Friday, November 27, 2015

Claire Vaye Watkins Publishes a Novel

Paul Watkins daughter Claire Vaye Watkins has been a favorite of ours here at the blog.  We have watched her grow as a writer.  Her book of short stories Battleborn was a huge success, earning her quite a few awards and much acclaim.

Gold Flame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

The West may be running low on water, but there's no shortage of smart literary authors considering the end of the world. In recent years, a host of writers have released books imagining what the planet will look like in the aftermath of widespread disease or governmental collapse. Dystopian novels are the product of real global fears, and now water scarcity has moved to the fore.

In Claire Vaye Watkins' beautiful debut novel, "Gold Fame Citrus," the California-born author depicts an American West brought to its knees by a crippling drought. The book couldn't be more timely — with water rationing and wildfires dominating the headlines recently, some readers might find the subject matter a little too close to home.

The entire LA Times review of Claire's debut novel can be read here.

The book is available at her publisher's website or at Amazon.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


The Mansonblog would like to give our thanks to our many readers, commenters and contributors!  It's not often that such a diverse group of people can mostly get along and exchange thoughts on such a controversial subject.  I believe we have made some headway towards a better understanding  about the case and the people involved.  We couldn't have done it without you, you are what helps makes this blog a success!

Now everyone go stuff yourselves silly and watch football.

Not pictured are Austin Ann and George Stimsom

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fireworks at Susan Atkins '85 New Year's Eve Hearing!

Susan Atkins must have flipped her "wig" when she appeared at her 1985 parole hearing, sporting her shoulder-padded power suit & permed wedge hairstyle, after her attorney introduced some odds/ends to the parole board members while stating his numerous objections:

Eugene Epstein, attorney for Susan Atkins at that time was sent a copy of a letter originally mailed to Ron Koenig, who happened to be the good, ol chairman of the California Board of Prison Terms. The copy was sent by the "Acting Executive Officer" of the board of prison terms named Gilbert Sawseeto. Guess who sent the letter? Guess what the letter was about? The letter itself was dated December 3, 1985, which was a few weeks before Susan's parole hearing, which happened on New Year's eve (December 31st) of 1985. The letter was from the governor of California, at the time Mr. George Deukmejian, in which he "asked" the board to deny parole for Bobby Beausoleil, Susan Atkins and Charles Manson. In summary, the letter stated, "As Governor, and as a private citizen, I ask the board to deny parole in these three cases. These inmates represent a continued threat, to the safety of our community" He went on to say, "It is our duty to insure that these people remain behind bars for the rest of their natural lives." 

Susan's attorney highly objected to this letter and went further by stating, "This is a violation of his powers as Governor of the State of California! It's in excess of jurisdictional powers under the laws of the State of California. And what is happening here is the Chief Executive of the State of California is telling you gentlemen, without having reviewed any of the materials that I gathered before you, that this parole should be denied. The Governor’s power under California Penal Code states this: the Governor had no discretion to grant or withhold a parole release date. Nowhere in the statutes is there a provision for the Governor to share the Board’s power to grant or withhold parole in the same manner he shares the power to revoke. It would therefore seem to follow that there is no statutory authority for the Governor to grant or withhold a parole release date. Neither is there any such inherent authority for him to rescind such datePenal Code Section 304(1) and Penal Code Section 5077, says “The Governor, not the Board, has discretion as to granting a pardon. On the other hand, the Board, not the Governor has discretion in fixing petitioner’s term and granting or withholding parole. And I suggest to you gentlemen that the effect of Governor Deukmejian’s letter is to affect this process of whether or not to grant or withhold the parole of Susan Atkins. But here the Governor has done something significantly different when he tells you that your duty – YOUR DUTY is to ensure that these people remain behind bars for the rest of their natural life. That’s the Chief Executive of the State of California saying those things to you, gentlemen. And I suggest to you that it infects these proceedings in a way that can’t be remedied."

In answering this embarrassing situation, board member Jauregui completely denied that Governor Deukmejian was writing in his official position as governor, but simply as a concerned citizen. He thought that he had every right, just like any other citizen to do so. Of course, this was total & utter bullshit. Says Board Member Jauregui: "Well, he's not urging us. He's just giving us his opinion. Nobody's going to urge us, you know, whether he's Governor or not, whether we're his appointees or not, that doesn't matter to us." This dragged on for quite a while, with board member Jauregui trying to cover their asses by saying that the governor was just a concerned citizen, etc. Attorney Epstein had a hell of a comeback, though. He told them "I suggest to you that he's writing you that letter on the stationary of The Governor of the State of California and he says to you-he's writing it to you as Governor! After much bickering back & forth, the board member sheepishly said, "Well, we weren't going to use it anyway." He comically tried to state that they weren't going to consider a letter from their boss anyway! This was the funniest thing of all. They weren't going to use it? WTF? How could he have said that with a straight face? I'm not suggesting in any way that Susan Atkins deserved to be released, because I don't think she did, but damn they were really full of shit!

