Monday, November 27, 2017

The Family Man


By Terry Ott

So, Charlie Manson is no longer with us, but is the age and mythology of Helter Skelter dead as well?

The mainstream media Manson death watch and good riddance over the past 72 hours might tend to indicate that what former Los Angeles assistant district attorney Vincent T. Bulgliosi wrought back in 1974 with what became the biggest selling true crime book of all time at 7 million copies shifted, will survive the death of the "cult leader."

Bugliosi's Helter Skelter, subtitled The True Story Of The Manson Murders absolutely enthralled millions of readers, attracted by the fact-stuffed and insider nature of the text. And seeing that it was Vince T who presented the state's case and won death penalty verdicts for Manson and seven members of his "Family," what later became a sometimes mythological narrative constructed by Bugliosi in Helter Skelter would still seem to have book shelf life as you can bet that many more copies of the book will be purchased in the next three months or so. When one LA detective at the murder scene of Sharon Tate, Abigal Folger, Voytek Frykowski, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent described the crime as "a weird homicide," he most likely never knew how prescient he would be. And "weird," surely still sells.

Bugliosi, and Manson authors who have followed him have all pounded out the same basic narrative of what became known at the "Manson Murders" and the alluring but eventual toxic cocktail of Hollywood decadence and pop/counter culture accoutrements, specifically, the music of the Beatles  found on The White Album (The Beatles), released almost a year before the murders in November, 1968 and offered by Vince T as the "blueprint" for the Manson slayings as well as a weirdly believable thread to tie the whole mess to what Bugliosi claimed was Charlie's Helter Skelter world tour.

And when during the Easter Week of April 1976 the TV version of Helter Skelter appeared with an amazing doppelganger performance by Steve Railsback as Charlie, it is said the two part pyscho/horror-drama became the largest watched TV movie of all time-or at least at that time. Watch for this 4 hour television drama to reappear as well as a new interest in the Beatles' White Album music by those perhaps too young to have have been previously seduced by some of its more spooky and raucous and coincidental tracks threading to the Manson Family experience.

On the 30th anniversary of the of the murders, I wrote a retrospective for the National Post asking the question of what still drives the Charlie Manson murder mystique and I got some interesting answers.

Political science professor Henry Jacek of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario had the interesting observation that Manson "taps into what I think is a very important part of American culture: a pure manifestation of revolt against state and social authority, which is a common theme about American culture."

As for Manson's continuing media attraction, even tabloid whoring, I had also asked the question, has any other mass murderer been rock 'n' rolled like Charles Manson?

Jacek said: "I think the media are fascinated with anyone who has a personality and is articulate. The fact that Manson is intelligent makes him interesting. An unintelligent murderer is of much less interest that an intelligent one."Also featured in the story was Dr. Clara Livesy, author of The Manson Women. She wrote: "I was confused by the picture of him I was getting from others and from reading about him. he was, I heard repeatedly, mentally ill and deteriorating. Or still endowed with evil powers, ready to influence his alleged followers. These generalizations did not satisfy my curiosity because they did not explain anything."

Then, and now, the word "evil" gets thrown around a lot when describing Manson. The Satan too, as evidenced by a recent front page in the New York Daily News.

Or as Don Mclean once sang, "Helter Skelter in a summer swelter...cause fire is the devil's only friend," and Manson certainly at times embraced that notion that he was a modern day devil, if not the anti-christ. But then again, Charlie was always good at selling a story...

But for those that do not subscribe to the idea of evil, or devils and demons and slaves of Satan etc., but rather look at pyscho/sociopaths and mental illness and even timing and randomness and drugs and sex, the saga of Charles Manson and his crimes take on a slightly different aura, as evidenced by the voluminous and intuitive renderings on the Manson case by the contributors and operators of The Manson Blog.

The (still) imprisoned former Family members Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Bruce Davis have surely come to understand that Charlie was but a conduit of the crazy times rather than the owner of the powers claimed him by Bugliosi and the larger media.

Van Houten and Davis have been granted parole but are still stuck in the joint, now going on 48 years, due to the governor of California's calculated political gambit. Perhaps that gambit will slowly dissolve now that a new post-Manson dynamic is in place.

So, with the "intelligent murderer" now departed at age 83 said to be "eaten alive" with cancer, again, the central question becomes what becomes of the Helter Skelter motive mythology.

Just because Bugliosi was able to win convictions against Manson and other Family members using a Helter Skelter motive presentation and score an after-law career bonanza with Helter Skelter does not necessarily mean that it will survive further scrutiny and revisionism.

Besides saying that "no sense makes sense," Charlie also claimed that the real motive for the Tate/Labianca slayings would never be known. Perhaps now that the head of the Family is mortally gonzo that prediction will prove true. But perhaps not.

Perhaps another look at the circumstances around the murders will at the very least modify the enduring template of Helter Skelter. Ironically, and even counter-intuitively, probably the best thing that ever happened to Manson was Vincent T and his 1974 and on Helter Skelter circus. Vince made Charlie into an international superstar, a happening that even Manson himself noted when he chided news-hounds and others that they were just as much responsible for the horror by continually perpetuating and re-enforcing it, especially the narrative of Beatles music motives and race war and paradise underground in Death Valley. Sexy stuff for sure yet, palpable nonsense or truth is stranger than fiction?

