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.


Family Reunion: The Manson Chronicles

It’s been a long time since I have had a post on my Manson Family research. Much has happened since then: Leslie Van Houten comes up again for parole. Bruce Davis seems perpetually to be up for parole. . . and perpetually denied. There’s the irony of Bobby Beausoleil still being in prison for one stabbing. I’m not minimizing the first “Manson Family” murder. I am simply highlighting the irony. Due to the fame and infamy of the Manson Murders he is still in prison. All other killers with only one victim to their record from that time have long been sprung. This is true even of celebrity killers, like Sal Mineo’s murderer.

The Manson Murders cannot be divorced from the period in which they occurred, the state of fearful flux society was in due to the counterculture, Vietnam, cold war nerves, and every other type of fret. But it was especially the counterculture. Manson destroyed the image of the hippies. This is commonly said. But he could only have done so because society was on the whole nervous about the hippie image and movement already.


Manson murdered the 1960s and the peace movement, it is frequently said.  This is probably true, of images anyway. But it is not frequently said that Manson created the 1970s. In image, I think this to be true. Press coverage shifted. The press had loved the counterculture image and the flower power look. Popular culture followed suit and TV and movie plots incorporated the changing mores of the time, from serious films like The Graduate to comedies like Bob Hope’s How to Commit Marriage.

All this ended with the Manson Murders. Hippies were vilified and the dark urban reality of the 1970s became the focus of the press. There was, actually, very little else they could focus on. They couldn’t continue to drumbeat peace, love, and psychedelica. We were left with the gritty, urban reality of the 1970s– Dirty Harry, The Zebra Murders, and chic urban guerillas like The Symbionese Liberation Army. There was nothing redeeming in popular culture. Without the ideal of youth seeking peace and a new way, they were written up as dropouts and dopers, and each hippie commune or long-haired kid (which was most every youth) was a potential acolyte of some devil Manson-like cult.

In fact, Satanism became a focus of the media. Satanists were blamed for cattle mutilations. That hippie hitchhiker cut the heart out of the man who gave him a lift. They were blamed for missing children. They were altars in the woods. So we heard.  Or, for a kid from Gilroy like me, they were in covens up Mount Madonna, the mountain range that separated Gilroy from Watsonville, haunted orchards, and then Santa Cruz, the hippie mecca.

I was rather intrigued to see an article recently that Quentin Tarantino was looking to make a movie on the Manson murders. From what I recalled from years ago he was the director who lamented that Hollywood had lost its ability to make the gritty urban reality pictures that so dominated the early 1970s. If so, he is the perfect one to bring the authentic flavor  to such a film and not just a facsimile of its historic image.

I have no idea, of course, if the film will be similar to Helter Skelter, or if it will focus on more than a dramatizing of the whole affair. Manson’s rise within the hippie culture and then within Hollywood was never portrayed in Helter Skelter, and it is quite fascinating how it happened, and his success crucial to understanding how he could become so intoxicated as to plan to the nights of August terror.


I’m obviously not an admirer of Manson, but I can appreciate a complex, intricate moment in time and the various and sometimes ironic elements that come together to form exceptional events in history.  All that exists in the window in time in which his bizarre murders occurred. He was both a careful manipulator of what was around him, a logistic thinker, and at times completely fooled about real life by his years in prison and by his success at conning people in the counterculture in the brief time he had been out.

A movie capturing the real Manson, his rise and fall, I think would be something welcomed rather than just another gory attempt to portray the murders, devoid of cause and effect.

Few try and explain why Manson went out on the second night. Few highlight the fact that Manson had a horror of hurting children. The news that his toadies had butchered a pregnant woman might be one of the reasons he went out. Leslie Van Houten testified at one parole hearing about how Manson returned to the car from checking out one potential house and nixed the idea by saying there were kids in there. Then he wanted to go crucify a pastor on his own cross over his church’s altar.

Who could play Manson? Off the top of my head, I would say, academically at least, Jared Leto. He might be considered too old, but he has the ability to morph into the looks and he has the eyes. I suspect someone relatively unknown might be chosen, however.

I don’t usually write on popular culture or speculate on Hollywood affairs, but the Manson murders are a complex subject to recreate dramatically, and this has seldom happened despite the fame and significance of the murders in American popular culture.  The veneer can be captured, but can the complex and agitated spirit of the times and seasons?

The Family– an interesting lot. There was the freebooting they did. The coddling they had on the fringes of a luxuriant society, the superficial Hollywood wannabes they were. There are the 2 nights of terror as they happened, and as Manson wanted them to happen. There are the after-effects Manson wanted for his own protection, and there is the hypocrisy he used to convince his followers to do the murders.

Manson was a master manipulator, but it was because of the times of the crimes. It was because he was a good judge of character, and lack thereof, in people, and the use of drugs, that he could manipulate others. But how he convinced and manipulated himself is far more intriguing.

*         *          *

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.

Eye for an Eye? Manson and The Parole Controversy

All of the Manson Family members who were involved in the brutal  Tate/LaBianca murders have hoped repeatedly for parole, some as early as 1976. It may seem presumptuous to many people today that Manson’s main cult killers should think that they could have a chance at parole in only 7 years, but at this time in American jurisprudence and administration the big emphasis was on rehabilitation. Today it is on punishment and deterrence.  The attitude then was not on eye for an eye. It was on reconditioning.