The next little tidbit was concerning the depressing facts surrounding the circumstances of Susan's little boy and how she came to lose him. From what I gathered from the parole hearing transcript, Susan met the father of her child in New Mexico when "The Family" was traveling on their fart infested bus. His name was Bruce White and he was a college student from the University of New Mexico studying physiology. He left college and traveled with the Family on the bus, and eventually ended up living with them in Topanga Canyon. Susan claimed to have known him about a month before they moved to Spahn ranch. He impregnated her, then left shortly after finding out Susan was pregnant. He knew she was preggers, but didn't know he was the father (how did she even know?) The parole board asked her if he left because he knew she was pregnant and she stated, "no, he left because he just wanted to go back home." She then told the board that he left when she was three months pregnant (no sense makes sense). She eventually gave birth on October 7th, 1968, describing the birth to the parole board, "We were at the back house at Spahn's ranch when I went into labor and there were a lot of people there involved in playing music and smoking dope, marijuana, taking drugs, and I went into labor, and that was the night my son was born, those people were there. Mary Brunner, Catherine Share and Ella Bailey actually assisted with the birth. Manson was there and assisted in some manner, but mostly the women helped." The child weighed only 2 1/2 pounds at birth and a doctor came the next morning, supposedly to exam the child. Susan had the baby for a year and he was taken away from her when she was arrested. She went on to state, "I found out the courts had granted temporary custody to a foster home and the foster parents went to the courts and asked that his name be changed, and I was very grateful to learn that his name was changed to a decent name." At the time of this parole hearing, the child was 17 (in 1985). He was adopted when he was four or five. It took the courts approximately two & a half to three years to find a home that would take him. Susan closed out that part of the questioning by stating, "If he looks for me and wants to know who his mother is, I hope that he will find me." Sad, very, very sad!

The new year's eve hearing went on in the normal fashion, with them going over her childhood, what she did for work in San Francisco (waitress, topless go-go dancer at the Galaxy Club in North Beach, drink slinger in an after-hours club and a "professional" of the various, uh, nightly "arts." They didn't come right out and ask her if she was hooking, but it's pretty obvious she was. Next up, they started discussing her mental health evaluations. She was furious that a non-board certified, prison psychologist named Dr. J Hamner administered a test on her called a MMPI test, which stands for Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Afterwards, the doc wouldn't release her results to her, which, supposedly was a violation of her rights. The doctor claimed it was "confidential" and actually put the results in his own, personal file, which is illegal. Susan's attorney tried to force the prison officials to hand over her records and they wouldn't budge. He also tried to get a continuance of the hearing, but they wouldn't allow that either. In other words, she was f*cked. The non-board certified psychologist did not write a favorable report about her. He stated, "There are no indications of psychosis of severe psychological disturbances. Susan was logical, oriented in all spheres, and relatively cooperative during the interview. She remains a somewhat emotional individual whose internal dynamics are controlled through intellectualization. MMPI suggests anti-social traits remain strong." After reading this in the room, the board members told Susan & her attorney that they weren't going to use that information anyway, even though they DID end up using it against her. To counterbalance what Dr. Hamner had to say, Susan was evaluated by another doctor of her choosing, which didn't sit well with Stephen Kay. This doctor was none other than Dr. David E. Smith of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic. As you all know, Dr. Smith also did a study (Case Study of the Charles Manson Group Marriage Commune) on the Family way back when they were active at Spahn ranch. Stephen Kay objected to Dr. Smith's evaluation of Susan by stating, "The first thing I would like to point out, is that I commend the attorneys for including Dr. Smith's biography, because it shows that he is not qualified to testify to the things in his report. He is not a psychiatrist. He is not a psychologist." Mr. Kay's objections to Dr. Smith went on & on. Was he qualified? I don't know.

