The Myths of Charles Manson

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Charles Manson became the most infamous killer in the history of American crime. He was America's answer to the other most famed killer, Jack the Ripper. But history revisionism began as soon as the Manson story was revealed in December of 1969. Information wasn't available like it is today, and inaccuracies abounded. So this is to state the most accurate account of Charles Manson, his 'family', and the events that brought him such infamy.

Submitted: December 01, 2019

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Submitted: December 01, 2019



The Myths of Charles Manson

by Jeff Youngblood

Christmas in 1969 was one of the strangest that anyone can remember. In early December the Los Angeles police made the surprise announcement of six people arrested for the ghastly Tate-LaBianca murders from the previous August. They were hippies, which the media emphasized, a cult of about 25 people lead by one of those accused, Charles Manson. They soon got the nickname 'Manson Family', and as the story unfolded there were sinister mentions of hypnotism, mind control, murder-on-command, as if they were real-life zombie killers out of a horror movie. Christmas is supposed to be a cozy celebration of home and hearth, but these alleged murderers cast a dark shadow over the entire holiday, and little did we know it was only the beginning.

Today, Charles Manson conjures images of the most evil, diabolical killer of them all. His name has become a household word, much like Britain's Jack the Ripper. The glitter and spectacle of the trial surrounding this bizarre character seemed to obsess the public mind. The many psychopaths who killed far more people, such as Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, are understood as pathetic, mentally diseased killers who couldn't stop themselves, but Manson became a celebrity. A legend in his own time. Legions of fans openly praised him, were convinced he wasn't guilty of anything, including the counter-culture hero Jerry Rubin. The Manson story turned into a media Frankenstein. But most baffling was Manson and many of his clan in the following years were continuously visible and openly talkative to the media, yet never fully explained why or how it all happened. Were they really hypnotized/spellbound by Manson's magic or was it the old story of partners in crime?

On the morning of August 9, 1969, the Los Angeles police were called to a house in Benedict Canyon, which is a posh area north of the city, the home of famed film director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. Officers found the most horrifying scene that they had ever witnessed. It was so bad that even medical techs got queasy from it, and why descriptions of it to the press were minimal. There were five bodies. Those dead were Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steve Parent. There were a total of 102 stab wounds (on 4 bodies), 7 gunshot wounds, and 2 of the victims were badly beaten. Tate and Sebring had ropes around their necks, the rope thrown over a ceiling beam, which left skin burns as if they'd been hung. There was so much blood in and around the house that collecting evidence from certain places was practically impossible. To observers it wasn't a murder, it was a slaughter. Just as puzzling was the word 'Pig' written in blood on the front door.

The next day, in the early morning hours of August 10, police were called to a residence in Los Feliz, another suburb of Los Angeles. What they found was even worse than the Tate house. Two victims, Leno and Rosemary La Bianca, suffered 67 stab wounds, and both were strangled with their heads covered. Rosemary had a lamp electrical cord wrapped repeatedly around her neck. Leno's body had a knife stuck in the throat, a cooking prong in the stomach, and the word 'war' carved into his stomach as well. Even more chilling than the Tate house were several words written in blood; 'Rise' and 'Death To Pigs' on living room walls, and 'Healter Skelter' on the refrigerator door. Police also found that the killer, or killers, hadn't left immediately. The shower had been used and there were fruit rinds in the kitchen sink.

Malibu police were immediately suspicious of these killings because yet another murder (in their jurisdiction) was eerily similar. On July 31 the body of Gary Hinman was found in his home in Topanga Canyon, and he had been dead for several days. He had suffered multiple stab wounds and appeared to have been tortured. Hinman's two vehicles were missing, his desk contents had been disturbed, and there was no money or ID in his wallet. But most creepy, on a living room wall were the words 'Political Piggy' with an animal paw image beside it, all written in blood.

