Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Evolving Mythology of the “Manson Girls”

 The Evolving Mythology of the “Manson Girls”

The so-called Manson girls are pop culture fixtures. But we’re just starting to understand them.

original article

Vox/Constance Grady

 Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel laugh as they enter the courtroom to face sentencing for the Manson family murders. Photo by Getty Images

It was amazing the respect these girls had for Charlie. They just lived and breathed by him.

Once when we were working on the Christ story, he demonstrated the submission thing. He turned to Lynne and said, “Lynne, come here and kiss my feet”; and she got down on her knees and kissed his feet and sat down. And then he said, “Now I will kiss yours,” and he did. There was never any explanation or questioning. They just did it.

—Charles Manson’s record producer Gary Stromberg to Rolling Stone, 1970

Over fifty years ago, the Manson family murders shocked Hollywood, announced the final death of the utopian dreams of the 1960s, and gave birth to the mythology of the Manson girls.

They are nearly always called the Manson girls, all of them, from the teenagers to the grown women. They were followers of Charles Manson who lived with him on his ranch and who, on his orders, committed brutal and bloody murders, and they are central to our cultural fascination with Manson himself.

Charles Manson as a person is honestly not that interesting. He was a mediocre failed musician; he built his cult on recycled Scientologist ideas and an elaborate theory about a race war.

But Manson had the “Manson girls,” and they are what made him fascinating to so many people. Contemporary news coverage of the 1970-’71 Manson trial tended to pant over the Manson girls, although it treated them mostly as anonymous objects: Manson was so powerful, those accounts seem to say, that he had all these beautiful obedient hippie girls falling all over him. The girls were essentially interchangeable, as far as those stories were concerned, and they would do anything Manson asked of them. Can you believe it?

And that narrative has stayed in place for decades. “Submissive, brainwashed, horny little teeners . . . who do exactly what you want before you even know what that is” is how Thomas Pynchon described the Manson girls in his 2009 novel Inherent Vice. “You don’t even have to say a word out loud, they get it all by ESP.”

In our cultural narrative, the Manson girls are the key to Manson’s allure, and they are also his accessories. They are meaningful to the extent that they illustrate Manson’s unnerving charisma, but their position as individual human beings has no place in the Charles Manson mythology.

It’s only within the past few years that as a culture, we’ve begun to turn away from that story and have a conversation about who the so-called “girls” were as human beings, and where they are now. That conversation is part of a larger turn toward reevaluating women’s legacies — but it’s only just beginning to take off.

In 1969, the Manson girls helped build the Charles Manson mythology

 Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, and Patricia Krenwinkel enter the courthouse to be tried for the Manson family murders in 1970. Bettmann/Contributor 

This Manson, I’m not going to say that he’s got hypnotic powers, but he’s got some kind of a strength because he’s able to get this girl from Alabama to come out here, and she could have stayed in Alabama another six months.

—Anonymous prosecutor for the LA District Attorney’s Office to Rolling Stone, 1970

The world met the Manson girls during the trial of Charles Manson, when he and three of his followers went to trial in 1970 for the 1969 murder of eight people, including actress Sharon Tate. Tate’s celebrity guaranteed that the media would have been interested in the case no matter what — but what made it a bonanza, with newspapers breathlessly reporting on every detail, was the brutality and apparent randomness of the killings.

Manson had no real connection to the victims: he’d picked them out in part to cover up other crimes and in part because he wanted to spark a race war. The victims were all stabbed numerous times — including Tate, who was pregnant — and investigators found the word “pig” written on the wall in Tate’s blood when they arrived.

Adding to the media’s interest was the knowledge that Manson hadn’t actually committed any of the murders himself. He’d gotten his followers to do it. And a number of his followers were young women.

That’s when the press began to really latch onto the story of the Manson girls.

There were the three women who were tried with Manson: Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, and Patricia Krenwinkel, who the Associated Press reported arrived to the final day of their trial in “prison uniforms with ribbons in their long hair,” famously shaved off that hair after Manson shaved his head partway through the trial, and shocked the nation by laughing as they walked into the courtroom to be sentenced.

The country was thrilled by the contrast between their youth and femininity and the viciousness of their crimes. “The second witness is scheduled to be a soft-spoken, angelic-looking young woman who is accused of being a participant in at least eight brutal and senseless killings,” read one article published as the trial began, under the breathless headline “Hippie Girl to Tell All in Tate Murder.”

There were also the girls who testified against Manson: Linda Kasabian and Dianne Lake. Reporters described Lake as “the petite auburn‐haired witness” and Kasabian as a “petite blonde,” noting that Kasabian “candidly admitted extensive drug taking, stealing money and extramarital relationships with numerous men, including the 35-year-old Manson.”

Finally, there were the girls waiting for Manson outside the courthouse. They served as the kicker to the AP’s account of the trial: “Through it all,” the AP wrote, “a band of loyal Manson clan women maintained a vigil in the street outside the Hall of Justice, waiting for their ‘father’ to be freed from ‘the tower.’” Those women, too, shaved their heads after Manson shaved his.

As the Charles Manson story took shape, the idea that he had some sinister and possibly supernatural influence over all these young women became central to his mythology — especially the idea that life on the Manson ranch was probably just one nonstop orgy. When an anonymous prosecutor for the DA’s office talked to Rolling Stone about the Manson case in 1970, he noted that he knew of a divorced biker who used to stay at the Manson ranch because the girls would take care of his baby for him, and “’cause he used to get free pussy.”

“He used to admit it,” the prosecutor said. “He’d say, this is the greatest thing next to mother’s milk. They’d bring you food, make love to you any time you could.”

