Excerpts from Charles Manson’s statement to the California court that convicted him of seven counts of murder conspiracy in the first degree and sentenced him to death in 1970:
“These children that came at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up. Most of the people at the ranch that you call the Family were just people that you did not want, people that were alongside the road, that their parents had kicked out or they did not want to go to Juvenile Hall, so I did the best I could and I took them up on my garbage dump and I told them this: that in love there is no wrong.
“… It is not my responsibility. It is your responsibility. It is the responsibility you have toward your own children who you are neglecting, and then you want to put the blame on me again and again and again.… You eat meat with your teeth and you kill things that are better than you are, and in the same respect you say how bad and even killers that your children are. You make your children what they are. I am just a reflection of every one of you.”
“… I have nothing against none of you. I can’t judge any of you. But I think it is high time that you all started looking at yourselves and judging the lie that you live in. I sit and I watch you from nowhere, and I have nothing in my mind, no malice against you and no ribbons for you.… You are just doing what you are doing for the money, for a little bit of attention from someone. I can’t dislike you, but I will say this to you. You haven’t got long before you are all going to kill yourselves because you are crazy. And you can’t project it back at me.…”
“You can say that it’s me that cannot communicate, and you can say that it’s me that don’t have any understanding, and you can say that when I am dead your world will be better, and you can lock me up in your penitentiary and you can forget about me. But I’m only what lives inside of you, each and every one of you. These children … you only give them your frustration. You only give them your anger. You only give them the bad part of you rather than give them the good part of you. You should all turn around and face your children and start following them and listening to them.
“… If I could get angry at you I would try to kill every one of you. If that’s guilt, I accept it. These children, everything they have done, they done for love of their brother.…
“I may have implied on several occasions to several different people that I may have been Jesus Christ, but I haven’t decided yet what I am or who I am. I am whoever you make me, but what you want is a fiend. You want a sadistic fiend because that is what you are.
“… My father is the jail house. My father is your system.… I have ate out of your garbage cans to stay out of jail. I have wore your second-hand clothes. I have given everything I have away. Everything! I have accepted things and given them away the next second. I have done my best to get along in your world and now you want to kill me, and I look at you and I look how incompetent you all are, and then I say to myself, You want to kill me? Ha, I’m already dead! Have been all my life!’ I’ve lived in your tomb that you built.”
“I did seven years for a thirty-seven-dollar check. I did twelve years because I didn’t have any parents, and how many other sons do you think you have in there? You have many sons in there, many, many sons in there, most of them are black and they are angry.…
“Sometimes I think about giving it to you. Sometimes I’m thinking about just jumping on you and let you shoot me. Sometimes I think it would be easier than sitting here and facing you in the contempt that you have for yourself, the hate that you have for yourself. It’s only the anger you reflect at me, the anger that you have got for you.… If I could I would jerk this microphone out and beat your brains out with it because that is what you deserve! That is what you deserve.
“… I live in my world, and I am my own king in my world, whether it be a garbage dump or in the desert or wherever it be. I am my own human being. You may restrain my body and you may tear my guts out, do anything you wish, but I am still me and you can’t take that. You can kill the ego. You can kill the pride. You can kill the want, the desire of a human being. You can lock him in a cell and you can knock his teeth out and smash his brain, but you cannot kill the soul.”
“… I don’t care what you believe. I know what I am. You care what I think of you? Do you care what my opinion is? No, I hardly think so. I don’t think that any of you care about anything other than yourselves.…
“You made me a monster and I have to live with that the rest of my life because I cannot fight this case. If I could fight this case and I could present this case, I would take that monster back and I would take that fear back. Then you could find something else to put your fear on, because it’s all your fear. You look for something to project it on and you pick a little old scroungy nobody who eats out of a garbage can, that nobody wants, that was kicked out of the penitentiary, that has been dragged though every hellhole you can think of, and you drag him up and put him into a courtroom. You expect to break me? Impossible! You broke me years ago. You killed me years ago!”