Yet another mystery, unknown to the public, was the disappearance of Donald 'Shorty' Shea. He was an occasional stunt man/actor in films, was a worker at the Spahn Ranch, which was an old movie set and visitor's site near Chatsworth. In the final week of August he didn't return to work and no friends or family, including his wife, had heard anything from him. Malibu police also learned there were no outside projects or films he was involved with at the time. Shea had simply vanished.

Los Angeles descended into a land of fear. It was easy to imagine the second largest city in America prepared for anything, but not murders like these. People were terrified. If murders that horrific could happen to famous people in upscale neighborhoods then it could happen anywhere. Gun sales, other weapons, guard dogs, and use of private security skyrocketed. Millions were suddenly keeping every door and window locked, and peering out their windows to see if any strangers were lurking in the shadows. And news coverage had spread across the country like wildfire. Nobody had ever seen or heard of famed celebrities the victims of such vicious crimes. But worse for those in LA was no answer to the questions of how and why. In the days that followed it was learned the murder victims had no enemies, jealousies, or financial problems, no logical reason of any kind for deaths so barbaric. The police, in all three districts, were stumped. It was almost as if a murder mystery novel had come to life.

Two months later, on October 10th and 12th, raids were done at the Barker Ranch in Death Valley. A ragtag group of people living at that ranch were suspected of arson after an earth moving machine was burned. The ranch was so remote that the Inyo County Sheriff's office had to combine forces with the California Highway Patrol and National Park Service to pull off the raids. In two days a total of 26 people were arrested, and most notable was the leader of this bizarre hippie clan, a strange fellow named Charles Manson. His arrest record was not only disturbingly long, but showed several aliases, this time calling himself “Charles Manson a.k.a. Jesus Christ”. The police thought of him as a very oddball character and was kept separate from the others though all of them were held at the same jail in Independence, California. It was here that unexpected information about the mysterious murder of Gary Hinman was leaked to the Malibu police department. Only someone close to that crime could have known such intimate details, and that person happened to be Manson devotee Susan Atkins. Inyo County officials allowed her to be arrested by Malibu police on suspicion of Hinman's murder and taken to Los Angeles for further investigation.

It was at the Los Angeles Sybil Brand Institute for Women (a medium security jail) where even more lurid tales of murder were revealed. Susan Atkins seemed to have no problem being open and free with stories of the Hinman and Tate murders, especially with two particular inmates, Virginia Graham and Veronica 'Ronnie' Howard. Atkins told them how good it was to hold Sharon Tate in place while the others were being killed. As Tate begged for her life Atkins told her, “Look bitch, I don't care about you. I don't care if you're going to have a baby. You had better be ready. You're going to die and I don't feel anything about it.” Atkins bragged of how thrilling it was to stab Tate over and over again, even mentioned how good her blood tasted. Graham and Howard both were so horrified that after many tries the Los Angeles police finally took notice. When Vince Bugliosi was assigned on November 18 to prosecute the case, he personally confirmed many details of Atkins' story. Plus, Barbara Hoyt and Sherri Cooper, after escaping the Manson clan from the Barker Ranch, accounted for similar stories. The long and tiring mystery of the brutal murders was finally broken open.

On December 1, 1969, these revelations of the Tate/LaBianca murders hit the media like a brick through a window. Los Angeles district attorney, Evelle Younger, announced the indictment of Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, Linda Kasabian, and Charles 'Tex' Watson for the murders of Sharon Tate and the six others. It was a welcome relief to Los Angeles residents, but another shock came when the individuals were seen. Charles Manson was a small, scrawny looking man with long hair, about as imposing as a grocery store clerk. The women looked like cheery teens from Middle Class families, or perhaps young college students. Tex Watson was so clean-cut that he could've easily been mistaken for a dapper young professional. They looked nothing at all like the blood-thirsty killers they were accused of being. That is, until the December 19 issue of Life magazine featured on its cover a terrifying picture of Manson. It was an unforgettable, haunting, up-close mugshot of what seemed a wild-eyed, deranged lunatic. It was a prophetic look at the story that would unfold in the trial to come.