“There were about 12 girls,” Manson’s record producer Phil Kaufman explained in the same article. “Every time Charlie saw a girl he liked, he’d tell someone, ‘Get that girl.’ And when they brought her back, Charlie would take her out in the woods and talk to her for an hour or two. And she would never leave.”

The Manson girl mythology had everything pop culture in 1969 could want: the gruesome killing of a movie star, beautiful young girl murderers, the counterculture gone wild, and a titillating hint of a hippie-ish free love ethos. What could possibly make for a better tale?

Over time, it became clear that the Manson girls were victims. They remained a part of the Manson mythology.

I can get along with girls, they give up easier. I can make love to them. Man has this ego thing [Charlie stiffens up] holding on to his prick. I can’t make love to that. Girls break down easier.

—Charles Manson to Rolling Stone, 1970

Over time, it gradually became clear that the Manson girls weren’t just cold-blooded killers who were oddly devoted to Manson. They were victims — and that, too, became part of the Manson mythology.

The lead prosecutor on the Manson case, Vincent Bugliosi, turned his account of the Manson family into a book, Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, which would become the best-selling true crime ever written and would set the narrative for the Manson story going forward. Bugliosi reported that Manson paid his rent on the ranch where he lived by ordering the Manson girls to have sex with the older man who owned the place, and that the infamous Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who tried to assassinate Gerald Ford in 1975, was so called because she used to squeak every time the man pinched her thigh.

Life on the ranch, in other words, wasn’t a nonstop orgy because the Manson girls particularly wanted it to be. Group sex was frequent because Manson wanted it that way, and he had brainwashed the girls staying with him into doing what they were told.

Bugliosi’s story has since been found to have plenty of holes in it — but his account of the Manson girls as submissive dupes whom Manson could use as sexual bartering chips became the way the country talked about the girls going forward.

“Manson had an old con’s skill … at picking the members of his band,” explained the New Republic in 1975, in a review of Bugliosi’s book. “The girls were young, homeless, fanciful, at war with their parents — the boys were kept in line by being given the girls.” And in this story, Manson’s influence over his followers proved not that Manson was an abusive brainwasher, but that he was something more special and mystical than that. “There was something else in Manson that could turn them [the Manson girls] from borderline psychotics into psychopathic killers of unparalleled cruelty,” the New Republic wrote. “I don’t think there’s any possible doubt that Manson was a demon — not possessed by one, was one.”

Although this updated narrative positioned the girls less as pure monsters and more as victims who were molded into killers by a demon, it was not particularly interested in the Manson girls as human beings. It was mostly interested in the titillating idea of fanciful young girls who had been brainwashed by a demon into doing absolutely anything. The girls were still important mostly as living props who prove Manson’s power.

There’s a Manson girl counternarrative now. But the old story still has pop culture clout.

 Leslie Van Houten before the Board of Prison Terms Comissioners in 2002. Van Houten’s request for parole was denied. Damian Dovarganes/AFP/Getty Images 

I was feeling disenfranchised with Charlie, and I wanted him to want me, and so he took me inside and I thought we were going to make love but instead he turned me around and he sodomized me. When he was finished, he said, “That’s the way, you know, we do it in prison,” and I didn’t really trust him after that.

—Dianne Lake to ABC, 2019

Of the three so-called Manson girls who were convicted of murder and went to prison, two of them — Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel — are still alive and still in prison. The third, Susan Atkins, died of brain cancer in 2009 at age 61. She, like Van Houten and Krenwinkel, was repeatedly denied parole throughout her sentence.

In 1972, Atkins, Van Houten, and Krenwinkel became the center of an experiment from the Santa Cruz Women’s Prison Project, run by radical feminist criminologist Karlene Faith. As reported by American studies professor Jeffrey Melnick in his book Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America’s Most Infamous Family, Faith and her coalition of feminists dedicated themselves to rehabilitating the three women. “They treated the women of the Manson family like active subjects — as people who could liberate themselves,” writes Melnick.

Faith and her cohort created what Melnick describes as “a program to raise the consciousness of the imprisoned women according to feminist principles.” They taught their pupils about the law, gender studies, ethnic studies, and psychology — and also poetry and music and politics.

Atkins, Van Houten, and Krenwinkel responded to the program by apparently becoming model prisoners. They earned advanced degrees and commendations for helping their fellow inmates, and the staff at their prison has given them enthusiastic character statements at parole hearings. Van Houten has been recommended for parole three times since 2016, only to be denied by California’s governor every time. Krenwinkel is now the state of California’s longest-serving prisoner.

The women of the Manson family who didn’t go to prison have spoken out about their treatment at Manson’s hands, and they are beginning to find an audience. Dianne Lake says she first became involved with Manson when she was just 14 years old, and that he sexually assaulted her. “I feel very strongly,” she told ABC earlier this year, “that it’s only by the grace of God that I was protected throughout this, and I was a victim. You know, I was abused, I was neglected, I was abandoned. … I hope that my story will help tell a cautionary tale.”

And as these women continue to insist on their identities as not just “the Manson girls” but as agents and human beings in their own right, popular culture is starting to take notice. 2016 saw the release of the widely buzzed-over novel The Girls by Emma Cline, which took place in a Manson family-like cult but treated its Charles Manson analogue as a trivial distraction from what really mattered; namely, the relationship between two of the teen girls of the cult. Mary Harron’s film Charlie Says, which came out this May, turned its focus to the rehabilitation of Atkins, Van Houten, and Krenwinkel in prison.

But stories like Charlie Says and The Girls are still counternarratives as far as popular culture is concerned. They exist now, but they have to push back against the dominant narrative of the Manson family, the narrative that we see reiterated over and over again in films like Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: the story about the sexy murderous hippies called the Manson girls, who were, as Pynchon put it, “submissive, brainwashed, horny little teeners.”

