“MANSON FAMILY MALEVOLENCE” #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: We look at the events and actors of the Sharon Tate murder, the Manson Family members, and the paranormal happenings they have left behind – now over 50 years after the horrific events unfolded.
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The scene is 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, the residence of director Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. On the morning of August 10, 1969, the Polanskis’ housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, arrives to discover a cut phone line and, once inside the gate, two bodies on the lawn and another in a vehicle parked in the driveway. These are Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folger Coffee fortune; Voytek Frykowski, her boyfriend; and Steve Parent, a friend of William Garretson, the caretaker living in the guest house. When police arrive and enter the home, they find the bodies of Tate and her ex-boyfriend, Hollywood hairdresser Jay Sebring, along with marijuana, meth- amphetamines, and the word “pig” written in blood on the door. The crime scene is savage; the victims had been beaten, shot, and stabbed repeatedly. There is wild speculation by police and the press, suggesting a drug-fueled party, orgy, or ritual sacrifice gone awry. In a house across town the next night, teenager Frank Struthers returns home from a camping trip to find all of the curtains drawn. Sensing that this is unusual, he calls his sister. The two of them along with the sister’s boyfriend enter the house and discover the bodies of their parents, grocery store owner Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, both of whom had been brutally stabbed, choked, and beaten. The word “war” is carved into Leno LaBianca’s stomach, the words “healter skelter [sic]” are written on the refrigerator in blood.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
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Coming up in this episode…
The Manson Family’s depravity is often viewed as the symbolic end of the freewheeling decadence of the 1960s, the inevitable crash after a decade-long party. We look at the events and actors in this horrific true story and the paranormal happenings they have left behind – now, over 50 years later. This is an archive episode and I have since discovered that my pronunciations of some of the names are incorrect, and I apologize for that in advance. If I choose to create a new story on the Manson family murders in the future I will do my best to fix that.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
In the summer of 1969, the Manson murders gripped the nation with fear. And while everyone is familiar with the mastermind and his story, his victims sometimes languish in his shadow.
But there were many people who died at the hands of Charles Manson’s brainwashed “family” during the Tate murders of August 8–9, 1969, and the LaBianca murders the following night. Among the victims was Sharon Tate, a 26-year-old actress who was eight and a half months pregnant at the time of her death. Talented, beautiful, famous, and married toRosemary’s Baby director Roman Polanski, it seemed unthinkable that someone like Tate could meet such a brutal end. Her murder was not only senseless and shocking—but a definitive end to the innocence and carefree spirit of the 1960s. As renowned journalist Joan Didion writes in The White Album: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969.”
Just before midnight the previous evening, a group of Manson followers arrived at Tate’s home, armed with instructions to “totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can.” Charles Manson had come to the house on a different occasion, ready to argue with its then-renter—music producer Terry Melcher—about a rejected record deal. With Melcher gone and the famous Polanksi couple in his place, 10050 Cielo Drive now represented everything Manson hated.
By the early morning hours of August 9, 1969, Sharon Tate was dead, as were three of her friends—Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Abigail Folger—and a fourth guest, Steven Parent. Save for Parent, who was shot, Tate and the others died from vicious stabbings. The Manson murderers then wrote “Pig” on the front door in Tate’s blood, fulfilling their leader’s final wish that they “leave a sign…something witchy.”
Tate was mostly known for her memorable performance in the 1967 cult favorite, Valley of the Dolls. Her rise to fame had been an upwards slog from beauty pageantry to working as an extra to getting bit parts on shows like Mister Ed andThe Beverly Hillbillies. After failed movie auditions for The Cincinnati Kid and The Sound of Music in the mid-1960s, Tate finally landed her first big role in the 1966 horror film, Eye of the Devil. A succession of other movies, plus her working relationship and marriage to Roman Polanski, set her more firmly on Hollywood’s radar. Her final film was 12+1—her first, and only, lead role.
Despite the passage of 50 years, the massacre at 10500 Cielo Drive—and the LaBianca slayings the day after—has not faded from the American consciousness. Greg King recounts Tate’s life and murder in Sharon Tate and the Manson Murders, painting a portrait of an actress, friend, wife, and expectant mother who had so much more to show the world. The following excerpt of the book takes readers to the devastating crime scene on the morning of August 9, 1969.
Early on the morning of Saturday, August 9, 1969, Los Angeles Times delivery boy Steve Shannen rode his bike up the steep cul-de-sac to the gate of 10050 Cielo Drive. He immediately noticed the cut communication wires hanging over the gate. As he looked further on, down the drive and past the white Ambassador which was parked at an odd angle, he saw that the yellow bug light on the side of the garage was still on; this in itself was hardly unusual, for it was just beginning to get light. Noticing nothing else out of the ordinary, he pedaled his bike back down the road. A few hours later, Seymour Kott, the neighbor at 10070 Cielo Drive, also noticed both the downed wires and the bug light shining in the distance.