After Manson and the girls' death sentences were commuted in 1972 it is even money that the saga of the Family and its leader were destined to become but grisly footnotes to most until Bugliosi achieved a cultural sensation with Helter Skelter and perhaps to some degree re-wrote if not reinterpreted actual history.

And yet the bizarre trial and Bugliosi's Manson pulp blockbuster produced this continually repeated denial uttered by Manson at trial: "Mr. and Mrs. America-you are wrong. I am not the King of the Jews nor am I a hippie cult leader. I am what you have made of me and the mad dog devil killer fiend leper is a reflection of your society."

If anything could be said to be "good" about the life and times of Charles Manson et al, it may be that regardless of what was advertised as "the true story of the Manson murders," the "real"and accurate story is yet to be fully told.

Terry Ott is a Canadian journalist who has followed the Manson case since 1969.
He can be reached at

Friday, November 24, 2017

Battle erupts over control of Charles Manson's remains, estate

From the New York Daily News :

"There’s a battle brewing over the remains and estate of mass murderer Charles Manson.

Reports of two unverified wills surfaced Friday, with each leaving the killer’s estate to a different person. Manson pal Ben Gurecki told the Daily News he obtained a January 2017 will from Manson and passed it along to Manson’s self-proclaimed “son” Matthew Roberts in March. He said Roberts was named as the main beneficiary.

“I can assure you Matthew will be handling this,” Gurecki told The News Friday. “Matthew and I will be there next week in person,” he claimed. “Charlie will be given a headstone, a proper burial where people will be able to grieve, or deface it as they see fit.”

 Meanwhile, said Friday it obtained a February 2002 will from an unidentified Manson pen pal that disinherited all Manson relatives. The mysterious pen pal said he is the sole beneficiary and plans to claim Manson’s body before a 10-day deadline expires next week, TMZ reported.

Gurecki said he doesn’t know who the pen pal is but that the more recent will allegedly signed this year supersedes any that came before it.

The Chicago resident, who has posted recent prison calls with Manson on his YouTube channel, said he plans to meet Roberts in Kern County, Calif., next week.

“There are plans for Charlie’s remains to be handled with dignity and not by the Kern County Coroner,” Gurecki told The News. “(I) will absolutely not let this continue to be a circus.”

He said calls to coroner fell “on deaf ears” this week, so they hope an in-person visit will “resolve this situation.” He said they plan to inter Manson’s ashes somewhere the public can visit. “This is my personal last attempt to help a friend have the proper resting place that he deserves.”

Beyond the two alleged wills, Manson’s grandson Jason Freeman told The News earlier this week he also is interested in claiming Manson’s remains. A GoFundMe account set up this week to underwrite his efforts was shut down Thursday. Prior attempts to establish a genetic link between Freeman and Roberts were unsuccessful, CNN reported in 2012. State officials have so far declined to comment on any final wishes left by Manson."

Charles Manson Will Surfaces: Pen Pal Gets Everything

From TMZ:

Charles Manson left his estate to a pen pal ... and what the murderer left behind may actually be valuable.

The pen pal -- he asked us not to use his name -- began writing Manson in the '90s and the 2 exchanged letters and phone calls for 2 decades. The man even visited Manson in prison from time to time.

We obtained a copy of a crudely written will which we're told was drafted by Manson. It's typed but there's handwriting on the document. We checked the handwriting in the will against Manson's known handwriting, and they appear very similar. Check out the comparison.

The will -- dated February 14, 2002 -- leaves all of Manson's personal belongings, including cash, image rights and clothing to Manson's pen pal. More significantly, Manson leaves his "exclusive music catalog" to the guy. Manson fancied himself as a songwriter and even wrote a Beach Boys song the group recorded.

The will says Manson's body should be turned over to his pen pal. He says he will claim the body, but as we reported, if he doesn't do it within 10 days of Manson's death, the prison will cremate him.

Manson specifically disinherited his known children, ex-wives, in-laws, lawyers, friends, prisoners, inmates, cops, guards, and the State of California.

The man tells us he began writing Manson in the '90s out of curiosity, and after more than 50 letters with no reply ... Manson finally wrote back in 1997. He claims the 2 struck up a friendship through letters and eventually phone calls, and he met Manson in person for the first time in 2002 ... the same year Manson drafted the will.

He claims he visited with Manson several times after that and got his last phone call from him on October 21 ... just weeks before his death.

The 2002 will includes a handwritten note from Manson, saying ... "I'm not in the best spot to rest in peace" along with his signature. We're told the witness signature is that of a fellow inmate.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Charles Manson has died

It was announced by TMZ that Charlie passed away at 8:13 pm Sunday.  Debra Tate was the source.  She was contacted by prison authorities upon his passing. 

Charles Manson -- the man who masterminded one of the most heinous murder sprees in American history -- is dead  ... this according to the sister of his famous victim.

Debra Tate tells TMZ she received a call from the prison telling her Manson died 8:13 PM Sunday.
We're told the prison is contacting all of the victims' families.
Manson was recently wheeled into Bakersfield hospital and escorted by 5 uniformed cops. Our sources had said at the time, "It's just a matter of time." He was covered in blankets and looked ashen in the gurney.

