5 Beloved Famous People With Creepy Secret Obsessions
Celebrities believe in all sorts of crazy things, like The Secret or Xenu or yoga. But there's an invisible line they won't cross, because if they do, they know that public opinion would turn against them so thoroughly that it would utterly ruin their career. That line is the occult. You might spot Tom Cruise raving about energy spirits outside of Spago, but you'll never catch some beloved performer straight up worshiping the devil. Wait, what's that you say, paragraph immediately below this one?
Sammy Davis Jr. Worshiped the Devil
The 1960s were a simpler time. Soda pop cost a nickel, young ladies wore poodle skirts, and the whole country was in love with a crooning, one-eyed, black Satanist.
Better than a flying purple people eater.
That's right: For many years, Sammy Davis Jr. was a member of the Church of Satan. As you might expect, Davis had to keep this whole matter fairly private or else the truth could ruin him. Alternatively, he could opt to straight up not give a shit and star in the world's first sitcom set in hell. Davis chose the latter path and took the lead role in a pilot called Poor Devil, also starring Adam "Batman" West and Christopher motherfuckin' Saruman Lee as Lucifer! That the show isn't still on today is undeniable proof that the Nielsen ratings system is rigged. Alas, Poor Devil was simply too perfect to live. But Sammy's ballsy choice in roles did pique the interest of Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, who made the entertainer into a full-fledged card-carrying warlock.
To further taunt the fickle God of public opinion, Sammy Davis Jr. also released an album called Satan Swings, Baby! It featured ditties like "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Devil in Disguise," as well as a duet with LaVey himself, who hopefully sang in a beautiful, unwavering falsetto, because how awesome would that be?
Anyone who can hit the high note in "Lovin' You" can't be all bad.
Eventually the Candy Man lost interest in Satanism, like so many teenage goths. In his memoir Why Me? Davis vaguely alludes to some kind of break off from the church. There are no specifics, but we blame the devil's girlfriend for the breakup. She showed up to practice one day with a xylophone and totally Yoko'd the band.
The Lincolns Summoned the Dead
According to the Boston Gazette, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln held a friggin' seance in the White House. Abe, Mary Todd, two cabinet secretaries, a reporter, and a trance medium named Charles E. Shockle sat down in the White House (basement?) to contact the spirit world. There is no report of whether or not Lincoln's mother interrupted them with pizza rolls.
"Moooooooooom, get out!"
Shockle channeled a cadre of dead folk for the Great Emancipator, from restless Native Americans to Henry Knox -- the secretary of war for George Washington. For his part, Abe didn't seem to take it very seriously. He pitched softball political questions at the dead and joked about their answers. So there was Mary Todd Lincoln (taking this all very seriously), one stunned reporter, two uncomfortable politicians, and the president of the United States lounging around, casually mocking ghosts. As for Shockle, he was so stressed out that he straight up fainted -- twice. Guess he was a bit nervous to be pulling parlor tricks for a furious super-powered giant with command over an entire nation. Go figure.
The seance was likely a PR stunt -- judging by both Lincoln's jovial approach and the fact that he invited a reporter -- because spiritualism and table readings were a popular pastime in the Western World. It was the era's equivalent of going bowling, or "having a beer with a soldier." But regardless of Abe's opinion, Mary Todd Lincoln was balls deep in the netherworld. The supernatural was a lifelong interest for her, but after Abraham's death, she went full bore. Mary began attending table readings and seances all over the nation, hoping to contact her dead husband. The media obviously used this unseemly obsession to smear her reputation, so Mrs. Lincoln began using pseudonyms. It wasn't enough: Mary Todd's only surviving son, Robert, briefly had her thrown in a sanatorium for wasting her money on this spiritualistic nonsense, among other things.
"No, Mom, a Sega Dreamcast is not 'pretty much the same thing' as a PS3!"
So wait, you can institutionalize somebody for wasting money on ghosts? Quick, somebody call the Syfy Channel and have them tell the Ghost Hunters to start packing.