Just after 8:00 that morning, Mrs. Winifred Chapman, the Polanskis’ housekeeper who had turned down Sharon’s invitation to stay at 10050 Cielo Drive the previous evening, left her bus at the corner of Santa Monica and Canyon Drive, at the end of Benedict Canyon Road. She was already late for work, although, under normal circumstances, it was unusual for anyone to be up that early at the house. But Abigail Folger had mentioned the day before that she would be flying to San Francisco at 10:00 A.M. to visit her mother. Mrs. Chapman considered calling a cab for the rest of the journey, but, just then, a friend saw her, pulled his car over and gave her a ride to the gate of 10050.
As her friend drove off, Mrs. Chapman turned to the gate to get the newspaper out of the mailbox. She immediately noticed the fallen wires across the gate. At first, she thought that the electricity might be out but, when she pushed the control button at the right side of the gate, it swung open. She walked down the driveway as the gate automatically closed behind her. Mrs. Chapman saw three cars in the driveway. One was Jay Sebring’s black Porsche, which she knew by sight. Next to it was Abigail Folger’s Firebird. But, farther up the driveway, halfway to the gate, was an unfamiliar car, a white Ambassador, which was parked at a curious angle in the middle of the road.
Mrs. Chapman entered the house by the rear door, using a key secured on the rafter above. She did not see the front lawn, which was hidden both by the angle of the estate, and by the split-rail fence and the shrubbery lining the end of the parking area. After setting her purse down in the kitchen, she picked up the telephone. It was dead.
Wondering if any of the residents knew that the phone was out of order, she walked through the dining room and into the entrance hall. Then she abruptly stopped. The fieldstone floor was covered with pools of blood. There was blood on the stone surrounding the opening to the living room, blood on the walls, a trail of blood across the cream-colored living room carpet. The front door stood half open. As Mrs. Chapman looked out, she saw that the front porch, too, was covered with pools of blood. Farther out, halfway across the lawn, she saw a body.
She ran back through the house the same way in which she had come in, grabbing her purse on the way out. As she ran up the driveway, she crossed to the left hand side of the gate, so that she could push the “gate control button and flee from the property. This time, she saw that there was a body in the white Ambassador as well.
Once out of the gate, she ran to 10070 Cielo Drive, banging on the door and screaming at the top of her lungs. When no one answered, she ran further down the cul-de-sac, to 10090, shouting, “Murder! Death! Bodies! Blood!”
Fifteen-year old Jim Asin was standing outside the house, waiting for his father to drive him to the West Los Angeles Division of the LAPD, where he was to work the desk as part of his involvement with the Law Enforcement Unity of the Boy Scouts. He rushed to get his parents when Mrs. Chapman appeared, but they had already heard her screams and run to the door themselves. While they tried to calm her down, Jim Asin called the LAPD emergency number.
When Officer Jerry De Rosa arrived, he tried to talk with Mrs. Chapman, but she was too hysterical to do more than repeat her story about seeing the blood and the bodies. She did, however, calm herself enough to tell him how to work the electronic gate control button so that he could gain access to the estate.
Taking his rifle from his squad car, De Rosa nervously approached the white Ambassador, where, through the open driver’s side window, he saw Steven Parent, slumped toward the space dividing the bucket seats in front. His jeans and red and blue plaid shirt were soaked with blood.
As De Rosa straightened up, a second police car, this one driven by Officer William Wisenhunt, arrived. Wisenhunt carried a shotgun as he joined De Rosa in searching the other cars at the end of the paved parking area and the garage. They found nothing. As they were about to approach the main residence, a third officer, Robert Burbridge, joined them, and together, the trio cautiously walked on to the front lawn.
They could see the two bodies which lay ahead. As they approached Voyteck, they noted the terrible condition of his body. He lay on his right side, his head against his outstretched right arm, his left hand still clutching a clump of lawn. Not only was his clothing covered in blood, but his neck and arms had been stabbed repeatedly, and his head and face were battered, scarcely recognizable. Abigail Folger lay on her back, beneath a pine tree some 25 feet beyond her lover. She had been stabbed so many times that her once white nightgown was red.
The officers did not know if the killers were still inside the house. Two of them went around back while the third stayed on the front lawn. The two officers found a raised window in the nursery, and carefully entered, guns drawn. They made their way to the entrance hall, where they were joined by their partner from the front lawn. Aside from the pools and spatters of blood covering the front porch, they saw the ugly epithet “Pig,” scrawled in Sharon’s blood on the lower half of the white Dutch door.
