catholic Church in Kentucky."
HOCCK's offices were located at first in a converted garage behind the
Warnkes' Versailles home. As time went on, they staffed it with a
series of Christian women whose opinions of the Warnke ministry were
much higher when they joined than when they left. In the summer of
1983, Dorothy Green heard Rose on a Lexington Christian radio station
and invited her to speak to the Danville, Kentucky, Women's
Aglow. Soon afterwards, "Dot" was hired to answer letters and do
phone counseling. Dot's friend, Jan Ross, joined later as Rose's
personal secretary. Roxanne Miller and Phyllis Swearinger eventually
worked in the bookkeeping department.
All four women were nonplussed by Mike's preference for High Church
"chapel" services. Dot remembers an early chapel service with Mike:
"He had incense, and he'd come down the aisle with his robes, swinging
it in this thing."
Roxanne Miller's opinion had less to do with the High Church trappings
than with an event where Mike's ritual got in the way of a few
friends' prayer time. "We used to go down to the park for lunch,"
Roxanne recalls. "Dot, Jan, myself, a few others . . . and we'd
just talk about what God had done in our lives. What He still was
doing. Mike was usually out of town, but one day he just showed up and
said, I'm gonna do the teaching this week.' So we sang, and then Mike
put on his robes. I thought he was plain ridiculous. It was like
dressing up to be something you're not. It made me feel sad. He wants
to be so much, and he isn't. I can still see him standing there in his
robe, all velvet and dark."
The Ministry and the Money
Another point which perplexed the women was HOCCK's finances. Roxanne
Miller had been hired to get control of the finances and says that
while she was there (1985-1986) HOCCK covered various expenses for
Mike and Rose. "We paid for the car, we paid for the gas, we paid for
the parsonage, we paid for their clothes and their food," she says.
Yet she says her job was a continual battle of the budget. Mike seemed
to have no concept that money made by a nonprofit ministry is
different than personal income. Once, she says, Mike Warnke responded
to her efforts to curb his spending this way: "He told me, Every bit
of the money is mine. I earned it. If I wasn't out front, there would
be no money.' "
Jan Ross told us, "On several occasions Rose said to me that anybody
who was in the position she and Mike were in deserved to have the best
of everything because of who they were and what they had given up to
be where they were. I thought, What did you give up?' "
Phyllis Swearinger said there were problems making ends meet.
"I'd worked at banks before, so I was used to handling large amounts
of money. But the amount that came in here every week sort of threw
me. And then to find out it just wouldn't go far enough! Once Mike
called me, upset because he needed some trees pruned at his home, and
I wouldn't write a check for it because we didn't have enough money in
the account at the moment. What struck me about this conversation is
Mike told me he felt he deserved to make as large a salary as Jimmy
Swaggart was making."
The Warnkes' home was certainly in line with his high aspirations.
Back in July of 1983 Rose's mother, Blanche Hall, had purchased a huge
mansion (at one time a plantation) near Danville. "Lynnwood Farm" was
leased to HOCCK for several years and later sold to Rose, who with
Mike referred to it as "the parsonage."
Tax returns indicate HOCCK's total revenue for 1984 was over $900,000.
In 1985 HOCCK grossed over $1,000,000, with over $500,000 in love
offerings alone. In 1986, the total went over two million: love
offerings brought in over $1,000,000; product sales (i.e., books and
records) grossed over $180,000; and direct public support totaled over
$450,000. The 1987 total was $2,239,927. Revenue figures for 1988
through 1990 continued at slightly over $2,000,000.
HOCCK tax returns show that the Warnke's personal salaries
steadily rose (see Table 1).
Table 1: Warnkes' annual income
1984: $ 34,500 $ 11,500
1985 $ 95,617 $ 83,417
1986: $163,632 $155,418
1987: $177,450 $177,450
1988: $183,917 $183,917
1989: $204,383 $204,383
1990: $239,291 $230,291
The growth of Warnke Ministries in the mid-eighties paralleled a
sudden explosion of public fears about Satanism. In March of 1985,
Mike Warnke appeared on an ABC "20/20" report called "The Devil
Worshippers," part of a deluge of talk shows and books on contemporary
Satanism. Stories of hideous satanic crimes were often woven together
by self-proclaimed "experts" to demonstrate the existence of a
worldwide satanic conspiracy similar to the Illuminati network
outlined in The Satan Seller.
Each year, goes the theory, thousands of children are being sacrificed
in satanic rituals laced with sex and violence. Alleged adult
survivors of satanic ritual abuse testify to the hidden cult's
existence. The Satan Seller seems tame in comparison. Yet when
evidence for the conspiracy is requested, true believers (including a
few therapists and police officers) often refer skeptics to Warnke and
his book as a final authority.
