Monday, June 26, 2017

The Voodoo King (of Detroit) and the Origin of Helter Skelter

 I am not the first person to discuss this topic. Starviego already did so here:

So to some extent this is a bit of a rehash.

I started down this road because “Mr. H” used to mention the ‘Black Muslims’ in many of his posts. I wanted to try to figure out what his posts meant and in the process discovered ‘The Voodoo King (of Detroit)’, which took me back to my youth.

I was born in Detroit and spent my grammar school days in Cleveland, Ohio. Every summer my parents would drop my brother and I off at our grandparents in Detroit for a week, and every summer we’d have a ‘sleep over’ with all of my cousins. As we settled down for bed and my grandmother said goodnight, my grandfather would come in and tell us about the ‘Voodoo King of Detroit’ and how his followers would come for us in the middle of the night and stab us in the heart. His story always ended with the warning that, ‘they’ will be 'coming for you while you sleep tonight'. This was usually followed by my grandmother's insistence that he, ‘Stop it!’

Years later I WAS lurking AROUND this BLOG reading Mr. Hendrickson's COMMENTS about BLACK Muslims AND Manson. I decided to research that and like Starviego, I found the Voodoo King (of Detroit). 

Wallace D. Fard (He's not the Voodoo King)

Contemporary, Detroit, newspapers call him Wallace D. 'Farad' but every other historical record says 'Fard'. Wallace D. Fard is the original source for what later came to be called ‘Helter Skelter’ by Charles Manson. That is him below.

According to the FBI, Fard was born Wallace Ford in Portland, Oregon February 25, 1891. His parents were Zared Ford and Beatrice Ford, both born in Hawaii.

The FBI file claims Fard was arrested in Los Angeles for assault in 1918 and on narcotics charges in 1926. On the second charge, he spent three years in San Quentin. (FBI Records: The Vault, Wallace Fard Muhammed, Parts 1-7.)

Wallace D. Fard appears on the historical stage July 4, 1930 in Detroit, Michigan, where he is working as a door to door silk peddler selling to the African-American community. Fard had an East Indian appearance, and was a dapper dresser with perfect white teeth and according to the FBI, maroon eyes. He is described as being extremely likable and charismatic. 

While presenting his sales pitch to his potential buyer Fard would suddenly announce that they were ‘truly beautiful’ and ‘special’. Fard’s comments would alternate between flattery and strange, esoteric, references to the ‘lost-found people of Shabazz’. Fard would close the conversation by advising his listener that she (typically) was descended from scholars and kings and that ‘her people’ the ‘black’ race had invented the alphabet, calculus, astronomy and philosophy. The blacks, he would proclaim, were the elite race, God's chosen people and destined to 'rise!' and rule the world. 

He explained that this was a divine certainty because Allah had 'willed it to be so' hinting that he, Fard, was God’s divine messenger. All this was not going to happen sometime in the distant future but the listener was living in the time when Armageddon was going to occur. Fard would proclaim that the ‘white devils’ would soon be destroyed. (Zoe Colley, 'All America is a Prison', The Nation of Islam and the Politicization of African American Prisoners, 1955-1965, Journal of American Studies, 2014). Mystery Man Kelli B. Kavanaugh, Detroit Metro Times, March 5, 2003. Detroit Free Press, November 21-27, 1932.)

“Given the importance of Christianity to African American identity and culture, Fards teachings inevitably engaged with this aspect of black life. He made extensive use of the Bible, as the religious text with which African Americans were most familiar, to portray Christianity as the white mans religion and a tool of racial control. In doing so, he sought to break the bond between African American identity and Christian values. However, at the same time as castigating Christianity as the product of white malevolence, Fard also appropriated elements of biblical discourse to produce a doctrine that, as Zafar Ansari has shown, bore a greater degree of resemblance with Judaism and . . . especially Christianity than Islam.” (Colley)

Fard’s 'truth' included the story of Jacob (Yacub) and particularly the Book of Revelations, both stories Fard ‘translated’ from the ‘trickology’ of the ‘white devil’s words’ to their true meaning as revealed by Allah. And it went like this:

