Monday, March 1, 2021

Weighing the Value of Life Versus the Value of a Life Sentence: Part II


"Never mistake law for justice. Justice is an ideal, and law is a tool."

- L.E. Modesitt Jr.

"The Consequences of our actions take hold of us, quite indifferent to our claim that meanwhile we have improved."

- Frederich Nietzche

Below is an updated revisit to one of the first posts I ever did for this blog. California has recently announced a minor change in the parole system which, some think, could affect a couple of the prisoners associated with the TLB case. I thought this would be an appropriate time to take another look at why I believe none of them will ever be released....

Some say Susan Atkins deserved to be paroled and maybe that's so. At the time of her death in 2009, Susan had been California's longest serving female inmate. Susan had become a Born-again Christian and turned her life over to God. Susan did great work over the years helping to mentor other prisoners, and once was able to prevent one from committing suicide. Susan participated in almost every prison self-help and educational program that was available, and even earned an Associate Degree. In all her years behind bars, Susan had only received less than half-dozen minor write-ups. In addition to Susan's impressive post incarceration record, in 2008 she was diagnosed with Brain Cancer. She was granted a "Compassionate Release" hearing at which she could not raise her head, or even stay awake. Susan was partially paralyzed, had trouble even speaking, and could not have possibly posed a threat to anyone. Certainly, it would be merciful to let this woman go home and die among her family. 

But Susan Atkins was the textbook definition of a cold-blooded killer.  Susan giggled and laughed when recalling what happened to Sharon that August night in her taped testimony. She was proud to tell them what happened to Sharon...

"Sharon went through quite a few changes (Laughs), quite a few changes."  

Susan helped to kill Sharon and then used her blood as ink. Susan danced, and laughed her way through the trial with the other girls, and acted as if the entire episode was one big joke. All in front of grieving families and friends of her victims. Susan showed no remorse. None. Susan looked down at a pregnant Sharon, who had just watched her closest friends get slaughtered and was about to lose both her life, and the life of her unborn baby, and told her she had "No Mercy" for her.

Q- Did you do anything to Sharon Tate at that point?

A- I went over and grabbed her by the hand, and put my arm around her neck. She looked at me and begged to let me have her sit down and I was told, before we even got there, no matter what they beg don't give them any leeway. Anyway, I went over and put her down on the couch and looked into her face knowing that anything that I would say, I was saying to myself, in a sense reassuring myself. I looked at her and said, "Woman I have no mercy for you."

-Susan Atkins Grand jury Testimony 12/5/1969

How do we explain showing mercy to Susan Atkins to the Tate Family? 

Some say Patricia Krenwinkel deserves to be paroled and maybe that's so. When Susan died, Pat became the longest serving female inmate in the California system, and has remained so to this day. If you think Susan's post incarceration record was impressive, just wait until you hear Pat's. Pat has maintained a nearly prefect prison disciplinary record. Almost literally nothing as far as write-ups in all these years. She has received a Bachelors Degree, and participated in Alcoholics/Narcotics Anonymous for Decades, She teaches in prison, works with animals, and has always been considered the one who has shown the most remorse. 

But aside from Tex, Pat was the primary butcher in the TLB murders. They could not have happened without Pat. Pat participated in murder on BOTH nights. After killing the Labianca's in their own house, Pat put a carving fork in Leno's stomach after he was already dead, and then used Leno's blood to write messages on the wall. Between Abagail and Rosemary, Pat stabbed one or the other almost 70 times. Pat also admitted in her parole hearings that she was not under the influence of drugs on either night. She did this with a clear head. Something pretty scary inside of Pat has the potential to come out:

Presiding Member De Leon - Yes, any inaccuracies or corrections or whatever?

Inmate Krenwinkle - All right. With Abagail Folger, I chased her outside onto the lawn and I stabbed Abagail Folger.  How many times? I couldn't tell you. But, at the time I left her body then, I went an called Tex who went over to the body then and stabbed it too. And as far as the Labianca house, when I was in the bedroom with Miss Labianca, I stabbed Miss Labianca a couple times at which she fell to the floor and again, I went and Tex came back in. Because at the time, the weapon I had would not work. I mean, it was not established. So I went and I called Tex and he went into the bedroom then. And I am trying to remember, there was something else. I did not write "War" on the man's stomach. I did take the blood of his stomach and I did put the fork in his stomach and I wrote the words on the wall.

How do we release a woman who was one the primary perpetrators of one of the most heinous crimes in the history of the Country, stabbed multiple people to death, wrote messages with their blood, and when asked once in a parole hearing who she felt she had harmed the most answered, "Herself" ???

Some say Leslie Van Houten deserves to be paroled and maybe that's so. If there was ever a case to be made that one of the Manson Killer's was young, impressionable, and influenced by Charlie and the others to the point that it was really not all of their fault- Leslie Van Houten would be the one to make it for. The youngest of the killers, and also the one who had the least personal physical involvement, Leslie was the one who everyone thought had the best chance at parole eventually. Leslie actually was out on parole for a spell between trials. Leslie proved she could be a functioning and productive member of society when given an opportunity to do so.  Leslie has a record almost as clean as Pat's. Leslie has also earned a Bachelors Degree, and has participated in every self-help program available. Lulu even helped to teach other prisoners' how to read, and study to get degrees themselves. Leslie was interviewed on TV during a special early on after she was transferred off of death row. She was shown in a classroom smiling and speaking out in front of the class in one scene. The prison seemed more like a camp in the video.  In another scene, she was interviewed, and very confidently explained to the interviewer the California sentencing matrix guidelines. She told the interviewer she would be up for parole in 7 years, and would be doing about 7 to 15 years for her crime. That was the average time for a person who had a similar "Commitment offense." Then the parole hearings started. The other Killers who were at Cielo or Waverly, and Bobby and Charlie,  would regularly get the longest possible denials (5 years) allowed at the time. Leslie would regularly get two or three year denials. At one point, Leslie got a 1 year denial, and the board told her it was a "Reward" for her solid efforts.  Leslie has a very impressive post incarceration record for sure. 

But Leslie Van Houten was quite aware of what was going to happen the night she went to the Labianca's and ASKED in. Leslie participated in the torture of a woman who was begging for her life while listening to her husband being murdered in the next room, and then went in the kitchen and made a snack from the refrigerator. Please never forget Leslie knew how this would end up and she WANTED to be part of it:

Presiding commissioner Ferguson- "So she told you all of that including that it seemed wrong and was hard to do. And you felt left out and wanted to be included the next time? Is that correct?"

Inmate Van Houten- "Yes. Early at my going to the ranch, Pat was the one who kept an eye on me. And she was kind of like, I guess placed like a big sister to me. And I was devoted to her. And I knew that she had crossed the line on her commitment to beginning the race war. And it was important to me that I cross that line too. So I wanted to go. I wanted to show my commitment to this belief system."

Presiding commissioner Ferguson- "But she told you that is seemed wrong. Didn't what she told you about her behavior and her actions influence you that it was - this may be wrong?"

Inmate Van Houten - "No. whether it felt that way or not it had to be done."
Leslie said the above not when she was still young, and under the thrall of the group. Leslie said the above at her parole hearing in 2013. Less than 10 years ago. What example do we set by freeing the one member of the Manson Family who actually ASKED to be part of these brutal murders ???

Some say Bruce Davis deserves to be paroled, and maybe that's so. Hell, Bruce didn't even participate in the TLB crimes. Bruce has also found God, and, in fact, helped to convert Susan Atkins to religion as well. Bruce hasn't had any marks against him in prison since around 1980. That is a very long time. I mentioned earlier that a 1 year denial used to be the Parole Board's way of  telling the inmate they are doing a good job and getting close to a date to be paroled. Bruce got 23 consecutive 1 year denials at one point. That must be some kind of record. Bruce was able to earn a Doctoral Degree in Philosphy of Religion, which Bruce has helped to minister others in the prison. Bruce has married, had kids, and tried to live an honest life behind bars. Bruce is obviously a guy who has done his best to turn his life around.  