Murderers from this period, and those who committed other heinous crimes, have long achieved parole. For example, Lionel Williams who murdered Sal Mineo in 1976 was paroled by the 1990s, having done less than 20 years for stabbing to death the famous actor.


Susan Atkins making her pitch in 1976. She reaffirmed she is a born again Christian and a new woman. She is no longer on drugs. LSD was partly responsible. Tex Watson killed everybody anyway.

The last example is very apt. It was a thug killing, a knifing in front of Mineo’s Hollywood apartment. In many ways it was little different than Bobby Beausoleil’s murder of Gary Hinman. That was basically a knifing for drug extortion or revenge.  Charles Manson came along and helped the hard-arming and provided the inspiration to blame the Black Panthers by telling Beausoleil to leave their mark on the wall. But the motive wasn’t terror or cult ritual. Hinman wouldn’t give money to Beausoleil. It was a thug killing in response.


Bobby “Cupid” Beausoleil wasn’t a part of the infamous mass butchering on the nights of terror (August 8-9, 1969). He was already locked up for the murder of Hinman. Beausoleil’s crime was an individual one. Thug motive, thug style . . . until Charles Manson suggested the bloody handprint. To this day Beausoleil insists that he is still in prison merely because of his passing association with Manson despite the fact he did not consider himself a member of “The Family” and he was not a part of Helter Skelter.

This post attempts to probe the truth of this. Are the Manson Family members, those still in prison, there because they are the victims more of the sensational coverage of their crimes rather than because of the substance of them?

The standard of justice is easily encapsulated in the Biblical maxim “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This does not license personal revenge as it was later corrupted to imply. These were instructions given to the judges. Leviticus 24: “And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast. And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him;
Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again. And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.”

The punishment shall fit the crime. One does not take 2 eyes for an eye, nor 2 teeth for a tooth.  The maxim both proscribes the punishment and limits it. The exact same thing is embodied in the Statue of Justice. She holds the scales to balance them and has the sword to execute judgment. It is eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. It is the standard of every civilized nation.


To equate . . .

It is a part of human nature to understand “fair.” That is all the French word “Justice” means, though in older English we used the better word  Equity. To equate.

It was the divine power of the King alone to grant mercy. When the Republic was founded, and the office of King abolished, the powers of the King had to be dispersed throughout the ministers of the Republic. The legislatures made the laws, the Judiciary enforced them, and the Executive carried them out. Despite the separation of the executive, legislative and judiciary, Mercy was invested in the President. As Mercy is independent of all law, so it was fitting that the executive, independent of the process of justice, have that power. Without justification, without reason, without explanation, the President can pardon whom he will. A pardon cannot be questioned. You may not like it. But it cannot be questioned.

You do not have that power. Like any parole board member, you must decide on a number of factors and weigh the scales. I ask each of you to do the same here.

In the case of the Manson Family murderers absolute justice was ordered to be meted out. They were to die. For the lives they took, their lives were to be taken. But by a glitch the death penalty was overturned and commuted to life in prison. Thus there was no absolute justice done. We are, in essence, robbed of our ability to assess the current status of the Manson Family killers based on absolute justice. We must rather base their cases on the parole process as it is frequently conducted in other criminal cases of equal crimes. In other words, we must assess on a curve.

That raises the contention about Bobby Beausoleil. Has he been dealt justice, at least according to the curve we have been left? He murdered Gary Hinman in July 1969. It was a single knifing. There is no one else in prison to this day 46 years later who is there because of a single murder. All have been paroled, and if they committed other crimes after that they have been returned to prison for those. Beausoleil remains in prison for a single murder 46 years ago; all his parole requests thereafter denied.


Fashionable killers– Van Houten,  Atkins, Krenwinkel.

Leslie Van Houten

She went on the second night of the murders and participated in the LaBianca murders. From varied testimony it seems probable she only stabbed Rosemary La Bianca after she was dead. She assisted in holding her down while Pat Krenwinkel murdered her. Thus she is clearly morally, legally and in substance accessory to murder. Like Bobby Beausoleil, it is a single murder. She was convicted of accessory in all murders, however. She remains in prison today.

Pat Krenwinkel

She went on both nights and was involved in murdering Abagail Folgers and Rosemary La Bianca. She was accessory to all the Tate/LaBianca murders. She remains in prison to this day.

Bruce Davis

Charles Manson’s unlikely lieutenant was involved only as an accessory in the Gary Hinman murder and in the later Shorty Shea murder on Spahn Ranch. He was convicted of both and is still serving his prison sentence. He was convicted of the Shea murder without Shea’s body even having been found and proven to be a murder victim.


Tex Watson

Undeniably Charles Manson’s head butcher. He essentially killed all the Family victims or was accessory to them. Despite having no such psychopathic record, he seems to have ably and efficiently killed, in such a gory manner not even seen in professional killings.

Charles Manson

The “mastermind” who inspired his “kids” to go kill. He gave them various excuses– copycat crimes to get Bobby Beausoleil out of jail; or crimes that would incite white/black race war. The stimulus for starting this at this moment may have varied depending on what Family member he spoke to. But it was probably more personal. He may have been afraid of Black Panther retribution for Lotsapoppa Crowe, a black drug dealer that Manson burned for money and who threatened to wipe out Manson’s Family if he didn’t pay him back. Manson shot him, but failed to kill him. Manson was unquestionably afraid that Crowe’s supposed Black Panther associates were presently mounting revenge against him at Spahn Ranch. In any case, he “ennobled” the mission for the “kids” by telling them they were beginning the apocalypse. For his own comfort, he may have hoped for a local riot to break out in which the police would round up the Black Panthers and therewith Manson no longer had to worry about retribution.