The trial of Bobby Beausoleil, Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner for the death of Gary Hinman was separate and conducted in Malibu. Tex Watson was tried separately for the Tate-LaBianca murders because he had been arrested in Texas, and authorities there delayed extradition to California as long as possible. So with Linda Kasabian granted immunity for her testimony, thus the prosecutions star witness, the case against Manson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten became the 'trial of the century'. When it began on July 24, 1970, presided over by Judge Charles Older, it mimicked the riotous Chicago Eight trial. It turned into a proverbial circus. There were constant interruptions by Manson and the women, so much that they had to be repeatedly removed from the court room. Their main defense attorney, Irving Kanarek, disrupted proceedings just as much with constant, pointless objections, cross-examining witnesses with vague, nonsensical questions, all bad enough that he was penalized many times for contempt of court. The court room was packed every day with visitors, lined up as if the trial was live entertainment. Photographers and press reporters from as far away as Europe jammed the hallways. Newspapers and magazines published stories so regularly that it was like a gothic soap opera. It went far beyond the Chicago Eight trial. But Vincent Bugliosi was as focused, determined and bullheaded as any prosecutor could be. It was no surprise that after dragging on for more than 6 months, with the unexpected tactic of no defense case for Manson (and the others), on January 25, 1971, they were found guilty on all counts of murder and conspiracy.

What followed was part 2 of the trial, the penalty phase. There was a strong feeling that the death penalty was likely, so the defense concentrated on calling witnesses - family and Manson friends alike - to elicit sympathy for the defendants and hopefully reduce the sentence. The bad news is it was worse than the trial. Disruptions were so continuous that in the final days Manson and the women were kept out of the courtroom. Even worse, it seemed to prove Bugliosi's case even more than the trial did. Especially when Manson 'family' members testified. When 'Squeaky' Fromme was asked if the Manson group had a leader she replied, “No, we were riding on the wind.” When Nancy Pitman was asked if she would die for Manson she said, “I don't take dying all that seriously.” Sandra Good told tales without being asked, such as Charlie's 'magical powers', how he had breathed on a dead bird and brought it back to life. Ruth Ann Moorehouse told the court that rattlesnakes liked Charlie, and that Charlie “...could change old men into young men.” Cathy Gillies told a defense attorney, “You know, I am willing to kill for a brother. We all are.” Catherine 'Gypsy' Share inadvertently claimed that Sadie Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Linda Kasabian had committed murder once before, a reference to Gary Hinman. Leslie Van Houten, one of those convicted, was asked, “Did you feel sorrowful for the death of Mrs. La Bianca?” She answered, “Sorry is only a five letter word.” Patricia Krenwinkel, another who was convicted, was asked, “Did it bother you when Abigail Folger screamed for her life?” Krenwinkel answered, “No.” Worst of all, Susan Atkins stunned the courtroom by admitting the murder of Hinman as well as Tate and the others. She even gave details of the killings much like she had done with Virginia Graham and Ronnie Howard. Atkins was asked, “Did you ever feel any remorse?” She answered, “Sorry for doing what was right to me? I have no guilt in me.” On March 29, 1971, after only 10 hours of deliberation, all were sentenced to death.

In the following years Charles Manson became the most famous criminal in the world. He will always be regarded as one of the most devilish cult figures in U.S. history, believed to be the possessor of a charisma and magnetism so extraordinary that he ruled a "Family" of fanatically devoted followers willing to kill at his command. All to create a race war that would decimate the world putting Charlie in control of its remnants. This is the image that prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi used to convict him of the crimes. It enthralled the populace, and turned Manson into a captivating figure that goes on and has become a fixture in history. At last count, as of this writing, there have been more than 40 books written about him (and related subjects), 20 films/documentaries, numerous TV appearances, countless magazine articles, has 8 websites dedicated to or related to him, received far more mail than any prisoner, his demo album from 1970 a best selling CD for the ESP Disk label, appeared as a guest on many radio shows, and even in jail any event of note put Charlie in the news.

