Friday, August 31, 2018

See Tex Watson's Extradition News Footage

Raw TV footage from  the day Tex Watson was extradited from TX to CA. This is old news footage from Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA from Sept. 70. Pay attention to 00:00- 2:05 and 6:49-8:25.

Special thanks to Tom H who has been a silent (but great) contributor here.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Reflexion by Lynette Fromme; Part Two: pp. 98 thru 166

The experiences, perceptions and feelings as Lynette remembers them continues through 1967 and into 1968. There's a lot of information flying by in these pages, both biographical, historical but I can't stress enough what is most important: the way Lynette remembers those days. Here are things that jumped off the pages at me.

Manson, talking about a passing train:
"You could look at the cars as lifetimes," he continued. "And the spaces between are called 'nowhere' and 'nothing' and 'everywhere' and 'everything,' and you just ride in your own car, and the time track goes forever in both directions - yet it's always now."
Sounds like he just touched on Einstein's Theory of Relativity...

Charlie leaves the girls to see his probee. On the way, through a conduit Lynette calls The Fat man Manson meets Dean Moorehouse (and Ruthann). Moorehouse quickly goes from a dour minister to a devotee. He is the one that tells him that he is "Man's Son". I did not know that Dean was the source of that label.

Lynette's thoughts about what she was learning from him during the Summer of Love was summed up for me in this short passage:
My resistance surrendered, then as he said something I thought profound:
"What you feel is what you give, not what I give. You feel your own love."
On snitching:
He quoted Genesis to Father Mike, "First was the word, and the word was God", but he put more emphasis on the word "word" than on "God.". "Breach of word", he said, "breaks people away from the God in themselves."
Something I didn't know: They didn't get the piano that they traded for the bus from Dean Moorehouse. It came from The Fat Man.

Interspersed throughout the book are letters Fromme received from Manson (and others) from prison. The first of these is shared in this section. It is from 1986 and is autobiographical. This paragraph about his mother jumped out at me:
Moms would run her prison trip to me, how the food was so bad, and her job. Her job was sweeping and mopping the killing floor where men were hung. One day they came to hang a guy when she was still in the mop room, and she hid, and wasn't seen. They set the trap and the noose and something went wrong. The man was too big or the rope wasn't right and his head popped off. It came off his body and rolled down the steps to where she was hiding and she said it blinked at her. Her fear of that ran off onto me, and I took it and never realized until I was on death row for nine counts of murder and seven death sentences on a trip not my own.
Jeezuz, that paragraph is loaded with imagery that ties into his story in more ways than I can possibly try to delve into in a short post. I have though, always believed we carry ancestral experiences and fear in our bodies that can shape our lives in more ways than we can control consciously.

It was during this time window that they met the "florid and gentle" Patty Krenwinkel - who would go on "to, arguably, the most inexplicable mass homicide of its time" at the house of one of Manson's Terminal Island acquaintances. This coincided with Charlie's early encounter at the recording studio with producer Gary Stromberg after which Fromme "was imagining success and fame, but Charlie wondered aloud, 'What would they do with Christ?" (Talking about their previous conversation with Stromberg over what sounded like early ideas for Jesus Christ Superstar - but I could be off-base there). To me, Manson was more in the MOMENT of that philosophical conversation than thinking about what might be in the future.

Pat leaves town with them in the VW Bus and they travel up the Pacific coast:
... [Patty was a] stabilizer amongst women, a listener who demanded no attention for herself, an inspiration and conscience toward our own better attitudes, she was so easy to like that Mary couldn't stay mad [about including her in the now growing group].
...We camped in Washington and Oregon with all the natural amenities: plush green carpets, songbird canopies, clear water and air. For brief interludes we heard the summer's symphony without one beep, whine or groan from a machine, and were the only humans on Earth. 
...Tucked into woods at night, he said that all the money in the world was not worth the experience of being there with us.
This should make Panamint Patty's ears perk up:
One day I entered a room where Father Mike was standing over his open briefcase; in it were many plastic bags of marijuana and LSD. Beyond the startled second, he closed the case and behaved as though I'd seen nothing. I think now that Father Mike may have been a distributor for the Brotherhood of Love.
I haven't had a ton of time to read and post but I'll tell you, I'm enjoying the hell out of this book. Apart from interests about learning about "the motives" and so on I always want to get into the heads of the people who were there for the entire ride and see things through their eyes. Fromme is giving that to me!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Reflexion by Lynette Fromme; Part One: pp. 1 thru 97

For the sake of discussion I'll separate this review into segments. I'm not going to go into great detail, but I'll give you my impressions - what jumped out at me. Feel free to expand on this, contradict me or make your own observations.

Let me begin by saying that I like the fact that this isn't a chronology of events, per se. It's a look into Lynnette's experiences, which focus greatly on her perceptions and feelings as she remembers them. It's an opportunity to get into the head of an eighteen year old girl and see things through her eyes and heart.

Lynette begins this insightful, articulate chronicle of thoughts and experience alternating between her life as a child at home, mostly in the Westchester house that still preserves her stick signature at the corner of the concrete driveway, her first meeting with (and leaving home with) Charles Manson and Mary Brunner and her early experiences in places like The Haight and Mendocino.

In this early section of the book what the reader is engaged with her feelings of self doubt brought on in large part by her cold, painful relationship with her father who was an aeronautical engineer, and her early travels with Charlie and Mary. Her dad was wrapped up in his work and his studies, leaving him emotionally unavailable to her. He "...bared his teeth to me when he tried to teach me algebra."

She talks a bit about her studious, responsible nature as a child. She did her schoolwork and always worked side jobs. I liked her description of her time with the Westchester Lariats folk dance group that gave her the opportunity to travel: "I saw more lifestyles than I then realized, and nearly every state in the Union."

