Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke
Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein
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 Americas 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 Warnkes press material includes credits for appearances on
The 700 Club, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Focus on
the Family, and ABCs 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 Warnkes 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 Satanisms 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 Warnkes 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 doesnt 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 Mikes 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. Mikes parents lived in Evansville, Indiana, and according to their sons confirmation certificate, had Mike baptized at St. Anthonys Catholic Church.
When Mike was five, the Warnkes moved to Manchester, Tennessee, where Al opened Warnkes 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 familys brand-new Packard and was killed. She was thirty-seven; Mike was eight years old.
Mike had other family, too, from his fathers 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 wasnt
writing my father. I didnt 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, Im 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 Mikes 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, Wouldnt 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 werent there but a few days when
he went off on a big binge and didnt 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 cant see. And hed
say, Dont 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 Warnkes story of his life, The Satan Seller, opens just
after Als funeral, with adults discussing Mikes 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 aunts dander with his crude, truck stop
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 wasnt 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 thats where he wanted to go.
During the summer of 1959, Mike went to live with his half sister
and her family near Riverside, California. Shirley confirms Warnkes
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 werent 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 werent fighting.
Mike Warnke attended Rim of the World High School. His best friends through these years were Tim Smith and Jeff Nesmith. Wed spend lots of time at each others 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 werent hellions, but we werent angels either. We had our parties, gate crashed some dances.
All of Mikes 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. Tims 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 Tims 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 Mikes date, we stopped at a
local uniform store and got me a chauffeurs 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. Wed go into some restaurant, and
Mike would pretend to be a Russian immigrant who couldnt speak
English. Id translate Mikes order into English for the waitress.
Sometimesjust to get himId order something I knew hed hate.
But Mike was always enough of a pro that hed stick with it and
wouldnt say anything . . . until we got outside the restaurant and
hed yell at me.
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 Warnkes identity.
Here begins the critical period described in The Satan Seller, the defining moment of Mike Warnkes 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. Warnkes military records say he entered the navy on June 2, 1966. Therefore, whatever happened in Mikes life regarding Satanism had to have happened between September 13, 1965, and June 2, 1966. (See sidebar [Why the Dates Dont 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 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 Mikes 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, hed 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, hed talked his way into living with us.
Gregs college girlfriend, Dawn Andrews, gave us her
assessment. The first time I saw Mike Warnke was at Gregs house. He
was introduced to me as Gregs 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 Warnkes 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? Dont you remember, about the most exciting thing we used to do was play croquet in Gregs backyard?
In The Satan Seller, Mike never mentions croquet. He was too busy
becoming a teenage alcoholic.
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 werent 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 didnt 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 full-fledged hippie:
He looked like everybody else, says Greg. He did have one
constant accessory, a silver cross. (This cross Warnke gave to Dyana,
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 accent.
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 couldnt dance there. It was very small, and packed with chairs. As far as alcohol, we only served coffee at a penny a cup. Thats where the place got its name. As for remembering Mike and the fake English accent? No. Is this a joke?
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
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. Thats 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 hed been reincarnated any number of times, that he was born in the Irish Moors in the 1570s. Along with his other stories, he claimed hed once been a Trappist monk.
In The Satan Seller, Warnke paints himself as a freshman guru, dispensing wisdom to an eager audience of disciples:
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 dont think it was in fun. I think he himself wanted to believe it, says Phyliss Catalano, Loiss best friend. I used to sit there and be embarrassed, because Id think, How could somebody that young have done all these things? Hed done everything. And everything he told was with a straight face.
Phylisss 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
conversationhed done it. He said hed been a Greek dancer, and
hed dance for us, round and round. He said hed been a professional
ambulance driver. And he was a monkhed 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 hed 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 himtheyre 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. Ill never forget when he went dressed as a priest to Jays
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
hed dressed as a priest and gone panhandling in downtown San
Bernardino. He said hed 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 Corkys Liquor Store, and
tried to get Christian Brothers wine for the mass. They just laughed
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, Mikes 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. . . .
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 didnt even smoke cigarettes. Yet
in The Satan Seller, Warnke and his friends are allegedly full-blown
into drug use early in the year:
Not only do Mikes 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:
On his Mike Warnke Alive! album, Mike further claims:
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? Its a lie, Greg says.