TMZ broke the story ... Manson was taken from Corcoran State Prison to the hospital back in January where he was being treated for intestinal bleeding.
As we reported ... Manson was supposed to undergo surgery but it was deemed too risky.
Manson has been locked up since his arrest in December 1969 for the Tate-LaBianca murders. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit the slayings, which occurred one day after the next in August 1969.

Read the story here

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Charles Manson hospitalized in Bakersfield; severity of illness unclear

Authorities confirmed Wednesday that mass murderer Charles Manson is back in a Bakersfield hospital, though the severity of his condition is unclear.

Kern County Sheriff's Lt. Bill Smallwood confirms that Manson is at a local hospital but could not say more.

Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, declined to comment, citing federal and state medical privacy laws that preclude the agency "from commenting on protected health information for any inmate in our custody."

Waters did confirm, however, that Manson is alive.

In January, Manson, 83, was rushed to Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield for what authorities at the time would describe only as a serious medical problem.

Manson and members of his "family" of followers were convicted of killing actress Sharon Tate and six other people during a bloody rampage in the Los Angeles area in August 1969. Prosecutors said Manson and his followers were trying to incite a race war he dubbed "Helter Skelter," taken from the Beatles song of the same name.

Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski, was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she was killed at her hilltop home in Benedict Canyon on Aug. 9, 1969. Four others were stabbed and shot to death the same night: Jay Sebring, 35; Voytek Frykowski, 32; Abigail Folger, 25, a coffee heiress; and Steven Parent, 18, a friend of Tate's caretaker. The word "pig" was written on the front door in blood.

The next night, Manson rode with his followers to the Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, then left three members to kill the couple.

Manson was initially sentenced to death. But a 1972 ruling by the California Supreme Court found the state's death penalty law at the time unconstitutional, and his sentenced was changed to life in prison with the possibility of parole. He has been denied parole 12 times.

During his four decades of incarceration, Manson has been anything but a model prisoner. Among other things, he has been cited for assault, repeated possession of a weapon, threatening staff and possessing a cellphone.

LA Times story here

Monday, November 13, 2017


The author of this piece, Rachel Monroe joined us on the 2014 Tour. One of our unofficial traditions is forcing guests to write the first Tour Post which you can read here. Below are some of her memories of her time spent with us, her fascination with the subject matter and some honest, introspective thoughts on what she feels makes her tick. However due to contractual obligations a full reposting is not possible at this time. Instead, here is an excerpt and a link to the full piece. Looking forward to your responses...
On the second day I spent with the Manson Bloggers, we found a tongue hanging from a tree. This was in the northwestern fringes of Los Angeles County, the half-wild, half-suburban part of the city that the Manson Family once called home. These days, most of the land is owned by the state and nearby there is a church; on top of a hill, a ten-foot cross looms in right-angled judgment. The Manson Bloggers did not seem to notice the cross, because they had another mission in mind: finding the Manson Tree, a gnarled oak that's notable because Charles Manson used to perch in its crook and strum the guitar.

We had to scramble over a highway railing to reach the old oak. As we got close, I saw that some previous visitor had thrown a white rope over one of the tree's branches. Something was dangling from the rope—a sweet potato, I thought. Or some sort of lumpy, orangish doll. The Manson Bloggers knew better. “It's a cow's tongue,” Deb said. She was right. Up close, it was unmistakable, a length of moist muscle, obscene and obscurely violent. The tongue was covered with rainbow sprinkles, the kind you'd put on a child's scoop of vanilla ice cream. One end of the white rope was tied around the tongue's root, where it had once been attached to the back of the cow's throat. The other end of the rope was tied around a bottle of fish-oil pills. There was one AA battery inside the fish-oil bottle. On the ground was a crumpled-up shopping bag from H&M.

The Manson Bloggers and I stared for a moment in mute wonder. The tongue, the rope, the sprinkles, the fish-oil bottle, the battery, the H&M bag: it all spoke to some inexplicable ritual, a dark magic that somehow brought together cult murder, fast fashion, and nutritional supplements. I'll be honest, I was spooked. The bloggers took it all in stride. Maybe their world accommodated more strangeness than mine. Or perhaps they were just used to finding messages of violence in unexpected places.

Rachel Monroe is a writer based in Marfa, Texas. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Texas Monthly, Bookforum, Oxford American, and elsewhere. Her book A Life in Crimes, an exploration of women, crime, and obsession, will be published by Scribner in 2019.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Do Facts Matter?

I think they do.

I found Dianne Lake’s recent contribution to the Manson library, Member of the Family, to be at times captivating, especially those parts that gave insight into the early days of the Family and the description of her parents 'dropping out' of society. But overall I came away with nagging doubts about the accuracy of the book.

For me, there were too many errors and omissions and that impacted everything else. In many cases these could have been cured by a five minute search on Wikipedia. It is possible that she is shedding light on some aspects of the 'official narrative'. Maybe she is accurate and changing that narrative. But I don't think so.

SPOILER ALERT: This post is about Dianne Lake's book, Member of the Family and will disclose quotes from that book. So if you haven't read Member of the Family and don't want to know part of what happens; don't read this.

The List

Meeting Dennis Wilson

Lake does not describe an invasion of Dennis Wilson’s home while he is absent after picking up Krenwinkel and Bailey. Manson does not bend down and kiss Wilson’s feet in the driveway. Instead, Wilson first meets Manson at Spahn Ranch where they rap and Manson plays guitar. This contradicts every source I am aware of. 

