The Prodigal Witch Part IV: Other "Former Satanists" of the ’70s

Hershel Smith

Hershel Smith emerged in Southern California during the early ’70s, just like Mike Warnke and John Todd. His Christian testimony was different from theirs. He wasn’t lured into Satanist at college like Warnke, and he wasn’t born into it like Todd. Rather, he was a Christian who became a Satanist as a child. As an adult he renounced devil worship and became a Christian again. His story is told in his book The Devil and Mr. Smith, published in 1974 (just one year after Warnke’s The Satan Seller). Evangelist Morris Cerullo, the man who launched Warnke into fame, promoted Smith after Warnke set off on his own.

Smith purchased the “Witchmobile” constructed by Cerrullo, David Balsiger, and Warnke. This was a traveling anti-occult exhibit made up of witchcraft paraphernalia, designed to educate Christians about the trappings and hazards of the occult.
He became a preacher. Pastor Ernest H. Nickerson wrote a paper about his conversion, titled “A Former Satanist is Now a Preacher of the Gospel”. His story is also included in Kurt Koch’s Occult ABC, along with the stories of Doreen Irvine and David Hanson (below).

Smith never reached evangelical stardom like his two fellow “former Satanists”, though. His story was vanilla compared to their tales of sex, drugs, and Satanic hit squads. He didn’t participate in the gang rape of a co-ed, or have sex slaves prepare his hash pipe for him, or rule over 65,000 witches and warlocks. He didn’t have any startling inside information about Star Wars. You won’t find him on YouTube or in Jack Chick comic books.

He did became a high priest, however. All four of the former Satanists in this series were high priests/priestesses. You won’t find many rank and file “former Satanists”.

Smith rose to power in his coven, he said, because he would do outrageous stuff for Satan. At 13 he killed a dog, skinned it, and drank its blood. As an adult he became known as The Skin Eater because he would eat pieces of his own skin and any pieces that people gave to him. This sort of behaviour can be indicative of disorders such as autophagia or pica. Once in a while it’s an art form. But it is not a religious practice.

Mmm, salty

There’s not much more to say about Mr. Smith. He faded back into the fundamentalist wallpaper sometime in the ’70s. His book is out of print and relatively rare. Not having read it, I don’t know if Smith was ever really a Satanist or not. I can only tell you that I doubt it. His autobiography came out on the heels of Warnke’s, as though capitalizing on the latter’s success. It was co-authored by Dave Hunt, a Christian author who also co-wrote The Godmakers, a mean-spirited and sensationalist screed against Mormonism that was turned into a series of equally mean-spirited and sensationalist “documentaries” by Jeremiah Films.
Smith’s association with Morris Cerullo indicates he was hoping to gain the same kind of attention Warnke and Todd were receiving.
More importantly, though, Satanists do not welcome children into their ranks.

David Hanson

David Hanson lived – guess where? That’s right, Southern California. Santa Barbara, to be specific. He apparently never went on the fundamentalist lecture circuit, but his story is told in some detail in the last chapter of Kurt Koch’s Occult ABC (which I reviewed here).

In the early ’70s, Hanson was a married high school gym teacher and father feeling unsatisfied with his life. Qu’elle surprise. So when he saw a Satanist on TV, talking about the death of Christianity and all the power and fulfillment the Devil had to offer, he immediately began attending a Satanic church near Thousand Oaks. This group held ceremonies and orgies every Saturday night in Skeleton Canyon.
Hanson was a devil worshiper for two years. He gave up his car, his house, his income, and his family, possibly relinquishing all his possessions to the church. This would be extraordinarily unusual for a Satanist; penury and asceticism aren’t exactly common in Satanism, so coven members aren’t asked to give up their stuff. That’s more the domain of cults derived from Christianity and certain Eastern religions.
Naturally, being in this cult depressed Hanson. He began to feel suicidal. One day, whilst cursing God in a Satanic prayer, he was overwhelmed by the presence of God and decided to return to him. These former Satanists are nothing if not fickle.

When Hanson told the other Satanists he had become a Christian, they were initially shocked, then intrigued. He witnessed to them for nine straight hours, and ultimately converted several of them. Compare this to Warnke’s and Todd’s stories of Satanic hitmen gunning for them because they defected. True, Hanson wasn’t a high priest (unlike every other former Satanist we’ve seen so far), but these Satanists seem a lot more laid-back than the other ones supposedly active in Southern California at this time.
Even though the Satanists were cool about Hanson’s betrayal, Satan was not. That night, he audibly warned Hanson that his child would die and he would be plunged into poverty (wasn’t he already poor?). Sure enough, these things happened. And that must mean Satan was really talking to him, right? He could not have been hallucinating, pondering his worst fears, or making up scary stories to impress a pastor. I mean, a suicidal depressive who gives all his worldly goods to his church and leaves his wife and child every Saturday night to participate in outdoor orgies must be perfectly sane as soon as he becomes a Christian.