In the early eighties, when Mike and Rose began to speak about their
Kentucky ministry to audiences on the road, they offered descriptions
typically centered around their work helping victims of the
"Supposedly, Jeffy was this little boy who had become a vegetable
because of all the satanic abuse he'd had," says Jan Ross. "The story
was used to raise money to help all the Jeffys of the world, so there
wouldn't be so many Jeffys.' Mike would say, What if your child was
sent to preschool and this happened? How'd you like this to happen to
your child?' "
The home office would always know when Mike was telling the Jeffy
story, says Dot Green. "People would write on the offering envelopes,
This is for all the children like Jeffy.' It was amazing how many
envelopes would come back with Jeffy's name on it. Mike always had to
count the money after a concert and call Rose to give her an idea of
what was there," Dot continues. "She'd ask if he'd told the Jeffy
story. If he hadn't, she'd say, You tell the Jeffy story tomorrow
night.' " Several staffers say the Warnkes' interest in the at-home
ministry never made it home from the road. Says Dot, "I'd try to tell
them about somebody who wrote needing help, and they didn't want to
Adds Jan Ross, "We didn't get that many calls, maybe four or five
actual calls a day. Some people just wanted attention, but every once
in a while there'd be people with real problems. Mike and Rose just
didn't want to deal with them. They'd go on the road and say, We're
here to help you,' but when you called they didn't want to deal with
For a while, Dot Green tried to ignore everything at Warnke Ministries
that wasn't connected to her counseling duties. "I loved my job so
much," she says. "I fooled myself into thinking it was my ministry,
since Mike and Rose didn't seem to have any interest in it. But I
started realizing the people I was writing to were sending in
offerings. I always put a pink offering envelope in with each letter.
I began marking my envelopes so I could tell which came back with my
mark. The month I left, my letters brought in over $21,000. At that
point, the Lord let me know I was just as guilty as they were as long
as I stayed."
Jan Ross was in the midst of her own struggle. The staff attended a
series of Warnke shows in Cincinnati. "We did this concert; it was
just a super evening. Then we walked out and went to a bar. The
Warnkes were buying rounds of drinks, dancing. I kept thinking the
whole time, I wonder if anybody's going to come in and recognize
Roxanne remembers that trip. "We went to Cincinnati once. It just
grossed me out. They went out and drank and carried on afterwards,
Mike and the road guys. I said, I just can't handle this.' "
Dot Green and Jan Ross left Warnke Ministries at the end of 1985.
Roxanne Miller was fired in February 1986 (for refusing to give Rose
several signed, blank checks, she says), and Phyllis quit soon after.
"It's not been something we have forgotten easily," says Jan Ross.
"It's scary to think you can get involved with something like that
with a pure heart, to serve God, and then find out it's run on
deception, lies, and thievery."
Warnke Ministries continued to expand. In October of 1986, the Warnkes
purchased property in Burgin, Kentucky, which they then sold to
HOCCK. A newsletter announced that a long-promised "Center" was
about to become a reality. Plans included rehab and medical
facilities. "Phase I" was the construction of an administration
The fund-raising campaign began. "This Center is fast becoming a
reality and will be a reality if you make it one," said Mike in a
ministry newsletter. "Your gifts, offerings, and prayers enable Warnke
Ministries to continue its missions."
By April of 1987, Warnke Ministries was able to move to Burgin and
into their beautiful new colonial-style brick office complex.
Dr. John Cooper worked for a short time in this building. In the late
eighties, Warnke Ministries opened a seminar department to teach
police and others the gruesome facts about Satanism and occult crime.
Dr. Cooper, a former college professor and author of twenty-nine
books, was hired in 1989 as director.
Cooper has this to say about the Warnkes' "Center": "They were raising
money for a children's center for refugees from Satanism. Phone calls
would come to my office, people wanting to send kids there. I'd
explain to them that there wasn't any such thing there, only a
building with offices. The only parts of that building not dedicated
to getting Mike speaking engagements or handling receipts were a large
room set up like a Greek Orthodox Church and a library."
Cooper disputes the Warnkes' claim of 50,000 counseling calls and
letters a month. "There isn't any way in the world for that to be
so," he says. "My guess would be, on a daily basis, they might get 6
calls." (Such a figure, if accurate, would translate to 120 calls per
month.) "The only ministry I know of that went on there was one fellow
who worked part-time answering the phone. And he'd usually just give
out other ministry numbers and tell people to call them."
John Cooper spent several months preparing a seminar presentation,
which he premiered in May. Shortly afterwards, he was fired. He later
tried suing the Warnkes, but the case died in court.
A more important court case for Warnke Ministries was the 1991 divorce
of Mike and Rose. According to the Warnkes' new book, Recovering from
Divorce, the serious problems in the marriage date as far back as
November 1984. In the book, Rose notes an "It's over, isn't it?" talk
with Mike that took place in his office in December of 1984.
Some comparison with Rose's previous book is enlightening. Written in
mid- to late 1985, The Great Pretender reveals how Rose caught Warnke
in an "affair" in 1984. "We had a situation this last year when we
felt there was nothing left between us. We weren't communicating, and
Satan provided a woman to fill the gap in Michael's life."
The conversation in the first book goes like this:
He began to tell me there's nothing to this and that I'm
misunderstanding it all.
"Okay, okay," I growled, "I don't want to hear it. If you're not going
to tell the truth, don't say anything. . . . You're throwing your
ministry away, your life, the whole works. I'll guarantee you, people
will not accept this. You're not going to go through another divorce
and people accept it."
Rose says she threatened on Christmas Eve to call the woman, and Mike
responded by moving out. Later, after Warnke had promised to end the
relationship, Rose found out he was still calling the woman. Says
Rose, "He hid all the guns. Michael's a big gun collector, and I know
how to shoot. . . . I said, I'll continue running the ministry, I'll
get myself established ministry-wise, then I don't care what you do.
You're not going to wreck my life. I'll establish myself. You do what
you want.' "
These incidents go unmentioned in the new book. Instead, Recovering
from Divorce presents a rather psychologized story of a marital
mismatch, doomed from the start. While the Warnkes are evasive on the
exact reasons, they make it clear their marriage was a painful
experience for both of them. Court records say the couple last lived
together in October of 1989.