But Bruce is a wild card. We will probably never really know all that Bruce knows. Bruce was present for Gary, and did nothing to stop it. Bruce not only did nothing to stop Shorty from being killed- he participated in killing him: 

"We were at the ranch early in the morning. Manson came down, said, "Were going to kill Shorty." I said, "What for?" "Well he's a snitch." Charlie is there, Bill Bass is there. He says "You guys take him down the hill to get some car parts, and kill him on the way down the hill."  I was in the car when Steve Grogan hit Shorty with the pipe wrench. Charles Watson stabbed him. I was in the back seat, with Grogan."

" They took Shorty out, they had to go down a hill to a place. I stayed in the car for quite a while but what ... then I went down the hill later on and then that's when I cut Shorty with the knife, after he was... well, I don't know if he was dead or not. He didn't bleed when I cut him on the shoulder."

- Bruce Davis 2012 Parole Hearing Testimony

Bruce was there when Zero committed "suicide" with a loaded gun, and was the only other person present to have touched the gun. That admission sort of led to another. They found no fingerprints on the gun, and as Bruce admitted to touching it, we can assume it was wiped clean. Why? When Joel Pugh also happened to commit suicide, Bruce just happened to be in the same foreign country at the same time. Bruce had a strange habit of being in close proximity to a lot of dying people. in 1973 the police looked into him as a suspect in the murders of Doreen Gaul and James Sharp. He had dated girls living in the same Scientology pad as Doreen. Bruce was even considered a Zodiac Killer suspect for half a minute. Bruce got around, Bruce served as "Comptroller" for the Family, and certainly would have known about almost all of their cashflow and secrets. But Bruce boldly told the authorities he had no reason to cooperate or ask for immunity in other crimes when he already had two life sentences to serve out. Bruce is the one person outside of Charlie who really might have been able to answer some of our unanswered questions. Bruce is also the one person outside of Tex who really might have been dangerous if released, and that is really scary because he has come the closest of all of them to actually being released.

How can we feel safe knowing the shadiest, and sneakiest, of the Manson killers is walking among us? 

Some say Bobby Beausoleil deserves to be paroled and maybe that's so. Even in my own opinion, Bobby probably had the most potential to have a productive life outside of jail. I think Bobby would have gone the way of Clem had he been released. Bobby had the talent, smarts, and personality to make it in society. What he was able to accomplish behind bars is astonishing. Bobby created his own equipment out of scraps. Bobby was able to organize an entire band, and release music. Bobby even did a movie soundtrack while behind bars. Bobby had a website where he promoted his music and art. On that site he had a Q/A forum where, when answering questions, Bobby engaged with his readers and came off as intelligent and articulate. 

But Bobby is a lying fraud. Bobby Beausoleil today is trying to portray himself as the classis case of  "naïve young kid gets caught up in wrong crowd and makes one tragic mistake." But this was not just a forgettable innocent mistake. Bobby killed a harmless guy who called him a friend. A guy who had helped him in the past. Bobby went to this man's house and was happily welcomed in. Then he tried to rob the guy. When that went nowhere, he tortured the guy over two days. He let him slowly bleed to death, and listened to him beg for his life. Then Bobby left him to be eaten by maggots:

Deputy Guenther-  "What did Bobby tell you he went back to the house for?"

Ms. Brunner- "He tried to erase that paw-print on the wall."

Deputy Guenther- "And how many days later did he go back to the house?"

Ms. Brunner -  "Two or three days after Sunday, Tuesday or Wednesday." 

Deputy Guenther - "Alright. Did he describe to you what the house looked like or smelled like or anything like that?"

Ms. Brunner - "He told me it smelled terrible. He could hear the maggots."

Deputy Guenther - "Hear the maggots what?"

Ms. Brunner - "In Gary. Eating Gary."

- Mary Brunner interrogation statement 12/4/1969


Bobby still lies about why he did this to this day. I have read a lot of testimony from court hearings and parole hearings over the years, and Bobby is the only one involved who mentions going to Gary's over a drug burn. Bobby himself has changed his reason for killing Gary once or twice. I think he feels that this new story is the most reasonable for a parole board, and the one that makes him most human. But what Bobby did was not human. Bobby has been flagged from time to time in prison for breaking minor rules, and has produced art in jail that is not as holy as his parole hearing speeches would lead you to believe he leads his life these days. Yes,  Bobby still lets the rebel attitude shine through on occasion. Here is what Bobby once said personally before he decided the best way to get free was to distance from Charlie and the Family:

"I am at war with everyone in this courtroom. It's nothing personal but the world has been gattling at my brothers and sisters and as long as they are ripping off our world, our friends and our children, you better pray I never get out."

Do we really need to send a guy out into society who once warned us all what would happen if we did?

Some say Tex Watson deserves to be paroled and maybe that's so. Tex has made the very best of his situation. Tex has turned his life over to the Lord in a way more complete than any of the others. Tex runs his own ministry and has spent many years counseling, and helping, others. Tex has stayed pretty  free of incidents during his incarceration, and has served as an example to many. Tex earned a Bachelors Degree in Business Management. Tex got married while in prison, and has become father to several children. To listen to Tex today, is to listen to a model of civility and compassion. Tex has shown remorse over the years for his actions, and even had the support of a family member of one of the victim's for a time (Suzan Laberge). Tex had every reason to stay out of trouble if given a second chance. 

But Tex was the Quarterback of the TLB crimes. What Tex did on those two nights has shocked the Nation for over 50 years. It was the actions Tex committed that created the legend Charlie lived. Every scary thing that people say and write about the Myth that is Charles Manson, was inspired by the reality of Tex Watson. There is a special place in Hell for guys like this to burn. Charlie was one thing. A smart person could see Charlie coming. Tex was the guy sitting next to you in algebra class. They guy you never thought about twice. It is easy to see a guy like Charlie for what he is. Tex, on the other hand, is the guy you never thought about twice. To me that is so much scarier...

"As we staggered out onto the front porch, he kept screaming, "Help me. Oh my God, Help me."  I stabbed him over and over, blindly, the whole world spinning and turning as red as the blood that was smearing and smattering everywhere. Finally I shot him twice, and he slumped on the stone porch."

"I ran across the grass as Katie tackled her. Suddenly she stopped fighting. Looking up at me as she lay on her back, she whispered without emotion, "I give up, you've got me."  It was as of  the knife and my hand were one, Plunging up and down. I felt nothing.

- Charles Tex Watson (Will You die For Me)

Do we really need one of the most dangerous animals in the history of our Country moving in across the street?

Some say Charles Manson deserved to be paroled and maybe that's so. Charlie was not present at the Tate or Labiancas house when the murder's occurred. Charlie had spent decades in prison for murders others committed. At the end, Charlie was an old man who just wanted to go back to the desert and play his guitar. Charlie was always smart enough not to get his own hands dirty, if possible, and shouldn't be held accountable all of his life for the crimes others concocted and committed just because he was vaguely aware they were going on. Charlie helped the environment, and protected animals and had a lot of good intentions that he could spread to the world if he had jsut been given the chance. 

But Charlie was the mastermind of these crimes. Whatever the motive, those kids were riled up and sent off by Charlie to do the things that we still try to understand today. Between the stealing, the rapes, the beatings, the murder of Shorty, and the shooting of Crowe, Charlie earned his ending regardless of TLB. Charles Manson was the face of Evil to a generation of people. 

How would we have gotten our children to sleep at night if we had let loose the " Most Evil Man on the Planet" ???

"It was fun tearing up the Tate house, o.k. You should have seen it. People were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. (Defendant is laughing)"

Charles "Tex' Watson speaking to court appointed Doctor.

In the over 10 years since I originally came up with the idea for this post I hope I have gained experience and wisdom. I have met some of the people close to the Family. I have met some people who correspond with them in jail. I have also softened with age lol.  I am not the same ole' firecracker who is ready to engage with every blogger who comes along for days on end to defend my points. I try to be a more positive and empathetic person these days. However, I still haven't changed my ultimate position on this subject. None of the Family should ever get out. 