On September 30 2020, Clare Bronfman was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison. Nine former members of NXIVM testified against her, detailing her role in the organization’s unabated, years-long legal pursuit of them. On October 27 2020, “Vanguard” Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years, after many hours of victim statements from fifteen former NXIVM members and victims of his abuse. On June 30 2021, Allison Mack received a sentence of three years in prison, three years of supervised release after serving her prison term, plus a fine of $20,000 dollars. On September 8 2021, NXIVM’s co-founder Nancy Salzman was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Detractors say he runs a cult-like program aimed at breaking down his subjects psychologically, separating them from their families and inducting them into a bizarre world of messianic pretensions, idiosyncratic language and ritualistic practices.
ATWA is the acronym for Air Trees Water Animals. It is a name for all life on Earth, and represents the human quest to live in balance with our planet’s life-support systems.
ATWA has its roots in the hills of Kentucky, USA, when people living on the land took a stand against industrial “progress” in the 1930’s. Today that struggle and thought is alive in passionate and committed people throughout the world.
There is a war being waged upon Life. ATWA is a unified movement to re-direct human efforts of war towards the problem. War on the problem, war on pollution – not war on life.
Everyone helping with ATWA is doing so on a volunteer basis.
ATWA is a California 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization, and we are increasing our efforts to redeem the planet through tree and seed-planting projects, public outreach and education, and networking with like-minded organizations.
Charles Manson founded the word ATWA. His vision of life on Earth has inspired many people worldwide to learn about living in balance with the planet. For over 43 years, Manson has tirelessly spoken out against the destructive actions of industrial society.
Lynette Fromme (Red) and Sandra Good (Blue), along with Charles Manson, have been warning society of the dangers of pollution and environmental destruction for decades. Red and Blue are the cornerstones of a real no-compromise ecological movement.
In 1975, Red was convicted of attempting to assassinate then President Gerald Ford. She was sentenced to life in prison. After serving 34 years, she was released in August of 2009.
In 1976, Blue was convicted of conspiracy to mail threatening letters and “issuing threatening communications through interstate commerce”. She served ten years.
“You can’t stop war, but you can redirect it. You can redirect it to the problem. The problem is pollution.”
~ Charles Manson
An interview with Charles Manson, Lynette Fromme, and Sandra Good from 2011.
Can you tell those who don’t otherwise know about ATWA it’s goals, outlooks and purposes.
CHARLES MANSON: Survival.
SANDRA GOOD: ATWA stands for Air, Trees. Water, Animals. It’s also for All The Way Alive. ATWA is your survival on earth. You are either working for ATWA – life – or you’re working for death. Fix it and live or run from it and die. As Manson woke up, he brought everyone at the ranch into the thought of one world, one mind, one peace on earth. He wrote, “I won’t sell my Soul 4 it’s for ATWA. That’s the only way life on earth can be alive. The will of God is life. Get in God’s will or die. Die can be done in the mind’s thought pattern and new life can be brought in focus.”
LYNETTE FROMME: ATWA means whatever is necessary to sustain the natural balance of air, trees, water, and animals for the whole planet (and therefore the people who can live within that balance). Most individuals have always thought themselves not big enough or significant enough to have an effect on the whole planet, a notion which conversely made them think they could afford big arrogance and big greed over its resources. Some people now know how seriously and negatively the mass of people already have affected the planet, and that in order to live and die with any respect for ourselves we’ll need to think simply enough to see the big picture, to order and accept the order of whatever is necessary for its survival. Each person must work literally for his or her own life. While this would not always be easy, it would always he meaningful, worthwhile, satisfying, spiritual, and leading to the peace of knowing LIFE before you die.
Are you familiar with, or in contact with the more radical environmental groups – Earth First!, Sea Shepherds, ALYNETTE FROMME, etc?
CHARLES MANSON: We started the root thoughts for most or a lot.