The Guru of Gore. He instigated the murders under various pretenses. But it seems highly unlikely he believed in Helter Skelter. He told Beausoleil to make it look like the Black Panthers murdered Hinman. The “witchy” stuff left on the walls of the Tate/LaBianca murders was designed as a link to Hinman’s murder, so that all killings would look like Black Panther murders.

Of these Family members, it is unquestionable that Manson and Watson will never be paroled.  Bruce Davis already has been recommended for parole, but the Manson Murders became so popular that advocates for reform helped get a law passed that, remarkably, gave power to the governor of this state to veto a judicial decision.

This is a far different thing than the executive power to appoint a judge or to grant unconditional mercy. A judicial appointment is the appointment of a qualified person to hold a post. It is not power on a case by case basis. Mercy, once again, is totally separate from the entire judicial process. The governor, in this case Jerry Brown, did in fact overturn the parole board’s decision to let the aging and now Christian scholar out of jail. Had it not been for this change in the law, Bruce Davis would have been released.

The closest ones to obtaining a parole are probably Leslie Van Houten, since her role, compared to the others, was minor. The other you would think would be Beausoleil. As already noted, perps of single murder crimes have been paroled decades ago, as in the example above. Williams was long ago released for the fatal stabbing of Sal Mineo in 1976.

But does that matter? The publicity both Van Houten and Beausoleil have received has been equal to the others– Manson, Krenwinkel, and Watson. Nevertheless, they must have gotten hope from the parole recommendations of Bruce Davis. But now that the governor can veto such decisions, as he did with Davis, there seems little hope for Beausoleil and Van Houten. The excuse to keep Davis behind bars listed his behavior back then, not now.

Before any governor had such power, in 1985 Steve Grogan was paroled. Along with Manson, Davis and Watson, he had been  convicted of Shorty Shea’s murder. At the times he had even bragged that he had cut off Shorty Shea’s head. In 1977, he had helped lead police to Shea’s body, buried clandestinely on Spahn’s old movie ranch. The original judge had a very low opinion of Grogan’s intelligence, saying it was barely above the animals. Aside from helping the police find Shea’s body, this may have contributed to his early parole, as he was viewed as a mindless disciple of Manson’s wishes. But parole he nevertheless achieved. The only one involved in the murders to be paroled. And this is now 30 years ago.


High and tired for his mug shot– Steve Grogan alias Clem Tufts.

What is the just thing to do, given the curve we have after all these years? Should Beausoleil be paroled? The parole boards have said that he continues to profit in his music and artwork off the incident. How about Leslie Van Houten? She was a drugged-up teen who stabbed a dead victim after being warned by Tex Watson to get her hands dirty.  Pat Krenwinkel was directly involved it at least 2 of the murders and accessory to the others. What about her? Based on what other murderers from that time have been dealt, what is your answer?

Susan Atkins was especially vociferous about how LSD helped bend them to Manson’s will. The others seemed to agree. LSD and the mind control that goes with it was part of the defense of Patty Hearst when she was tried for her part in the Symbionese Liberation Army’s terrorist exploits in the 1970s. It helped get her a reduced sentence.

And most controversial of all, should not advocates of victims’ rights have been satisfied with keeping the Manson perps behind bars and not tinkering with the system? That the governor can now veto judicial decisions, individual judicial decisions, as an appellate, the lines are most definitely blurred between the judiciary and the executive. Hopefully no judge would listen to a lynch mob, but politicians are geared toward popular appeal, one way or the other.

This is perhaps the most critical question to ask, for it is not a question about an individual case but about how, because of the popularity of the murders, the actual system was completely altered to give the Executive the power of an appellate court.

So, in summary, should any of the Manson Family perps be paroled? If they should, why? If they are recommended, do you think that the governor will allow it? And, last, should the appellate power of the governor be rescinded?

For decades the Manson murders have affected California. How much is based on the actual crimes and how much on their sales and marketing?

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For 25 years 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. “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.

Love and Judgment — Manson’s Formula for Murder

“Christ said ‘Love thine enemies.’ Christ’s enemy was Satan and Satan’s enemy was Christ. Through Love enmity is destroyed. Through love Saint and Sinner destroy the enmity between them. Through love, Christ and Satan have destroyed their enmity and come together for the End. Christ to Judge, Satan to execute Judgment. The Judgment is wisdom, the execution of the judgment is love.”

Robert DeGrimston — Unity of Christ and Satan

Strange, pipe smoking philosophy that eventually even The Process eliminated. The philosophy’s pedigree was not unique. It was inspired by some elements of Eastern Mysticism– unite opposites to bring harmony. This was quite the rage during the antiestablishment movement in the 1960s. During the counterculture many things could be put together to form a strange lego house.

DeGrimston and the symbol of the 4 "Ps"
DeGrimston and the symbol of the 4 “Ps.” Notice how “Christ” is not in the mix? Guess who?

