Manson Family in Context– Excuses vs Actions

Those who follow me know that I seek out mysteries with an eye to solving them. . . or contributing to that end. To document, or re-document as the case may be, a famous true crime case doesn’t really interest me. The Manson Murders are one exception. The historical backdrop is exquisite– the era is the Kodachrome brightness of childhood mixed with the innocence of the counterculture. Manson was the alchemist stirring in the darkness, the ingredient that was always ample within reach of the caldron of hippie movement.

But it is not historical interest or sentiment for the crimes and times of my fledging era. There is a possibility that there are undiscovered murders– this means mystery awaits us. I have mentioned this potential in posts before, but lets get down to context here. Just when could these murders have taken place?

Students of the Manson Family and resulting saga know that it was in January 1969 and then especially in July that Manson began to change. He was all love before that. Before this, “Everything we did,” had said Paul Watson, “was for f—ing.” So it would seem that any undiscovered murders could only have taken place after July.

Well . . .

Let’s backtrack.

Too much emphasis has been placed on Manson’s “change” and not how easily his “Family” adapted to brutal murder. It is hard to believe that only “love” was dominant in the guru’s preaching before this. He had returned from the city, visibly disturbed and warned them that Helter Skelter was about to come down and they had to be prepared to help the “little ones” escape.  This sounds like a man preparing his acolytes for action. In other words, ennobling something that otherwise would be considered barbarous. Manson-ad

By the end of July, Manson had shot Lottsapoppa Crowe and along with  Family members they had killed Gary Hinman. It really wasn’t for Helter Skelter, but the “political piggy” and blood palm print was more of an alibi, something done to blame the Black Panthers, a group whose vengeance Manson feared for the Crowe shooting. Bobby Beausoleil (the “Frenchman”) was arrested on the 8th of August for the Hinman murder and that night the Helter Skelter murders begin.

Although it is hard to believe that universal love was preached, the actions of the Family reveal that Charles Manson had taught them a lot of his version of love. He certainly inculcated in his “kids” the strong feeling of bond. More than one member of the Family plainly declared that the Helter Skelter murders were to get Beausoleil sprung from jail. They were done in imitation of the political sentiment Beausoleil wrote on the wall. This would make it look like the same killers– Black Panthers– were still afoot and Beausoleil was innocent.

Some of them certainly believed this, and Manson made sure they did. It was the bond of love for one of their own–Bobby Beausoleil– that motivated them. They may not have had hate preached to them, but a manipulative mind had solely taken control. What is amazing is how well they pulled it off.

Bobby Beausoleil

More than Manson’s “change,” the change of the “Family” is intriguing. The guru’s control had always been there, but they seemed capable of some of the worst acts with very little preparation. The murder of Gary Hinman was obviously not to free one of their own. It was vengeance, an act that Manson solely blamed on “the Frenchman.” Beausoleil was more than capable of it. Bruce Davis stood by, as did Manson, and Susan Atkins had more than a passive role. This does not argue for total love having been preached prior to the July of Change.  This was rather a hippie-esque gang of dopers and Hollywood hopefuls manipulated by a man who had Hollywood contacts in the music industry.

Following the Helter Skelter murders (Tate/La Bianca), there was the Shorty Shea murder. Officially that’s “it” for the Manson Murders because Manson was still a part of the act. After he was arrested, the crimes were perpetrated by the Manson Family.

And death and mayhem continued to follow the Manson Family even with Charlie in stir at prison.

There was the shootout at the store in Hawthorne to get weapons for the mass assault. There was the attempt to murder a family member with a poisoned hamburger. There was that unusual death of another so-called member– “ZERO” was it? There was the killing in Stockton. There was Squeaky packing heat ostensibly just to talk to President Ford in 1975.

We’re speaking about years after the Manson Family convictions. Manson and 7 Family members were in prison. But other members still rated news regarding other diabolical deeds.  With each news report Manson grew more of the bogey man, more of the controlling cursed cult guru whose clan continued their reign of terror.


Members of the family who weren’t in prison, here appearing in a photo shoot. They had a song, sung frequently in Merrick’s documentary, how they would stay together forever.

But are there other murders? Manson personally need not have been out and a part of them. His “apostles” seemed more than capable on their own. If there are undiscovered victims out there, we have to consider the Family’s pattern in order to estimate where and when some murders might have taken place. Their terrorist acts and attempted murders all revolved around a particular motive: silencing traitors or helping each other out.

This is a pretty heavy attitude for just one month of programming (July 1969) for the cult of love to change to a self-protecting band of self important gangsters.  Yet in understanding that “love” of each other was strongly preached, one can figure that any murder they did was along the lines of self protection and vengeance.

Who else could have fallen victim, and where might they be buried?

It also takes understanding who might have been in contact with them, and if those that vanished were the kind to be a threat to the Family.

I have mentioned before the irony of “Clem Tufts” turning evidence in 1977 as to where Shorty Shea had been buried on Spahn’s movie ranch. It wasn’t Bruce Davis or Tex Watson, Manson’s lieutenant and head butcher respectively, though both had undergone a religious conversion. It was poor, simple Steve Grogan.

Steve Grogan aka Clem Tufts


He was pardoned in 1986, the only member of the Manson Family involved in the murders to ever achieve pardon. He disappeared under another name.

Bruce Davis and Tex Watson continue to be denied parole to this day.  Why did they not offer to get Shorty Shea’s burial grounds off their conscience? I have asked this before. Was it fear another body might be found in the process? Steve Grogan obviously had no such fear or he wouldn’t have told the fuzz where to look.  But the judge thought that Grogan had the intelligence of only an animal. He would not have been involved in all of Manson’s dealings.

Spahn’s Ranch has been dug up before by the police looking for remains. Cadaver dogs had made at least 3 hits I’m told. But the bodies, if there were any, appear to have vanished before the police got there. Yet doubt still lingers about other victims, perhaps more over the state, that were murdered merely to protect the Family. No one even knows where to begin to look.

There is the mystery– where to begin to look? Not near Shorty Shea’s burial. If Grogan had known, I doubt he would have offered the location. But there is the Barker Ranch, a location many suspect. Manson liked another valley, and they even journey there on film for Merrick in his documentary. Perhaps it is time to start looking.

*         *          *

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.


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