LYNETTE FROMME: We aren’t part of a group. We’re related to air, trees, water, and animals. Groups I’ve seen perpetuate the paperwork to sustain themselves. “Environmental groups” get a name, a following, and, if they’re not mean enough, a lot of politically, racially, and sexually motivated people take over their forums. The word “environment” itseLynette Fromme has a technical sound implying some place out there away from where we are. Point blank: you can live about seven to ten minutes without air, about seven to ten days without water, about seven to ten weeks without food. Trees and vegetation make air. Animals – the entire spectrum of creatures commonly called ‘animals ‘- fertilize, aerate, pollinate, clean, and give land and water its vitality and health.
How does ATWA perceive a change coming?
CHARLES MANSON: Do or die.
SANDRA GOOD: Get out of the Hollywood-media brainwash. Get back to the ground. Do what you can to get Manson his rights in a court of law. He was denied his constitutional right to defend himseLynette Fromme. As his rights were taken, so will your rights be taken. The truth has been covered up to the loss of earth and all who want to live. Rise above woman’s fear and confusion. Recognize your brother/soul seLynette Fromme.
LYNETTE FROMME: Through all its perceivers.
A mutual acquaintance who works for the military was commenting that ATWA felt great change would come via that avenue. Is this correct? If so, how?
CHARLES MANSON: Center of all law is life and must be survival. Law and all order starts from life – one life to live or all life will do its end on Earth. People get one new thought from us and run with it, distort, twist it and $. Computer read outs.
SANDRA GOOD: Yes, historically the military represents on some levels the highest development of the human mind. The US military comes from my ancestors’ mind. I am descended from John Paul Jones, the father of the US Navy. I grew up in a Navy town. Manson was born on Veteran’s Day, November l l, 1934. His grandfather served In World War One, his dad in World War Two. Manson has done more than 47 years in reformatories, jails, and prisons which were staffed mostly by ex-servicemen. CHARLES MANSON has said, “I live in the uniform. I’ve lived there all my life.” Another time he said. “I believe my brother is a veteran, that he fought for me, he gave me his life, and I think the graveyards are full of my brothers.”
There is a chain of command in the military that is based on motions and truth, honor and loyalty. Men in uniform understand the brotherhood whereas in civilian life today honor and loyalty seem to be extinct. The main reason for the killings in 1969 was for love of brother, to get a brother out of jail. Lynette Fromme has served 20 years because of her efforts to get Manson a trialwith rights and to call attention to the fact that the country is out of order and that ATWA is dying. I served ten years in federal prison for similar reasons. As a woman I can’t really answer this question adequately, but I do know first hand something of loyalty, honor, and sacrifice.
There is much wrong with the military today, starting with the chain of command all the way to the top. The bureaucrats and military are two different things. If you had a king the military could work better. You’re looking at a bad military because you’re looking at a bad bunch of sneaky politicians who are selling the military. They have been selling the country. But when you get a king you can’t sell the country because if you’re selling the country you’re selling the king. The king is the mind, the king is the life. If you beat the king you beat yourseLynette Fromme because you are the king. Each man is his own king. Put all your kings together in one symbolic king and then you have to do whatever that one says. If you don’t do what that one says you’re going to lose it all. Falling back to the bureaucratical system we have won’t get it. Democracy ain’t shit. Everyone says it’s working because the people who are rich are telling them to say that. It’s been falling down for years. They’ve been selling it, but that doesn’t change the military because the military is nothing but procedure. The military is NOW. It runs on now, on orders, and these orders should be in the will of god and not held in civilian courts which are a bunch of political B. S. You figure that the President of the United States stands the uniform up to attention, the King of England stands all the English soldiers up to attention – other leaders do the same. Then you imagine Manson is ten times that in real authority, in experience and truth and will for life. When people get to that their heads can’t deal with it and it’s too heavy. In short, we get Manson his rights, we allow him his authority,and we win the war on pollution or we will all perish. The US military has the potential to win any war as long as its chain of command is intact and in the truth.
LYNETTE FROMME: The change logically becomes military because military powers are meant to be used for the preservation and defense of a homeland. The homeland now is the whole planet. Individual groups — again political, racial and sexual — would argue forever and die without clean water and air, life and death would continue to become a tightening noose of seLynette Frommeish concerns choking off any comfort, peace, and quality that technology may have offered. Without quality of humanity, the rest is a scrap heap.