Loiss reaction to Mikes tale? Thats just make-believe, she
states. Mike never fell in with drugs. My dad was an alcoholic, and
because of our family situation, Id 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 wouldnt have dated Mike if he was drugged. I didnt
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 whos seen Rosemarys 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 cats belly, I thrust it in.
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 Mikes apartment during his college days, Mike asked
Jeff to join a coven. But Jeff laughed it off, thinking it was one
of Mikes 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. Cant do
Warnkes 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 Warnkes claims that he did not ask those who
knew him on a daily basis in San Bernardino Valley College to endorse
Interestingly, most of Mikes college friends did dabble in occult
activities. Some of them were into seance and Ouija board type
stuff, says George Eubank. But it wasnt 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 wed 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 wed stolen from somebodys driveway. Warnke wanted to get an
apartment and have a group of guys. I dont 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
Sellers 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:
The two women allegedly remained at Warnkes beck and call, rarely
leaving the apartment unless it was to get groceries or drugs. Its 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.
Then theres 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) didnt 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?
Mikes 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 didnt do them with
Lois and me, thats 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
didnt 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. Wed question him about his stories and he always came up with some half-baked answer. And you couldnt 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.
Warnkes refusal to admit to his own storytelling made him
untrustworthy in the eyes of some members of the group. I didnt know
anything about his past, so I didnt know what was true and what
wasnt, says Dawn. I didnt 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
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 Dont Work], p. 18) Shirley Schrader says
Mike had Christmas dinner in Crestline with the family. He didnt
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 Mikes 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? Youre a real traveling salesman for Satan, Mike, and we want you to go to Salem and get more hip with some really serious organization.
How could he fly when he didnt 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, hes lying. How could I not know my boyfriend was into Satanism?
I dont remember there ever being a time when we didnt 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 Jays 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 Warnkes 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. . . .
The predictable reaction: Oh, my goodness. Youre kidding. . . .
Lois dissolves into laughter.
According to The Satan Seller, Mike Warnkes 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 couldnt believe it when I heard that! she says. Im 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
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
Warnkes 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
hed found Christ at boot camp. He was real excited about being a
Christian, finding God. Within days Mike told Lois hed had this
Christian conversion and he had to go on. That this was it. I didnt
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. Hed go up the hill to Campus Crusades 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 San Diego.
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 . . . far out!
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 Diegos 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.
The conversation really wasnt 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 didnt 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.
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:
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.
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 Pauls 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
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.
Cerullos vision, Warnkes story, and Balsigers 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 newsmens favorites.
After the January 1972 conference, Warnke and Balsiger parted with Cerullo and decided to write a book together about Mikes 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 Sellers 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 Mikes 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 Cerullos 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 Clawsons office. We got him out of the navy. On June 2, Warnke was granted an early discharge on conscientious-objector basis.
As soon as he got out, Mike sent a letter to Morris Cerullos headquarters and said we were forbidden to use his name or his material, recalls George Eckeroth, who headed Jollys 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 Warnkes story, and his book was due in the fall.
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
Other ex-Satanist testimonies followed Warnkes. John Todds
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
Another alleged ex-Satanist, Hershel Smith, purchased the Witchmobile from Morris Cerullo and began his own tour. Smiths 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. Todds 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 Wincklers
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 Duncombes 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 Businessmens meeting. We were the token hippies at FGBM, says Karen. Theyd 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 Warnkes 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 Id been, but I wasnt proud of, Karen Siegal says. Then he started introducing me as a former prostitute, which Id 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 Warnkes. Part of the program at Trinity was tell your testimony, she says. I got up and said, My names Carolyn Alberty and Im 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 Warnkes interest, says Carolyn. Mike told me he knew me from some parties I had given in California. He convinced her hed been to some, though she didnt 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 youve started to
It didnt 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 didnt 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 Warnkes 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. Id 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, Its not Carolyn or Susie I love. Its 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. Wed 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 theyd 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, Mikes 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 whod 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 shed met him a number of times in hotels
for sex when he was in the area.
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
bishops brand of independent Eastern Orthodoxy. Several Trinity
students remember Bishop Coadys 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. Hed 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 didnt 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 Bill Fisher.