Robert DeGrimston was the founder of The Process and its chief philosopher in The Haight. One attendant on DeGrimtson’s preaching was a man named Charles Manson. A few years later he would adapt Process thought to his own philosophy or, better put, for his own practical goals. He listened to the preaching in Haight in 1967 when he got out of prison at Terminal Island. At the Haight he was greeted by a utopia– a massive street culture, almost a festival of life and flowers everyday, everywhere. He bedded down on Coles Street, not far from a prominent Process member, Brother Elias.

Manson had studied philosophy in prison, so he was an eager listener to any new ideas. But he was also a person who needed to survive now. It was a bit easier in the Haight. Life had taken to the streets. Outcasts and runaways were arriving daily. They could easily be distinguished by how mainstream they looked. Soon they would be flower children.

Coles Street today
Coles Street today

He started his “Family” here and cruised up and down the California coast with the “Family’s” first member, Mary Brunner.

It is unlikely “Charlie” had any intention to put religious philosophy in action, but he had seen that DeGrimston was doing well in the Haight by claiming he was a metaphysical return of Jesus. Manson’s messianic approach was early, however. This is evident in how he impressed Ruth Ann Moorehouse’s father, Dean Moorehouse, a former preacher. After a short stint to Mendocino, which then made Ruth Ann No 3 in the Family, Mary and Lynne Fromme (No. 2) bunked with the Rev. Dean could see some Christ-like attributes in Manson. The LSD probably helped the former Rev. cozy up to Manson.

It certainly wasn’t Manson’s appearance that swayed Dean Moorehouse. He didn’t look much different from his prison pictures yet, as confirmed by his brief arrest in Mendocino. But there was an element to Manson’s philosophy that swayed the Rev. So he let them stay a few weeks, and let Manson fornicate with the girls while the preacher contemplated his stirring philosophy.Manson-July67

After The Family left, Manson began to center himself around LA. As far as Charlie was concerned, the hippies looked too different. This didn’t make the Haight appealing. LA was a little more free rolling and not too extreme. Manson needed a career. He had impressed a preacher. Maybe this was the place to be.

In the greater LA area his “Family” grew. Ruth Ann son joined them and with his new black Volkswagen van he was seen as this wild, crazy guy with a harem of chicks.  On the surface the Family and he seemed pure hippies. But there has always been a strange flotsam around LA trying to make it big in entertainment. It is perhaps memorialized best in the song Car Wash. Thus in this new hippie era many hippies and aspiring talent looked the same and intermingled. Manson was soon seeing that his philosophy could be adapted to music.

It is a fact that he would actively cultivate and try and hold talented men– Paul Watkins, Brooks Posten, and especially Bobby Beausoleil.

When a tactless porno picture was made at Spahn's in 1969, it featured two family members-- Beausoleil and Gypsy.
When a tactless porno picture was made at Spahn’s in 1969, it featured two family members– Beausoleil and Gypsy.

Manson preached antiestablishment. This was sincere. In the mores of the times, it really didn’t go noticed that he pimped the Family women to attract men who could help him in his music endeavor. Aside from this inspiration from his lawless background, he set his girls to go dig through the grocery store trash bins and, if necessary, Sexy Sadie or another would have sex with the manager to give them their pass. Credit card theft. Drug dealing. Auto theft. Yes, to all. They appeared your mainstream hippies on the surface, but they really weren’t. He was a Fagan working grown up thieves. They were in and out of Bel Air mansions and then finally shacked up in old shacks (literally) on a rotting old western movie set. This was Hollywood’s type of hippie.

Spahn Ranch
Spahn Ranch

Thus at this time Manson worked two MOs– hippie religion (with him as a Jesus figure) and a potential music career. The first didn’t make any money. Yet it gave him power and it gave him the appearance of being a New Age guru. This is what opened the door to Hollywood. The antiestablishment was the biggest fad to ever hit the nation, and the music business wanted to cash in.

So far, Charles Manson had not coiffed himself to look anything like the popular paintings of Jesus. He had shown himself practical. He hovered between.

Not much Jesus here (at least in terms of traditional paintings) Manson in August 1969.
Not much Jesus here (at least in terms of traditional paintings); Manson in August 1969.

Something changed in late Spring 1969. There have been interpretation’s as to what caused it, but that is not the point of this article. The purpose is to highlight that when things changed, “preaching” refined to a point with a practical purpose.

Tex Watson returned to the Family in Spring. He quickly noticed how different things were. Helter Skelter was being preached. The end was coming. They had to prepare. Again, Manson wasn’t being original. He was preaching The Process’ end of the world scenario, which they felt was soon to come. Apocalypticism was rampant throughout the culture at the time, so The Process’ preaching wasn’t too arcane. But The Process had a rather influential slant on it within hippie culture.

Robert DeGrimston had written up The Process scriptures and preached the end of the world in the baroque grandeur that was The Process’ façade in Haight.  That’s why they were known as The Process Church of the Final Judgment. He believed that the 144,000 in Revelation were the chosen Processeans, and The Process by its preaching would reveal them and save them from the wrath and upheaval to come.

How Process teaching could be mocked.
How Process teaching could be mocked.

Manson copied it all. His motive, however,  was unlikely to be sincere. This can be deduced from his jailhouse interviews. In one, he makes light of the term Helter Skelter, saying that this was “the prosecutor’s word.” A rather bad lie, considering Tex Watson scribbled it in blood on the La Biancas’ refrigerator. Manson also doesn’t appear very apocalyptic in jail. My experience with studying true cult paranoids has told me that they really believe what they preach. Take Jim Jones, for instance. He was so apocalyptic that he moved his cult to Jonestown in Guyana, sure that they would survive the nuclear holocaust coming. When there was no way out, Jones too committed suicide with his followers.

