The Tragic History of Mike Warnke
By Jon Trott & Mike Hertenstein
Copyright 1992 by Jon Trott & Mike Hertenstein.
Mike Warnke at College
Here begins the critical period described in The Satan Seller, the defining moment of Mike Warnke's 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. Warnke's military records say he entered the navy on June 2, 1966. Therefore, whatever happened in Mike's life regarding Satanism had to have happened between September 13, 1965, and June 2, 1966. (See sidebar, 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 my own case, being away from home at college and not having any close friends there meant that almost no one could have known what was happening to me except, of course, the members of the Satanic Brotherhood, and they were not telling!
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 Mike's 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, he'd 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, he'd talked his way into living with us."
Greg's college girl friend, Dawn Andrews, gave us her assessment. "The first time I saw Mike Warnke was at Greg's house. He was introduced to me as Greg's 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 imagination."
Dyana Cridelich was another of Mike Warnke's 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? Don't you remember, about the most exciting thing we used to do was play croquet in Greg's backyard?"
In The Satan Seller, Mike never mentions croquet. He was to busy becoming a teenage alcoholic.
I attended classes regularly at first, but I wasn't about to cut down on my drinking. As the days went by, it became harder to concentrate on what the professors were saying, but I could still talk my way out of anything, and this carried me through. I was drinking so much by now, it was starting to wreck my stomach.
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 weren't 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 didn't see each other."
His friends remember Mike Warnke as thin, with thick glasses and short hair. He was bright, he was mainly happy--though 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:
I made a return trip to the Salvation Army and bought some black pants and freaky shirts. My hair was longer than ever, and I bleached it blond. I was really craving attention, and I got it. You know, weird people attract chicks.
"He looked like everybody else," says Greg. He did have one constant accessory, a silver cross. (This cross Warnke gave to Dyana, she says.)
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 couldn't dance there. It was very small, and packed with chairs. As far as alcohol, we only served coffee at a penny a cup. That's where the place got its name." As for remembering Mike and the fake English accent? "No. is this a joke?"Storytelling in the Tomahawk Room