Part of Chapter 1 from HorrorScope By Gian J. Quasar
Chapter 1– The Sign of the Crimes
If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there
THERE ARE FEW MOMENTS IN ANY GENERATION WHEN AN event is so momentous it becomes a reference point for dividing a way of life and attitude “before” and “after.” One of those in the 20th century is the counterculture movement. It smoldered through 1966 and then in June 1967 the events in San Francisco were broadcast from coast to coast. The Summer of Love inaugurated a movement and 1967 became the dividing line between the way things were—traditional and idyllic— and the way things would become thereafter— dark, dystopic, and drug strewn.
It was a pervasive attitude in the 1970s that the time before this was the time of “How Sweet It Was!” Children heard of a time when people didn’t have to lock their houses or cars; when kids didn’t have to check their Halloween candy for razors and pins. Men had looked like men—Cary Grant and Paul Newman; women were classy— Ava Gardner or Audrey Hepburn.
The Great Generation, the parents of the counterculture Baby Boomers, was anti-establishment in mentality. However, their attitude was not belligerence against their culture; they were skeptical of the powers-that-be. As children they had seen the corruption and bribery that dominated some cities, like Chicago, and in the 1930s the Great Depression was a reminder of incompetence at high levels. Just because someone held a powerful political or economic position didn’t mean they were qualified. Getting elected didn’t mean one was qualified to do the job. It only meant they were qualified to get elected. That generation then fought World War II and viewed it as another masterfully engineered bit of incompetence from the establishment. The Great Generation never forgot the Munich appeasement or the fact that the United States sold Japan most of the scrap metal they then shot back at the US. They came to adulate Franklin Roosevelt for taking a strong hand and cleaning out corruption and leading the nation through the war. The most glorified guiding light of the Great Generation had been Ike Eisenhower. In his farewell address from office in 1960 he warned the nation of the disturbing power of the growing military industrial complex.
What caused the elder generation to shake its collective head now was how the Baby Boomers adapted antiestablishment. Despite the ennobling claim they were acting in response to the Cold War, there was nothing in growing your hair long, smoking an hashish pipe, and moving into a San Francisco love-in that would address Soviet arms production. Frankly, it would not affect US arms production either. In attempting to justify their extreme behavior, the counterculture revealed how non sequitur was their reasoning. For the Great Generation, “government bears watching.” For the antiestablishment movement, it needed to be blown away.
The elder generation’s negative attitude about the 1960s became more rancorous in the 1970s because they blamed the current dystopia on the 1960s. The slide to hell in the wheelbarrow all began with the counterculture. The Manson Family and their murders had come to typify the hippie movement. And when one of them tried to gun down President Ford in 1975 it was for the Great Generation just the ugly face of pointless, mindless hippie rebellion.
But the elder generation’s attitude did not make the 1970s a darker decade. It was a darker decade because the younger generation had lost its idealism. Ideals were the factor that had motivated all 1960s protest, from lofty arguments over war and peace, to forsaking the materialism of the current culture. Ever since Berkeley 1964 the Baby Boomers had sought to cure the ills of a solely materialistic society, but when they lost their momentum to the grim reality of human nature and an easy chemical journey only one thing could ensue: apathy. And this dissolution began in 1970.
The counterculture and the antiestablishment movement had never really been one and the same. The counterculture indulged in eastern mysticism and in the ideology of taking drugs, largely LSD, as the pathway to world peace. The antiestablishment was more aggressive, hardcore, and protest oriented, wanting to change the world politically and ideologically and not just through their own inner experience.
Both coexisted and both coincidentally met their demise in 1970. The radical protest element of the antiestablishment movement’s “new left” had set off one too many bombs, finally killing a lab student that year. Disenchanted, the proactive, sober element of 1960s’ protest walked away.
The philosophic counterculture and its belief that world peace could be found not in objective truth but in LSD-induced inner peace fell apart after the disastrous Altamont in December 1969 and then the ugly ending of the festival on the Isle of Wight. Counterculture saw what people on drugs could do, and it obviously wasn’t the cure-all it had been preached to be. As an ideology drug taking stopped. Drug taking increased, but it was recreational. The motive was now escapism— a trip for a trip’s sake.
In diluted forms, both went on. Counterculture continued mostly as a mindset which 1970s’ mainstream merchandising tailored (or watered down) to fit the inquiring mind. Yet without the counterculture’s world purpose the new attitude was only a mindset without any real focus or philosophy other than to sample anything that was contrary to the establishment’s tenets of the past.