Joan Rivers: Ghostbuster
In the early 1990s, comedian Joan Rivers lived in a New York City apartment that she claimed was haunted. She complained about strange noises, changes in temperature, and unexplained pornographic scribblings popping up everywhere. For some reason, she attributed this to "ghosts" instead of "New Yorkers being New Yorkers."
"Everyone is at a loss as to why the bodies of all these New Jerseyans and Red Sox fans keep showing up here."
Rivers, rather than checking her closet for squatting Knicks fans, consulted a parapsychologist, who then referred her to a Voodoo priestess named Sallie Ann Glassman. Glassman and Rivers met and began working on the haunted apartment. According to Glassman, the process of exorcising a demon with Voodoo involves a lot of sacred artifacts and stern commands. Translation: She waved some junk around and yelled at the ghost really loudly. The process seemed to be going so well, in fact, that Glassman and Rivers went on to cleanse the whole building. Following true sitcom logic, Rivers went back upstairs, leaving Glassman briefly alone, when a group of tenants walked into their own building to find a lone Voodoo priestess wearing a black robe and holding a sword while screaming at a ghost. This was presumably followed by Jimmie Walker shouting "Dyn-o-mite!" and John Ritter tripping over an ottoman.
Daryl Hall Is a Warlock
Remember when your crazy evangelical mom threw all of your albums into a bonfire because they were "the devil's music"? Was there any Hall & Oates up in there? No? You still had that copy of Private Eyes collecting dust on the shelf? That's probably because Daryl Hall's black magic wanted it that way.
But all you had to do was ask, Daryl. All you had to do was ask.
Daryl Hall, also known as "the pretty one" (sorry, Oates -- you look like somebody shrank Edward James Olmos and gave him half of Tom Selleck's mustache), fostered a long-term occult interest that peaked right around his first solo album, Sacred Songs. The album directly references Aleister Crowley's Magick Without Tears in its final track, "Without Tears." It also alludes to Hall's own great-grandfather being a sort of warlock or male witch -- a fact that he reiterates in this interview.
Hall describes a period of six or seven years starting around 1974 -- which you'll recognize as the height of Hall & Oates' success -- in which he studied "the Chaldean, Celtic, and druidic traditions" and techniques for "focusing the inner flame." Clearly, there was some sort of deal with the devil going on there. And now, Hall & Oates is a pop-culture punchline in a Cracked article. Truly, Satan gives, and he takes away.
The Reagans Ruled Through the Power of Numerology
Quick: Think about Ronald Reagan.
You'll notice two things. One: You no longer have an erection. Two: You're picturing a kindly looking old man in a faded blue suit. He is the very picture of normality.
Wait, what if you still have an erection?
But that's only because you don't know him all that well. Ronald Wilson Reagan was well-read on the occult, and both he and his wife Nancy were way into astrology. Back when he was California's governor-elect, Reagan scheduled his oath of office to take place at 12:10 a.m. to take advantage of a significant star alignment. After Reagan was shot in 1981, Nancy began visiting notable California astrologist Joan Quigley. The influence of Quigley's star charts dictated everything from Reagan's speaking calendar to the exact takeoff and landing times of Air Force One.
In the long run, the Reagans' beliefs were mostly harmless superstition -- he wasn't sacrificing virgins to please the Almighty Economy or anything. But still, it shatters your image somewhat to think that, at some point, Air Force One was idling on the runway, the entire cabin completely silent with anticipation, as Ronald Reagan focused on his watch. Then, suddenly, the president of the United States of America shouted, "NOW! THE STARS DEMAND WE TAKE OFF RIGHT NOW!" and everybody sprang into frantic action.
"Too slow! Come on, people! Let's slaughter another goat and try again."
For more from Jake you can follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Flores
For more bizarre celebrity behavior, check out 8 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Geeks. Or discover the 5 Animals That Could Take Over the World (If They Wanted To).