The scale of justice is still tilted towards the value of life when weighed against a life sentence. It has been getting closer recently, but it still slants in the right direction, even if ever so gently. I believe that age will catch the Killers before the scale completely levels out. Since I first wrote this a few of them have actually gotten the board to vote in favor of parole. Bruce has gotten the votes 4 or 5 times. Still, none of them are free. And a couple were getting close back in the day, and have recently as well. I earlier mentioned Leslie and her 1 year denial. Leslie had a huge amount of support, and momentum. A network of people. Over the years, Movie Directors have visited her and Stars have taken up her cause. Books have been written and "Friends of Leslie" organizations have been founded in support of Leslie. Combined with her minimal personal involvement, and sparkling prison record, How in the world could Leslie NOT get out? 

A couple of people are to thank for that. Lets start with Doris Tate.

In 1982 Doris heard Leslie had gathered a few hundred letters of support and was close to getting paroled. That's when our Hero got to work. Doris was able to generate 350,000 letters in opposition. Leslie got denied. Then she really went to work. Doris was one of the primary few people responsible for the passing of "Prop 8" which among other things allowed for Victim impact statements at parole hearings. This was really affective. The Denials immediately became longer. And, also thanks in large part to Doris, Denials were allowed to be longer. The Victims Families didn't have to relive it as often. Oh, and by the way, no more conjugal visits either. Doris Tate did the early work and she really kept it up as long as she could. She gave the first Victim impact statement. She was willing to sit across Tex, and look him square in the eye. She went to as many parole hearings as she could, and when she could no longer attend, her family took her place. Deb Tate in particular has been tireless in her efforts to be at the hearings and do her part to keep all of them locked up. Others mock her for this. I forever salute her. Most of society does not study this case in depth. They do not understand the family history of Deb Tate they way some of us do. The people on the board, and the general population, view Deb as a grieving sister to one of the victims. And knowing what happened to her sister, Debra's words come across as very powerful and effective. She has been an extremely helpful advocate for the cause regardless of her motivation for doing so, or anyone's personal view of her. 

Then more recently there are the Governors. The last line of defense has held every time it has needed to. The ability of the Governors to have the final say on any of the Manson Family killers being released will not change with the new system. The government simply will not show up any longer at the hearings. That keeps the chances for anyone associated with the Manson name of ever getting out pretty much nil. (Nil is British for zero) There are many people who will tell me the injustice of selectively keeping certain people in jail for much longer than others who committed similar crimes. Others go as far as to call the killers "Political Prisoners." There are a few lawyers associated with this blog and I will leave the legality to them. I am putting my faith in the idea that if the Governor's are denying them parole, that it is within their legal authority to do so. If that is the case. Then there is nothing illegal or unjust about it. They were sentenced to life sentences for taking the lives of others. If they should serve life- that would be the justice they were promised. They are not owed less by the law because a clock ticked, or because they finally decided to play ball. Leslie does not get to decide how long her sentence will be herself, and Pat does not get to make a deal that if she behaves, she is guaranteed a second chance. Let me remind you, that for not a burp in History all of them except Bruce would be long dead. They were sentenced to death. They got a break and it was rescinded, only to be reinstated, with them luckily caught in middle. They got a second chance to live. Their victims did not. It was a technicality that saved the killers, so if it is a technicality that keeps them locked up- I still think they got the better end of the deal. Don't you?  The Killers got to live long lives. All of them had sexual visitations in jail for years. They got married, had kids, got educations. Some became Grandparents. Tex had his own office for awhile with a phone and computer in the prison chapel. A couple of them had websites and did business. They got to experienced some sort of life.

The victims did not. It all ended for them back in those few scary months in 1969. The crimes that still shock a nation today. There are just not many crimes like this. It is why we obsess over it. The Government only gets a few chances to show the largest amount of people that there are some things you just can't do. Only a few cases get this type of attention for such a long period of time. The Manson name was a badge the Family killers took on proudly. They never seemed to understand that although the X' on their foreheads would fade with time, their association with the Manson name and crimes never will. Life in jail is the consequence they must face for the choices they made. We must not try to dissect the legal definition of  how long a life sentence is supposed to last. It is called a "Life" sentence. It offers a chance or opportunity for parole. It does not guarantee it. There is a process for how that decision gets made, if/when it does. The inmates do not get to dictate that process or timeline themselves. Do we really want criminals sitting down with a calculator and working out the math when deciding on if they should do a crime? Is that  a deterrent? There are NO Guarantees in life when you break into someone's house and torture them - write in their blood - make a snack and leave, and then laugh about it in court. Within 15 years of going to jail, Leslie was already complaining she was being treated unfairly. She has been waging war on the "Unfair" system ever since. There are defenders, books, and celebrities all making excuses for her and arguing her sentence is unfair for her crime. Where was the remorse? The genuine comprehension of the hurt and pain she caused? Where was it with ANY of them. Go back and look at the quotes in this post. All were made AFTER the murders. There is laughing. There are threats. Leslie is still saying "It had to be done" 40 plus years later. Have you ever seen the crime scene photo's? Ever read the autopsy reports? What these animals did was inhuman. They beat these people, stabbed them, defiled their bodies, and painted messages with their blood. Then when brought to trial, they danced and joked around with absolutely no respect at all for the people who were suffering and mourning. Leslie was screwed because she did not "Go home" in 7 to 15 years? That would be justice to you? That is how much you value the life of the victims? That should be the end result of her life sentence? What is the value of a life sentence if you give it, and the person you gave it to believes they will be probably be home in an average of 10 years? The sentence given to Leslie, and the others, was Death and then reduced to Life. They are not entitled to anything less no matter how long they wait, or how well they behave. The Killers now want justice. The Families of the victims do as well. 

Shorty, Gary, Steven, Sharon, Jay, Abagail, Voytek, Leno, Rosemary. They can't fight for justice themselves any longer. They have not been around to do that for a very long time. The killers are counting on that, They hope that as more and more time goes by, that people will start to forget. But I cannot forget the victims. I think of the violent way their lives ended and the fear and pain they endured. I think of the way their families and friends had to watch their killers sing and dance through the courtroom halls each day, making a joke about the loss of people they loved dearly. I think of what the victims had to go through in the final minutes of their lives. I cannot stop thinking that none of them ever got a chance to live out their hopes and dreams. I always remember that none of them ever get to "Go home" again. 

Because of the vicious way they are responsible for that, I believe that Pat, Leslie, Tex, Bobby, and Bruce never will either...

- Your Favorite Saint

Monday, February 8, 2021

Drugs or Money?

 "I fear that if the matter is beyond humanity, it is certainly beyond me"

- Arthur Conan Doyle

"All motives for murder are covered by 4 L's: Love, Lust, Lucre and Loathing"

- P.D. James

"By the summer of 1969, most expenses at Spahn's Ranch were financed by drug deals and auto-theft. All activity around Charles Manson and the men he trusted concerned procuring drugs, or money for drugs."

- Susan Atkins (The Myth of Helter Skelter)

I worked as a Restaurant Manager from my final year in college until my late 30's. It was brutal. 65 hours a week of nights, weekends and Holidays. It was a lonely and miserable existence. No chance of a real relationship working those kind of hours. Not even the possibility of the random hook-up either. All the girls were passed out, or asleep, by the time I got out of the building. Nope, when others were finished paying the tab and on to the real fun, I was helping the dishwashers and busboys take out the trash so I could turn off the lights, lock the doors, and get out of there as early in the middle of the night as possible. Then I would go home and watch whatever crap happened to be on television in the wee hours of the morning, while using Coors-light and shitty weed, to try and get to sleep before the sun came up. All of that great fun so that I could get some kind of, mostly passed out, rest before going back and doing it all over again. But it wasn't all bad. Sometimes it had it's moments. I met many very cool people. I got to eat and drink for free for almost 20 years. I was able to be part of the party- in fact host the party- without having to spend any money. Most importantly though, I learned lifelong people skills that would eventually serve me very well in my next career incarnation. You see, from line-cooks to servers and bartenders, office accountants to dishwashers- I had to communicate with all types of individuals. Single moms, to married dad's. College students to high-school drop-outs. Career hospitality people to kids working their very first part-time job. I met and worked with all of them. More often than not, the challenge of trying to relate to so many different types of personalities ended up leaving me feeling quite off balance. But it usually turned out alright and, believe it or not, once or twice I was even able to make a connection. One such connection came through a game I created, spur of the moment- and by accident, to play with the hostess' that I worked with. The Hostess' were often 16 to 20 year old girls. They worked two or three shifts a week after school, or on weekends. Most of the time they were consumed with school, parents, or boyfriend drama. It was tough for me to figure out a way to break through and earn the confidence of this particular younger group of people, without trying too hard and looking cheesy. That is, until the game came along. The game was called "Drugs or Money?" 