6500 years ago, the only race on earth was the black race. Then a mad scientist named Yacub created the other races, one at a time, by a technique known as ‘grafting’. As he did the ‘black’ race slowly became whiter and whiter until finally he created the ‘blue eyed, white devils’. These beings were totally evil, a murderous lot who could never be trusted because they spoke in riddles, confused and manipulated.  Fard had been sent to lead the chosen race to mastery of the world through the coming Armageddon. ( Kavanaugh)

Soon the ‘black people’ would ‘rise’. Some blacks, however, were ‘lost’. Some, unfortunately, would remain ignorant of the truth and many of the ‘lost’ would perish in the conflict. Blacks would fight blacks as well as whites. In the end the ‘black man’ would slay the white, each killing four by stabbing them in the heart and the world would belong to the blacks.

Between 1930 and 1932 Fard recruited a following estimated by authorities at between 8,000-9,000 from the African-American community in Detroit. He started a school known as 'The University of Islam' and a 'church' he named ''The Order of Islam' that he later called 'The Allah Temple of Islam'. Finally it came to be known as the Nation of Islam (NOI). 

All of this was designed to segregate the ‘chosen people’ from the influences of the white devil and allow them to cast off the teachings of the devil by living apart from the white devils until the Armageddon came.

Converts to this new religion were required as a first act to change their name. They must cast off their ‘slave name’ and abandon their past. Allah would reveal their true name through Fard. They must go simply by “X” to separate them from their slave master’s name until that day. The adherent could ask for such a name by using a pre-printed card, which Fard provided, by most accounts, for $2. In return Fard presented them with an ornate card, bearing their Muslim name, and, of course, collected his commission from the printing company. (Erdmann D. Benyon, The Voodoo Cult Among Negro Migrants in Detroit, American Journal of Sociology, 1938 and Kavanaugh.)

"The true believer who becomes a Muslim was expected to cast off his old self and take on a new identity.  He was no longer a Negro, so long despised by the white man that he has come almost to despise himself.  Now he was a black man - divine ruler of the universe, different only in degree from Allah Himself.  This rebirth was commemorated by a change in name." (Lincoln, Dr. C. Eric. 1961, 1973.  The Black Muslim in America. Westport: Greenwood Press, Publishers)

Fard's protégé was one, Elijah Robert Poole (whom he renamed, Elijah Mohamed). Until his death in 1975 he would head the NOI after Fard's sudden disappearance, officially, in 1934.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly for Fard. His following was growing in the African-American community. Donations and requests for non-slave names were pouring in. 

Then the wheels came off.

The Murder of JJ Smith

On Sunday, November 20, 1932 a follower of Fard, Robert Harris (soon to become known as the 'Voodoo King') murdered another African-American named James J. Smith. 

Harris explained to the court at his initial hearing that Smith agreed to die. Death, Harris explained, was not the end. ‘It will set Smith free and he will reach a higher state of being’. Smith, allegedly, consented to being stabbed in the heart (the preferred method for killing ‘white devils’ -although Smith was black) and beaten over the head with a car axle. Harris went on to explain to detectives about the coming race war and how Smith would now be a warrior in that war ‘inflicting fear on the white devil’. He also identified his inspiration: Fard.

Fard was arrested. Initially, Fard stuck to his story about the coming race war and his own divinity but denied telling Harris to kill Smith or telling Smith to volunteer to be sacrificed. 

In a typical response during less complicated times, Fard, Harris and another high-ranking member of the group, also arrested at the time, were sent to a psychiatric ward to determine their sanity. (Detroit Free Press, Monday, November 21-27, 1932)

According to the FBI Fard subsequently admitted the whole thing was a racket. Fard was released as long as he agreed to disband his 'cult' and leave Detroit forever. He agreed.

Fard relocated to Chicago but things didn’t go well there, either. On March 6, 1935, one of his followers was summoned to ‘Women’s Court’ for an altercation with another woman on the train. Some reports say the assailant pulled a knife on her victim.

About 100 ‘brothers and sisters’ showed up in court to support the accused, who asked for a 'warrant' for the other combatant's daughter who allegedly kicked her in the shin. About 100 police showed up to make sure things stayed calm. This filled the small courtroom and the crowd spilled over into the antechamber. The bailiff ordered the antechamber of the courtroom to be cleared. There was some confusion over which door to exit and a riot ensued. Shots were fired, knives and clubs were wielded and a police Captain died of a heart attack while diving into the fray. (Chicago Tribune, Wednesday March 6, 1935)

Fard wasn’t present and while the police were looking for him he and was never found. In fact, he disappeared forever. The NOI claims Fard disappeared a year earlier. In fact, Elijah Mohamed claimed he saw him climb onto an 'airplane' and ascend to heaven. That said, the papers in Chicago are pretty clear who the police wanted to interview: Wallace D. Fard. 

That’s why black prisoners become Muslims so fast when Elijah Muhammad’s teachings filter into their cages by way of other Muslim convicts. “The white man is the devil” is a perfect echo of that black convict’s lifelong experience.   

The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

By the early 1960's the NOI’s 'bastardization' of Islam was booming in the prison systems of the country.

(Aside: In 1961 C. Eric Lincoln in The Black Muslim in America coined the term "Black Muslim," thus distinguishing them from orthodox Muslims who he called "moslems" because the NOI is not Muslim.)

Sociologists observed at the time that this phenomenon was the product of two factors: the growing numerical dominance of African-Americans within the general prison population and the impact of the civil rights movement.

The process was bolstered, they said, by prison desegregation. The removal of racial barriers intensified racial conflict as white prisoners battled to retain territorial and formal control of the prison yard. (Colley)

“Black Muslim’ prisoners distinguished themselves from other African American prisoners by shaving their heads and marking the seal of Islam” on their foreheads with either cigarettes or caustic soap. (Colley)

During the late fifties and early 1960’s prison and government officials offered increasingly shrill warnings about the growing strength of the ‘Black Muslims’ inside their correctional institutions.

By 1961 Time magazine was issuing a warning about "Black Muslims" in our prisons, referring to them as: "Negro supremacists dedicated to the extinction of the white race". (Recruits Behind Bars, Time, March, 1961) 

The establishment began to fret about the influence of the NOI on the 'negro' population as a whole, warning that blacks were being trained in prison by the NOI for a race war. They, it was claimed, would form the vanguard of the Fruit of Islam the 'security force' of the NOI, in the upcoming racial conflict. Prison officials were encouraged to ‘crack down’ on the ‘Black Muslims’ and solitary confinement soon became the home for many. (Colley)


In 1965 the Supreme Court decided Cooper vs. Pate. In that case an inmate in an Illinois state prison argued that he was denied access to NOI publications (Muhammad Speaks) in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 solely because he was a 'Back Muslim'. A district court dismissed his claim saying, in essence, that he had no claim under the law because he was a prisoner. By a unanimous vote SCOTUS ruled that the inmate could bring suit under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. Prisoners did not lose their all their rights, the court reasoned, only those necessarily arising from their incarceration or to prevent future crimes. And the flood gates opened. 

Hundreds of lawsuits followed advocating for prisoner religious rights amongst other causes and seeking NOI literature, prayer rugs, special dietary accommodations and copies of the Quran.

These events conspired to create the appearance that there had been sudden upsurge in incarcerated ‘Black Muslims’. Statistically, that was not the case. By 1966 the NOI’s influence was actually waning, but ‘Black Muslims’ were now free to openly express themselves in prison and could sue if they were deprived of this right. They 'came out of the closet', so to speak, and did so suddenly and with little forewarning. 

And Charles Manson was in the thick of it. 

Manson and The Black Muslims

Robert Hendrickson: 

The Muslim connection did not become significantly relevant to me until after 9/11, when in 2007, I
was putting “Inside the MANSON Gang” together and came across a copy of Clark Howard’s “Zebra”. Then, in 2008-10, the “transcribing” process became a series of “ah-ha” moments. I remembered Phil Phillips talking about his and Charlie’s relationship with Muslims in prison, but it was certain dialogue in “Zebra”, combined with specific “transcriptions” that really blew the Manson case wide open for me.

There are specific keywords, phrases and beliefs that Charles Manson could only have picked-up from the Black Muslims in prison, which are also expressed by the Black Muslims in “Zebra”. Thus, if Manson talked to Family members about a Black and White race war, he got the idea from the Black Muslims in prison. With regards to the Vietnam War, the Family and I discussed the issue at length. As for law enforcement threats and harassment, back then the friction was always apparent to me, but the issue of an actual violent conflict did not come to a full realization until I understood the transcriptions, more clearly.”


At the time in the 1960’s, nobody even knew what a Black Muslim was, let alone an ordinary Muslim. First and foremost, Vincent Bugliosi was an attorney/prosecutor, who’s job was to get a jury to convict Charles Manson. That’s it! All this BS we hear today about right/wrong, Constitutionally correct, etc. is just that – BS. That Bugliosi sold a Black and White race war motive to a bunch of “moon rocks”, as the failed OJ prosecutor Marsha Clark calls jurists, may not have required a “judicial genius”, but it sure didn’t hurt to have one on-board. That said, if Bugliosi played-up the issue of “Black” Muslims, he would have had to explain the existence of Black Muslims organizing and preaching against “Whitey” and “Christians” in California prisons.

Then, if the Black Muslims taught Charlie about the coming Black/White Battle of Armageddon, why were “they” not also on trial as co-conspirators? Then you have to explain why Muslims have it in for Christians and pretty soon you need a jury made up of all college graduates with history degrees, just to comprehend an otherwise simple Black/White race war. I doubt that Bugliosi was unaware of the delicate Muslim/Christian conflict connected to his so-called Helter Skelter race war motive, but simplicity SELLS. Complicated things do not. And when a prosecutor “builds” his case, that means precisely that. He carefully builds (puts together) for the jury, ONLY the “necessary” information (evidence) needed to accomplish HIS goal, which is to get a conviction.

Otherwise, Bugliosi never even had a meaningful conversation with Sandra Good – and Phil Phillips (Manson’s best friend in prison) isn’t even mentioned in the prosecutor’s best-selling book. Paul Watkins introduced the “Black Muslims” into his Helter Skelter analogy, but nobody even pressed such an important issue further.”

Interview with Robert Hendrickson, Ear Candy Magazine, June 2012.

While I was unable to find evidence directly corroborating that Manson learned all the above from Black Muslims in prison, the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests it happened. In fact, it is hard to conceive how he could have avoided it, especially at the rather ‘progressive’ institution, McNeil Island, where he was doing time in the early and mid 1960's.

It is highly probable that during his years at McNeil Island Manson experienced what must have been, to his eyes and ears, a rather shocking, and sudden upsurge of Black Muslim activism, freed from the 'closet' by the Cooper decision and desegregation. 

What would he have heard? 

The story of Wallace D. Fard and the imminent Armageddon: a black/white race war that was going to happen before 1970.


Yes. More than one writer in the late fifties and early sixties mentions ‘the end of the next decade’ or ‘by the end of the decade’ as a sort of pivotal moment for the ‘Black Muslims’. For example, Time Magazine:

The Moslems themselves talk of 1970 as their D Day, expansively predict that before that time the big white nations will have eliminated each other with atomic warfare and Black Africa will stand unchallenged.” (Races: The Black Supremacists, Time, August 10, 1959)

The very nature of McNeil Island penitentiary supports the conclusion Manson was exposed to this. Cooper and Post-Cooper court decisions were likely embraced by the authorities there. 

McNeil was a progressive institution with a long history of adopting modern and even 'experimental' rehabilitative programs like, for example, ‘bibliotherapy’- the notion reading books would cause prisoners to embrace the American way. Bibliotherapy educated a host of 60's prison radicals. 

“[G]enerally speaking, throughout McNeil Island’s 135-year history-including the years since 1981, when it’s been run by Washington state – the prison has maintained a kinder, gentler approach, one based on the belief that hard work and nurturing the inner man can reduce recidivism.
When the prison closes, that will be its legacy: that criminal justice is about rehabilitation, not retribution.

In the 1960s, the philosophy of prisoner rehabilitation [at McNeil] began to veer away from work therapy and toward a “medical model,” characterized by substance-abuse programs and inmate discussion groups. Prison guards became “correctional officers.”

