Monday, January 22, 2018

Fuel to the Fire: The Family's Use of Amphetamines in the Summer of '69

The accepted wisdom says that Charlie did not tolerate hard drugs within the Family.  They smoked marijuana and hash, used LSD with some regularity, and ingested a smattering of other psychedelics like psylocybin(mushrooms), mescaline(Peyote buttons), even Belladonna.  One known exception is the admission by Atkins and Watson that they snorted from a jar filled with meth just before they left to go to Cielo Dr.  But that was it.

But there is good evidence that many others in the Family were using Speed.

Bruce Davis
Tex: "Charlie, for all his use of acid, was absolutely against speed. He believed it was bad for your body. But when a young guy from one of the neighboring ranches began sneaking it over,  Susan-Sadie, Bruce Davis and I started carrying it around in the bottom of a cigarette package."

"I slept very late Saturday(Aug 9, 1969), then spent part of  the afternoon working on dune buggies and  snorting speed with Bruce Davis."

Kasabian  comment
"Another point: in the History channel special Kasabian ...also mentions taking a white speed tablet before embarking on the journey(to Cielo)."


Testimony of  at the Watson murder trial(8-26-71):
Q(Bugliosi):  Did you take speed on several occasions(while at the Ranch)?
A(Paul Watkins): Yes.

During Her time with the family, Patricia Krenwinkel used drugs heavily. ... She... at times would take various forms of speed such as Methedrine, Benzedrine and on occasion would smoke opium.


My Life with Charles Manson by Paul Watkins  Chapter 20
Clem... was totally blitzed, and sat slouched over the steering wheel of the dune buggy, his eyes glassy, his hair matted and snarled... He appeared stiff, almost cadaverous. (Sept '69)
[Clem is obviously coming down off a lengthy Speed trip.]


Susan Atkins  The Shattered Myth of 'Helter Skelter'   pg26of63
"...Charles Manson was at his wit's end.  He was staying up for days at a time on drugs watching for Panthers." (July of '69)

Member of the Family  by Dianne Lake
(At Barker in late '68)
 "Charlie was too hyped up to make love to any of us, so we all just went to sleep.
"I been thinking about this," Charlie announced in the morning. He appeared like he had not gotten much sleep. "We should go back to town and get our things together."

The Shadow Over Santa Susana by Adam Gorightly
(At Barker in Sept/Oct '69)
"Manson, it has been said, became "feral beyond description" during this period.  According to Kitty Lutesinger:  "He got wild when he was out there.. he was just beating on Snake all the time-or everybody." "
[Sounds like an amphetamine-induced psychosis.]

Manson Parole hearing from April 2002
"Manson also had a history of using drugs such as LSD, amphetamines and barbiturates... (Commissioner Gilbert)Robles said."
He gathered unknowing young women from Berkeley and the Haight-Ashbury, where the clinicians at the landmark free clinic diagnosed him as an “ambulatory schizophrenic” with all manner of manipulative behaviors, not to mention a fondness for LSD, speed ... and marathon orgiastic sex directed by Charlie ...   Dianne Lake interview:
When I got back from the Spiral Staircase House, I told Richard and Allegra about the possibility of going with Charlie and the girls. “I don’t know about that, Chicken Little,” Richard said. For some reason, he had changed his mind about Charlie. “It may not be such a cool scene. Maybe you should stick around here for a little while.”
That was the one warning I got about Charles Manson. It was not from my parents or from people at the Hog Farm. It was from my speed-addict friend who somehow understood something that the rest of us did not.
[Did he recognize that Charlie was into Speed?  Did it take one to know one?]

Everybody else
7/8/71- Psych examination of Tex Watson
Q. Meantime…did you go places?
A.  No, Charlie never wanted us to leave the ranch. Then it was drugs, drugs, drugs…  bags of acid and speed… we took a lot of speed.
Q(Bugliosi): Was there quite a bit of speed out at the ranch?
A(Watkins): Not until late spring of '69.
Q: And from that point on there was quite a bit of speed out at the ranch?
A: Yes
Virginia(FOTW witness) said that most of the time the Family's conversations were confused and she felt that they "were usually up on something, sometimes they would just talk non-stop for hours and not sleep for three or four days."
Manson had linked some of the Beatles' songs with an apocalyptic vision of the future, a vision he preached to followers who were constantly high on LSD and amphetamines.

Susan Atkins  The Shattered Myth of 'Helter Skelter'  pg26of63
"The women began to fear for their lives as paranoid, speed-frazzled gunmen combed the ranch..." (July of '69)

So are we supposed to believe that all these followers were doing heavy doses of Speed and that Charlie was somehow unaware of it?  No way in hell.  I believe that Charlie was controlling the Family's amphetamine use--in the same way he exercised tight control over the Family's use of LSD-- by giving them the drug at certain times for certain reasons.

The use of the stimulant might also explain some other aspects of life at Spahn.  Like how they were able to be up all night fixing their dune buggies and doing their creepy crawls.  Like how they were able to make repeated bone-jarring rides back and forth from Spahn to Barker.

But when you play, you pay (as they say in Brooklyn).  There was an old anti-drug slogan from the '60s:  SPEED KILLS.  They should have listened, because there is a definite link between the heavy use of amphetamines and violent acts, according to numerous sources.

Methamphetamine .. is notorious for its association with violent behavior. Epidemics of use have been marked by rises in assaults and violent crime and case reports have implicated the drug in homicides. Violence associated with methamphetamine use is characterized by its capricious and often bizarre nature, this seeming to be fueled by methamphetamine-induced paranoia... In conclusion, violent behavior is a key harm associated with the use of methamphetamine.
Charles Manson Now by Marlin Marynick   pg129of155
Vicki(apparently an associate of the Family) assured me that, during her initial visit to the ranch, the family was living a peaceful, happy existence. The only drug on the property was marijuana. "Then they did LSD and, when speed came along, that was when it all went bad."

Then it becomes a legitimate question to asked to what extant did amphetamine use contribute to the murders?

I think that the use of amphetamines might be one of the missing links in this case.  So important that without the Speed, there would probably not have been the slaughter.  But why didn't Bugliosi mention it in his book?   In the penalty phase of the trial, he made extensive preparations to counter the defense witnesses who would claim the defendants were too drug-addled by LSD to be responsible, but he didn't do this for the Speed usage.  Even more curiously, the defense lawyers didn't introduce this evidence as a possible exculpatory factor.  Why not?  Was there some kind of agreement by everybody not to touch this subject?
Bugliosi discounts the importance of speed in the murders. He ignores most of the drug use at Spahn except for the use of LSD which he says Charlie used to brainwash his followers...


Logan said...

Interesting essay! Reminded me of a line in the 1971 psychiatric report of tex watson: "Charlie would only give us 'awareness drugs', LSD, amphetamine & cocaine. He never gave us downers..."
(Link: quote is on p. 2 of Ira Frank letter )
I always thought that line was interesting because it contradicts the supposed "no speed" policy of Manson's, and implies that Manson actually supplied people at Spahn the bedeviled amphetamines.

Off topic, but if my memory serves me the 1971 Watson psychiatric report also states that Tex had his first (or one of his first) gay sexual experience at North Texas State. I wonder where exactly this homosexual encounter occurred in the city of denton, because I would love to get some pictures of the building where the sodomy occurred if it is still standing.

Manson Mythos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian G said...

Interesting post.

G. Greene-Whyte said...

Makes sense. Nice writeup with sources.

Mr. Humphrat said...

Very eye opening Star. Thanks for putting these pieces together. Maybe Charlie wanted to control the supply of speed given to them and that's why they hid their own supply from him.

starviego said...

Logan said...
"Charlie would only give us 'awareness drugs', LSD, amphetamine & cocaine. He never gave us downers..."

Thanks for the info... I missed that.

Mr. Humphrat said...
"Maybe Charlie wanted to control the supply of speed given to them and that's why they hid their own supply from him."

Quite possible, but I get the feeling they were protecting Charlie for some reason.

Monica said...

Great post. I have always wondered about this. Some of the worst crimes have been done, as you mentioned, by people cranked up on speed, meth, etc. I am convinced this occured in massive amounts at the ranch and I have always been very surprised it was never investigated fully. Wow.

StarRider said...

Great post, and brings up an angle I have never even considered.

Robert C said...

What happened to - where is Grim ?

Mr. Humphrat said...

Nothing must have peaked his interest lately. Comments in general have been very sparse.

Peter said...

Please. Grim is good for at least 2,000 words on any topic.

starviego said...


Matt said...

He must have popped some amphetamines...

Anonymous said...

Robert C said...

"What happened to - where is Grim ?"

Him and Manson Mythos are busy filming a "Manson-themed" remake of "The Odd Couple" for the REELZ Channel.

Peter said...

On November 13, Grim Traveller was asked to remove himself from the Manson Family Blog . . .that request came from Colonel Scott. Deep down, he knew he was right, but he also knew that some day he would return to him. With nowhere else to go,he appeared at the home of his friend, Manson Mythos. Several years earlier, Matt had thrown HIM out, requesting that HE never return. Can two Manson obsessed weirdos share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

Peter said...

Wait. Instead of "Can two Manson obsessed weirdos share an apartment without driving each other crazy?" It should be "Can two Manson obsessed weirdos share an apartment without stabbing each other 150 times and writing 'Death to Pigs' on the wall in each other's blood."

Anonymous said...


Saint Circumstance as the wacky neighbor who keeps coming over to announce that he's leaving, "This time for good", every episode.

Mr. Humphrat said...

and offers them Coors Lite LOL

Robert C said...

All funny but .... I kind of miss them both for their color commentary. Maybe one or both will be back. Hope they're both 'ok'. Sorry to hi-jack the thread but .... St. C. always brought an emotional, passionate approach and even flexible at times. Grim provides an articulate and detailed viewpoint with a large amount of supporting knowledge of all things Manson. Ok ... back to drugs and stuff.

David said...

I miss them as well.

Matt said...

Grim last posted on 1/4. Hope you are ok...

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should send MHN to check on him?

Doug said...

I am dubbing an MC5 doc to send to Grim and, he replied to a personal email from me a couple of days ago.

Just an FYI if anyone is worried. He did not mention anything to me aside from responding to my queries as to which other musical acts he'd fancy I include with the MC5 doc
Cheers from Vancouver

Robert C said...

Good to know. Thanks Doug.

Ben Gurecki said...

I can tell you this for certain. Charlie took LSD while housed in Corcoran back in 2015. Charlie received 4 hits of blotter underneath a set of stamps on a envelope from me in 2015. I have him talking about this being the best trip’s He has had in years. 79 or 80 years old and still Trippin...... awesome!

Unknown said...

There was a local guy on meth that was driving a big truck that hauls those roll off dumpsters... he hot on the interstate going the wrong way running people off the road, then turning onto the highway and going miles before he crashed. So yeah, it can cause people to do absolutely insane things.

Asphalt said...

There was a 19 year old girl that gouged her own eyes out with her hands last week in Anderson,SC. Reportedly, she was on meth.

starviego said...

Another tidbit of confirmation;
From Dr. Grosvenor Bailey's interview of July 17, 1971, pg12:
Tex: "The last three weeks(before TLB) he would give us Bennies to stay awake."

starviego said...
Manson's Right Hand Man Speaks Out Charles "Tex" Watson c. 2012

I only took meth for a month, but in that short period of time, it took me over the edge. I believe it was a major contributing factor in my crime. I had been using it constantly for three weeks before the crime.

starviego said...

Another reference:
Alone With The Devil – Famous cases of a courtroom psychiatrist by Ronald Markman, M.D. and Dominick Bosco pg3of20
Tex: "Drugs were a major part of the program. ... Later I took speed and whites and bennies and uppers."

starviego said...
--Bill Nelson: “Tex claims he was on so much speed he didn’t know what he was doing,” Bill says.

starviego said...

For what it's worth, Roger Smith became the Director of the Amphetamine Research Project, San Francisco Medical Center, right after he stopped being Manson's federal Parole Officer:
The Amphetamine Research Project is in a unique position in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury community, however. Since its inception, in June of 1968...

starviego said...

Interestingly, it appears some of the early rumors were very close to the truth:
"One Man's Family" (An essay appearing in the NY Times of Jan 4, 1970
"But even Polanski's performance could not still the rumors: The murderer was a drug pusher, a victim of past sexual abuses, "rough trade" picked up on Sunset Strip for fun and games, a friend who had freaked out on speed and turned violent."

starviego said...

Why did they play up the use of LSD, and ignore the speed use?

I suspect, since the goal was to demonize the whole counter-culture, they focused on LSD since it was the drug most closely associated with the hippies. Speed had been around for a while, was not closely associated with the youth movement, but was closely associated with the Biker culture.

starviego said...

Another relevant quote:
At Spahn, he gave the kids unlimited doses of disorienting LSD and crystal methamphetamine....
Former-Family members today say the vibe of the commune was initially reflective of the hippie values of love and total freedom, but gradually Manson became more and more dependent on methamphetamine, which changed his credo from love... to violence, extreme paranoia, outlandish political and apocalyptic pronouncements.

starviego said...

Another reference:

The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten: Life Beyond the Cult by Karlene Faith c.2001

After their association with bikers, who were involved in drug deals and who were more involved in amphetamines than in acid, the use of "speed" became commonplace with some members of the "family"...
Although most of the girls did not use speed, it is the view of Dr. David E. Smith, director of the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic and an expert toxicologist, that "the turn from psychedelics to amphetamines was critical in changing the nature of the Family's activities." As he stated, "High does of ampetamines really do create a paranoid delusional system." ...
Certainly from what I've heard from the women, there was a distinct change in the ambience of the "family" coincident with the release of the White Album and the arrival of Manson's new biker friends early in 1969. Manson was behaving erratically and irrationally, with increased talk about violence and death (the violence necessary, the death inconsequential); he became obsessed with the plan he called Helter Skelter. If Manson was using amphetamines, that would partly explain why he underwent radical changes within months. He became frenetic with negative energy that, for Manson, translated into violence.

starviego said...

More speed, at the Hinman crime scene:

Susan Atkins, in her first book:
"Throughout that night, Bobby, Mary, and I took speed. One of us always kept close to Gary, while the other two talked and dozed and listened to the radio."

starviego said...

From the transcripts of the Tex Watson trial:

Q When you got back in this period you are talking about, February or March of 1969, was speed available at the ranch?

A It started being available in a little tablet, Charlie used to give it to us all the time, all the guys and some of the girls too, to be able to stay up and work on the dune buggies.

Q Do you remember what the tablets looked like?

A It was a round tablet with a cross on it and then we run out of those and then he had a baggie, a white powder that was methedrine.

Q How would you use methedrine?

A Sniff it.

Q Who kept that supply? That is methedrine.

A The girls would keep all of the supplies.