Despite her earlier warnings in The Great Pretender about how people
would not accept another divorce, Rose Warnke filed for divorce on
September 4, 1991. A property settlement agreement drawn up by Rose's
attorney and signed by both Mike and Rose was filed the same day.
Blanche Hall had deeded Lynnwood Farm to Rose in April of 1991. In the
divorce property settlement, Rose was also awarded 327 additional
acres surrounding the farm, which the couple purchased in April 1991
for $525,000 (despite the fact that they hadn't lived together there
since October, 1989.) Mike Warnke also agreed to pay half the
mortgage for the new acreage.
Additionally, Rose got a condominium the Warnkes owned in Stewart,
Florida (purchased in May, 1986, for $398,000), and another
condominium the couple owned near Danville (purchased in July, 1989,
for $231,500). Further, Rose got everything in all the houses
mentioned above, plus the Yamaha piano, the 1985 Cadillac, and the
couple's four horses.
Mike also agreed to pay Rose $8,000 per month ($96,000 per year) for
the rest of her life via a wage assignment out of Mike's salary from
HOCCK. Mike agreed to assume responsibility for paying various liens,
pay for the education of Rose's daughters until the year 2001, divide
a $15,000 IRA with Rose, and also split the debt to their accountant.
Rose also got 65 percent of Warnke's ownership of his copyrights for
and royalties from absolutely everything he will make from his books
and recordings. Mike agreed to keep various existing life insurance
policies and take out an additional $2 million life insurance policy
on himself, with Rose as the beneficiary, for the next fifteen years.
Finally, Mike agreed to pay Rose $20,000 to equalize the division of
In the same property settlement, Mike Warnke was awarded whatever
property was located at the condo where he was staying, his
motorcycle, and visiting rights to the horses.
October 2, 1991, the Warnkes' divorce was granted. The local
paper quoted a ministry spokesman who said nothing would change. Rose,
who was identified as the music director and an administrator, would
continue to do separate shows and possibly make joint appearances with
When it came time for Mike Warnke to announce his third divorce
officially to the friends of Warnke Ministries, he used a rationale
which he was sure his fellow believers would respect: He did it, he
said, for the ministry.
"As many of you know," wrote Warnke, "Rose and I, after seeking the
Lord's guidance, and two years of intensive Christian counseling,
accepted the fact that our marriage was beyond reconciliation, and the
only hope of saving the Ministry we have poured our lives into, was
Six weeks after his divorce was finalized, on November 18, 1991, Mike
Warnke married Susan Patton, an old Rim High classmate, and moved to
As of this writing, Mike and Rose are scheduled to appear together at
the Christian Booksellers Association convention in late June, where
they will be promoting their new book, Recovering from Divorce.
According to CBA press material, the Warnkes will be available for
interviews to discuss their "unique perspective on the troublesome
issue of divorce."
Their unique perspective: forgive and forget. In the book, Mike and
his ex-wife share the pain of their relationship and parting; then the
experiences are interpreted by their editor, Lloyd Hildebrand, and
therapist, John Joy. There is much talk of how sad divorce is, and
much assigning of blame to dysfunctional backgrounds and a codependent
relationship. Although they could not be married, Mike and Rose
conclude, they can now be friends.
"Perhaps no one is ready for this book," writes Mike. "Could being up
front' about our failure cost it all? That's the chance I must take.
Rose feels the same way. We both have come to the place where we know
that the only real choice we have is to go on as ourselves."
For those who would raise objections to what is, indeed, in the
Christian Church a "unique" perspective, Mike Warnke fires a
preemptive blast. "So I messed up. Does that change who Jesus
is?" Likewise, he decries "the Gospel Gestapo" who feel bound to
discover and publicize the failures of those in ministry, "even if the
evidence proves to be true."
After our research was complete, we contacted Mike in early May to set
up an interview with him, to which we had invited some other Christian
leaders (Ron Enroth, Don Riling, and others). Mike declined our
interview and said he would only meet with us at his attorney's office
in Kentucky. We considered this a matter for the Body of Christ, with
no lawyers being necessary, and asked about the possibility of meeting
somewhere convenient for everyone. Mike's response: that we have no
further contact with him except through his attorney. This ended our
This concludes a long and painful survey of the life and ministry of
Mike Warnke. We did not prepare it lightly, but solemnly and with
counsel from many dedicated ministers.
A Biblical Plan of Action
We would be remiss in our duty as Christian journalists if we could
not offer some concrete suggestions and reflections.
Some of our readers will expect us to have followed the steps of
Matthew 18:15-17, starting with a private confrontation. This passage
gives Christ's instructions on what to do "if your brother sins
against you," and the process stops if the brother repents privately.
We have two remarks on this passage.
First, Mike has already been confronted numerous times over the years
by many concerned Christian friends, acquaintances, and church
leaders. Mike knows what the Bible says about truthfulness, integrity,
and fidelity. He is responsible to put into practice what he already
Second, this is not a private dispute between Mike Warnke and a
magazine. A public figure is susceptible to public scrutiny and
criticism. Matthew 18 is not violated when public figures are publicly
rebuked. (However, other scriptures are violated if the rebukes being
made are not fair, true, or applicable to the person.)