The rules were as simple as how the game itself came about. One day a couple came into the restaurant who were really ridiculously mismatched. The hostess sat them at a table and as she was walking back to the hostess stand, she passed me. As she did, she made a face at me as if the say "Why would she come in here with a guy like that?" She never said a word, but you could see the question in her eyes and facial expression. So at the exact moment she walked by me, without looking directly at her or anything else, I said "Either drugs or money." The hostess burst out laughing. She kept looking back at the couple, and giggling, her entire walk back across the restaurant. After that every time we saw a mismatched couple come into the restaurant together, we would walk by each other and venture our guess as to which of the two was the reason a particular girl was with a specific guy. Eventually the other hostess' started to ask us why we were always saying the words drugs or money to each other, and we let them in on our game. After a short time, every hostess at the restaurant knew there would be an inside joke going with me whenever we worked the same shifts. Believe it or not it made me just cool enough to be able to communicate with these young girls about other things when I needed to. It was an awesome thing at the time to break through with a group of people who otherwise made me feel very awkward and out of date lol

So, that brings us up to date. Why this matters today:

I wrote a post recently exploring the Revenge motive as a possible reason for the Tate crime. I have long studied the Helter Skelter, and Music Snub Revenge motives in much more detail than any of the others. I have written posts about both. The motive(s) I would rank next in order of probability would be "Copycat/Get a brother out of jail." I think George Stimson wrote a fine book making the best case for that motive. I couldn't do a better job than he did. That leaves the The "Bottom of the barrel" motives.  It is those two motives that I am going to take a quick look at today. Robbery or Drug burn. Or, in other words, "Drugs or Money". See where this is going? 

Could the true motive for the Cielo crimes have been attached to either Drugs or Money?

"I believe Manson went up to the house and Manson wanted sell cocaine and marajuana. He showed Jay and Wojciech the product. They were going to buy some if it, but the two of them beat him up at the gate. The next night Manson sent the Family up." 

- Jim Markham, Beauty industry Icon and close friend of Jay Sebring, speaking to Hollywood Reporter

So what the Hell was really going on in Sharon's clique of friends? Out of respect, and maybe out of deference to a career military father, much of what these people were quietly doing behind the scenes in their lives has really never been totally outed. I think it is fair to keep some of it under the rug if it is irrelevant to why they were killed. But if it played a role, then maybe not so much. I usually like to only use direct quotes from people involved, or facts that were entered and accepted as such in a court of law. I very rarely use anyone who writes rumors and uses anonymous sources- as a reference in my posts. I try to stick to trial manuscripts, parole hearing transcripts, or direct quotes from by the subjects/participants themselves. This is a little tougher to do when trying to argue these types of motives. So today I am going to mention a few people who normally. I probably wouldn't.

Bobby swears that Truman Capote is a liar. He says he was misquoted by Truman, and that he never said most of what was in the interview Truman published with him at San Quintin. Maybe that is so. But Bobby is a proven liar in my opinion, so who knows how much of the interview was legitimate, and how much was Truman making mashed potatoes? I would guess it was a little of both. So, the challenge then becomes figuring if any quotes Truman attributed to Bobby can be backed up by unrelated testimony elsewhere. Maybe this is one:

"They burned people on dope deals. Sharon Tate and that gang, They picked up kids on the Sunset Strip, and took them home and stripped them. Made movies of it. Ask the cops. They found the movies. Not that they would've told you about that"

- Bobby Beausoleil in interview with Truman Capote at San Quinten

Now that may sound like some Truman Capote sensationalism, or Bobby making some stuff up to sound interesting. Either could be true. However this next quote attributed to Actor/Director Dennis Hopper in an interview with The LA Free Press is sort of curious if you read both:

"They had fallen into sadism, machoism and bestiality. And they recorded it all on videotape too. The LA police told me this. I know 3 days before they were killed 25 people were invited to that house to a mass whipping of a dealer on the Sunset Strip who had given them bad dope."

That is a pretty interesting coincidence, Sunset Strip, Drug-burn, video-tapes. A set of people who really cant be connected to each other at all, and both came up with very similar claims about the lifestyles of the victims. Again, while intriguing, this is not really the type of testimonial evidence I normally like to offer. The problem with using this type of material is verification. What else do you have besides the word of the person saying it? Even if it is more than one person saying it. It just gets murkier and murkier when it comes to "Video-tapes."

In "One Hand Jerking: Reports from an Investigative Satirist" Paul Krasner recounts how Hal Lipsett, the legendary private investigator on whose career The Conversation was based, told him that "Elements of the LA police force were offering seven straight hours of celebrity skin flicks seized from the Polanski residence for a quarter of a million dollars". 

We know these video's kept coming up over and over, but we don't know where they are now, or how/why they never surfaced after 50 years? I prefer to stick with what we do know. We know the official record of the crime scene. We know the only video that was reported discovered by Sergeant Mike McGann was screened at the Police Academy and returned to the house after it showed only Roman and Sharon making love. In all of the years since, no other tapes have ever surfaced. That is what we know. As in the video-tapes, this is the problem you encounter over and over when it comes to the Drug Burn theory. Factual evidence of drug dealing, or even personal encounters, between the Victims and Family members are very hard to verify. Just like the videos, second-hand stories and rumors are frequent. Actual, verifiable examples are not.

"Charles, Tex Watson, who allegedly led the death squad responsible for the carnage at Cielo Drive, lived for a time on - guess where- Wonderland Avenue. During that time, curiously enough, Watson co-owned and worked in a wig shop in Beverly Hills, Crown Wigs Creations LTD., that was located near the mouth of Benedict Canyon. Meanwhile one of Jay Sebring's primary claims-to-fame was his expertise in crafting Men's hairpieces, which he did in his shop near the mouth of  Laurel Canyon. A typical day then in the late 1960's would find Watson crafting men's hairpieces for an upscale Hollywood crowd near Benedict Canyon, and then returning home to Laurel Canyon, while Sebring crafted men's hairpieces for an upscale clientele near Laurel Canyon and then returned home to Benedict Canyon. And then one crazy day, as well all know, one of them became a killer and the other his victim. But there is nothing odd about that, I suppose, so let's move on...."

- Dave McGowan (Inside the L.C.- The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation Part 1)

Once again, a very interesting coincidence. Tex and Jay were in very close proximity. BUT, who can verify that they ever met, or knew, each other? 

Think about something: 

There is no testimony from any court transcript, parole hearing, nor statement from a witness or killer, that says Jay made any statement or acknowledgment indicating he knew Tex when they were all in the living room before Tex Shot him. In all of the years, and all the times the various killers changed their stories, in no version did any of the killers and victims know each other. Why wouldn't Jay have said something if he knew Tex? If you recognize a person who has appeared in front of you with a gun in the middle of the night, wouldn't the first words out of your mouth be "Hey Tex, what are you doing here?" If Jay knew his attacker, don't you think he would have tried any way he could have to talk to him and reason his way out of the situation? I sorta do. There is no testimony anywhere that says Jay tried to do that. In fact- the one consistent story they have all told over the years is that Tex was asked who he was, which gave him the chance to utter that infamous phrase about being the Devil there to do the Devils work. Sigh. We can go on all day with rumors and speculation. Bill Scanlon Murphy has a whole story you can read about Mob connections and 40K drug deals between Jay and the Manson people at Cielo, but I am not going to recreate that garbage here, because none of it can be backed up by actual evidence or factual testimony by any of the principals or witness'. 

Is there any actual witness or victim testimony about drugs, money or either being part of motive? 

Well... there is Tex:

"There were three basic motives behind the murders that took place sometime past midnight on August 9. The most obvious was the one that Charlie had articulated to us that afternoon: to do what blackie didn't have the energy or smarts to do- Ignite Helter Skelter and bring in Charlie's Kingdom. There was also the need for more cash, first of all to finance our preparations for Armageddon- the same thing that motivated the drug burn and Bernard Crowe's supposed murder, the killing of Gary Hinman, and all of the proposed abductions and murders in the Chatsworth area, and also to pay $600 bail for Mary Brunner, who had been arrested earlier in the day for using a stolen Sears credit card."