This made the occult deeply popular in novel ways. If the 1960s were viewed as “being shot to hell,” then hell shot back in the 1970s when every form of hybrid occult religion filled the void, including “devil worship,” the devil being promoted as the ultimate rebel. The “Satanic Panic” gripped America. Where else but in San Francisco would such a thing as the Church of Satan take root? Clad in black capes and hoods, the Black Mass was declared by its adherents:
In nomine dei nostri Satanus luciferi excelsi
In the name of Satan, the ruler of Earth, king of the world, open wide the gates of hell and come forth to greet me as your brother and friend. Grant me the indulgences of which I speak, for I live as the beasts of the field rejoicing in the fleshly life. I favor the just and I curse the rotten. By all the gods of the pit, I command that these things of which I speak shall come to pass. . .
. . . Blessed are the strong, for they shall possess the Earth. Cursed are the weak, for they shall inherit the yoke. Blessed are the bold, for they shall be masters of the world. Cursed are the righteous and humble, for they shall be trodden under cloven hooves — Hail Satan!
New open-mindedness led to any number of self-indulgent experiments into the current milieu of the dark and bizarre. There was no collective purpose. It was just doing your “thing.” As a footnote, an irony should still be noted: what constituted evil was still being defined by Judeo-Christian values. Those reciting the Black Mass sounded like Sunday School kids gone bad. There was nothing original in the attitudes; they were just counter the pervading norms of their upbringing.
As for antiestablishment, it too had filtered into mainstream. Although the universities had quieted down, society had not, Crime waves were rampant. Now there were chic urban guerillas like the Symbionese Liberation Army, though liberating money from banks was largely what they did. The Zebra Murders were a bizarre spate of gang murder. Race riots plagued the early 1970s— Brown Power, Black Power. America: Love it or Leave it!
Protest finally trickled down to the frivolous. Carrying signs that read “Don’t Bust My Bust,” women protesting for equality held a topless parade down main street in Santa Cruz. Where else, again, but in Santa Cruz would drugs and the current fascination with devil covens be combined? To celebrate Halloween, a local rock band performed for free in the public park. They were dressed up in black witches’ costumes and tall cone hats while they passed around free joints to the audience. The banner behind them read: “Halloweed.”
In sum, counterculture and antiestablishment had become two different commodities, but both basically failed at the same time, with the former essentially disappearing because it was deprived of its ideological base. Altogether the younger generation was disenchanted, and the darker, dystopian 1970s was upon us. Broadmindedness may have been one of the good side-effects of the movement, but it is undeniable that the most toxic elements had also been emboldened to commit the most audacious crimes this country had seen during a time when anxiety ran high.
This little summation of the times and seasons does bear on the subject at hand. The first criminal to dovetail on the volatile sign of the times was not a militant who claimed greater political or social motives. He was the exotic ‘Zodiac’ Killer. He struck while counterculture was still lively and he struck at the cradle of the movement’s inception. He mixed counterculture occult ideas with the terror methods the “new left” had come to rely upon. His motive was more than terror merely to serve his tastes to inflict fear. His motive became societal domination through terror— it was the ultimate thrill, the ultimate “kick.” And he had the intelligence or just the evil good luck to know that the high anxiety of the times made it possible for an individual to set upheaval in motion with a bullet and the stroke of a blue felt pen.
No city had been set on edge to the extent San Francisco would be in 1969 since the socially tumultuous year of 1888 saw London go into a panic over a faceless night stalker named Jack the Ripper. His crimes began from some individual motive until he too sought to dovetail on the racial and social tensions of the time. He then tried to incite riots against the Jews and protests against the government— an interesting evolution to a crime spree which had begun by the killing of prostitutes in the East End’s Whitechapel district.
In many ways the pompous ZODIAC was identical, and it seems the convulsive times influenced his evolution as well. He had started late December 1968 on a dark rural road with the pointless and cowardly murder of two necking teens, but until the summer of 1969, seven months later, he had made nothing of it. Only after his next murder did he indulge his thrill to use his rural crimes to set the stage for a game in which every citizen of the San Francisco Bay Area was a potential player if he decided to target them.
And it seems the time was indeed ripe for terror campaigns. Only a week after the ZODIAC had sent his first series of letters threatening a “kill rampage” if they weren’t published in the major newspapers, Los Angeles too went into a panic over a spate of audacious and savage murders known as the Tate/La Bianca Murders. Acting upon the racial tensions of the time, the killers had etched “War” in a victim’s stomach. With the victims’ blood they had written “pigs” and “rise” on the walls of the victims’ houses to impress upon the police that this was a guerilla movement of Black Panther militants out to kill whites.