I do not know why Manson is called an evil genius. If genius amongst cult leaders is  determined by how many lives they take with them, then certainly Manson pales by comparison to Jones. He took over 900 people to death with him, whereas Manson’s Family was a clique of petty thieves, dopers, and prostitutes. He too preached the 144,000 and that Death Valley is the place where they’d be saved, but with 20 or so Family members, he was far short of the required number to fulfill Revelation.

Charles Manson’s unique gift was in determining character.

By summer Manson needed money. According to Little Paul (Paul Watkins) there had been a lady in Malibu who had given Manson money. There were times when they had walked around with thousands in their pockets. But Manson needed some heavy cash now. He burned Lotsapoppa. Then he feared Lotsapoppa was tied-in with the Black Panthers.

Manson unquestionably feared retribution. And he feared it from those he feared the most– black people.

Now he began to preach love and judgment. His influence on some must have been enormous. In the academy nominated documentary Manson (1973) by Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick we see this clearly. It was being filmed while Manson was awaiting trial and continued after he had been convicted. Those of the Family that were free appeared in it.  We get a taste of how they believe Manson is Jesus:

Brenda (Nancy Pitman): “In other words Christ is Love. Now, Charlie is Love. That makes him Christ 1. He’s already died once, for the whole world, on a cross. You can’t kill a man twice.”

Waiting for Armageddon.
Waiting for Armageddon.

The motive for the murders was love. Love of brother. Sandra Good: “We knew that Charlie would give his life for a brother. And the girls loved Bobby enough to do this. They were willing to die as they took those people’s lives.”

Brenda: “Did I know at the time? Yeah.”

Merrick: “How did you feel about the baby?”

Brenda: “Not one way or the other. In other words, I knew that it was all perfect.”

Good: “Sure, as perfection is.”

Merrick: “Why the La Bianacas?”

“There are no whys.”

Squeaky. “There aren’t any whys. No whys at all.”

Good: “Uh-uh. It was simply a move.”

Squeaky: “The soul moves. The soul– why war?  Why anything?”

Good: “Why abortion?”

Squeaky: “Why birth? (pause) We are.”

Good: “In other words, whatever way we move is perfect. This is the last. This is the last time around.” Manson (1973)

Merrick: “If you had to kill more, you’d kill more?”

Good nods affirmative.

Squeaky: “Whatever we have to do. We leave our house open to the soul. We leave our mind open.”

Merrick: “And you may get an impulse and go out and kill tomorrow?”

Fromme was blank, then there was a slight grin, acknowledging hesitation.

Good, nodding: “If it was right.”

The above also helps the reader to understand to what extent Manson inculcated his “Family” with his own style of rationalization. In every jailhouse interview, he has shown sensitivity to the issue of guilt. At times he explains what happened in 1969 logically, though perhaps not honestly. When guilt is raised, he goes off onto completely odd tangents about “holy war” and then how many are being killed in other ways.

Before “Charlie got on his Helter Skelter trip,” as Paul Watkins declared, “All we did was f—–g, and if we weren’t doing that we were leading up to it.”

But after the Helter Skelter trip, we can see how he tailored their sex addiction to inspire murder. In another dissertation, Gypsy expounds: “Jesus Christ died with a hard on. He died with a beautiful smile on his face. . . because it’s a total climax to die. It’s all music. All sound. All beauty. All color. All at once.”

Until his arrest in Death Valley, Manson didn't have the typical features we associate with Jesus, though he preached himself in that vein.
Until his arrest in Death Valley, Manson didn’t have the typical features we associate with Jesus, though he preached himself in that vein.

Putting all this together gives us the following– Jesus’ judgment is wisdom and Satan executing the judgment is love. Add a few of the other tidbits above, we can also understand why Tex Watson proclaimed something when he burst upon the Tate living room. Knife brandished, he proclaimed “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s work.” From what Manson had been picking from Process philosophy it fits. This was judgment. Manson as Jesus made it. Watson was carrying it out. He thus was Satan executing it. This was love.

In one jailhouse interview Manson quipped: “They tried to convict me of being Jesus and the devil. Now try and figure that one out.” He used this as a sign of how goofy the prosecution was, but he knew the meaning behind it. He learned it from The Process.

It doesn’t seem that “pigs” written on the door in blood sounds like love. But then many things don’t add up in the Manson chronicles. “Pigs” must come back to the “holy war” or the copycat angle the Family also claim was the motive in order to get Beausoleil out of jail. Kill two birds with one stone. Start a black-white war (at least locally) and get Bobby out. Then they would flee to the desert and get as many children out as possible to save them.

The Jesus appearance was perfect  for ads. During the trial, opinion in the nation was divided. The hippie culture backed Manson initially.
The Jesus appearance was perfect for ads. During the trial, opinion in the nation was divided. The hippie culture backed Manson initially.

That’s why Sandra Good said everything they do is perfect, because it is all leading up to save the remnant from the apocalypse: “Whatever is necessary to do, you do it. When somebody needs to be killed, there’s no wrong. You do it. And then you move on.  And you pick up a child and you move him to the desert. You pick up as many children as you can, and you kill whoever gets in your way. This is us.”