Her initial travels with Manson and Brunner were uncomfortable for her because of her love for Charlie and wanting to be more important to him than Mary. But development of her understanding for him was summed up for me in this short paragraph during their time in Mendocino. She sees Manson making her comfortable with their unconventional arrangement and Manson as having the world view of a small child:
"Back in the cabin were candles, clean bedding, and the embrace of stereo speakers. He settled down between us with an arm around each, made us comfortable, made us laugh, and appreciated the moment, sometimes dropping to sleep in the middle of a sentence. I lay awake in wonder of him. His view of the world was my earliest conscious dream."
Her exposure to the freeing lifestyle with her companions begins a transformation in her, inside and out:
"The Mendocino summer turned us beautiful colors. On a walk through the woods, Mary and I stopped by a friend's cabin and were amused to find the latest fashion magazines advertising cosmetics to make you 'look like you just walked out of the woods! The 'Natural Look' was definitely IN. I felt natural. For the first time in my adult life, laughter welled from deep inside me rather than politely from my throat, and I became so interested in the world around me that I forgot to doubt myself. Then I remembered."
"... our minds traveling the past, present, and, rarely, the future. Being present for life was becoming real to me."
What this first section of the book made me understand was that the life she lived at home left her worried about the past, the future and the empty feeling of her father's cold nature. Her early experiences with Manson and Brunner gave her a real feeling of being loved and more importantly, gave her the life-altering, freeing experience of living in the moment.

Monday, August 13, 2018

It Was Not the Wrench

While on the 2018 Manson Blog Tour we encountered part of a rusty old wrench that was discovered with some partial human remains at the site where Steve 'Clem' Grogan buried Shorty Shea. The question: could this have been the actual wrench used by Grogan that initiated the murder of Shorty Shea? 

We were able to identify the following inscriptions on the wrench: 

Drop forged
10” Heavy Duty

The last of the three inscriptions turned out to be the key to solving the mystery. 

“Also in the 1970s, trade with mainland China began to resume. There had been extensive trade with China from colonial times. Early chinese imports are unmarked or marked with chinese characters. From 1891 until 1949 their production was marked "made in China." but, because of domestic instability in China (the Boxer Rebellion, the Republican Revolution, regional Warlords, Civil War, Japanese aggression, etc.), there was relatively little trade with that country during that period. From 1949 to the mid 1970s there were no trade relations with mainland China. The island of Taiwan, however, became a major source for gee-gaws during the 1960s until it also moved on to pricier electronic items. Taiwanese production from this era is marked "made in Republic of China" or "made in China (R.O.C.)" to distinguish from "Red" China. In the mid 70s, trade gradually resumed with the mainland and their production is marked "Made in the People's Republic of China." In 1978, the United States fully normalized relations with mainland China and their production again became "made in China" while R.O.C. production came to be labeled "made in Taiwan."”

(Country of Origin as a Dating Tool. Coxsackie Antique Center. 2002.) 

 Shorty Shea was murdered in August of 1969. If the wrench had been imported before 1978 it would bear one of these inscriptions: "made in Republic of China" or "made in China (R.O.C.)".

It did not, instead the inscription said "Taiwan". Based upon the website above that means it was imported no earlier than 1978.  

Pax vobiscum


Monday, August 6, 2018

Creepy Crawls

This is not a review of Jeffrey Melnik’s book, Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America's Most Infamous Family.

[Aside: At the outset I have to make a confession. Until about 2002 I had never read a single thing associated with these crimes. I had never read Helter Skelter or The Family. I did watch the made for TV movie back in 1976. That same year, I believe, some friends and I piled into my one friend’s Camaro and drove 30 miles to see Robert Hendrickson’s documentary Manson (for any newbies, that was “Mr. H” around here). Being teenage boys ranging in age from 15-17 we were disappointed, especially with the Manson ‘girls’. It was almost 30 years later that a friend asked me to read Linda Kasabian’s testimony so he could ask some legal questions. He was obsessed. I agreed, assuming it would be about 50 pages long. This confession will become slightly more relevant below.] 

Creepy crawls are one of those things that make the whole aura of the Family, well, “creepy”. In fact, I would argue that the entire horror film aura that lingers around these crimes today is rooted in the creepy crawl. 

“What the Family meant by creepy crawling was at once simple and profoundly upsetting. Leaving their communal home at Spahn Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, the Family would light out for private homes. Once inside, the Family members would not harm the sleeping family members. Instead, they would rearrange some of the furniture. That’s all. Stealing was sometimes part of the agenda, especially toward the end, but it was not the raison d’ĂȘtre. 

No dead bodies, no blood on the wall. Just the bare minimum of evidence that the sanctity of the private home had been breached—that the Family had paid a visit to this family.”

(Melnick Jeffrey. Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America's Most Infamous Family (Kindle Locations 126-130). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

It is all rather frightening if you think about it. Someone comes into your house while you are sleeping. They don’t attack you or even rob you. They simply rearrange some furniture, maybe eat some food, leave the door open, let out the dog, turn on the stereo or the TV and perhaps go as far as coming into your bedroom and watching you sleep. It’s an invasion that is almost paranormal in a way. You wake to find that poltergeists crept out of the shadows of your closet while you slept.

Vincent Bugliosi was convinced that creepy-crawls were dress rehearsals for the murders that would follow. Were they? I don’t think so. And how prevalent were creepy crawls? Some suggest they were so infrequent as to be irrelevant. I think they were fairly commonplace. 

How Many Creepy Crawls Were There?

We actually know very little about creepy crawls other than that they happened. According to Ed Sanders, the ‘girls’ made up the name and, while the activity had been going on for some time, they were not called ‘creepy crawls’ until July 1969. (Ed Sanders. The Family. De Capo Press. Pp163. 2002). 