At McNeil, music was considered therapy: the prison had a piano and several practice rooms for individuals and groups: jazz combos, western bands and Dixieland ensembles.”


(Aside: It has been said that Alvin Karpas taught Manson to play guitar. Probably through one of these programs.)

If Manson was exposed to Black Muslim proselytizing, that rhetoric spoke of an apocalypse that was coming and soon. The apocalypse would be a black verse white race war and 'the foot soldiers of the holy war' would be the Black Muslim convicts. 

While he was there, the hierarchy of the prison suddenly flipped. While it is likely he seldom ever spoke to a black inmate during his previous incarcerations, by 1961-2 'they' were everywhere. And the previously invisible Black Muslims suddenly were on top of the heap of black prisoners that were suddenly the majority, due to desegregation. 

Combine this with events outside the walls and it must have appeared that the prophecy of Wallace D. Fard was, indeed, ‘coming down fast’

Watts Riots: August 11-16, 1965
(Aside: note the dates. I have always thought there was more to the dates of these murders then simple coincidence if you were trying to start a race war.)

Detroit Riots: July 23-27, 1967

The Black Panther Party (BPP): founded on October 15, 1966.

May 2, 1967: Thirty armed members of the BPP go to the California state capital and rally on the steps.

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated and the cities of America erupted into violence. Two hundred major 'racial incidents' occurred in 172 American cities. 

In August 1968, what has been called a 'police riot' erupted at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Black Panther, Bobbly Seal, allegedly said the words below to the gathered 'Yippies' speaking on behalf of the Black Panther Party:

"The time for singing 'We Shall Overcome' is past. Everyone should get himself a shotgun or a 357 magnum or a carbine and kill pigs." (Testimony of undercover police officer Robert Pierson at the trial of the Chicago 8)

(Aside: The 'Yippies' nominated a pig named "Pigasus" for President at the convention and demanded secret service protection for their candidate. Testimony at the trial on this event focused on the fact that the pig was arrested by the 'pigs' before he could actually accept the nomination.) 

“The BPP, armed with guns, law books and a menacing bravado projected a militant swagger that made their threats of starting a revolution for black liberation plausible despite the considerable evidence to the contrary.” (Joseph Peniel, The Black Power Movement: A State of the Field)

Even if you assume Manson didn't give two thoughts to the idea of an imminent race war, the government (our government) did. On June 15, 1969 J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI said of the BPP "without question [the Black Panther Party] represents the greatest threat to the internal; security of the country". Through COINTELPRO (already actively seeking to undermine the BPP and the NOI by 1969) the FBI set out to destroy the BPP in 1969.  

Assume, if you will, that Manson sees the sudden upsurge of Black Muslim 'awareness' while he sits in prison at McNeil Island. It would have seemed to him to be a shocking event in the hierarchical and controlled environment of the prison he was used to. Here,  blacks were traditionally segregated and 'on the bottom' of the pile. 'Black Muslims' are suddenly preaching an apocalypse where the white man would be slaughtered. Black inmates were suddenly empowered in a way that upset the balance of power in the prisons and terrified the prison establishment. 

The ‘Black Muslim’ race war was also expressed in terms Manson was familiar with from his youth: the origin is the Biblical, The Armageddon. Armageddon: a term Manson will supposedly use repeatedly when speaking of Helter Skelter.

Seemingly out of nowhere in this prison culture, that until that time was not only segregated based upon color but also based upon power (white power), there arises a race of black warriors who believe God is about to level the karma of the white man and restore the black man to his rightful position- ruler of the world.  

Manson is paroled into a world he cannot possibly understand the world of 1967- Haight Ashbury. 

Here live the 'Leslie Van Houten's' of the world who have never heard of the Black Muslims and do not 'see' Armageddon 'coming down fast'. In the world of Ozzie and Harriet (even on dope) such things simply don't happen. Suddenly, with a little LSD and the events of the day, Manson is a prophet. 

Wallace D. Fard’s vision of Armageddon as a black/white race war happening 'now' is where Helter Skelter was conceived, not in the mind of Vincent Bugliosi.

Pax Vobiscum