Until December of that year Los Angeleans didn’t know the murders had been committed by a hippie cult on LSD at the instigation of their mesmeric guru leader Charles Manson. Months of fear had gripped the city between that hot, bloody August and that cold, shocking December.
And we are back to the first pages of this chapter— the psychedelic and once fascinating 1960s came crashing to an end in 1970, with the total destruction of the counterculture leaving unfocused the residual antiestablishment mindset.
But of those audacious crime sprees that had inspired so much terror and awe, the case of the ‘Zodiac’ Killer continues on. It was the one which was never solved. The Mansons were imprisoned, the SLA battled and broken up, and the Zebra Killers rounded up. The ZODIAC, who only had the courage, if that word should even be used, to pump full of holes unsuspecting teenagers at petting spots as the base to create his terror campaign, lived on incognito never to be identified.
It is impossible to separate the ZODIAC’s crime spree from the times and place of his crimes. But there are obviously different elements involved in his case that do not exist in the other terror and murder campaigns, one that allowed him to go unidentified. One, of course, is that he acted entirely alone. All the others had accomplices, and identifying one led to others. But it is a fact that all the major crime sprees were committed by those who could be called members of the antiestablishment. The ZODIAC’s crimes were not militant in nature, and the language in his letters was that a cheap pool hall punk, not of an angry idealist. In fact, he went out of his way to make himself sound uneducated. Unlike the others he was most likely the establishment, a spectator of the new movement and morality from afar.
San Francisco was the center of an industrious, profiteering culture. Stately and cosmopolitan were surrounded by the Bay Area’s unique rural culture— the sea, the fog, the farms, the bays and quays, the old towns. The city was affluent and yet adventurous. She was a great modern Venice. She was queen of the Pacific, and through her passed the trade of the most exotic locales of the Orient. In fact, when antiestablishment began at Berkeley in 1964, Jack London’s San Francisco was still felt in the brine and tar of the docks wafting over the once-raucous Barbary Coast. The unique past of the city was heard in the cable car bells clanging up and down the famous hills. But the shadows of the new skyscrapers in the financial district moved like the arm of a sundial over the older and more elegant buildings, a sad symbol of changing times. The most disliked new thing was the surging artery called the Embarcadero Freeway. This double-decker freeway was the quickest way into downtown. It stood on heavy cement legs and was the objectionable mascot of progress to handle the city’s congested traffic.
There was, however, a huge difference between the San Francisco of the summers of 1964 and 1967. Antiestablishment had rated news in 1964. Now counterculture was in the spotlight. The Summer of Love was in full swing. Youth from all over the United States had been coming to the Haight-Ashbury district as if an in-visible pied piper had summoned them. It had begun in the fall of 1966. At least 30,000 had come for the “Sit-In” in Golden Gate Park. It was such a success that the “Human Be-In” had been scheduled for January 1967. This too had been a great success. Many had remained, faithfully awaiting the greatest festival yet announced— the “Love-In.”
Since March, Scott McKenzie had gone to the top of the charts with San Francisco, announcing as a herald the coming Concordia. Music videos (though a term not yet used) showed him walking about San Francisco landmarks in an Eastern tunic— one patterned with daisies, of course. As January saw the Be-In, the gathering to understand and to “be,” so the Summer of Love was to practice it. It would be a summer of drugs, love, music, peace, enlightenment— debauchery painted with a philosophic brush.
The Haight had begun to swell during the spring. Guru leaders were instilling the vibe, the third eye and every other hybrid Eastern concept into the American youth. Posters still kicked about the streets or hung in windows showing the “Be-In” swami, cross-legged, ratty hair, the triangle and third eye in his forehead. Some were pasted over with the new ad— psychedelic posters advertising Timothy Leary as a speaker. With palms pressed together—“follow the way”— he urged youth to “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.” Philosophic TV jargon. “In” was the new word. To be “in.” Not in the fad sense, but in the philosophic sense of “with it.” With the vibes, man. “Tuned in.” On the right “Bat Channel.” For Leary, this meant LSD and the drugology of inner peace.
Geographically, the Haight was situated perfectly to become the unintended incubator for the Flower Children movement. There is one way into Golden Gate Park here on Fell Street and one way out on Oak Street. Only a few blocks down Oak Street from the park and turn right— this is Ashbury Street. The center of the Haight is the intersection of Haight & Ashbury streets. Renting was far more affordable here. After the Sit-In and Human Be-In, Flower Power naturally started to bloom here. The Haight was quickly becoming the navel of the hippie culture.