It seems as though many people are sympathetic with ATWA. Do you think our days are reflectivc of the late 60’s? Lots of interest, a small amount of real action, followed by an apathetic tranSandra Goodression into a blind form of acceptance?
CHARLES MANSON: FUCK people they are the problem.
SANDRA GOOD: The movements of the late 60’s/early 70’s were in a large part people selling “revolution”, “peace”, and “love”. The for real people were what the media tagged as “The Manson Family”. That’s why the people who fake for money have for 27 years been covering us up with lies and distortions. A lot of people sell anything they can, including concern for life on earth. Part of my 15 year sentence was for telling all the environmental groups “Quit faking!”. We gave our lives for brother and for ATWA and after all these years none of those groups saw or responded. They can’t see our real because they are fakes. They play all that, “It’s wrong to kill or go to war to save your own life on earth.” I’d say: This is a war on pollution, on the problems, a war for life.
Only the walking dead can be blindly accepting of what’s happening in the world today. Starving Third Worlders who move to First World countries aren’t apathetic of the fact that the quality of life where they came from has been rendered no good. The impact of immigration, added to the damage already ongoing, will mean a growing man-made hell. And the end of life on earth.
People can say that the “enemy” is all that is in the human psyche that sets it against itseLynette Fromme — seLynette Fromme destructiveness: that which moves one to defeat one’s seLynette Fromme, one’s life on earth, one’s peace, one’s love, one’s joy in the experience of living, one’s soul, one’s creativity, one’s children, family, kin, and kind. Millions of trees are cut to print more and more books analyzing the human condition and how to deal with the worldwide breakdown of order, health and sanity. More cups, posters and shirts are sold showing what has and is becoming extinct. You can name the human condition however you will — alienated, wrongly conditioned, inherently good or evil, in need of… etc. There are countless people to tell us what is wrong and to sell us their physical, metaphysical, or spiritual cures. You can attempt to stave off the creeping poisoning of one’s own body. Air and water are life. If your air and water are full of the emissions of millions of cars and factories, your life is poisoned. So you can try all kinds of things to stave off the nightmare that each knows in his soul is growing worse each day — a world with no order, no leadership, no trees, 100’s of millions of cars, brown, smelly skies, and frenzied two-legged creatures mindlessly ravaging the earth till there’s nothing left.
LYNETTE FROMME: Because people need reassurance from other people, people fail. Doubt and fear destroy the best instincts. Anything done with ATWA in mind needs no reassurance. But to keep from having everyone running helter skelter, there is natural leadership. Natural order is not up for debate. It exists independent of our thinking and is as physical a reality as gravity.
It seems as though CHARLES MANSON is reappearing in the public again quite a bit recently. Could this gain support for ATWA if put out where everyone can see it (or maybe they don’t want to see it)?
SANDRA GOOD: If people can’t see by now that their own lives on earth are dying each day in the air and water, in the trees and in the wildlife, then they are truly the walking dead and nothing will wake them up. Let the dead bury the dead. The mass of people are sheep and move whichever way the money or the biggest fear tells them to move. When air and water get bad enough people will do as they are told. It doesn’t matter what people think. It’s what is. Do you want to live? Then fix your air and water. Save your trees and wildlife. Those who war upon any part of nature are warring upon themselves and their children. ATWA is ATWAR with pollution. ATWA is a revolution against pollution. ATWA is a holy war.
LYNETTE FROMME: Manson is new thought, old soul, and still right.
What is ATWA’s view on the population explosion? What can be done to stop the weeds?
CHARLES MANSON: Survive at all cost. When it comes to the dead heads there is no game no slack, not an act: real or death will be a reality.
SANDRA GOOD: It is impossible for the natural resources of the planet to sustain the burgeoning human population. Even if lifestyles were to change worldwide to have minimal impact on ATWA the sheer numbers cannot be supported. What can be done to stop the weeds? Chemical spraying, widespread and intensive, has been going on for decades. I was in federal prison for ten years because I warned of the consequences of such pervasive poisoning. I warned that cancers and all kinds of social breakdown would be epidemic as a result of pollution. So you see, peoples’ own death wishes are taking care of some of the population problem. However, laws in accord with need for survival will have to be made and enforced. Such laws will not be forthcoming from the ball-less money minds that call themselves public servants. The destruction of ATWA and over- population are world problems and must he dealt with on a world level in a world court.
