27 South Clinton Street, Poughkeepsie
In central Poughkeepsie, very close to the east-bound arterial, lies the ‘Witchcraft District,” an area with no formal boundaries that is home to a community of members of the Church of Satan. It is here that Satanists have found spaces to congregate, where black cloaks and bloody daggers are simply part of life, rather than frightening oddities. Interspersed with non-Satanic residents, members have found space to express their true selves with like-minded individuals.
Poughkeepsie is home to an unofficial stronghold of the Church of Satan. The hub of this community, until 2021, was located at 27 South Clinton Street, a site variously known as the Halloween House, the House of Netherworld and the Witch House. Joseph Mendillo, known as Joe Netherworld, had lived in the house from 1999 until January 2020, when he passed away.
The house was full of Victorian furniture and Satanic paraphernalia inhabited every nook and cranny, creating an atmosphere of Halloween spookiness that intimidated and inspired. According to The New York Times, the house included a red ballroom, candelabras, a rotating chandelier, an Elvira pinball machine and a respectable tiki cup collection. The theatrical nature of the house manifested Netherworld’s roots on Broadway, where he worked as a set designer honing his skills in the world of spectacle and show.
Mendillo and his house were vibrant and engaged members of the surrounding community. Trick-or-treaters flocked to the home every Halloween to revel in the fantastical show Netherworld and his fellow Satanists would put on. Flashing lights and ghoulish sounds mixed with huge of smoke billowing around the porch as Joe commanded the scene in complex and terrifying costumes. One neighbor told a Vassar College film crew, “I would put 20 Joes on every single side of [my house]…I’d be the happiest person imaginable.”
In addition to being known for such theatrical displays, Mendillo had a reputation for welcoming members of the LGBTQ+ community into his home. He provided them with a community support system and, often, a hot meal and place to stay. The house was even the site of the first legal same-sex Satanic wedding in New York State, performed by Joe himself in 2013.
Early in the morning of January 14, 2021, a masked arsonist doused the front entrance of the house with gasoline and set it on fire, destroying the building and the majority of the extensive satanic paraphernalia collection. Occupied by a fellow Satanist and friend of Joe Mendillo, the residents were able to escape unharmed as the house went up in flames.
The Church of Satan, as demonic as it may sound, is based on ideals of atheism, individualism, and self-expression. While the Church has an official hierarchy and shared belief system, its structure is highly individualistic. There are no local chapters or meeting places. As such, there are no formal mechanisms to connect interested individuals with fellow Satanists in their area. Instead, Satanists are largely left to their own devices to practice as they see fit.
Before his passing, Joe built a flourishing garden in his backyard complete with a koi pond and series of paths that partially survived the fire. Fellow Satanists in the Witchcraft District have expressed a desire to turn the lot where the Halloween House once stood into a small community park.
Take the “P” line bus from the Poughkeepsie Transit Hub (Market and Main), and get off at Cannon St. and Clinton St. (One Civic Center Plaza). Walk South along Clinton St. for one block.
To learn more:
Vicki Marquette, director. America’s Favorite Satanist, Vimeo, 2009.
“Official Church of Satan Website.” Church of Satan, 18 Sept. 2018.
Lucinda Carroll, Geography, Class of 2023.