Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Interface With The Manson Family, by Sue Marshall: Part 3 of 3

The Trial

A few months later, in March 1970, writer Ed Sanders arrived from New York.  He had obtained the consent of Freep editor Art Kunkin to represent the paper in covering the trials of Manson and his followers.

This was a delightful two-fer for me.  First, I was freed from the duty of covering the trial, thereby allowing me to pursue news that was more in keeping with my interests.  Second, Ed turned out to be a delightful colleague, always very professional and pleasant. Later, he would be the sole reporter of Mansonite lore who would actually imbed himself in the Family in order to get an accurate story, from their point of view rather than the perspective of law enforcement.

The trial started in late 1970 and continued into 1971.  At some point in the proceedings, perhaps when Manson was forbidden to act as his own attorney, he shaved his head and carved an "X" in his forehead.

One day as I tromped up to the Hall of Justice to cover the L.A. Black Panther trial, I encountered Squeaky, Sandy, and other Mansonite girls. They were squatting on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse, as was their custom. They had also shaved their heads and carved X's into their foreheads.  They spoke to me, but all they could say was some nonsensical prattle that they had learned from their cult leader.  Looking back, I am sure that they were hungry and cold and in acute emotional distress. I did not stop to converse with them.  Their scene was just too horrifying.

Three Minutes with Manson

One day in early 1971 I accomplished a journalistic coup:  an interview with Elmer (Geronimo) Pratt, Minister of Defense for the L.A. Black Panther Party[7]. He was being held in the jail in the upper floors of the old Hall of Justice downtown during his own trial.

Through the services of a leftist lawyer connected with the case, I was able to interview Pratt in the Hall of Justice attorneys' room.  The rules allowed only one person to be with the inmate at a time, so the lawyer departed.  I stood at the north end of the long room, with its well-buffed linoleum floor and GSA steel desks, waiting for the county sheriff's deputies to bring Pratt.

To my surprise, at the south end of the room, the sheriffim opened the door and escorted in none other than Charles Manson.  He was shackled.  He stood there for several minutes, staring at me.

Few events in my life have been so astonishing. I stared back at Manson, hoping that he would not mistake my fascination for the devotion he got from his hapless followers.  I stared at him in the same sense that one stares at a biological oddity, a hideous monster fish from the darkest depths, now on public display in some aquarium.  He was short, scruffy, ugly.  I hope my glance conveyed my scorn and contempt.


Had I formed an opinion in 1971 as to the culpability of Manson and his followers in all those murders?  Perhaps not.  But the creepy subservience of the Manson Family girls with whom I was acquainted was enough to convince me that the man was evil incarnate.

By the time of the trials, it was clear that despite the excesses of law enforcement during that era, the cops had correctly identified the murderers of Hinman, Shea, the Tate household, and the LaBiancas.

So I will turn to the question that has vexed every student of the Manson Family:  how the hell did he get all those girls to subjugate themselves to his psychopathic bullshit?  How did he get them to commit murder for him?

With a modern perspective on what makes people tick, I favor the concept used by psychologists that there is something called "executive function", the biochemical basis for good old-fashioned common sense,

The female followers of Manson and his male counterparts would seem to have a gaping deficit in the executive function department.  In general, I  believe that bad taste in boyfriends is the primary cause of women being in jail.  While there is no doubt that some of his followers were psychopaths just like Manson[8], not all of them could have been.  Certainly overdosing on the drugs available then (and now) can make people crazy.  And crazy people can be susceptible to suggestion.

Finally, there is the almost-forgotten zeitgeist of the era before contraception was widely available – the era into which the Manson followers were born. The parents of the Manson followers could not limit the number of children they had.  This led to the phenomenon of 1960s-era "throwaway children." Dads returned from WWII or the Korean War and took up the Playboy Philosophy, leaving the Moms with too-large families to support. Some kids were rejected; others simply got neglected. Some of the Mansonites may have emerged from that type of situation.  In 21st Century America, few of us still recall those times.

Maybe it all comes down to the presence of evil in the world.  Maybe – assuming that one has common sense equal to one of Ruby Pearl's chickens – the moral person must be vigilant against getting sucked into evil. Is that not a lesson from Nazi Germany, when ordinary people became evil, one small step at a time?