LYNETTE FROMME: Many animals, by God, reproduce and care for what the food and water supply will support. If they can do it we can do it.
Born in Santa Monica, California, Lynette Alice Fromme grew up in Westchester, California where her father William worked as an aeronautical engineer. Lyn was the first of 3 children, was a talented, well-liked child that toured throughout the United States and Canada in a song and dance troop called the Lariats. In Junior High School Lynette was active with many after school activities. She was a member of the Athenian Honor Societyas well as the Girls Athletic Club. In her drama class Lyn befriended a young Phil Hartman, who eventually gained fame on shows like Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, & Newsradio. When her class gave out superlatives, Lynette was voted “Personality Plus”.
As Lyn grew older, the relationship between her and her father grew apart. Neighbors remembered William Fromme as a tyrant-like figure, who seemed to punish Lyn for little or nothing at all. In High School, Lynette became more rebellious, using drugs and alcohol. She worked in a Canvas shop where coworkers would see Lyn burn herself with lit cigarettes, and shoot staples into her forearm with a staple gun. She briefly dated Bill Siddons, who went on to be the road manager of The Doors. However, Siddons’ mother felt that Lyn was disturbed, and talked Bill into steering clear of her.
After High School, Lynette bounced around, living with different people. She eventually moved back home and enrolled at El Camino Junior College. It wasn’t long before Lyn and her father were fighting again. The two got into a fight over a definition of a word, and it was the last straw for Lynette; again, she hit the road. It was at this time, that Lyn met Charles Manson on Venice Beach. Impressed by Manson, she quickly decided to leave Los Angeles to travel with Charlie and Mary Brunner
Lynette had a special spot in the family; according to Paul Watkins, no one but Charlie was allowed to sleep with Lyn. At Spahn’s Ranch, Fromme spent most of her time taking care of the 80 year-old blind owner, George Spahn. Lynette would make squeak-like noises when George ran his hands up her legs, so he dubbed her “Squeaky.” Lynette was arrested with the family in both the Spahn and Barker Ranch raids. During the Tate-Labianca murder trial Lyn was frequently arrested. The charges ranged from contempt of court, loitering, trespassing on county property, to attempted murder, for a LSD lanced hamburger given to Barbara Hoyt in Hawaii.
After Manson was convicted, Squeaky moved to San Francisco to be closer to San Quentin. She maintained contact with defense attorney Paul Fitzgerald, and family members in and out of jail. However, prison officials were uncomfortable about her and wouldn’t permit her to see Charlie. When Lyn wasn’t petitioning to see Manson, she began writing a book about the family.
In September of 1972, Lynette was arrested in connection with the murders of James and Reni Willet. Authorities soon found she wasn’t involved with the murders, however they were reluctant to let her go. Finally on January 2nd 1973, all charges against Lyn were dropped, and she was released the following day. On her release Lynette was immediately arrested by LAPD. She had been accused of robbing a 7-11 convenience store in October of 1972. At the trial Lyn’s accuser, a 17 year-old 7-11 employee, admitted that the robber didn’t have the “X” scar on her forehead. Once again the charges weren’t dropped until another woman was arrested and confessed to the crime. Freedom was bittersweet for Lyn, the Family was falling apart. Mary, Gypsy, Katie, Leslie, and Sadie all wanted nothing to do with Manson.
Later that year, Lynette moved to Sacramento with Sandra Good. The reason for the move was once again to be closer to Manson; Charlie had been moved from San Quentin to Folsom Prison. While walking in a park Fromme befriended a 64 year-old man named Harold “Manny” Boro. According to Boro’s daughter-in-law, the two were lovers.