“When Dennis pulled up to Spahn Ranch that day to drop off Patty and Ella, I have no doubt that Charlie instantly sized up the situation and understood the opportunity that Dennis’s presence signified for him. Like the rest of us, Patty and Ella had been trained for precisely this kind of situation, and they’d delivered in sterling fashion. Dennis represented a direct line to a level of fame and influence that had long been inaccessible to Charlie—and the best part was that he’d been delivered right to Charlie’s doorstep.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the
Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 3485-3489). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Sandra Good

While a minor issue, she appears to suggest that Sandra Good joined the Family sometime in May, 1968 two to three months later then my understanding. Although she does not give a clear timeframe, Lake seems to place the Krenwinkel-Bailey hitchhiking incident sometime in May with the move into Wilson’s some time afterwards and that is when Good appears on the scene.

“Despite the Beatles eventually severing their ties with the Maharishi, he went on to tour with the Beach Boys who ended their tour with him in May 1968 after news of the guru’s health problem broke. Now sans guru, Dennis had returned to his home on Sunset Boulevard. What that meant for Charlie and the Family was that when Dennis Wilson picked up Patty and Ella hitchhiking shortly after he came off tour, not only was he without a steady guru, but he’d been perfectly prepped for this unusual date with destiny.”
“He [Manson] also brought along [to Dennis Wilson’s home] a new member named Sandra Good, whom I initially dismissed as a privileged prima donna. She came from money, had allergies to this and that, and was always complaining, but she went on to become one of Charlie’s most devoted followers.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 3591-3594). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The Wilson Recording Sessions

According to Lake there was a large crowd at the Brian Wilson recording session. She places the session during the summer of 1968 consistent with most histories of the event but describes ‘producers’ and ‘musicians’ being present. She also includes Brian Wilson and Dennis Wilson at the session. Mike Love makes an appearance at a party going on upstairs in the house at there time.

Lake suggests the session ended because Manson pulled a knife on the crowd, which isn't new. And then says this happened because the assembled recording crew changed the lyrics to ‘Cease to Exist’.

Others, such as Stephen Desper, tell a different tale and I personally don’t recall any account that placed ‘muscicians’ or even Brian Wilson at the session.

Never Learn Not to Love (Cease to Exist) was recorded by the Beach Boys on September 11, 16-18, 1968. It was released December 2, 1968. According to the official narrative this was after the Family left Wilson's home and after the Brian Wilson recording session (although I believe that session occurred a year later, in 1969)

“As we headed for the door [of the studio] I noticed that someone who I believe was Brian [Wilson] along with some of the others were stopping Charlie and making suggestions. Someone suggested he increase the tempo of the song.”
We ran into Mike Love, who was clearly avoiding the recording session with Charlie.
I moved away from Mike toward the people who seemed very comfortable partying at Brian’s house. It wasn’t a huge crowd, but I wondered if Brian knew all these people or if his house was simply open to friends and their hangers-on.
The group [in the studio] was dispersing, and Brian and the other musicians who had been in the studio with Charlie seemed shaken. I have heard accounts that Charlie had pulled out a Buck knife when he got fed up with the attempts to “produce” him as they would any other musician.
Dennis was trailing behind but wasn’t saying anything to Charlie.
Dennis was trying to explain that they were producers and wanted to help Charlie be successful.

“Dig it, man, they want me to dress like you dudes. I ain’t gonna wear no threads like that. That just ain’t me!”

“Charlie, man, they are just trying to help. They didn’t mean any insult to you.”

“What about changing the words to my song? ‘Cease to Exist’ is ‘Cease to Exist,’ man.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations various including 3853-3858). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

[Aside: Given the May, 1969 Rave magazine article ("Sometimes the Wizard frightens me...."), I did find this quote interesting:

““This is Charlie,” Dennis graciously announced to his friends. “He is the wizard, man. He is a gas.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 3613-3614). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.]

Terry Melcher Broke His Promise

Lake says Terry Melcher arranged studio time for Manson. My pervious research revealed no evidence of this, although Jakobson did arrange a lot of studio time. She also says Melcher directly rejected Manson in  a phone call. Melcher’s testimony as well as Jakobson’s disputes this and Kanarek went out of his way at the trial to tell Melcher Manson had no hard feelings.

“Terry arranged for us to record at a real studio.”
 “Charlie reached out to Terry to find out what was going on, but the answer was not what he wanted to hear: Terry simply wasn’t interested in helping him get a record deal. Charlie was livid. He thought he had a deal with Terry and the rest was just details. Now it turned out that his last chance at music stardom was lost. “Those motherfuckers don’t keep their promises!” Charlie shouted.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 4727-4728). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Manson the Drug Dealer to the Stars

While the drug burn crowd will likely embrace this next quote, there is little evidence I know of to support the notion that Manson was broadly dealing drugs to ‘musicians’.

I know that Charlie had his fingers in a lot of things and was doing his best to cultivate contacts in the music industry who could help him become the success he believed he should be. He was reputed to be a drug dealer to musicians, but I never saw any of this directly. He was looking for ways to connect, and good drugs were always a draw.

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 3985-3987). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Admittedly, Lake qualifies her statement by admitting she never saw it but by doing so one has to ask why add the comment at all?