Lastly, during this weird hearing, the board, for some insane reason, questioned Susan about her sexuality. Maybe I am wrong, but I didn't know a prisoner's sexual history was a factor in parole. Board member Jauregui started this line of questioning by stating, "We've avoided this question and I've looked at this packet and realized that your mother died when you were 13. the confrontation you had with your brother, drugs and then, I, I gather this thirty years experience working the field as a peace officer and there's no doubt that your sexual freedom, it was there, and that you were not only probably using, but you were also being abused continually somewhere; men were using you. And that was probably part of your down-fall also. It's obvious, if you have any experience dealing with people out on the street, just by reading your packet, that it's there and it's been there and it's been a big part of your problem and I'm wondering, can you make a statement regarding that problem that you had?"  Susan answered pretty honestly, "It's taken me a very, very long time to come to grips with the way I feel about sex, the way I feel about men. Probably for the first time in my life, these last three years-almost four years since my marriage-I don't need outside approval from a man to feel good about myself anymore. In my education, the ability to carry a job and work and be productive has given me a tremendous amount of self-satisfaction. And my concept of myself today is totally different than what it was four years ago. Dr. Jimakis had said I had a needy type personality. Well, I worked very hard on that in group therapy and came to realize, no, I don't need a man's approval. I don't need to be told, in essence, I love you and I'm just going to follow right along with Sue. If, perchance, I, in the future, have a relationship with a gentleman, there's going to be a long period of friendship and there'd be-from my point of view, better let me know that he sees me, the person, and not just what I can offer in a sexual manner, because I'm not into that anymore; I don't need that. It just-It feels good to be free from that. It feels very good. I see sexual relationships and interpersonal relationships in a much more healthy manner; I know what they entail. And if one comes along, fine, but I-I am not looking for one. I am not looking for one."  Note: I guess she changed her mind and jumped back up on that pogo stick when she married James Whitehouse (and his mullet), huh?

The hearing was closed by a statement made by the courageous Doris Tate. I say courageous, because she was able to go to the prison and sit in the same room with that abominable, wretched woman and not completely break down & attack her. She stated, "I'm here today to-I am representing my daughter and her unborn son. Words cannot express the pain and suffering that this woman has put my family through. Susan Atkins and her so-called "family" sentenced my daughter and her baby son to death with-without cause. She begged for her life and the life of her child. Susan Atkins' reply to this was, "SHUT UP, YOU BITCH, YOU'RE GOING TO DIE." And I'm sure it was just in those tones. What compassion did this woman have for my daughter's begging? None. Today, I see no remorse for what she has done. And after their dastardly deed was done, Susan Atkins then proceeds to partake of Sharon's blood. I live with these screams and these beggings for her life daily. Sharon was sentenced to death without a fair trial or without a jury. I was sentenced to life in prison without any possibility of parole, and I say to you: Should Susan Atkins' sentence be any less? I have approximately 350,000 signatures against Susan Atkins' release. And may I present to the board, 2,883 more? I would like for my daughter to be home today and I would like to know what her career-how it would have gone along today. What might it be today had this woman not interfered with her? But most of all, I see no remorse in anything that these four hours have brought to this panel. I thank you for listening to me. And may God be with you to make the decision that has to be made." Gulp. That was heart-wrenching. I don't know how Mrs. Tate read that, but she got through it and till the day she died, made damn sure the trash that was responsible for her daughter's (and grandson's) death never saw the outside of a stinky, cold, ugly, loud prison. She did her job and did it well.

As a final Austin Ann thought on the subject matter, I have to say that I am not surprised in the least bit about what that governor did, however, I don't think his letter writing was necessary. It was wrong, I know, and violated the hell out of her rights to a unbiased panel, but made no difference either way. What parole board would of released her or any one of her crime partners? None! I really don't think people, nowadays, grasp the enormity of what these people actually did. The human suffering and physical (and mental) pain they caused is beyond description. It cannot be put into words. So many people were murdered and in such a brutal, bloody way, then afterwards, the families of the dead were left to wander the earth, with their loved ones' murder playing in their minds day in & day out. Susan watched all six human beings die. She saw Gary Hinman gasping for breath & choke, because of the stab would to his heart. His lungs probably filled with blood, so he not only was stabbed, and sliced in the face, but he suffocated on his own blood. Do you realize how scared he must of been while laying there? Then, she saw from a short distance, Steven Parent be shot. Did that horrify her? Nope, apparently not. Next, she saw Jay Sebring shot down, then stabbed over & over again, while she did her own amount of stabbing on Wojciech Frykowski's legs while he screamed for help. Ever present, she again, gazed, slack jawed, while Tex Watson plunged a huge bayonet into Abigail Folger's abdomen, causing her intestine to partly be exposed and, of course, she gleefully assisted Sharon Tate, by leading her to the couch to sit down, while putting her in a choke hold, so her beast companion could begin his stabbing frenzy into a PREGNANT WOMAN! If Susan stabbed or didn't stab Sharon, it doesn't matter. She was there and she very much participated. She wasn't revolted in the least bit by blood spilling, people screaming horridly & begging for their lives. Afterwards, when they got caught, she bragged, laughed, sang and acted like a complete lunatic at the trial. And people wonder why she didn't leave prison alive. FIN