"Beyond getting money, and bringing down Helter Skelter, there was a third, less important motive; to clear Bobby Beausoleil of the  Hinman slaying by committing a similar crime while he was in jail."

"I want all the money you've got here" I barked, and Abagail took Sadie into her bedroom and gave her the money in her wallet. When they came back with only 70 dollars, I shouted: "You mean that's all you've got?"  "How much do you want?" Frykowski asked. "We want thousands."

- Tex Watson (Will You die for Me)

But, if you keep reading on in Tex's story, he says he starts stabbing Jay almost immeidately after saying that. He never waited, or gave anyone a chance to get any money. Nor, did he take money he saw. Jay had already been shot at this point. He was certainly no threat. Why would Tex ask for money then start the blood-bath withought giving them a chance to produce any? Did they really go there to rob Cielo on that August night? Was that the true intent? After all, Tex gives three motives. His explanation in "Will you Die for Me" leaves me with questions. Tex is also a proven self-serving liar. 

And then there is Susan Atkins:

"An ever increasing appetite for an illegal substance that pushes Charles Manson further and further into illegal means of obtaining it. Robberies and swindles were performed, sometimes including very dangerous drug burns. And all to obtain  more money for drugs. By the summer of 1969, Family members were being encouraged to steal from their friends and even their parent's homes to help make up for this drug deficit. And the best part about all of this, as far as Charles Manson was concerned, is that they were giving him the money and he didn't have to get near the crimes. He thought he was faultless because he hadn't gone out and actually stole the money himself. This was a pattern he would try and do again later."

-Susan Atkins (Myth of  Helter Skelter) 

Susan is also a well-documented liar who has told about half a dozen different versions of the story over the years. Maybe we should review what the authorities who investigated thought when they first came upon this. To do that we must consult "The Oracle"

I know Bugs beat up the milk-man, lied to the Col about the motive, and is an all-around terrible guy. I hope he burns in hell working at a TGI Fridays 70 hours a week for all eternity to repent for his transgressions. But, Bugs could investigate. The way he took over and coordinated the early days of the investigation was genius in my opinion. I trust what he and his team found, and I believe in the evidence they ultimately presented. How Bugs used it and may have twisted it later to fit his narrative is an argument for another time. Yes, Bugs himself mocked the earliest days of the investigation, but it is still relevant to hear what the actual people investigating were thinking. Let's remember what they initially thought about "Drugs or Money" as a motive.

"Or could the murders have been the result of a drug "burn", the killer(s) arriving to make a delivery, or buy, an argument over money or bad drugs erupting into violence?" This was the second, and in many ways the most likely, of the five theories the detectives would list in their first investigative report. The third theory was a variation of  the second, the killer(s) deciding to keep both the money and the drugs. The fourth was the residential burglary theory."

"The drug theories seemed to make the most sense. In the investigation that followed, as the police interviewed acquaintances of the victims, and the victim's habits and lifestyles emerged into clearer focus, the possibility that drugs were in some way linked to the motive became in some minds such a certainty that when given a clue which could have solved the case, they ignored it."

-  Pages 44/45 Helter Skelter (Vincent Bugliosi)

Now lets be practical. What actual Drugs or Money were found at the scene?

- 1 gram cocaine ( Jay's Porsche)
- 6.3 grams Marajuana, 1 two inch roach (Jay's Porsche)
- 6.9 grams Marajuana (Living Room cabinet)
- 30 grams Hash (Gibby's nightstand in bedroom)
- 10 MDA capsules (Gibby's nightstand in bedroom)
- Marajuana residue (Ashtray by Sharons bed)
- 1 Marajuana cigarette (Desk near front door)
- 2 Marajuana cigarettes (Guest House)

"There was no indications of  ramsacking or robbery. McGann found Sebring's wallet in his jacket, which was hanging over the back of a chair in the living room. It contained $80. John Doe had $9 in his wallet, Frykowski $2.44 in his wallet and pants pocket, Folger $9.64 in her purse. On the nightstand next to Sharon's bed, in plain view, were a ten, a five, and three ones. Obviously expensive items- a videotape machine, TV sets, Stereo, Sebring's watch and Porsche- had not been taken"

Money, Jewelry, drugs, appliances, sports-cars. That is what they did NOT take. If they were really there to rob the place, they sucked at it no? Then there is the drugs. or lack of drugs really. This, to me, is the inventory of pretty heavy partiers. For the times, not even really excessive. Divided by three and separating the stuff in the car and bedroom, this looks very much like personal use to me. Not one of these drugs is in quantities that would make me think they were dealing. Take away the MDA and the rest of this stuff could have been found in my college apartment ( I shared with 3 guys) at almost any time. Again, where is there any testimony over 50 years from any of the Family members that they suddenly came into any money or drugs after August 8, or 9?  It doesn't exist. I have looked very hard lol.  Unfortunately, I can't show you what I can't find. I do not think Bugs or the investigators were able to find it back then either, which is probably one reason why they moved on to other motives. Furthermore, there is plenty of testimony about how little money, or drugs, they had when they got out to Barker and how hard life started to become out in the desert as they started to run out of drugs and money... 

"Finally, ready or not, the Family is moved to the desert. Manson could have gone much sooner on his own, but he's afraid to move without his bodyguard of followers. Supplies are sparse and conditions rough. More people try to leave."

"Money was very limited. but Manson was afraid to go back to the city. Luckily for everyone, our stay in the desert didn't last very long."

- Susan Atkins ( Myth of Helter Skelter)

"When we were in the desert, we were busy trying to find an indication of where the hole would be that would lead us to the center of the Earth. We were learning how to live off the land which, you know, there's no food. So we were basically down to surviving."

-Leslie Van Houten ( 6/5/13 Parole Hearing transcript- stolen as always from

Do you think this sounds like the voices of people who had just become flush with cash? I sorta don't.

I believe Tex sold pot. He says so himself.  I believe some of the Family Members probably dabbled a little as well in making moves with one drug or another. I believe that Jay sold coke to celebrity friends, and other friends. I believe that Gibby and Wojciech were doing drugs pretty heavily, and certainly were associated with several dealers (including Jay) both in and outside of California. You can read about that in Helter Skelter if you haven't already. I believe it was serious use, but I do not believe they were dealers themselves. What you will not read in Helter Skelter, or anywhere else, is documented evidence that anyone in the Family was related to any of this in any way. While the friends and families of the victims would certainly never publicly stain their memories, you can hear the truth about what Sharon's co-victims were doing around her if you listen carefully. Plenty of important people all worked together to make sure that the story stayed as clean as possible, but it was a party time and they were living party lives. Until it all ended in tragedy. I wonder if the people who cared about the victims could have done such an amazing job of keeping certain things so hushed in the world we live in today?

I will not pursue it any further than that because...

I do not believe that Sharon's clique and Charlie's Family were doing drugs with, or selling drugs to, each other. I do not believe that "Drugs or Money" were the reason Sharon and the others were killed. I have found nothing that connects the two groups of people in any way that can be proven factually. I do not believe that Tex and the others went to Cielo that night to rob anyone either. Outside of a book Tex wrote decades after the fact where he is clearly trying to pass himself off as fair and reasonable, there is even less proof of that. The killers blatantly ignored money and items of value that would have been easy to grab. Cash and joints were laying out in plain view. The killers did not seem no notice these things at all.  I think they must have had some other motivation to be there. Robbery or Drug deal gone bad are much easier to understand as motives in general, but just do not really fit here. Sometimes the easier answer to understand is not the correct one. And let's face it- this would all be much more simple to comprehend if the motive could be as basic as drug-burn or robbery. We all want so badly to comprehend how something like this could have happened? Then again lol, it wouldn't be the same case if we could- would it? Isn't the not knowing what really makes this case so unique to some of us at the end of the day? All we know for sure about the motive after 50 years is that we really don't know the motive for sure. 

Why did these murders happen? As much as I despise Roman Polanski, maybe he had it right all along. 

"If I'm looking for a motive, I'd look for something which doesn't fit your habitual standard, with which you used to work as police- something much more far out...."

