"Ex-Satanists" and "Witches Who Switched"

Harmless nuttery, or dangerous smear campaign?

One minor but fascinating aspect of modern fundamentalist Christian culture are the testimonies offered by “former Satanists”, “witches who switched”, and born-again New Agers. For decades, these stories of miraculous conversion were passed reverently from hand to hand via audio recordings made in church basements, grainy VHS tapes shot from the back rows of churches, fireside tales told at Bible camps, and pamphlets Xeroxed by church secretaries. The simple but powerful message imparted by these testimonies is that if God can save a devil-worshiper, He can (and will) save anyone. He’ll snatch you into His arms even as you kneel at a Satanic altar, dripping with the blood of a freshly sacrificed virgin. Before you even know what’s happened, you’re wearing sweater vests and homeschooling your kids so they won’t have to learn about dinosaurs. It’s like Extreme Home Makeover: Jesus Edition.

It seems to have started with Doreen Irvine. In the late ’60s, this mundane-looking English spinster revealed that she had once been “Queen of the Black Witches of Europe”, presiding over thousands of Satanic witches. Her master “Diablos” [sic] granted her powers to levitate, render herself invisible, kill birds in midair just by looking at them, and walk through roaring bonfires without so much as a blister.
However, being Queen of the Black Witches brought absolutely no material benefits to Doreen. She continued to work as a hooker and a stripper until her conversion in 1964. That’s quite unusual, because in most of these testimonies the Devil bestows enormous wealth and influence on his minions. Naturally, they renounce all the goodies after being saved, which makes the testimonies even more powerful.
Anyway, Doreen’s story was published in 1973 as From Witchraft to Christ, and since that time she has been revered in fundie circles as The Witch Who Switched. She gave her testimony on 100 Huntley Street, appeared in Caryl Matrisciana’s documentary Devil Worship: The Rise of Satanism, and became the UK rep for Campus Crusade for Christ.

It didn’t take long for others to follow in Doreen Irvine’s cloven footsteps. And with each testimony that emerged from a Christian publishing house or the office of a recovered-memory therapist, the details got darker and weirder. Irvine’s cult, which supposedly encompassed the whole of Western Europe, took part in nothing hinkier than some rooster sacrifice and the occasional bisexual orgy (who doesn’t, amirite?). But the cults described by Satanist-turned-Christian-comedian Mike Warnke in his 1973 book The Satan Seller routinely sacrificed unwilling human victims. And the African megacult depicted in Emmanuel Eni’s 1987 tract Delivered from the Powers of Darkness pretty much defies description. Eni’s story contains more blood, guts, and WTFery than a horrorcore convention.

Yet not one born again Satanist has been charged with being an accessory to murder, and no one in their faith communities is concerned about that. While this speaks to the beauty of forgiveness and redemption, it would sure as hell make me feel queasy on Sunday mornings. Didn’t that guy in the third pew eat babies and rape corpses a few years ago? Didn’t that lady stab somebody with a crucifix while screwing a goat? And now I’m supposed to eat cookies and drink coffee with them?
Fortunately, as most of us can plainly see, these monstrous cults never actually existed. Whether they were brewed up in the stew of troubled minds or stitched together from B movies seen on late-night TV, we may never know – but we do know there is no empirical evidence for the existence of widespread, homicidal Satanic sects of the sort described by Irvine, Warnke, and Eni. In fact, Warnke’s autobiography was roundly debunked by other Christians.
The value of ex-Satanists’ testimonies lies not in their truthfulness, but in the way they make you feel. Sure, Mike Warnke wasn’t literally a Satanist, but didn’t his epic tale of conversion to Christianity give you a ton of warm fuzzies? Well, then, it’s good enough for God. Let’s not let truth get in the way of Truth, folks.