To the best of my knowledge only two witnesses ever testified at the time regarding the subject: Susan Atkins before the Grand Jury and Linda Kasabian at the trial. 



Q: How did you do that? What did you do? 
A: Well, we went out on garbage runs and we went and panhandled and one time one girl and I put on dark clothes and took it upon ourselves to do this -- Charlie had no knowledge of this -- we went out and creepy-crawled. 
Q: Creepy-crawled? 
A: Yes. 
Q: Explain to these members of the Jury what you mean by that. 
A: Moving in silence so that nobody sees us or hear us. 
Q: Wearing dark clothing? 
A: Wearing very dark clothes and move at night. 
Q: Where did you go? 
A: We hitchhiked over into -- I forget the area -- and we were scared to death, it was something neither one of us ever experienced, and wanted to experience it because everybody else in the Family was doing it. 
Q: They were doing what? 
A: Creepy-crawling. 
Q: Entering residences at night? 
A: Yes. 
Q: And taking things inside the residences? 
A: They never actually took anything inside the residence other than money. I never actually saw any money that they got from inside any of the residences. 
Q: You and this girl on one occasion did enter a residence and take some money? 
A: Not a residence, no. 
Q: What was it? 
A: There was an automobile parked on the side of the road. I opened the door and looked inside the glove compartment and saw some credit cards. I reached in and took them.

( Susan Atkins Grand Jury Testimony (Kindle Locations 231-244). Kindle Edition)

To say Atkins had credibility issues would be a vast understatement, I have to admit that. But under her version of the creepy crawl everyone was engaged in creepy crawling, although she only did it one time with a girl the world later learned was Linda Kasabian. And on this one occasion she and Kasabian didn’t actually enter a home. But Atkins clearly conveys the impression that creepy crawls were fairly commonplace as ‘everybody else’ was creepy crawling. 


[Aside: I have deleted Kanarek’s objections and shortened the quote by over half.]

Q: You testified you did not know what was going to happen that night. Did you have any idea what was going to happen?
A: Yes. I thought we were going to go on a creepy crawl mission.
Q: A creepy-crawl mission?
A: Yes.
Q: What is a creepy-crawl mission?
A: A creepy-crawl mission is where you creepy-crawl into people's houses and you take things which actually belong to you in the beginning, because it actually belongs to everybody.
Q: Who told you what a creepy-crawling mission was?
A: Everybody did.
Q: Did Mr. Manson ever tell you what a creepy-crawling mission was?
A: I remember one specific instance where the girls made Charlie a long, black cape, and one of the girls was fitting it to him, and he sort of said, "Now when I go creepy-crawling, people won't see me because they will think I am a bush or a tree."

(Linda Kasabian direct testimony Tate-LaBianca Trial)

A: I thought it was going to be a creepy, crawly mission.
Q (Fitzgerald): Your intent was to go out and steal, right?
A: Yes.
And your intent was to steal and you did not care where, or what you were stealing came from, did you?
A: I was told it was mine to begin with.
Q: And you had been on creepy, crawly missions before, is that correct?
A: Yeah, I guess it was creepy, crawl. It wasn’t roaming into a house, that is what I consider creepy, crawl. 
A: Well, I remember Mr. Manson was not at the ranch; he had just left for Big Sur, and that night I went out with Sadie on maybe what you could call a creepy-crawly mission. 

(Linda Kasabian cross examination Tate-LaBianca Trial)

"Yana told me about "cutting capers" with her friends out in L. A. What they would do was break into some expensive suburban house at night, either alone or in groups, and while making no attempt at secrecy or quiet, take or break anything they wanted to, Yana had gone into homes alone, unarmed, and turned on the stereo or television while she ransacked the house. She said no one ever tried to stop her. They were so "afraid of themselves," she said that they'd just lie frozen in bed thinking, "Oh my God! There's a BURGLAR in the house!"

(No writer attributed. The Road from Gallup to Albuquerque.The Harvard Crimson. December 18, 1969)

Kasabian corroborates Atkins testimony and actually provides us with the date of her creepy crawl. Her acknowledged creepy crawl took place on August 5, 1969 if Manson had ‘just left’ for Big Sur. But while hitchhiking across New Mexico Kasabian expressed to James Brekenridge (the actual author of the Harvard Crimson article, above) that she had creepy crawled several houses, not just one car. She also suggests that all her friends in the group in LA were participating in creepy crawls. 

As I read Kasabian's testimony and statements she is saying everyone knew about creepy crawl missions and many participated. That says they were fairly widespread. 

There are also reports by other members of the Family. 
“At night, he started sending the girls out on what he called “creepy-crawls” slipping into darkened houses while the owners were sleeping and crawling through them, rearranging things. Although it might seem that this kind of game was designed to frighten the people who woke up the next morning and found that things had been subtly shifted in the night, the real purpose was to make the girls doing the crawling face their fear and go beyond it. We began stealing anything we could get our hands on: money, credit cards, traveler's checks, dunebuggy parts. It was all for Helter Skelter, Charlie told us; we had to be ready. We creepy-crawled a couple of houses in Malibu and walked off with clothes and some tape equipment that turned out to have already been stolen from NBC.”

(Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson as told to Chaplain Ray Hoekstra, Copyright 1978 Renewed Copyright 2010 by Steve Housden)

“Catherine Share:  The Family had been preparing for this. Charlie would take the kids on what he called “creepy crawls.” They’d break into houses and move around the furniture. There were a lot of creepy crawls before the Tate murders. He’d say, “Get your black clothes on, get in the car, and do a creepy crawl.” Tex, Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Clem, Squeaky, and Patricia Krenwinkel—they all went on creepy crawls.”