What helped create this illusion were numerous exaggerations and fabrications that are today taken as fact, the age-old habit of history revisionism - rumors becoming 'truth'. Even worse, news stories were deliberately changed or misstated as they happened, the usual trick of boosting newspaper sales or TV ratings. Here are a few facts and figures to dispel those myths:

    • Manson didn't have a bedraggled youth. In Jeff Guinn's book, “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson”, are recollections from his real family revealed for the first time. They made it very clear that in no way did he suffer poverty or mistreatment. Charlie was in fact treated so well that they described him as spoiled.

    • Manson's mother wasn't the irresponsible, alcoholic party animal as has been described so many times. The Depression was on, Eastern Kentucky was hit hard, Ashland was a small, isolated town with a dead economy, no jobs, which was especially bad for women, even more so for those with children. And there were no government relief programs for such people. It was a harsh reality for Charlie's mother and millions like her.

    • Charlie was not a serial killer. He and the 'family' killed or threatened for specific reasons, not for the addiction to murder.

    • Manson didn't start planning a race war soon after he was out of jail as many biographers have suggested. He was too busy having the time of his life as a newborn hippie.

    • Manson's magic elixir of domination and control was an over-statement. If he was as charismatic as described, his 'family' might have numbered in the hundreds, but many thought of him as a goofy little weirdo. Those who stayed with Charlie, a small group of 25 to 30, did so because they liked him personally. In an age of open aggression against hippies by the Establishment, unity was a strong factor in all hippie communes.

    • Manson was bi-sexual and over-sexed. The idiom “sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll” was a derogatory phrase about hippies that wasn't really true, but the Manson clan were a textbook example of it. In that order. According to Paul Watkins' book, “My Life With Charles Manson”, sex seemed to be constant and endless. Any time, anywhere, in any combination imaginable, including orgies of the entire family orchestrated by Charlie. In the film “Manson”, Watkins said, “Everything in life was for f*cking. If we weren't doing that then everything was leading up to it. And if we weren't leading up to it we were doing it. That's what everything we ever did was for.”

    • Manson was quoted more than once as saying his group weren't hippies. He called them 'weak', described his clan as 'slippies' (whatever that meant), but they were indeed hippies. Per Manson's own stunning realization of the counter-culture when fresh out of jail in 1967, the growing 'family' looked, talked, dressed, acted, thought and lived exactly as hippies did. They even used a bus to travel aping the famed Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. In Paul Watkins book, “My Life With Charles Manson”, he said, “When I met him, there was no violence in the Family, no talk of Helter-Skelter. In fact, it was the complete opposite, Charlie's love then was real... Had anyone told me four of these people would later be convicted of the most sensational murder of the century I would have laughed out loud.”

    • It was a twist of fate that connected Dennis Wilson and Tex Watson to the Manson family. Wilson gave hitchhikers Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey a ride to his house, after which some of Manson's family moved in. Then when Wilson was in the same predicament of hitchhiking, it was Tex Watson who gave Wilson a lift to his house, which was how Watson met Manson.

    • Manson and Co. stayed with Dennis Wilson through the summer of 1968 at his lavish pad in Pacific Palisades. It had all the comforts of home, and even included a swimming pool. In Dianne Lake's book, “Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson”, she remembered it as a dream come true. “To go from the squalor of Spahn Ranch to the life of a rock star, luxury was a dreamlike turn that none of us expected.” But Wilson eventually got tired of it all, had to put the house up for sale and leave because he couldn't get rid of them.

