Satanic Ménage à trois.
In my pocket I always carry with me a very special coin. It’s there to remind me that I do things for my own sake and not for others; to satisfy my own ego and not allow anyone else to do it for me. If I can do something for myself and be happy about it, that should be it. I’m not doing it to get applause from others, I’m doing it to please myself.
This coin once belonged to the mysterious and mild-mannered museum clerk Knud Langkow, who spent at least 30 years hiding his custom made coins mostly in churches, but from time to time in other places of authority (police stations, museums etc.). It all began in the late sixties with mysterious and cryptic letters to departments inside the government and other places, but became big in 1973 when strange letters from an alleged satanic sect was sent out people of power, telling them that they were invited to human sacrifices, drinking blood and other fun activities on the island of Anholt, May 13th 1973. This created some kind of early “satanic panic” in Denmark, and after 1973 the coins started to show up more and more, sometimes together with letters and photos and other occult artifacts.
One name that showed up was Alice Mandragora, the high priestess of this satanic cult. Her name is on some of the coins also, together with other characters like Karl Klunck and Dunk Wognal. The latter name is of course an anagram for Knud Langkow, once described by a museum colleague as “completely ordinary, quite conventional and gray.” At one of the photos found in a church Knud himself dressed in drag and horns, as Ms. Mandragora herself. I bet his colleague didn’t expect that!
Knud passed away during New Year’s Eve, December 2003, 72 years old and left us behind with all his secrets. Why did he do this? What did Alice Mandragora mean to him? No one knows for sure, but his niece, Lene Langkow Saaek, told the Danish newspaper Politiken the following words: “I think normality annoyed him. He did not like the ordinary. He did it to make fun of the bourgeoisie and to get people out of their chairs and to wonder. He wanted to leave his mark on the world.” She also added he was an atheist with an elevated, intelligent humor. So what was going on here? Why did he troll Denmark, and some other countries, for such a long time without making himself known? I don’t think Langkow saw himself as a satanist or devil worshiper, or even an occultist, and I even doubt he was that aware of the Church of Satan and Anton LaVey, but there is this LaVeyan prankster personality over him, even without LaVey’s visual enthusiasm for capes, goatees and pentagrams.
But I would say that Langkow, without knowing it himself, was a true satanist. He did this thing, this enormous prank, just for himself. He never claimed acknowledgement for it, he never told anyone — he never bragged; he just decided to live the best life he could live with the conditions he had. He wasn’t rich, he wasn’t famous, he wasn’t a person that stood out in the crowd; but on the inside, in his private sphere, he lived a life as a satanic high priestess, trolling a whole country just for the fun of it. Imagine creating that world and sharing it to unsuspecting citizens, and doing it for so many years? What a powerful Ideaspace he had, and what a success it was. He made himself immortal just by doing what he wanted to do, and it was the only way he could do it. Maybe he saw himself like a superhero, a boring clerk during the day and Alice Mandragora, the satanic priestess during the night. Considering he took the part of Alice I suspect his partner, Vita, was the person behind the name Karl Klunck — a male name, like they’d switched genders in the story. Maybe Vita was behind it all as much as Knud, maybe they did it together, like the loving, caring and fun couple they were? Maybe she was his muse? According to his relatives Vita meant a lot to him, she encouraged him and had the same kind of personality — and that alone can make a person happy with what he or she has, without craving attention.
Compared to Knud I like attention, at least to a certain level, but every time I feel that dark, twisted feeling of lacking acknowledgement for something I might deserve, something that’s not that important, I grasp the coin in my pocket and remind myself that if Knud could have a blast during a big part of his life without claiming either fame or fortune — I can do it too. Because all that matters is me and what I can do to live a fulfilling life, with or without an audience.
It’s also about the power of secrets also; Knud held this part of his life to himself, and that also gave him a lot more power to stay focused and find a meaning with his life.
But tragedy struck in November 2003 when Vita passed away, and two months later, on New Year’s Eve, Knud left his keys and wallet at his kitchen table, took a bottle of wine with him and went to the place where Vita was buried, the Vestre Cemetery in Copenhagen. As the fireworks exploded above him he laid down on the grass by his beloved Vita’s grave and let the cold send him into an eternal sleep. “I don’t want to live a half-life”, he told his brother after Vita’s death.
Knud Langkow lived his life exactly as he wanted to, during the circumstances. He created an amazing world as Alice Mandragora, he created a legend and made himself immortal. Why he did what he did on the cemetery that cold December night none of us can’t fully understand, but that’s also one of the many secrets of Knud, Vita and their dear, elusive friend Alice.
Long Live Knud and Vita!
All Hail Alice Mandragora!
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.
“Mysteriet om satanmønterne fra Anholt” (Gudrun Marie Schmidt & Camilla Stockman, Politiken, October 19, 2013)
“The Island of Lucifer” (Kristian Ussing Andersen & Jonas Bech, 2012)