[7] Pratt served 27 years in prison for a murder he apparently did not commit. His conviction was vacated in 1997 after it was revealed that the chief witness against him was an FBI mole placed through the COINTELPRO offensive.

[8] The late Susan Denise Atkins comes to mind.


starship said...

Whoa...for a minute I thought you were saying that Ed Sanders, that Fug, had shaved his head and carved an x into his forehead. That would have shown serious dedication to his imbedification.

My question is can you vouch at all for Sanders and the work he did for THE FAMILY? It is a very interesting work but many of his sources seem to be dubious at best, leaving me with a feeling about it being more legendary than fact.

leary7 said...

Seriously, nobody else smells a "Cutter" here?
The grand climax to this 'memoir' is that the writer stood in a room and stared in silence at Manson for three minutes???
Stop the presses.
I'd love to hear an Ed Sanders comment on the writer.

And just for the record, Sue, I retired from journalism because of a heart condition and triple by-pass. I now teach political refugees. So you can take your smug, self-satisfied smile and stick it....
whoops, manners...

leary7 said...

I really do hate to get on Matt and Liz's bad side, but seriously, this piece is significant why???

The writer makes four claims about Family encounters...
1. a chance meeting with Gary at a Buddhist conference in Hawaii. But when Matt asks for any insight into Gary, his sexuality or possible drug use, the writer offers no response. Is there any verification of her meeting, does she still have the book Gary wrote his name and address in.
2. the girls show up at her place of work selling Manson recordings. But again a bland incident, no specific recall or dialogue.
3. a trip to Spahn as a professional to do interviews. But no notes retained or any memory of conversation.
4. a chance encounter with Charlie in which the writer stands in a room and stares in silence for three minutes.

Come on guys, I am all for civility and manners, but when someone is hawking air bubbles you gotta prick a few.

Unknown said...

Hi Sue. Thanks for sharing. I find it interesting hearing about those times. I almost feel bad for the girls on the corner. I wonder if they really though he was getting out and how long they held on to that hope. When the reality crashed in on some of them, it must of been hard. So Sue, you were about their age, were you not? What kind of upbringing did you have and did you do drugs or party and what made you see these people for what they were while others got sucked in, even after the arrests for murder? Thanks again for sharing.

Matt said...

Did Matt or Liz say that this is significant? And where do you get the nerve to say she's hawking anything?

You know, leary not EVERYONE who encountered Manson and the family took vigorous notes or completely understood the significance of what they were seeing. Upon arriving at Spahn you may have noticed that Sue was excited about the "HORSES" (I happen to know that among many other things she is well accomplished in in this life is the equine field). Sue neither wrote the piece that was published in the Freep nor did she particularly take great interest in the Manson subject - she was just THERE.

Sue is relaying what she saw and what she remembers. She did so at MY request. I researched and vetted her BEFORE I contacted her. I and others are grateful that she took the time to relay what she "remembers". You know, that's what the word memoir comes from, you being a professor and everything.

Sue did address my questions. She thought Hinman was a bit weird & she avoided him so she had no idea whether or not he was gay or a drug dealer.

This curmudgeon-like side of you just might explain the triple by-pass.

St. Circumstance said...


I thought this was excellent and We have very similar views on the " Family". I also agree with your ideas as to the reason women love to hang around the bad boys...

I was born in 1967, so my only experience with the heyday of the Dead, and the Panthers, and SoCal in the late 60"s is through books and videos. learning about these things and hearing first hand accounts is thrilling to me. It is the main attraction for me to come here. Learning and hearing real accounts and details from people like you who were obviously involved with some of the real movers and shakers of the time...

I think, and especially in this last segment, you have shown a really interesting style of writing your reflections and memories. You convey your thoughts about the memories as you lay out the memories quite nicely and it makes for a good personal experience to the reader. In my opinion it was groovy!!

Thanks gain for sharing!!! said...

