Monday, May 28, 2018

MansonBlog Tour 2018: Heartbreak and Change of Heart about the Manson Girls

Walking Encyclopedias
I went on the Manson Blog Tour to see if I could feel, see, touch, or hear something that would get me a little closer to learning why the murders took place. 

I was the last to arrive at the house where we were all staying.  As a newbie, I'd met none of the bloggers before. Honestly, I was kind of scared I'd be walking into the "Star Wars" bar. Thankfully, it wasn't as creepy as I imagined. 

It was crazy-cool to spend time with the bloggers and others in real life. They are information superheroes. It was like being around a bunch of walking encyclopedias. Many times, I just listened. 
The creator of Shorty's memorial box, etc.

When I talked, I found myself saying, over and over again, "This is heartbreaking." I said it at all the cemeteries -  especially at Shorty's grave in the potter's field. I repeated it at Cielo, Waverly, and the location where Shorty met his demise. I could be heard again at Spahn, when we saw the memorialized box containing Shorty's finger bones and again when we saw his possible murder weapon (and loudly when someone suggested I touch it to see if I got any vibes). I was probably the most heartbroken when we walked by what was left of the road on which the killers drove out of Spahn. How could those murders have happened?  What destroyed those young adults' morality and compassion? 

David suggested a book that may help: "The Manson Women and Me" by Nikki Meredith. Initially, I poo-pahed another book. After you read as many Manson-related books as many of us have, they get tiresome because we tend to judge the author's knowledge with a microscope instead of trying to learn something new. But, because I respect David's opinion, I gave it a shot.  The author is a social worker and former probation officer who went to high school with Stephen Kay and Catherine Share. She spent several years interviewing Krenwinkle, Van Houten, and their families trying to determine the answer to this question: If the women weren't psychopaths, sociopaths, or had personality disorders – what happened to their humanity on those nights?  She chose not to interview Atkins, suggesting that Susan's behavior may have been caused by the condition of hematolagnia (bloodthirst).  Yuck.

Although the author spends an exhaustive and, in my opinion, unnecessary amount of time trying to correlate her own life to those of the killers, her theory is that the murders were Manson's idea and the group lacked the ability to stop him. Why?  Too much empathy for the Family.  A brief summary:

1.   Manson created an environment that eroded feelings for people outside the group. "One of the techniques for mobilizing ordinary people to commit mass murder is to identify potential victims as subhuman." None of this is new, if you think about it. Nazis thought the Jews were subhuman. Same with the Hutus and the Tutsis, Guatemalan military and the Mayan Indians, etc. In the book, Meredith describes studies which show that the brain's empathy circuit can be fired up or down depending on how people are labeled.

2.   The intense empathy the group had for each other, particularly Charlie, is what made them so dangerous.  They perceived themselves having a fused identity. Similar to other extremists (she writes a lot about ISIS), anyone who didn't share their views were enemies and all enemies must be destroyed.  "How does fused identity lead to cold blooded killing?  It is the perception that if the group is threatened, dramatic action is required to defend it." Together, the Family would do what none would do individually.

3.   "Any program that succeeds in boosting an individual's empathy for his or her own group might actually increase hostility toward the enemy." This part was exceptionally poignant to me. In a large scale, the author relates this to almost every war on earth. On a small scale, to the Family. Leslie and Pat had unwavering loyalty to the Family and lacked empathy for their victims for years after their arrests. Remember that during her interview with McGann, Leslie said this about the family: "You couldn’t find a nicer group of people."

This doesn't mean the author gives them a pass. She offers her opinion on parole suitability at the end of the book.  Van Houten: Yes, but with a caveat: What does it say about a society where any nice girl can be made a killer?  Krenwinkle: Meh, due to anger and other issues. When Krenwinkle asked her, the author wouldn't even write a recommendation letter to the parole board.   

Did the book help me understand why the murders took place? No. But, it did make me more empathetic toward Van Houten and Krenwinkle, who I have never, ever thought of as anything more than dirt. So, thanks David for suggesting I read it. I didn't plan for my newbie post to be a book report, but that's what evolved. Kind of like how the Blog Tour evolves each year. This year's tour became about paying respects, and I’m glad it did. I never thought that paying respects would lead me to having a (very small) change of heart about two of the female killers. I guess we all have lessons to learn. 

