Monday, May 18, 2020

Fountain of the World and the Family

Here's a follow up to the previous post on the Fountain of the World.  The article was written soon after the arrests of Charles Manson and the others for the Tate LaBianca murders.

Retreat Provided Food, Sanctuary

By Bill Milton

San Fernando Valley Times
December 11 1969

The bizarre Tate-LaBianca-Hinman murder cases took another macabre twist when it was revealed today that members of the accused “Manson Family” frequented and sometimes took refuge in a religious cult retreat with a violence scarred past.

A frightened teen-aged girl, her mother and an aging “sister”, who all live at the Fountain of the World commune in Box Canyon, confirmed information that accused murderer Charles Miller (sic) Manson and members of his hippie hate cult “several times” visited at the retreat.

Mrs. Ann Todd, her daughter, Virginia, 17, and Sister Nekona, an elder of the commune, recalled how they met Manson and his followers.

In an exclusive interview with a team of reporters and photographers from this newspaper at the Fountain it was further learned that several of the girls from the “family,” including Susan Denise Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and possibly Linda Kasabian and another girl, had sought sanctuary in the retreat shortly after the Tate and LaBianca murders in August.

Det. Lt. Robert Helder, key figure in the LAPD murder probes, told Hollywood Citizen News- Valley Times that investigators knew of the Manson Clan’s visits to the Fountain.  He described an “inner circle” of followers who are alleged to be the perpetrators of the thefts, auto thefts and ultimately murder, but he said the group sometimes numbered as high as 60 persons while in the Chatsworth area.

The secluded Fountain community is tucked away in a tree-shrouded roadside deep in the rocky, boulder strewn Box Canyon about eight miles from the Spahn Ranch where the hippie marauders made their home for almost a year.  The area is pretty sparsely settled.

The Fountain, which now houses 15 men, women and children, was the scene of a dynamite explosion Dec. 10, 1958, which killed “Krishna Venta,” self-proclaimed Messiah and founder of the cult, and nine of his followers.  The two cult members who assertedly detonated 40 sticks of dynamite were among those killed in the blast and fire, according to Merle Hollis, chief criminal deputy for Ventura County, who headed the investigation of the grisly event.

“Sister Nekona” and Mrs. Ann Tod described Manson and several of his followers as “friendly and polite” during their many visits.  They said on several occasions they gave them food and sometimes shelter for the girls and that they ate with the Fountain members a few times in the communal dining hall and worship area.

Mrs. Todd reported that on “two or three” occasions Manson and some of the girls took part in the commune’s Saturday night skits and musical shows.

“Charlie would sing and play his guitar for us and the girls would sing and harmonize.  I complimented them one time because they did sing so beautifully together,” said Mrs. Todd.

Both women say they had no reason to fear them at that time but Mrs. Todd confided that she was “very leery of them” and that since the story of the murders have come to light, she is “afraid for herself and the lives of her children.”

Her fears are based on rumors that remnants of the clan are still in the area.  Deputies and police are again combing the community for additional suspects in the mass murders.

Seventeen-year-old Virginia Todd, who has lived at the Fountain with her mother and younger sister Cornelia, 9, for eight years, was more vocal in expressing her fears of the group.

“I didn’t like him (Charles Manson) the first time I saw him.  He was always staring at me and kept asking me to come with him into his bus and hear him play the guitar.  I was really scared of him,” said the girl.  She referred to the green and white school bus in which Manson and several of the girls arrived at the retreat and lived in for a time.

On several points Mrs. Todd and her daughter disagreed.  Mrs. Todd said the bus stayed near the retreat for only “a few days” but Virginia was sure the bus was there “for a couple of months.”

Neither she nor Sister Nekona could theorize why Manson had come to the Fountain, whose members they say abhor violence and seek to embrace all religious faiths as being equal.  However, it is known Manson studied mysticism in prison and referred to himself as “Jesus” and “Satan.”  Virginia Tod said that some of the group referred to him as “Charlie the Guru” and “Heavenly Father” on several occasions.

Mrs. Todd again affirmed her opinion that despite her fears she considered the group “friendly” but with Virginia’s help she was able to recall an incident in which “Katie” (an alias used by Miss Atkins) called her and two other women “pigs.”

(The words “pig” and “piggy” figured prominently in the murders of musician Gary Hinman, who befriended Manson, the Sharon Tate slayings and the death of Leno LaBianca and his wife.  Miss Atkins is charged with the murder of Hinman.  A girl now in custody also told police that Manson directed his followers to go to the Benedict Canyon home of Miss Tate and eradicate the “pigs.”)

“I think it was in September or maybe August when it happened.  ‘Sadie’ (Miss Atkins) and three other girls came to the main hall of the Fountain and said they were going to stay here,” said Mrs. Todd.

“Sister Muriel, Sister Barbara and myself told them that they could not stay here.  And Sadie said that had ‘been told to come here’ or that ‘they had been sent here’ and they refused to leave.  We told her again that she could not stay and would have to leave the private premises,” continued Mrs. Todd.

