John Wayne Todd (May 19, 1949 – November 10, 2007), also known as “John Todd Collins”, “Lance Collins”, and “Christopher Kollyns”, was an American speaker and conspiracy theorist. He claimed to be a former occultist who was born into a ‘witchcraft family’ before converting to Christianity. He was a primary source for many Chick Publications works against Dungeons & Dragons, Catholicism, Neopaganism, and Christian rock. Although most of his activity was during the 1970s, his claims continue to be spread in many fundamentalist Christian circles.
Todd was discovered in 1968 preaching and married to a woman named Linda. He claimed to have been a witch “in the Navy”, but converted to Christianity while visiting a southern Californian Pentecostal church. After disappearing from public sight for a few months, Todd returned without his wife, saying that God told them to seek other mates. In 1969, Todd joined the United States Army, later saying that he did so with the intention of establishing a coven of witches. He claimed to have served as a Green Beret in Vietnam before being transferred to Germany, where he killed a commanding officer. His explanation for not serving jail time for this was that the Illuminati freed him from jail and eliminated his military records.
These records were later recovered by investigative journalists working for Christianity Today, who found that he had never been to Vietnam, but was only stationed in Germany for a few months before being discharged for psychiatric reasons and drug abuse. One report concluded that Todd found it difficult to distinguish reality and fantasy. After being discharged, he disappeared from public sight again until 1973.
During the early 1970s, Todd became one of a handful of speakers making the rounds in evangelical Christian circles warning young people against the occult. Like two other of those speakers, Hershel Smith and Mike Warnke (whose claims of being an ex-Satanist have likewise been disproved), Todd claimed to have been a Satanic high priest before his conversion, which he dated as 1972. (In one meeting between Todd and Warnke, the two had a backstage confrontation and Todd accused Warnke of stealing his testimony regarding the Illuminati.) Todd also claimed that John F. Kennedy was still alive and that he had been Kennedy’s “personal warlock”. Christian publisher Jack T. Chick created a comic book, “The Broken Cross”, based on Todd’s allegations that Satanists were taking over America. In 1973 allegations surfaced that he had been making sexual advances toward young women and teenage girls at Christian meetings and a Jesus Movement coffeehouse, was incorporating witchcraft teachings into his Bible studies, was carrying a .38 handgun into church meetings, and was using drugs. In addition, he impregnated his wife’s teenage sister. After some Christian leaders who had promoted him took steps to distance themselves, including evangelist Doug Clark denouncing him on his television show, Todd dropped out of sight from fundamentalist Christianity. During this time, Todd spoke in charismatic churches, claiming to have evidence that fundamentalist churches were tools of the Illuminati.
In 1974 Todd moved to Dayton, Ohio where he opened an occult bookstore and began recruiting for a Wiccan coven. In 1976 Todd became the subject of a criminal investigation over reports that he was involving underage girls in sexual initiation rituals for his coven. Following an investigation of his activities by neopagan leaders Isaac Bonewits and Gavin Frost, which uncovered drug use and underage sex, Frost’s Church and School of Wicca revoked the charter it had granted to Todd’s coven. He was convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and given a six-month sentence, but served only two months before being released due to epileptic fits.
Todd resurfaced in the evangelical Christian community in late 1977, this time claiming the existence of a vast Satanic conspiracy led by an order of witches called the Illuminati, supposedly including a number of Christian organizations and well-known Christian figures such as Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Bob Jones, Sr., Oral Roberts, and Pat Robertson.He claimed to have given, as a member of the Illuminati, $8 million to Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel to launch the Christian rock industry, which Todd said was a Satanic invention to entrap Christian young people in rock music and its “demonic beat”. He claimed that Falwell had been “bought off” by the Illuminati with a $50 million donation. He also claimed that US President Jimmy Carter was the Antichrist and that the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged was the Illuminati’s blueprint for unleashing a planned Satanic takeover. He urged Christians to stockpile weapons and food in preparation for a Satanic takeover in 1980. He found a niche speaking in fundamentalist Independent Baptist churches.
