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
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.
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
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.
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
Q: Did Mr. Manson ever speak to you, Mr. Jakobson, about a
black-white conflict or physical confrontation?
Q: Did he give this black-white war or conflict a name?
Q: What name did he give it?
Q: Did he mention Helter Skelter to you many times?
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.
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?
Q: In other words, the black man would want to turn over the
Establishment to Mr. Manson, is that correct?
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: It was in preparation to go to the desert. Specifically,
a lot of money was needed to buy rope.
A: Yes, very expensive rope.
A: It was to go into the pit with.
Q: Did he indicate to you how long this rope had to be?
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?]
Q: It appeared to you, then, that he believed what he said?
Q: One of the tenets of his philosophy was that people
should be required to tell the truth?
Q: And did you find Mr. Manson truthful in your dealings
Flynn described his role at Spahn Ranch as follows:
Q: Did you work as a ranch hand?
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
The Court: That portion is stricken.
Q: Manson did speak about a Black-White war?
Q: Did he ever mention Helter Skelter to you?
Q: Did he say what Helter Skelter was?
Q: When did he say what Helter Skelter was?
A: When he first told me this was when the Beatles record
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
Q: What did he say to you?
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?
[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
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).
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
MR.KANAREK: I object, leading and suggestive, conclusion.
THE COURT: Overruled.
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?
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
MR.KANAREK: Has he a reference book for it, your Honor?
MR.BUGLIOSI: May I continue, your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes.
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.
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
Q. He came back from some place?
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?
Q. About what time was this in the day?
A. It was in the middle of the afternoon.
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."
"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
, No writer attributed, The Harvard Crimson, December
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,
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
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,
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
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. Cielodrive.com
Q: Did you say anything else when you heard who those four
A: Something to the effect that it served its purpose?
Q: What had happened served its purpose?
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
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
A: You must understand that all words had no meaning to us
and that helter-skelter was explained to me.
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. Cielodrive.com
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
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,
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. Cielodrive.com
“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. Cielodrive.com
[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
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?
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. Cielodrive.com
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'
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
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
Pleadings quoted in Charles
Manson’s Right-Hand Man Is Up for Parole. Here’s What to Watch For
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
|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.”
“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.