Mike has sinned against the public for years, and the public is
entitled to know the truth about his claims and actions. The
misinformation about Mike's testimony is still in circulation,
influencing how Christians view contemporary Satanism. For the sake of
the Church and the watching world, it must be corrected. (A more
complete discussion of the biblical grounds for Christian reporting
appears in the article, "Public Trust," on page 5.)
The statements made in this report are factual and verifiable. Anybody
can read Mike's book, study its time line, and see that there is no
way for him to have done the things he claimed in The Satan Seller.
Mike's former fiancee, his roommates, relatives, and cohorts in school
emphatically contradict his claims on everything from hair length to
drug use and from out-of-town trips to "love slaves" in his apartment.
Mike's own friends refused to sign an affidavit that his Satanism
testimony was true.
If Mike has any real evidence to disprove what we've offered here,
we're willing to print it. However, the evidence we have uncovered
leads us to the conclusion that Mike doesn't have any. One thing is
certain: the Church should not let the master storyteller get by with
telling just another story: "There really was a satanic coven; they
just didn't talk to the right people. . . ."
At this stage, excuses aren't sufficient. Mike needs to provide either
evidence or repentance. It is not enough to make religious excuses for
sin or sophisticated attempts to change the subject: "Those girls came
on to me, and I was at a vulnerable point in my life. . . ." "The
person who said the Christian Church is the only army to shoot its
own wounded' was totally right. . . ." "It's not up to you to judge my
actions. Last time I read my Bible, Jesus was sitting on the throne,
and He's not about to get off and let you take His place. . . ."
This is sidestepping. It's a move to change the subject and get away
from calling one's actions sin and asking for forgiveness. The issues
are whether Mike has told the truth, whether he is fit for public
ministry, and whether he meets the standards for biblical leadership.
Like it or not, by addressing thousands of people he is assuming a
pastoral role, regardless of what he calls himself.
If Mike were to seek forgiveness and restoration, what could the
Church expect to see as evidence of the genuineness of his repentance?
The following principles should apply to any Christian leader who has
Repentance. Repentance is fundamental to Christianity. It denotes a
complete turnaround, heading in the opposite direction than
previously. Like "to love," to repent is a verb denoting action.
Nobody wants to see another Jimmy Swaggart crying crocodile tears on
camera but returning to save "the ministry" three months later . . .
and returning to the same sin after that. In Mike Warnke's case, true
repentance would necessitate complete withdrawal from public ministry.
Confession. If Mike is repentant, he should make an open admission of
guilt. On the other hand, Mike Warnke has built a career of telling us
about past and present sins. The Church must not allow him to emerge
as a new authority on fraudulent testimonies.
Restitution. True moral change involves some attempt to undo past
wrongs and to provide some kind of restitution. Perhaps the best kind
of restitution Mike Warnke could perform would be to take Satan Seller
and all his other products off the market.
What about the rest of us? Accountability is a public as well as a
personal matter. Christian publishers have an obligation to validate
the books they print, whether nonfiction or historical fiction books.
At the same time, it is our responsibility as the book-buying public
to ask for evidence before accepting a story.
After Warnke's testimony began circulating, those few who knew the
truth kept silent: they felt powerless against the immensity of the
story. Where could they turn? Well, the publisher would be a place to
start. We need the active participation of all members of the Body of
Christ in provoking each other to righteousness and, where necessary,
in providing biblical confrontation and counsel.
Sometimes a twisted man can preach a straight gospel. Through the
years, we've known many people who could speak truth while ignoring it
in their personal lives. Scripture testifies that God may bless or
anoint a sermon even while condemning the deeds of the preacher (Num.
23-24, 2 Pet. 2:15, Matt. 23:3).
Yes, the love of God is truly as infinite and wondrous as Mike Warnke
has been telling us for twenty years. God loves Mike Warnke as he
really isex-Satanist, war hero, Ph.D.or not. His choice now is no
different than it has ever been: losing the whole world or losing his
soul. For no one can know the love of God whose heart is closed to the
Perhaps he has never stopped feeling like an outsider, and even when
Christianity opened its arms to him, he would not give up his
storytelling. His adolescent flirtation with the occult was
exaggerated into a postadolescent fantasy of having incredible amounts
of money, sex, prestige, and power as a Satanist. He later achieved
money, sex, prestige, and power. Sadly, it was in the name of Christ.
It's not too late for Mike to change, if he wants to. The secular
press may scoff, and those who consider themselves real Satanists may
snicker, but the Jesus of the Bible is still the God of truth. The
Lord, who makes ruined lives whole and restores purity to harlots and
liars, offers each of us forgiveness and acceptance. Not on our terms,
To Mike, and all others, who have been tempted to sacrifice the truth
for the sake of "the ministry," we can offer no better words than
these of the apostle Paul:
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we
do not lose heart, but we have renounced the hidden things of shame,
not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully,
but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's
conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:1-2)
1. Coauthor David Balsiger, in his biographical sketch, says The Satan
Seller has sold only 500,000 copies. [return]
2. So-called satanic panic has led to tragedy in many cases. For
further information, see Jon Trott, "Satanic Panic," Cornerstone 20,
iss. 95 (1991): 9. [return]
3. Mike Warnke marriage licenses. Interview, Fr. Bob Nagler, St.
Francis Cabrini Church, Crestline, CA. [return]
4. Interview, Mildred Warnke Jordan; Al Warnke obituary, Manchester
Times, 17 Oct. 1958. [return]
5. Mildred Warnke Jordan; Larry Nee, Manchester Times, 16 Oct. 1991,
spoke with local undertaker, who referred to his notes on Louise
6. Interview and letter, Shirley Schrader. [return]
7. "Final Rites for A. J. Warnke," Manchester Times, 17 Oct. 1958.