    • Music was much more an integral part of Manson's 'family' than the public is aware of. The guitar became Charlie's best friend while in jail, and it was with him everywhere he went. Pals like Bobby Beausoleil, Paul Watkins, Brooks Poston, and Clem Grogan were found to be rather adept at the instruments they played. According to Jeff Guinn's book, “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson”, a makeshift hovel for entertainment, sometimes featuring live music by Manson and the others, essentially their place for serious partying, was arranged in a building behind the main row of buildings that made up the Spahn Ranch. It turned out to be a direct connection to the murders. The door featured the name of the place, “Helter Skelter”.

    • Many believe the real reason for the violence was the music scene. It had never been so explosive, and Los Angeles was deluged with singer/songwriters. Manson took himself very seriously as an 'artist', but like thousands of others he barely qualified as an amateur. His songs were drab and forgettable, he couldn't keep time, and he couldn't even tune his guitar. So when Manson was rejected by music industry honchos like Terry Melcher and Gregg Jakobson, after they showed considerable interest, it figuratively lit the fuse. Even worse, Dennis Wilson used one of Charlie's songs on the Beach Boys “20/20” album, which angered Manson so bad that he gave Wilson a bullet for a gift. Conjecture is that Tate's house and the murders, where Terry Melcher had formerly lived, were symbolic of all that Manson hated about the Establishment.

    • Vince Bugliosi used the theme of a delusional 'race war' almost exclusively throughout the trial, and it had a realistic basis. The Black Power movement rose in strength throughout the 1960's, with acts of violence numbering in hundreds by the end of the decade. But it was particularly intense in Los Angeles as exampled by the Watts riots in 1965. Paranoia gripped the city, with a vague impression of 'race war' in progress. For Manson it developed into a twisted sense of purpose.

    • Bugliosi rejected the idea that the Tate/LaBianca killings were a 'copycat' of the Gary Hinman murder to hopefully free Bobby Beausoleil. Except few know that the Tate killings happened on the very day Manson learned Beausoleil had been arrested and charged with first degree murder. That was followed with the LaBianca killings, which were in a different part of the city, all with the same 'signature' of a deranged killer on the loose to give police the impression that Beausoleil didn't kill Hinman. It's also little known that Charlie sent Linda Kasabian twice to visit Beausoleil to assure him that the family was trying to get him out of jail. The 'copycat' murder premise was later verified by Tex Watson in his book, “Will You Die For Me?”

    • The race war motif was all the more incredible considering the entire 'family' were scrubby vagabonds who were never in any specific place for very long. They were constantly on the move, traveling as far north as Washington State and as far south as Laredo, Texas. They were grungy, lived day-to-day, hand-to-mouth, much of their food virtual garbage, had numerous medical problems (mostly venereal disease), and even had to borrow a car to commit the murders.

    • The borrowed car, a yellow 1959 Ford station wagon, belonged to Johnny Swartz. He was a recently hired Spahn ranch worker. It was just a friendly gesture to loan Manson his ride, but on the second night of violence no one asked to borrow it, they simply took it. Afterward, Swartz refused to loan his car thus no more murder.

    • Manson could've been a working man like everyone else. While in jail he had training in car repair, and with experience became so good that he could build entire dune buggies from the ground up. That meant Charlie knew all the aspects of motorized vehicles, and could easily have been a career mechanic.

    • Manson was a 'Beatle freak'. That was a term invented because no other artist has ever had a more fanatical following, and why Charlie's fascination with the White Album was nothing unusual. Stories are legend of fans playing Beatle albums backward, or at different record player/tape recorder speeds, or even attempts to play album covers, all for clues of insights to life. Just for the record, “Helter Skelter” became intrinsic with the Manson story, but he was most amazed by “Revolution 9”.

    • The perception of Manson's evil nature was another facet over-emphasized. Vince Bugliosi later admitted that the first two years after release from jail Charlie was nothing but a typical mooch and petty criminal acting as a groovy, anti-Establishment hippie who never committed violent crimes until the Summer of 1969. It is that 'change' – race war? music rejection? frustration? - which will always be a matter of speculation.