This tradition carries on today. Take, for instance, the testimony of Mike Leehan (below). It’s quite typical of ex-Satanist testimonies. We don’t know where Mike Leehan resides, where he grew up, or which Satanic group he joined. He vaguely mentions sacrifices, bloodletting, and Satanists’ unquenchable thirst for “power” (in these testimonies, explanations of Satanic beliefs rarely go beyond “power”). Then he tells us the Devil once commanded him to shoot the pastor who is filming the testimony. Testimonials are often custom-tailored to appeal to a specific audience in this way, perhaps unintentionally or perhaps with great guile. For instance, spiritualist-cum-Adventist Roger Morneau claimed in his testimony that his high priest frequently spoke of the sanctity of the Sunday Sabbath. Why? Because Seventh Day Adventism, with its Saturday Sabbath, was deemed as Satan’s greatest enemy.

It would be nice if we could just relegate all these ghoulish, implausible stories to the netherworld of the born-again fringe and forget all about them, but these testimonials unfortunately have a real-world impact on Pagans, Wiccans, Satanists, and other faith communities. Thanks to Doreen Irvine and her successors, millions of Christians believe that witches and Satanists abduct, torture, and sacrifice unwilling victims (including infants and children); that witches and Satanists target Christian leaders for death; that Satanists and witches infiltrate churches to subvert believers; etc. The dissemination of unsubstantiated testimonies like Michael Leehan’s amounts to a smear campaign against millions of law-abiding Pagans, Satanists, and Wiccans. This smear campaign undermines their freedom of religion, their freedom of expression, sometimes even their careers or their standing in their communities (look at the endless ordeals of Michael Aquino for a chilling example). In many ways, the anti-Satanic testimonials of today differ little from the ancient Jewish blood libel that refuses to die among religious supremacists and anti-Semites. The cult stories are just as groundless, just as prejudicial, just as damaging as tales of Jewish ritual murder. In accepting the testimonials as either factual accounts or harmless fabrications, we are helping to brand unknown Satanists and witches as criminals without a fair hearing.
The consequences can be brutal. In many parts of the world, witchcraft hysteria has resulted in the torture, internment, and murder of suspected “witches”. In Uganda, Nigeria, and Ghana, elderly women and children are confined to gulag-like “witch camps”. In Papua New Guinea, an unknown number of women and girls have been mutilated, tortured, and killed by their neighbors because they were supposedly possessed by the spirits of evil witches. These panics are sparked and fostered, in part, by fundamentalist teachings that sanction the expulsion and/or mistreatment of “witches” as an act of spiritual warfare.

I’m sorry, Mr. Leehan, but until you produce more evidence of your involvement in “Satanic” crimes, I’ll have to view you as part of the problem.

21 thoughts on “"Ex-Satanists" and "Witches Who Switched"

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  1. What gives me pause for thought with the video is the fellow's "divine call" to the ministry. And I can't help wondering – is that the reason behind it? Is he just trying to 'be someone'? Becaue after all, if God's called you to the ministry, how can any man refuse? Stripped of a lot of the mumbo-jumbo, what we have is a man who, after his divorce, got depressed, self-harmed, and felt his life had no meaning. He has found a meaning in life through re-engaging in Church. But I am worried. Is he just engaging because he feels that this will end up with him being a minister, and this wtory is a stepping-stone there? I can't tell, but the man who compares himself to St. Paul needs to be watched carefully – and not in a good way!

  2. Wow, this brought back memories! I remember reading a book by Rebecca Browne (MD)as a teenager called "He came to set the captives free". Don't know if you are at all familiar with it but that contained one harrowing tale of battle against Satanists with superpowers. Also, she claimed werewolves are real and are Satan's enforcers within the Satanic church.Any chance for a series on famous "former devil worshippers"?

  3. Leehan saying that God has likened him to Paul was, indeed, a big fat warning flag for me that the Satanism aspect of the story is exaggerated if not fabricated. He's trying to equate his pre-Christian life to Saul's, and I'm sorry to inform him that some bloodletting just won't cut it. (No pun.)I think an ex-Satanist series is well in order. I didn't even get to John Todd or Bill "Real Vampire" Schnoebelen in this post, and Ms. Brown's claptrap would need at least one post of its own, too.