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 Marilyns 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 Adams Apple coffeehouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Christian artists Nancy Honeytree and Phil Keaggy were recording a concert that night. The tape kept rolling during Warnkes part of the show. A proposed Keaggy/Honeytree live album didnt 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 hed split my bookings down the middle, fifty-fifty. Mike said, I cant 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 Sues marriage. On several occasions Mike had told me and my wifecrying and the whole bitSue doesnt love me. Shes 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 hed have to choose between the road and his family. According to pastor Riling, Marilyn Hickey then visited the Rilings. I asked Marilyn, Isnt 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 Id 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 Hickeys 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 didnt 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 wouldnt 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 Martins senior
research consultant at the time, in charge of CRIs research
staff, and her duties included overseeing Walter Martins travel
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.
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 changed Nashville.
Mike and Carolyn pulled into town with a U-Haul trailer. Mike and I moved into an apartment together, says Carolyn. Once wed 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 Carolyns 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,
Shes running around on me. I called Sue, and she said that wasnt
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 Nashville.
The meeting was held at the Dharma offices. Riling, Mike Johnson,
Wes Yoder, and Mike and Carolyn were there. Youd 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 Warnkes continuing
affair with the woman at Rilings church in Brockport. Mike was still
very involved with her, says Carolyn. Pastor Riling was struck by the
bizarreness of the situation: Im 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 wouldnt
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. Its okay. Im
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, Whats going on? I said, Look, the guys a joke. Hes trying to get his paws on Mike, but youve got him signed and if you dont keep him its 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 didnt miss it.
I just didnt 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
doesnt 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 hes 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,
Ill 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
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 Warnkes many mojos: Mike would personify
himself as various characters at times. Mike had his Indian mojo, or
sometimes hed 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.
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 wasnt 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. Dharmas 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. . . .
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
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 Warnkes satanic story? It was just accepted, says Huey. Thats one of the things youll find in the industry. You see something that might be salable, marketablethats 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 youre 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 wasnt, says Buddy Huey. I didnt 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 countrys 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 wed 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 didnt 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, hed 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, Carolyns mother, Peggy Alberty, had moved to Nashville to be near her daughter.
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 thats where he met Rose. Carolyn says Mike came home very excited about something. Then he went down to a jewelry store where wed established credit and began buying jewelry for someone else, who I later found out was Rose.
The story of Mike Warnkes 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, Youre a minister, an evangelist; are you married? It never entered my mind.
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 couldnt deal with personally. With Rose I did. But I was
still there. I was so wrong.
Mike Warnkes 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 didnt want him associating with my husband
because he was helping destroy our marriage. But later Warnke came
over anyway and said, Karen, I dont want you to dislike me. I want
us to be friends. I said, Then change what youre doing. Youre
deceiving people. Youre committing adultery. He said, I cant
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, Ill kill you. I dont 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, Im gonna kill you, because
Im tired of your beatings. I just cant take any more. Carolyn says
she jumped into her car, started driving, and didnt 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 didnt 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 dont know how we ever got to this place. All I know for
sure is that we are here. . . . I cant blame you for not wanting to
be around me right now. Nor can I condemn your disgust at my rages and
tantrums. Im trying hard to get control. . . . Ill 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 says.
Carolyn didnt 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 Nashville.
Mike and Carolyns 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 Carolyns viewpoint, Mike is one of the greatest con artists
Ive 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 thats not grounds for moving in with someone. Mike said, We married each other before the Lord. I said, Do it before the state, too.
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, Im 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 Warnkes 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 Carolyns 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.
HOCCKs 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, Womens
Aglow. Soon afterwards, Dot was hired to answer letters and do
phone counseling. Dots friend, Jan Ross, joined later as Roses
personal secretary. Roxanne Miller and Phyllis Swearinger eventually
worked in the bookkeeping department.
All four women were nonplussed by Mikes preference for High Church
chapel services. Dot remembers an early chapel service with Mike:
He had incense, and hed come down the aisle with his robes, swinging
it in this thing.
Roxanne Millers opinion had less to do with the High Church
trappings than with an event where Mikes 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 wed
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, Im 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 youre not. It made me feel sad. He wants
to be so much, and he isnt. I can still see him standing there in his
robe, all velvet and dark.
Another point which perplexed the women was HOCCKs 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 wasnt 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.
Id 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 wouldnt go far enough! Once Mike
called me, upset because he needed some trees pruned at his home, and
I wouldnt write a check for it because we didnt 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 Roses 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 HOCCKs 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 Warnkes personal salaries
steadily rose (see Table 1).
