'Hell to pay': Church of Satan mourns arson at New York 'Halloween House'

This article is more than 1 month old
  • Addams Family-style home in Poughkeepsie burns
  • Member Isis Vermouth promises hex on culprit
Church of Satan sign. Surveillance footage showed a man walking up to the house with two gas cans, splashing liquid on the front porch and igniting it.
Church of Satan sign. Surveillance footage showed a man walking up to the house with two gas cans, splashing liquid on the front porch and igniting it. Photograph: church of satan
Church of Satan sign. Surveillance footage showed a man walking up to the house with two gas cans, splashing liquid on the front porch and igniting it. Photograph: church of satan
and agencies

First published on Sat 16 Jan 2021 13.47 EST

Members of the Church of Satan are grieving the destruction of a historic “Halloween House” north of New York City that authorities say was set ablaze by an unidentified arsonist.

The home, built in 1900, served as an Addams Family-style hub for local adherents of the religion, the Poughkeepsie Journal reported.

Surveillance footage showed a man walking up to the house after 5am on Thursday with two gas cans, splashing liquid on the front porch and igniting it. Two people escaped the house unharmed, authorities said.

Peter H Gilmore, high priest of the Church of Satan, paid tribute in a “requiem” to the house and its former owner, Joe “Netherworld” Mendillo, a church member and “dark side Martha Stewart” who died last year.

“Joe’s legacy will live on, even though the extraordinary home he so carefully cultivated has been destroyed through the hateful act of some deeply disturbed individual,” Gilmore said in the statement, which the Church of Satan sent to the Hlcarpenter.com via Twitter.

“There is melancholy poetry to the thought that the ashes of Magister Netherworld himself, stored in his haunted palace, have now mingled with those of that brooding structure he made a reflection of his essence, melding them for all time, and infusing that unholy plot for eternity.”

Another member of the church likened the arson to a terrorist attack.

“Everybody’s in shock and everyone in the neighborhood is worried,” the church member, who goes by the name Isis Vermouth, told the Poughkeepsie newspaper. “Whoever did this is going to be hexed by all of us.

“Now there’s going to be hell to pay.”

The home on South Clinton Street was decorated with devil sculptures. A hearse long sat in its driveway, and a sign over the garage read “Devil’s Garage”. The house served as a gathering place to celebrate Halloween and showcased the beliefs of its longtime former owner.

Gilmore said Mendillo would greet trick or treaters personally and give candy to children who came to his residence, which he said was also known as “the House of Netherworld”. He characterized Mendillo as a “dark side Martha Stewart”.

“Those who took the time to research our religion learned that it is not devil worship but instead an atheist philosophy of individualism, liberty and self-fulfillment,” he said.

“Whether they felt sympathetic to those views or not, Joe was always gracious and offered people advice on gardening, home restoration and décor, among other topics. He was a knowledgeable man and generous to those requesting his informed perspective.”

Mendillo’s other accomplishments, Gilmore noted, were performing “the first legal same-sex Satanic wedding in New York state” and working “to create a monument to that famed director of weird films, Edward D Wood Jr, who spent part of his youth in Poughkeepsie.”

Chris Petsas, a city councilman, told the Journal the house “was extraordinarily different. It wasn’t your normal home.”

It is unlikely the home will be restored because of the extensive fire damage, said Gilmore, who lives down the block in what church members refer to as Poughkeepsie’s “Witchcraft District”.

• This article was amended on 17 January 2021 to remove a picture from inside a building of the Satanic Temple, which is a different organisation to the Church of Satan.