The living room had spots of blood on the carpet, blood on the steamer trunks which had been knocked over in the struggle the night before, and blood near the doorway leading to the rear hallway, where Abigail had first fallen. A length of white nylon rope still hung looped over the long beam crossing the underside of the loft. As the police made their way around to the side of the couch, they saw Jay. He lay on his right side, his legs tucked up toward his stomach, and his still-bound hands bunched near his face. His face itself was covered with the beige bath towel, and the rope had been twisted round his neck several times. When the officers removed the towel, they saw that his face was horribly battered, his nose broken, flattened and swollen, large hematomae across his forehead where Watson had repeatedly kicked him.
One end of the rope crossed from Jay’s body, up around the ceiling beam, and then down again to Sharon. She lay on her left side in front of the fireplace, her back against the couch. Her legs were drawn up toward her round stomach in a fetal position. Her left arm rested next to her body, bent at the elbow as if in death she had clutched at the noose around her neck. Her right arm crossed her head, partially obscuring her features. A few wisps of blood-caked blonde hair fell across her face where it had escaped from the rope around her neck. Blood had poured from the ugly gashes in her chest and stomach, soaking the carpet onto which she had fallen, surrounding her in a large pool of crimson. “It was very quiet,” De Rosa later said, “and the only thing that I can recall hearing was the sounds of the flies on the bodies.”
None of the victims had any tangible connection to Charles Manson or the Manson Family cult other than being physically in the house previously occupied by someone Manson knew (Terry Melcher). Fortunately, one witness did come forward.
A witness for the prosecution described a March 1969 day on which Manson came to the house looking for Melcher and found Tate on the porch instead—“There could be no question that Charles Manson saw Sharon Tate, and she him,” writes Bugliosi.
Tate and her friends all died at the hands of Watson, Krenwinkel, and Atkins, as did Steven Parent, a teenaged friend of the house’s caretaker who happened to be pulling out of the driveway as the killers arrived.
We’ll look at these killers one-by-one. Plus, how the Beatles and Helter Skelter fit in, another murder suspected to be by Manson, and the paranormal events stirred up due to the slayings. All of this and more when Weird Darkness continues.
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Born Charles Milles Maddox as an “illegitimate” child of a 16-year-old mother, Manson spends his youth in and out of correctional institutions, committing his first armed robbery at age 13. Charges of grand theft auto, rape, pimping, and forgery soon follow. In prison, Manson grows very interested in Scientology and the Beatles, and begins playing music himself. Upon his release in 1967, Manson relocates to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, where he observes the hippie culture and begins picking up followers, mostly teenage runaways and prostitutes whom he swindles into giving him money, sex, and their total devotion.
Charlie and his early disciples establish a “commune,” or communal living space centered around a quasi-socialist ideology of sharing work and resources. The Manson Family, as they come to be known, settle in at Spahn Ranch, an old movie set for Westerns in the Simi Hills of Los Angeles. The owner, George Spahn, allowed the hippies to squat there in exchange for labor and female companionship.
At the commune, Manson conned his followers into believing he was a messiah or Christ figure, preying on their weaknesses, and making them completely dependent on him. Many were female teen runaways or prostitutes with nowhere else to go. Manson used many methods to control his disciples, from threats, to flattery, to drugs and sex. He had a grifter’s natural ability to spot weaknesses in people and exploit them.
As the Family grows closer, Charlie uses his charisma and political rhetoric to indoctrinate his followers, ultimately convincing them to fulfill his diabolical plan of instigating a race war through murder. The fame and social status of the victims makes the murders even more shocking: Sharon Tate, a well-known actress married to director Roman Polanski who was pregnant with his child; heiress Abigail Folger (of Folgers Coffee) and her boyfriend; and Jay Sebring, a hairdresser to the stars in Hollywood.
The LAPD circulates fliers seeking the gun used in the murders, unaware that it is already sitting in a precinct evidence locker in Van Nuys, having been found by a child in Sherman Oaks and turned over to police. Complicating matters further is a rivalry between investigators assigned to the Tate case and those assigned to the LaBianca case.
Despite these challenges, police manage to arrest 26 members of the Manson Family’s hippie commune for auto theft just one week after the murders. The arrest of a hippie commune for a series of brutal and violent murders shocks the city of Los Angeles, and indeed the entire United States. Historians will cite the Manson Family Murders (along with the Rolling Stones’ “Nightmare at Altamont”) as cultural touchstones that heralded the last throes of 1960s hippie culture.
Members of the Manson Family Arrested at Spahn Ranch Include:
Susan Atkins: Known by her peers as Sadie Mae Glutz or Crazy Sadie, Susan Atkins was present at the Hinman, Tate, and LaBianca murder scenes and admitted to stabbing Sharon Tate, though she later recanted. She was perhaps the most flamboyant of the “Manson Girls,” brazenly bragging of her involvement in the murders to her cellmates and investigators. Atkins settled at Spahn Ranch with the Manson Family in 1967. She gave birth to a son, whom Manson named Zezozose Zadfrack Glutz.