Whatever the answer to the motive question for the Tate ( and Labianca) crimes is, It is not going to end up being one of the easy, obvious, or "habitual" answers such as drugs or money. Sometimes you have to really dig deep to get at the real answer to a question. Its not always as easy as making the typical assumptions about things. And, I started learning that lesson going all the way back to that game I created in the Restaurant so many years ago.  Sometimes it is not Drugs or Money...

Sometimes its just the hot girls older cousin visiting from Cleveland. 

- Your Favorite Saint

Monday, February 1, 2021

Parole Granted For Bruce Davis but.......

this time it was different. Bruce Davis was granted parole again on January 22nd. What was different about this parole hearing is that the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office did not send a prosecuter to represent the victims at the hearing. Victim representation was left to the relatives and victim's advocate, Debra Tate. Gary Hinman's cousin, Kay Martley was there but no one was present to represent Shorty Shea. 


Relatives of Manson 'family' murder victims outraged by DA's new policy

Kay Martley said she was stunned by the Los Angeles County DA’s decision to stop opposing parole for the Manson follower convicted of killing her cousin.

This 1969 file photo shows Charles Manson being
escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder
charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case.

Whenever the notorious killer Charles Manson or one of his convicted followers would come up for parole over the last 40 years, a Los Angeles County prosecutor joined victims' family members at a California state prison to argue against the release. 

But when Kay Martley joined a California Board of Parole Hearings video conference to consider parole for convicted Manson "family" killer Bruce Davis earlier this month, she was stunned to learn she would be making the case on behalf of her murdered relative alone. 

"I had no one to speak for me," said Martley, 81, whose cousin Gary Hinman was tortured and killed by Manson followers on July 27, 1969. "I felt like no one cares about the victim's families anymore. We are totally forgotten." 

Charles Manson follower Bruce Davis l
eaving court after a hearing in Los Angeles
on Dec. 22, 1970.Harold Filan / AP file

The absence of a prosecutor was no oversight. It was the result of a policy shift ordered by newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who campaigned on promises to reduce the number of people in prison. 

The new mandate puts a halt on Los Angeles County prosecutors opposing parole for inmates sentenced to life who have already served their mandatory minimum period of incarceration. 

Gascón's directive is part of a sudden shift in how his district attorney's office, the largest in the nation, is considering victims' rights before, during and after criminal trials. 

The move is not likely to have a direct effect on Davis' fate, experts say. Even though the state board recommended parole - the sixth time it has done so - California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to deny the convicted murderer's early release. 

But the dynamic of a victim's family member feeling abandoned by prosecutors represents an unintended - but thorny - consequence of the new push by some progressive-minded district attorneys to stop trying to influence parole decisions. 

Gascón is among a handful of district attorneys in places like New Orleans and Brooklyn, New York, to rethink their stance on automatically opposing parole requests. The movement has gained momentum in the wake of the national reckoning over racial inequity in the criminal justice system spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last May. 

The Davis case illustrates how victims' family members can feel as if they're left out in the cold. 

"My jaw drops. I'm outraged," said Debra Tate, whose actress sister, Sharon Tate, was murdered by Manson followers. 

American actress Sharon Tate in 1966.
Hulton Deutsch / Corbis via Getty Images

Tate joined the parole board hearing for Davis earlier this month and said she, too, was shocked by the absence of a prosecutor. 

"At the most horrible moment, when you have to relive the gruesome details of the loss of your loved ones, you are now also supposed to perform the job and act as the DA would," she said. 

Under the new policy, Los Angeles County prosecutors will no longer attend parole hearings and will support in writing the grant of parole for a person who has already served their mandatory minimum sentence, Gascón said in a memo to his staffers on Dec. 7, the day he was sworn in to office. 

Gascón said should state prison officials determine that a person represents a "high" risk for recidivism, a prosecutor "may, in their letter, take a neutral position on the grant of parole." 

Underlying the argument is the idea that state parole officials, not prosecutors, are best equipped to make judgements about whether or not to release inmates. 

"The prosecutors' role ends at sentencing," said Alex Bastian, special adviser to Gascón. "There's been a tug of war between public safety versus equity. The DA believes you can do both." 

Asked to respond to specific questions about the Davis case, Bastian said the office is focused on providing "trauma-informed services" when a "heart-wrenching crime occurs." 

"In any case where an individual has spent nearly half a century in prison, the parole board has likely reviewed generations of behavioral health evaluations and has determined that a nearly 80-year-old elderly man is not the same person he was when he was 30 years of age," he added. "The people's interest in continued incarceration, at extraordinary cost to taxpayers, is likely to have informed their release decision." 

Former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon
speaks at a Los Angeles County Democratic Party
news conference in Los Angeles on Oct. 1, 2020.

Bastian noted that the office will continue to provide a victims advocate to support family members. He acknowledged that no victims advocate attended the virtual hearing but said that was because family members opposed it. Martley disputed that characterization, saying she was never told about the possibility of one participating in the hearing. 

Manson and his followers carried out a series of gruesome murders in Los Angeles in 1969. 

Davis, now 78 years old, was sentenced to life in prison in 1972 for the killings of Hinman and Donald "Shorty" Shea. 

Hinman, an aspiring musician, was tortured and killed after Manson mistakenly believed he had come into an inheritance. According to court testimony, Davis held Hinman at gunpoint while Manson slashed his face and sliced his ear with a sword. 

Authorities called to the home on July 31, 1969, discovered Hinman's body and a Black Panther symbol and "political piggy" written on the walls of the home in what was later identified as Hinman's blood. 

Shea, who worked at the ranch where Manson and some of his followers had lived, was stabbed and clubbed to death. He was then dismembered, and his remains were not discovered until 1977. 

Davis was not involved in the more notorious killings of Tate and six others by Manson and his followers. 

Steve Grogan, who was convicted in Shea's murder, was the only Manson follower convicted in the killings to be paroled from prison, in 1985. Manson, who died in 2017, was repeatedly denied parole. 

Davis, who has had a total of 33 state parole hearings, has been found suitable for parole six times beginning in 2010. In each case, the sitting governor blocked his release from prison. 

The parole board's latest recommendation for his release, referred to in official documents as "parole suitability," will be finalized over the next few months. Corrections officials will conduct a legal review, then Newsom has one month to either reject the decision, take no action or make modifications to the decision by adding a parole condition or changing the date of release. 

Newsom's office did not respond to requests for comment. 

Davis' attorney, Michael Beckman, said his client was the "most rehabilitated" of any of the roughly 2,000 inmates serving life sentences whom he has represented. 

"He got seven years to life, and if he was anyone else rather than a Manson family member, he would have gotten out 30 years ago," Beckman said. "There is no question there is a visceral reaction [to the Manson murders]. But the law says you can only hold someone responsible for their participation in the crime. He cannot be held responsible for what Charles Manson did. Bruce didn't kill anyone. He participated in two homicides. And he's taken responsibility for all of it." 

Retired Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Kay said he believes that Gascón, in trying to do the right thing, went too far by issuing a blanket policy. 

He said prosecutors play an important role in the process by ensuring parole boards are presented with the facts of the underlying conviction, along with the impact of the crimes on the victims' families. 

"Basically, he has taken the people's lawyer out of the equation and left it in the hands of the defense," Kay said. 

Kay said at the first parole hearing for Manson family participant Patricia Krenwinkel, the board had been presented with a two-page probation report that, he said, downplayed her role in the brutal murder of Tate, her unborn baby and four other victims: Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, Steven Parent and Abigail Folger. 

Four of the victims had been stabbed a total of 102 times and the fifth had been shot to death. Kay recited the gruesome details of the murders. 

"I think we owe it to society not to turn loose a member of the Manson family, such as Patricia Krenwinkel, who has participated in seven of the most vicious, brutal murders in the history of American crime," Kay told the board, according to a transcript. "I think it would be a great deterrent value to show the public that not everybody who commits murder can automatically get out on parole." 

It was the first draft of an argument he would deliver some 60 times, from 1978 until 2005, when he retired and a new generation of prosecutors began to make appearances at parole hearings. 

Martley, the cousin of victim Gary Hinman, has been attending parole board hearings since 2012. She said she was in a "state of shock" when she realized no member of the district attorney's office was going to be participating in the Jan. 22 hearing. 