That pushback is part of a larger project that has unfolded over the past 10 years or so, one that took on a special urgency once the #MeToo movement went viral in 2017. We’ve begun to reevaluate the legacy of women we once discarded as hysterical and oversexed and used as the punchline in dirty jokes, the Lorena Bobbitts and Monica Lewinskys of the world. We’ve begun to ask if perhaps these women might have been badly hurt both by the world and by the way we talked about them afterward, and if perhaps their personhood and their stories are worth more thoughtful consideration than they’ve been granted in the past.

But the culture has only just begun to ask these questions. And the lingering, beloved trope of the Manson girls shows that there’s a long way to go before we overwrite the old stories with the new.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone a Happy Holidays! I post here a holiday photo of Sharon Tate which reminds me of the Sears and JC Penny Christmas catalogues of former days. Also, please use the link below to view what I believe is a masterpiece of a holiday TV commercial from Folgers coffee. All the best to everyone this holiday season and a happy new year.

Monday, December 19, 2022

The Last of the Manson Girls Film Review


The Last of the Manson Girls (2018) is a dark comedy/black satire entry in the Mansonsphere film genre. Trippy, decidedly weird, and kind of quirky, this low budget film starring unknown actors might not be to everyone's tastes, but it is definitely worth a watch because it deals with a few aspects of the TLB saga that are typically in the background in the other movies. For anyone interested in seeing a 'Manson movie' without Manson, and for anyone interested in seeing some of the other women in the Family get some screen time, this one is absolutely worth your time. It clocks in at about 73 mins and can be purchased digitally on Amazon Prime for 2 bucks for the standard def version. The high-def version is a couple of dollars more, but I'm not sure if it is worth it due to this being a low budget movie.

    Based on Paul Krassner's often bizarre account of his supposed acid trip with Squeaky Fromme, making the movie a fictionalized account of a likely fictionalized encounter, the movie features Mr. Krassner's drug fueled encounter with Squeaky, Sandy, and Brenda (Nancy). Along the way, he is also introduced to the possibility that there was a government conspiracy behind the crimes. Lenny Bruce even makes an appearance in the bathroom at one point. Do not watch this film if you want to see anything dealing with the murders, or anything related to the courtroom and trial. It is purely speculative fiction/satire. There is little to know historical accuracy. 

    The crimes are only mentioned briefly and are not shown at all. The focus is solely on the three girls, which is actually somewhat refreshing. Nancy is almost never seen or mentioned in most of the mainstream films, and Sandy is very often never seen either. Squeaky is generally given a few lines, if any, and often relegated to having her only function being the 'girl that has sex with George Spahn.' Keep in mind, this is not an in-depth character study of any of the women, but it is interesting to see them front and center. Charlie is not seen at all in this film.   

    None of the actors involved have extensive film credits, either before or after this movie. They all do a decent job however, with Elliot Kashner (Paul) and Jen Bevan (Squeaky) probably doing the best job. Cindy Marie Martin plays Sandy as a spacey flower child type, Sarah Taurchini channels Brenda at turns as exasperated, surly, and sarcastic. Jen Bevan as Squeaky plays her as thoughtful (at times philosophical), the keeper of the flame so to speak, and always on the outside of society. At other times she alternates between menacing and overly friendly. 

  The movie kicks in after Paul receives a coded message from Manson to call Squeaky. He goes to meet her at her apartment. After that, the movie is primarily Paul and the three girls interacting in various ways. Some of the conspiracy theories are touched on as Paul meets with radio host Mae Russell and Laurence Merrick (later shown in a clip getting gunned down in a parking lot, with it being implied that he knew the gunman/woman). 

  One of the earlier standout scenes in the movies occurs when Paul first enters the apartment. Unsure of his intentions and trustworthiness, the girls squabble back and forth in what could have been a scene out of a roommate sitcom. All that is missing is a diner/coffee house (would America ever be ready for a Manson girls' sitcom?)

  Throughout the movie, the girls seem to have mixed feelings about their public image as crazy cult members. At times they seem to enjoy it, particularly when scaring Paul about what happens to snitches (Chelsea smile anyone?). Other times, they seem to regret it. One of the best lines of the movie is given to Squeaky: 'of all the things I saw myself becoming, I never envisioned being something that people were afraid of.' Another scene that stands out in this regard is when Squeaky lets Paul wear the vest they have been embroidering, and actually seems worried that he is still afraid of them. 

  The ability of the Manson women to evoke fear, sympathy, and to some extent desire is explored throughout the film. From a conversation about having sex with them only if your back was against the wall, because nothing 'levels the high like worrying about being stabbed,' to a bathtub talk with Sandy in which she shares her surgery scar story, turns into a mermaid, turns into 'crazy Sandy,' then turns back into being 'sad Sandy,' the movie does a good job of showing these contradictions.

   Another great scene involves Paul and the girls dancing with each other, before the girls become knife wielding zombies, bathed in red light, coming for him. Also worth mentioning is a scene where the girls and Paul fall asleep together on the floor, resting on each other, the girls sleeping peacefully, and Paul unable to sleep, eyes wide open. 

   The film has quite a few good lines. Some highlights:

- Paul encounters Squeaky wearing her red assassination robe during his trip, and asks what she is wearing- 'Destiny.'

 - Brenda joking after Paul asks what he is smoking- 'a magic herb infused with the blood of Sharon Tate

  - the Ghost of Lenny Bruce to Krassner- 'there's nothing sadder than an aging hipster.'

- Sandy- 'blowjobs aren't a capital offense.'

  Probably the best scene in the film is during the acid trip when Squeaky and Paul are in a sort of half animated dream world, where Squeaky talks about her father and replacing her father with Manson. Her explanation that her father gave her everything except for love and that she replaced a monster with a monster who at least loved her is a great scene.