Friday, November 20, 2015

Recent photo of Lynnette Fromme

Photo courtesy Ben Gurecki

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Costume Portraits From The Wrecking Crew

The Wrecking Crew was the last in the series of Matt Helm films starring Dean Martin.  It was released in 1969, a few months before Sharon Tate was murdered. The costume designer for Sharon's wardrobe in this film was Moss Mabry.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Looking For The Back Ranch House And The Outlaw Shacks

Any visitor to the site of Spahn's Movie Ranch today can easily see where the old western movie set was located on the flat area south of Old Santa Susana Pass Road across the street from the Church at Rocky Peak. Less apparent, however, is the location of the old Back Ranch House and the Outlaw Shacks, both of which also played significant roles in the saga of Charles Manson, his "Family," and the murders of the summer of 1969. These two places were situated in close proximity to each other west of the main ranch area and were accessible by a dirt road that was known as "Lovers Lane."

 Aerial photograph of Spahn's Ranch. Lovers Lane is indicated by the arrow. 

Topographic map of the Spahn's Ranch area (Oat Mountain map, 1952). The arrow on the right indicates the flat area where the movie set buildings were. The arrow on the left indicates Lovers Lane branching off to the west.

In his book My Life With Charles Manson Paul Watkins described the Back Ranch House thusly: "Like the rest of the buildings at Spahn's, the ranch house was in a general state of disrepair. But it was warm, rustic, and smelled of wood, generating the feelings of a mountain cabin. It had a huge living room with a fireplace and plenty of windows facing the road. Two good-sized bedrooms in the back fronted on the creek, and beyond it, a sloping forest of scrub oak, eucalyptus, and poison oak. The girls went to work at once, scouring floors, cleaning cabinets, and washing windows. We moved the mattresses, furniture, and food supplies in from the saloon, and afterward decorated the walls and the ceiling of the living room with Moroccan tapestries. It felt good to be out of the dusty confines of the saloon into a more bucolic, picturesque setting away from all the tourists."  (MLWCM, pages 76-77)

In Will You Die For Me? Charles "Tex" Watson recalled the Back Ranch House as the site of "the Family's" fear exercises:  "Sometimes Charlie would gather us all together in the ranch house and imagine a rich piggie [sic] sitting in the middle of a circle we'd form. "Imagine we just yanked this pig out of his big car and stuck him here," Charlie would instruct us. Then we would project all our own fear on that piggie while we fantasized his own fear as he was surrounded by our silent staring power." (WYDFM?, page 116)

Susan Atkins' son was born in the Back Ranch House. (Child of Satan, Child of God, pages 106-110)

The Back Ranch House was also the site of the infamous "freak-out" acid trip which occurred soon before the group initially went to the Death Valley area at the end of October, 1968 (See MLWCM, pages 105-112).

Judging from this interior shot of the Back Ranch House from the December 19, 1969 issue of Life magazine, the cement slab base for the structure must have been pretty big.

The Outlaw Shacks, located near the Back Ranch House, also figured importantly in the saga of Charles Manson and the murders which surrounded him, for they were the site of the infamous bust of Manson and Stephanie Schram on August 22, 1969. That bust, set up by Frank Retz and Donald "Shorty" Shea, was the final straw in the escalating conflict between "the Family" and the people that wanted them off the ranch property -- a straw that led to the stabbing death of Shea a few days later.

Charles Manson's mug shot from his arrest in the Outlaw Shacks on August 22, 1969

So, the Back Ranch House and the Outlaw Shacks were both important locales in the story of that crazy summer of 1969. But where exactly were they? In September of this year I went to the ranch site with the area's unofficial caretaker to see if we could find out.

It's been forty-five years since the ranch burned down, and that's a lot of time for changes to have occurred to the landscape. But if anything survived of the Back Ranch House it would be the cement slab that the house, like many other California structures, was built on. Also, there could be some remains of the stone work around the house's fireplace. So what we would be looking for would be the remains of a cement slab which, based on a 1969 photograph of the interior of the house, would be fairly large. As for the Outlaw Shacks, period photographs show them to be made out of wood, so likely all traces of them would be long gone. But one picture showed the horizons of the mountains behind the shacks, and we knew that if we could line up those horizons in the same way today we would be in the same spot as the photographer who took the period photograph.