Linda Kasabian: Kasabian moved to Spahn Ranch with her young daughter, Tanya, in 1969, and quickly became one of Manson’s apprentices, believing that he could see her for who she really was. As the only Family member with a legal driving license, Kasabian drove the Family members to the commit the Tate and LaBianca murders. Kasabian was the only Family member to express any sympathy for the victims, even suffering an emotional breakdown when she was brought back to the Tate house to reconstruct the crimes. More than any other testimony, it was Kasabian’s that led to the convictions of Manson, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten.
Leslie “Sankston” Van Houten: Present at the Tate and LaBianca murder scenes, Van Houten was introduced to Manson via Bobby Beausoleil and Catherine “Gypsy” Share. According to Barbara Hoyt, Van Houten was one of the female leaders of the group.
Charles “Tex” Watson: Watson was Manson’s right-hand man. According to Al Springer, Tex was the “brains” at the ranch, along with Charlie. Upon his arrival at the Tate house, Watson said, “I am the Devil and I’m here to do the Devil’s business.” And indeed he did – eventually murdering Jay Sebring, Steven Parent, Voytek Frykowski, and Leno LaBianca.
Patricia Krenwinkel: Disciple of Charles Manson, Patricia was present at the Tate and LaBianca murders; she was observed by Kasabian chasing a fleeing Abigail Folger across the lawn at the Tate house and stabbing her repeatedly.
And Barbara Hoyt: A follower of Charles Manson and eventual witness for the prosecution, Hoyt began living with the Family at Spahn Ranch in 1969. She became suspicious when she saw some of the Family members watching the news about the Tate murders, and later overheard Susan Atkins tell Ruth Ann Moorehouse that she had killed Sharon Tate. Hoyt, along with Sherry Cooper, another Family member, attempted to flee the ranch in Death Valley, but were unsuccessful. Concerned about her testimony at trial, the Family sent Hoyt to Hawaii with other Manson girls. There, she was given food laced with LSD. Soon after, she collapsed and was rushed to the emergency room. After that episode, Hoyt returned to California and eagerly testified against the Family.
Vincent Bugliosi is assigned as prosecutor and begins his own investigation, visiting Spahn and neighboring Barker Ranch to collect evidence. He and other investigators try to piece together the Manson Family’s motives. Several witnesses (including Susan Atkins) outline Manson’s intention to start a race war (a.k.a. “helter skelter”) by blaming the Black Panthers for the murders. Atkins provides chilling testimony to the grand jury, relating details of the murders. She names Manson, Van Houten, Kasabian, and Krenwinkel in the murders of the LaBiancas. It is noted that she exhibits no “remorse, sorrow, or guilt.”
Around the same time, LaBianca detectives interview Al Springer and Danny DeCarlo, members of a motorcycle gang who had visited Spahn Ranch and heard details from Charles Manson about the Tate and LaBianca murders, as well as other crimes. DeCarlo implicates several other Family members, including Tex Watson and Steve Grogan (a.k.a. “Clem Tufts”), and corroborates the motive: Manson was hoping to pin the murders on the Black Panthers and instigate a race war.
According to Manson, after “the black man” won this war, he would find himself ill-equipped to rule society and seek out Charlie and the Family (who had been hiding safely in a “bottomless pit” in Death Valley) to take over. Manson believed this prophecy was backed by quotations from the Bible’s Book of Revelations, and more peculiarly, references made by the Beatles in various songs from The White Album. Charlie felt that the Beatles lyrics were “direct communications to him.” Furthermore, several of the songs contained words or phrases written in blood at the murder scenes: “pig,” “rise,” and “he[a]lter skelter.”
The grand jury comes back with indictments for Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel, Van Houten, Atkins, and Kasabian. Upon his arrest, Manson insists he will represent himself at trial.
Former Family member Paul Watkins tells investigators about Manson’s techniques for domination and manipulation, which include rationing out food and drugs, threatening violence, and demanding sex acts. Bugliosi also discovers a link between Manson and the house at 10050 Cielo Drive. Manson had been to the house before the murders, seeking record producer Terry Melcher. According to members of the Family, Melcher had promised to produce an album for Charlie and then changed his mind. While Charlie knew Melcher no longer lived at the address, it would have held a certain symbolic appeal to launch “helter skelter” from this location because he associated it with Melcher’s betrayal.
Manson continues to exert influence from his prison cell, using members of the Family who aren’t in custody to threaten, coerce, and pass along messages. He seems to be orchestrating the entire legal defense, telling the girls which attorneys to hire and fire and ultimately convincing Susan Atkins to recant her statement. Fortunately, the prosecution has a second star witness to take her place: Linda Kasabian.