"I don't think it's fair that the prisoner has legal representation at the hearing and I do not," she said. 

"It was a horrendous crime," she added. "God willing, I will be healthy to be able to keep fighting these people." 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Mind control, levitation and no pain: the race to find a superman in sport

The US and Soviet Union both believed people could develop superpowers. And, reveals The Men on Magic Carpets, their psychic experiments played out in the sporting arena

Candlestick Park, San Francisco, 1964. The wind is whipping off the Bay on a typically cold night at the ballpark. Mike Murphy takes his seat in Section 17. A jazz band pipes up and the vendors shout their wares: Hamm's or Falstaff beers, Oscar Mayer hot dogs with Gulden's mustard. Murphy is close enough to talk to the San Francisco Giants players – but he's not interested in hero worship. He wants to put a voodoo curse on the opposition, the LA Dodgers.

He tells two friends it's called a "whammy" or "occult backlash". He's been practising for years, perfecting the very particular cries and exact hand gestures to transmit negative energy to players. He reckons he's a baseball witch doctor, sending psychic waves to scramble minds and zap energy from muscles.

While sitting in the bleachers at Candlestick Park, Murphy asked for assistance from the fellow Giants fans around him to explore his powers, explaining with a straight-face that the gestures had been developed by shamans in the Amazon basin to kill enemies. If they wanted the Giants to win, this would help. And so he exhorted the crowd to close their two middle fingers over the thumb, leaving the index finger and little finger pointing, like devil horns, towards their target. And he told them to shout and wail as they thrust their horns towards the Dodgers players.

That night would prove Murphy's most successful as a conjuring cheerleader; according to his account, he enlisted almost 200 fans, all their negative energy flowing through him as he stood at the front, like the arrowhead. With several hundred horns pointing towards the tip, he began to feel dizzy. Whenever the wave of gestures and curses was at its strongest, the Dodgers began to make inept plays. The Giants went on to win.

Murphy staggered out of the stadium, drained, exhausted and fearing a heart attack. But believing that he had made it happen.

Baguio City, the Philippines, 14 years later. Mental combat has begun for the World Chess Championship. Anatoly Karpov, the golden boy of the Soviet Union, is playing Viktor Korchnoi, a defector the regime loves to hate. Despite sitting opposite each other for hour after hour, day after day, they have not spoken. But somebody is talking to Korchnoi. There is a voice inside his head. It is incessant. Over and over and over it berates him: "YOU. MUST. LOSE."

Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov  compete
for the 1978 World Chess Championship.
Photograph: Jerry Cooke/Corbis via Getty Images

Korchnoi recognises the voice. It's not his. It belongs to the man sitting in the front row of the audience since the match began. His heart starts to beat a little faster. He begins to sweat.


The demands keep coming. Korchnoi is not afraid but he is angry. He understands perfectly what is happening. The man is trying to control his thoughts.


The man sits cross-legged, dressed immaculately in a white shirt and dark brown suit, reclining with a hint of arrogance. He looks like an accountant, albeit a somewhat demented one. A slight smirk plays across his face. His eyes are terrifying, bearing into Korchnoi. He does not blink until Korchnoi is defeated.

Both of these stories are true. Murphy, the zany hippy in bell-bottom jeans warbling occult orders, would, in time, have the US government dancing to his tune. And Dr Vladimir Zoukhar, the immaculately dressed communist spook, staring demonically for comrade and country, was considered the KGB's mind control expert. Both men were protagonists in an extraordinarily paranoid chapter of human history: the cold war.

Murphy was no regular football fan. Known as "the godfather of the human potential movement", he co-founded the Esalen Institute, a famed new age retreat and pillar of the counterculture movement in 60s California. It was a centre for eastern religions, philosophy, alternative medicines, and a fair amount of nude hot-tub bathing. Controversial eroticist Henry Miller swam at the hot springs in the grounds, Beatle George Harrison once landed his helicopter there to jam with Ravi Shankar, and Timothy Leary, whom Richard Nixon called "the most dangerous man in America", taught regular workshops on the benefits of LSD, claiming that women could orgasm hundreds of times during sex when under the influence. And most recently, in the final frames of Mad Men, advertising executive Don Draper was seen smiling on Esalen's lawn.

While Murphy was establishing Esalen, if Soviet state security wanted to place a negative or damaging thought in someone's head, they called Zoukhar. That's why Zoukhar was at Korchnoi's match; communism trumped capitalism if it could produce a world chess champion. Korchnoi, hang-dogged and pot-bellied with his mistress in tow, was not the image they were going for. He could not be allowed to win against Karpov, the poster boy for true Soviet values.

'He was Professor X, and Esalen was his
Westchester Academy' ... Mike Murphy.
Photograph: Wally Skalij/
LA Times via Getty Images

Murphy and Zoukhar hailed from opposite cultures teetering on the brink of nuclear Armageddon. But for all their differences, America and the Soviet Union held a common belief: the existence of superhumans. Both world powers believed in a race of cosmic beings who could, just like in the sci-fi movies, slow down time, speed it up, change their body shape, feel no pain, levitate, see into the future, and more. With boggle-eyed mind control and harnessing the occult, both nations believed they could put a thought in someone's head, or stop a man's heart at 100 paces. Both nations thought these powers would win them the war. From the west coast of America to the far corners of the Soviet Union, yogis, shamans and psychics were sought out to aid these alternative war efforts, with millions spent on attempts to create a real life Superman or Wonder Woman.

Since the first millennium, Hindus and Buddhists have believed that spiritual practice – like yoga – was capable of giving rise to a siddhi, a Sanskrit word that roughly translates as "superpower". Siddhis included an ability to master pain, levitation, invisibility, being able to read minds at a distance – basically, any comic book superpower you can think of. And in America, Murphy was Professor X, and Esalen was his Westchester Academy.

As a trust-fund kid at Stanford University, Murphy had once wanted to be a priest, maybe a scientist; his parents preferred doctor. But on the second day of spring classes in 1950, Murphy went to the wrong classroom and ended up listening to a comparative religion lecture. It was providence. Murphy was hooked. He quit his class, enrolled in Indian philosophy and devoured The Life Divine, a 1939 book by Indian mystic, yogi, guru and poet Sri Aurobindo. It was a handbook for spiritual powers. From then on, Murphy would dedicate his life to the pursuit of the extraordinary.

"Hunter S Thompson was Esalen's first security guard; Aldous Huxley, then often high on mescaline, helped establish it"

It just so happened that there was a big chunk of Murphy family land on the cliffs of Big Sur, California, which would do nicely as a base for teaching superpowers. Murphy provided the land , and his friend Dick Price, a co-founder, brought the cash. Before Esalen even opened, in 1962, the plot needed a security guard; a young Hunter S Thompson, pioneer of gonzo journalism, got the job.

"He was 21," Murphy told me, on our first phone call. "Unpublished. Fully armed. With a small arsenal. He seemed to love tracer bullets. He'd fire hundreds out into the night sky so every night was like the fourth of July. Sometimes he'd fire his gun out of the unopened window of one of the houses that was on the grounds."

Thompson was the first of many colourful and culturally significant characters in the Esalen story. Aldous Huxley, the English novelist and psychedelic grand philosopher, followed. He was another inspiration for Murphy, who attended a Huxley lecture at the University of California with Price, entitled Human Potentialities, in 1962. Huxley, then often high on mescaline, was a key figure in Esalen's establishment, before his death a year later from throat cancer.

Murphy believed that the best place for the superpowers to reveal themselves was on the sports field. Sports, he said, was the west's yoga. He collated thousands of stories of athletes describing siddhis experiences. John Brodie, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, once told Murphy that he could move the ball with the power of his mind and reported seeing rivals shape-shift to avoid tackles. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of the martial art aikido, was said to be able to make himself invisible. Murphy found "scores" of reliable witnesses who had seen Ueshiba elude attacks, with one writing: "Completely surrounded by men with knives, Ueshiba disappeared and reappeared at the same instant, looking down at his attackers from the top of a flight of stairs."