(Manson: An Oral History, Steve Oney, Los Angeles Magazine, July 1, 2009)

“Charlie began to instruct the older girls in what they called creepy-crawly missions. He would have them dress up in dark clothing that would be hard to spot at night. Then he would send them to random houses with the mission of moving things around unnoticed just to play head games with those he called “the sleeping pigs” or stealing small items to contribute to the coffers. These creepy-crawly missions were not burglaries per se. Charlie said these were training missions, a way to help them overcome their fear and learn to be silent and undetectable. I was never included in these.”


“Still, at the time, I was disappointed about not being included on the creepy-crawlies. While in hindsight, this non-inclusion was the best thing that could ever have happened to me, it was difficult feeling so separate from the group.”

(Lake, Dianne. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties. Kindle Locations 4884-4888, 4895-4897. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition)

“I went “creepy-crawling” with Linda into homes and garages—an expression that came from me as we practiced and mastered silent entry into places, armed with our knives, and moved about the occupied houses without being detected. Barefoot, in old, dark clothes, deadly earnest, we became expert in burglarizing right under the noses of the occupants. The fear and thrill were exhilarating. I had always liked danger, although it kept me close to hysteria and panic. Furthermore, I felt we were perfectly justified in what we were doing. We were “in the Thought” . . . “in the now” . . . “free from thought” . . . “escaping from a doomed society. . . .”

(Susan Atkins. Slosser, Bob. Child of Satan, Child of God (p. 118). Menelorelin Dorenay’s Publishing. Kindle Edition)

Creepy and crawling but not creepy crawling
“Something big had happened the night before. Leslie didn’t know exactly what it was, but she knew it was part of Manson’s “Helter Skelter” plan. She concluded from the comments she’d overheard in the morning that unlike previous outings, this one had not been a trial run. In the past they had conducted what they called “creepy crawlies.” They would all dress in black and break into people’s houses as dress rehearsals. The point was not to be detected. On the previous night’s venture, confrontation was the point. She was pretty sure people had died. She knew Pat had been included, along with two others of Charlie’s inner circle: Tex and Susan.”

(Meredith, Nikki. The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder (p. 280). Kensington. Kindle Edition)

There are even reports that either were or sound like creepy crawls from the victims of the creepy crawl. 

“Lucille Ellen Larsen is the owner of Lucy's Pet Shop, 2524 Hyperion. She claimed to be a close friend of Rosemary.
She recalled Rosemary once making the statement "someone is coming in our house while we're away." Larsen suggested it might have been the children or their friends. Rosemary said she had questioned them and was satisfied it was not the children or their friends. Larsen asked Rosemary how she knew someone was coming into her home. Rosemary replied, "Things have been gone through and the dogs are in the house when they should be outside or visa versa." This was first mentioned prior to 1968. There were reported burglaries at the LaBianca residence yet it is common knowledge that Rosemary left the keys to her car and the house in her Thunderbird, which was usually parked in the rear of the house.”

(Second LaBianca Homicide Report)

“I had been in Arizona doing a film. When I came back, Al told me, “Some people are crawling over the wall, and every night at midnight, they crawl to your house and then they leave.” I thought it had to be some Manson people. So the first night I was back, I waited up and, sure enough, at midnight, they came over the fence. I had a shotgun and so did Einstein Eddy. I told my old lady to fetch Eddy. I saw the Manson people coming across the lawn and I was thinking, “What am I going to say?” I thought of a classic yet profound line I had learned from my earlier movie-extra days: I yelled, “Stick ’em up!” And that worked, just like it did in the movies. Their hands went up.”

(Kaufman,Phil. Road Mangler Deluxe (Kindle Locations 861-866). White-Boucke Publishing. Kindle Edition)

 “Most of the Family’s creepy-crawls took place near Spahn Ranch, but sometimes they ranged all the way into upscale neighborhoods, once even creepy-crawling the Bel Air home of Mamas and the Papas’ John and Michelle Phillips.”

(Jeff Guinn. Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson. Simon & Schuster. pp 212. 2013)

“Ed Sanders suggests in the Los Angeles Free Press that Wilson had, in early interviews with Bugliosi, taken a decidedly “mishiga” approach and was making it clear to the prosecutor that he would act crazy on the stand if forced to testify. By his own admission Wilson would not testify because he was scared—and by most accounts the musician had reason to worry. In addition to creepy crawling Wilson’s house, Manson also directly threatened to hurt Wilson’s son.”

(Melnick Jeffrey. Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America's Most Infamous Family (Kindle Locations 2912-2917). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition)

“According to numerous reports, they creepy crawled the Malibu home of Doris Day, where Melcher and his girlfriend Candice Bergen had gone to live after leaving their Benedict Canyon house on Cielo Drive, a house soon to be occupied by Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski.”

(Melnick Jeffrey. Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America's Most Infamous Family (Kindle Locations 340-342). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition)

There are even tales of daylight creepy crawls.

“Peter Biskind recounts a telling anecdote in his book on the New Hollywood, about Donna Greenberg—a woman who “wasn’t in the business” but who was “clever, wealthy, attractive, and had a wonderful home, with rooms and more rooms for guests, a swimming pool on the beach, and an expansive patio.” As Greenberg later recalled “One beautiful, sunny Sunday morning, I was having breakfast on the patio with my four-year-old, the nanny, my husband, and our oldest son, who was thirteen or fourteen…. We had just had a paint-in, painting our seawall with peace signs, graffiti, that sort of thing. Suddenly the most frightening group of hippies walked onto our patio, stood around and stared at us, wandered through our house. I was petrified, but I didn’t know what to say, and it was also the ’60s, being nice to people who wore lots of beads and jewels and bandannas. There was a piano covered with all the pictures one collects of children and family and loved ones and everyone I knew…. They gathered around the piano and looked at the pictures. Then they walked out, leaving us shaken. They got down to the end of the beach, but they couldn’t get out, and a police car came, and I found myself walking down there and telling the police to let them go, they were my guests. Don’t ask me what the impulse was. It was the Manson family.”