Taking Linda Kasabian along on a ride to the crime scenes, Bugliosi extracts her story through tears of remorse. She says that at the Tate house, she saw Tex Watson shoot Steve Parent, but stayed in the car while the others went inside. She witnessed Patricia Krenwinkel chase Abigail Folger across the lawn and Tex Watson go after Voytek Frykowski before stabbing him repeatedly. Kasabian did not take part in the murders, but did not seek help because her daughter was still back at Spahn Ranch.
Recalling the night of the LaBianca murders, Kasabian supplies a wealth of information only one of the perpetrators could have known, including the location of Rosemary LaBianca’s wallet. She fled the ranch in terror shortly after the crimes were committed. Ballistics tests on spent bullet casings found at Spahn indicate that the same model of gun used in the Tate murders was used for target practice there. Going through the LAPD’s evidence, Bugliosi finds a wooden door covered in graffiti, also taken from the ranch. The words “Helter Skelter” are printed on it.
Not permitted to represent himself in court, Manson chooses Irving Kanarek as his counsel. He’s an attorney with a reputation for being disruptive in the courtroom and carrying on endless motions, dragging out simple cases for months. Manson causes his own disruptions, turning his back on the judge and striking a “crucifixion pose.”
Bugliosi explains that, even though Manson did not take part in the murders, he will be tried under the “vicarious liability” rule of conspiracy, which basically states that if he and his codefendants were all working toward the same conspiratorial goal (in this case, “helter skelter”), they are all equally guilty. Manson appears in court with a bloody “X” carved into his forehead, claiming, “I have X’d myself from your world.” His codefendants, and Mansonites on the outside, have “Xs” on their foreheads as well.
The trial is known for being one of the most raucous and dramatic in American history. During Linda Kasabian’s testimony, Manson is observed making a “slitting motion” with his finger across his throat. The antics crescendo when Manson grabs a pencil and leaps over the attorneys’ table toward the judge, before being tackled by a bailiff.
Bugliosi gives his opening statement, laying out the “helter skelter” motive, and Linda Kasabian testifies. Testimony is given by experts regarding weapons, the state of the bodies, and the fingerprints. Danny DeCarlo testifies to Manson’s use of the word “pig” and his theories about the impending race war. Juan Flynn, a ranch hand from Spahn, provides similar testimony. He also recalls specifics about the night the LaBiancas were murdered, including Susan Atkins stating, “We’re going to get some fucking pigs.” Former Family member Brooks Poston testifies to his prior belief that Charles Manson was the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Steve “Clem” Grogan is let out on probation (from the auto theft charges of the Barker raid), despite warnings by Bugliosi’s co-counsel that he is “exceedingly dangerous.” He and other members of the Family begin loitering outside the courthouse, holding a “vigil.” One member is quoted as saying, “I’m waiting for my father to get out of jail.” Bugliosi is followed by Family members repeatedly and Manson himself threatens to kill Bugliosi, the judge, and his own attorney.
Prosecution witness and former Family member Barbara Hoyt is spirited away to Hawaii by the Family in an attempt to silence her. When it doesn’t work, Manson follower Ruth Ann “Ouisch” Moorehouse slips ten tabs of LSD into Hoyt’s hamburger, resulting in her hospitalization. Tex Watson, awaiting trial, ceases speaking and eating and is placed in a mental hospital.
Finally, in late November 1970, the prosecution rests, followed by the defense. Manson is allowed to make a statement in closed court, without the presence of the jury. In a semi-coherent diatribe, he rails against the Vietnam War and the “system,” professes his innocence, blames the Beatles, and declares his desire to beat everyone present to death with his microphone.
The following Monday, Van Houten’s attorney Ronald Hughes fails to show up for court. He went camping over the weekend and disappeared. Many suspect he has been murdered by the Family because he was looking out for his client’s best interests during the trial, laying all of the blame on Charlie. His body is eventually found a few miles from where he had last been seen camping.
Several Mansonites are charged in the drugging of Barbara Hoyt with conspiracy to prevent a witness from testifying; shockingly, they are let out on bail. Family members also try, and fail, to smuggle marijuana and a hacksaw into jail for Charles Manson.
In the guilt phase of the trial, the defense does a remarkably poor job. Leslie Van Houten’s attorney insists that it is implausible that Manson would “send women to do a man’s job”. Ultimately, the jury deliberates for nine days and reaches a verdict of guilty on all counts for all parties.
