Alistair Pugh was a young man with a troubled family background who found himself lured on a dark journey into the occult - and says he became so evil he was even poised to carry out a murder.
For several years he was drawn ever deeper into Satanism, constructing an altar in his flat and recruiting his own coven in a quiet Co Antrim coastal town.
Pugh says that he practised rituals, saw demons which left claw marks on him, watched the eyes of his friend change colours, drank blood and was days away from killing a man when clergy at a local church intervened, casting out the evil spirits.
It's a chilling tale, made all the more so for the matter-of-fact way Pugh, now a pastor, recounts the alarming events that engulfed his life in Whitehead in the mid-1990s.
And though he's aware that many will treat what he has to say with scepticism, he's telling his story to warn parents about the dangers of mistaking Halloween as just an opportunity for family fun.
"It's that time of year when people treat the occult as a joke, but it's not a joke," says Pugh (46). "It destroyed my life. Anton Szandor LaVey, who wrote The Satanic Bible, said he was glad that ordinary people allow their children to worship Satan at least once a year.
"Parents think Halloween's innocent, but what sits behind it is demonic. Ask an alcoholic what they regret most and they'll say their first drink. People who go into the occult always remember their first Halloween night, when the parent says it's OK to be evil because it's just a bit of fun."
Pugh was drawn into Satanism by a friend, Nigel, who is also now a pastor (he asked to be known only by his first name). At the time he was dealing with the emotional fallout from an unhappy adolescence. He felt vulnerable and "was searching for a purpose in life".
His idyllic childhood in Newtownards ended when he was 11 with his father's sudden death.
"Mum had my baby brother seven days after dad died but couldn't hold him for four months. She was on a downward spiral - and it was the start of mine too."
When his mother met a new partner Pugh, his two older sisters and two younger brothers moved to his farm near Carrickfergus. He hated his late stepfather. "During my first week there he forced me to watch him drown his dog's puppies, he was horrible," Pugh says.
He was bullied at school because of a speech impediment and, at 16, thrown out of the family home. He slept rough and, aged 17, he joined the Army but quit after 93 days. "It wasn't for me."
After drifting for a few years, he'd a second stab at an Army career but again dropped out and got a council flat in Whitehead where he led an aimless existence "drinking and taking drugs". But that all changed one day in 1995 when, aged 20, he ran into his pal Nigel, whom he'd first met in his late teenage years. This time round his friend shared the secret of his Satanism.
"Nigel said: 'Mate, I've found something you might be interested in, something that will change your life'. And everyone is searching for a reason they're alive…
"Nigel collected two large black bags at his parents' house, then we drove to my place in Whitehead. He went into my back room and after a while called me in. He'd the place blacked out and a temple set up with an altar, chalices, daggers. I thought it was all a bit crackpot.
"But then he did a ritual and we read from The Satanic Bible. Nothing actually happened, but there was this sense about the place. I was hooked. I'd found my reason for being. And I just got deeper into it. We formed our own coven."
Unlike Pugh, who wasn't from a churchgoing family, Nigel's background was Presbyterian but he'd rowed constantly with his father and turned his back on Christianity. A fan of heavy metal bands like Slayer and Black Sabbath, he felt depressed and increasingly drawn to the darker side of life. Curious about the occult, he'd found books on the subject in Waterstones.
He also told a captivated Pugh about a life-changing incident. "Nigel said that he'd been in his room and had a candle on the floor.
"He'd said: 'OK Satan, if this is really what you want for me, make this flame hit the ceiling'. Suddenly, the flame turned neon blue and hit the ceiling. Nigel thought 'he means business'. He felt chosen."
Pugh continues: "Soon we're doing this stuff every night; making plans, doing purposes, studying, taking on more responsibility. It was: what level do you want to go to? Do you want to do demonology? Animal sacrifice? Black magic? The more evil that we sensed, the more we'd do it."
Wary of sparking curiosity, Pugh is reluctant to give explicit details about their occult activities. As the conversation continues, however, he does reveal some startling episodes.
Talking about the prevalence of the occult in modern society and how he bought his first Ouija board in Eason's, Pugh explains: "People think with Ouija boards that glasses fly across rooms and demons come out, but it doesn't work like that. But when you get into demonology and you're seeing figures behind you trying to grab you by the throat, you're being pinned down on your bed, can't move and get claw marks down your legs, you're lying there screaming… that's when you know you've gone too far. That happened to us. I'd see Alastair's eyes change colours and it freaked me out."