Several years ago, Squeaky was interviewed in prison. She must have been about 50. She said she still supports the "girls" for committing the crimes, because "they did what they thought was right." At the time, that comment made me want to vomit. Now? The comment makes my heart break, but it also makes me wonder...

Spahn Necessity
Let's imagine ourselves as 19-year-olds. Imagining ourselves as girls would be better, since there were more of them on the ranch. We are very impressionable. A little lost - wanting something different, but not knowing where to go. It's the late 60s, we are in California, and we've just started dipping our toes into the counterculture. We meet this cool cat who tells us we are beautiful, that he loves us for who we are, and takes us into his family where he says there is no wrong. We sing songs, have sex, take fun drugs, and play make-believe on a ranch all day. (Spahn is very cool if you don't have allergies!) We all love each other very much. It's real love – not this fake, conditional stuff our family has shown us. This is a real family. The women are our sisters, and the men are our brothers. California is the only place on earth. We feed each other, care for each other, and protect each other. Then one day, our group is threatened – we're told Black Panthers are coming, and we know from the news how truly frightening they are. Charlie starts teaching us how to fight with knives. And then another one of us is put in jail.  We've been taking so many drugs we are sure that what Charlie’s been saying all this time about war is starting to happen. He asks us repeatedly if we would do anything for the family. We all say yes because we are ONE.  No one understands what real love and unity are but us. We prepare for battle to protect our own. One night, Charlie asks us to do something special. He tells us to get a change of clothes, go to a house, and do whatever Tex says. 

What would you have done?  Would you have been loyal?

Monday, May 21, 2018

MansonBlog Tour 2018: A Few Reflections on the MansonBlog Tour

I’m a newbie to the Manson Blog Tour. I have never been to any of these sights. Since I have been to LA several times, I am not sure I can explain why. Here are my reflections on the tour. 

Spahn Ranch

Go. The first thing, which is sort of in the reverse of what we saw is the actual size of the area where Spahn Ranch once stood is surprisingly small, maybe an acre total. While there is nothing there from 1969 there are enough land marks that with a good guide you can ‘see’ what is in all those old photographs. 

The ‘Family Cave’ and ‘Charlie’s Rock’, which is about ten feet from the cave is just below where the ranch buildings once stood. A few feet from there is where the hammock once hang between two trees. I moved away from the group and took a few moments. That location impacted me. This was where ‘they’ were, where they stood, where Manson played guitar for Terry Melcher and the ground, due to the efforts of our tour guide, are the same as they were then (although trees and brush grow over 50 years). 

Retz' House
Climbing up the hills behind the ranch, first offers some amazing views. The ‘back ranch’ foundations are here. Further up this also gives you a perspective of where Frank Retz lived (and worked diligently to get rid of the clan). Still further up the hillsides are the remains of what is known as ‘Bruce’s Corvair’ and evidence of a Native American presence. This trek is not easy. On a hiking map it would likely be listed as ‘difficult’. I didn’t go all the way up to ‘Stoner’s Cliff’ but others did. 

A good guide is crucial to this part for the trip. Stoner Van Houten should be your guy (Stoner420fox@yahoodotcom). It's free. Probably about 75% of his tour is Manson related but Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza and the celluloid magic of old westerns are also part of the tour. Keeping up with Stoner can be a chore physically because he’s obviously walked these trails hundreds of times.

PS: there is absolutely no chance Barbara Hoyt heard 'Shorty' Shea scream. 

The La Bianca House

The True House: Manson walked up the driveway that was not where it is today, crossed the yard between the houses and entered the La Bianca houses. There he tied up Leno and Rosemary, leaving them alone and went to get those who murdered them. The owners of the La Bianca house have taken great pains to protect their privacy. 

Where the boat was parked
Again, I moved away from the group and ‘contemplated’ what I saw. A dog in the house behind me, standing about where Manson parked the car barked continuously. I looked to where the boat was parked in the street and was impacted by what I have never seen before. Almost 50 years ago terror happened here. I could almost ‘see’ what happened that night. It affected me the rest of the day.