  Overall, The Last of the Manson Girls is definitely worth watching, if just to see some of the other girls get some screen time. Yes, it is a low budget affair, but at this point in time we are unlikely to see a Manson related film with a moderate to big budget, so we have to take what we can. We are unlikely to ever see a film where Brenda and Sandy speak, if they are even seen. The screen time given to the girls is what makes this one worth a look. 


Friday, December 16, 2022

The Manson Family Knives

   Ages ago I posted the above press photo of the Manson Family knives. There was a little discussion in the comments about when the photo was taken with Cielodrive commenting that the LIE album wasn't released until March of 1970. The photo ran in newspapers in 1984 on an anniversary for the TLB murders.

The caption says that the knives were confiscated in the Barker Raids. It is obviously a staged photo.

Among the recent documents I obtained there is a list of the knives taken into custody by Inyo County authorities. I do think that the knives in the photo were from the Barker Raids. There appears to be the same number of knives in the list as the photo. There are a couple of kitchen knives in the photo as well.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Bruce Davis Prison Intake Report


After a defendant is convicted and sentenced, they are sent to a sort of clearing house to determine where in the prison system they should be housed. They are interviewed and given various evaluations including a psych evaluation.

All factors are weighed before assigning the prisoner to a specific facility.

This is Bruce Davis's prison intake report and includes the psych eval.

Some of our readers enjoy reading and dissecting the contents of the documents of the Manson Saga, others, not so much. Since I've recently been able to obtain a large number of documents, I will be focusing on getting them posted. Some documents will simply confirm what we already know. Some documents will dispel mistruths. Other documents will clarify certain situations. And some documents will make you wonder if law enforcement knew what was actually going on. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Charles Alan Green (Beard) Follow-up

 I dislike having to step on an important post like the Tenerelli Files but the Charles Alan Green situation has become time sensitive.

You will recall back at the end of August 2022 I posted a piece on Charles Allen Beard and what had become of him. 


Since I made my post Cielodrive was able to get copies of Green's parole hearings through the 2020 hearing where he first was granted parole. It was reversed by the governor. Unbeknownst to me when I initially published the post, Green was having another parole hearing on September 1, 2022, the same week I put up the post. He was again granted parole by the two-person parole hearing board.

Cielodrive requested the hearing transcripts for the 2022 hearing but it takes 30 days for those hearings to be released. In the meantime, I read the 2020 transcript and found it to be completely at odds with what Green had said to Lynette Fromme and Charles Manson about his parents being in law enforcement.

In the hearing he affirmed to the parole board members that he had been raised by Hells Angels and prostitutes, his father was killed in a gang fight either before he was born or shortly after and he generally had a very violent upbringing. (Reading between the lines, Green was presenting himself as the victim and whatever he had done was not his fault but the fault of his mother and the environment he was raised in.)

2020 hearing transcript

Once Cielodrive received the 2022 hearing transcripts we found he had essentially said the same thing.

2022 hearing transcript

What? In one instance to Fromme and Manson he says he had a law enforcement upbringing and to the parole board he claims to have been raised by Hells Angels etc. Something was not right and I aimed to find out what was true.

I found that everything Green told the parole board was a lie. Then I set about writing a letter to the DA's office in the county where Green was convicted with my findings. I snail mailed the letter to the DA because I was afraid that since I had a number of attachments that an email wouldn't be read for fear of viruses or something. To my dismay, I did not hear back from the DA's office, not even an acknowledgement that they had received my letter. I even emailed the DDA that attended the 2022 hearing a couple of weeks later to ask if he had received it. Crickets. 

I asked Cielodrive if there was something else that could be done. He suggested writing to the chief of victim services at the CDC (California Department of Corrections) since he had worked with her before on other issues. Cielodrive sent her an email of introduction and she agreed to hear me out. I couldn't have been happier about the outcome.

The victim services woman said she would send my letter to the chief of BPH (Bureau of Parole Hearings) investigations for their consideration.  It took a few weeks before I heard back. The day before yesterday, Monday, I got the outcome.

From the woman at victim services-

Hi Deb, thanks for your patience.  BPH updated me this morning – see below.  The information that you submitted has been reviewed by BPH Investigations and the information will all be included in the package that is going to be sent over to the Governor’s Office.  I hope this helps.   Stay in touch

What BPH investigations sent-

 Dear Katie, we have reviewed the allegations and the hearing transcript. We are sharing this information with the Governor’s office so they will have it as well.

The letter and attachments

You can help too by sending a note to the governor opposing Green's release. It can be done by snail mail or email. Remember that he is incarcerated under the name Charles Alan Green and his prison number is B93617. His prison number should be included in whatever you send. For the subject choose "Parole-Governors Review" in the drop-down menu. According to my calculations the 120-day review period by BPH and the governor ends on December 29, 2022.


None of this would have been possible without the help of Cielodrive and of Buntline Special who helped gather the material for the attachments and edited the first draft of my letter. It was kind of snarky! 

Amid all the sniping that the comments sometimes induce it's through conversation that we can make a difference.

Monday, December 5, 2022

The Tenerelli Files

The Sportsman Motel

 Back in 2019 I received a cache of documents from a relative of Filippo Tenerelli. I was asked to look at the material and see if it would sway my opinion as to whether or not Filippo was murdered.  I did not believe that Filippo was murdered even after reading the documents. I let the conversation drop because I did not want to argue the point with the Tenerelli family. I'm sure it must be very difficult for a family to come to terms with the idea that a member of their family took their own life, particularly a religious family that was taught that a person who commits suicide cannot be buried in consecrated ground. 