8. Mike Warnke Alive!, Mike Warnke, Myrrh Records, 1976. [return]
9. Interview, Edna Swindell. [return]
10. Interviews, Keith Schrader, Jr. [return]
11. Interview, Tim Smith. [return]
12. Interviews, Jeff Nesmith. [return]
13. Interview, David Goodwin. [return]
14. Interview, Terry Smith Perry. [return]
15. Confirmation certificate (see above). [return]
16. Charles Donovan, San Bernardino Valley College ref. librarian.
17. Warnke, Michael Alfred, USN, #B98 05 49. [return]
18. Mike Warnke, Schemes of Satan (Tulsa, OK: Victory House, 1991),
19. Interviews, Greg Gilbert. [return]
20. Interviews, Dennis Pekus. [return]
21. Interviews, Dawn Andrews. [return]
22. Interview, Dyana Cridelich. [return]
23. Mike Warnke, with Dave Balsiger and Les Jones, The Satan Seller
(Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1972), 18. [return]
24. Interviews, Lois Eckenrod. [return]
25. Satan Seller, 19. [return]
26. Satan Seller, 14. [return]
27. Interview, John Ingro. [return]
28. Interviews, George Eubank. [return]
29. Satan Seller, 19. [return]
30. Interview, Phyllis Catalano. [return]
31. Interview, Mary Catalano. [return]
32. Interview, Tom Bolger. [return]
33. Satan Seller, 19. [return]
34. Satan Seller, 19, 20. [return]
35. Satan Seller, 30. [return]
36. Satan Seller, 33. [return]
37. Satan Seller, 100, 101. [return]
38. In 1981, Logos went bankrupt and sold its titles to Bridge
Publishing, which has since been purchased again. The new owners were
unable to locate any affidavits, signed or otherwise, for The Satan
39. Interviews, Bill Lott. [return]
40. Satan Seller, 64, 65. [return]
41. Satan Seller, 29. [return]
42. Satan Seller, 28. [return]
43. Schemes of Satan, 73. [return]
44. Satan Seller, 90, 91. [return]
45. Mike Warnke, Hitchhiking on Hope Street (Garden City, NY:
Doubleday & Company, 1979), 63, 64. [return]
46. "Focus on the Family" broadcast, 16 March 1985. [return]
47. Satan Seller, 112-114, 116, 121. [return]
48. Naval records show Warnke was transferred out of Recruit Training
Command on 22 August 1966. This is also the date he gives on his video
Do You Hear Me? as the day he became a Christian. [return]
49. Satan Seller, 135. [return]
50. Satan Seller, 137. [return]
51. Interview, Charlotte Tweeten. [return]
52. Navy Records. [return]
53. Satan Seller, 136. [return]
54. Mike Warnke, Hey, Doc!, 1978, Myrrh Records; Also, Hitchhiking on
Hope Street, 34. [return]
55. Completed Hosp. Corps School 12/22/66; Reported to Field Med.
Serv. School, Camp Pendleton; 1/5/67; Reported to Naval Adcom, San
Diego, 2/7/67. [return]
56. Certificate of Registry of Marriage, San Bernardino co., CA.
57. Satan Seller, 149, 150. [return]
58. Interviews, Tim LaHaye. [return]
59. Interview, Beverly LaHaye. [return]
60. Transferred to Third Marine Division, Vietnam, 5/2/69. [return]
61. Warnke Ministries Newsletter, 1 (1991), 4. [return]
62. Satan Seller, 163. [return]
63. Ibid., 165. [return]
64. Ibid., 166. [return]
65. Ibid. [return]
66. Ibid., 168. [return]
67. Hitchhiking on Hope Street, 42, 43. [return]
68. Ibid., 45. [return]
69. Ibid., 42. [return]
70. "Decorations and Awards: Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Ribbon,
Vietnam Service Medal, Purple Heart, Republic of Vietnam Campaign
Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious
Unit Citation; Warnke transferred home 3/1/70. [return]
71. Interview, George Wakeling. [return]
72. Interview, Ron Winckler. [return]
73. Don Musgraves, director of Cerullo's Youth Action Center in San
Diego, interview: "It was during those times that I began to have
heavy contact with people coming out of the occult . . . "; Peter
Brown, "Dropout Heads WitchcraftFight," San Diego Union, 15 January
1972, 1; "Evangelism Group Fights Witchcraft," San Diego Union, 22
January 1972, p. 5B; Dave Balsiger, "Charismatic Insider's Report,"
Logos Journal, May/June 1972, 39, 40. [return]
74. Interview, Morris Cerullo; Balsiger, "Insider's Report;" Christian
Life, March 1972, 12. [return]
75. Dave Balsiger, et al., "It's Happening Now," insert, San Diego
Evening Tribune, 17 January 1972. (See Roddy, below: ". . . Cerullo,
surprisingly unassuming in contrast to the image created by his flashy
PR people . . .") Peter Brown, "Dropout Heads Witchcraft Fight"; John
Dart, "Converted Priest' Offers Guided Tour of Satanism," Los Angeles
