Reading Time: 12 minutes (Tim Notari, CC-SA.)
Reading Time: 12 minutes

Longtime readers know how fascinated I am by the Satanic Panic. That’s the widespread moral panic that Christian culture experienced back in the 1980s and 1990s over Satanist Wiccans (or was it Wiccan Satanists?) supposedly infiltrating American society and government at all levels in order to corrupt good, pure Christian youth away from the One True Faith. The Satanic Panic trickled to an undignified end years ago. But not long ago we saw a resurgence of it wheezing back to life in a most unexpected way when a Christian conjob figured out a new way to fuse that largely-defunct moral panic with a far more current one. Join me for a tour of one of the most WTF ever conversion stories. Yes, it’s time to induct someone new to the Cult of “Before” Stories!

(Tim Notari, CC-SA.)
(Tim Notari, CC-SA.)

Fusion Cuisine for the Christian Conjob’s Soul.

Everyone, meet Zachary King, who really, really wants Christians’ time and attention–and of course also their money.

He wants it all so much that he’s willing to lie about anything to get it.

To achieve that goal, he’s figured out a way to fuse together two different Christian conspiracy theories to create a chimera that titillates and horrifies, disgusts and lures his target audience. In the process, he’s branched out into new territory. In retrospect, I can see now that this particular fusion was totally inevitable as well as a natural fit, but even I was startled by it when I first heard about it a while ago.

So yes, Zachary King is running around claiming that as a Satanist Wiccan (or was it a Wiccan Satanist?) High Wizard, he did unthinkable things to fetuses that he’d totally helped abort.

Feel free to re-read that last paragraph. I know it sounds so far past keeeeeeeeeRAZY that it circles back and around a few more times before slingshotting into Earth’s distant past to mess up someone’s timeline by making them their own grandparent. I myself was positive at first that it was some kind of elaborate satire or ruse!

There are probably thousands of Christian conjobs-for-Jesus who made plenty of money years ago selling the Satanic Panic to gullible Christians. And there are even more Christian conjobs-for-Jesus who are, right now today, selling grotesque fantasies about abortion to gullible Christians.

But Zachary King’s found the intersection there. He’s selling lurid fantasies of Satanists doing lurid things to aborted fetuses.

Liz Lemon thinks this is ridiculous too

Maybe Not Such a Hugely-Surprising Development.

Remember we talked last time about the Blue Pages of the Crisis Pregnancy Center manual? There’s a bit in there on page 3 that talks about how the CPC’s leaders think that abortions are really child sacrifices:

Did you know that last year in this state alone, over 200,000 babies were sacrificed by their parents? Oh, they weren’t cast into the fiery mouth of Baal; they were aborted in stead.

That exact (and tacky) line of thinking is normal for conspiracy theories nearing the end of their run. As time goes on and people get desensitized, the people profiting from it have to ramp things up to keep interest alive and the dollarpounds flowing. They can’t do what scientists do, which is to keep discovering new things. Rather, their entire business model involves horrifying and arousing the sheep enough to make them pay attention and spend money, after all. Facts are of lesser importance in that model. Only attention matters.

And it’s a no-brainer, really, what happened here. When I was a Christian myself, everyone I knew in fundagelicalism not only totally bought into the Satanic Panic itself, but also thought that demons were somehow involved in what we perceived as a dizzying rise in the number of abortions being provided in the United States. What else (we thought) could so destroy a woman’s natural, innate sense of maternal love to make her do something so unthinkable?

If someone had come up to us back then to tell us that the Satanic Panic involved Satanists somehow getting members of their groups into abortion clinics to do what Zachary King claims he did, we wouldn’t even have blinked before accepting it all as gospel truth.

So Zachary King is exploring avenues between these two moral panics that had groundwork laid decades ago.

A Singular Cult.

To get that avenue paved, though, he needed to create a spot for himself in what I’ve come to call the Cult of “Before” Stories.

See, Christians love an impressive conversion story–and they love it all the more when it follows some very particular lines and involves particular tropes. Those lines and tropes were defined many decades ago by previous conjobs, and very rarely do we find a conjob whose story doesn’t fit into that narrative cattle chute.