In 2007 Paul Dostie and his cadaver sniffing dog Buster led a team of other cadaver dogs and their handlers on a search of Barker Ranch for possible bodies buried by members of the Manson Family. White Rabbitt was the informant who claimed that bodies were buried at Barker. As we know, there were no bodies found even though the dogs did pick up the scent of remains.

This search seems to have kicked off a re-investigation of Tenerelli's death in 2008. Tom O'Neill appears to have been the catalyst for this investigation by virtue of having requested any and all documents and materials related to the initial investigation beginning in 2007. The documents had to be retrieved from storage so they gave it another look-see. In the end the Bishop Police Department did not believe that Tenerelli was murdered and that his death was the result of suicide.

The Tenerelli family was not informed of this re-investigation, not by the Bishop Police Department nor by Tom O'Neill. They learned of it eight years later. In 2016 the Tenerelli family member made a request to the Bishop Police Department for any and all documents and materials related to Tenerelli's death as well as any communications that Tom O'Neill had with the department. There is a complete list of everything requested by the Tenerelli family member at the beginning of the first pdf.

I dislike redacting anything from the documents I provide but, in this instance, I felt it prudent to redact the Tenerelli family member's name and address as well as Tom O'Neill's phone number and address. I did not redact his name, he's a public figure at this point whereas the Tenerelli family is not.

There are a couple of reports that are nearly impossible to read in the first two pdf's. One report begins on page 15 and continues to page 18. The second report is on pages 30 and 31. Copies of both of these reports were in the material I recently obtained and they are easier to read than what is in these pdf's so I'm attaching a seventh pdf with just those reports.

pdf pages 1-25

Monday, November 28, 2022

Oct. 20, 1969 Interviews

Photo courtesy of University of Nevada

 The LASD went to Inyo County to interview those arrested in the Barker Ranch Raids. They also interviewed Paul Watkins and Brooks Poston who were not arrested.


October 20, 1969

Information Obtained from Various Subjects at Inyo County Sheriff's Department

On 10/14/69 we interviewed POSTON, Brooks Ramsey; male Caucasian, 12/15/48, home address 408 Lee Street, Boger, Texas. He has lived at Barker Ranch, Panamint Valley, since October 1968. He worked at the Spahn Movie Ranch from June until October 1968.

He met MANSON, Charles in June 1968 at Dennis Wilson's residence at 14400 Sunset Blvd., West Los Angeles. Wilson is a member of the Beach Boys singing group. Charles Manson lived with Wilson for a while, and used his car.

Poston and Manson went to work at the Spahn Ranch in June 1968. At the Spahn Ranch, Poston met GOOD, Sandy; FROMME, Lynn; BLUESTEIN, Diane; and two other girls. Poston stated he saw the females at the Spahn Ranch in possession of numerous credit cards. Poston said that the credit cards were obtained by the females either by sex or by trickery. Poston thinks the girls were working as prostitutes but has not seen anything to substantiate this.

The girls used to obtain old vegetables from markets in the Simi Valley and the San Fernando Valley. Girls also used to obtain day-old bakery goods from an unknown bakery. The girls also used to solicit food from various churches and other charitable organizations.

Poston stated that at the Death Valley area locations, Manson used to tell the girls that they must have sexual relations with the men or he (Manson) would injure the girls.

Poston also stated regarding credit cards that most of the girls in the group are runaway juveniles and, to be accepted by Manson, the girls normally had to furnish credit cards to Manson. These cards normally came from parents of the runaway juveniles. Poston said he once gave a Texaco gas credit card to Manson, and someone ran up the charges in California and Oregon.

Poston stated that Manson once gave an old panel truck, faded blue or green, to the WKFL (Fountain of the World) religious order, Box Canyon, Chatsworth. This truck was obtained at an unknown location, Manson traded this truck to the cult so that some of the females at the Spahn Ranch would have some place to live. The females involved were GLUTZ, Sadie Mae; BRUNNER, Mary; and ROWE, Stephanie.

Poston stated that the group left Spahn Ranch in October 1968 after Manson had an argument with George Spahn. The group traveled from the Spahn Ranch to Death Valley in a converted 57 passenger school bus, that was bought for $750. The money reportedly was from Juanita's insurance refund. Manson took out seats, put in mattresses, and drove it to the Golar Wash area, Death Valley. The bus is presently at Barker Ranch.

When the group left the Spahn Ranch, FROMME, Lynette; SANKSTON, Leslie; and MEYERS, Cathy, were left behind for an unknown reason. The group arrived at Golar Wash area about Thanksgiving, 1968, in the school bus with about 20 persons on the bus.

Poston states that 2-Dodge trucks, both owned by BEAUSOLIEL, Robert, are in the Golar Wash area. One truck is a black Dodge weapons carrier that is at the Barker Ranch. The other is an orange Dodge power wagon which is parked at Ballarat. Both are probably registered to Beausoleil's wife, named Gail. Beausoleil reportedly traded a speed boat he owned for the two trucks. Gail Beausoleil was last at the Spahn Ranch in July 1968, possibly now living in North Hollywood.

Poston stated he saw Manson at the Barker Ranch about 9/25/69 in possession of a .12-gauge pump shotgun, and an "over and under" shotgun. Also, Manson had a .45 caliber Buntline, blue steel revolver. This revolver was reportedly owned by a person known as "Shorty." "Shorty", [later identified as SHEA, Donald]. Poston described Shorty as male/Caucasian, 38 years, 5-11, heavy build, with a beer belly. Poston last saw Shorty in September 1968. At that time Shorty was driving a blue, 1950 to 1956 Cadillac.