    • The first signs of deranged thinking was 'creepy crawls'. Manson would take small groups to break into homes not to steal, but to rearrange furnishings and décor just to inflict paranoia. It taught Mansonites the mechanics of breaking-and-entering, stealth, and the patience it takes to be a good criminal.

    • Manson's first act of violence was on July 1, 1969. Tex Watson conned Bernard Crowe out of $2,500 on a bogus marijuana deal, but when Crowe held Watson's girlfriend, Luella, hostage for his money back Manson responded by shooting him. It was also a major contradiction of Charlie preaching for months about a pending black/white race war yet Bernard Crowe was thought to be a notable figure in the Black Panther movement.

    • Bugliosi's continual explanation of hallucinogenic drugs used by Charlie to 'program' his followers was a fallacy. The top-secret CIA effort called “MK Ultra”, revealed in the frightening book “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control”, by former State Department official John Marks, was in-depth research of drug-induced psychological programming that went on for 20 years. LSD was foremost, though all hallucinogens were included, but the whole CIA project was finally abandoned because it didn't work. Such drugs were too unpredictable.

    • The Spahn Ranch was never a continual domicile. Charlie and family stayed there 3 times. They moved around so constantly that few remember where they were at any given time. Only arrest records or specific events compiled by Ed Sanders in his book, “The Family: The Story of Charles Manson”, give a pseudo-accurate timeline.

    • Manson wasn't a drug freak as many believe. He insisted that only marijuana and mind chemicals be used, such as LSD and Mescaline, no 'uppers' and 'downers'. Yet Tex Watson revealed in his autobiography, “Will You Die For Me?”, that he and Susan Atkins took speed the nights of the murders. He wasn't specific on what kind of speed or how strong, but it definitely increased their intensity and savagery. It also suggested he and Atkins weren't mindless robots under Charlie's complete control.

    • Susan Atkins inadvertently broke open the investigation by telling fellow jail-mates intricate details of Sharon Tate's death, but she later recanted the stories. Atkins insisted that she held Tate while Tex Watson killed her, but Dianne Lake, in her autobiography “Member of the Family”, emphatically believes Atkins did indeed kill Tate.

    • The Tate murders didn't go as planned. According to different sources, Manson wanted Tate's home to look like a gory slaughterhouse, which is why Tex Watson carried a good length of rope in order to hang them for unthinkable horrors. Instead, Frykowski and Folger managed to escape, or try, which messed up their plans.

    • Before Watson and the others left, Sharon Tate was barely alive and called to Susan Atkins in a weak, dying voice. Tate begged her to cut the baby out of her, to keep it alive, but Atkins said there wasn't time. She then wrote “Pig” on the front door with Sharon's blood, and quickly they all fled.

    • William Garretson, the Tate's groundskeeper who lived in a separate cottage, was the only survivor. After the 19 year old was arrested he was grilled by the cops and kept for 3 days, as well as given a lie-detector test. Garretson had to be released because of no evidence against him, but he never revealed the mystery as to why he didn't hear gunshots and screaming yet was so close to it.

    • On the night of the LaBianca murders, three other murders were attempted. Charlie, Linda Kasabian, Susan Atkins and Steve Grogan went to an apartment building in Venice Beach where Saladin Nader lived, a Manson acquaintance. Kasabian, with Atkins and Steve Grogan, was instructed to kill him as brutally as the others, but she avoided it by deliberately going to the wrong apartment. Manson tried a church that had lights on but no one answered the door. At a red light on a quiet street, Manson and Grogan were going to kill two people in a convertible car next to them, but the light turned green and they escaped.

    • On the day of the Tate murders Manson was pulled over by a motorcycle cop in San Diego. The step van had an expired license plate and Charlie had no drivers license. Usually the van would have been impounded and Manson arrested, but the cop merely ticketed Charlie for the expired plate and let him go.