The Wilson Bullet

The Dennis Wilson ‘bullet’ incident, according to Lake, occurred in September, 1968, nearly a year before the witnesses claim it happened and before Never Learn Not to Love was released. 

“I am not sure how this happened or why, but in September of 1968 the Beach Boys with Dennis on vocals recorded a version of Charlie’s “Cease to Exist,” renaming it “Never Learn Not to Love,” changing some of the lyrics in the song, and making the bridge and the sound to be more pop. The song, credited to Dennis Wilson as the only writer, later found its way onto a Beach Boys album. I am sure Charlie was outraged. There are stories that have Charlie visiting Dennis after finding out about the song and leaving a bullet at his home to send a not so subtle message.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 3995-3999). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Linda Kasabian's Car?

Linda Kasabian, per Lake, not only brought a valid driver’s license and $5,000 in cash to the Family, she brought a car, the car used on the two nights of murder.

“One came in the form of a pretty blond girl named Linda Kasabian, who’d been brought to Spahn Ranch by Leslie. A hippie with a little girl and an ex-husband, Linda joined us, and to prove her commitment, she scored about five thousand dollars from her ex and his friend. She also came with a car and a valid driver’s license, which would prove useful for Charlie but devastating for her future.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 4847-4851). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Straight Satans #1

And per Lake……

“The ranch was becoming more of a compound, with field phones throughout so the Straight Satans, acting as guardians, could alert everyone of intruders.

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Location 4866). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.


Bernard Crowe's Visit to Spahn

Aside from the fact that Bernard Crowe is, according to Lake, a drug dealer (he may have been one, although I don’t believe it), she places Crowe at Spahn Ranch after the burn and before he is shot, something we know never happened and something that could not have happened given the timeline of the Crowe drug burn.

“I know the details of the shooting of a drug dealer whose alias was Lotsapoppa only from later
accounts, but I do know I witnessed a very angry-looking African American man confronting Charlie one day. This was not something that happened often, and I later heard that Charlie assumed he was a member of the Black Panthers. That may have been what he told us to keep us believing in the impending race war, but what was most certainly a sighting of Bernard “Lotsapoppa” Crowe added to our evidence that Charlie was telling us the truth.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 4767-4768). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Crowe also makes his reappearance in Manson’s life in the courtroom, although, most accounts I have read say this happened when Manson passed Crowe in the hallway of the jail. But then again, neither she nor I were there.

“In fact, unbeknownst to Charlie, Crowe survived the gunshot and emerged a year later, as a witness at Manson’s trial. When a man Charlie thought was dead walked into the courtroom, Charlie was shocked, to say the least, but he whispered to Crowe that there were no hard feelings.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 4777-4780). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Beausoleil Was Arrested When?

According to Lake, Manson learned of Beausoleil’s arrest on August 5, 1969. There are two problems with this. The obvious one is that Beausoleil’s arrest was August 6th. The second problem is Manson wasn’t at Spahn Ranch on August 5th. This is the Esalen trip. He didn’t learn of Beausoleil's arrest until he returned on the early afternoon of August 8th. To me this one is hard not to classify under the heading 'fiction' because Lake cites the actual date, something she typically avoids.

“ON AUGUST 5, CHARLIE FOUND OUT BOBBY BEAUSOLEIL WAS PICKED up for something that had to do with a stolen car and put in jail.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 4872-4874). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Kasabian, Again

Lake seems to have memories regarding what she was told about the murders that originate from Watson's trial (where she testified). She has Kasabian drive the killers to Cielo Drive in Kasabian's car.

“He [Tex] told me that Linda Kasabian drove Patty, Sadie, and him to a house they knew would be occupied by pigs.

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 5010-5011). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Perhaps Watson was already formulating his trial defense when he told her this or maybe Kasabian did drive to Cielo even if no one else seems to think so. But Kasabian wasn't driving Kasabian's car. 

Jab and Thrust, Pull Up

Dianne Lake claims that the autopsy reports confirm the ‘killing style’ taught to her and the others by Manson when using a knife. She describes this ‘style’ as “Jab and thrust, pull up.”

"One horrifying detail that I discovered recently when looking at the autopsy reports chilled me to the bone. It was something that to me left Charlie’s fingerprints on the crime almost as if he’d been at the scene. The autopsy reports show patterns of how the victims were stabbed. These seemed to match the instructions Charlie had given to us. Jab and thrust, pull up. That day that he’d handed me that large knife I’d wanted nothing to do with, we weren’t being taught to defend ourselves, we were being trained to kill. And Tex, Sadie, and the rest of them were clearly following orders with a clear knowledge of what they were doing and how."

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 5032-5034). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

There are several issues I have here. I spent a good deal of time for a previous post studying those reports and wounds and even tried to determine if I could draw any connection to the alleged knife training. The wounds were largely inflicted not as a ‘jab’ or a ‘thrust’ but as an overhand motion with the blade of the knife held in a downward direction from a gripping fist. None of the wounds show signs of the ‘pull up’ motion suggested by Lake. The wound dimensions are uniform. The wounds are consistent with the use of three knives with three different lengths and widths based upon the wound evidence. Perhaps more importantly, you have to go well beyond the autopsy report to even reach these conclusions. To really understand the reports you have to read the testimony, in part, because there are errors in the reports.