The penalty phase of the trial then begins. The girls’ parents testify for the defense, pleading for their lives to be spared. Several Family members testify, including Catherine “Gypsy” Share, who makes the audacious claim that Linda Kasabian organized and ordered the murders as copycat crimes to the Gary Hinman murder so authorities would release Family member Bobby Beausoleil, who’d been charged with the killing of the music teacher. Susan Atkins testifies to the same, as well as her own lack of remorse, calling the crimes “No big thing.” Meanwhile, Tex Watson is released from the mental hospital.
Several doctors are called to attest to the girls’ mental states and the possibility of LSD use as a mitigating factor in the crimes. They are in agreement that the girls are mentally competent, and possibly suffering from personality disorders, and that LSD could not have compelled them to commit murder.
Finally, the prosecution and defense make their pleas for the death penalty and life imprisonment, respectively. After two days of deliberations, the jury votes in favor of the death penalty for all four defendants. However, in People v. Anderson, the California Supreme Court commuted all death penalties issued prior to 1971, and the Manson Family members on death row were spared their lives.
Having hatched an outlandish plan to free Manson, several Family members, including Catherine “Gypsy” Share, rob a Los Angeles Western Surplus Store, collecting one hundred and forty guns before they are apprehended by police. One of Manson’s disciples claims the group intended to hijack a plane and order their leader’s release.
All of the Manson Family members eventually express remorse for their crimes, with the lone exception being Charles Manson himself. Manson died in California State Prison at Corcoran in 2017, at the age of 83.
What Did Charles Manson Hear in the Music of the Beatles? Can we decode the twisted musical messages that Charles Manson heard in the music of the Fab Four?
Cult leader Charles Manson clearly marched to the beat of his own drum. But as a young man in the 1960s, his ears couldn’t help but tune in to the sounds of the Beatles.
While others heard groovy tunes from the Fab Four, Manson detected a different message. Manson himself was an aspiring musician who spent time with the Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson and even recorded his own album in 1968. As Manson’s mania intensified and his Family grew, the killer cult leader became convinced that the Beatles were speaking directly to him.
Embedded in their songs—in particular those featured on the 1968 self-titled release known as The White Album—were warnings of an impending race revolt by African Americans against the white establishment, inciting world-wide violence and Armageddon.
Charles Manson’s affinity for the Beatles was obvious. He referred to his temporary home in Canoga Park—where he and his Family hashed out their infamous murder spree—as the Yellow Submarine. Life in the Family, as Manson liked to call it, was a Magical Mystery Tour.
Yet it was The White Album that spoke the loudest to him. Critically praised upon its release in 1968, the album was a radical departure from the Beatles’ previous work, likely influenced by the anti-establishment attitudes of the era. For Manson, it solidified his delusions of the coming race war, which he dubbed “Helter Skelter” after the Beatles track. In his mind, the song’s lyrics served as a warning of the impending apocalypse: “Look out helter skelter helter skelter/ Helter skelter/ Look out helter skelter/ She’s coming down fast/ Yes she is/ Yes she is.”
The line “You can count me out, in” from the track “Revolution 1” proved to Manson that the Beatles backed the coming revolution and encouraged him to ignite it. “Honey Pie” was an admission by the group that they planned to “Sail across the Atlantic” and join Manson in California, seduced by “The magic of [his] Hollywood song.” And the ominous tape collage “Revolution 9” tied it all together. Included in the track are recordings of explosions, fire, oinking pigs, and shouts. The song’s title paralleled the Bible’s Revelation 9, with the four band members equaling the four angels of the apocalypse. “Revolution 9” concludes with sounds of gunfire and screaming, and then segues into the lullaby “Good Night.”
Manson orchestrated the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders of August 1969 to jumpstart the war, urging African Americans into action. References to Beatles songs were all over the crime scenes. At the site of the Sharon Tate killings at 10050 Ceilo Drive, “Pig” was written in Sharon Tate’s blood, a nod to the track “Piggies.”
The next day the Family descended upon the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. A cult member carved “WAR” into Leno’s stomach, while another stabbed a carving fork in his abdomen and a steak knife in his throat, presumably an allusion to the “Piggies” lyrics: “Everywhere there’s lots of piggies/ Living piggy lives/ You can see them out for dinner/ With their piggy wives/ Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.”
The words “Rise” and “Death to Pigs” were written on the walls of Leno’s home in his blood, and “Healter Skelter [sic]” was scrawled on the refrigerator. Manson was fond of the word rise. He heard the word shouted repeatedly in “Revolution 9” and claimed that the song “Blackbird” told of African Americans and their rise to power. “Blackbird singing in the dead of night/ Take these broken wings and learn to fly/ All your life/ You were only waiting for this moment to arise.”
Police eventually traced the clues of the Tate-LaBianca murders back to Manson and his Family. Among the corroborating evidence authorities found at their hideaway in the California desert, was a door inscribed with “Helter Scelter [sic] is coming down fast.” The phrase “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7—All Good Children (Go to Heaven?)” was scrawled above, a reference to lyrics from the 1969 Beatles album Abbey Road. Images of the door mural were included in the prosecution’s case against Manson and his followers.