She explained that the Fountain is a humanitarian group and that when Manson and the others first arrived in October or November 1968, they had helped them.  “They were just dirty, nasty looking people.  They looked like they needed a bath and some clean clothes and we did not mind helping them,” she said.

But she related at the time of the return of the four girls they had read about the arrest of most of the Manson Family at Spahn Ranch on charges of auto theft.

“We will help people but we won’t harbor criminals.  It is against our rules and against the law and we had our children to consider,” said the worried mother.

After the second refusal of the girls to leave, Mrs. Todd said one of the Fountain members went across the road to the Ventura County Fire Department station and summoned a county sheriff to the retreat.  The group went up the hill and sat in their car, according to Mrs. Todd.

“It was when Sadie was sitting in the car that she said ‘Why you pigs’ and she began to sing a song about pigs,” said Mrs. Todd.

Virginia, who was also present at the incident and says that Miss Atkins “hated me,” said she told her mother and the other women, “You’re three pigs, you’re the worst pigs I have ever seen.”  She said that the deputy ordered them to leave and they departed.

The fears of Mrs. Todd go beyond concern for the members of the Fountain and her girls to her missing son.  Hugh “Rocky” Todd, 15, has been gone since Oct. 1 and his mother fears that he may have joined with the Manson Family before they left.  His sister, Virginia, said the boy seemed to be infatuated with Katie (Miss Krenwinkel) and talked with her for long periods of time about horses and motorcycles.

Missing along with the boy were two knives which she said her brother always carried with him.  The girl said they were given to him by a man “with a long beard” who lived off and on at the Box Canyon commune.

While Manson professed to be a religious leader, Sister Nekona and Mrs. Todd said that he did not discuss the topic very much with any of their group.  Mrs. Tod remembered one instance when Manson observed her correcting one of the younger children and he assertedly told her, “Why correct a child.  A child knows what it is doing. You should let them do whatever they want to do.”

Virginia said most of the time the Family’s conversations were very confused and she felt they “were usually up on something.”   She related hearing a conversation in which Miss Atkins reportedly told another girl that “she hated killing anything, even an animal.”

Manson also made this announcement about his “philosophy.”  “Why fear anything?  Let Man do anything he wants to do or has the nerve to do.”

Both the mother and daughter said that Manson exerted a very strong influence over the group which they said also included Charles D. Watson, currently fighting extradition from Texas to face murder charges, and Paul Watkins, arrested for auto theft in the raid on Barker Ranch in Death Valley, where the clan assertedly lived following their departure from Spahn Movie Ranch in late August or early September.

“He was the Lord and Master and anything he said they did.  They never questioned him or argued with him,” said Mrs. Todd of the frail penetrating-eyed Manson, who is said to have had a hypnotic control over his followers.

They said that during the year that the clan was in the area they saw several men and women come and go.

Mrs. Todd told of a “Mary” who first arrived with Manson in the school bus and reportedly gave birth to a child on the bus.

Virginia told of a girl named Beau, whom she described as small and petite with brown hair and brown eyes.  The girl called Beau told Virginia that when she did something the group did not like they would stick long pins in her.

She told of Mary, a blond-haired attractive girl with a college education, and Stephanie, a tall girl with kinky white hair and a very bad complexion.  And also, of a woman about 30 who Virginia said was either an entertainer or “a prostitute.”

None of them recalls anyone but Manson and Watkins using last names.

Both the Todds said that they never heard any of the group mention the names Tate, Polanski, LaBianca, or Hinman but Virginia recalled one of the girls mentioning a “big rich home in Benedict Canyon.”

The Todd girl, who at one time attended Valley College, said also that she thought she recognized Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day, as being with Manson on one occasion but she could not be absolutely sure.

Manson assertedly blamed Melcher for the failure of his songwriting career for the singing group known as the Beach Boys.  Melcher, who was visited many times by Manson, lived in the Benedict Canyon home before it was rented by Miss Tate.

Even now as the case progresses in the courts the residents of the Fountain of the World would like to forget the name Charles Manson or that they ever saw him and his band.  Mrs. Todd and her children live in fear.


SixtiesRockRules! said...

Thanks for uploading this very interesting article. Somebody was obviously mistaken when referring to susan atkins as "katie". Most compelling part is the statement that terry melcher was seen in manson's company. Does anybody know if the fountain commune still exists today? Are those buildings mentioned in the article still standing?

DebS said...

I agree, the author confused Sadie with Katie.

The buildings at the Fountain still exist. But it's a lot more run down than it was back then. I do not believe that the commune itself is still in operation.

From an April 25 1994 LA Times Article:

"In property tax records, WKFL Fountain of the World is still listed as the owner of the Box Canyon monastery, even though it is also listed as being defunct. However, the buildings are leased to a private resident and property taxes are paid by Phil Shiver, a longtime canyon activist and resident."

It's interesting to note that the Fountain of the World is also known as WKFL Fountain of the World with the WKFL standing for Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love.