Thanks for sharing Sue. Always interesting to hear people's recollections. Regarding your trip to the Yellow Submarine, are you 100% that that's where you went? I know that some of the girls, including Sandy, Gypsy, and Lyn were living on Chandler Blvd. in Van Nuys around the timeframe of your visit. Is it possible that's where you went? From my records, the family were moved out of the Yellow Submarine by May of 1969.

Farflung said...

Having Sue’s perspective (journalist or citizen) adds another pixel of resolution to the Manson mosaic. Subjects as simple as Spahn’s Ranch include descriptions of it being a dirty ramshackle dump, which abandoned hopes of achieving arrested decay; to some sort of magical utopia free of the hang ups and problems of modern society, with a harem of semi-nude girls. Depending on the bias and background of the observers, they both may be correct.

Once history is recorded poorly, it takes a long time to make it un-poorly, or anything approaching accurate (Battle of Little Bighorn, The Alamo). Add to this, the fact that most events are little more than ‘snapshots’ of exceptional milestones (end of WWII, The 50’s, The Sexual Revolution), which rarely include the boring or banal subset of requirements which produced the ‘Fabulous 50s’ for example. It really helps to be fabulous when you are one of the few countries which hasn’t been bombed flat in the last decade.

I see the same profile with the Manson Family. Manson was released from jail, Manson lived in San Francisco then Venice, and somehow hypnotized and brainwashed beautiful, young, nubile, middle class girls into his corroded grasp.

So from March 1967 to March 1969 is two years (just to make the math easier) to hypnotize girls across the US… OK, just California…. all right, it was Venice and Haight. So what was Venice and The Haight like in the mid 60’s? Dirty, ramshackle and in decay, or a pair of magical wonderlands filled with love? Nostalgia typically has one recalling the latter, history indicates the former.

Manson’s girls may have included some products of the middle class, but there were plenty from the lower rungs of the social ladder as well. In the cases of Brunner and Wildebush, they helped themselves into the Family by living near Manson or driving his minions through half the state. This appears no more hypnotic than the powers used on a stray cat on your doorstep. Same with Squeaky where her pappy threw her out and she “walked” to the beach to cry and cry till Manson found her. Squeaky was booted from home in Redondo Beach, and the nearest beach to walk to is… umm … ahh… oh yeah, Redondo Beach. A dozen blocks on foot to exercise and exhaust that teen angst in Redondo, or hitch and bus it a dozen miles to Venice, where one can have a good sulk amongst the natives. Between the home lives of these women and their pre-existing desire for something different, it appears that most of the footwork was already done for Manson.

Using some Kentucky windage here, Manson had no job other than “brainwashing” people, full time. Over the span of two years, he seems to have been able to attract a subject, from prime hunting grounds, at the rate of one or two per month. I’m not sure if that is good or bad, since I’m a poor brainwasher and find it difficult to arrange time to practice it with work, commuting, and un-dumpster grocery shopping. Having so few data points makes measuring his performance all the more subjective and may explain the wide bandwidth which exists in various books and reports. I’m not saying this is ‘THE’ answer, just my perspective (so far) based upon recollections and what has been written or discussed. One of the things which set the Family apart from similar entities (The Fountain of the World, The People’s Temple, and Heaven’s Gate) is their lack of total self destruction, which allows for continued study, worship, understanding or mythology.

leary7 said...

I don't think I implied any "hawking" Matt. I just felt the story had allot of inaccuracies and way to much conjecture.
If you researched and vetted her and sought her out then that is good enough for me. I just wish, after Cutter, you had shared that info.

You know, Matt, clearly it is naive of me but I have never understood why disagreements here always result in name calling (bored curmudgeon) and insults.
I disagreed with all the gushing reviews of this article and simply felt compelled to offer an alternative opinion. Clearly, you prefer I didn't. I'll do my best to comply in the future. After all, good manners must be paramount on a Manson blog.

leary7 said...

oh damn, you are right, I did write "hawking bubbles". but i meant that as a throwaway line - didn't mean to imply the writer was selling anything.

Matt said...


You have hung around here for a long time. We get along great and that won't change. And I wasn't calling you any names, I promise.

Yesterday you said: "Blogs to me are more like a rough corner bar."