He recalls an incident one night Nigel was driving home from Whitehead.
"Visualisation is important. It was cold and there was condensation on his back windscreen. In it he could make out the shape of Baphomet, the half-man, half-goat devil. You knew who you belonged to. We'd sold our souls to the Devil." Pugh dismisses any suggestion he may have had drug-induced hallucinations.
"I only smoked marijuana. It definitely wasn't that."
And he's still distressed by the animal sacrifice, even though it was infrequent. "It took time to forgive myself," he says. "It wasn't dragging sheep through the flat, but when you feel the need to take the life of a little creature, it's demonic. How could we have done something so horrible to those wee things?
"You've this sense of being empowered, of being evil, that no one is going to mess with you. We were just wee hard men looking for some kind of focus in life and assumed this was it."
Other people sensed how evil they were, says Pugh. The occupants of all the other flats in the building moved out. The postman refused to deliver Pugh's mail. Locals crossed the road to avoid them.
Ironically, what marked the beginning of the end of their Satanism was a covert visit to a prayer meeting at Ballyclare Elim, a church they were plotting to wreck.
"We went to pray to our then master Satan for the church would be destroyed. Halfway through the service the pastor, Denis Harkness, stopped and said: 'There are two men here involved with the occult. God wants you to know He loves you'. That wasn't when I gave my heart to Jesus, but it was when I met Him."
Unsettled by the experience, he later raised the subject with Nigel, who said that growing up he'd been told that Jesus had died on the Cross for him.
Pugh says: "I'd tried to kill myself twice during that period. With the coven, the drinking, the drugs, I'd lost all hope. I didn't know someone could love me enough to die for me. So I said to God: 'If you are real, change my life'. But my life didn't change overnight so I went into the occult even more strongly. We wanted to do rituals that needed more people. Now, I wanted to start killing people who'd done stuff to us, though we never did."
A particularly low point was enlisting the only friend he'd had during his miserable school years. "He'd lost family members in tragic circumstances and I told him if he didn't join my coven I'd kill the rest of his family. He did join. That's a huge regret, even though he's forgiven me."
If the occult was pulling Pugh in ever deeper, it was losing its hold on Nigel since their visit to Ballyclare Elim. A year later and following a series of encounters with Christians, he attended Whitewell Metropolitan Church and became one himself.
Dismayed, Pugh took over as high priest and expanded the coven - recruits were always male and while it only had three members at its peak, others drifted in and out of it.
But eight months later while painting skirting boards in Nigel's mother's house he encountered two pastors. "They'd called to speak with Nigel, but started talking to me. I knew in my heart this was my last chance to turn my life around," he says.
"I poured my heart out to them. They took me to Whitewell that Wednesday night. At the start of the service I ran out. They caught me, brought me back inside and pinned me down in the chair. At the end, Pastor McConnell said: 'There's a man involved in the occult here who wants to get saved'. I was dragged kicking and screaming to the front and that's when I gave my life to Jesus. Afterwards about 200 people went to Pastor [James] McConnell to say they saw demons leaving my body that night.
"I asked Pastor McConnell why this didn't happen the first time I'd met Jesus. He said: 'Some demons don't go out except through prayer and fasting, and I had been praying and fasting for you since Monday'."
For a few years Pugh and Nigel lost touch. There was a sense they'd dragged each other down. Pugh got a job and his driving licence "and went to church three times a week", but felt life had plateaued.
He resisted a call to preach because of his speech impediment, but after nine years he enrolled at Belfast Bible College. There, he spotted Nigel's photograph on the wall and realised he'd graduated the previous year. Nigel is now a minister in Belfast and was reconciled to his father for the last eight years of his life.
After serving as a pastor in Newtownards, Millisle and Birmingham, Pugh's been based in Halifax for the last three years. His wife Veronica is a primary school teacher.
After fearing they couldn't have children and a failed IVF attempt, Isabella (4) and Micah (3) arrived. There have been tumultuous discoveries, including that the man who raised him until he was 11 wasn't his biological father. While they don't share a typical mother/son bond, Pugh cares for his mum and takes the grandchildren to see her.
Currently visiting Northern Ireland, he feels inordinately blessed.
"I don't deserve a life like this - lovely home, lovely wife, kids, being a vicar. If we hadn't gone to that church in Ballyclare, I'd have killed myself long ago.
"People are searching for something but they're searching in the wrong places, trying to find meanings in star signs and Tarot cards. That's a doorway to a dark place where the enemy wants to pull you down."