Poston stated that about 9/25/69, Manson told Poston to go to the foot of Golar Wash to pickup some auto parts. Poston drove from Barker Ranch to the foot of Golar Wash in the orange Dodge power wagon. At the foot of Golar Wash he assisted DAVIS, Bruce; MOLLER?, Grant; aka "Clem"; and a male/Caucasian, 16 years, known as "Scott" in loading auto parts in truck and returned to Barker Ranch.

Poston stated that when one Officer Pursell was at Barker Ranch, a BRENDA and RUTH ANN were the females that Officer Pursell spoke to, Manson was hiding in the rocks. After Pursell left, Manson took a double barrel shotgun, owned by Stanley Berry, and went into the hills and fired the weapon three times stating officers had been "jacking up his people."

Poston stated that VANCE, Bill, aka COLE, William Rex; had burglarized singer Jack Jones' residence in San Fernando Valley, and that a white-felt Western hat was at the Barker Ranch.

Poston stated regarding the stolen vehicles that a dune buggy, yellow or gold with a black vinyl top, was driven into the Barker Ranch by "Gypsy" (WRIGHT, Kathleen Kay) about 9/24/69.

The gray rail dune buggy was driven to the Barker Ranch by "Tex" (MONTGOMERY, Charles) just prior to 9/24/69.

The blue metal flake dune buggy arrived at Barker Ranch the week of 9/24/69, unknown who drove the vehicle in.

The dune buggy with "Yankee Go Home" on rear was driven to Barker Ranch by Manson, accompanied by Gypsy.

The red Toyota was driven to Barker Ranch by Bruce Davis.


The 1969 Ford was brought to the foot of Golar Wash by Gypsy and MCCANN, Brenda. Vehicle was possibly rented by Brenda McCann with a stolen credit card. The 1969 Ford was also driven around Golar Wash by Manson. The blue or green stock Volkswagen owned by SMITH, Claudia, was driven several times by Bruce Davis.

A white, flatbed truck arrived at Golar Wash about 9/15/69. Truck had a wing tank, tools, welding tanks, leopard skins, and brand new tires in wrappings. (This truck may have been from Spahn Ranch).

The red Toyota had a 40 gallon gas tank mounted on rear.

The interview was concluded at 10:00 p.m., on 10/14/69. Poston said he could be contacted again if more information is needed. He is known to Deputy Ward - Inyo County Sheriff's Department. Poston may be used to testify in court, although he said he would not testify against Manson.

This writer then talked to MCCANN, Brenda aka PITMAN, Nancy. She was very vague in her answers. When questioned about her actions the past few weeks, she stated she had been at her parents home about 3 weeks ago. She stated she had been driving to her parents home in Malibu by Leslie Sankston, who was enroute to Santa Monica. She then said her father drove her to a friend's home in Malibu. The friend, by her description, is TERRY MELCHER, 22146 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. (He is the step-son of actress Doris Day.) Brenda stated she stayed the rest of that day at Melcher's, then hitchhiked to San Fernando Valley and stayed a couple of days in the mountains near the Nike? Missile Base, Brown's Canyon, Chatsworth. She then went to the Topanga Canyon area, went to the "Corral Bar", 2034 North Topanga Blvd., Topanga, and met a person known to her as "Evan." She then was transported to the Death Valley area about 9/25/69 in a blue metal flake dune buggy, very fancy chrome, etc. The dune buggy was driven by "Evan."

Brenda stated she was at Barker Ranch with MORSE, Rachel the day the Park Ranger and CHP officer were at the ranch.

Brenda stated that when she was home about three weeks ago, she purchased gasoline for Leslie Sankston's car with a credit card of her father's. She stated purchase was made at a Texaco station probably at Pacific Coast Highway and Crosscreek Road, Malibu. She stated she either lost card after purchase or left card in Leslie Sankston's car.

The interview was halted at this time as subject caught herself in a lie and refused to make any further statement.

At 10:30 a.m., 10/15/69, the writers attempted to interview BLUESTEIN, Diane Elizabeth, but she refused to make any statement.

At 10:40 a.m., 10/15/69, the writers interviewed SANKSTON, Leslie, who would not make any statements regarding the groups activity, other than stating she had not driven a motor vehicle in a year.

At 10:50 a.m., 10/15/69, the writers interviewed MORSE, Rachel Susan, who would make no statements other than she had never ridden in any of the dune buggies or the trucks in the Death Valley area.

At 11:00 a.m., 10/15/69, the writers attempted to interview PUGH, Sandra, but she refused to make any statements regarding the groups activity.

At 2:00 p.m., 10/15/69, writers interviewed WATKINS, Paul; 1/25/50, 5-5, 130 lbs., brn hair, brn eyes, CII #3-507-517, who currently lives in Shoshone area of Death Valley. Watkins used to be a member of the "family". Watkins had been previously arrested with the family by Antelope Valley Station on 4/25/69, when a Dodge power wagon he was riding in was impounded as a stolen vehicle. Regarding this Dodge power wagon, Watkins stated Charles Manson had tried to buy the truck from a person in Canoga Park for $1,500. The person who had the truck had no paperwork on the vehicle. Truck was later stolen by LIPISETT, David, and it was driven to the location where all the persons were arrested in Antelope Valley Station for GTA, file #469-02595-1173-029. The truck was stolen from an unknown address on Parthenia Street, west of Desoto Avenue, Canoga Park, and may have already been a stolen vehicle at time it was taken.

Another truck, described as a white stake body truck, was driven to Death Valley from Spahn Ranch by Bruce Davis. This truck was later sold by Davis.

A dune buggy that was in control of "Tex" Montgomery at Barker Ranch, had a stolen engine in it. The engine was hidden under a pile of trash at Barker Ranch, the day Officer Purcell was at Barker Ranch. After officers left, "Tex" had a man known as "Leon" from Henry Biggs' house do some welding on the transmission mounts on the dune buggy, and the stolen engine was installed and the dune buggy was driven to Willow Springs.