(Melnick Jeffrey. Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America's Most Infamous Family (Kindle Locations 2267-2277). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

And then there is this.

“At the end of the sixties I was renting an apartment in the Hollywood Hills and my life was still in chaos. I drank too much, jumped into bed with the worst choices of men and had again gotten fired from my job in advertising.

Grisly stories in the newspapers were about the Sharon Tate/LaBianca killings and one of the murder scenes was only blocks from my apartment. I'd gone to bed early that following weekend and sometime during the night my dog Mickey stood growling at the edge of the bed. I almost turned on a light, but stopped when I heard whispering. The hair twitched on the back of my neck. I slid my hand from under the sheet, grabbed Mickey's hind leg and the dog wiggled in beside me. My heart raced. I listened to the toilet flush, water splashing in the kitchen sink and what sounded like more than one person scooting around on the floor. I pulled the sheet over my face and pressed into the mattress. I lay barely inhaling until there was silence. Even then I didn't move and my heart continued to pound.

When sunrays filtered through the window, Mickey jumped off the bed and I stepped cautiously onto the floor. I entered the bathroom. The sink faucet was running. I hurried into the living room. The front door was standing open. I reached for the phone, but changed my mind. What could I tell police? Maybe I'd left the faucet on and had forgotten to close the front door. Maybe I'd dreamed the rest, or the place was haunted. Maybe my chanting had brought in the demons.

Years later I read Helter Skelter, the story of the Tate/LaBianca killings told by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars. There's a chapter about the Manson family "creepy crawling" a house. Manson told his followers to go into homes in the Hollywood Hills and crawl around on the floor while turning on water faucets and flushing toilets. Chilled to my very core, I put down the book and paced the room. I knew during a scary night in the sixties, I had been "creepy crawled."”

(Suzanne Tilden-Mortimer. Brushes with Evil. 

Reports of having been creepy crawled by the Manson ‘girls’ almost feels like a badge of honor like the list of those invited over to Cielo on the evening of August 8th or the number of stuntmen who beat up Manson. But I believe creepy crawls happened and likely happened at houses the Family was familiar with as well as random houses. 

Based upon what we know I would go so far as to say creepy crawling had been going on for a while before July 1969 and that it was fairly widespread. I say this with a caveat: notice that aside from Kasabian and Atkins who testified they only went once the other Family members only report the activity of others, not their own creepy crawling. 

What was the Purpose of a Creepy Crawl?

I can see three possibilities here (1.) fun (2.) dress rehearsals for murder (3.) Manson’s first crack at the establishment. 


This where that confession comes in. When I was in college I was in a fraternity. One that more closely reflected the True House than your traditional notion of a frat. In the traditions of the Greek system at my university back then when you wanted a party with a sorority you went through a strange ritual where you stole their composite photograph of the members. They had to come over and sing to get it back and somewhere in there a party was arranged (or visa-versa if the sorority wanted the party). One semester our social chairman, a very nice but passive guy, got severely snubbed by a house. We stole the thing and they didn’t return his calls. In fact, they sent three goons from another frat to get it back. Had a few of us been home that afternoon, that might have gone badly for them. 

The next semester I held that post. I didn’t like sororities and didn’t want parties with them so myself and a couple others came up with a different plan. A plan that started as revenge against that sorority. We called it ‘A Mission’. Our inspiration was Mission Impossible and one guy even played the song on a cassette while we got ready. We would dress in dark clothing. We’d break into the house, rearrange the furniture (maybe even take it outside). Eat their food. Leave lights on. Etc. On the way home we’d have a gay old time imagining their faces the next morning. 

It was fun. The fear-based adrenalin was quite the rush. The absurdity of our actions was the point and we never got caught (although some guys from another house tried to take credit for it so we sent an anonymous letter to the Greek monthly paper, thingy, debunking their claim.).

Could creepy crawls have been just fun? Yes, they might have been part of those things the Family did like dress up in costumes. It could have simply been part of the Magical Mystery Tour.

“The creepy crawl was nothing if not theatrical. The rearranging of furniture and consciousness was devised as a sort of real-world guerrilla stage direction: “Square family members wake up from their nighttime stupor as Family members exit through doors and windows. They look around. On their faces we see that they are questioning everything they have believed in until this point.” In his book on the Doors, Greil Marcus refers to the Manson Family as a “band,” but a “troupe” is more like it.”

“John Waters, whose early films and later sculpture are so indebted to Manson, finds evidence of the creative impulse well in advance of the murders: “Was Manson’s … ‘creepy crawling,’ some kind of humorous terrorism that might have been fun? Breaking silently into the homes of middle-class ‘pigs’ with your friends while you are tripping on LSD and gathering around the sleeping residents in their beds, not to harm them but to watch them sleep…. It does sound like it could have been a mind-bending adventure. When the Mansonites went further and moved the furniture around before they left, just to fuck with the waking homeowners’ perception of reality, was this beautiful or evil? Could the Manson Family’s actions also be some kind of freakish ‘art’?”

(Melnick Jeffrey. Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America's Most Infamous Family (Kindle Locations 6024-6030, 6046-6050). Arcade Publishing. Kindle Edition)

I think an argument can be made that the sole purpose of the creepy crawl was fun, thrills if you will. That is certainly why we did it in that fraternity, not even knowing we were creepy-crawling. 