It was a hot September day when we went out there. Starting on the west end of the movie set site we walked further west along the north side of the creek bed running in the gully behind the former western set. As guide material we had several old photographs of the Outlaw Shacks and Charles "Tex" Watson's map of the ranch area from his book Will You Die For Me?

Below, the Outlaw Shacks

Charles "Tex" Watson's map of the Spahn's Ranch area

This photo shows the lineup of the horizons. The arrow points to a noticeable feature of the far mountain range. If you found an identical lineup today you would be standing in the same spot as the photographer who took the picture. Note the distinct formation of rocks on top of the mountain in the center.

The same mountain today, approached from the east

It was a longer walk than we thought, almost a half a mile.  As we proceeded west, the mountain in one of the photos of the Outlaw Shacks quickly came into view. It took a while to get oriented to the topography, and we did quite a bit of fruitless wandering up and down the hills before we got a sense of what we should be looking for. But finally we realized that the point we wanted was located close to the north side of a developed area about a half-mile west of the western set site and fairly close to Old Santa Susana Pass Road. We were just walking to that area to get the horizons of the mountains lined up when the guy drove up in the red pickup truck. My "Free Manson" T-shirt-clad fellow researcher disappeared into the brush, but he kept taking pictures.

Me pointing to the direction we would have to go to get the correct lineup of horizons. I'm already trespassing on private property.

"What are you doing here?" the man in the truck asked.

"Oh, hi. We're just trying to find the location of some old shacks," I told him.

"You know that this is private property?"

(Me, ignoring his question) "Oh, well we're just trying to line up these mountain horizons to find out where this location is. See, if you line up the mountains, then you're in the place. It should be just over there (gesturing north) someplace." (Presenting the 1969 photograph) "See, here's the same mountain with the same rocks on top."

When the guy saw the old pictures he suddenly became interested.

"Where did you get those pictures?"

"Off the Internet."

He saw my point about the mountain horizons and ventured that the reason they weren't lining up as in the 1969 photograph was because the far mountain's horizon had been altered during the construction of the Simi Valley Freeway in the late '60s and early '70s. I thought that such a geographical alteration was beyond even Caltrans' biggest earth-raping wet dream but I kept my disagreement to myself as the fellow was being fairly friendly and didn't seem inclined to call the cops. But neither did he seem inclined to let me venture further north to see if I could see the proper mountain alignment. 

I explain to the nice man that we're only trying to find the location of some old shacks.

After a few more minutes of conversation (including my heartfelt dissertation on my respect for private property rights) my research partner and I excused ourselves and retreated from the verboten territory.

As we walked back to our cars on Iverson Road, the mountains finally started to line up. The far range revealed itself from behind the near one, and it became apparent where the location of the Back Ranch House and Outlaw Shacks was, namely on the developed piece of private property owned by the Church at Rocky Peak.

Photo taken from Iverson Road shows the same rear mountain horizon that is noted in the 1969 photo above. The top arrow points to the same feature in the far mountain range. In order to line up the horizons precisely one would have to be standing about in the area indicated by the lower arrow. Fairly close to Old Santa Susana Pass Road, the location is now on private property.

Having found the location of the Back Ranch House and the Outlaw Shacks it was apparent that no trace of any of those structures would remain today. The shacks were wood and likely perished in the same wildfire that consumed the other buildings of Spahn's Ranch on September 26, 1970. A similar fate also probably befell the Back Ranch House, and any trace of a surviving slab it might have been built on has doubtlessly been obliterated by changes made on the property by the Church at Rocky Peak.

Thus, like so many locales related to this case -- the Spahn Movie Ranch proper, the Polanski residence, the house on Gresham Street, the Myers and Barker Ranches, to name a few -- the Back Ranch House and the Outlaw Shacks have passed on from the realm of reality and into the realm of legend and lore.

Google Maps satellite view of the ranch area today. The arrow on the right shows where the movie set was. The left arrow indicates the general location of the Back Ranch House and Outlaw Shacks -- now on developed private property. 


The below documents were sent along by Ben Gurecki. For details check the comments.
"Here are the arrest documents that go with the arrest photo of cm. these are originals and clearly signed by Red, using Bruce's alias."