What about a human passing through solid matter? Murphy cites Pelé, one of the world's greatest footballers, as once saying: "I felt that I could dribble through any of their team … that I could pass through them physically." In 1970, ice hockey star Bobby Orr was said to have called on abilities of thought projection to hypnotise Chicago Black Hawk players during a four-game winning sequence on the way to the Stanley Cup finals for his Bruins team.

Bobby Orr leaps with joy after scoring the goal
that won the 1970 Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins.
Photograph: Ray Lussier/AP

Unsurprisingly, the American military and CIA began to take note of Esalen. Prompted by intelligence reports about the Soviets experiments, the Americans felt they had to start programmes of their own, in which Murphy would become a key figure. His friendship with Democratic senator Claiborne Pell, a supporter of Esalen and Murphy’s jogging partner, was instrumental. In White House intelligence meetings, Pell spoke forcefully of the benefits of supporting their experiments. He argued that if the Russians had it, and the Americans didn’t, they would be in serious trouble.

Murphy was an adviser for the Jedi warrior training programme at West Point Military Academy in New York. Code-named Project Jedi, soldiers in the programme were taught invisibility, seeing into the future and extraordinary intuition, like knowing how many chairs were in a room before walking in – but also stopping the hearts of animals. It was similar to the First Earth Battalion (FEB), best known from the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats. Jim Channon, the founder of the FEB, thought it a good idea that each of his “warrior monks” should carry pouches of herbs into battle, give out flowers as a sign of peace, and play indigenous music to calm and confuse the enemy. Channon had been given a small Pentagon budget and two years to research ways for the US military to use new age methods in warfare. He spent most of that time at Esalen, being taught by Murphy.

In 1975, the Chicago Tribune reported that the CIA was attempting to develop a new kind of "spook", after finding a man who could "see" what was going on anywhere in the world. CIA scientists would show the man a picture of a place, and he would then describe any activity going on there at that time.

In fact, there was more than one of these men. Russell Targ, who had taught this psychic power at Esalen, was one; another was Uri Geller. (You might have heard of him and his bendy spoons.) There was a whole team of psychics based at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, as part of the CIA's Stargate programme to find psychic warriors. Targ and Geller would sit in that office, close their eyes, breathe deeply and then after a few minutes draw the location of Soviet missiles. Sometimes, they were right.

By contrast to the Soviet plan, Targ and Geller seemed harmless. "They were using it to kill people," Targ said. The Russian term for superpowers was "Hidden Human Reserves".

Senator Claiborne Pell, a high-profile supporter
of Esalen, pictured in 1972. Photograph:
Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

"They created a replica of the Oval Office and they would have people in there 24 hours a day concentrating on the US president in such a way to try to muddle his thinking," said Jim Hickman, a key figure at Esalen during the cold war. Hickman spent much of the 70s and 80s travelling in the USSR to research siddhis, often with Murphy at his side. Hickman told me they learned about strange, disturbing things. Even stranger and more disturbing than a whole bunch of Dr Zoukhars trying to influence the thought patterns of a head of state from great distances? "There was much deeper work going on," he said. "We knew that we were only talking to the people they let us talk to."

"In one creepy experiment, scientists implanted electrodes in a mother rabbit's brain, took her young litter off to a submarine and killed them one by one"

Those people were probably among the 60 Soviet-based scientists who worked at what was called Special Department 8. Their job was to investigate distant mind control. It was just one of 40 centres at Science City, Novosibirsk, in south-west Siberia, which housed thousands of scientists and their families from across the communist bloc, in a kind of nerdy utopia. Road names included Calculators Street, Thermophysics Street and Hydrodynamics Square. Here, Soviet scientists were attempting to prove the existence of extrasensory perception (ESP). In one creepy experiment, the scientists implanted electrodes in a mother rabbit's brain, took her young litter off to a submarine and, when it was deep below the surface, killed them one by one. At each synchronised time of death, the mother's brain reacted.

At the Kharkov University Neurology Institute, the rat brains were attached to electrodes and put in solution. The best Russian psychics, having been tested in research centres dotted around the state, were brought in to transmit emotions and thoughts to the brains. The most popular response recorded was laughing but the brains also "enjoyed" sums. (It is not known whether the brains were better at fractions or algebra.)

Unsurprisingly, some of the morally questionable experiments began to make the experts feel uncomfortable. One lab was even shut down in 1974 as the resident scientists en masse rejected what they called "the negative work".

It is widely believed that a mega-secret lab was set up in its place, in a sub-sub-basement below the Filatov Institute in Odessa. Only clandestine couriers knew how to access these secret paranormal departments. KGB guards made sure there were no unwanted visitors. There, death row prisoners were "bombarded" with pulsing magnetic fields to see if they would become clairvoyant. Years later, in 1991, one Dr Bryukhanov would publicly claim that he had run the project and said they had believed that animals they tested it on had developed the ability to see through walls. Alas, their small animal brains could not cope with the onslaught from the magnetic fields, and simply disintegrated. The prisoners reportedly suffered the same, horrible fate.

A nude encounter group therapy session at the Esalen
Institute, in 1968. Photograph: Ralph Crane/The LIFE
Picture Collection/Getty Images

By 1984, the cold war was heating up. The Doomsday Clock, the timepiece those cheery folk at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists kept ticking to judge how close man-made global catastrophe was, nudged the little hand to three minutes to midnight and oblivion. Luckily, help was at hand in the most unlikely of places. The hippies, gurus, shamen and yogis wanted to start a thaw and they knew exactly how to do it: nude hot-tub bathing.

With their friends in Washington giving them a nod and a wink, a series of Soviet – American exchanges had been organised from 1980. After several visits, Murphy and Hickman revealed they had discovered a Soviet Esalen: a group of believers and free thinkers who believed in the existence of siddhis. Contacts ranged from the obligatory psychic to Kremlin influencers. As a result, astronauts and cosmonauts, writers, KGB agents, military veterans, politicians (like Claiborne Pell) and diplomats were frequently invited to Esalen. There, they were told to sit crosslegged on the floor with pillows and just talk to each other. Then it was time to jump in the hot tub.

The idea behind the exchanges was to convince Americans and Russians to recognise that they were not so different after all. The brains at Esalen wanted to call this project The Institute for Theoretical Studies. When someone pointed out that the acronym for that was TITS, it was renamed the Esalen Soviet-American Exchange Program. It still exists today, albeit under a different name – Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy – and is run by Murphy's wife, Dulce.

"We had KGB guys and CIA guys at Esalen talking to each other," Murphy said. "The KGB knew communism wasn't working. It was their job to know everything … they could fucking see it. When we hosted people, it was just confirming what they already knew."

The exchange programme's biggest coup was bringing Boris Yeltsin to America in 1989. At the time, as a critic of the communist regime, Yeltsin was considered a political lightning rod. It was a visit that played a part in ending the cold war.

Yeltsin's aides had contacted Russian activists connected to Hickman and Murphy, and took part in Esalen's exchange programme.They asked the institute to ask if they would be interested in hosting Yeltsin.

"It turned out to be a gigantic deal 'cos he flipped!" Murphy said.

"When Boris Yeltsin visited a Houston grocery store, he sobered up quickly. He was shocked by the bountiful aisles – with no queues – and felt sick with despair"

Yeltsin spent most of the trip drunk. But when he visited a Houston grocery store, called Randall's, he sobered up pretty quickly. One of the Communist party's great lies was that America staged its wealthy image through fake stores. He was shocked by the bountiful aisles of meats, cheeses and vegetables. He asked why no one was queuing. He stopped shoppers to ask how much they earned per month and what they spent on food. Yeltsin became upset. "When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people," Yeltsin later wrote in his autobiography. Two years after that supermarket trip, he quit the party, stood on a tank in Red Square and became a capitalist. It was the start of the Iron Curtain's fall.

But neither side stopped searching for a superman. Murphy, now approaching his 90s, is still looking. Every year he holds a conference, the Sports, Energy and Consciousness festival in San Francisco, where he holds workshops advising people how they can experience the siddhis. The American military haven't stopped, either, spending millions of dollars a year on research for "alternative powers". And just like the Russians and their chess experiment, they are using the sports field as a training ground.

This is an edited extract from Ed Hawkins' new book The Men on Magic Carpets: Searching for the Superhuman Sports Star (Bloomsbury, £16.99).