Times, 19 January 1972, Sec. C, Part II, 1; "Evangelism Group Fights
Witchcraft"; Balsiger, "Insider's Report." [return]
76. Lee Roddy, "Morris Cerullo Crusade: A New Anointing?" Christianity
Today, 18 February 1972, 52-53. [return]
77. Interview, Dave Balsiger. [return]
78. Interview, Jean Jolly. [return]
79. Navy Records, date of discharge, 2 June 1972. [return]
80. Interview, George Eckeroth. [return]
81. "YEAR END REPORT and APPEAL FOR ASSISTANCE," Alpha Omega Outreach,
Rev. Mike Warnke, president, January, 1973. [return]
82. Michael Warnke, "When Evil Fights Back," Guideposts, Nov. 1972,
83. Dave Balsiger, "Charismatic Insider's Report," Logos Journal,
July-August 1972, 54. [return]
84. Dave Balsiger, "Charismatic Insider's Report," Logos Journal,
Nov-Dec 1972, 56. [return]
85. John P. Ferre, "Searching For the Great Commission: Evangelical
Book Publishing Since the 1970s," in American Evangelicals and the
Mass Media, ed. Quentin J. Schultze (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan,
1990), 99-101. [return]
86. David Hazard, "Decatrends in Christian Publishing," Charisma,
August 1985, 140. [return]
87. Michael Esses, Michael, Michael, Why Do You Hate Me? (Plainfield,
NJ: Logos International, 1973); Betty Esses DeBlase, Survivor of a
Tarnished Ministry (Santa Ana, CA: Truth Publishers, 1983). [return]
88. James Danne, "Demonic Spirits," Christian Century, 4 July 1973,
738; Paul Nevin, "On Selling Your Soul to the Devil," Moody Monthly,
July-August 1973, 52. [return]
89. Dave Balsiger Biographical Sketch. [return]
90. James E. Adams, "Regards Peril of the Occult As Worse Than That of
Drugs," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 November 1972; Hershel Smith with
Dave Hunt, The Devil and Mr. Smith (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell
Company, 1974); James H. Brewster, "Rolling Along with the
Witchmobile," Probe the Unknown magazine, March 1973, 22-25;
Interview, Jean Jolly. [return]
91. Darryl E. Hicks and Dr. David A. Lewis, The Todd Phenomenon
(Harrison, AK: New Leaf Press, 1979), foreword by Doug Wead and Mike
92. Don Cusic, "Mike Warnke: Jester in the King's Court," Contemporary
Christian Music, June-July 1979, 130; Paul Baker, "Two-Fold Laughter
from Mike and Rose," Contemporary Christian Music, December 1982, 14.
93. Jesse Joshua Warnke was born 4/18/74, according to Susan L. Warnke
Response, Civil Action D17252, District Court, Adams County, CO.
94. Interview, John Witty. [return]
95. Interview, Karen Siegal. [return]
96. "Holdup Victim Named as Call Girl's Queen," Long Beach
Press-Telegram, Evening Final, 8 January 1971, identifies Carolyn's
mother as "kingpin of a local prostitution racket . . ." Police call
incident "the latest rounds in a mob war over control of prostitution
in the LB-LA area." [return]
97. Bill Hance, "That One-Liner Religion is Good Enough for Him," The
Nashville Banner, January 13, 1978, 30: "Until four years ago, he was
just one of those preachers. . . . So, I started lightening my
testimony by telling jokes . . .' " [return]
98. Bill Fisher says he flew with Warnke to Brockport while they were
still in Trinity (Fall '74-Spring '75). Fisher has a photo of himself
and Warnke on stage in Brockport, dated October 1975, and another
photo of himself and Warnke there, dated June 1976. [return]
99. See Dave Medina, "Former Rabbi Named Chaldean Archbishop," Logos
Journal, Nov-Dec 1972, 58. [return]
100. Carol O'Connor, "Ex-Satanist Happier with Christ," The Denver
Post, 20 June 1975, 4BB. [return]
101. Petition For Dissolution of Marriage, D-17252, confirm Warnke
moved to Colorado in August 1975. [return]
102. March 1976 is the date on a photograph of Bill Fisher at Joy
103. Virginia Culver, "Devil-Worshippers Called Possible Cattle
Mutilators," The Denver Post, 5 October, 1975, 31. [return]
104. The back cover of Mike Warnke Alive! notes "Recorded Live at:
Adam's Apple, Fort Wayne, Indiana, November 14, 1975." [return]
105. The story of the recording of the album is told in Cusic, "Jester
in the King's Court," 28; Paul Paino interview. [return]
106. Affidavit with Respect to Financial Affairs, Civil Action
D-17252, Adams County District Court, CO, 8/6/76. Warnke lists his
employer as "Dharma Productions, 807 Redwood Cr, Nashville, TN."