  4. It's depressingly common in Evangelical (and particularly Fundamentalist) churches for men (and occasionally women!) to come with a supernatural 'call' that trumps any tests the Church may have for people aspiring to the ministry. Having a spectacular conversion story helps in these circumstances as well. There are so many things wrong with this story that I'm not sure where to begin – but the suspicion that it's a man looking for attention and power is a fairly good place. It might be interesting to know WHY his wife left him.

  5. I just discovered your site today – I have a feeling I may be hanging around quite a bit! I wanted to thank you, though, for recognizing the harm that false "former Satanists" and fake "Witches who Switches" do to people who have found a genuine spiritual fulfillment in Paganism, Wicca, Satanism and other such non-mainstream faiths (Neo-Pagans) as well. Too often, debunking sites (whose purpose I whole-heartedly support and am grateful for, as I have a low tolerance for stupidity) dismiss Neo-Pagans as just another form of stupidity and cast us all as just another shade of crazy. So, thanks! It's just really nice to see 🙂

  6. I can’t believe that you can’t believe!! There is thousands of testimonies of ex occult and ex satanists,also of angels, miracles, nde’s, and ‘ouija board gone wrong’, on the internet, and from people i personally know. Even if 99.9% were lies, and only 0.1% were true, that would prove that: YES,ANGELS AND DEMONS EXIST, AND YES JESUS EXISTS!! Simple as that. So why would we be suprised that the devil would tell someone to kill his mother and then eat her, or to have sex with an animal, so he could get anything he desires in life, and then rule in hell by satan’s side after death? But we know satan is the father of lies, and he will even haunt and oppress someone to get him to do his will. The greek orthodox priests in africa, have written books about the confessions of ex sorcerers and whitches/turned christian. They say that it is easy for someone from the occult to believe and submit to god, because they have a first hand account of the power of demons, and of the infinitely stronger power of jesus and the angels…. They know that no demon can stand and face the power of god! Read some testimonies, you’ll be enlightened. Contact me:timfaraos@gmail.com

    1. “They say that it is easy for someone from the occult to believe and submit to god, because they have a first hand account of the power of demons, and of the infinitely stronger power of jesus and the angels.”

      They say wrong.

  7. Ok. Maybe it’s not that easy…because for many years they let the devil build strongholds in their lives. But all they have to do is trust Jesus, for whom NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE, and who said: TO ME, ALL AUTHORITY IS GIVEN, IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH! And: All knees shall bend before the name of Jesus… He also said: Ask, and it will be given, knock and it will be opened, seek and you will find! Unless you want to spend the rest of your life and ETERNITY, with the cruel master, satan, who HATES YOUR GUTS!… God bless!

    1. Then explain people like me, who don’t believe in your Satan but do believe in the old Gods. And here’s a fun one, consider that your bible was written in Hebrew, translated into Latin, and then translated again into English. Exactly how likely is it that the meaning survived? Especially if you take into account that it wasn’t written down until over a century after Jesus died (if he ever even existed).

      1. well, I think the existence of jesus angels and demons can be proved by many, many testimonies, as I said. But I also have a few OUTSTANDING miracles that happened to me, or close relatives, that give me hope when everything seems so dark and hopeless around me… we have testimonies of how demons flee when we shout “JESUS HELP ME!”… but when people shout “allah, or Buhda or Krishna help me, they laugh!”…maybe they should have called zeus or thor… One testimony goes: This lady,was receiving visits from her dead, 3 year old nephew at night… They talked and laughed together, and had a great time! She told this to her Christian girl friend. Her girlfriend told her that she believed the ‘nephew’ was a demon in disguise. But she said she was sure it was him! The girlfriend then suggested, that the next time he comes ask him: In Jesus’ name, show me who you are! Well, she did that, and guess what? the boy changed into an ugly demon, and left squeeling!! I might not be able to convince you right now, but I PRAY for ALL people to get to know the True God. All you have to do is pray yourself:” God, if you exist, show me who you are! ” You also have to practice basic humanity, which is: do unto others as you would have them do unto you… that means showing compassion ,e.g. not using a poor prostitute or other, merely for sexual gratification- she is someone’s sister, daughter, grand daughter…And just Wait, God is never in a rush, and he doesn’t want to force Himself on anyone, unless He sees that the person is in danger, and then He might use a painful lesson to bring a lost soul back to Him…Just like any LOVING parent would do.