The family bought tires, oil, gas, and auto accessories with stolen credit cards, and items were brought to desert. The girls in the family furnish credit cards to Charlie Manson, these cards usually belong to parents of the families.

A Phillips 66 oil credit card was used in Baker by Bruce Davis about 10/6/69. This same card was used in Las Vegas by Davis to fill 5 x 55 gallon drums of gasoline. These drums were returned to Death Valley and left at the Anderson Ranch.


Thanks to Surf Bat

Watkins also saw the "Dougs-U-Rent" stake body truck in Death Valley.

Watkins said Manson gave him $300 to buy supplies with. This was done about 10/5/69.

The shotguns mentioned in the memo written by Inyo County Deputy Cox arrived in Death Valley after Sandy Pugh was released from hospital. (This would have been after 9/16/69.) Guns were brought to Death Valley by Brenda McCann and Sandy Pugh.

John Flynn told Watkins on 10/14/69, that checks were taken from the Spahn Movie Ranch.

Watkins said that about May of 1969, a 1968 Dodge van camper owned by "Juanita" was traded to a person named "Bill" at the Hancock Station across the street from the Hacienda Hotel, Las Vegas. The van camper was traded for an International 4-wheel drive Scout, white in color. The Scout was returned to the Spahn Ranch where it was abandoned about July 1969 due to clutch trouble. This vehicle had Nevada plates when abandoned.

Watkins also stated that "Juanita" received a $3,000 check of some kind, probably from her parents, cashed it, and bought two dune buggies from Butler's Buggy Shop, Chatsworth.

Regarding the large school bus parked at Barker Ranch, Watkins stated it was purchased from Mintern P. Collins, Cheseboro Road, Agoura. It was bought for $500, the money coming from the father of Sandy Pugh who lives in Boulder Creek, California.

Watkins said that most of the family lived at 31062 Mulholland Highway, Malibu Station area, in February 1969. During this time, William Rex Cole stole a white 1967 VW and left it parked on a fire road two miles off Mulholland Highway. Also, during this time, Charlie Manson took a large wing tank from this area, and hauled it from the area in a 1936 Ford pickup, orange with an Oldsmobile engine. This pickup is owned by DECARLO, Danny. After this incident, Manson was arrested by Malibu Station for an unknown offense.

Watkins stated that the red Toyota recovered at Death Valley was stolen from Van Nuys by Bruce Davis. Two days after taking the Toyota, Davis bought about 95 gallons of gas in Ridgecrest, using a stolen credit card. TUFTS, Garth, accompanied Davis during this time.

About 9/5/69, Brenda McCann rented a 1969 Ford with a stolen credit card. With her when the Ford was rented were Paul Watkins, Gypsy, and "Scotty." Some credit cards were taken in a burglary at singer Jack Jones' residence in Sherman Oaks. Watkins stated this burglary was pulled by William Rex Cole. Some of the credit cards were used by Brenda McCann, Gypsy, and Patty; and were used at Bullocks. Also gasoline was purchased with a stolen credit card at a gas station next to Denny's Restaurant, Sand Canyon Road, Saugus.

Watkins said he saw a person known as BARRY, Stanley aka "Lanier," at Barker Ranch about 9/2/69, driving a 3/4 ton Chevrolet truck, brown or gold in color. Barry lives in Kingman, Arizona, can be contacted by phone #753-5005. Watkins said he had heard that Barry had been killed for an unknown reason. Watkins last saw Barry wearing black pants and a white shirt.

(Note: Stanley "Lanier" Berry was Robert "Bob" Berry's brother. Bob Berry married Juanita Wildebush. He was not killed. He passed May 10, 2009 and was living in Las Vegas.)

Regarding the rumor that a person known as "Shorty" had been killed, Watkins said Manson told him that Tufts had killed "Shorty". Watkins also stated that Tufts told him that he had killed "Shorty", that some of the girls dug a hole and put the body in it. Also at the site where Shorty was buried were Tufts, Manson, Bruce Davis, Tex Montgomery. Watkins did not know the location of burial site.

Watkins was asked to identify some of the members of the family. He stated that Ruth Ann SMITH is from Ukiah, and is 16 years old. Her father is Dean Moorehouse who is an ex-preacher from Ukiah, and was recently arrested for possession of LSD. Her maiden name is MOOREHOUSE, but recently she married a man named HUEVELHURST, who is in Hawaii.


Kathleen Wright's true name is thought to be SCHER or SHEARER and is from Woodland Hills. She used to live at Happy Trail, Topanga with Bob Beausoliel. She is 25 years old.

Diane Bluestein, aka "Snake," is her true name. Her mother works for Summer Hills School in San Fernando Valley. She is 16 years old, and lives in Canoga Park.

Leslie Sankston is from San Jose and came to Southern California with Bob Beausoliel.

Carol Matthews is 16 years old and is from the Glendale area.

Lynette Fromme is from the Huntington Beach area.

Interview with Watkins concluded at 3:30 p.m., on 10/15/69.

At 4:00 p.m., on 10/15/69, writers interviewed BARTELL, Susan Phyllis; who was only person of the group who had a driver's license showing her true identity. She stated she has been with the family only since about June 1969. She owns a 1958 Olds, #LTF 188, which was impounded by CHP. Found in her car was a Gulf credit card in name of J.C. Relles, #60-720-063-4. Bartell states this card was given to her in Sylmar by a WEBB, Bob. This card was reported as a stolen card to Gulf main office in Texas on 10/8/69. Bartell said she bought gas in Ridgecrest and signed the purchase receipt. She also bought gas in Barstow signing the purchase receipt. Bartell stated the card was used at the Holiday Inn on 10/12/69 in Barstow, purchase receipt signed by GILLIES, Catherine; she signed as RELLES, Penelope, with address in Mission Hills, California.