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Manson Family CULT

When I look at these photos, it brings to mind something I read recently on a website about cults. It has listed key signs or warnings of what is typical of a cult. It sounds very familiar too, I might add, such as:
  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader, and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, or debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (e.g., members must get permission to date, change jobs, or marry or leaders prescribe what to wear, where to live, whether to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (e.g., the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avataror the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
  • The group has a polarized, us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society
  • The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders, or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (e.g., lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and control members. Often this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

Sound familiar, ladies & gentlemen? 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Phil Kaufman Smells Money

From during the height of the Guns N' Roses brouhaha:

Charles Manson

February 19, 1994

Dear Charlie,

I know that you may have been preoccupied for the last 25 years but I'm sure you recall that I acted as producer for your recordings which became the "Lie" album (such "producing" consisting of setting up a brief, one-off recording session. I never had the album actually produced or promoted when you were still a free man and it might have done you some good.). The album was financed by various people, none of whom have been compensated for this endeavor (and who have thus suffered hardships that you can't imagine). Indeed, persons later described as your "followers" came to my house (from the house next door, which I arranged for them to stay in) and took most of the 20 or so copies of the album that were initially produced. (I called the cops on them.) There has never been any money made from this album (by me, that is, because it has been pointless for me to pursue the innumerable shadowy individuals who have been selling and presumably profiting from sales of bootlegged  albums and CDs of the music for at least the last 20 years).

But you -- I know who you are and where you are. And now I'm telling you that our agreement was that I received full rights to this music in exchange for producing 20 copies of the album (after you were imprisoned on charges of mass murder). Now that the music has received renewed interest (with a big money trail that can be traced), I ask that you acknowledge our agreement so that the original investors, who believed and trusted in you at the time of investing (but whose belief and trust  has been noticeably scarce since your arrest and conviction), can be duly paid back.

I hope that you will honor the aforementioned agreement so that I can in turn repay some of the people that invested in (and hoped to profit from) your notoriety years ago.

You can reach me through blah, blah, blah…. 


Phil Kaufman 

(Letter annotated by "Unknown" --  G.S.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Shorty's Guns!

Shorty's guns are for sale!  There is a listing for them at site that specializes in selling firearms.  The seller is asking $75,000.00 for them and associated memorabilia.

Skepticism abounds when items related to the Manson case are offered for sale.  With an enormous amount of help from CieloDrive I believe that between the two of us we have authenticated the revolvers and along the way discovered a thing or two that we didn't know. has a section on Shorty with background information and the early days of the investigation into his murder.  The guns are discussed in the links to the reports. 

The revolvers enter into the picture because they were evidence that members and associates of the Manson Family had something to do with the disappearance of Donald Jerome "Shorty" Shea.  Danny De Carlo told investigators that he was given two pawn tickets that were taken from Shorty's body by Bruce Davis.  These two pawn tickets turned out to be for the revolvers.  De Carlo redeemed the tickets and took possession of the guns.  De Carlo allegedly gave one of the one of the revolvers to Charles Manson.  Two weeks later De Carlo learned that Shorty had been murdered where upon Charlie returned the revolver that De Carlo had given him and De Carlo using the alias of Richard A. Smith went to a different pawn shop and sold the revolvers. 

I was under the impression that Shorty's beloved guns were "pearl handled" revolvers as I have read this in various accounts.  When I interviewed Windy Bucklee she was adamant that the revolvers had pearl handles.   A March 9, 1987 LA Times article attributes Stephen Kay as saying the revolvers had pearl handles.  In a statement to authorities November 7, 1970 Jerry Binder describes the guns as having pearl handles.  Ed Sanders in The Family inexplicably describes the guns as having "brass handles", (2002, page 272).

The "pearl handles" description does not seem to be true, the guns have walnut handles and there is no evidence that Shorty owned any other pair of revolvers.

The serial numbers on the guns are the surest way of determining whether or not the revolvers are the ones that Shorty had had in his possession.  The official reports state that the serial number on the guns were 2421 and 2422, they also state that the revolvers were Colt 45's but we will get to that later.  One official report is the trial testimony of Magdalene Shea who was questioned about the guns.  She, BTW, described them as having "brown" handles and said she knew the serial numbers because Shorty had pointed out the consecutive numbers of the guns to her and was able to describe just where on the guns the serial numbers were located.

Another official report is the trial testimony of Arch Hall Sr. who sold the guns to Shorty.  And thirdly, there are the pawn tickets from Shorty pawning the guns.  Shorty had pawned the guns a few times when he was low on money.  These tickets are from when they were pawned in February 1969 and the serial numbers are noted.

A little about how Shorty came to have the revolvers.  The revolvers were purchased new by a man named Arch Hall Sr..  Arch Hall was involved in the movie business, first as a stuntman with occasional small roles in films starting in the 1930s.  He eventually started his own film company, Fairway International Films, in the late 50s which was solely to promote his son Archie Hall Jr. as an actor and singer.  He had visions of his son becoming the next Elvis Presley.  He completed about 11 films which were later pronounced as being the worst films ever made.