Love basically is what they wanted to do. The effect on their victims isn’t a part of the equation.

By Charles Manson putting into action Process theology a great truth was revealed. It doesn’t work. It was not love. Murder was not love. Manson may have convinced Tex it was judgment and thus he was doing the devil’s work who executes judgment, and that Manson was being wise as Jesus in bringing this judgment. But it doesn’t work.

Atkins 1976
Atkins 1976

Charles Manson has always said he reflects what others wish to see. Thus he clearly tailored Process teachings to convince some that it was love to get Bobby Beausoleil out of jail. Others it was the final judgment. Whatever would convince them.

In 1976, Sexy Sadie herself– Susan Atkins– after her conversion to Christianity tried to blame the actual devil. In her first interview, a plea or ploy to get considered for bail already, she affirmed that Tex had declared “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s work.” Then she said he had inhuman power. Her implication was that it was the real devil. A divine hand, on the other hand, kept her from bringing down the knife of Freykowski. God spared her from being a murderess. Tex did it all. The devil had deceived them.

Perhaps it wasn’t the devil, but evil is selfishness empowered. No conscience; all for self. The devil may not have done this, but certainly a disciple of evil did.


For 25 years 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. “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.

Bunko and The Process: Backdrop on The Manson Family

Few know what or who were the Bunko Squad on big city police forces. They investigated swindles. The word probably derives from bunkum– meaningless claptrap or completely hollow, false assertions. The duties of the Bunko Squad in the 1930s evolved into dealing with “phony religion,” as it was termed back then. This was considered a particular type of swindle/fraud.

Harper, 1966, reflecting the 1960s phony guru crowd pre-Haight. Strother Martin plays a conman in his Temple of the Clouds.
Harper, 1966, reflecting the 1960s phony guru crowd pre-Haight. Strother Martin plays a conman in his Temple of the Clouds. The image wasn’t too far from the truth of how “metaphysical love” cults presented themselves.

The term Bunko Squad was dropped in the 1960s. Fraud didn’t become more defined; investigation became more refined for various types of swindles. However, for “religious fraud,” how to even define it anymore? Fronts for trafficking like that portrayed in Harper were obvious but weren’t too easy to expose. Guru religions had been sprouting everywhere from beatnik culture. Who were sincere, deluded or swindling? You can be deluded and not committing Fraud.

When the free and easy antiestablishment movement broke wide open in 1967, the average Joe (especially the young) were actively looking for alternative religions and philosophies. Naturally, the Haight-Ashbury became the center of this. Yet fraud always hinged on bilking money. The Haight was the center of a culture that didn’t even have money. The “hippie religions” that incubated there were sincere, but a strange admixture of self deception.

Curt Rowlett, himself once a mid-level member in an occult religion, describes the Haight in Labyrinth 13:

“Radical politics, free love, new spiritual values, and an ‘anything goes’ mentality were the standards for the day in the Haight and all seemed to be linked by a common thread: the desire to break away from the mental programming of commonly accepted belief systems of the preceding generations which seemed to have become useless and untrue.

“There appeared to be no middle ground regarding the hippie movement and the Haight phenomenon itself. To ‘ordinary’ people, those involved with the hippie counterculture were either viewed with amusement or seen as frightening or insane. Accordingly, the attitudes of Americans regarding the ‘hippies’ ranged from joyful support all the way to intense hatred.

“The Haight seemed to move on its own wings, creating its own style of dress and grooming, original musical sounds, and even a community newspaper called The San Francisco Oracle, and in many of the Haight’s stores, along with posters, incense, beads, pipes, and other paraphernalia, were books that focused on Native American shamanism, the European occult, and pagan philosophies, Eastern religion and metaphysics, with Zen Buddhism being the prevailing religious leaning of the hippie movement. Indeed, many aspects of the ‘occult’ and other mystical schools of thought were being revived and studied by a whole new generation.”

The glut of new religions resulted in a quagmire. How to  identify true, sincere religious philosophy and bunko scam religions? Well, if no money was involved it would seem hard to pinpoint Fraud. Also, with crime soaring from petty to militant crimes, going after Hindu fakirs from Poughkeepsie wasn’t high priority.

One of the most significant cross streets in history now. The Haight became the center of Flower Power because of its association with Golden Gate Park.
One of the most significant cross streets in history now. The Haight became the center of Flower Power because of its association with Golden Gate Park and the Human Be-In.

In the 1970s, the Moonies were probably the last religious group that disturbed America to the point it was heavily investigated for its conduct and the sincerity of its leader, Sun Myung Moon. When Moon was called before the judge and declared that his revelations came from Jesus, the learned jurist leaned over and asked:

“How did you know it was Jesus?”

Moon replied: “From his pictures.”

There is great truth in that exchange with the judge.

The “hippie religions” of the late 1960s, in particular how they congealed in the Haight, were the product of minds steeped in established interpretations of the cultures they grew up in. Knowing Jesus by his pictures is the perfect example. Our idealized image of Jesus is the flaxen haired Norseman in the long, soft tunic. Is this the real Jesus, however? Is this the image of a Galilean Jew of 2000 years ago? If one is seeking truth and substance, one must indeed ask such a question.