Then today you said three things that made me put down my mug and get in your face:

Seriously, nobody else smells a "Cutter" here?

After the Cutter fiasco I said publicly,

"As bloggers we at Eviliz strive for accuracy. With this story, we may have fallen short. The ball is in Cutter's court. We are open to being wrong.

In the future, we will do our due diligence prior to publishing. We owe you that."

take your smug, self-satisfied smile and stick it

Hey buddy, don't talk to my friend like that!

when Matt asks for any insight into Gary, his sexuality or possible drug use, the writer offers no response

Sue Answered:

"To those who wonder whether I knew whether Hinman was either a dealer or gay, the answer is no, I did not get to know him well."

Now let's drink up, go home and I'll buy you a cold one another day. said...

Farflung, your comments are always a good read

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I can get this straight. I have not spent my life immersed in feminist theory, so forgive me for struggling with this.

Women are equal to men. Except, any time they get into trouble, it's not their fault, it's some guy's fault. Their poor executive function causes them to pick bad boyfriends. Otherwise, they are equal to men in every respect.

While I wasn't paying attention did the chauvinists win the gender wars? Do we all agree now that women are just like men, minus reason and accountability?

Boy, it's nice to know that after all of the turmoil and strife of the sixties, and after 40 years of marxist indoctrination in the universities, we have finally built a consensus. It's a beautiful thing.

Doc Sierra said...

blipcrotch said...
Women are equal to men. Except, any time they get into trouble, it's not their fault, it's some guy's fault. Their poor executive function causes them to pick bad boyfriends. Otherwise, they are equal to men in every respect.
It would be nice if they would at least reach for the check at the restaurant now and then.......

Cuntry Trash said...

Pratt's attorney was Charles Hollipeter, he got Manson's scraps.

In Pratt's autobiography, he stated that he and Manson got along pretty well and Manson actually saved his life by warning Pratt about a "hit" that people had out on him.

youngfrankINsteeen said...

RE: Leary

How many times are you going to mention your journalism background? You are fixing to give everyone on here a heart condition just by reading your asinine comments. Would it be a crime to tell this "tweed jacket with elbow pads-wearing" creature to go get a piece of fat, and slide off?

leary7 said...

"go get a piece of fat and slide off"??
Never heard that one before. You, sir, are a true poet.
I cited my journalism background only because it was the basis for my difficulties with the article. The writer is a professional journalist as well but I found her piece to be full of inaccuracies and conjecture.
She has explained that the piece is more of a memoir than journalism and I respect that.
Also, I've never worn tweed or elbow patches, they wouldn't have passed in the Deadhead world I inhabited for so many years, but if it helps you to picture me that way knock yourself out.

Matt, sorry about the "stick it" commemt. It was in reply to her snide insult about being unemployable.
I'm switching to wine.

Unknown said...

One of the things I love about this blog is the passion of those who post. And the humor. And the knowledge that so many people have about this subject. Usually that knowledge is from years of research and reading and discussion (though not always agreeable).

Sometimes we get lucky and get to read tidbits from people who actually got to see or witness part of that time in history. Their memories, their stories. I, for one, appreciate Sue's willingness to write about what she saw and felt.

Leary, you said you'd like to hear a comment from Ed Sanders about Sue. I'm not sure if that will happen, but it peaked my curiosity, so I went to the bookcase and opened The Family (2002 edition). What did I see? In the Acknowledgments, Mr. Sanders thanked the "always helpful staff of the Los Angeles Free Press", and included Sue Marshall's name.

Thank you, Sue. I enjoyed reading your series here, and hope you will continue to post and comment.

Doc Sierra said...

leary7 said...

I'm switching to wine.
Hi Leary. I like reading your posts. You're a good writer. I too am a Dead Head. Anyway, be careful with the wine. We already have late night, unstable, drunk poster in the Manson blog community.

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

To starship -

Perhaps one of the reasons contemporary noir-followers are fascinated with Manson lore is that there is so much legend, and not a hell of a lot of substantiated fact.

Presumably Ed was told many tales by many participants in the scene, with much drug-addled enhancement of memories.

