Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Manson Tour 2015: Gary Hinman's Bus -- Not

To me the fate of Gary Hinman's 1958 VW bus is one of the most crucial aspects of the Tate-LaBianca case, because if the bus ended up after his murder in any proximity to the Straight Satans Motorcycle Club it reinforces the scenario that the Hinman homicide occurred during an unsuccessful attempt to get "refund" money from Hinman for a bad $1,000 mescaline deal brokered for the Satans by Bobby Beausoleil, as opposed to Hinman being killed as the result of a strong-arm robbery of his supposed inheritance money gone awry.

Although it is the chain of possession of the Hinman bus (and not the bus itself) that makes it important to the case, the actual bus would certainly be a major macabre memento of the events of the summer of 1969.

Whatever became of the Hinman bus? Certainly a possible answer to that question would be the vehicle depicted here. But a reader of this blog also recently suggested another possibility, said to be located on the property of the old Murphy Ranch in Rustic Canyon in Topanga State Park in Los Angeles. During this past weekend two members of the 2015 Manson Family Tour took a few hours to check this latter bus out. 

The bus was certainly located in a remote area. It was reached only after a strenuous walk up the Sullivan Ridge Fire Road into the wild and rugged country of Topanga State Park. After passing through the ruins of the gate of the old ranch, the investigators descended down a decaying road onto the property, which was peppered with buildings and other structures brightly painted in wild colors and designs.  And then, in front of the ranch's old power house, they came upon a demolished and decaying VW bus. Was it the one?

The style of the remains of the body certainly confirmed that it was made pre-1968, but all of the locations of where a vehicle identification number (VIN) could be located and researched for a more accurate determination were long-ago rusted away. That left an examination of whatever remained of the body as the only clues to its vintage. That examination, however, very quickly determined that the bus could not be Hinman's because the hole in the rear of the bus for the taillight housing was much too big for a model year 1958 bus, which Hinman's was. 

Thus was a rumor about an interesting but ultimately inconsequential aspect of the Tate-LaBianca case laid to rest. But that doesn't mean it's the end of the story. It just means that I'd like to see a rear shot of the vehicle shown in the above-linked YouTube video to see what its taillight housing holes look like. 

 The view from rugged Rustic Canyon looking south towards Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean

The gate to the Murphy Ranch

One of the remarkably painted structures at Murphy Ranch

The suspect bus

The taillight hole

A 1958 VW bus with the much smaller earlier taillight