Rehearsal for Murder

Vincent Bugliosi certainly thought the purpose of the creepy crawls was to prepare for murder. 

“These creepy-crawling expeditions were, I felt sure the jury would surmise, dress rehearsals for murder.”

(Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (25th Anniversary Edition) (p. 214). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition)

And Jeff Guinn would certainly agree with Bugliosi. 

"According to Guinn: "Charlie wanted the Manson family — about two dozen mostly drug-addled kids — to believe they had the power to enter anyone's home at any time, without the people inside knowing that they were there. And so, he trained them, two or three at a time, to follow him. He would tell them to dress in dark clothes, they would get in the car and then they would drive to some of the fancier residential areas in Los Angeles.

"They knew some rich people, mostly rock stars. And what they would do is try to gain entrance into their homes — a lot of times doors weren't locked or windows weren't completely shut. Then, while the people inside slept, the creepy-crawlers would stealthily rearrange furniture. They might put the dining room table where a living couch had been. And then they'd sneak out, knowing that when the people woke up and saw how things were different, rearranged, they'd know someone had been there inside and could have done anything they'd wanted — murdered them in their beds. And they'd also have no idea who these people were." 

One of the break-in victims was Michelle Phillips, a member of the Mamas and the Papas, who wrote about it in a book.

Manson was using the creepy-crawls as "a sort of horrible spring training" for what he really intended. And that would most notoriously include the "Helter Skelter" rampage of back-to-back nights of murders that terrorized Los Angeles in 1969. The victims famously included Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, wife of director Roman Polanski.

"Everybody talks about the Tate-LaBianco murders, but I think they miss just how calculating Charlie Manson was in orchestrating the training he thought that his followers needed to carry out real murders," Guinn said on Strange." 

(Christopher Wynn. The Most Frightening Thing About Charles Manson was that He 'Never, Ever
was Insane'. Noevember 20, 2017)

There is evidence that supports this theory. One result of the creepy crawl would have been to diminish fear in the participants. Ed Sanders claims Manson showed the girls how to jimmy locks and slice screens and says Manson used creepy crawls as a teaching method. (same cite as above). 

There also is some indication that murder was the final step in a sort of creepy crawl progression. Atkins told Virginia Graham as much while they hung out together in Sybil Brand. 

 “That would be no problem, Susan said [killing the Hollywood hit list]. It was easy to find out where they lived. Then she’d simply creepy-crawl them, “just like I did to Tate.”

(Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (25th Anniversary 
Edition) (p. 440). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition)

The timing of Kasabian’s creepy-crawl, August 5th is interesting. Notice, above, Kasabian’s one creepy-crawl (Atkins in her book says there were others and Kasabian contradicts herself as Yana) is one on one with Atkins, one of the killers, three days before the murders. Then look at Catherine Share’s comment. Every one of the killers went on creepy crawls, which likely was her point. Perhaps your performance under the observation of one of the elite helped determine whether you were ‘ready’. Whether you had sufficiently drunk the kool-aid to commit murder. 

But I don’t think creepy crawls were dress rehearsals. First, that would likely mean Manson was planning murder long before July-August 1969, if we assume creepy crawls were going on before July. Personally, being a proponent of a theory that this was a millennial movement gone bad due to outside threats and the charismatic prophet-leader’s perception he was losing control, I don’t believe the murder planning started long before the murders. The stressors were not there in January or March. It seems to me that everything unravels fairly quickly in July-August due to a combination of two factors: Melcher’s snub and the shooting of Bernard Crowe. 

Maybe Manson did suddenly unveil the creepy-crawl rehearsal after the Crowe shooting but to me the comments above sound like they had been going on for some time (even if they were not called creepy crawls). 

Phase One

I think we can agree that Manson had a miserable childhood. He spent most of his time in the clink. He was separated from his parents and spent little time in a traditional family setting. The bond that comes from that experience is missing and likely he harbored significant animosity towards ‘the traditional family’. An experience he never had and thus didn't value.

Joining ‘the Family’ had a few ‘initiation’ requirements that support this theory. You had to give up all your stuff to the group. You had to break your own family bond by, for example, giving up your children and your name. And, of course, your parents (family) were, according to Manson, responsible for all those hang-ups, fears and ego trips you had that you had to get rid of to reach enlightenment. 

As Ed Sanders put it: “They were into such a trip of mystic transformation that the Family evidently believed that there was an archetypal core personality in each human that could be discovered though acidzap, mind moil, role-playing, bunch-punching, magic, blasting the past and commune-ism. This was the Magical Mystery Tour” (Ed Sanders. The Family. De Capo Press. Pp 27. 2002)

Destroying the family was part of the game. But not the only part. ‘Fear’ also played a role in the process. Manson preached that one came to full awareness through fear. In fact, that was, apparently the catalyst for the creepy crawls: allowing the members to reach that level through fear.

But fear also had a second role. It was a weapon. The attack at Cielo was, according to Atkins to ‘instill’ fear into Melcher. Atkins also rapped with Ronnie Howard about “throwing some fear into the world”. Before the Grand Jury Atkins expanded the concept to the entire establishment. 

Q: Well, you can't ask me any questions, Susan, I'm just trying to find out what happened to the best of your recollection. Did you say why this [the murders] had been done? 
A: To instill fear into the establishment.

( Susan Atkins Grand Jury Testimony (Kindle Locations 741-743). Kindle Edition.)

Fear as both a weapon and a higher consciousness also explains another aspect of that bizarre notion that ‘you really have to love someone to kill them’. If fear is the ultimate level of consciousness then in the twisted minds of these acid casualties the fear they inflicted while murdering someone was raising their victim's consciousness.

