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.