107. Interview, Dan Riling. [return]
108. According to Petition for Dissolution, D-17252, Mike and Sue last
lived together January 1, 1976. [return]
109. Date based on Mike Warnke's statement to Don Riling that Sue was
served while Riling was in Denver. The Affidavit of Service says Sue
Warnke was served Aug. 20, 1976, at 8:42 am. [return]
110. Interviews, Gretchen Passantino. Two other CRI staffers also
contributed information regarding this meeting. [return]
111. Cover story by Peggy Hancherick, "Mike Warnke, Jester in the
King's Court," Harmony, vol. 2, no. 3, 8-9. Full-page ad for "Mike
Warnke Alive!", 11. [return]
112. This saying was related to us by Frank Edmonson (a.k.a. Paul
Baker), ex-DJ, writer, and popular historian of Jesus Music. Edmonson
worked for Word at the time Warnke was signed, and played a key role
in the signing. [return]
113. Interview, Mike and Karen Johnson. [return]
114. Interview, Wes Yoder. [return]
115. Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, Civil Action D-17252, Adams
County District Court, CO, 12/3/76. [return]
116. Marriage Certificate, Davidson County, Tennessee, 4/25/77.
117. "When Mike Warnke Speaks, the World Listens!", Myrrh records ad
in Contemporary Christian Music (hereafter, abbreviated CCM),
Februrary 1979, 26. [return]
118. See 21-page commemorative section celebrating Dharma Agency's
10th anniversary in the February 1982 issue of CCM. [return]
119. William D. Romanowski, "Contemporary Christian Music: The
Business of the Music Ministry," in American Evangelicals, Quentin
Schultze, ed., above, 152, 155. [return]
120. Interview, Dan Hickling. [return]
121. Interview, Buddy Huey. [return]
122. Romanowski, 144, 151. [return]
123. Interview, Larry Black. [return]
124. "When Mike Warnke Speaks, etc." [return]
125. Itinerary in May 1979, CCM. [return]
126. Rose Hall Warnke with Joan Hake Robie, The Great Pretender
(Lancaster, Pa.: Starburst Publishers, 1985), 73-74. [return]
127. Rose Hall Warnke, Great Pretender, relates her romance with Mike,
73-85; quote cited on page 79. Carolyn is never mentioned, nor that
Warnke was married during this time, only the note, "He, too, had been
previously married." Final Decree, Sumner County Court, 11/29/79,
shows Warnke filed for divorce from Carolyn on 8/27/79, summons served
8/30/79. cf. Great Pretender, 83: "In September of 1979, Michael said,
I want to marry you.' " CCM itinerary shows Mike Warnke scheduled to
play Sept. 28-29, 1979, in Canada. Rose says she went to Canada with
Mike (p. 83). [return]
128. Rose Hall Warnke, Great Pretender, 81-82. [return]
129. Interview, Tom Carrouthers. [return]
130. Final Decree, Circuit Court for Sumner County, TN, 11/29/79.
131. Interview, Clarence Benes. [return]
132. Certificate of Marriage, Johnson County, Kentucky, 1/2/80.
133. Mike and Rose Warnke, "First-Hand Rose," CCM, April 1981, 50;
"Road Rap," CCM, July 1982, 51; Paul Baker, "Twofold Laughter from
Mike & Rose," CCM, December 1982, 14. [return]
134. Warnke, Great Pretender, on booking, 119, on accounting, 148.
135. Television interview with Mike Warnke, "Believer's Lifestyles,"
Channel 52, Orlando, Florida, 2/2/91, air-date 2/22/91. [return]
136. Interviews, Elijah Coady; Joseph Morse; William Schillereff.
137. Marriage Certificate, Davidson County, Tennessee, 4/25/77.
Marriage "was solemnized by Mar Apriam I." [return]
138. Articles of Incorporation, The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church,
Inc," dated 12/23/81. Pamphlet "This We Believe, Holy Orthodox
Catholic Church, Eastern and Apostolic" is dated 1977, copyright by
"His Beatitude, Mar Apriam I, Patriarch." [return]
139. Articles of Incorporation, 11/19/82, for "The Holy Orthodox
Church in Kentucky, Inc."; Certificate of Assumed Name, 11/4/83, HOCCK
authorized by to do business under name "Mike Warnke & Associates.";
Certificate of Assumed Name, 3/1/88, HOCCK authorized to do business
under name "Warnke Ministries." "HOCCK, Inc. dba" appears on Warnke
Ministries letterhead. [return]
140. Mike Warnke, "The Root of the Problem," CCM, Februrary 2, 1981;
Rose Warnke, "Little Keys Unlock Big Doors," CCM, July 1981, 54; Land
Contract, 7/1/81, for 153 Elm Street, Versailles, between Warnkes and
Virginia Wiglesworth, her husband James, for $180,000. [return]
141. Interviews, Dorothy Green. [return]
142. Interviews, Roxanne Miller. [return]
143. Interviews, Jan Ross. [return]
144. Interviews, Phyllis Swearinger. [return]
145. Deed, Equitable Relocation Management Corporation and Blanche
Hall, 7/29/83, for $235,000. Deed, Blanche Hall and Rose Hall, 3/1/91,
for "the sum of One ($1.00) dollar, cash in hand paid, and the
Grantor's love and affection for her daughter." [return]
146. Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, HOCCK, 1984-1990
147. Ibid. [return]
148. One well-known example: James G. Friesen, Ph.D., Uncovering the
Mystery of MPD (San Bernardino, Calif.: Here's Life Publishers, 1991),
uses Warnke's book in both text and footnotes to bolster far-reaching
claims concerning a satanic cult conspiracy. [return]
149. Deed, Lelia Mann Brown, et al. and Michael A. Warnke and Rosemary
H. Warnke, 10/28/86, for $20,395.70. Deed, Michael Warnke and Rosemary
Warnke and HOCCK, for "the sum of $1.00 and as a gift, contribution,
and donation." [return]
150. Warnke Ministries Newsletter, 1st Quarter, 1987, 1. [return]
151. Ibid. [return]
152. Warnke Ministries Newsletter, 1st Quarter, 1988, p. 2 ". . . by
the time you receive this newsletter, we will be moved into the new
153. Interviews, Dr. John Cooper. [return]
154. Cf. Rose Warnke, Great Pretender, 181, "At ministry headquarters
we get some 50,000 letters and telephone calls each month." [return]
155. Michael A. Warnke & Rose Hall Warnke, Recovering From Divorce
(Tulsa: Victory House, Inc.), 22-25. [return]
156. Rose Warnke, Great Pretender, 86. [return]
157. Ibid, 87-88. [return]
158. Ibid, 88-90. [return]
159. Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, 9/4/91. [return]
160. Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Mercer Circuit Court,
Kentucky (#91-CI-00274), Rose Hall Warnke vs. Michael A. Warnke,
9/4/91; Response, Entry of Appearance, and Waiver by Respondent,
9/4/91; Separation and Property Settlement Agreement, 9/4/91. [return]
161. Lynnwood Farm, see above note. Deed, Land Owners, L.P., and
Michael A. Warnke and Rose H. Warnke for new acreage, 4/19/91, for
162. Mortgage, American Fidelity Bank & Trust, Corbin, KY, 9/10/91,
Rose Hall Warnke and Michael A. Warnke for $250,000. Mortgage, State
Bank & Trust Company, Harrodsburg, KY, 9/27/91, Rose Hall Warnke and
Michael A. Warnke, for $31,500.50. [return]
163. Deed, Charles W. Pistole and Michael and Rose Mary Warnke,
5/30/86, for 2001 Salifish Point, Apt. 308, Stuart, FL for $398,000.