When you see a story that fits into that kind of narrative, be watching your wallet and your sympathies carefully. The person bearing that story is almost certainly lying about almost all of it, and they’re lying because they want something–fame, attention, money–from their audience. The more desperately they want that “something,” the more closely they’ll adhere to a long-established model that serves as a train-track leading right into Christians’ hearts.

The story they tell is just the car running along that track. They don’t even care what the car looks like or how rickety it is, as long as it fits onto the track. That story likely won’t make any sense at all or even sound in the least bit plausible to anyone outside its intended audience, and it doesn’t matter because the audience the story’s meant to reach will defend the story and its bearer to the ends of the earth.

His Big Break.

Zachary King has a website containing a bog-standard testimony, which is where he writes about growing up as “an average boy in an average American neighborhood” and “in a Baptist home.”

He claims that he was an active Satanist High Wizard–and working at a jewelry kiosk when he got Jesus Zapped by a medallion of the Virgin Mary. Assuming that this zappage had to have been not only supernatural but divine in nature, since really what else could it possibly have been, he instantly converted to Catholicism and ditched Satanism. And this happened in 2008 when he was in his mid-20s, according to his site. He registered his domain in 2011.

From 2011 to 2015, he’s almost invisible. On his official site he lists a number of interviews he gave between 2011 and 2015, but about all I’ve seen of those years was a hilarious interview he did in 2011 with a Blogspot Catholic. Among other revelations, he breathlessly reveals a bunch of stuff about being a “High Wizard” Satanist and says that the Kid Rock song “Bawitdaba” is totally secretly a Satanic spell (the blogger was super upset about the band Ghost, too, and they both talked about some Pink song in very disapproving ways). He was scrabbling to find something that worked, but he hadn’t quite found it yet.

Just as every Cult of “Before” Stories conjob does in their early career, these flailing years were spent trying on and discarding various Christian culture wars to find the one that’d be his pathway into Christian hearts. In the 2011 Blogspot interview, for example, he was trying on a past as a Satanist leader, repeating some twaddle about rock music being Satanic in nature, and experimenting with fighting against abortion rights to see what resonated with audiences.

He finally began getting real traction with a May 2015 guest appearance on an XM radio show. Someone over at the Catholicism subreddit picked up the interview and linked it, and then a month or so later he showed up on LifeSiteNews. Since then, he’s even been “liked” by one overly-trusting Republican in the Minnesota House, Tim Miller.

In a lot of ways, 2015 was really Zachary King’s big year. He’s been an intermittent gadfly nipping at the flanks of both Catholicism and Protestantism ever since. Almost three years after that big cannonball dive into the Christ-o-sphere’s pool, it sounds like he keeps fairly busy with public speaking gigs, like one he did recently to an eager audience at a Catholic “spiritual warfare” conference in Toronto. He’s working on a couple of books and has released at least one CD about his memoirs and claims, but mostly it looks like he’s mainly interested in public speaking events.

The only reason he wasn’t exposed and outed years ago was that he really wasn’t worth the effort. He still only barely is, if he is at all. His “big break” still only barely gets him a spot on the Z-list of Christian glitterati.

The concept that he represents is way more important than what he, himself, actually is.

A Strategic Deployment.

It’s not actually that easy to break into the market of gullible Christians, though, as Zachary King discovered in those years of obscurity. He might have had a truly shocking story to peddle, but somehow he wasn’t finding an audience outside of obscure AM radio outfits and free-platform bloggers (weird… isn’t it? /s). When Derren Brown did his now-famous documentary about faith healing, he experienced exactly the same difficulty. Christians can be inconsistent that way. So King languished on the far-right-wackadoodle fringes of the ultra-hardcore Catholic blogosphere for a while.

Part of his inability to gain traction may well have been his decision to trot his scammery out on American Catholics rather than on fundagelicals, to be fair; American Catholics tend to be fairly liberal in their outlook, so the ultra-hardcore, far-right-wackadoodle contingent of Catholicism is a lot smaller than their Protestant peers across the aisle.

