June 6, 2006, was touted as the day of the Antichrist's red- carpet arrival on Earth. That, um, obviously didn't happen. Were you disappointed?
A lot of people expected Christ to arrive for what was 2000 and they were disappointed, so I guess it made sense that the sixth of the sixth of the sixth would be a disappointment... If you live long enough, you see all these times come and go.
Best screen portrayal of the devil? AI Pacino in Devil's Advocate? Jack Nicholson in Witches Of Eastwick? Liz Hurley in Bedazzled? I would say Jack Nicholson. To me, he's like an archetypal devil.
In Hollywood and he's got a bit of a sense of humour.in Witches Of Eastwick, and I like to think that the devil does have a bit of a sense of humour.
Is your bookshop - The Haunted Bookshop in Melbourne - actually a haunted bookshop?
Yeah, it is. It's haunted by a ghost named Donald. We used to run seances many years ago - that's how we discovered him - and he would come through when we were doing these seance classes and introduce himself, saying, "Hello, my name is Donald, I died here many years ago. I fell down the stairs and I was drunk." This bookshop does have stairs to the basement - which I use for storage - so I thought, "That's very curious," because at [Donald's] time the basement area wasn't really utilised. Even a couple of years after we stopped doing the seance classes we had a tenant move in downstairs thinking they would take the space, and you'd never believe what they were: Alcoholics Anonymous.
What's the strangest thing that's happened in your shop?
Look, it's not the dead I have problems with, it's the living: I attract all sorts of strange people here. For me, the supernatural things aren't strange any more, it's my dealings with people. People who think they're vampires, for example. And the people who think I'm a vampire: they're a curious lot. The alien UFO people I find very strange because they'll be talking about aliens and UFO books, and I'll be talking with them, and then you'll see the penny beginning to drop in their heads that maybe I'm an alien. I always find that point when I'm dealing with alien UFO people very curious. Born-again Christians I find curious too, because a lot of them don't realise I studied theology and I can out-argue them. They walk out confused, especially when I say "God bless you!" at the end.
Are you going to hell? Are you looking forward to it?
A lot of Satanists don't believe in the supernatural, so when you start getting into subjects like where you think you'll go after you die, well, if they're social realists and militant atheists, they just say "oblivion". They just wouldn't entertain the idea of going into a fiery furnace or an icy wasteland.
Do you have sympathy for the devil?
I grew up in a very lower-middle class suburbia where not much was happening and I found this whole area of the occult enthralling. The devil represented everything in the area of the occult: witchcraft, magic, demons, paganism, psychic developments, tarot readings and even UFOs. Everything. And that was just wonderful. So, hanging over this was this great symbol called the devil and he drew me in. I wouldn't say I'm a worshipper because that sounds too ingratiating, but he's certainly a major influence in my life.
If you believe in the devil, does that mean you believe in God as well?
The more I read and the more I learn, I realise the less I know, so you will not nail me down to be terribly evangelical or closed- minded about even the devil. I'm not going to stand up here and say I'm fixed about there being a devil or not being a devil. I stand up here as a devil's advocate and say, "Well... what if there is?"
Are Satan, Lucifer and the devil all the same person? Is the devil a person, in fact?
If you line up 50 different people - whether they're 50 Satanists, 50 Christians or 50 Muslims - they're all going to argue among each other and everyone's going to believe that he or she is right about definitions. So, you know, the Christian church on a Sunday morning has a very different idea of the devil, Satan and Lucifer - lumping them all into one - compared to, say, someone who's a member of the Church of Satan. But I do meet Satanic groups who believe as fundamentalists - particularly the happy-clappy ones - that there is a devil who is a supernatural being whose minions are demons running around possessing souls.
You're a legal vampire. Wouldn't it be cooler to be an illegal one?
I never went to court applying for the title. A journalist wrote an article about me being a vampire and I thought, "Yeah, it's a bit of fun." Then what happens is I'm assaulted in the street because there are people who think I'm a really bad influence. I went to court and tried to take out a restraining order against this person. The guy gets a QC who thinks, "We'll just set this guy up as being a nut job." He .says, "Is it true that you're a vampire?" I said, "Well, yes - it's an integral part of the Melbourne gothic scene." And of course everyone laughed, but I said I'm a vampire because in that context I am. It dragged on for about six months and cost me about 12 grand but he [the attacker] ended up pleading guilty.
How many ghosts have you seen?
I'm 50 now and I've been going into ghost places and haunted houses since I was about 15. I wanted to write a book on ghosts, so when I was younger I had a lot of bizarre experiences. These experiences took me to joining the church and wanting to become an Anglican priest, and then joining ghost- research societies and joining the spiritualist church. And when I encountered the bizarre hauntings involving ghostly black figures - which to Catholic and Anglican people were the devil - I explored the idea of the devil. And when I started encountering people who thought the thing draining the energy in their house was a vampire. I became interested, so I went to Transylvania. I remember a medium telling me that if you explore this area, there are areas peering back at you. If you're not careful, you become the object of the thing you're investigating ...
And finally: where do we get a hat like yours?
The image is based on the most commonly seen ghost in Melbourne - I had the outfit made to specifications of witnesses who'd seen that character in their house. And so the hat: I got one in Israel - was studying to become a priest. It was stolen so I got one made locally to replicate it. But then I got it back because I had the police involved. But do you know the creepy thing? I've become the ghost. FHM