Several thousand members of the Church of Satan gathered in Washington, D.C., from September through November. Coming from across the Americas and Europe, they met to plan strategies and perform rituals designed to destroy the Christian church and unleash the power of Satan in the world.

Or so the story goes.

Word of the satanic convention circulated widely through Christian circles this fall, prompting “prayer alerts” and fund-raising calls of alarm. Reports even included a day-to-day schedule of events for the meeting, complete with satanic baptisms and weddings. But all the reports were apparently based on the uncorroborated testimony of one source: a Christian who claims to be the former number-two leader in the Church of Satan.

Richard Shannon, pastor of Grace of His Presence Church in Fairfax, Virginia, said he heard the story of the convention and other information about the inner workings of the Church of Satan from Hezekiah ben Aaron, a self-described Messianic Christian and former Satanist who had been taken in as a boarder in a church member’s home. Impressed by the sincerity and consistency of Hezekiah and his story, Shannon says he sent letters outlining ben Aaron’s claims to about 20 pastors and Christian leaders in his area, “inviting them to evaluate this man’s information and message.” But the letters were passed on and preached as fact, Shannon says, and created just the sort of sensationalized rumor he had hoped to avoid. “At first I tried to steer the bandwagon,” he said, “but I didn’t realize others were throwing fliers off the back.”

Through The Grapevine

Driven by photocopiers and fax machines, news of the satanic convention spread ...

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