So no, I can't vouch for anything except for my own sketchy recollections of these long-ago events.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

Hi everyone --

The high point of my week so far has been listening to my beloved husband, just now, laughing his hard-working ass off at the charming dialogue posted today.

It was he who took the picture of me with the self-satisfied smirk. I had just done a good thing for our family business when the picture was taken. :-)

I greatly appreciate the kind comments of St. Circumstance,, Cindy Lee, and k vetter. If you wish to talk to me further, Blogmeister Matt can give you my civilian e-mail address.

The corrections everyone has made to this write-up will be a great improvement to my memoir, _Strong In Company_, now still in the writing phase. (It's a horsey thing...")

In the future I will try periodically to check in with this blog - it is clear that 98% of participants are delightful and knowledgeable. I greatly respect the folks who are keeping detailed records and trying to resolve conflicting accounts.

And it is delightful finding so many Deadheads. Please, if you come to JerryDay on the first Sunday of August in MacLaren Park in San Francisco, get in touch with me!!!

As a trail safety volunteer, we see that 98% of trail users are wonderful, but there is always the 2%, belligerent lunatics, who make their presence known.

So I will not abandon this online community because of the Blogmeister's permissive views of hosting. But my time online will be limited because I have a business to run!

Some of you have asked detail questions, and someone is curious about my personal history. These things will be discussed in individual replies.

In closing, let me share that today I spoke with a dear friend who has had a recent big illness-tragedy in her family. She has a great need for entertainment and diversion. I am one of the few people in her life who seems to be an energy-giver rather than an energy-taker. She was SO amused by the fact that I am reliving this Manson Family history with this online community.

So thanks for three evenings of bloggery!

-- Sue Marshall said...

Take care Sue, thanks again.

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

To Ole J C -

Wow! I did not know that "G" had written an autobiography and I will now go find it. Thanks.

Alas, I cannot confirm or deny whether it was Charles Hollipeter who was the lawyer who got me in to the Hall of Justice attorneys' interview room. While he was surely the attorney of record, there were clusters of leftist lawyers and law students who worked to help the Panthers. It seemed like I was let in by someone less senior that Hollipeter.

BTW - I expect to be in Death Valley in the fall doing research on my historic fiction project.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

farflung raises a wondeful enigma -
How do you determine whether history as been recorded "poorly"?

Is it enough to simply have many, many pixels illuminated? Then we have the "Rashomon" effect that we see with Mansonite lore, where each person sees the same scene uniquely and recalls different details.

What famous person said that history is written by the victors? I suppose that's how I viewed Bugliosi's _Helter Skelter_, although that worthy probably was best motivated and capitalized to do the most detailed research on the era.

My newest passion is history research and writing. One must have great personal discipline to interpret the past without inserting inaccuracies.

Congratulations again to those gifted in tracking detail accurately.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

To Cielo Drive --

Wow -- it is more likely that not that you are correct and I am wrong that it was Chandler Boulevard in Van Nuys rather than the Yellow Submarine house that I visited.

There is a sameness to the ranch-style houses in the western San Fernando Valley. I read about the YS house in Sanders' book and jumped to a conclusion. But you have named the threesome (Lyn, Gypsy, SandyG) with whom I was acquainted at the location in question.

Thank you for the clarification.

-- Sue Marshall

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

To K Vetter -

You ask about my personal history. In a nutshell, I grew up in LA in an Irish-American extended family with an Asperger's-type mother. By age 13 I was hanging around Sunset Strip - the Freep and the rock scene. At age 15, LA County put me into the world's best foster home in Santa Monica. I did well at Samohi.

After working in journalism for a few years, i enrolled at Cal State LA in broadcasting. At my work-study job at the TV station, I observed the cult of personality and women being treated poorly. The only people who got any respect were the engineers. I decided to become one.

From 1976-1980 I attended UC Berkeley, got a BS in electrical engineering, and met my husband. We were the most conspicuous students in the College of Engineering, because we were the two Deadheads with the big wind turbine on the hill shaped like a bicycle wheel.