Next writers interviewed SCHWARM, Mary Ann. She stated she came to California from Portland, Oregon, about 9-15-69. She drove down from Portland in a red car, unknown make, with Vern THOMPSON, William Rex COLE, and Ed BAILEY. They all lived at 1109 W. Victory, Burbank, from 9-21-69 to 10-4-69, then they went to Death Valley.

SCHWARM said she rode from Burbank to Goler Wash in a rented white truck. She said Duane, Denny and COLE took turns driving the truck. Upon arriving at Goler Wash, the truck became stuck in the sand and was abandoned, later impounded by CHP.

SCHWARM said that on 10-4-69 Vern THOMPSON and Ed BAILEY took all her clothing, and left the residence at 1109 Victory, Burbank.

SCHWARM said that other persons followed the rented truck to Goler Wash in a 1958 Oldsmobile.

At this point in the interview, SCHWARM was shown some papers found in Bartell’s 1958 Ols, and SCHWARM then admitted her true name was VON AHN, Diane Marie; dob 11-16-50, and that she was a runaway from a probation department facility at 3543 South-East Belmont, Portland, Oregon. She left the facility 9-15-69.

At 9:00 pm, 10-15-69, writers interviewed COLE, William Rex; who was booked as HAMIC, David Lee. COLE was semi-cooperative during the interview. He stated he formerly lived at 1109 Victory Blvd., Burbank, with Duane SCHWARM. COLE said he formerly worked at Spahn Ranch, Chatsworth. When questioned if he knew anyone named “Shorty” at Spahn Ranch, COLE said he knew Donald SHEA who married a colored dancer in Las Vegas about two months ago. She owns an unknown type compact car.

COLE was then released by Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, as they had dropped their charges.

At 10:00 pm writers interviewed Bruce DAVIS who was uncooperative, would not answer any questions. A partial handwriting card was completed by DAVIS. This handwriting card was prepared for Agent Michaels, Alcohol, Firearms, Tax Unit, L.A. Office, as Mr. Michael’s office is preparing a case against DAVIS, who purchased a weapon signing forms in his alias name of Jack MC MILLAN.

At 10:40 pm, 10-15-69, Madeline COTTAGE, while being released by Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, told jailer she wanted to have charges filed on her as she helped steal the dune buggy with “Yankee Go Home” written on the rear of it. Writers then spoke to COTTAGE, and she again made same statement.


 The original report

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Monday, November 21, 2022

November 21, 1969: Revisiting the Gaul/Sharp Murders

Most students of TLB probably know about subsequent suspected deaths of persons which have been attributed to the Family. Prominent among these are the murders of Doreen Gaul and James Sharp on November 21, 1969 in the Westlake area of Los Angeles. 

Doreen Gaul yearbook photo

James Sharp

Doreen was 19 years old and was originally from Albany, NY. James Sharp was 15, and was from St Louis, MO. Both of these teens were students of Scientology, and travelled to Los Angeles to study its teachings, living in a neighborhood close to downtown LA.

Doreen lived in a house where several other students of Scientology lived, and it is believed that Bruce Davis--who was a Scientologist himself and who frequented this house--was thought to have possibly known Doreen, as he is reported to have dated a number of girls at that residence. This takes place, of course, over three months after the Tale/Labianca killings, and about ten days before the TLB case broke and was finally reported in the press.

For years, Davis has been considered a suspect by many in the Gaul/Sharp murders, with some people contending that Davis was himself the Zodiac killer. Davis denies all of this, and the debate over Family involvement into Doreen and Jim's death continues.

Rare photos of Doreen Gaul

Recently I discovered what I consider an excellent article on Doreen and Jim, along with some additional photos of Doreen that I had not previously seen. The article was written by G. Jack Urso, and it appears on his website, along with his other writings. I highly recommend everyone read this article, as I believe it a very logical insight into the murders of Doreen and Jim, and will help facilitate the discussion of that case going forward.

The link to the article: aeolus13umbra.com. Click on the Historical and Literary Essays drop down, and select the article, "Green Grass and Rainbows: The Murder of Doreen Gaul, November, 1969".

In addition, below I provide the LAPD progress reports of the murders, which I originally located at themurdersof1969.com. To me, the timeline of the night of November 21, 1969 chronicles Jim and Doreen's movements with remarkable detail. Compare this to, say, the Tate murders and then the Labiancas, and I think we see a significantly greater amount of eyewitness data just before the crime occurred. According to the police reports, witness Greg Wells saw Doreen and Jim standing at the corner of 9th and Alvarado hitchhiking at 9:35pm. At 11:00pm Alex Risk discovered the bodies in the alley behind 1138 Magnolia St.

Someone within that intervening 85 minutes picked up the two, drove them to an unknown location, raped Doreen, killed them both, then drove them to the alley and dumped them behind 1138 Magnolia. Both of them were beaten with what appeared to be a chain at that location posthumously. Their bodies were discovered only a few blocks from where they were picked up hitchhiking.

Doreen and Jim were last seen on the corner across the street from this building

In my opinion, this crime occurred very close to where Doreen and Jim were picked up, and was ruthlessly carried out very quickly. Taken together, the murders of Doreen and Jim remain a mystery, and many questions about this case exist, as it remains on the periphery of the Tate/Labianca murders.

Had Doreen lived, she would be 72 today. Jim would be 68. These two kids died an extremely violent and senseless death, and their killer(s)--because they may have been young at the time--may still be roaming the streets today. Let us forever remember Doreen Marie Gaul and James Andrew Sharp.

Below are LAPD progress reports on the Gaul/Sharp murders: