Saturday, September 30, 2017

Marina Habe Portrait Photo on eBay

This photo is for sale on eBay - if anyone is interested in relic collecting.

To read about who Marina Habe (pronounced haahbay) was, here are a couple of older posts:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Abigail Folger's Funeral

Recently the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive posted news footage of Abigail Folger's funeral.  This is footage that hasn't been seen since the evening of August 13, 1969.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Five To Puke

One of my recent meanderings took me to the Santa Barbara, California area, during which time Deb presciently hipped me to the fact that Ivor Davis would be making an appearance (that very night!) at the Museum of Ventura County in nearby Ventura.

Ivor Davis, as students of TLB know, was the co-author (along with Jerry LeBlanc) of Five To Die, one of the earlier books written about the Tate-LaBianca murders. Like Lawrence Schiller's The Killing of Sharon Tate, Die was actually published before the murder trial of Charles Manson and his three co-defendants even started. Thus, it serves as one of the earliest proponents of many aspects of the case that are accepted as fact even today. It's all there: the drug use, the orgies, the rituals, the mind control, the failed music career, the "Family," the Bible, the Beatles, Helter Skelter -- it's all really there, in a book published seven months before the beginning of the trial of Manson and others.

Above, Ivor Davis
Below, the original edition of Five To Die

Five to Die is the result of Davis being assigned the task of reporting on the murders by his bosses at The London Daily Express. The Express was (and is) a sensationalist tabloid that was once characterized by Britain's Prince Philip as "a bloody awful newspaper. It is full of lies, scandal and imagination. It is a vicious paper." Lies, scandals, and imagination -- that description fits Five to Die to a T. 

Die is based in large part on interviews conducted at Spahn's Ranch with Paul Watkins, Brooks Poston, and Juan Flynn, a trio of malcontented "Mansonites" who early on recognized the value of peddling sensational stories to the bloodthirsty media. How riddled with errors and untruths is Five to Die? I hadn't read this book in decades, so I skimmed it again in preparation for this post. Time and space prohibit a point by point refutation of all of the errors in this book here, but suffice it to say that aside from some interesting historical photos it is full of myths, sensational fabrications, misrepresentations, exaggerations, innuendoes, and untruths. 

Nevertheless, Die had a major impact on the entire TLB phenomenon, and Davis is very proud of that impact. Although Bugliosi dismissed the book in Helter Skelter as "a quickie paperback" (see Helter Skelter, Bantam paperback edition, 1975 page 399) Die in fact was instrumental in establishing much of the mythology that surrounds the Manson case to this day. "Our book," Davis later wrote, "was rushed out in paperback in January 1970, seven months before the trial began. It was the very first book to catalogue the bizarre story of life with Charlie Manson."

An example of Five to Die fear-mongering

But Five to Die was more than just one of the earliest sensational accounts of the Tate-LaBianca murders and "the Family," for according to Davis the book was actually responsible for the state of California's victory in the murder cases against Charles Manson et al. "Several years [after the murder trials] I ran into former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Aaron Stovitz," Davis later wrote. "Much to my astonishment, Stovitz dropped a bombshell, a complement to me, but a bombshell nonetheless. 'Your book was the blueprint for the prosecution of Charles Manson and his Family,' he said. 'It was all there for us to follow.'"

In 2009 Die was rereleased with a forward and afterword sandwiching a reprint of the original book. The new edition featured a summary of the police investigation leading up to the trial and a recap of the trial itself. (As an aside, I was surprised to find a reference to me on page 28, a reference which I consider inaccurate, if it's at all true.)

The updated 2009 edition of Five to Die. (Is it a coincidence that its 
publishing company was located in Ventura, California?)

Ventura was an apt venue for Davis' talk since Ventura County is where the famous mug shot of Charles Manson that was taken on April 22, 1968 after he was arrested on suspicion of grand theft auto when the bus he was driving got stuck in a ditch on a secluded road in the eastern section of the county. As much as anything that mug shot encapsulates the popular perception of Manson as homicidal madman. "Just look at that picture!" Davis exclaimed to the shuddering crowd. (Other people just see a guy making a face for the camera.)

Ventura County's claim to fame: Homicidal maniac or goof? 

The audience begins to assemble in the events hall at the
Museum of Ventura County before the program. 

The program at Ventura was pretty much a regurgitation of the 2009 edition of the book. Davis recounted the police investigation into the murders, taking particular delight in pointing out the ineptness of LAPD (e.g. a television news team found the killers' clothes, not the police, and Steve Weiss' father had to remind the department that his son had found the murder gun and that they already had it in their possession). This incompetence was greeted with laughter and snorts of disgust from the audience until a retired FBI agent stood up and reminded everybody that the police do, after all, make mistakes. Davis also laid into Vincent Bugliosi, mentioning both the DA's huge ego and his indictment for perjury. In fact, no one escaped Davis' critical eye (of course, everybody in "the Family" from Manson on down was treated with snarky disdain, and even the cooperative Paul Watkins was described as just a "wannabe musician") except for Aaron Stovitz, who was likely spared Davis' wrath because he credited the writer for solving the mystery of the Tate-LaBianca murders.

In addition to Davis, two other book authors appeared on the dais and lectured the audience about Manson, "the Family," and the murders. They were the father and daughter writing team of Mark J. and Aryn Z. Philips. The Philipses cowrote Trials of the Century, a compendium of the most sensational murder trials of the 20th Century, one from each decade (Harry Thaw, Mary Phagan/Leo Frank, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle; Richard Hauptmann, Wayne Lonergan, Sam Sheppard, Richard Speck, CM, Jean Harris, and O.J. Simpson).

Mark and Aryn Phillips and Ivor Davis on stage

The Philipses' presentation was, to be polite, really, really bad, and quick reading of the source notes for their book chapter on the Manson trial reveals why: most of their information was gleaned from Helter Skelter. (Another oft-quoted source was the book The Trial of Charles Manson, by Bradley Steffens and Craig L. Staples. I was unfamiliar with this book so I got a copy. This slim -- 112 pages including notes and index -- volume is part of the Lucent Books series of "quality nonfiction for libraries and classrooms." Lucent has a series of books called "The Famous Trials Series" which includes other famous criminal and legal cases such as the Dred Scott Decision, the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the Nuremberg Trials, the Rosenberg espionage case, the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Pentagon Papers, Roe v. Wade, and the Salem Witch Trials. Sources used for Trial include most of the better known TLB books and periodicals. The main recommended Internet source was, an URL that will surely invoke a nostalgic cringe in longtime students of the case.)

The audience of about two hundred, which consisted of mostly well-to-do older white folks, took it all in. Even the few longhairs in attendance seemed to go for everything. I quickly gave up on any attempt to reply to the onslaught of lies (although I did loudly say "He is not." after the moderator exclaimed, "First of all, Charles Manson is only 5 foot 2 inches tall!") as I was quickly overwhelmed by the avalanche of misinformation coming from the stage. The moderator had requested that all questions and comments be held off until the presentation was over. By then I knew that the audience was a lost and dangerous cause. (If I had asked a question it would have been "If you thought everything you heard from Watkins, Poston, and Flynn was unbelievable, why did you believe it?")

But after the event I was compelled approach the lawyer and his daughter with my evaluation of their presentation. After identifying myself and laying out my background (the lawyer noticeably started when I told him that I had visited Manson in prison almost two hundred times) I told them that their whole spiel was "so wrong" and misinformed that they had no business pontificating about the case. The daughter was visibly taken aback. Her father defended the book as being intentionally superficial re the specific cases, but I said that if that was the case they shouldn't pass off their superficial knowledge of the Manson case as if they were any kind of authority. We exchanged books and they seemed very glad when I left. (Before the event I introduced myself to Ivor Davis as a decades-long student of the case and told him that I was glad to meet one of the authors of one of the first books about the case as I had written a book about the case myself. He wrote down the title of my book and said he'd check it out.)

In addition to the Ivor Davis event, Manson and "the Family" were featured in an ongoing museum gallery exhibit dedicated to "Really Awful People" who included Nero, Attilla the Hun, Vlad Tepes, Gilles de Rais, Torquemada, Ivan the Terrible, Jack the Ripper, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and…. Vladimir Putin? (Okay, I know that in progressive Ventura they probably believe that Vladimir Putin helped Donald Trump win the election for president of the United States, but does that really warrant his being presented alongside two figures who were responsible for the murders of tens of millions of human beings?)

Really awful people Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Putin 

The Manson exhibit consisted of a large black panel decorated with a sparse description of the case, some photos of Manson, Spahn's Ranch, and Sharon Tate, and a blurb tying Davis and Five to Die in with the whole thing.

Five To Die is an interesting period piece, but it is also a sensational example of the worst of British tabloid "news." Its "unbelievable story" is literally just that. But what's even more unbelievable is that after almost fifty years the public still eagerly laps this garbage up.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hoisted By His Own Petard

During the summer of 1969 the white establishment was on the eve of destruction. The black man was about to rise up and leave his ghetto to slaughter the white race, the pigs. This event was to be known as Helter Skelter and taking a cue from Paul McCartney, Helter Skelter was 'coming down fast' in the summer of '69.

Armageddon was imminent.


A year later Vincent Bugliosi described Helter Skelter during his opening statement:

“The evidence will show that one of Manson’s principal motives for these seven savage murders was to ignite Helter Skelter; in other words, start the black-white revolution by making it look as though the black man had murdered these seven Caucasian victims. In his twisted mind, he thought this would cause the white community to turn against the black community, ultimately leading to a civil war between blacks and whites, a war which Manson told his followers would see bloodbaths in the streets of every American city, a war which Manson predicted and foresaw the black man as winning.

Manson envisioned that black people, once they destroyed the entire white race, would be unable to handle the reins of power because of inexperience, and would therefore have to turn over the reins to those white people who had escaped from Helter Skelter; i.e., Charles Manson and his Family. In Manson’s mind, his Family, and particularly he, would be the ultimate beneficiaries of a black-white civil war. We intend to offer the testimony of not just one witness but many witnesses on Manson’s philosophy, because the evidence will show that it is so strange and so bizarre that if you heard it only from the lips of one person you probably would not believe it.”

Ever since those words were spoken, nearly fifty years ago, someone has accused Bugliosi of fabricating the Helter Skelter motive.

Did he?

At the outset, I frankly admit I’ve never followed how this fabrication supposedly happened. Maybe it is because I'm a lawyer and realize how incredibly difficult it would be to pull this off in a courtroom. But I’m also not sure if the argument is Bugliosi invented Helter Skelter or whether the argument is that he took bits and pieces of things Manson actually said and coerced, manipulated or maneuvered witnesses into repeating and twisting the tale in such a way that it seemed like the motive. Either way it is a serious accusation. 

[Aside: This post is not about whether the actual motive was Helter Skelter. That's another story.]

The Importance of A Motive

By now everyone knows that motive was not a necessary element of Bugliosi’s case. That statement, however, is somewhat misleading when it comes to convicting Manson. As to Manson I believe it would be more accurate to say Bugliosi didn’t need to prove the Helter Skelter motive but he likely needed to prove some motive to gain a conviction. And that is because the primary charge against Manson was conspiracy to commit murder: Manson didn't kill anyone those two nights.

So even though the prosecution typically doesn't have to prove motive it is frequently hotly debated at trial. Why? Because people have a strong need to know 'why' especially when it comes to murder. And in our jury system, people are the ones deciding guilt. So while motive is not a necessary element of proof in a criminal trial motive, in fact, has a significant impact on the jury.

“Research in social psychology, on the other hand, suggests that blaming is often intuitive and automatic, driven by a natural impulsive desire to express and defend social values and expectations.  Blaming serves an integral social function. By blaming a wrongdoer, we establish, enforce, and express the social boundaries and rules of our community. To this end, people are often willing to make sacrifices to punish cheaters, even when they themselves are not the ones who have been cheated. Blaming in ordinary social life primarily serves as an expressive social tool to sort the ‘bad’ members of society from the ‘good’ members of society and, thereby, to foster solidarity and cohesion among those who are appropriately abiding social expectations. In ordinary social life, an actor’s perceived character and reasons for acting, therefore, are of primary importance to the process of administering blame for a harmful action.”

Janice Nadler, Moral Character, Motive and the Psychology of Blame, Northwestern University School of Law. 2011

This is why Bugliosi needed a motive. Manson did not kill anyone. His guilt is based upon an agreement and largely (although not exclusively) the actions of others. This is a hard sell to a jury, which is why conspiracy cases are difficult cases for the prosecution (as Bugliosi noted). Put simply, Bugliosi needed the jury to blame Manson for the murders and that was supplied by proving a motive. 

In this case it doesn’t matter which motive he used (robbery, copycat, drug burn, Helter Skelter). Any motive answers the question ‘why?’ and that allows the jury to blame Manson. So, it is better to say Bugliosi needed a motive not the Helter Skelter motive. 

So why did Bugliosi choose Helter Skelter?

Because Manson talked incessantly about Helter Skelter.

A Few of the Eyewitnesses

Several witnesses testified about Manson’s race war. I chose these first two because they were not part of the Family and thus not part of the inner circle but both had substantial contact with Manson. I chose the killers because they were the ones committing the murders. They also were also part of the of the Family and two of them almost from its inception.

Gregg Jakobson

Jakobson first met Manson in May 1968 and last spoke to him in late August or early September 1969. According to Jakobson he spoke to Manson multiple times about Helter Skelter.

Q: Approximately how many times did you talk to Mr. Manson about his philosophy on life?
A: Well, innumerable times.
Q: When you say innumerable, will you give an approximate figure.
A: Maybe 100.
Q: Did Mr. Manson ever speak to you, Mr. Jakobson, about a black-white conflict or physical confrontation?
A: Often.
Q: Did he give this black-white war or conflict a name?
A: Yes.
Q: What name did he give it?
A: Helter Skelter.
Q: Did he mention Helter Skelter to you many times?
A: Yes.
Q: Did he say there was going to be a black-white war?
A: Oh, he believed that it was imminent.
Q: Did Mr. Manson indicate to you how he envisioned this black-white war would start?
A: It would begin by the ripping off of some white families in their homes.
Q: By whom?
A: By the blacks.
A: He said-- he used the words ripped off, and those stuck in my mind, and then he went further to say that they would really be cut up and dismembered and so on.
A: He firmly believed that there was a pit, a bottomless pit in the Death Valley area that could be lived in, and inhabited and quite possibly was inhabited.
Q: Did he say he intended to inhabit the bottomless pit during Helter Skelter?
A: Yes.
Q: In other words, the black man would want to turn over the Establishment to Mr. Manson, is that correct?
A: Right, yes.
A: Helter Skelter, Charlie’s interpretation was, the revolution was the rising up of the black man, the Armageddon, the last battle in the streets to be fought.
Q: Did he actually mention the Armageddon? Did he actually mention the word?
A: Yes.
A: It was in preparation to go to the desert. Specifically, a lot of money was needed to buy rope.
Q: A rope?
A: Yes, very expensive rope.
Q: For what purpose?
A: It was to go into the pit with.
Q: The bottomless pit?
A: Yes.
Q: Did he indicate to you how long this rope had to be?
A: Yes.
Q: What did he say?
A: Thousands of feet were needed, a truckload of rope.
Q (Fitgerald): Did it appear to you that Mr. Manson was sincere in his beliefs in regard to his philosophy? [Aside: Why on earth is Fitzgerald asking these questions? Isn’t his goal to prove it is BS?]
A: Oh, sure. Yes.
Q: It appeared to you, then, that he believed what he said?
A: Absolutely.
Q: One of the tenets of his philosophy was that people should be required to tell the truth?
A: Yes.
Q: And did you find Mr. Manson truthful in your dealings with him?
A: Yes.

Juan Flynn

Flynn described his role at Spahn Ranch as follows:

Q: Did you work as a ranch hand?
A: Yes, manure shoveler.
Q: Manure shoveler?
A: Yes.

Here is what he said about Helter Skelter:

Q: Did Mr. Manson talk about a black-white war?
A: Yes. And he related it to Helter Skelter.
Mr. Kanarek: Your Honor, may that be stricken as nonresponsive?
The Court: That portion is stricken.
Q: Manson did speak about a Black-White war?
A: Yes.
Q: Did he ever mention Helter Skelter to you?
A: Yes.
Q: Did he say what Helter Skelter was?
A: Yes
Q: When did he say what Helter Skelter was?
A: When he first told me this was when the Beatles record came out.
Q: Do you know who was present when he spoke about Helter Skelter for the first time to you?
A: Well, on a lot of occasions, you know, there was a lot of people present.
Q: What did he say to you?
Q: About Helter Skelter.
A: Well, this was the change, the turn of the Karma, you see, you know, and the Black people were to overcome the white people, you know, and, you see, because the love has been licked too much, you know, on the Black people, you know, and there was a revolution in order, you see, to balance, you know, what the white man had done to the Black man.
Q: This is what Mr. Manson told you?
A: Yes.

[Aside: On September 28, 1970 while Juan Flynn was testifying Bugliosi began to ask Flynn about an incident where Flynn was in a car driving around Chatsworth with Manson, Davis, Watson and Grogan. Fitzgerald and Kanarek asked for and received a side bar. During that side bar they challenged the relevancy of the testimony and Bugliosi made the following offer of proof.

“Bugliosi: They stopped in front of this house, a rich house, in June or July 1969 in the Chatsworth area, and he was in the car and Clem Tufts was there, Bruce Davis, and he thinks Watson, he is not sure.

Again, this is only offered as to Manson, not the other defendants.

Mr. Manson stopped in front of the house and told Juan to go inside the house and tie the people up, and then open the door and let Manson and the rest go in.

He said, “We’ll go in there and get those M.F. pigs, kill them with acid, cut the kids up in pieces and then when the parents are hysterical tear their guts out or words to that effect.”

Being in a car with that crew, Flynn is lucky to get back alive.

We know Bugliosi planned to have Flynn testify to the incident because he began to do just that before the interruption. Bugliosi claimed Flynn would testify that the incident occurred in June or July 1969. Of course, this might be another ‘get me a coconut' event but I doubt it. If this incident happened and if it happened before the murder of Gary Hinman doesn’t it undermine the copycat motive fairly severely? And if it happened at all doesn’t it also undermine a drug related motive unless someone wants to argue the occupants of this seemingly random house were also involved in the illicit drug trade (which someone probably would).

The court excluded the testimony because it found the prejudicial effect to the female defendants outweighed the probative value of the evidence. The girls were not present so the evidence did not tend to prove a conspiracy between the defendants.]

Under the fabrication theory the testimony of Jakobson and Flynn, above (and others) was either invented by Bugliosi or spoon fed to them or twisted from innocent comments into an elaborate and unbelievable motive. But the killers also heard it from Manson and, I would argue, believed it.

Here is what the killers had to say on the subject.


Kasabian never actually says she believed Helter Skelter during her testimony. She does, however, acknowledge it being discussed by Manson.

[Aside: This is Kanarek at his ‘best’.]

Q. Did Manson ever mention the term to you, Linda, Helter Skelter?
A. Yes.
MR.KANAREK: I object, leading and suggestive, conclusion.
THE COURT: Overruled.
A. Yes.
MR.KANAREK: Ambiguous as to time, your Honor.
MR.BUGLIOSI: Mr. Kanarek knows I am going to go into time, your Honor, I would ask the Court to admonish Mr. Kanarek to wait and give me an opportunity to lay a foundation, one he knows that I am going to lay.
MR.KANAREK: I have no knowledge of what this man is going to do, your Honor.
MR.BUGLIOSI: If you would listen to my questions you would learn, Mr. Kanarek.
THE COURT: I don't want any colloquy, gentlemen, let's proceed.
Q. When did Mr. Manson mention the term Helter Skelter to you?
A. When?
Q. You said he mentioned the term Helter Skelter. Do you know approximately when? Was it within this one month period?
A. Yes, it was.
MR.KANAREK: Leading and suggestive, your Honor.
THE COURT: Overruled.
Q. Did he tell you what the term Helter Skelter meant?
MR.KANAREK: Calling for a conclusion, hearsay, improper foundation, and ambiguous as to time.
MR.FITZGERALD: Can we have the spelling of the word Helter Skelter, your Honor?
THE COURT: By whom?
MR.FITZGERALD: Excuse me, if the Court please, I am not familiar with the term, by the party offering the term.

[Aside: Of course he is. I think Fitzgerald hopes Ms. Kasabian misspells ‘Helter’.]

MR.STOVITZ: I will show counsel how to spell it, your Honor. [Aside: Stovitz to the rescue.]
MR.KANAREK: Has he a reference book for it, your Honor?
MR.BUGLIOSI: May I continue, your Honor?
Q. What did Mr. Manson say Helter Skelter meant?
MR.KANAREK: I don't know if I objected, but I must on the grounds of hearsay, conclusion, no foundation, ambiguous as to time.
THE COURT: I think you'd better lay a foundation, Mr. Bugliosi.
Q. Do you know when he told you what Helter Skelter meant to him?
MR.KANAREK: Again, your Honor, that is the "When did you stop beating your wife," type of question.
THE COURT: Overruled.
MR.KANAREK: Conclusion and hearsay, leading and suggestive.
A. Excuse me, I don't understand the question.
Q. What did Manson say about Helter Skelter?
MR.KANAREK: Object on the grounds it's a conclusion and hearsay.
THE COURT: Overruled.
A. It is a revolution where blacks and whites will get together and kill each other and all non-blacks and brown people and even black people who do not go on the black people's terms ---
MR.KANAREK: I make a motion that that last answer be stricken on the grounds of its prejudicial nature, on the grounds it states hearsay and conclusions.
THE COURT: Denied.
Q. Did he say who was going to start Helter Skelter?
MR.KANAREK: Object, assumes facts not in evidence, conclusionary, hearsay, and ambiguous as to time and place, no proper foundation.
THE COURT: Overruled.
A. Blackie.
Q. During the day of August 8th, do you recall Mr. Manson saying anything about Helter Skelter?
A. Yes, I do.
MR.KANAREK: I object on the grounds of conclusion, hearsay.
THE COURT: Go ahead.
A. I believe that was the day he came back from Big Sur or wherever he came back from.
Q. He came back from some place?
A. Yes.
MR.KANAREK: May that be stricken as not responsive, that had nothing to do with it, his coming back.
THE COURT: Overruled.
A. And he was telling us --- I remember I was sitting on the couch in front of --- they call it the gun room --- where Danny used to sleep.
Q. Danny DeCarlo?
A. Yes.
Q. About what time was this in the day?
A. It was in the middle of the afternoon.
Q. Okay.
A. And I remember the new girl that he brought back, Stephanie, I believe her name was Stephanie, now, and maybe a few other people were there, Clem, maybe, I cannot remember faces again.
Q. Clem Tufts?
A. Yes, and he was telling us about his trip up in Big Sur and that the people were really not together, they were just off on their little trips, and they just were not getting together. So he came out and said, "Now is the time for Helter Skelter."

According to one source, Kasabian seems to have believed it enough to 'preach' it herself.

“She said, "Yeah, well they're killing people like that out in L. A."
"Like what?" I asked.
"Pigs that try to act like freaks."

[She said] Charlie had learned through meditation about the existence at several places around the world of holes which went down to the center of the earth. Down the Holes will go the Beautiful People to escape the wrath of Black Man who will rise up and slaughter his hateful master, White Man. Some time after While Man has been killed off Black Man will realize that he has learned all he knows from White Man and that he cannot develop civilization any more on his own. Then the Beautiful People will be invited out of the holes to rule Black Man and further civilization. Only the Beautiful People will love Black Man and will not mistreat him as White Man had. 

Charlie and the people he lived with in L.A. were not the only ones who knew about these holes. Donovan knew; in one of his songs he sings, “Take me down through a hole in the ocean.” The Beatles knew, and they knew Charlie knew. Charlie and his friends had listened to “Helter Skelter” with headphones for months until they could hear, quite distinctly below the sounds of the instruments and the singing, the Beatles in speaking voices saying, “Charlie, can you hear us? Charlie, can you hear us? Call us in London. Call us in London.” Charlie had called London and the Beatles had refused to accept the call. Still, their faith was unbroken.”

The Road from Gallup to Albuquerque, No writer attributed, The Harvard Crimson, December 18, 1969


Van Houten questioned whether Atkins actually believed Helter Skelter. I think Atkins' words answer that question: yes, she did.

SUSAN ATKINS: We watched the newscast and it kind of, it really helped me to know that the people were as important as they were – it blew my mind and there were a few comments made, well, the soul really picked a good one this time. Just happened to have been Sharon Tate, a movie actress, and it happened to have made nationwide and worldwide news which we had no knowledge that that’s what it would do. There was a comment made that what had happened had served it’s purpose, that was to instill fear in man himself.

PAUL CARUSO: The establishment?

SUSAN ATKINS: The establishment. That’s what it was done for. To instill fear – to cause a paranoia. To also show black man how to go about taking over white man.
Linda went into the gas station and left the wallet in the gas station, the women’s restroom, hoping that a black woman would find it and pick it up and use the credit cards, which would direct the police to black people, instilling more fear into white people. Then we drove around, just kept driving around, ended up at the ranch, but the idea was Charlie had wanted Clem and Linda and me to go to another house and we would do two simultaneously, in one night, to instill fear into white men.

Susan Atkins, Interview by Caballero and Caruso, December 1, 1969,

I can see your side of this clearly. Nor am I mad at you. I am hurt in a way I only understand. I blame nobody but myself for ever saying anything to anybody about it. My attorney is going to go on insanity. Yes, I wanted the world to know “M”. It sure looks like they do now. There was a so-called motive behind all this. It was to install fear into the pigs and to bring on judgment day which is here now for all.

Susan Atkins to Shelly Nadall 1969

SERGEANT PATCHETT: Did she ever talk about murdering a negro fella?
MS. HOWARD: No. But she doesn't think too much of colored people. She thinks their- well, white people should stick together and colored people should stick together. You know, because I told you why they were doing some of this. She said she thought that it would make the colored people wake up and take notice that this is what they should do to get what they want out of the world, you know, some violence.

SERGEANT McGANN: Did she say why they left to go up to the north, in the desert?
MS. HOWARD: Oh, yeah because that is where the hole is, in the desert. They call it devil's canyon or devil's hole or something. What is what she said, the government put a big fence around it and it is supposed to be owned by the bottomless pit and she said that, in other words, people are all going to go back to the earth eventually anyway and they wanted to be one of the first ones there to start it. In other words, so when people die like ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Well, they’re just kind of speeding things up a little bit.

MS. HOWARD: Yeah, where she said they wrote "Arise", and "Death to all pigs" and, I believe she said, I think she even said they wrote "Helter Skelter" is supposed to be like this new movement or whatever it is up there.
SERGEANT McGANN: She spoke of helter skelter in addition to writing on the wall?
MS. HOWARD: Uh huh, yeah she said where is some song out, helter skelter or something. It means, most everyone, I guess, in the group knows what helter skelter means. It is supposed to be like their new movement, you know.

Ronnie Howard Interview by LAPD, November 25, 1969,

MS. GRAHAM: This Charlie Manson, obviously had schooled all these girls and boys, whatever, that there is a hole in the middle of Death Valley and that there are people living down in underground and that they are going to start a new society and that they are the chosen few, they are elected, this group of people, to pick people at random and execute them.
SERGEANT NIELSEN: The helter-skelter?
 MS. GRAHAM: The helter-skelter.
SERGEANT NIELSEN: That was her group?
MS. GRAHAM: Yes. Yes, this is the group of people that want to go and assassinate or execute other people, the helter-skelter.
SERGEANT NIELSEN: Now this helter-skelter group –
MS. GRAHAM: Yeah. She said, "You've heard of helter-skelter?" And I said, "No. What's that?" And she said that they belonged to this -- and I don't remember what word she used, I say sect because this is how I identify it, but it's a group of people that are (Unintelligible)...or whatever and their sole purpose on this earth is to go around and do people in and they are all going to get together and they are going to go to Death Valley and that there is a hole there and that Charlie knows where it is because he's been there and they are going to go down and live down under the earth and get away from society. I mean she really thinks that she did the right thing by killing these people, really.

Virginia Graham, LAPD Interview, November 26, 1969 (Kindle Locations 571-577). Kindle Edition.

Q: Did you say anything else when you heard who those four people were?
A: Something to the effect that it served its purpose?
Q: What had happened served its purpose?
A: Yes.
Q: Did you say why this had been done?
A: To instill fear into the establishment.
Q: I am concerned about these two words, pigs and helter-skelter.
A: I know of—in some of the songs he wrote helter-skelter was in them and he’d talk about helter-skelter. We all talked about helter-skelter.
A: You must understand that all words had no meaning to us and that helter-skelter was explained to me.
Q: By whom?
A: Charlie. I don’t even like to say Charlie, I’d like to say the words came from his mouth that helter-skelter was to be the last war on the face of the earth. It would be all the wars that have ever been fought built one on top of the other, something that no man could conceive of in his imagination. You can’t conceive of what it would be like to see every man judge himself and then take it out on every other man all over the face of the earth.

And pig was a word used to describe the establishment.

Transcript of Susan Atkins’ Grand Jury Testimony, December 5, 1969.

By the time she wrote her book in 1977 Atkins had changed her tune. The motive was now a copycat motive to get Bobby Beausoleil out of jail. The plan was apparently discussed by Manson in 'around the clock sessions' for several days before the murders. That, of course is not possible given Manson wasn't there.


Krenwinkel left no contemporary account of the crimes. Van Houten, who idolized Krenwinkel at the time, however, claimed she was a believer.

MR. PART: Now, you say that you all used to sit around Gresham and the desert and talk about this philosophy of going down to the center of the earth. Could you name some of the people that used to talk about it?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Gypsy and Brenda and myself and Katie and Charles and Tex and Clem and Snake and Rachel.

There was — we’re the ones that usually talked about it the most. Sadie did sometimes; but I don’t know if she actually believed it or not.

But all the rest of us, we really believed it.

Leslie Van Houten Interview with Marvin Part, December 29, 1969.

I don't trust parole hearings but Krenwinkel at her hearings has given some indication of her state of mind at the time of the killings and it seems to be consistent with the rest.

“Inmate Krenwinkel: It was a combination, because the acid trips were directed and there was a (indiscernible) and he—when you take acid and he would direct them. And we would do whatever he said. Mostly what he wanted us to do was lie down and die because we were supposed to give up our egos so that we would be able to spout back to him his philosophy, his delusions, his craziness.”

Patricia Krenwinkel’s 2004 Parole Hearing.

“Attorney Wattley: There were all these ideas that seem to be going around that he would talk about we’ll do this and start a race war. We’ll do this to, you know, recreate a separate society. Did you embrace these things at the time?

Inmate Krenwinkel: Yes, I did. If he [Manson] said those things, I accepted that and I would repeat it back to him. I was willing to take whatever he said as the gospel”.

Patricia Krenwinkel’s 2011 Parole Hearing.

[Aside: Notice Krenwinkel begins her answer with ‘if he said those things’. This seems to be a recurring point by Krenwinkel, which becomes more direct in her 2016 hearing: she has no recollection of Manson saying the Family would start Helter Skelter. I think this has gotten her into trouble in these hearings because it leads to the question ‘then why did you kill these people?” and her only answer is ‘Tex told me to, so I did.’]

Presiding Commissioner Chappell: Okay. Okay. All right. So getting back to the, to the meetings, when did it come out that you wanted to—or Charlie Manson wanted to start this, divide the country and start this race division? When did that come out?

Inmate Krenwinkel: I think he started doing that probably, again. Probably started that philosophy probably somewhere along, maybe four to six months.

Presiding Commissioner Chappell: Four to six months?

Inmate Krenwinkel: Yeah, prior to the crimes.
Inmate Krenwinkel: Well, he started talking about there was going to be a race war.

Presiding Commissioner Chappell: Okay.

Inmate Krenwinkel: And that—and, of course, he came up with this crazy idea of, which at the time we were going to the desert and there was going to be a, there was a hole in the desert that we were going to live in and while the, while the war raged or whatever. But I—he—I never heard him, you know, say he was going to try to start it. He just, it—that came out in, at trial. But I mean, that wasn’t what he was saying. He was saying this is going to happen and this is going to happen. And there was this whole feeling of –that we were under attack. He started making it more that, you know, we were, we were under, you know, that is, you can see they’re trying to attack us. That we’re living together. We’re a group of people and we’re being under attack and the, you know, there is going to be this. So we started getting where he was making it really pulling, say the circle together. He wanted everybody really tight together because we were under attack and this—did everything and, you know, and America itself was going to go to war. So we needed to be really close with one another, you know, we had to be on one philosophy, one thought, one—we were one him. And we would be able to survive somehow.
Deputy Commissioner Lam: ***** It almost suggests that at a certain level you had an awareness that what he was saying didn’t make sense. Or am I hearing it wrong?

Inmate Krenwinkel: No, at that time, I bought in lock, stock and barrel to his philosophy.

Deputy Commissioner Lam: You believed everything?

Inmate Krenwinkel: I did, because it was, you know yeah, it was the only philosophy going and we all kept passing it on, one to another. I believed, I believed in him. I believed in it as much as I knew anything to be real, which I can tell you was, nothing was real. But that’s—yes, I, you know, I kept, I absorbed the stuff that he said. It was that or repercussions, you know. I mean, I had learned along the line that this, this is the way it is. And I consented.
Deputy Commissioner Lam: Okay. During these meetings, did he teach you about the race war?

Inmate Krenwinkel: Yes.
Deputy Commissioner Lam: ***** But in terms of starting the race war, how was that going to happen?

Inmate Krenwinkel: He never said that. He never said exactly how, to me, that I was going to be part of that, or I was supposed to do something. Ours was always how we were supposed to make it safe for he and others to survive these, you know, with these holes in the grounds, and these other crazy things…..

Patricia Krenwinkel’s 2016 parole hearing.


And here is what Watson has to say.

“Ever since I'd known him, Charlie had occasionally mentioned that eventually there would be a bloody conflict between whites and blacks. But a lot of people were saying that — hadn't Watts been the beginning? He'd also made it clear that he thought blacks were inferior to whites and only created to serve them, but this kind of thing had never been a major part of his teaching. Now “Helter Skelter is coming down fast” was the main theme of everything he said, every song he wrote, and it didn't take long to figure out that the black-white terrorism and Helter Skelter meant pretty much the same thing: violent revolution. And now, Charlie was saying, it would be “blackie's turn to win,” the karma would roll, and the blacks would end up on top as the establishment.”

“The central doctrine of Charlie's new teaching was Helter Skelter-Armageddon, the Last War on the Face of the Earth, the ultimate battle between blacks and whites in which the entire white race would be annihilated. As the Beatles sang, this was not some event in the distant future, it was “coming down fast.” We were living in the last few months, weeks, perhaps days, of the old order.”
“There were three basic motives behind the murders that took place sometime past midnight on August 9. The most obvious was the one Charlie had articulated to us that afternoon: to do what blackie didn't have the energy or the smarts to do — ignite Helter Skelter and bring in Charlie's kingdom. There was also the need for more cash, first of all to finance our preparations for Armageddon — the same thing that had motivated the drug burn and Bernard Crowe's supposed murder, the killing of Gary Hinman, and all the proposed abductions and murders in the Chatsworth area — and also to pay $600 bail for Mary Brunner, who had been arrested earlier that day for using a stolen Sears' credit card.”
When he got back, he called us all together. It was the afternoon of August 8, 1969, and his message was simple.

“Now is the time for Helter Skelter.”

Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, Will You Die For Me (1978)

I also don't trust books by killers. We likely will not know for sure what Watson actually believed at the time the crimes were committed unless and until the ‘Tex Tapes’ come to light. But there is some indication what might be on those tapes.

In 2015 Richard Pfeiffer, the attorney for Leslie Van Houten, filed a motion with the court to have the tapes reviewed by a court ‘in camera’ (in private) to see if anything on them would be of assistance to his client’s efforts to obtain parole. The DA responded on December 21, 2015:

 “The People do not believe it necessary for the Court to arduously labor through the 326 pages of rambling musings about LSD, secret worlds beneath Death Valley and bizarre racial theories.” 

Pleadings quoted in Charles Manson’s Right-Hand Man Is Up for Parole. Here’s What to Watch For. Tom O’Neill (2016)

The DA’s characterization sounds to me quite a bit like Helter Skelter. If that is a fair description of what is on the tapes then I think it is safe to include Watson in the ranks of the true believers.

Van Houten

If ever there was a poster child for the Helter Skelter true believer club it was Leslie Van Houten in 1969.

But we — after that, we started decide — seeing where we were in this position, because we knew that we were part of this Revolutions — of the Revelations in the Bible. We knew that we had a part in it.

And so we read, and it talked about a hole in the desert or going to the Kingdom.
We found out — we started looking into the Death Valley, what’s underneath Death Valley, and we found out there was the Armagosa River and blind fish and all kinds of things that just made us believe that there was a whole world underneath. And that some of the Montezuma’s people are already under there waiting for us.

And that what would happen is that about a couple thousand of the chosen people — white people — would go down into the center of the earth and stay there for about fifty years. And then there would Athens or — I can’t remember all the names, but something was going to happen. And then we were going to come back up.

And this was when we — the earth would be all black.
MR. PART: Now that you mentioned “the plan that we have no control of,” tell me what you mean.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, it seemed like after we knew what was going to come down we tried talking to leaders, you know, black leaders, and we saw that they were stalling.

And it was almost as though we had to make the first move for it to continue to develop, to get bigger so that it would happen because the black man loves us so much that he would be our slave and do everything we said, let us beat him and mistreat him for so many years that he almost doesn’t want to do what he has to do, but he sees that he has to do it.
And so it was up to us to start it.
MR. PART: Well, how were you going to start the this revolution?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: By killing.
MR. PART: Could you explain that?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: By doing a murder that had no sense behind it, and by putting words that would make people scared.

Because the more fearful the people get, the more frantic it will get, and the faster it will happen.
MR. PART: Why in the world would you want to go out and kill somebody?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Because it had to be done. It had to be done just in order for the whole thing to be completed, for the whole world’s karma to be completed we had to do this.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, in order to create fear it had to be — look like an obvious, just an obvious murder; that there was no robbery , nothing behind it; just flat out to do it, to start this paranoia going.

And so we had been told that this was the best time to use our witchcraft.
MR. PART: Now, what do those words mean to you, and what were they written in, and where were they written?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: “Helter Skelter” was written on the refrigerator. And that was used to let people know that the Beatles were the prophets, and they were telling it like it was, and that it’s coming down fast, and you just be ready, you know.

You know, get it on. Do whatever you have to do for this whole thing to be over.

And “Pig” was the white — the white businessman who hated his neighbor, couldn’t look at his neighbor with love, who was going to get it in the end.

And then “Rise” was for the black man saying that it was his turn to, you know, be leader after all that time.
MR. PART: Well, if Charlie’s Jesus and you girls are angels and you are doing God’s will and God’s will is that the revolution start so that the colored people can take over the earth, why do you think that everybody’s in jail?

MISS VAN HOUTEN: Oh, I don’t know. You know, it would almost be for the publicity, as silly as that sounds. So that all —See, there’s no — we were trying to find out ways of letting the youth know, because the people that are going to go into the hole are going to be the young people.
And we tried with our music, and nobody would put out our music. And, you know, we tried lots of different ways, and nothing worked.

But now everyone is finding out. Like our music is finally coming out. And Charles will be able to speak for himself at the court and — to show —I guess it just happened to let people know that that this is the way it was happening. ’cause some people will believe.

Leslie Van Houten, Interview with Marvin Part, December 29, 1969.

Charles Manson 

On June 19, 1970 Mary Neiswender, who had been reporting on the murders since August 1969 wrote an article about her recent interview with Manson. The article appears below. While never directly mentioning ‘Helter Skelter', Manson made a couple interesting comments. Ms. Neiswender failed to follow up.

“I see a black robe; the same one Pilate wore. It’s got blood on it from 1900 years of Christian rule.

If I were my own attorney I could explain. You’ve heard of the Battle of Armageddon (the Bible’s prophecy of the last, decisive battle between good and evil before the Day of Judgment). I see it coming, and all I want to do is get out of the way, but they’re trying to stick an antichrist label on me.”
If he were turned loose, he says wistfully, “I’d go to the desert and no one would ever see me again.”

In two quotes Manson mentions two ‘themes' of Helter Skelter (1.) imminent Armageddon (a word frequently attributed to him by other witnesses when explaining the concept of Helter Skelter) and (2.) going to the desert and disappearing (the move he and the Family were to make to escape the war).

On or about June 25, 1970 Manson was interviewed by David Felton and David Dalton for Rolling Stone Magazine. A few quotes by Manson:

“The white man is fading, everybody knows that. The black man will take over, they can't stop it.
Can you explain the meaning of Revelations, Chapter 9?
What do you think it means? It's the battle of Armageddon. It's the end of the world. It was the Beatles' "Revolution 9" that turned me on to it. It predicts the overthrow of the Establishment. The pit will be opened, and that's when it will all come down. A third of all mankind will die. The only people who escape will be those who have the seal of God on their foreheads. You know that part, "They will seek death but they will not find it."
"Revolution 9" will be violent? Why will it be racial?
Have you heard of the Muslims? Have you heard of the Black Panthers? Englishmen, do you remember cutting off the heads of praying Muslims with the cross sewn onto your battledress? Can you imagine it?
Well, imagination is the same as memory. You and all Western Man killed and mutilated them and now they are reincarnated and they are going to repay you. The soul in the white man is lying down. They were praying, kneeling in the temple. They did not want war. And the white man came in the name of Christ and killed them all.
Do you really think the Beatles intended to mean that?
I think it's a subconscious thing. I don't know whether they did or not. But it's there. It's an association in the subconscious. This music is bringing on the revolution, the unorganized overthrow of the Establishment. The Beatles know in the sense that the subconscious knows.
Why do you think Susan Atkins gave that confession?
Susan is a very aware girl. I think her soul did it. I think her soul worked on her to the point that she did it. Personally I think she did it to put me in the position I'm in so that people could see where I'm at."

Manson was also interviewed by the Los Angeles Free Press. The Free Press also ran articles about the Family. They even gave Manson a sort of column for a while and published his poems and letters to the editor. Here are a couple quotes by Manson:

“I was in Death valley trying to get away from your world. I can’t judge it. The Black Man is going to do that. 
Everyone is going to get back what they put out, and God knows no time. It has piled up for years and it is turning. Your world is in big trouble. Justice is coming.”

Is this proof Manson believed his own shtick? Hardly, but the quotes are consistent with the theme. Of course these were all made after his arrest when he would likely be more guarded. 

Anybody Else?

One website claims this is the Spiral Staircase. 

Manson seems to have spoken about Helter Skelter to anyone who would listen. On December 7, 1969 an article appeared in the LA Times (below, right) written by Eric Malnic. Malnic got wind of Manson's haunts and took a road trip up to Topanga Canyon. This is likely lower Topanga Canyon based upon the reference to the bus- the location of the Spiral Staircase.  There he interviewed several local ‘hippies’ and heard this:

“He [Manson] said he’d take his army of dune buggies and kill every white mother- every white pig- between here and the desert.

Then he was going to make an exodus- take his people to a big hole in Death Valley and hide there. From there he could just sit back and watch the revolution.”

A ‘thirty-year old author’ was quoted as saying:

“He picked up the revolution thing about eight months ago. He hoped to cause some all-out confrontation between the police and blacks. Blacks and whites.”

Malnic continued:

“Manson never discussed his entire plan for fomenting a black-white war with any one person at the restaurant. Each has heard part of the plan, and together they pieced it together.”

“I think his talk about the machine guns and dune buggies and starting a revolution was dead serious,’ said one young man. ‘If what they say he did was true, maybe that was all part of it.”

Only one person is identified by name in the article: 24 year old, Michael Crow. Michael does not make any further appearances in the tale that I have found and is not on Deemer’s list of Family associates.

The article is dated December 7th. This was the Sunday between the two days of the Grand Jury.
Atkins’ story wasn’t common knowledge, yet. In fact, for all we know Malnic's trip to Toping may have been Friday the 6th while Sadie was on the witness stand.

It defies logic that some hippies who knew Manson in a restaurant in Topanga Canyon all heard the tale from Bugliosi. In fact, the idea is patently absurd. 

This small article tells us that Manson was very vocal about Helter Skelter even to those outside the Family. Perhaps it was a recruiting tool. He tried it on Stephanie Schram’s sister. And more importantly it tells us these unidentified ‘hippies’ all heard that Manson was going to start the race war. To me these comments are more damning then ‘Now is the time for Helter Skelter’ or ‘Someone is going to have to show blackie how to do it.’ The 'friends' interviewed on December 7, 1969 came to believe, by putting their conversations with Manson together, that Manson's goal was to start a race war, a revolution and then go hide in the desert.

Bugliosi did not make up Helter Skelter. Manson did. The evidence is overwhelming that Manson preached Helter Skelter to anyone who would listen. It is repeated by non-Family, the murderers, Family and 'friends' in Topanga Canyon. Just in this post there are at least ten people repeating the tale. 

Manson was not the target of a motive fabricated or fostered by Bugliosi. He was the author. Manson handed the Helter Skelter motive to Bugliosi on a silver platter. He created a dozen witnesses for the prosecution. All Bugliosi had to do was pick up the ball and run with it. And that, my friends, is damned fine lawyering because it placed the blame for the murders squarely at Manson's feet.

Pax Vobiscum