Charles Manson’s defense then and now has been that he wasn’t even at Cielo Drive the night of the murders. There can therefore be no connection with him and the Tate killings. It was actually a strong defense, necessitating the prosecutor Vincent Bugliose to accentuate and rely heavily on Charlie’s Helter Skelter teachings as the inspiration for the killings. In that way Bugliose could get Manson on conspiracy to murder as the mastermind who set his black clad acolytes in deadly motion. Bugliose also had the powerful testimony of Linda Kasabian, the chauffeur on both nights, and on the second night out Manson most definitely came along.
Surprisingly, Manson’s defense is still used today by “New Mansons” who try and whitewash him. But there is, in fact, a solid connection between Manson and Cielo Drive. It is uncovered and interpreted by logistics.
In jailhouse interviews Manson has always highlighted he would never break the law because he never wanted to go to jail again. Part of this is no doubt true– the “I don’t want to go to jail again.” This requires being careful. This requires logistics.
After Manson got out of jail in 1967 he had no way to make a living, but he quickly found acceptance shacking up in Haight-Ashbury. Everyone was doing it, and the Haight preached inclusion no matter what. He no doubt saw the financial benefits of a religious scam. Down the street from where he bunked, Robert DeGrimston was doing a good job at being a new Jesus with the Processeans. Manson had studied Scientology (which The Process was essentially an offshoot), and socialist teachings, Marx, Mao, and even Hitler. But he wasn’t the flaxen hair Englishman from upper crust Mayfair, London. Despite the Haight’s attitudes, being a penniless ex-con isn’t going to get him an ashram pad in Haight.
Manson unquestionably borrowed from the Processean philosophy, but only in a superficial way. Mix it with some of his better talents, such as sizing people up, pimping and, without question, his ability to survive on the street, and a powerful combination was born that could protect and shelter outcasts and runaways, the then current vogue with the “kids” of the antiestablishment movement, before they became genuine hippies and indoctrinated in hippie culture. Manson’s talent at assessing character (or the lack thereof) was impressive, even to one of his parole officers in San Francisco. Manson’s family was born in the Haight, the viper in the bosom of the Summer of Love that would eventually kill Woodstock and the 60s.
Manson’s long term motives, if he had any, aren’t the object here. It is a fact, however, that Manson was logistic. He was careful. He didn’t want to go to jail again, but he needed a racket, and he unquestionably saw a profitable one amidst the hundreds of thousands of outcasts in the free-living mysticism seeking Haight experience . . . and eventually in the entertainment industry enthralled with the antiestablishment movement and guru led communes. It is between these two schemes that Manson constantly tick-tocked.
Come forward a couple of years to August 1969.
Why should we think Manson less careful about Helter Skelter?
Put everything together that is known about the first night of blood and there is a big logistic necessity uncovered here at 10050 Cielo Drive. Put yourself in Manson’s position. How safe do you feel in sending drugged “kids” (as Manson always called them) to a home to kill whoever is in the house and think these drugged amateurs are going to pull it off right and not bring the cops on your door in an hour? It is phenomenal when you think of it.
Manson could not depend on his orders alone. No matter what, he could not feel safe in simply sending them to a home merely because he had some contact with the place before when a different tenant had been there.
Herein comes logistics.
The tenant had been Terry Melcher, a records producer. Manson was trying to make it in music and Melcher was temporarily interested in him. Manson had some talent, more in lyrics than music. This was a key part of The Family. He used his women to attract the talented musicians he needed. He used pimping for some (Krenwinkel admitted he “was a great pimp”) and the new guru fad for others. Except for Tex, all his male followers had some musical talent (Paul Watkins, Brooks Posten; even Clem Tuffs could play a guitar) with Bobby Beausoleil clearly having professional level talent. For this reason Manson had been to 10050 Cielo Drive more than once during Melcher’s interest in him.
But by the time of late Summer 1969 Melcher was long gone. Nevertheless, Charlie appears at 10050 Cielo Drive during Tate’s residency. At this moment he encounters a photographer.