Robert DeGrimston, founder of The Process was by far the most organized leader to believe he was Jesus come back (in a metaphysical sense) and cater to the cultural image of Jesus.
Robert DeGrimston, founder of The Process, was by far the most organized leader to believe he was Jesus come back (in a metaphysical sense) and to cater to the cultural image of Jesus.

The answer is, of course not. It is our European symbol of a stoic, gentle leader. Appealing, handsome, but pure and untouchable. It is this image that was marketed, perhaps very sincerely by some so-called hippie religions. But in doing so the religious leaders revealed to what shallow extent they truly considered the substance of truth. It was presentation. It was opera. It was cultural theatre. Is there truth in this?

One group has come to epitomize the amalgam that was “Hippie Religion”: The Process Church of the Final Judgment. Apocalyptic, metaphysical, Christian, occult, dramatic. In truth, The Process was more of the Beat than anything hippie. It began in 1964 in affluent Mayfair, London, and was too arcane to be truly something popular. They also developed the belief they would represent the 144,000 to be saved in the Book of Revelation– thus they weren’t out to convert the world. The Process initially sought its members from more affluent well-to-do people.  Altogether it looked like what the bunko squads used to look for– phony religion bilking money.

However, The Process was not phony. It was begun by Robert DeGrimston Moore and his wife, both of whom were disenchanted Scientologists when Scientology was only a psychoanalysis group. DeGrimston thought too much wild speculation was behind Hubbard’s theorizing. He was more for a defined process of enlightenment. They attracted about 30 followers as their religion developed and called it The Process.

As its origins imply, they had no scriptures and their views and process were not well defined in print. The group had enough money, however, to retreat to the Bahamas and then eventually they went to Xtul, Yucatan, for a year. Here The Process religion was truly formed. This was the desert sojourn. DeGrimston wrote the Xtul Dialogues. Later he would write the Logics and the details of the religion would take on its mature and confusing tenets: the worship of 4 gods, all from Judeo-Christian concepts, with occult symbolism, and the preaching of apocalypse, which was quite vogue in era of dystopia (1960s-1970s). As the 144,000 they would beat the rap to come with their process.

In 1967 they came to New Orleans, just before the counterculture’s flower power would bloom far away in San Francisco. The antiestablishment movement was still largely Beat, with Nehru collar preachers behind funky glasses, so that The Process’ medieval appearance — black tunics and red or purple surcoats– was astonishing to Americans. Add the long hair (in imitation of biblical patriarchs) and then symbols of the cross mixed with those of the occult (such as the Goat of Mendes) and people were sure they were devil worshipers.

Pentagrams and the Goat of Mendes, heavy duty Occult symbols, didn't mix well and eventually the goat was dropped.
Occult symbols (the Goat of Mendes) and Christian theology didn’t mix well and eventually the goat was dropped.

DeGrimston’s odd tenets didn’t help. Being influenced by Eastern philosophy’s views that one must unite opposites in order to create a reconciled, complete whole, he used this with Christian theology. Thus The Process had 4 gods. Jehovah – Lucifer – Christ – Satan. Not only was this neo-polytheism in the modern world, which seemed horribly archaic, two of their gods were names for which westerners reserve for purest evil.

In Unity of Christ and Satan, DeGrimston wrote:

“Christ said ‘Love thine enemies.’ Christ’s enemy was Satan and Satan’s enemy was Christ. Through Love enmity is destroyed. Through love Saint and Sinner destroy the enmity between them. Through love, Christ and Satan have destroyed their enmity and come together for the End. Christ to Judge, Satan to execute Judgment. The Judgment is wisdom, the execution of the judgment is love.”

Apparently these revelations came in Xtul, where DeGrimston came to believe he was the re-incarnation of Jesus destined to find the 144,000 to be saved from judgment day.

Eastern philosophy overlaid on Christian and biblical concepts. Interesting. In the West these opposites cannot be reconciled, and one cannot facilitate the other. Metaphysical, of course; the Beat was. But how deep? DeGrimston remained practical and coifed himself like Jesus– something quite inviting– rather than anything “opposite” and quite repelling. The Process wanted to grow. They eventually even catered to biker gangs, not only for the notoriety but also for the protection as the counterculture blossomed. DeGrimston was also sure that the biker gangs would be the shock troops in the coming apocalypse.   DeGrimston-messianic2

The Process obviously still kept it’s apocalyptic, exclusive attitude. It was a natural step in logic that they felt they could spot the 144,000 which would make up the Processeans who would survive Judgment soon to come. It was a strange lodge of Beat-Hippies with lots of opera and lots of borrowing and assuming.

Its ultimate demise, however,  was due to the fact that its once high profile was the result of fad. But even more so it died because it wasn’t hippie and it wasn’t Haight. It had been welcomed in the Haight. Anything exotic was. They forsook New Orleans and came to the center of it all; an elaborate elite seeking religion in the epicenter of the exact opposite.

More and more the Haight was putting off the erudite claptrap and attitudes of the Beat for a new freeliving lifestyle. It is this lifestyle more than hippie philosophy that would eventually delight the mainstream and set the tenor of the 1970s. The 1970s was not philosophy. It was attitude. The Process with its baroque flamboyance, medieval façade, and confusing paganism was horribly obsolete and crumbled by 1975, the era of gritty urban realism, militant brigands robbing banks and race contention.

Gathering of the Tribes, Human Be-In, January 14, 1967, Golden Gate Park.
Gathering of the Tribes, Human Be-In, January 14, 1967, Golden Gate Park.

The Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, January 1967, was probably the last example of pure Beat influence in the early counterculture under the tutelage of its airy philosophers. Just months away the Summer of Love would initiate a movement of music and youth. It must have been such a potent atmosphere in the Summer of 1967 that it was palpable. For a newly released Charles Manson, who soon made it to Haight post Be-In, it was enough to inspire him to believe that the hippie movement was doomed because “all it was about was music.” Having been in prison he didn’t realize that Processean and Beat philosophy wasn’t coming into vogue with the Summer of Love. It was going out.

Music more than mysticism would become the force of the counterculture, as Woodstock would show. It would come back to the west coast at the Altamont. The goal wasn’t reform civilization anymore, the goal was to do “your own thing.” By 1969 The Haight was not the place for hippies or for a complex, erudite Beat religion. When George Harrison of the Beatles finally visited this year, he was disappointed. He said the Haight was nothing but a bunch of dropouts.

The hippie movement was pressing on to the rural areas; ironically some of its free living attitudes pressing into the other direction: into the fiber of middleclass culture. By contrast, The Haight was being destroyed by every malcontent and loser gravitating to a place where being a bum was acceptable.

In many respects The Process and the hippie religion of The Haight was the product of an insulated, luxurious society that took many things for granted. Its revolution was in putting them together in unusual ways, but like a house built of non-fitting legos there was only the superimposition of disproportion.

Manson's driver's license. This is how he looked in the summer of 67.
Manson’s driver’s license. This is how he looked in the summer of 67.

Charles Manson, however, had little knowledge of the counterculture. But the little conman saw that this was a season of opportunity. He also saw that his former petty pimping and auto theft was small time compared to what was possible now. He was perfectly positioned. He boasted of being a survivor in the streets. “When you have a problem, you call moms. I go to an alley and get a carjack.” When he was released he saw that the fad was to take to the streets and to be outcasts and dropouts. How many of these kids really knew how to survive? He certainly did.

Charles Manson, August 69, on an unrelated charge of car theft. Despite popular perception, Manson did not coif himself like Jesus until he had the huge publicity of the trial.
Charles Manson, August 69, on an unrelated charge of car theft. Despite popular perception, Manson did not coif himself like Jesus until he had the huge publicity of the trial.

The Process was garishly preeminent in 1967. It is from The Process that he created his pitch. But Charles Manson could not afford nor did he have the luxury of The Process. Yet there is no question that Manson crudely re-chiseled Processean theory. But to what purpose? To go from petty ex-con to sincere prophet or sincere profit? He no doubt liked the appearance of insulated power that The Process had in a dump. He had read socialist philosophy in prison. He could see this was a time of social upheaval. What was his goal? A high paying scam religion or a music career?

Frankly, Manson was more likeable and approachable than the aloof and preachy DeGrimston. He could speak to the “kids” on their level against an establishment, which he sincerely didn’t like. He was voluble, personable and quite humorous. He began building a “family.” He could free wheel it for a while in this easy rider culture that he was genuinely enormoured with while he decided on guru or rock star. He collected females first and set himself to pimping for free. In an era of free love, the girls didn’t realized what they were being set up for.

Despite his complete control of The Family, Manson did not attempt an elaborate guru appearance. There was no Jesus Manson until the massive publicity of the trial. He gave alternative names to his followers, like The Process did (they also called themselves The Family), but they weren’t elevated names like Brother Abraham and Father Elias. They were names fit for Eric von Zipper’s bikers– Squeaky, Capistrano, Country Sue, Snake, and Clem. He was a skid row drug dealer in a dilapidated movie set, with wild eyed kids enchanted at his ability to survive and preach something appealing– counterculture. It wasn’t profitable. He must have had something else in mind. He had potential but so far he showed no real vision.

What was wrong?

Logistics of Murder– Manson and 10050 Cielo Drive

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.

DeGrimston was a carefully coiffed Jesus as head of the Process Church of the Final Judgment. The Process mixed eastern mysticism and the occult with some traditional Christian concepts and their quaint nod to pictures of Jesus.
DeGrimston was a carefully coiffed Jesus as head of the Process Church of the Final Judgment. The Process mixed eastern mysticism and the occult with some traditional Christian concepts and their quaint nod to pictures of Jesus.

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.

A photogenic Jesus born at Haight and Ashbury and San Quentin.
A photogenic Jesus born at Haight and Ashbury and San Quentin.

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.

The Tate residence as seen from the area of the gate.
The Tate residence as seen from the area of the gate.

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.

Logistic forethought. Tex scurried up this telephone pole by the gate and cut the phone lines leading to the house.
Logistic forethought. Tex scurried up this telephone pole by the gate and cut the phone lines leading to the house. Quite sinister really.

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.”

Watson was busted for drugs months earlier. He was high on belladonna without knowing it. This is the mug shot.
Watson was busted for drugs months earlier. He was high on belladonna without knowing it. This is the mug shot.

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.

Tex had not long failed in his once successful drag dealer ship in Hollywood when the April mug shot had been taken. There is still a semblance of his once stylized hair cut. This is what Tex looked like in August, his hair grown out.
At the time of the mug shot in April, above, Tex had not long failed in his once successful drug dealership in Hollywood. Traces of his expensive stylized haircut can still be seen. This is what Tex looked like in August, his hair grown out and shaggy.

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.