Later Manson would devise ATWA, Air, Water, Trees and Animals, as his mantra to promote ecology.

Matthew said...

You can drive by it on google earth at 585 Box Canyon Rd. It looks run down but there are cars there and some white trash shit laying around.There is a nice house for sale at 380 Box Canyon Rd.

The writer calls Susan "Kitie" and in the next paragraph she refers to her as "Sadie"

ColScott said...

long ago on a location scout the Col was in one of the houses without realizing it- saw the fireplace it had WKFL set up at the inscription on the hearth. Trippy.

Nobody "hid out there after the murders"- utter bullshit

Rocky Todd was with the Family iirc

Penkovic/Venta had the scam down with the acronyms and the robes. Charlie's girls Squeaky and Sandy did the robes thing later. I think he also did a crucifixion recreation there a time or two.

Penkovic was obsessed with two things - fucking all the women he could trick and not paying taxes. The taxes thing was intense, like Hubbard intense. He didn't want to pay alimony either.

He would take 5- 10 people on trips to fight forest fires then fuck the chosen apostle in the back of a station wagon.

He got blown up because he fucked the wrong wives.

The Fountain followers were in some ways dumber than the Family. They weren't on drugs and they believed his Jesus bullshit. I think some of them remain in Alaska to this day awaiting Krishna's return.

Dan S said...

Very edifying postscript from col deb n matthew.... Thanks.
The similarities between Manson and Ventna are too uncanny. Charlie stole his rap for sure

starviego said...

Notice that the article does not address the similarities between the philosophy of the FOTW and Charlie's own Helter Skelter beliefs.

cielodrivecom said...

Starviego, this article was published on December 11, 1969. No one knew what Helter Skelter was at that point in time

grimtraveller said...

SixtiesRockRules! said...

Most compelling part is the statement that terry melcher was seen in manson's company

Well, Melcher was up at Spahn on two occasions, he even attested to that. Also the daughter that mentions Melcher only thought she recognized him and said she couldn't be sure and given that there were disagreements between the witnesses on some details and the possibility Linda Kasabian was one of the women up at the Fountain, I'd be inclined to not bet my house on anything major they said about anyone else.

ColScott said...

Nobody "hid out there after the murders"- utter bullshit

According to Leslie Van Houten, "Tex saw that I had been talking to Diane and he told me don't talk to anybody about what happened and that was sort of one of my first indicators of why not, you know. I didn't ask him that because questions weren't asked, but the idea that everybody wasn't involved, that was the first indicator that there was something else. And then they took, uh, he arranged for Pat and I to go to a place that was a couple miles away called the fountain of the world and we were isolated from the rest of the people at the ranch."
So make of that what you will.

starviego said...

Notice that the article does not address the similarities between the philosophy of the FOTW and Charlie's own Helter Skelter beliefs

The article doesn't really address any of the FOTW's beliefs.

cielodrivecom said...

this article was published on December 11, 1969

You know, all the while I read this article, I kept getting a sense of deja vu and then it occurred to me that I read it on your site either last year or the year before !
What is interesting is that some things {Manson as unquestioned leader, pig talk, the philosophy on kids, for example} were clearly visible to people with no real vested interest in the case and that the Susan Atkins article hadn't yet been published.......

Matt said...

One line in the article jumped off the page at me:

None of them recalls anyone but Manson and Watkins using last names.

That seems like it hints at a power structure within the males in the Family.

DebS said...

Matt said...
One line in the article jumped off the page at me:

None of them recalls anyone but Manson and Watkins using last names.

That seems like it hints at a power structure within the males in the Family.


It could be that or it could mean that Paul wasn't all in on the "One" concept. He wanted to maintain his individuality and let people know he was his own person. When introducing himself to new people he probably told them his last name. That should have been a red flag for Manson because as it turned out Paul was one of the most outspoken people against him.

Most of the others were more than happy to lose their identity and follow Manson blindly. Although, Sandy Good pretty much held her ground as far as her name was concerned. She didn't have a nickname and the only name she used that wasn't hers was Pugh, her former fiance's last name.

orwhut said...

With Charles Manson, Charles Watson, and (unknown to me) Charles Allen Beard, also the easily confused Watkins and Watson, I can see why Mr. Watson is often called Tex.
Paul Watkins is sometimes called Little Paul but I don't remember another Paul. Was there a Big Paul?

Matthew said...

There was no Big Paul. It is just that Paul Watkins was a little guy and Manson loved giving everyone a nick name. Part of owning them and being in control.

orwhut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
orwhut said...

Thanks Matthew. I once worked with a couple of guys who's name was Dick. Ones wife said that at a previous employment there was a man called Big Dick, a man called Little Dick, and I think there was a Dick or two left over.

Terrapin said...

I read somewhere (maybe Lynettes book?) that he became Little Paul after Paul Crockett came on the scene to distinguish between the two

orwhut said...

Now, that makes sense. I hadn't thought about Paul Crockett.

Doug said...


Doug said...