Mike Warnke is the author of the 1972 book The Satan Seller, a notoriously fraudulent “memoir” of his life as a “Satanist”. He is also a preacher, and has predictably fooled plenty of people into supporting his ministry despite having been exposed as a liar.
According to himself, Warnke led a large Satanist “coven” in California in the late 1960s (he was sucked into Satanism partially by watching the TV series Bewitched) but left Satanism after he got too high in the “organization” and learned too much, including stuff about the shadowy group called the “Illuminati” at the top levels of Satanism (duh) and plenty of human sacrifices, and he promptly converted to Christianity, subsequently enjoying a long career as a purported expert on Satanism and as a Christian “comedian”. Of course, Warnke was never involved in Satanism (rather, he was involved in the Campus Crusade for Christ at the time), but although he was exposed early on (this article in particular) and his career took some damage, he has continued to stand by his stories, claiming that those who expose him are smearing him. His response to the 1992 revelations was nevertheless rather feeble, consisting primarily of invectives against his ex-wife Carolyn. Nor could he name a single member of his allegedly 1500-member strong coven. In the ensuing months, that number shrinked to 13, of whom the whereabouts of five were unknown to him, while the other eight had since died.
The substantial amounts of money he raised during the 1980s for an underground network to rescue kids caught up in Satanism was instead used to fund a lavish lifestyle – there is no evidence he ever actually had such an underground network, but since no Satanist conspiracy existed either, it is apparently hard to convince him he did anything morally questionable.
Indeed, there is good evidence that Warnke’s lying borders on the pathological (his claims about his education, and how many times he was wounded in Vietnam, tended to grow during the early 80s as well), but at least he didn’t really put too much effort into making his claims fit together.
The Satan Seller, and Warnke’s subsequent status as a media go-to “expert” on Satanism, were driving forces behind the Satanic panic of the 80s – though the main blame should perhaps go to the guy who groomed Warnke, Morris Cerullo) – and even today people, especially in certain corners of the Internet, actually believe in a widespread Satanic underground.
Interestingly, Warnke enjoyed a strained relationship with John Todd, another self-proclaimed “ex-Satanist” who was exposed in 1979 – Todd accused Warnke for instance of stealing “his” testimony about the Illuminati. When Todd was exposed, Warnke didn’t hesitate to denounce him and warn his followers of such frauds and hucksters. True to his martyr complex, however, his own 2002 account Friendly Fire: A Recovery Guide for Believers Battered by Religion lamented how unfairly he had been treated by his fellow Christians after his own lies and financial trickeries had been exposed. As per 2014, Warnke is still making the rounds, currently as a protégé of Rick Joyner.
Diagnosis: Fraud. One sometimes wonders whether he has managed to delude himself into believing his own claims, but he’s no less a fraud for that. He does retain a modicum of negative influence, however.