Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nude Hippies And The Origin Of An Icon

Perhaps the earliest media report on Charles Manson and his "Family" was the article that appeared in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner on April 23, 1968. That article, headlined "Nine Nude Hippies Arrested; Found Huddled Around Campfire," described the arrest of Manson and eight of his associates in Ventura County, California after law enforcement officials encountered their disabled school bus in a remote canyon.

According to the article, police found the "bus stuck in a deep ditch along Deer Creek Mountain Road, just above Bass Rock, located about five miles south of Point Mugu....  The group was apparently driving back into the canyon when the bus became stuck in the deep ditch along the roadway about a quarter mile east of Highway 1."

Arrested along with Manson in the incident were Mary Brunner, Brenda McCann (Nancy Pittman), Ella Sinder (Ella Jo Bailey), and Mark Damon (Mark Arneson, who would later be involved in the transfer of Gary Hinman's VW bus to the Straight Satans motorcycle club). Other persons detained with driver's licenses reported as being forged were Sadie Mae Glutz (Susan Atikins), Diane Bluestein (Diane Lake), Susan Scott (Stephanie Rowe), and Bruce Van Hall (in fact his real name).

Manson was booked on suspicion of grand theft auto (the bus was supposedly reported stolen from San Francisco on April 12, 1968, but it wasn't) and possession of two driver's licenses. 

This incident, however, is important beyond providing us with an early newspaper account of Charles Manson and his "Family," because the arrest was also the source of the most famous mug shot of all time, namely the "arched eyebrow" picture of Charles Manson that graced the cover of Life magazine on December 19, 1969 and went on to be featured in countless books, magazines, television programs, and all manner of other media presentations in the following decades. 

In 1968 the antics of "hippies" made for good news copy.

Above and Below: Charles Manson's mug shot from the Ventura
County bust and the resulting Life magazine cover. It has become
the icon for the "Icon of Evil."

*      *      *

Many sites related to the Charles Manson saga have been obliterated with the passage of time, but the location of this important arrest is virtually unchanged from the way it was almost fifty years ago.

A few miles north of where California Highway 1 crosses the Ventura County line the Deer Creek Road intersects on the eastern side. About a quarter mile after turning onto the road there is an obvious turnoff on the right side. Shortly down this turnoff is a creek bed where it would have been possible for the bus to get stuck. Since this is the only location in the area where it would be likely for someone to attempt to pull over a large vehicle it is very probably the site of the April 22, 1968 arrest.

Deer Creek Road is as isolated and untamed 
today as it was in April of 1968. The likely location 
of the bus breakdown was in the canyon indicated 
by the green trees in the lower right of the image.

The turnoff about a quarter mile up 
Deer Creek Canyon Road

Down into the turnoff

Did the bus get mired in this creek bed? 

The view west from the turnoff shows the location's
proximity to the Pacific Ocean.