At that time I also was unable to ascertain any identifiable pattern to the knife wounds or tactics such as a strike location except for the obvious fact that one target area was the area of the chest and heart on every victim. For whatever it’s worth, neither did Thomas Naguchi.

According to Lake, Krenwinkel admitted to her that she had carved “WAR” on Leno LaBianca’s stomach (which she didn't do) and inserted the fork in his torso (which she did) but she omits the knife found in his neck.

"He had no defensive wounds, a fatal wound to the carotid artery, and the word war carved into his stomach. A fork had been stabbed into his flesh as if he were a suckling pig. Patty later claimed responsibility for those special touches as well as leaving the misspelled words healter skelter on the refrigerator door in Leno’s blood."

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 5094-5096). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Straight Satans #2: Bikers Killed Shorty

Apparently, if Lake is correct, the Straight Satans skated on the Donald Shea murder rap along with Watson.

“What I didn’t know was Charlie, Tex, Bruce Davis, Clem, and some bikers had already brutally stabbed ranch hand Donald “Shorty” Shea to death because Charlie believed he was a snitch.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 5201-5202). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Memory and Lake....but....

Obviously, some of these issues can be written off to the passage of time (fifty years ago is a long time). Lake was also in an LSD induced psychosis at the time and much of the time she was high on marijuana or LSD. She testified to using LSD 40-50 times in two years. She also testified to being 'spaced out' from October 1968 until February 1970. (Dianne Lake testimony, People Vs. Watson,

I would be the last one to suggest a witness’s 50 year old memory is reliable. In fact, I'd be a hypocrite if I did. And a jury, like the Tate/LaBianca jury, is always instructed to be careful when confronted by  witness inconsistencies.

“Do not automatically reject testimony just because of inconsistencies or conflicts. Consider whether the differences are important or not. People sometimes honestly forget things or make mistakes about what they remember. Also, two people may witness the same event yet see or hear it differently.” (Tate-LaBianca jury instruction)

But Ms. Lake is writing a book she hopes millions will buy and read. She is telling her experience of these events; but they are events she is claiming happened as she describes them. It seems that if an author undertakes that task they should at least get the facts right, especially when those facts don't really impact the point of her story, like here. I believe she would have been better served if she would have acknowledged with greater clarity where her recollection differed from ‘the official narrative’ or simply fixed the errors.

Ironically, this was something she did quite well when discussing whether Atkins actually stabbed Sharon Tate. While I believe the physical evidence confirms that Atkins did not (but did inflict mortal wounds on Frykowski) she handled her disagreement with other witnesses well.

“In the years since this night when I was a reluctant audience for her words, Tex has also claimed responsibility for the murder of Sharon Tate and Sadie, at different points, has both recanted her confession and reiterated that it was indeed she who had killed Sharon Tate. Who really did what has remained a controversy. No matter what they’ve both said, there is no doubt in my mind that Susan Atkins was telling me the truth that night in the desert. She was not embellishing. She was not lying and there is nothing that would allow me to think of anyone other than Susan committing this unspeakable crime.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 5105-5106). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

She did not handle the other occasions nearly as well and in one case, that concerns me.

Lake's Testimony

For me, one of the most significant issues is how Lake’s descriptions of what she heard and observed after the murders differs rather significantly from what she actually said when called upon to testify. I’m not talking about her Grand Jury versus Trial testimony.

Lake, when she reaches her Tate/LaBianca court appearance in the book, leaves it up to the reader to imagine what she said on the witness stand based upon what he has read. She does not discuss her actual testimony in any detail.

But here is what she claims she witnessed and what the reader is left to assume formed the basis of her testimony.

"She [Van Houten] came in and dumped a bunch of things on her bed. She liked to sleep in the living room near the fireplace. She asked me to help her get some firewood which we used to build a fire. She took a rope off her bed that was with the pile of stuff and put it in the flames. She also added a brown purse and some credit cards which started to smell awful. We both turned and saw some headlights headed our way. Leslie begged me to help her out and pulled the rope out of the flames, ran into the bathroom and tried to put it out.
“Snake, don’t let that man see me,” she said. “He just gave me a ride from Griffith Park.” Then she jumped into her bed pulling the sheet over her entire body and face. I knew not to ask any questions.
“Don’t worry, Snake,” she said and handed me some wood to build up the fire again. She finished burning the little brown purse even though it was difficult. It didn’t catch very easily. The credit cards burned and then she took off the clothing she was wearing and burned that too. I watched the flames consume everything while she took a shower. I figured if she wanted to tell me anything she would. When she got out of the shower she showed me a plastic bag of coins and dumped them on the table. We both counted about eight dollars without counting the Canadian nickels.