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 cults 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 occultlike Jeffy.
Supposedly, Jeffy was this little boy who had become a vegetable
because of all the satanic abuse hed had, says Jan Ross. The story
was used to raise money to help all the Jeffys of the world, so there
wouldnt be so many Jeffys. Mike would say, What if your child was
sent to preschool and this happened? Howd you like this to happen to
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 Jeffys 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. Shed ask if hed told the Jeffy
story. If he hadnt, shed 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, Id try to tell
them about somebody who wrote needing help, and they didnt want to
Adds Jan Ross, We didnt get that many calls, maybe four or five
actual calls a day. Some people just wanted attention, but every once
in a while thered be people with real problems. Mike and Rose just
didnt want to deal with them. Theyd go on the road and say, Were
here to help you, but when you called they didnt want to deal with
For a while, Dot Green tried to ignore everything at Warnke
Ministries that wasnt 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 didnt 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 anybodys 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 cant 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.
Its not been something we have forgotten easily, says Jan Ross.
Its scary to think you can get involved with something like that
with a pure heart, to serve God, and then find out its 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 childrens center for refugees from Satanism. Phone calls would come to my office, people wanting to send kids there. Id explain to them that there wasnt 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 isnt 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 hed 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 Its over,
isnt it? talk with Mike that took place in his office in December of
Some comparison with Roses 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 werent communicating, and Satan provided a woman to fill the gap in Michaels life.
The conversation in the first book goes like this:
He began to tell me theres nothing to this and that Im misunderstanding it all.
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. Michaels a big gun collector, and I know how to shoot. . . . I said, Ill continue running the ministry, Ill get myself established ministry-wise, then I dont care what you do. Youre not going to wreck my life. Ill 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
Roses attorney and signed by both Mike and Rose was filed the same
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 hadnt 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
couples 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 Mikes salary
from HOCCK. Mike agreed to assume responsibility for paying various
liens, pay for the education of Roses daughters until the year 2001,
divide a $15,000 IRA with Rose, and also split the debt to their
Rose also got 65 percent of Warnkes 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
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 Lords 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 divorce.
Six weeks after his divorce was finalized, on November 18, 1991, Mike Warnke married Susan Patton, an old Rim High classmate, and moved to California.
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? Thats 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 attorneys
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. Mikes
response: that we have no further contact with him except through his
attorney. This ended our communication.
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.
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 Christs 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 Mikes 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 Mikes 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. Mikes 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. Mikes own friends refused to sign an affidavit that his
Satanism testimony was true.
If Mike has any real evidence to disprove what weve offered here, were willing to print it. However, the evidence we have uncovered leads us to the conclusion that Mike doesnt 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 didnt talk to the right people. . . .
At this stage, excuses arent 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. . . . Its not up
to you to judge my actions. Last time I read my Bible, Jesus was
sitting on the throne, and Hes not about to get off and let you take
His place. . . .
This is sidestepping. Its a move to change the subject and get away from calling ones 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 Warnkes 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 Warnkes 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, weve 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 truth.
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.
Its 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 mans conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:1-2)NOTES:
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 Seller. [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]
73. Don Musgraves, director of Cerullos 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 Insiders Report, Logos Journal, May/June 1972, 39, 40. [return]
75. Dave Balsiger, et al., Its 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, Insiders Report. [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]
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]
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]
92. Don Cusic, Mike Warnke: Jester in the Kings Court, Contemporary Christian Music, June-July 1979, 130; Paul Baker, Two-Fold Laughter from Mike and Rose, Contemporary Christian Music, December 1982, 14. [return]
96. Holdup Victim Named as Call Girls Queen, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Evening Final, 8 January 1971, identifies Carolyns 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]
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. [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]
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]
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]
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 Grantors love and affection for her daughter. [return]
148. One well-known example: James G. Friesen, Ph.D., Uncovering the Mystery of MPD (San Bernardino, Calif.: Heres Life Publishers, 1991), uses Warnkes 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]
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]
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]
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. [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.)
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]
First published in Cornerstone (ISSN 0275-2743), Vol. 21, Issue 98 (1992).
© 1992 Cornerstone Communications, Inc.
Electronic version may contain minor changes and corrections from printed version.