Stupid Question ™
Feb. 17, 2000
By John Ruch
Q: Why is the phrase “Yankee Rose” stamped on the last page of the “Satanic Bible”?
A: Possibly the wildest of the ’60s gurus, the late Anton LaVey (nee Howard Stanton Levey) founded the Church of Satan in San Francisco in 1966.
In 1969, Avon Books published his “Satanic Bible”—equal parts humanism and Nietzscheism with “satanic” trappings tacked on with a knowing wink.
On the last page of the book, about three inches below the final text, appeared the phrase, “YANKEE ROSE.” Readers have pondered the phrase’s meaning ever since—especially since LaVey never explained it before his death in 1997.
The phrase isn’t really “stamped”; it’s in the same font as the rest of the text, but larger and inkier. It’s in capital letters and slightly tilted off-center.
It has no relation to anything else in the book. The phrase also appears at the end of the index on the Church of Satan’s web site, suggesting it has stand-alone meaning.
Speculation has ranged from anglicized foreign phrases to clever anagrams.
Michael Aquino, estranged LaVey associate and founder of the rival Satanic group Temple of Set, said that LaVey and his wife Diane once told him “Yankee Rose” was a legendary ghost ship. I have been unable to find a reference to any such legend.
All the Church of Satan will say is, “Dr. LaVey wanted the significance to remain a mystery and we respect his wishes.”
However, the church also pointed me to a CD on which LaVey basically spills the beans—1995’s “Satan Takes a Holiday,” on which he demonstrates his organ-playing talent.
One of the songs on the album is “Yankee Rose,” a 1920s (possibly 1926) piece with words by Sidney Holden and music by Abe Frankl. It’s a patriotic love song addressed to the Statue of Liberty and perhaps the flag.
According to LaVey’s estranged daughter, Zeena Schreck, the song was part of LaVey’s repertoire during his regular Wurlitzer organ gig at San Francisco’s Lost Weekend nightclub in the 1950s.
Surely the phrase refers to this song. But why? Aquino suggests an inside joke, and he’s probably right—LaVey loved practical jokes, and also wrote of the value of stringing people along with fake “secrets.”
The joke probably died with LaVey. But there are some further hints.
In a Rolling Stone interview, he derided “occult” heavy metal bands, saying that forgotten pop songs were truly “occult” music. “LaVey keeps a list of such lost songs,” Rolling Stone said.
LaVey once wrote about using old pop music in Satanic rituals: “I have my personal favorites which are readily identifiable with meaningful situations. Perhaps one day I will share them with you, and it will be seen that many Satanists…favor the same tunes!”
LaVey perhaps considered “Yankee Rose” the devil’s best tune—and was amused at how many Satanists unwittingly agreed.