I’m the only popular investigator who entered true crime through the X Files door. There’s lots of legends there. Lots of real life soap operas. It teaches you a lot. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I’m going to mention it again because I have found it to be true and something necessary but daunting to overcome– the joy of legends.
In the popular world, you want to attain immortality without having the necessary accomplishments to merit that distinction? You need not be the best element but you need to be the first, on the ground floor so to speak, with a developing legend. Your participation in it becomes integral to it. You enter legend with it. You will forever be in the retelling. After all, it’s St. George and the Dragon, not just The Dragon.
Ufology, Bigfoot, Yeti, and a few other world topics have entered the realm of modern mythology. Those integral to these pursuits have entered that treasured campfire world of having their deeds recited with it. Think of The Roswell Incident. It shall forever be with us– little gray aliens in the desert, crashed saucers, labs and warehouses, dark nights and men in black. The Philadelphia Experiment. Vanishing ship, Carlos Allende, Morris Jessup. J Manson Valentine.
I was personally acquainted with the man who helped these topics attain legendary status. His name, Charles Berlitz, doesn’t go hand-in-hand with them because he was not a player. He was only a recorder. This is a great lesson. You cannot be the recorder. You must be one of the actors.
This just doesn’t apply to “tabloid” topics. Anything real life drama that plays on before us in books and on TV has the chance of becoming legend. They become a living soap opera, an X File Harry Potter, with good guys and villains, places and events. A galaxy long ago, far away. Interesting characters are involved. The plot develops and thickens. Life imitates art. It comes to symbolize something. Real life sagas develop fans. Fans want to be a part of that world.
There is a not-so-pleasant example of this, a far more enigmatic real life soap opera than Bigfoot. It played over the news for over a year. It was a hot story. No one has forgotten it, but they only remember the legend now. It came about at a time of this nation’s greatest case of the jitters. The most unique cultural event in history played on in the background and lent much ambiance to the whole affair. Murder. Hippie cults. Guru manipulator. Sex. Drugs. mindless acolytes.
When you begin cold case you start at Jack the Ripper, the first and most famous unsolved serial killings. Then you should swing with the pendulum to the other extreme: The Manson Murders. They are not unsolved. But they are the most enigmatic.
A mystery is when all the facts are not known and the object of mystery cannot be solved. An enigma is when all the facts are known but they still do not amount to an understandable whole.
Such are the Manson Chronicles. I do not speak of my book. I speak of the actual saga.
I have yet to write my tome. It will be thick, I suspect. I have not gotten to it, though it should have been published by now. Instead both Zodiac and then EAR/ONS captured my attention . . . and the latter is an overwhelming case. More than one journalist said it was a blessing in disguise that I tackled it first because it “propelled me” to new heights. I was no longer just an “eccentric Kolchak.” (I’m not eccentric!). I am grateful for the praise on EAR detectiving. . . but a legend needs to be taken on. A real life saga is still underway. . .
The Manson Chronicles, and again I’m not speaking of a book; I speak of the saga. It is not one of history only. They still go on. There are New Mansons. Almost sounds like a TV sitcom. But there is a whole culture impressed with what The Family symbolized in its “glory days.” More than this, however, the original saga still goes on. Strings that lead to 1969 must still be tied off. Points of fact still nag about unsolved disappearances. Questions must be asked. Things must be brooded upon. If Manson is to be prevented from becoming the Jesus of the Swastika, the Chronicles must be put in place.
Let’s take just one curious unresolved point here. I will be speaking from the vantage of those who know “The Family” by name.
Manson, his main lieutenant Bruce Davis, Tex Watson, and Clem Tufts got nailed for the conspiracy/murder of Shorty Shea, the Spahn Ranch hand that vanished. There was no body, but still they were sent up for it. They rather invited their conviction. One intimate creed of The Family was terror. Davis bragged of having cut up Shea into 9 pieces. Clem Tufts (Steve Grogan) bragged of chopping his head off. Prosecutors naturally got wind of this. Perhaps with this stupid bragging prosecutors didn’t need a body.
But by 1977 Grogan decides that a life sentence is a life sentence. He draws a map for the police as to where they buried Shorty on Spahn’s old burned down movie ranch. The police follow it and find the body. Shea’s body was intact. He hadn’t been cut up. He wasn’t beheaded. That was just the macabre and bizarre world of the “love and terror cult.”
So what nags here? Well, by 1977 both Bruce Davis and Tex Watson were born again Christians. You’d think that Tex and Davis would want to get Shorty off their conscience. They are Christians now. Davis would go on to earn a PhD in Religious Studies. Tex had his own ministry. Yet neither report the location to the police. Was it fear that the police might stumble onto other bodies? More indictments. More trials. More life imprisonment sentences. It is Grogan who tells the police where Shea is buried. I have no information on Grogan converting. I only know he had his caveman teeth fixed.
It rather exonerates poor Clem Tufts that he drew the map. He would not have done so if he knew there were more bodies. Manson isolated his core group of killers. He had an upper tier of loyalists. At the top in the male category were Davis and Watson. Why didn’t the converts offer the location? Why was it Grogan, a man about whom we have no information about religious conversion?
Isn’t that odd?
Come forward into the 1980s. By this time the old Spahn Movie Ranch was invisible. It had burned down in 1970 and the land was fallow and overgrown by weeds. Word had reached police that more bodies were buried down there. There had always been rumors there were more victims. More than one person around the Manson Family had vanished back in the “glory days.” But where did they go?
A cadaver dog is set to the task. He does make three hits. The police dig up Spahn Ranch like Bugs Bunny at Pismo Beach. Nothing.
Had bodies been moved? When? Logically, it would seem after Shea was dug up. Did that event send some shudders through Manson? Who would have been out of prison at that time and still fiercely loyal to him to have carried out orders to move bodies?