We still shake our booties to the tribute bands on occasion, and are still hippies. I do go in business drag once in awhile. I marched with Occupy Oakland and volunteer with local equestrian and park organizations.

Last year I retired from UC Berkeley and am delighted to have time for writing again, as well as our family business.

I wish you long life and prosperity!

- Sue Marshall

Farflung said...


You had mentioned visiting Corriganville as a kid, and used that as your base of comparison for Spahn’s Ranch in Part 2. Any recall of this actor/gunslinger?

Corriganville Hired Gun

Here’s an action shot (last photo left) of Bob getting the drop on two polecats and slappin’ leather:

Reach for the stars!

That actor and hired gun from Corriganville, is the same person who testified at Shorty Shea’s trial about Shorty being in an upcoming movie. He’s also one of the guys who sold Shorty his pair of Colt 45 handguns.

I thought it might be worth a try, but I know my memory is somewhat porous. I can distinctly remember tying a loose shoelace for one of the Three Little Pigs at Disneyland, but don’t know if it was the one with the house of straw, twigs, or brick.

At the very least, you visited Corriganville which had the actor Bob Bickston working there, along with Spahn’s Ranch which had three of the girls acting like they worked there, and Hinman in Hawaii acting weird. That alone makes you a sort of Forrest Gump to the Manson Family story. Once again proving my theory; everything has only one degree of separation from the ‘Family’.

Amelia Sue Marshall said...

Thanks to farflung for the Bob Bixton photos. Them cowpersons knew how to rope, kimosabe.

BTW -- Who WAS Ruby Pearl, anyway? She always appears as an extra in the tales of the Mansonites.

Was she George Spahn'swife/girlfriend?
Did she act, or just ride the horses, feed the chickens, hang out with ol' George until he got assigned to Squeaky for oral therapy?

-- Sue Marshall

A.C. Fisher-Aldag said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A.C. Fisher-Aldag said...

What, Ms. Marshall, you hung out with the dangerous Manson Family, with all these subservient women, and...

Nobody "forced" you to stay???

You weren't a prisoner on the Ranch, afraid to leave?

Nobody brainwashed you into zombie slavery?

Nobody raped you, nobody beat you... indeed, you got out of there perfectly intact?

Golly, then, what Linda Kasabian, Kitty and Stephanie said about being held prisoner, afraid to leave, having the sneak away in the middle of the night... must be untrue.

What women said about crossing Charles and getting pimp-slapped, beaten, raped, must be fabricated.

fiona1933 said...

Jesus this reporter sucks maximum. Where is her journalistic objectivity? "He was shorty, scruffy, ugly…I conveyed…disgust"
Wow. Really.

Plus what was that utter babble about throwaway kids? firstly, the big families were born from the response to the slaughter of the war…that's just pure Nature, assert life over death as people copulated in the streets when the Black Death raged around, as Amanda Knox's first thought after finding out about Meredith's murder was to have wild sex with her boyfriend (too bad the prosecutor didnt realise that, that its just Natural to go for sex after a brush with death)

And also, men coming back from the War wanted to create a Home and hide in it. So wives had to to leave their jobs and shut up in the house, had babies for a way to fill the days. Read the Feminine Mystique, stupid woman.

Plus, we know where the girls came from. What kind of journalist is so 'creeped out' she'd rather go and speculate nonsense than talk to a bunch of young girls? She could have just asked them about their families and found they indeed came from divorce, but not 'thrown away' and what irked them most was being forced into conformity.

"Get in the background! Serve the company their hors d'oeuvres and go to your room" "Shut the bathroom door, stupid" "Don't be too bright".."You can't sing" …all Manson people quotes on their family oppression …and quite in keeping with the age-old Western pattern of youthful hate for old people.

Interesting the rest of the world venerates the old, isn't it? But isnt that why the West has been so successful? When the young have radical original ideas, old people send them to their rooms in Africa and Asia. But Western kids kill their parents (figuratively, and some literally) Like Zeus and Cronos, and go off and change the entire world.

They were right. They dont want you to be too bright, because they're not bright. I reckon that's true. Lots of people hate young people. My ex-boyfirend hates, hates, the youngsters he teaches for their youth. He just hates them.