Deed, Mary & Clinton Woodard and Michael A. Warnke and Rose H. Warnke,
7/24,89, for Chimney Rock property for $231,500. [return]
164. Final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, Mercer Circuit Court,
Kentucky (#91-CI-00274), Rose Hall Warnke vs. Michael A. Warnke,
165. Amy Wolfford, "Official downplays effect of Warnke divorce on
ministry," Danville Advocate-Messenger, 24 Oct. 1991, 1. [return]
166. Undated Warnke Ministries letter (begins "Dear Ministry Family,
It is again the start of a New Year, PRAISE GOD!"). [return]
167. License and Certificate of Marriage, Santa Cruz County, CA, 18
Nov. 1991. 43. "Authors Available for Interview," Christian
Booksellers Convention, Dallas, Texas, June 29--July 2, 1992, 15.
168. Warnke & Warnke, Recovering From Divorce, 63. [return]
169. Ibid, 164. [return]
170. Ibid, 159. [return]
Photo of Witchmobile (p. 9) reprinted from Morris Cerullo, The Back
Side of Satan, 109. Copyright 1973 by Creation House.
Photos of Scott Ross and Larry Black (p. 12) reprinted from Paul
Baker, Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? 90, 98. Copyright
1979 by Paul Baker.
(Magazine cover is an enlargement of a photo of Mike Warnke and
friends from a high school yearbook, probably senior year, but no
caption appears in the text.)
1. page 8 Jeff Nesmith and Tim Smith, Mike Warnke's best friends at
Rim of the World High School, Crestline, California. [return]
2. page 8 Satanic high priest? This photo was taken April 30,
1966right at the time Mike Warnke says he had waist-length white
hair, six-inch fingernails,and fifteen hundred followers. [return]
3. page 8 Greg Gilbert and Dawn Andrews were among Mike Warnke's
closest friends during college. [return]
4. page 9 Before they wrote The Satan Seller, Mike Warnke and Dave
Balsiger built the "Witchmobile" for evangelist Morris Cerullo.
5. page 11 Warnke at Melodyland Christian Center. [return]
6. page 11 Warnke was ordained a deacon in the Syro-Chaldean Church by
Bishop Elijah Coady (during Warnke's time at Trinity Bible College).
7. page 12 Larry Black [return]
8. page 12 As Mike Warnke Alive! was hitting the charts, Warnke left
his family in Denver and moved to Nashville. Jesus music pioneer Mike
Johnson tried to confront Warnke, then himself fell victim to the
Nashville lifestyle. [return]
9. page 12 Scott Ross [return]
10. page 12 Fall, 1976: "With the release of Mike Warnke Alive!,
Christian humor comes into its own with Warnke himself as its most
notable practitioner." Harmony magazine [return]
11. page 13 Mike and his first wife, Sue. [return]
12. page 13 Mike Warnke and his second wife, Carolyn Alberty. [return]
13. page 13 Comedy became the staple of Mike Warnke shows and records,
but the Satanism stories stayed. [return]
14. page 14 Carolyn Warnke says Mike sent her this letter after a
15. page 16 The headquarters for the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church in
Kentucky, also known as Warnke Ministries. [return]
16. page 16 Mike Warnke goes video with the bestselling Do You Hear
17. page 16 The Great Pretender, a rambling but revealing book by Rose
18. page 17 Rose Hall, Mike Warnke's third wife. [return]
19. page 17 Lynnwood Farm, "The Parsonage." [return]
20. page 17 Despite their divorce, Mike and Rose say they will
continue to lead Warnke Ministries together. [return]
21. page 17 Child Mike Warnke. Appeared in his senior annual. [return]
First published in Cornerstone (ISSN 0275-2743), Vol. 21, Issue 98
© 1992 Cornerstone Communications, Inc.
Electronic version may contain minor changes and corrections from