The response to the Summer of Love was enormous, beyond anything planned. What was intended to have been a brief flame, a brief Concordia of spiritual empowerment for the “hip generation,” continued to be a fire stoked all summer. What was to be a folk festival with metaphysical preachers and a choir made of the greatest rock bands became a culture, and those here created a Constitution of life without using paper or print.
Like blood circulating in the body through the heart, the “hippies” coursed through Haight for rooms, for washing, sleeping, kitchens for bread, and then always back to the heart— Golden Gate Park.
Music was everything. It was the soul. Flower children hung out in small groups around folksy amateurs or crowded around the professionals. Flowers were always in their hair— always. Bare feet, ponchos, painted faces, smoldering joints passed along lip to puffing lip. They were reverting to their concept of innocence behind a drugged stupor. To a civilized world, it was galloping immorality.
Innocence to the hippies meant sexual freedom too. Marriage and anything organized was the oppression of the establishment, the establishment that gave them the Cold War and the angst of living in the shadows of potential nuclear holocaust. When San Francisco saw that these sedentary vagabonds weren’t going to move on, a medical facility was set up to treat venereal disease. Hygiene was deplorable. There were communal baths or, more accurate, rotational tubs.
The Process Church of the Final Judgement set up a mission outpost on Cole Street. Instead of “Jesus Saves” there was the Goat of Mendes fixed on the wall. It was a polyglot of philosophy and medieval and occult symbolism. Members walked around the Haight in their black slacks and turtlenecks, and over this hung their bright red surcoats with the heraldic symbol of their order— 4 Ps. This symbolized the 4 deities of the Process. An equal worship of Jehovah and Satan, Lucifer and Jesus, would balance out the way of life.
This was not the San Francisco that any San Franciscan had known only 5 years before. For any “outsider” looking in, it was a potent experience. Teens, little better than waifs, stood there in Golden Gate Park mindless, with vacuous expressions, flowers behind their ears, and twirling fig leaves in their numb fingers; their faces painted with pastel daisies, their eyes dull and “far out.” New converts to hippiedom still sported short hair, but they had been painted all over with bright colors by the unofficial welcoming committees. Hippies danced to the bands. Danced? They were more like drunken storks trying to fly, arms flailing under multicolored ponchos. Some gyrated to no rhythm at all in their drugged stupors.
This was not just a contained carnival. The press loved the movement. It represented something exciting. The press themselves was made up of those who had fought WWII and Korea, and despite them being the distrusted generation (those over 30) by the hippies, the audacious message of living a new lifestyle to bring in universal peace was something they indulged. Hollywood enjoyed the message as well. Escapist movies weren’t vogue anymore, and neither was all the artistry of Technicolor epics. Current events were the new vogue, and movies and TV shows began to integrate the antiestablishment themes, both seriously and in comedy. It was one of the most powerful and financially profitable formulas. In short, the whole concept was spreading to the mainstream.
Those closest to San Francisco, especially the youth, could naturally partake firsthand in the extreme examples of the counterculture as represented in Haight-Ashbury. . .well, dabble at least. Mainstream youth certainly weren’t allowed to adjust their image to Flower Children— parents wouldn’t allow it and PTA’s were aghast at the thought. Schools, whether public or private, would still enforce dress codes. But this is only appearance and appearance is only a manifestation of communal reinforcement. Mentality was changing in the individual mainstream youth. Many were embracing some of the concepts of the counterculture even if they weren’t morphing in appearance.
The rural areas of the Bay Area may still have moved to the tempo of rustic traditions and the work whistle of the great ship building yards, but flower power symbols were popping up along with marijuana and the new morality. Casual sex was becoming so, well, casual with the young everywhere so that movies, of all things, had to moralize. In the family trials of Yours, Mine & Ours, also set in San Francisco in 1968, the pater noster had to advise his son that love is found not in going to bed with a woman but when you wake up and have to endure the trials of everyday life with her.
Moralizing though it may have been, it reflected the elder generation’s indulgence of the younger. Hellfire and brimstone for fornication was not something going to be found in TV and movie parental guidance. Of course, the fundamental chunk of society found this compromise to be immoral. To them, society was going to hell in a VW, pure and simple.
However you view it, things that had once been done behind closed doors were now being addressed in public. Society was changing, and it was changing openly. Some extremes were quite weird and unnerving— Flower Children and hippies. But the mainstream liked some of the message. It too was beginning to change, if only subtly in attitude.
History moved on. Events came and went. The clock ticks slowly and we come forward. The Summer of Love was long over by the end of 1968.
The San Francisco Bay Area of was actually the perfect place to inspire a killer to become the first fruits of the bizarre combination of the establishment and the philosophic counterculture. And now it began.
* * *
Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.