    • The Manson family changed from let's-have-fun to let's-do-crime. Petty theft was a normal way of life, but when it turned to felony and violence so many joined in that it takes a list to know who did what. Besides the 5 infamous characters convicted of the Tate-LaBianca murders, Manson was convicted twice more of the Gary Hinman and Shorty Shea murders. Bobby Beausoleil was convicted of murdering Gary Hinman, as was Susan Atkins and Bruce Davis. Steve Grogan and Bruce Davis were convicted of murdering Shorty Shea. Mary Brunner was arrested and convicted in 1971 of armed robbery. Lynnette 'Squeaky' Fromme was convicted in 1975 of attempted murder of president Gerald Ford. Sandra Good was convicted in 1975 of sending letters of threat. Catherine Share was convicted in 1971 of armed robbery (with Mary Brunner), then convicted in 1982 of financial fraud. Nancy Pitman was convicted in 1972 of accessory to murder.

    • The fate of Shorty Shea was finally revealed in 1977, and his was the worst case of all. Steve Grogan, who was convicted of Shea's murder in 1971, regretted the Manson years and informed the police where Shea's remains could be found. He also admitted that Shorty was killed on or about September 26, 1969, had been stabbed so many times that no one kept count, and his body was dismembered so it would be hard to find. Later, in 1985, considering Grogan's lower-than-average IQ, he was the first Manson 'family' member paroled.

    • Another death never explained was John Haught. Known to the family as “Zero”, he was never liked well but stayed with them through their arrest and release at Barker Ranch as well as their next stay at Venice Beach in Los Angeles. He died there by gunshot to the head, which family members described as 'russian roulette'. Haught allegedly took a gun, spun the cylinder (with only 1 bullet), put it to his head, and pulled the trigger. The only problem was the gun was fully loaded and wiped completely clean of finger prints. The LA police ruled his death a suicide.

    • Manson didn't end the hippie generation. Numerous writers have called the Tate murders an end to the 1960's, which ambiguously meant an end to the counter-culture, but it was actually the exact opposite. In the 1970's the youthful rebellion became a lifestyle. Such as dress codes at school ended, work clothes became more 'casual', dresses above the knee were typical, long hair for men was the 'in' thing, mustaches were more common, attitudes toward marijuana were relaxed, violence at social or Vietnam War protests after Kent State dropped drastically, hippie hobby farms created a market for 'organic' foods, 'new age' music emerged, and interest in Hindu and Buddhism increased notably.

    • From jail Manson proudly claimed to be an environmentalist. It was a project called ATWA - air, trees, water and animals - that was perhaps Charlie's effort to somehow gain face with the public. It was promoted by 'Squeaky' Fromme and Sandra Good, which got media attention, but such an effort by an infamous killer with amateur spokesmen was a laughable embarrassment.

    • The State of California was as much to blame for the Manson tragedies as anything else. Manson's arrests and failure to comply with parole requirements were so numerous that if his parole officer, Roger Smith, had responded properly Charlie would've gone back to jail before the end of 1967.

Charles Manson died on November 19, 2017. He was 83 years old but remained the same old talkative, colorful, obnoxious, crude little creep he'd always been. And even in death it didn't stop him from being a controversial figure. His body lay in the Bakersfield medical examiners office for four months as three people tried to legally claim his body. The Kern County Superior Court decision was on March 12, 2018, in favor of Jason Freeman, Manson's grandson. On the following Saturday, Manson's body was moved to Porterfield, California, apparently Freeman's home town, where a Christian funeral service was held, an interesting paradox for someone with an anti-christian legacy like Manson. It was attended by 20 people, including Sandra Good, Charlie's most devoted follower, as well as other friends unnamed, plus Afton 'Star' Burton, Charlie's alleged fiance in his final years. The body was then cremated and the ashes spread over a hillside somewhere in Porterville. Despite his death, Manson's shadow lingers on.