One has to wonder if Manson believed in his warped vision of Helter Skelter and the apocalyptic messages hidden in the music of the Beatles.
When Weird Darkness returns…
Police considered her death an “overkill,” a brutal killing style used by the Manson Family. Is Charles Manson behind the unsolved murder of Reet Jurvetson?
Plus… the mansion where the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends took place seems to still be experiencing something horrifying – with ghosts that appear to have been left behind. These stories are up next.
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It has long been suspected that Charles Manson might have claimed more victims than the seven people killed by his followers in 1969. Now, police are investigating whether the unsolved murder of a once anonymous woman, killed 46 years ago, might be the work of the Manson Family.
Known up until very recently as “Jane Doe No. 59,” Reet Jurvetson was found dead on November 16, 1969, her body ravaged by over 150 stab wounds. Police were only able to identify her last year, when a friend recognized her photo on a post from Michelle McNamara’s blog True Crime Diary, and reached out to Jurvetson’s sister. Anne Jurvetson then provided police with a sample of her sister’s DNA, which matched blood from the victim, as well as explaining what little she knew about her sister’s life prior to her disappearance. Apparently, Jurvetson, 19, moved from Canada to Los Angeles in 1969, and planned to meet up with a man known only as “John.” According to Anne, after Reet went MIA, her parents never reported their daughter’s disappearance to police.
“They thought that she was just living her life somewhere and that eventually news from her would turn up,” Jurvetson wrote in a statement published by People.
Investigators have long suspected that there might be a connection between the young woman’s death and the Manson family, given the location, manner and timing of her murder. They considered her death an “overkill,” a brutal killing style used by the Manson Family to murder pregnant Sharon Tate and seven others just three months earlier, and only a few miles away.
“Manson claims there are other victims,” Craig Shepard, a detective who spent decades investigating the Jane Doe murder, told People. “She could have been someone who was at Spahn Ranch.”
Spahn Ranch is where Manson and his followers lived.
In October, investigators paid Manson a visit to ask him if he recognized a photo of Reet Jurvetson, but according to People, no new information was revealed. Whether that’s because Manson denied knowing Jurvetson is unclear. While they’re still exploring the possibility that Manson and/or any of his followers could have been responsible for Jurvetson’s death, police are also interested in learning more about the mysterious man named “John” who inspired the young woman to move to Los Angeles in the first place.
At the very least, Anne Jurvetson and her family may now have a better idea of what happened to Reet all those years ago, as difficult as it must be to process.
“It is such a sad, helpless kind of feeling to always question, to never know,” Anne told People. “After all these years, we are faced with hard facts. My little sister was savagely killed. It was not what I wanted to hear.”
In 2002, David Oman moved to a new home just 150 feet from 10050 Cielo Drive, the house in Benedict Canyon where Sharon Tate and four other people were murdered by the Manson family on August 9, 1969.
The mansion where the murders took place had been torn down in 1994, though a different house was later built on site. Five years after the home was razed, Oman’s father purchased a nearby plot for $40,000, and together they built a house on it.
During construction, a worker told Oman heard voices and footsteps coming from the top floor and that he knew he wasn’t alone. On further inspection, he saw that nobody was there. Others claimed to hear voices and footsteps, and feeling a cold breeze on the back of their necks. Then, in July 2004, Oman woke from a deep sleep at 2 a.m. to find “a full body apparition at the bottom of his bed pointing towards the driveway which leads to the murder site.” He tells me, “There was no sound. He gestured three times and then just disappeared.”
Fascinated and curious, he went to the LAPD to see if items from the murder had been left on the once-vacant land that held his house. If a bloodied piece of clothing or a knife carrying the victims’ DNA had been on this property, that might somehow serve as a connection, he thought. That’s when he saw a photo of Jay Sebring, Sharon Tate’s close friend and hairdresser — also brutally murdered on that horrible night. Sebring bore an eerie resemblance to the figure he’d see at his bedside.
Paranormal activity at the house became something of an obsession for Oman. In the last decade, he’s allowed access to dozens of “paranormal investigative teams,” who’ve brought instruments to measure electromagnetic activity in the air, which is thought to be a sign of the spirit world. He says, “The very first person to document the paranormal activities was world-renowned parapsychologist Barry Taff, who said in over 4,000 cases he investigated, this house had the highest consistent EMF readings he’d seen. He called it ‘the Mount Everest of haunted houses’ and ‘the Disneyland for the dead.’”
Yet living there has never fazed Oman. By nature a spiritual person, he isn’t fearful of ghosts or paranormal activity. “I always felt like I wasn’t alone here, but I’m not afraid of werewolves or fictitious characters, and I do know life is more than just what we see. Besides, I’m way more scared of the living than the dead,” he says.
In 2011, Oman served as a writer/producer on House at the End of the Drive, a fictionalized movie based on what he’s witnessed on Cielo Drive. Every few months, he now opens his home for an evening of ghosthunting, posting a notice on the film’s Facebook page. “Wanna go Ghost Hunting at The Oman House? Here’s your Chance!”
In May, I decide to join the hunt. The night, May 10, is dense with cloud cover and a half-moon exposure — a Dracula moon. I park on the very private road high above Beverly Hills and walk to the Oman house. The garage door is open, with a team of men watching multiple monitors of surveillance cameras inside the house. “We’re looking for activity,” they tell me.
Oman, warm and cheerful, introduces me to the group of a dozen men and women: some gawkers, others who work on paranormal TV shows and consider themselves experienced in the field. One girl gushes about her and her mom’s obsession with the Tate murders, admitting to driving by this street many times, “just to see where it happened.” Another tells of an evening she spent here a year ago, when her very skeptical friend sustained inexplicable, almost blood-like, red stains on her dress that she said smelled “like old cat pee.” Horrified, the friend would never talk about the dress ever again.
That same night as they were leaving, the woman continues, random cars on the block had only the right front headlight and right back light lit — all along the street. “And as you went up the street, toward the old Tate place, the left headlights and rear lights were lit, again on random cars. It was like a map or trail of some sort.”
Oman guides our group on a tour downstairs. As we descend the winding metal staircase, a man stands at the bottom holding a meter that looks like a cell phone. “The activity is huge! Look at this!! It’s like almost 2,000 and that’s crazy!”
The device, a natural tri-field meter, measures the electrical and magnetic activity that’s naturally found in the air. Apparently, this spot gives readings higher than anywhere else in the house. “If you stay in this area of such high voltage it could alter your mind,” the man says.
I ask how he knows the readings are related to “activity” — could it be the electrical field inside all of us? “When the readings are this level, it indicates that this spot is a favorable environment for the spirits to manifest. They can use the energy that’s occurring naturally. So we know to watch in this area.”
We walk through the hallway into a larger room. One of the guys is wearing a tee shirt with PARANORMAL PHOTOGRAPHER on the back. He says, “This is where I saw definitely a male spirit. Not exactly a man standing there, but it was for sure a male and it was as if he challenging me. Like, ‘What do you want?’”
We go into a bedroom where a small K2 meter that measures radio frequencies sits on the bottom of the bed, again to measure “activity.” People in the group yell out, “Show yourselves! Are you with us? Let us know you are here!”
The chanting gets louder. “Hey Sharon, are you here?” “Are you with us Jay??!! C’mon, show us!” Ghosts or no ghosts, it feels creepy to shriek at the spirits of brutally murdered people, as if they could just appear on the spot.
Oman later tells me that the actress Lindsay Lohan once visited the house through a friend’s introduction — and requested that the spirits manifest. Said Oman, “It just doesn’t happen like that, Lindsay.” Yet the people at the house tonight aren’t much different — the spirits don’t have much room to sneak up on us. We’re too busy shouting.
I don’t see any evidence of ghosts that night, although the photos in the upstairs bathroom of a young, gorgeous Sharon Tate are haunting. I will admit, I want to meet her, dead or alive, just to say how sad I am about it all.
I call Oman the next day, after he emails me photos of flashing, floating light in the house, captured with high speed 400 and 800 film. He says they’re sightings. “I’ve had many esteemed psychics and mediums here — James Van Prague, Lisa Williams, Chris Fleming — and they all say that the spirits of those that were killed have unfinished business and they will not crossover until the murderers are also dead,” he says. “I’ve seen infrared video footage of balls of light and shadow figures on many occasions and my figurines that stand in a very active room fall over without any help, often. I know it’s them.”
“How,” I ask, because it’s all I want to know. “It’s been 45 years since the murder. How do you know its Sharon Tate’s ghost?”
There’s a pause. “Once when I had a table full of people here, ten years ago, I literally heard Sharon whisper, ‘I just want you to know we’re here.’”
Spooky? Absolutely. But the eeriest thing I learn from Oman is that when his mother died nine years ago, he had to stay with her body for three hours in the dark. “The power went out and I sat with my mother’s body,” he recalls. “I felt her leave her body and her spirit remain. The mythology of death was right in my face and I knew after that, the body and the spirit are two different things.
“Somehow faced with my own mortality, it made things very clear and it cemented for me that there is a soul. And if it’s not at peace, it will stay here until it is.”
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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… Joshua 1:9 = “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And a final thought… “Never let your past decisions determine your future outcome.” – Mark Dudley
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.