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 4923-4927). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
“You know that night we went to the house near Griffith Park.” Leslie looked to Patty and Sadie for affirmation. As if the pump had been primed, Leslie’s description of the night bubbled up in a gush. I didn’t want to know any more than what I had read in the newspaper or than Tex had revealed, but it was too late. I remained silent as Leslie recounted the second night of murderous terror orchestrated by Charlie. Later accounts say that Charlie considered the first night too messy, so he would go along to show them how it should be done. Somewhere in the middle of this micromanaging of madness, Charlie left the rest of the job to Tex, Patty, and Leslie. “Tex told me what to do,” Leslie explained. Leslie paused, but surprised me with her reaction. I thought she would say something about how awful it was. But instead she described how strange it was to stab someone but that after a while it was fun. Rosemary, whom Leslie referred to only as the woman, was still warm, and she may have already been dead when Leslie stabbed her. She couldn’t really be sure. Then she was told to wipe the fingerprints off of everything—and she did, removing them from the refrigerator, the lamps, and the doors, even things that they hadn’t touched. [Van Houten Confession]
“Un-huh.” I nodded my head but couldn’t say anything more. I didn’t have to, as Sadie took this as her opportunity to describe her important role in the first night’s slaughter at Cielo Drive. Sadie explained her role in the killings, but also how she had contemplated saving Sharon Tate’s unborn baby. “The woman was pregnant and was begging for her life. I thought about saving the baby while I was stabbing her but decided against it,” Sadie described as my blood ran cold. [Atkins' Confession]
“Charlie told us to do something witchy and we did,” Patty said proudly. As if it was possible, she made things worse by describing the scene at the Tate house the first night. I listened to her talk about the blood and how she had dragged a woman, later determined to be Abigail Folger, from the bedroom to the living room. After she had stabbed her, the woman got up to run and Patty said she chased her out of the house and tackled her. She then stabbed her until she saw the life leave her eyes. [Krenwinkel's Confession]

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 5108-5112). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

If Lake had actually heard and witnessed all of this, it is logical to assume that Bugliosi would have brought it all out during her testimony. This is more than just significant evidence. It is dynamite. Lake actually heard Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten in one place and at one time confess to murder. While the confession of Van Houten appears in Helter Skelter, I was unable to locate any reference to the Atkins and Krenwinkel confessions. 

In court, Lake did testify that Krenwinkel dragged Folger into the living room (versus the confession). She also testified that Van Houten admitted stabbing a dead body and enjoyed it the more she did. And, yes, she testified about Van Houten hiding from the young man who gave her a ride home from the LaBianca’s and burning various items including Van Houten’s clothing. At the Watson trial she also testified concerning Watson's confession (not included above). 

But Lake claims more than this. She claims to have been privy to a discussion where Krenwinkel and Atkins each admitted what they did during the murders. This discussion forms the basis of her opinion regarding Atkins' stabbing Sharon Tate, above.

Krenwinkel and Atkins, describing the murders, would have been, for Bugliosi, a ‘Golden Ticket’. But I do not believe Lake ever testified about their confessions.

[My Confession: I do not have access to Lake's Tate/LaBianca testimony to do my own fact checking so someone might blow me out of the water on this. There is, however, no mention of the Atkins and Krenwinkel confessions in Helter Skelter.  Bugliosi mentions Van Houten's confession about stabbing a dead body and enjoying it and Krenwinkel dragging Abigail into the living room when describing Lake's testimony in his closing argument. The Atkins and Krenwinkel confessions are not mentioned there. I once read Lake's testimony on another site. My notes from that also do not mention the confessions. If I am wrong, please correct me.]

If I am right, there is no logical explanation for this omission.

One might argue that she didn’t remember in 1970 what had happened a year earlier and thus failed to tell Bugliosi, who interviewed her several times, Kay who also interviewed her twice or the five different detectives and police officers who also interviewed her after she became cooperative.

One problem with the memory explanation is that two critical pieces of her actual testimony (Van Houten’s confession and Krenwinkel taking Abigail Folger into the living room) originate from the same discussion. A second problem is this book was written from memory 50 years after the events. That, of course, may very well explain the error.

Lake wasn’t a co-conspirator (no matter what she suggests). No independent corroboration of her testimony was necessary and these confessions corroborate Kasabian, Bugliosi’s biggest challenge during the trial, and other witnesses such as Virginia Graham. This would have been brought out in court if it happened. If it wasn't, it didn't happen. 

As I have said before, we sit as a jury. We admittedly have the benefit of 20-20 hindsight and access to more information than was available to the prosecution in 1969 but so did she when she wrote this and most of this could have been fixed with a simple reading of Helter Skelter by her ghost writer or editor.

Final Points

Missing Victims

I, personally, find one omission in her book to be inexcusable: ignoring a victim.

[Aside: While Lake paints herself as a victim of Manson (and she was) she says surprisingly little about the murder victims.]
This is Steven Parent

“I scanned the page as it depicted the horrible details of how the actress Sharon Tate, the eight months’ pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, her husband’s friend Wojciech Frykowski, his girlfriend, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, her friend the celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, and another unrelated young man had been slaughtered at her home.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 5002-5005). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

What happened to Steven Parent? I searched my Kindle addition and was unable to find his name anywhere in her book. Why? Isn't this case really about the victims? So why didn't she mention him?

I think the answer lies in the same reason Steven Parent was ‘the caretaker’s friend’ and a ‘teen from El Monte’ in the press of the day. I think the answer also lies in why the official ‘label’ applied to the Cielo Drive murders became the ‘Tate Murders’. Remember, Sharon Tate’s ‘name’ was ‘Polanski’ and also remember the standard protocol in the LAPD was to describe a murder by the name of the first victim case file number: “Steven Parent”.

In my opinion the crime became the Tate/LaBianca murders and filled the courtroom with press for the same reason Lake omits even Steven's name: celebrity sells. Who cares about a kid from El Monte when we have a celebrity hair stylist, an actress, an heiress and her lover. 