      2. Responding with one liners doesn’t do much for me… But if someone tells you about their experience, it would be rude and egotistical not to hear them out, and consider:’hey, maybe they’re telling the truth…’ . If you want to be able to see, all u have to do is take your hands off your eyes!

  8. By the way, demon oppression/possession is widespread in Africa, due to spirit worship. And the leader of each tribe, is also a powerful sorcerer/black magician, who rules the tribe by fear… There are thousands of testimonies of their powers, and books on how greek orthodox christian priest-missionaries confronted them, and with Jesus’ help extinguished them (see books on internet). A great former satanist autobiography, a best seller, is: ‘OUT OF THE DEVIL’S COULDRON’, by John Ramirez. He was sucked into the occult religion of Santeria since he was 10 yrs. old (an easy target),and 25 years later he left it, and wrote this book about his hair raising, gut wrenching, mind blowing experiences, as the 3rd most powerful santeria high priest in New York…Everyone in the Bronx feared him, because he had so many spirits under his command! The satanists of his santeria religion, sent demons to kill him, after he became a christian minister, but Jesus protected him supernaturally. His story can be verified by his family, and people from the Bronx and beyond, who payed him thousands of dollars for his powerful witchcraft…. AN AMAZING LIFE! Read also the exellent true story: ‘THE DAY SATAN CALLED’ by well known radio broadcaster, Bill Scott. And see youtube video: ‘EX SATANIC PRIEST CARLOS’. And for more testimonies, visit website: ‘real life angel and demon encounters’. And yes, TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION! LOL!

    1. It’s all in your head Tim. All of it. The damage you do to vulnerable people with this nonsense is actually incalculable.

      1. It’s not in all in my head! I don’t lie. The greek missionary priests, who have lived with the natives for decades, dealing with their every day problems and spiritual life, have recorded them in books, published in greek and english. I don’t think they’re lying, because if they were, there would be a public outcry… They CAN’T lie about such serious matters, (which are supported by testimonies of the natives THEMSELVES!). It’s all in my head…NOT!

  9. Darling. There is NO DAMAGE in telling the truth (“i am the way the truth and the life”, Jesus said), except to people who enjoy living a LIE, and spreading it to others. But I am not God to stop them, they are free to do so, and bear the consequences. It’s a free world! I only share what i know…take it or leave it. “You can lead a horse to water, but you CAN’T make it drink!” LOL!

  10. YOU might want to look up another “ex Satanist” turned Catholic names Zachary King. Some of his YouTube vids are so stupid they are amusing.

  11. except with roger mourneau, there were actually witnesses who knew him from the time he was going through those things, and they’ve testified that he indeed went through at least some of the things he said he did.

  12. John said ‘the most clever thing the devil ever did, was to make people not believe in him, or think he wasn’t real’…. he is right. Hearing what he said I knew i had to change. I threw out tarot cards, decided never to attend spiritualist church again. I had no idea what I was doing was wrong. I just thought it was a more advanced form or religion minus old fashioned books. He taught me, that wasn’t right. So…. he is doing good out there. (I wasn’t a satanist or anything like that – he really made me think). Closing portals was important info. Being aware of evil was important.

  13. Why so cynical about ex Satanists who have turned to Christ? Why should they make it up? Are you really denying that witchcraft and satanism exists? I myself used to be involved in such things and I absolutely hated God. Now I’m a Christian. Yes, it does happen. Any Christian should be glad when they hear of such conversions.

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