Naturally, after the murders the Press sensationalizes that Manson may have been after Terry Melcher for turning him down. Others have been content to declare that Manson knew Melcher didn’t live there anymore. True enough. But that doesn’t answer the question. So why did Manson turn up at 10050 Cielo Drive? The answer is one of logistics. We’re back to the question, do you just send “kids” up there to kill everybody and think these amateurs will pull it off? What are the odds when you don’t even know what they are up against? What if it is a big white hunter with big dogs and big guns? Logistically, you have to reconnoiter.
Manson could only have turned up for one reason– to see who lived there.
10050 Cielo already fit another logistical requirement. “Charlie” and “Tex” knew the house and grounds. It also fit something just as important. The sound would rise up. There was nothing but the dome of the hill rising up. (The house was built on the shoulder of the hill). It was isolated, insulated. A logistic mind picked the location. Manson knew of other homes and people in LA. The second night of murder proves that. Why here? The answer is above. 10050 was the safest place to start. One could make a mistake here and still have a chance to get away.
Moreover, we know that Manson wasn’t going to attack a home that had kids. He wouldn’t hurt kids. If he had one redeeming quality, it was that. One last thing remained. Who lived there now? If it was big guys with big shotguns and big dogs, he no doubt would have called it off. He didn’t see Sharon Tate or he would have called it off as well. A woman that pregnant would be someone he wouldn’t touch. He sees the photographer. Chats a bit perhaps. Thinks only adults are there.
We know the rest. Manson told the girls “Do what Tex tells you.” Manson has admitted to these words. He has tried to exonerate himself by saying that Tex was doing this for Bobby. Tex owed him one, Charlie has said, sounding far less the messiah and more the biker brother. So instead of paying him back, Charlie said pay it back for a brother– Bobby Beausoleil. Some of the girls even heard they were doing this for a “brother,” meaning get Bobby out of jail by making these look like “copycat” crimes of the Hinman killing for which Bobby was in jail awaiting trial.
Interesting, but there are a few problems. Manson put his foot in his mouth. He’s also admitted he said to the girls “leave something witchy on the walls.” Those thus were his only instructions to his girls. Hard to see how Manson could not claim conspiracy in murder with that. The witchy, of course, was meant to imply the Black Panthers, not anything particularly demonic or sinister from the occult.
Just by admitting he said Tex owed him one, he put his foot in his mouth fatally. In jailhouse interviews he explained in detail how you always pay back a debt in jail. That’s where he learned his ethics. Manson’s mind wasn’t love on any level; it was business — tit for tat. Tex owed him one because of a drug burn. Manson admitted that he had to go shoot Lotsapoppa for Tex. Tex couldn’t handle it. “He had to take things home to moms. He sweats under his bed with this stuff. I had to go do it for him.”
Tex had a different slant on the Lotsapoppa Crowe incident, which can be reserved for another post. It is enough here to say that Tex’s recollections are much more believable. Manson has so built up Tex Watson as a coward in order to justify why he had to shoot Lotsapoppa it is hard to believe if this was true that Charlie would entrust something as daring, dangerous, and risky as a butchering mass murder on this coward who couldn’t face an obese drug dealer on his own. Logistically that’s absurd.
The fact is that Manson appears at the remote and insulated 10050 Cielo Drive for no known reason. (On the second night of the murders he reconnoitered each location they stopped at first.) Tex didn’t owe him one. Manson told the girls to do everything Tex told them and they were to leave something “witchy” on the walls.
This sounds very much like someone who thought this out, chose an isolated location he knew, made sure what type of people lived there first, and was sure that his drugged up kids could pull it off. Without being sure of it, how could Manson take the risk? He must have carefully assessed those he sent as being completely loyal, either to the “holy war” or to Bobby.
In several very real ways Manson was there that night. Manson has a very solid link to the events, more than just conspiracy from afar. He was the one who reconnoitered the battle/massacre scene in advance and up close.
It is still phenomenal when you think about it. When you put yourself in his position and reenact all that it took and the possible consequences if it failed or if one of them bragged about it (we know that Atkins later would talk) it is truly amazing anyone took this chance. Manson’s confidence can only reflect great trust in them or in his foolish understanding of what constituted “conspiracy.” But we cannot say he did not think about the details of the assault first. “Do everything Tex tells you.” There is the true architect of Helter Skelter speaking.