Weird Wednesdays: The Devil and Gerald Mayo


Gerald Mayo had a pretty shitty life.

In 1971, at the tender age of 22, he was imprisoned at the Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, a maximum security prison that famously held sex cult leader George Feigley.

Mayo was frustrated by the path he’d been led on. Searching for an answer, he realized he knew the entity who had led him to such wickedness—whom, thus, was to blame for his current situation. Justice had to be served.

And that’s how Gerald Mayo decided to sue the devil.

Now, this isn’t the first time someone’s tried to lodge a lawsuit against the metaphysical. In 2008, Nebraska State Sen. Ernie Chambers sued God for invoking “terrorist threats” against his Omaha constituents by way of natural disasters.

The thing about serving papers to nonphysical entities is not so much argument over their existence, as the inability to serve them a court summons or notify them of the lawsuit, which is required for a case to be heard. Chambers argued that God would know of the court dates through His omniscience. The judge disagreed, and the case was thrown out on the basis of God not having an address to send court papers to.

In Mayo’s case, he wished to sue Satan, since “he alleges that Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff’s downfall.” ()

Because of this, he lodged that the devil has deprived him of his constitutional rights. (Never mind that Satan isn’t a government entity that you can really sue for encroaching on these constitutional rights, but let’s not get into constitutional law here.

Mayo requested for the civil rights case to be filed in forma pauperis (AKA, “I am poor so please waive my court and lawyer fees.”) Being a prisoner ain’t much of a lucrative career path.

The judge, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald J. Weber, who oversaw U.S. ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and his Staff, must have had a sense of humor. The first thing he noted was whether the Devil was even within the court’s jurisdiction—say what you want about the Western District of Pennsylvania, Hell probably isn’t there.

Secondly: While the judge cheekily acknowledged an “unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire” of the Devil appearing for a court case, (a nod to the short story “The Devil and Daniel Webster” where a farmer who fought a contract with Satan in front of a jury) there was serious doubt that Old Scratch would be able to present himself in cou.rt

Thirdly: The case wouldn’t really be enforceable. The title of “class action” would not be applicable, since the complaint “the Devil made me do it” was so common. Also, I doubt the police can really chase down Satan and force him to make his court-mandated payments.

Which brings us to the final point:

“We note,” Weber wrote, “that the plaintiff has failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshal for directions as to service of process.”

Since the paper hadn’t been served to the defendant, and since directions from a metaphysical plane of existence to a United States court are probably best left to the physicists, the judge ruled that the case was not defensible, and ordered it dismissed

What happened to Mayo afterward is unknown. What we do know: Not all frivolous lawsuits result in a big payout. Also, if you’re trying to sue Satan, then be sure ask him to DM you his address. Stay wicked, readers, and stay weird.

Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at She tweets @marlese_lessing.

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