Susan Atkins died on September 24, 2009 at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California. She was 61, was the longest serving inmate in California history, except she was a model prisoner and did the 're-born Christian' thing to relieve guilt. Atkins also wrote 2 books, “Child of Satan, Child of God” (her boring autobiography from 1977), and “The Myth of Helter Skelter”, which wasn't published until after her death, and notably blamed it all on Linda Kasabian. Atkins was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008, which lead to complications that required part of her left leg be amputated, which was followed by many attempts at compassionate jail release. Atkins was continually denied because she never showed real regret for such heinous crimes. James Whitehouse, her second husband, later said Susan's final word was, “Amen.” The vast majority of Americans thought the same.

Charles 'Tex' Watson, the 23 year-old murder supervisor at both the Tate and LaBianca residences, is alive and well as of this writing, housed at the Robert J. Donovan Correctional Facility near San Diego, California. He is an ordained minister, got a B.S. in Business Management through a correspondence school, and his book “Will You Die For Me?”, from 1978, put to rest several mysteries as to what really happened on those fateful nights in 1969. Except it still didn't explain why he did it.

Patricia Krenwinkel, the 21 year-old who was at both the Tate and LaBianca residences like Watson, is now the longest serving inmate of the California penal system. She is housed at the California Institution for Women in Chino. She's been a model prisoner, has been the quietest of the bunch with the fewest public interviews, got a B.S. in Human Services through correspondence, learned to play guitar, developed painting skills, assisted in a dog training program for rescuers, organized drug and alcohol talk groups, has taught a few illiterate prisoners how to read and write, and was featured in a film biography by Olivia Klaus called “Life After Manson”. In Krenwinkel's parole hearing on December 29, 2016, the decision was postponed to investigate the defense claim that Krenwinkel suffered from Battered Woman Syndrome. Details on the investigation are unclear, but when the parole hearing resumed on June 22, 2017, she was denied. Unfortunately, Krenwinkel blamed it all on Charlie too.

Leslie Van Houten, the 19 year old former high school homecoming queen is second only to Krenwinkel as the longest serving woman inmate. That's because she was so fervent against the original conviction that she managed not one, but two re-trials. The first, in 1977, ended in mistrial. The second trial, which lasted long enough that on bond she got a normal job in the real world as secretary, convicted her again of first degree murder. Van Houten too was such a model prisoner that on April 14, 2016 she was granted parole. The public was surprised, as was governor Jerry Brown, and he vetoed it. Even more unbelievable is Van Houten was granted a 2nd parole in 2017 but Brown rescinded that as well. Then on January 30, 2019, she was granted an unprecedented third parole, but the California governor, Gavin Newsom, denied it on June 3, 2019. She too laid blame on Charlie.

Linda Kasabian, the 21 year old Manson aficionado and later star witness for the prosecution during the trial, has apparently lead an unsettled life. She left Spahn Ranch only days after the murders and returned to her mother's home in New Hampshire. She was also a witness for the Tex Watson and Leslie Van Houten trials, but afterward she refused all media attention and events in her life are little known. She emerged briefly in 1988 for an appearance on “A Current Affair”, then again in 2009 for an appearance on the History Channel docudrama production called “Manson”, as well as the Larry King Live television show. Today she lives a quiet life in Tacoma, Washington.



Helter Skelter” by Vincent Bugliosi

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson” by Jeff Guinn

The Family: The Story of Charles Manson” by Ed Sanders

Will You Die For Me?” by Tex Watson

The Myth of Helter Skelter” by Susan Atkins

My Life With Charles Manson” by Paul Watkins

The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten” by Kathleen Faith

Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson” by Dianne Lake

Squeaky: The Life and Times of Lynette Alice Fromme” by Jess Bravin

The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control” by John Marks

Independent documentary “Manson” by Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick, 1973.

Independent documentary “Inside the Manson Gang” by Robert Hendrickson, 2007.

Numerous documentaries, biographies and interviews presented on the History Channel, A&E, Biography, CBS, ABC, and NBC television networks, as well as various independent films.


Copyright 2019 Jeff Youngblood

© Copyright 2020 Per Jensen. All rights reserved.

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