The name Manson conjures up pure evil, the fulfillment of the parable of the wolf amongst the sheep. Psychedelic evil. The worst nightmare for a culture in upheaval. Long haired, wild, cult evil. Mastermind evil. Manipulator. Mention Tate/La Bianca Murders and visions of drugged hippies in long, black cultist outfits slicing about with deadly blows comes to mind. Bizarre. Paranoia. Helter Skelter.
But one thing is never conjured in our minds– that second night of murder as Charles Manson would have had it. Over the years much information has come out at parole hearings, in those penitent confessionals, and in jail house interviews. We often think how ludicrous his Helter Skelter motive was. Put together, however, the night as Manson planned it could quite possibly have brought about a local urban panic.
Manson rolled from Spahn Ranch this night August 9, 1969, with some of his tried and true messengers of death from the night before– Susan Atkins, Patty Krenwinkle, and Tex Watson, the head butcher or sacrificer, whichever way you look at it, and the loyal chauffeur, Linda Kasabian. They had been baptized in blood. Added to the mix tonight were a few of the inner circle but new to the murder scene. Lulu Van Houten asked to go. She needed to prove her loyalty. Another tonight was Steve Grogan, which some have later claimed from personal contact was Manson’s most devoted follower. They drove off, an odd bunch of aspiring musicians and dopers turned “holy war” killers.
What made Manson go tonight? Was it the stories of how the Tate group almost got away? Was it the fact that they hadn’t killed everybody on Cielo Drive? Atkins later said those were their orders. Was it Patty Krenwinkle’s spaced-out lament to Charlie “They were so young”? It had upset him. He had brusquely ordered her inside.
In any case, Charlie went along and intended a bloodbath. Curiously, he had one scruple. He had a loath of harming children. They stopped at one house and he went up to reconnoiter. He came back and called it off. He said there were kids inside. They then went to a church. They walked around, gliding about the grassy promenades in their black, clinging attire like spectres at a graveyard. The object? Charlie wanted to find the minister. The goal was to crucify him on the church’s cross.
We must recall protestant churches were the “modern” style with tall slanted pinnacle roofs or colonial Dutch roofs. A huge cross was out front, another huge cross, usually wood, was behind the altar. Charlie’s goal was, in essence, to have the church secretary or even the parson’s wife wake up in the morning, come inside, and there look up to see the domini affixed to the huge cross, saturated with blood, the cross streaked with it as it had dripped down to the puddle of blood at the base of it. I’m not trying to be lurid. But this is context. One simply cannot leave it with Lulu Van Houten’s statement at a parole hearing. She declared that this was Charlie’s intent but he couldn’t find a minister. This in itself does not really convey to us what he intended.
What he intended would have been the most witching cult-like sacrifice imaginable. It was the most outright attack on the establishment. Black clad, spaced out “hypnotized hippies,” features distorted by the shadows created by dim lights, plunging their daggers away, blood spraying about. Then the big boys, like Grogan, lifting and pinning the dead or dying parson to the cross. It certainly sounds like some bizarre 1960s cult movie scene. Glancing from this horrid scene, the discoverer of the body in the morning would have seen slogans painted in blood, something to indicate the Black Panthers did this. The altar candles probably still burning.
But, alas, for Charlie anyway, they couldn’t find the minister. They hopped in the car again and were off. This time it was to the La Bianca house. We know what happened here. A fork in the throat of the corpulent Leno La Bianca, a steak knife in his belly. WAR etched in his stomach. “HEALTER SKELTER” on the frig. “Rise” on the wall . . . all written in the victims’ blood.
The black clad band had pulled off only one of Charlie’s “holy war” attacks. Manson’s orders now were to divide. The girls switched out their black outfits for some of Rosemary La Bianca’s clothes. They took some food and ate it in the recesses of the darkened yard and prepared to hitch hike home to Spahn Ranch.
The others had another battle planned by Charlie. Linda drove Charlie and the others to actor Saladin Nader’s apartment in Venice. By this time, however, according to Linda Kasabian anyway, she realized enough was enough. She parked at the wrong apartment. They went up to the door ready to kill but no one answered. The night’s event’s were scrubbed.
As horrifying as this night was, it was nothing compare to what was planned. Another couple or group had been intended, but kids were there. The minister wasn’t found, an actor was saved because Kasabian said she intentionally misled them. Two died, ferociously devoured by bloodlust. However, probably 6-8 murders were intended.
Manson gave various excuses for the “holy war.” He preached Helter Skelter, but this is not the place to go into whether he truly belived it. He also told them they were getting a “brother” out, that is, Bobby Beausoleil. Manson thought highly of him. He reconfirmed that decades later in an interview. Beausoleil had talent. Manson was impressed by it. He was in jail for the Hinman killing in July. Manson convinced them that if it looked like the same killer was afoot, that it would get Bobby out of jail. Remember, at the Hinman killing Beausoleil staged it to look like Black Panthers had done it. “Political piggy” was written in blood on the wall and then Beausoleil made a hand print on the wall in blood– sign of the panthers. At the La Bianca house the hippie killers wrote “Rise” on the wall, a rallying cry of the panthers.
Manson might have believed that if done right it would work. Beausoleil would be out. Thus he must have been disappointed when the Tate and La Bianca killings weren’t connected by the LA Police. Given this, it would be even less likely that the earlier and less gruesome Hinman killing would ever have been linked. If not for a couple of Family member mistakes they might never have been. Did Manson seriously overestimate LAPD or was it his failure on his night out to kill as many as he intended?
It doesn’t take great wits to conceive of the “kill two birds with one stone” stratagem. Manson was in the perfect position to pull off more than one goal for his crime spree. He was the only biker-gang type of leader who actually was a quasi religious guru to a band of runaways who thought they were at the cutting edge of future society. But mistakes happened in Charlie’s plan. The night didn’t turn out to be the bloodlust intended. Why didn’t he continue with more on the following nights? Instead he was preparing a retreat to the desert.
Manson certainly thought in terms of publicity. His “cult” was hardly a hippie commune. He even told his “Family” that they weren’t hippies. Their pads hadn’t been rural farms where they would pioneer aspects of organic growing or husbandry. It was a Beach Boy’s mansion and then an old movie set. Many had entertainment industry ambitions. But Manson could pose himself as both Jesus and a budding rock star where the Family were both disciples, band members, aspiring actors but in substance credit card thieves, bums and gun molls.
Hippies preached inclusion, peace, love for all. Unity. Manson wanted dune buggies mounted with machine guns. He wanted to shoot all the ugly people. He was preparing for a battle coming from the drug world. He was racist and his Family was really a biker gang without bikes.
The murders he planned cannot be separated from Manson’s concept of publicity. Publicity has a purpose, and Manson’s murder nights had more than one. . . .But that is for later posts.