Her Sister

Another point for me was the abrupt end of the story following her trial testimony. I wasn’t looking for, or for that matter wasn't  interested in, her life after the Family (although I am sure some are). But what I found interesting was the absence of any reflection back on her friend, lover and sister from the beginning of her membership in the Family: Patty.

Van Houten she clearly identifies as not being close to her. And Atkins she finally identifies in terms that strongly suggest she viewed her as a sociopath. This may explain their absence.

But Krenwinkel is another story. Krenwinkel was her big sister, a mother figure at times and likely a victim of the same abuse that was inflicted on Lake (although while other abuse is mentioned in Member of the Family I don't recall any names or descriptions). While she identifies her feelings at the time she became aware of Krenwinkel's involvement in the murders there is no later mention of those looking back from today. I had anticipated that she might reflect back on their fate and how she escaped it or how she felt about what had happened to those she once viewed as her only real family and maybe her feelings about that loss. 

“As I struggled to keep my emotions in check, I found I was less surprised by how Sadie and Leslie gleefully described their roles in these murders. In the time I’d known them, I’d never fully believed in their ability to feel for others. Patty, however, was a different story. Learning both of her involvement and what she had become left me heartbroken.

Patty had joined Charlie because he made her feel loved in a way she had never felt before. Throughout my time with the family, she became the most loyal to him, as if her identity was only a reflection of how he saw her. She didn’t exist outside of his aura, and now to me she was forever lost. She’d become something I couldn’t recognize. Her transformation spoke volumes about the power of Charlie’s manipulation. As confused as I was with my own loyalty to Charlie, I could not understand how Patty could become a murderer for him.”

Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties (Kindle Locations 5124-5127). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

It felt to me that she abandoned Krenwinkel and the rest emotionally the moment she was free of Manson’s influence as best summed up by this quote. I’m not sure I could have done that.

Do facts matter? I think they do.

We live in a world where regardless of your political leanings we are confronted with lies. It could be 'fake news' and 'alternate facts'.  Instead of the errors of the 60's and Watergate teaching us to change our ways, it has taught all of us- right and left- to not get caught.

Altering the facts, or ignoring them allows us to pursue our agenda, secure in the belief we are 'right' as we define 'right'. This, in my opinion, has almost become a part of our culture. It doesn't seem to matter if 'that didn't happen'. In fact, even when it is proven it didn't happen 'lying in the face of photographs' or punishing the revealer, is more important than admitting the truth.

[Aside: When I was in high school the official 'history book' had a caption under a picture in the 'politically correct' textbook that focused on racial issues and slavery in connection with the Civil War. That picture was of 'Pickett's Charge'. I have always been a 'history nerd'. The caption read: 'Pickett's charge was the largest cavalry charge in United States history'. I objected to my teacher. I received 'in school suspension'. Look Pickett's Charge up or watch the movie.]

There were enough errors and omissions in Member of the Family that I came away  questioning whether I could really rely on anything Dianne Lake said. I was also asking who was alive to refute or confirm her claims. I found myself asking who could independently verify or corroborate her facts. I even started 'googling' the Hog Farm, the Oracle and other aspects of her story. That left me viewing the horrific abuse she suffered at the hands of Manson, the sex, drugs and the rest of her tale with some degree of skepticism.

Please understand, I would never suggest the abuse she suffered did not occur or seek to minimize it. It happened. Some of her specific examples came to light in her testimony in the Watson trial where she testified Manson hit her four to five times, once after she hit Mary Brunner's baby, and several of the specific incidents she describes appear in Helter Skelter.

Manson abused women. There should be no doubt of Manson's abuse. Anyone who doesn't believe it should read his court statement as it relates to Dianne Lake.
"Manson: So she [Dianne Lake] would do things like drop coffee and spill things and do childish little things so her Daddy would come and spank her on the hand.

So she brought that problem to the ranch. She asked to be spanked several times

She come close to burning the ranch up and I would tell her, "would you quit doing that.," I says, "If you don’t stop doing that I'm going to spank you. I’m  going to whip you."

And she would keep doing it, so as any father would do I conditioned her mind with, pain to keep her from burning the ranch down or to keep her from doing something that she may have done that would affect everyone."

Lake testified at the Watson trial to witnessing four others being abused by Manson (Gypsy, Madeline Cottage, Mary Brunner and Barbara Rosenberg). There is also no doubt that Member of the Family tells her personal story of her descent into that Hell, her recovery and her survival. And that is truly an amazing story.

There is no doubt about Manson's abuse or her suffering, but that is not where my skepticism lies.

Where I am skeptical is ‘why’ the choice was made to feature the sex, drugs and abuse so prominently in Member of the Family while fact checking went completely by the wayside? I was left answering that question with this (1.) domestic violence fills our headlines, daily; it is a 'hot topic' and (2.) hot topics, sex, drugs and violence sell books and movies.

It is the decision to make that choice that bothers me.

Dianne Lake said Linda Kasabian drove the murderers to Cielo Drive in Linda Kasabian's car. She could have said 'my recollection was that Linda Kasabian came to the Family with the car they used that night. I have learned that is wrong'. That would have given me insight's into Dianne Lake as a person and her recollection of events. It would have been 'cool'.

Instead, she said 'Susan Atkins told me she stabbed Sharon Tate and based upon what I saw in her eyes I believe she did'.

Pax Vobiscum,