“As Virginia understood it, there was this group, these chosen people, that Charlie had brought together, and they were elected, this new society, to go out, all over the country and all over the world, to pick out people at random and execute them, to release them from this earth. “You have to have a real love in your heart to do this for people,” Susan explained.”

(Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders (25th Anniversary Edition) (p. 127). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.)

Initially, the Family and Manson’s schtick was love, flowers, sex and dope. Manson symbolically tosses guns off a bridge, he gives things away to those who need them. He seeks to rescue the young girls from Haight Ashbury. He sits around singing songs, having sex and rapping about acid-soaked philosophy. In fact, the Family would have been nothing more than another failed 60’s commune had everything ended in December 1968. It’s at that point where things slowly begin to go bad, teetering over the brink by July 1969. 

So, my theory is that the creepy-crawls were not rehearsals for anything but initially they were a sort of light hearted way to attack the family and the establishment and progressed from there rather suddenly when other motives took over. Entering a house late at night and leaving the bizarre calling cards of moved furniture and open doors undermines the sense of security a home provides a family. It unsettles the family. They start locking doors, buying guns and live in fear. In the weird sense of reality possessed by the Family they likely even thought they were doing their creepy crawl victims a favor. 

Creepy crawls, in my opinion, were a way to damage the sanctity of the family by invading the home and to instill fear in the establishment. They were a way Manson could take away from others a piece of what he never had. Call it Phase I of what eventually led to the murderous creepy-crawls of August 1969. 

Pax vobiscum


Postscript: It appears creepy crawls continue decades later. 

“Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against U.S. diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Secretary of State John F. Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it.

At a recent meeting of U.S. ambassadors from Russia and Europe in Washington, U.S. ambassadors to several European countries complained that Russian intelligence officials were constantly perpetrating acts of harassment against their diplomatic staff that ranged from the weird to the downright scary. Some of the intimidation has been routine: following diplomats or their family members, showing up at their social events uninvited or paying reporters to write negative stories about them.

But many of the recent acts of intimidation by Russian security services have crossed the line into apparent criminality. In a series of secret memos sent back to Washington, described to me by several current and former U.S. officials who have written or read them, diplomats reported that Russian intruders had broken into their homes late at night, only to rearrange the furniture or turn on all the lights and televisions, and then leave. One diplomat reported that an intruder had defecated on his living room carpet.”

(Josh Rogin. Opinion: Russia is Harassing U.S. Diplomats All Over Europe. Washington Post. June 27, 2016)

Friday, August 3, 2018

Keeping Faith with the Manson Women

By Jeffrey Melnick August 1, 2018

Every August since 1969, we, as a culture, have taken a deep breath and tried to figure out how we are going to live with Charles Manson. This year marks the first time that we will manage this reckoning without the "wild-eyed leader of a murderous crew," as his Times obituary described him, in the world. The news of two major motion pictures about the Manson family—one directed by Quentin Tarantino and the other by Mary Harron—suggests that we retain our taste for Manson art. These cultural creations range from serious, book-length investigations and extended musical works to seemingly thoughtless shout-outs, which individually serve to undercut Manson's scariness but collectively underscore the cult leader's centrality to American conceptions of race, class, sexuality, and family. Signs of Manson and his followers are far-flung and include writing in blood on the wall, the trope of the sexy-weird female hippie, and charismatic men with beards and "Southern" accents. Every year, we add to this of stock of sounds, images, and stories, as we continue to absorb the Manson-family trauma.

August, 1969, of course, is when members of Manson's Los Angeles-based commune killed Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowski, and Steven Parent at the home of Tate and Roman Polanski, in Benedict Canyon, and then killed Rosemary and Leno LaBianca the following night, in Los Feliz. I won't recount the details of the gruesome murders; perhaps you've read the prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's true-crime bible "Helter Skelter," from 1974, or seen the television miniseries based on it. Even if you haven't, you probably know the basic details of the crime—the feral hippies, the messages left behind, the off-the-hook race-war motive that Bugliosi developed almost immediately after being assigned to the case and that he convinced so many of us was Manson's true animus. The Tate-LaBianca murders, as the novelist Zachary Lazar has suggested, very quickly moved into the realm of what he calls "contemporary folklore." For decades, we have used the Manson family and its crimes to indict the putative excesses of the counterculture.

I want to borrow from some of the enormous cultural power that Manson has accrued to call attention to the life and work of another key figure in the history of the "family," who also died last year: Karlene Faith. Faith's name probably won't ring loud bells, if any at all. She was a radical-feminist criminologist who spent her career as a teacher and a researcher at Simon Fraser University, in Canada. In 1972, while a graduate student in the history-of-consciousness program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Faith co-founded the Santa Cruz Women's Prison Project. Through this group, Faith came into close contact with three of the Manson "girls": Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten.

The fact that these young women are so often called "girls"—in historical narratives, in film, and in fiction—begins to hint at our confusion regarding who they were and how they lived. There was a complex array of women who came to be known as the Manson girls: some were exploited and abused minors, but others seem to have exercised a fair amount of power in the family. The "girls" were vulnerable runaways, pragmatic sister-wives, and terrifying tricksters. But, in the wider culture, the women got treated most frequently as objects of prurient male interest. Thomas Pynchon, in his novel "Inherent Vice," imagines the appeal that the Manson women hold for his character Doc, and to so many other men: "Submissive, brainwashed, horny little teeners . . . who do exactly what you want before you even know what that is. You don't even have to say a word out loud, they get it all by ESP."