So what have we learned about Satanism from Doreen Irvine, Mike Warnke, John Todd, Hershel Smith, and David Hanson, the “former Satanists” of the ’70s? That:

– Satanism is an ancient, secret order.
– the Illuminati is the puppetmaster of Satanism.
– secret Satanic organizations are larger and more successful than prominent, well-publicized ones like LaVey’s Church of Satan.
– Satanism is tightly organized and hierarchical, yet no two organizations use the same scripture or practice the same rituals (with the exception of orgies).
– witchcraft is Satanism.
– Catholicism, Mormonism, and Freemasonry are basically Satanism.
– you can be born into Satanism.
– you can be recruited into Satanism as a child.
– you can be recruited into Satanism in college.
– you can be recruited into Satanism as an adult.
– Satanists kill babies, dogs, cats, roosters, and even their own people. They sacrifice someone on every Satanic holy day (we’ll look at the various Satanic calendars later in this series).
– Satanists routinely abduct and rape women.
– Satanists are heavily involved in drug trafficking.
– Satanists use popular music, drugs, and fashion to brainwash and seduce young people. Occult symbols are cleverly hidden in jewelry, record album covers, and just about everywhere else.
– Ouija boards, tarot cards, and fantasy role playing games are gateways to Satanism and must be avoided at all costs.
– Halloween, being a Satanic holy day, must not be celebrated by Christians.

The conversion stories of the ’70s would have a profound impact on Christians in the ’80s, and a new generation of “ex-witches” and “former Satanists” would come forward with stories that were even more horrifying … and even more implausible.

12 thoughts on “The Prodigal Witch Part IV: Other "Former Satanists" of the ’70s

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  1. SME:Hi! I'm a new reader of your blog, and I have to say I love what you're doing! I've spent most of the last couple days just going through all the articles you have. You've done some excellent research and write in a very entertaining way :)I wanted to invite you to a site on a topic you haven't covered yet that I've seen, but which I think you'd find interesting. Just so you know, it's a free site & I'm not an owner or moderator or anything, so there's nothing in it for me (except your participation) if you do decide to check us out. 🙂 It's called The Fogbow and can be found at The primary goal of the site is to debunk all of the garbage associated with the bogus "questions" about Barack Obama's eligibility to be president of the US. I know you're familiar with one character we've run across more than a few times already – Larry Sinclair – and a whole bunch more. There's a lawyer/rock musician/poker player who has claimed to be the Paraclete (a name for the Holy Spirit, I think,) a convicted forger who claims to have found Obama's "Kenyan" birth certificate (one of at least 4 foreign birth certificates so far,) a lawyer you may have run into among the 9/11 Truthers who filed a Birther suit against Obama and filed with it a copy of a "Canadian birth certificate" – complete with Dudley Dooright's signature (not kidding,) a thrice-disbarred lawyer who runs a number of mortgage foreclosure games, and a Moldovan immigrant lawyer/dentist/real estate agent who's so unique I can't summarize her in a few pithy comments among others. We also look at some of the other fringe groups out there, including those who are focused on NESERA, sovereign citizens, "citizens grand juries" and the Republic of the United States (RuSA).The index page I linked to above has the beginnings of a series of pages we're trying to do to focus on certain individuals or aspects of the birther arguments, but it's a fairly new project, so we're not terribly along. The main section is the forum, and you're welcome to just jump on in there. Given much of what you've written about here, it sounds like this topic would be right up your alley, and I know the Fogbow would benefit from your knowledge – and enjoy your participation!Take care, and I hope to see you there. I'm Thorswitch, if you do visit – be sure to say "hi"!

  2. I read something interesting about John Todd , With the exception of a brief period where he was replaced by a real Native American, Todd played Tonto for almost the entire radio run, and was the only original cast member heard on the final broadcas!!

  3. izzHershel Smith had a home (Teen Power) for those who were coming out of drugs, occult, etc. in San Bernardino, CA. He overworked everyone as much as 36 hours at a time, trying to control people's beliefs and lives. When he was exposed for monetary and spiritual fraud and for misrepresenting himself as an ordained pastor of the Assemblies of God which he was not, it was quite traumatic for everybody involved. We were the ones who exposed him in 1975, and fortunately, the Christian community provided homes since we had to leave immediately, including myself who had just had a baby boy. Unfortunately, most everyone left the Lord with the exception of the four people who are active in ministry. I don't know if he had been a Satanist or not, but I remember he claimed to have sacrificed his missing fingers to Satan. It was quite weird to live on the premises with a witchmobile. He definitely was messed up, and I always wondered what became of his beautiful wife from New Zealand.

  4. Michael Alfred “Mike” Warnke was a fraud and was thoroughly discredited by objective researchers. His book was still considered by chucklehead Christians to be the definitive source on devil worship. Likewise John Todd was discredited, convicted as a sex offender, and died in a mental institution. Christians, it seems, have lost their moral compass with regard to avoiding talebearing. Their Scripture tells them to “prove all things”, but they continue to go off half-cocked with their tenuous BS. Are there genuine evil dangers out there?
    You’re darn tootin’ there are. But the Christian propensity for spreading misinformation may be the worst evil yet.

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