It’s really not surprising at all to me that what finally allowed King to emerge from the primordial slime of the Christ-o-sphere tryhards was being featured on the rabidly forced-birther site LifeSiteNews. Remember, the anti-abortion culture war began with Catholics. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that Protestant leaders joined in–and then only because segregation hadn’t gotten the sheep moving to the polls and voting for the correct people. So by falling into a Christian group that combined the wingnuts from both Catholicism and Protestantism (and even a goodly number of useful-idiot atheists!), King vastly increased his media reach. I don’t think even think he was deliberately trying to do any of it, either; it may have been pure serendipity that things happened for him like they did. In a way it’s almost tragically hilarious that he’s as inept and amateur as he is regarding his own self-marketing efforts. He could easily have way more fame than he’s managed to eke out of the void between his nether cheeks.

The piece that broke in 2015 on LifeSiteNews was modestly and conservatively titled “Former Satanist: ‘I performed satanic rituals inside abortion clinics.'” It was simply a repost from the solidly-Catholic Lepanto Institute–and the bylines are identical, so it was likely just a copy-and-paste job from one author, probably to get twice the money/exposure for the same piece. Right around the time the Lepanto piece debuted, it was run with very few changes and a different byline on LifeNews. This little flurry of activity was King’s biggest break yet.

Finally King had found that most holiest of grails for the Cult of “Before” stories: a particularly gullible bunch of Christians who had a decently large reach. They’d hear his story and not question him or push back against the bizarre claims he was making–and they’d bring him to an audience eager to be titillated and shocked, one that had made the unfortunate mistake of assuming that these forced-birther sites had done the responsible legwork of vetting King and his stories and therefore could be trusted to relay accurate and credible information.

Zachary King couldn’t have lucked out more. These sites gave him a boost in credibility that money couldn’t possibly have bought. See this link for a Facebook exchange between the aforementioned Tim Miller and his followers when they expressed doubts in the story he’d linked on his page. His stated reason for buying into it was “it was printed in LifeNews who does a very good job of vetting themselves. They are a highly recognized and respected news source.”

prof laughing uncontrollably

And once he had their ears, King told Lepanto–and by extension LifeSiteNews and LifeNews–a story so shocking, so brutally horrific, so mind-bendingly evil and yet childishly pandering, that they embraced this slimeball to their bosoms without a second thought.

A First Glimpse At His Claims.

According to his own testimony as given to Lepanto, he was a typical Wichita kid–a slacker with nothing particular to recommend himself. He sounds like he’s around 40 now, so he’d have grown up amid the Satanic Panic. In the Cult of “Before” Stories, childhoods must either be horrifically abusive or idyllic; children are innocents, so their fall from grace and into “sin” must be as striking as possible–so that their redemptions back to their pre-sin innocence will be more impressive.

By the time he was in his mid-30s, he was working at a little jewelry kiosk–it sounds like he was in a mall environment. But this lowly, skeevy-looking retail wage-slave had had quite the adventurous life. Somehow he’d gotten involved with what he calls “magick” when he was only ten years old in Wichita, and from there he joined a real live Satanic “coven” when he was only 13. If he’s said which group he joined or gave any details about it, I haven’t seen it yet. And considering how many people he claims are Satanists working in abortion clinics, you’d think he’d have at least mentioned the domestic terrorism that the clinics faced right around then–like George Tiller, a Wichita provider (and committed Christian) who was attacked, shot, firebombed, and finally murdered by Christian terrorists, but who goes unnamed–along with all the other victims of the culture wars. King has another agenda here besides relaying truthful accounts of history.

The members of the Cult of “Before” stories are always very eager to make themselves seem as evil as possible before conversion, so that their “miraculous” 180-degree turnaround will seem all the more amazing to their marks. And indeed, King is very fond of stating in his interviews that he “had broken all 10 Commandments by the time he was 15 years old.”

NdGT We got a badass over here

He claims that he was inducted into the formal Worldwide Church of Satan when he turned 18–and then shortly thereafter made a High Wizard, a step which he hints was done at the direct command of Lord Satan himself. Yes. He makes a callback to a song by the artist Pink, which we first heard him doing back in 2011 with that Blogspot Catholic, by saying that his uniform looked like an outfit worn by a character in the video for that song. He says he was a High Wizard for “about 10 or 12 years,” so from 18-30ish. Like all the members of the Cult of “Before” Stories, he has to dabble in all of the boogeyman enemies’ stuff. For those immersed in the Satanic Panic, the scariest thing possible in an enemy is not only a Satanist, but a Satanist leader.

The hits just keep coming. King told Lepanto that his time assisting with abortions began when he was just barely 15 years old–and that it would be an extremely late-term abortion, because obviously we want the steady hand of a child right then. He also claims that at 14 and in a super-fundagelical-dominated part of the country with a Baptist family and in a community that was in the throes of the anti-abortion culture war, he had no idea what an abortion even was.

Somewhere along the way, he’d also traveled across the country and settled in Vermont, all without jeopardizing his leader position in the Satanic group, but that the best job he could find as a goddamned High Wizard was working in a jewelry kiosk. And he’d met, wooed, and married some lady without her ever finding out he was a Satanist at all. Maybe she just hadn’t found his monkeysuit, top hat, corpse makeup kit, and cane in his sock drawer yet.

In 2016, he told a New Zealand Catholic site that by the time he’d gotten to Vermont, he’d “assisted in 146 abortions.” He also upgraded his jewelry-kiosk job to be a manager position, I notice. It’s very important for the conjobs of the Cult of “Before” Stories to sound very important and powerful in their “sinful” pre-conversion narratives, so it’s kinda sad that that’s really the best he could manage. Oh well. At least if someone cut in line in front of him at the Orange Julius place at the mall, he could squeak at them, “Hey! Do you realize you just cut in front of a HIGH WIZARD OF THE LORD SATAN???” And yeah, sure, then they’d swirlie him in a mall toilet, but at least in that moment he’d have been totally euphoric.

There’s no mention of him ever obtaining any of the medical training he would have needed in order to legally participate in these abortions, of course, nor any evidence he was ever affiliated with any women’s clinics. The procedure he outlines to Lepanto is gruesome and weird, and it doesn’t even vaguely sound like any kind of real abortion I’ve ever heard of–but he’s counting on his audience to know as little about abortions and abortion clinics as, say, Tony Anthony counted on his own audiences to know about martial arts.

He couldn’t even be arsed to find out anything about actual Satanism before crafting his testimony. Indeed, the real Church of Satan has issued a formal denunciation of everything King is claiming about his time as a totally-for-realsies Satanist. They also compare him to Mike Warnke, the Cult of “Before” Stories’ first member. They ain’t the only ones who noticed those similarities, either.

The Long Con, Or Not.

Now, obviously this guy’s more full of cow patties than the north field. That said, I don’t like to just point and laugh at liars-for-Jesus. It’s fun, but it’s also low-hanging fruit–and there are just so many of them. If we did too much of that we’d never get anything else done.

So I thought I’d do something a little different next time. I want to show you how this guy fits into the model of a standard-issue Christian conjob, and what he’s doing that makes Christians believe a story that really, let’s face it, is so ludicrous that if the great conjobs in Christian conjob history had tried to run with it, they’d have been caught and exposed way too early to have made much headway in the game.

Part of me really does want to believe that King’s playing an extremely long-con game. As Fred does as well, I see some signs in his body of work that makes me think that maybe he’s saying some of this stuff just to see if he can dupe his audience into believing it. If that’s what he’s doing, then he needs to stop. They’re destroying their own credibility just fine without help.

But a much bigger part of me doesn’t think he’s trolling.

All signs point to him making these claims to enrich himself–so he’s sincere, or at least as sincere as we can expect out of a would-be Christian grifter.

So Roll to Disbelieve welcomes Zachary King, the newest member of the Cult of “Before” Stories!

Join us next time for a more in-depth examination of his claims and how they fit into the narrative that our cultists have found sells best to gullible Christians.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...