Tapes from Todd around 1979 just prior to dropping out of the public eye indicate that he had returned to teaching Oneness Pentecostal (aka, “Jesus Only”) theology. Todd dropped out of sight again after 1979, reportedly moving to rural Montana after issuing warnings that the Satanic takeover had begun. He was later reported to have delivered a speech in Cedar Falls, Iowa in 1983 at the invitation of Randy Weaver.
Todd was arrested in May 1987 for the rape of a University of South Carolina graduate student. After his arrest, he was additionally charged with sexually molesting two children who attended a karate school where he worked. He was convicted of the rape in January 1988 and sentenced to 30 years in state prison. In 2004, Todd was released, but he was put in the care of the Behavioral Disorder Treatment Unit run by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. On November 10, 2007, Todd died in the institute.
Inconsistencies in Todd’s testimony
Todd claimed to have served as a Green Beret in the Vietnam War, but his discharge papers list him as a general clerk/typist and do not record him having been in Vietnam. Army medical reports referred to “emotional instability with pseudologica phantastica” (compulsive lying), difficulty in telling reality from fantasy, homicidal threats he had made on another, false suicide reports, and a severe personality disturbance. Todd also claimed in his testimony to have murdered an officer in Germany and to have escaped prison with the help of the Illuminati, but his records show no such things occurred.
Todd’s speaking engagements during 1978 and 1979 generated controversy and sometimes hysteria at the churches he spoke at. Frequently, there were claims by Todd of gunshots in the parking lot or attacks on his life after the services, but there were no witnesses to confirm his claims.
While Todd claimed to have left witchcraft in 1972 and converted to fundamentalist Christianity, accounts have him being baptized into a Oneness Pentecostal church in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968, and leading a Wiccan group in Ohio in 1976. When confronted with the latter by Christian evangelists, Todd said that he had gone through a period of “backsliding” during that time. However, when a number of other inconsistencies in Todd’s story were reported in the evangelical Christian media, and Todd began denouncing many Christian leaders as part of the Satanic conspiracy or the Illuminati, many evangelists denounced Todd and cut off any further association. Jack Chick was the only influential evangelist to continue to defend Todd.
Several evangelical Christian ministries investigated Todd’s claims and published articles disputing them. These included Cornerstone magazine, the Christian Research Institute, Christianity Today magazine, and the book The Todd Phenomenon by Darryl E. Hicks (with an introduction by Mike Warnke).
Publications based on Todd’s claims
Todd has appeared in several of Jack Chick’s publications. Chick first promoted Todd’s message in comic form in the comic book The Broken Cross, which portrays a northern California town controlled by organized Satanists. Another Chick comic book, Spellbound?, expresses “deepest appreciation to John Todd, ex-grand druid priest”. In it, a character called “Lance Collins” claims that Satanists control the rock music industry
and are infiltrating churches, and urges Christians to burn their rock music records, Ouija boards and Dungeons & Dragons game sets. A third Chick comic, Angel of Light, includes a chart purporting to depict Satan’s power structure, based on a similar chart authored by Todd and distributed at his speeches.
Todd’s stories about the Illuminati were published as the comic book The Illuminati and Witchcraft in 1980 by Jacob Sailor. His claims partially became the basis for a different book, Witchcraft and the Illuminati published in the early 1980s by The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, a Christian Identity group, and reprinted in 1999 by the Christian Patriot Association (ISBN 0-944379-18-4). This book repeated many of Todd’s claims, including the alleged power structure of the Illuminati and the idea that Atlas Shrugged was the Illuminati’s secret blueprint, but added Identity beliefs derogatory toward Jews and African-Americans.
After Todd’s veracity was questioned and investigated, Chick continued to defend him and publish tracts based on Todd’s life. Author Cynthia Burack wrote that Chick often made “excuses for behaviours that were inconsistent with Todd’s status as a high-profile Christian convert,” and that his “propensities to indulge in conspiracy theory and to lash out at putative allies who question his conclusions” in his defense of Todd and other controversial figures (namely Alberto Rivera and Rebecca Brown) resulted in a split between himself and the conservative Christian movement.