Topanga Canyon

We went here too and stopped at Gary Hinman's house. It looks nothing like it did at the time. Several of us also took a hike through the Snake Pit to the location where most believe the Spiral Staircase once stood. We also stopped at a book store called the Spiral Staircase the guy working there wasn't particularly helpful, probably because we came in as a group asking for pictures of the 'real' Spiral Staircase and suggesting his shop was named after that. He strongly denied any connection. He did tell us that once a year someone (claiming to have an interest in Manson's bones) comes in there asking if 'this is the Spiral Staircase' (it was a gas station in 1969) and then asking if he knew where it was. He added: 'you know, the kind of guy who buys one stick of incense'. I'm not sure what that meant.

Cielo Drive

Where the killers parked
We went to Cielo in, well, take a look. That is where the killers parked that night. I’m not sure I can explain how I felt walking up that drive. It was creepy. It was also very, very sobering- to realize what happened just a few hours later then we were there those decades ago. How so many lives came needlessly to an end there. Cielo is simply something that needs to be experienced. Even after we returned to the car little was said about the walk except that it indeed was ‘creepy’. Well, that and the fact it took 7 minutes and 4 seconds to walk one way at a pretty brisk step by Matt, Monica and myself. 

As to both Waverly and Cielo standing there, which I have never done before, was actually somewhat difficult. I almost felt like I was invading the privacy not of those who lived there today but those who lived there then.

The Warts

My flight- ok- TSA. They stole my lighter, some wood matches I had from a very cool restaurant  and my shampoo. According to them because, according to the x-ray gadget he was looking at, I had 3.2 ounces of shampoo. WTF? "How could you know that?" I asked. Answer: "I can tell from the monitor".

El Coyote- you sort of have to eat there, and I'm glad I did, but the place is a bit run down and the food is nothing to write home about. Don't ask for an after dinner brandy. I like good brandy. They didn't have any.

Doing Monica’s laundry. I asked for help. Stoner was actually responsible for this event because he said we should wash our cloths after walking through poison oak all day at Spahn Ranch. Made sense to me. She went out to dinner. We ordered in Thai and I did Monica's laundry.  
Entry door guest house and bath from the outside.

Another was the motion detector light activation switch in the ‘guest cottage’ (to the right). The lights came on every time myself or my roommate rolled over. Of course being in the renovated garage that was billed by the owner as a 'guest cottage' at least meant I was likely to survive the tour if things went really bad. At least I wasn't on the couch. We fixed that after night #1.

After Matt ordered a milk shake the first day there was this constant 'whining' from the back seat about milkshakes. Ok, ok ...we took care of that the last day.

The biggest ‘wart’ of the tour was our driver. He rolled through stop signs and even skipped a few entirely. He took turns rather abruptly, merged without warning and drove too fast. One random guy even pulled us over to say he had backed into his car. That one turned out to be untrue. Others in the car also say he ran a red light (or two). I personally didn't see that. 

Otherwise, anyone who reads or writes about these events should go on this tour. Being there with others who know so much about this case was an experience worth repeating. 

But the real 'upside': actually meeting the people I have communicated with electronically for several years. This was was more important than anything else. I wish Saint, George, Grim, Bo, Starviego, the Col., Robert C., Mr. Humphrat, Whut, Ziggy (especially Ziggy), Brownrice, Penny Lane and everyone else I didn't name (and even MGN111) could have been there. It is worth the trip to get to know who you are talking to on here. They are all good people (despite what the Col. says). 

and....Jenn, you should definitely go on the tour. 

Pax Vobisum


Monday, May 14, 2018

MansonBlog Tour 2018: Respects to Ron Hughes from Ghouls & Fools

A focus of this tour was paying respects to victims. We knew that Ronald Hughes (this post was a labor of love for me) is interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park. It was a little difficult to locate. It's tucked between tall buildings and the entrance doesn't look like an entrance. Once in, we found him relatively quickly. His family is also interred next to him.

Paul Fitzgerald is in this cemetery too. He is possibly in a locked section of the cemetery or in an unmarked grave.

After talking about him a little someone discovered that a celebrity was buried very closely. Then another, and another, and another. It was a gold mine.

Frank Zappa (unmarked)

George C Scott (stone is unmarked)

Roy Orbison (unmmarked)