Hall made Shorty's acquaintance when he shot portions of a movie titled What's Up Front early in 1963 at Spahn Ranch.  Shorty and his second wife, Sandra, were living at Spahn with their three children at the time.  Shorty kept in touch with Hall after the filming and hit him up for any possible film roles quite regularly. 

In 1964 Hall was filming a western movie, Deadwood 76, in South Dakota and due to some very bad weather the shoot in South Dakota had to be cancelled.  Hall resumed filming at Corriganville, another movie ranch located next to Spahn's, but Corriganville did not have horses that approximated the look of the horses that were used in South Dakota so horses were rented from Spahn Ranch.  Shorty was the person that took the horses over to Corriganville for the daily shoots and returned them to Spahn at night.  Shorty also was given a small part to play in the film. 

The revolvers were acquired by Hall for use in the filming of Deadwood 76.  Hall stated that Shorty fell in love with the guns during the shooting of the movie and pestered Hall to sell him the guns which he eventually did in 1968.

A little about the revolvers from direct quotes of the trial testimony-  

They are-- Italian made copies of Frontier model Colt's with long barrels, and they are made in Milano.

I had them made special for quick-draw. file the triggers-- I'm not technically qualified to say, but it is so that you can fan the gun, shoot much faster with it.

Q  By Mr. Denny-  Were the guns safe to fire real bullets?

A I'd hesitate to shoot them.  They are made in Italy to match a Colt and we never shot a real bullet in it.  We shot reloads-- you know, blanks-- and I think they said they were alright, but because it was sort of a Mickey Mouse Colt, in a sense, we never used it for real bullets.

So, the revolvers were not manufactured by Colt, they were less expensive Italian knock-offs that had been modified and Hall wouldn't have used live bullets in the guns.  Most of the official report do refer to the guns as Colt's as does the current seller.

The Seller provided both Cielodrive and myself with pictures of the serial numbers and a close up of the papers that are being sold with the guns.

Arch Hall Sr. died in 1978, it was his son who applied to the Superior Court of Los Angeles County to have the revolvers returned.  Cielodrive told me that these are the only guns associated with the Family that are known to have been returned to their owner.

While Shorty did give Arch Hall something down for the purchase of the revolvers, about $25, two used cameras and some second party postal money orders, which bounced, as collateral.  He did not finish paying off the guns nor make good on the money orders.  As a matter of fact once Shorty had the guns in his possession he did not give Hall any more payments, only called with excuses from time to time.  Hall had the receipts for the original purchase of the guns so that made the guns his.

While reading the information at Cielodrive it occurred to be that Shorty wasn't as tall as I once thought.  I have always thought that Shorty was 6'5" and the reason he was called Shorty was because he was so tall.  Not so apparently, Kitty Lutesinger puts shorty at 5'10", Shorty's wife Magdalene says he is 5'10", information in one of the reports that looks like it's from Shorty's drivers license says he is 5'11".  Shorty's autopsy report says the remains were 5'10''.  Another myth shattered!

Here is the movie Deadwood 76, see if you can find Shorty!  Cielodrive and I could not.  Shorty is suppose to be riding a horse in several scenes of the film and he was one of Sam Bass's "boys" involved in a gun fight towards the end and he gets shot, to the best of Arch Hall's recollection in the trial testimony.

Monday, November 2, 2015

"The Picture Is A Warning"

Contemporary local media coverage of the TV-movie Helter Skelter

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Bugliosi Letter

During my days as Charles Manson's "Minister of Information" in the 1990s I very often received mail and other communications from all kinds of people who had an interest in Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murder cases. Many of these contacts were made through "backdoor" channels by people who were involved in their own intrigues related to the case and who wanted us to be aware of their activities or the activities of others. One such backdoor communique was The Bugliosi Letter. 

The Bugliosi Letter was sent to me by a person who had received it from a literary agent after he had asked the agent for examples of pitch letters for a book. Amazingly, among the pitch letter examples sent by the agent was the one that Vincent Bugliosi wrote when he was trying to sell the concept of what would later become the bestselling true-crime book of all time -- Helter Skelter.

Bugliosi early on recognized the financial possibilities of the case he had been assigned to prosecute, and already during the trial he made arrangements with the literary establishment to position himself as the authority who could write the definitive book about the Charles Manson case. 

This in confirmed in the book The D.A.: A True Story, by Lawrence Taylor. Writing about an aspect of the political intrigues of the L.A. district attorney's office that he dubbed "Bugliosi syndrome," Taylor said,

"When the Tate-LaBianca slaughters had horrified the world, then-District Attorney Evelle Younger named the most experienced deputy in the office, Aaron Stovitz, to prosecute Manson and his "family" for the murders. A younger deputy by the name of Vincent Bugliosi as assigned to assist him.

