‘Hell to Pay’ – Arsonist Torches Church of Satan Meeting House

  • Even if you don’t agree with their views, do you really want to anger something called “The Church of Satan?”

Burning down a religious building might bring to your mind images of Satanists or other devil worshippers. And it’s not a completely unreasonable notion. For example, Norway’s Black Metal movement gained notoriety in the ‘90s after self-professed Satan worshippers torched a number of churches.

But the turntables keep on turning, or however the saying goes. Now, the Church of Satan has found itself on the receiving end of hellfire.

In the early hours on January 14, an arsonist set ablaze a Poughkeepsie, NY, house regularly used by the Church of Satan in their gatherings. The building – known locally as the Halloween House – remained standing, but only as a sinister charred skeleton of a house.

The current state of the building might be oddly fitting for the church’s image, but it’s completely unusable. The Prince of Darkness clearly looks out for his own, though, as the Halloween House’s two residents managed to escape unharmed.

In total, the arson displaced nine adults and one child from the Halloween House and surrounding buildings, according to Poughkeepsie Journal. Luckily, no one was hurt.

“Did someone mess with the thermostat? It’s hot as hell in here.”

Like a ‘Terror Attack’

The identity of the arsonist is at the moment a mystery. That is even though the crime was caught on camera.

Security cameras at the Halloween House recorded a man approaching the house around 5 a.m. with two cans of gasoline. The video shows him empty the canisters on the house’s porches before igniting the fuel and fleeing the scene.

The police are currently investigating the crime. Isis Vermouth, a member of the Church of Satan, likened the arson to a “terror attack.”

“Everybody’s in shock and everyone in the neighborhood is worried. I feel like this was definitely malicious,” Vermouth told Poughkeepsie Journal.

“Someone showed up in a hazmat suit and poured two huge jugs of gasoline on the porch while everyone was sleeping. Now there’s going to be hell to pay,” she added.

Poughkeepsie City Councilman Chris Petsas echoed Vermouth’s sentiment, saying that the arson was likely premeditated.

“They intentionally put gasoline at the front door and then went around and put gasoline at the back door and lit them both on fire – that tells me whoever did this had a lot of malice toward someone or that property,” Petsas said.

“We’re a city of many different and diverse backgrounds and religions, regardless of what people practice as their religion, no one has a right to torch a property,” he emphasized.

‘Not Your Normal Home’

Indeed, some more traditionally religious might bid good riddance to a Satanic meeting place. But looking past its current use, the destruction of the Halloween House marks the loss of a remarkable piece of 19th century architecture.

The house was built in 1870 by a local wealthy jeweler William Quintard. After serving as his residence, the Halloween House eventually came into the possession of Joe Mendillo.

Mendillo – nicknamed Netherworld – was a member of the Church of Satan. The church’s high priest Peter H. Gilmore has called him the “dark side Martha Stewart.”

“It was extraordinarily different. It wasn’t your normal home,” Petsas said describing the house. “A lot of devil sculptures and paraphernalia.”

Mendillo indeed turned the house into a meeting place for the Church of Satan. The house’s décor reflected this idea. A hearse regularly stood in the driveway, in front of a sign reading “Devil’s Garage.”

Cocktails and Halloween Treats

Should you have entered into Mr. Netherworld’s domain, however, you might’ve been surprised. The inside of the house had more in common with a cocktail lounge than a Satanic temple.

Matthew Camp, who lived in the Halloween House and escaped the flames on the fateful night, told the New York Times that Mendillo did entertain his fellow Satanists at the place. But instead of sacrificing goats, the gathered usually sat chatting while enjoying some drinks.

Camp said the house included a red ballroom, candelabras, a rotating chandelier, a pinball machine featuring the ‘80s horror icon Elvira, and an impressive collection of tiki cups. In addition to his religious brethren, Mendillo’s house also served as a meeting spot for the local gay community.

“All these misfits would gather in the home and share stories,” said Camp. “It wasn’t necessarily a Satanist house – it was Joe’s house.”

While entertaining his guests, Mendillo would set off fog machines to create a spookier atmosphere, according to Camp. Every Halloween, he and his associates would don appropriate costumes and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, who flocked to the house from miles away.

Really, sounds more like the home of a horror movie geek than a Satanic house of worship.

Not Quite So Evil

Unfortunately for the Church of Satan, it seems their meeting place has been lost.

“It currently seems unlikely that the home could be restored, due to the severe fire damage, but one day a ‘pocket park’ could possibly arise on that space,” high priest Gilmore told Poughkeepsie Journal.

“I am convinced that Joe’s legacy will live on, even though the home he so carefully cultivated has been destroyed through the hateful act of some deeply disturbed individual, regardless of motivation,” he added.

Despite its name, the members of Church of Satan don’t actually worship any devils or demons. Their religion is completely atheistic, and instead preaches a message of individualism and self-fulfillment.

The church espouses an idea that an individual’s self is their only “god.” Adherents should seek to cultivate their individualism through spiritual and physical means.

The point is, though, that the Church of Satan doesn’t participate in animal or human sacrifice. Nor do they advocate any other outlandishly evil practices.

“When you hear the word ‘Satan’ and ‘Satanic worship’ and things that may be attached to these organizations, that can sound scary,” said Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison.

“But from a perspective of activity over the years [at the Halloween House] – I don’t know anything. I am not aware of any sort of activity that would have required the attention of our police department or other city services,” he added.

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