The coalition of feminists associated with the Santa Cruz Prison Project treated the women of the Manson family like active subjects—as people who could liberate themselves. The Santa Cruz radicals were there at the invitation of Virginia Carlson, the warden of the California Institution for Women, where Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten were imprisoned in the Special Security Unit. These feminists were enacting a profound form of rehabilitative practice. Soon after the end of the trial, the women (and some men) of the Santa Cruz group recognized that the three convicted women would need to see themselves as belonging to a different community—a new family of sorts—that was rooted both in the individual dignity of each woman and in the power of collective support and education. Prison administrators approved a program to raise the consciousness of the imprisoned women according to feminist principles. More than forty years after the experiment was devised and implemented, it is still more than a little shocking that it was approved.

Carlson had to have known that members of the Manson family had been taken up by a range of observers with problematic motives: from Bernardine Dohrn rhetorically offering the family the Weather Underground stamp of approval to Joan Didion shopping for dresses (literally) at I. Magnin to help make sure Linda Kasabian would be ready for her closeup at the trial, it did not take long for an appealing outlaw aura to develop around this hardscrabble bunch. David Felton, who co-wrote, with David Dalton, Rolling Stone's cover story on Manson, in 1970, told me that he and Dalton were prepared to greet Manson as some kind of organic rebel, when they made their trip to interview him in jail. Then they actually met him.

But the Santa Cruz collective, with its commitment to radical social change, seems to have remained untouched by celebrity worship. Karlene Faith was a central figure in this effort and wrote about it in detail in her book "The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten," from 2001, and in a monograph on women's confinement and resistance. For years, Faith embodied restraint, keeping a low profile in her work with the Manson women. Susan Atkins, for her part, was not shy about promoting the importance of Faith's work. Atkins, in her autobiography, writes with deep gratitude about Faith, whom she refers to as a "light in the darkness." Building on the women's-studies curriculum that Faith and her collaborators brought to the Special Security Unit, Atkins was able to develop a new sense of how she had "walked into" her own oppression. Through the intervention of Faith and the other feminists, Atkins experienced a revolution in her mind: "Suddenly I found myself free."

Virginia Carlson, the prison warden, must have been some kind of feminist herself. According to Faith, Carlson wanted to "raise the women's consciousness to a point where they would be able to think clearly for themselves, and recognize how deeply their subordination and rote obedience to Manson had degraded their humanity." From 1972 to 1976, Carlson invited "carloads of graduate student instructors, professors, law students, artists, performers and community activists from throughout the state" to "corrections valley," where they came to teach a curriculum that included studies of women and the law, ethnic studies, creative writing, and radical psychology. (Carlson did pause the program briefly in its first year, after Faith ended a letter to one imprisoned woman with the word "venceremos," meaning "we will overcome." Carlson may have approved of the general goal of consciousness raising, but aligning this closely with Che Guevera was too much.) According to Faith's account, the volunteers were especially affected by the work they did in the Special Security Unit with Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten. Here they met "three young, attractive, intelligent and unexpectedly endearing and vulnerable women," who appear to have thrown themselves into their studies with great energy. Faith and the others were moved, especially, by the talent that the women displayed in handicrafts and singing (apparently they sang a beautiful, close-harmony version of Buck Owens's "Cryin' Time").

The conversations that took place among the jailed women and their visitors seem to have been wide-ranging and lasting in impact. In addition to the regular instructors, the prisoners had visits from a number of key figures from the emerging "women's music" scene, including Meg Christian, June Millington, Holly Near, and Linda Tillery. They learned about poetry from Judy Grahn and took seminars with the radical writer Paul Krassner and with scholars who spoke on politics, the blues, and women's history. This was not "deprogramming," as it came to be familiarly called in the nineteen-seventies, but, rather, an acknowledgment that a holistic political, social, and cultural education was the most powerful tool to help transform Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten back into the "independent, promising young people" they had been before being turned into, as Faith put it, "obedient disciples who lost their ability to think for themselves."

In our current era of mass incarceration, it is crucial to remember the example of the Santa Cruz collective. These radicals never lost sight of how the prison system itself was at the root of the whole tragedy. Faith was aware that Manson's patriarchal "dogma was an inventory of the flaws of the society that rejected him and infantilized him as a prisoner without choice or responsibility." Aside from the Santa Cruz feminists, very few in the world of politics, journalism, academia, or popular culture have worried much about the intellectual or emotional well-being of the Manson women. Though Atkins underwent a religious conversion and attracted the notice of some who were putatively interested in her soul, for the most part, these women have never been the object of much public concern—not when they were vulnerable young women and not now, when they are elderly prisoners. (Atkins died in 2009.) The filmmaker John Waters is atypical, to say the least, in his decades-long advocacy of parole for his friend Leslie Van Houten.

Harron's film on the Manson family is due out later this year, and it is, at least in part, based on the work that Faith published in "The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten." This surprised me: not only is the book a sober, theory-driven work, but when I corresponded with Faith, in 2014, she made it clear that she took seriously her commitment to protect Van Houten's privacy. She told me that since publishing the book she has been regularly contacted by "people (usually men, often lawyers) who want to make contact with her, or who want my/her help with a planned film, theatre piece etc." "I reply briefly," she continued, "and turn down all requests." I'm not sure what made her say yes to Harron, but, whatever the provenance of the movie, it gives me hope that we might develop a more enlightened approach to the incarcerated women of the Manson family. With empathy for the surviving family members and friends of those murdered in August of 1969, I hope more of us will join John Waters and a handful of others in agitating for the parole of Van Houten and Krenwinkel. Not only have they paid their debt in time served, but, thanks to Faith, her Santa Cruz colleagues, and themselves, they were rehabilitated a long time ago.

This essay is adapted from Jeffrey Melnick's book "Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America's Most Infamous Family."

Jeffrey Melnick is a professor of American studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Read more »

Thank you to Gloop for the tip