"The carnival-like atmosphere of the Manson trial quickly turned Stovitz into a media celebrity. The press seemed hypnotized by the charismatic Manson; stories of biblical prophecies, race wars, and sacrificial murders captured headlines for months. Younger, who was later to be elected attorney general for California and later still to lose in a bid for the governor's mansion, began to perceive his ace prosecutor as a political threat: Stovitz was seen as using his new fame to position himself for a run at Younger's job. In a pattern that was to become familiar in the office for many years to come, the D.A. removed Stovitz from the case, replacing him with Bugliosi.

"Bugliosi, it turned out, was considerably more ambitious than Stovitz ever was. A younger deputy was assigned as "second chair" for the trial, but he was not to conduct any important cross-examination or present evidence to the jury. The younger deputy sat silently at the counsel table, content to research legal issues and organize witnesses, while Bugliosi performed daily before the world's press. Unknown to anyone at the time, Bugliosi had already arranged to write a book about the trial -- with himself as the hero; his ghostwriter, Curt Gentry, was given a valued press pass and sat in the courtroom audience. The book, Helter Skelter, eventually became a bestseller. And, ironically, Bugliosi used his newfound fame to do do exactly what Younger had feared of Stovitz -- announce his candidacy for the office of district attorney."  (The D.A.: A True Story, pages 33-34)

Lawrence Taylor

The Bugliosi Letter substantiates all of this.

Clearly the letter was written while the trial was still in progress. Note the references "After the trial, many more books will be written…." (page 2, emphasis added) and "I'm the one who is engaging in a veritable life and death struggle with Manson and who will ultimately ask the jury to return a verdict of death against Manson and his 3 female co-defendants." (page 3, emphasis added). The defendants were not even convicted and yet Bugliosi was very eager to go.

"It's a big case," Bugliosi wrote to the literary agent. "The book we're contemplating will likewise have to be 'big' in every sense of the word…. 

"I feel there should be one definitive, authoritative book on this case. I believe that I'm the one to write this book…. Other than Charles Manson himself, I don't think that there's any other person who knows as much about these murders and the madness that led to them as I."

Among the most base selling points, Bugliosi recognized, would be the inclusion of the death photos from the murder scenes on Cielo and Waverly Drives. "The book will have official photos of the murder scene that no other book on the market could possibly have since only the Los Angeles Police Department and the District Attorney's office have said photos," he explained to the agent.

Compare this photo pitch to the reason Bugliosi gave in Helter Skelter for not providing the defense with evidentiary copies of the death scene photos before the trial: "I also strongly opposed providing the defense with copies of the death photos. We had heard that a German magazine had a standing offer of $100,000 for them. I did not want the families of the victims to open a magazine and see the terrible butchery inflicted on their loved ones." (Helter Skelter, page 286)

Perhaps sensing the unseemliness of people finding out that he was shopping around a book about a trial while he was in the process of prosecuting it (is there any kind of ethics issue involved here?) Bugliosi later presented a different version of why he decided to write Helter Skelter. In a 1997 interview with Playboy magazine, when asked about the circumstances that led him to write the book, he replied (and lied), "When the trial was over I kept expecting someone of Truman Capote's stature to write a book about the case. But there was no one, and that's when I decided to do it."  (emphasis added)

One could collect together all of the fallacies presented by Vincent Bugliosi over the years and end up with something reminiscent of the closing sequence of Citizen Kane. We will never know if the Bug had a "Rosebud" moment before his recent death ("The…. 'g'…. is…. silent…"?), but one thing we do know: He will always be as big, as consequential, and as controversial, as Orson Welles' character in that film. 

Below, The Bugliosi Letter: 

Bugliosi letter to me for signature comparison:

Postscript Note -- One thing that was always of concern back in the busier days of the 1990s was the fact that people were frequently trying to set us up. Most commonly such efforts consisted of offering us some kind of financial gain through dubious means. Other times people would offer to "do anything" for us. And then there were efforts made in order to make us look bad or to put us into an awkward legal position. Thus, we were (and are) always on guard against anything that might appear to be too good to be true. The Bugliosi Letter fit into this latter category and thus was initially regarded with suspicion in that it might be a forgery. However, I think anyone reading it would agree that it is genuine. The tone is pure Bugliosi throughout. Note the mis-use of the word "societies" on page 6, an unintentional indicator of Bugliosi's incompetence as a writer. And there are details in it that can be checked (the name of the literary agent, for example). I have no doubt that it is the real thing, and I freely present it here without any concern that it will ever be shown to be a fake.