In Sacramento, Lyn and Sandy became more preoccupied with saving the environment. It was around this time that Charlie started to talk about the Order of the Rainbow, his own religion in which Lyn and Sandy would be nuns of. Each of the Manson girls was given a color; Lynette was dubbed “Red” and was given the duty of saving the Redwoods. Their Lifestyles would be very different compared to the Spahn’s Ranch days. The girls weren’t allowed to smoke, have sex, or watch “movies with violence that sets thoughts to death and confusion.”
From their P Street apartment, Lyn and Sandy started the International People’s Court of Retribution; a fictitious terrorist group that would assassinate executives and CEO’s of companies that polluted the earth. The two sent out hundreds of threatening letters that claimed that there were thousands of members of the terrorist group just waiting to kill. While trying to get the local news to report the damage being done to the Redwoods from logging, Lyn was informed that the President of the United States was coming to town. On September 5, 1975, Lynette headed down to Capital Park with a loaded Colt .45 automatic pistol (borrowed from Manny Boro) strapped to her leg. When President Gerald Ford came walking down the path, Lynette pulled out her gun. Immediately Secret Service Agents wrestled Lyn to the ground, and the President escaped untouched.
At her trial, Lynette followed Charlie’s example and chose to represent herself. However, her presence in the courtroom was short lived. When Lyn lectured about the Redwoods and her other environmental concerns, Judge Thomas McBride instructed Lyn to stick to things relevant to her case. As Lyn continued to talk about whales and pollution, McBride had her removed from the courtroom. Squeaky was returned to her jail cell, where she spent most of the trial, watching from closed circuit television. Later on in the case, and nearly costing a mistrial, it was discovered that U.S. Attorney Dwayne Keyes had failed to turn over some exculpatory evidence. In late November of 1975, a jury convicted Lynette of Attempted Assassination of the President of the United States of America. Upon sentencing, an angry Lynette threw an apple at Dwayne Keyes’ head, afterwhich Squeaky was sentenced to Life.
Squeaky was sent away to the Alderson Federal Corrections Institute in West Virginia. She was eventually reconnected with fellow family member Sandy Good, after she was transferred to a new prison in Pleasanton, California, where Good was serving time for sending threatening letters. In March of 1979, Lynette attacked a Croatian Nationalist named Julienne Busic, imprisoned from her connection in a 1976 airline hijacking. Squeaky hit Busic in the head with the claw end of a hammer, got 15 months added to her sentence, and was sent back to Alderson. On December 23, 1987, Lyn got word that Charlie was dying of cancer, and escaped from Alderson. She was picked up 2 days later having traveled only a few miles. Squeaky then bounced around the prison system: from Lexington, Kentucky, to Marianna, Florida, and finally to the Federal Medical Center Carswell, near Fort Worth, Texas where she remained until her release on August 16, 2009.
This is the original Manson documentary, featuring interviews with Family members like Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Paul Watkins, as well as Vince Bugliosi, the Los Angeles deputy district attorney and lead prosecutor for the Manson murder trial. Viewers get an inside look into what life was like in the Family thanks to footage shot on their home at Spahn Ranch. Other standout interviews include those with the cellmates of Susan Atkins — one of the three female Family members convicted of murder — who detailed her plans to murder other celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra next. Manson was even nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary, though it lost to one about a different kind of charismatic preacher.
‘Helter Skelter’ (1976)
With taglines like “His name is Charles Manson. His disciples call him God. He preached death!” you know exactly what you’re in for with this campy CBS made-for-TV-movie based on Bugliosi’s bestselling book of the same name. Given the source material, much of the film takes place during the murder trial. To his credit, Steve Railsback is equally convincing and terrifying as Manson. Though it may appear dated now, the movie was incredibly popular when it first aired, even earning three Primetime Emmy nominations.
‘Charles Manson: Superstar’ (1989)
Buckle up — this is a weird one. The film’s aim appears in the first few minutes: “This tape is designed to deprogram the minds of those who are still thinking — those who have not yet been lulled into sedation by the soothing lies that surround us.” The problem is that if the filmmakers were trying to convince people that Manson was a normal, rational guy, that mission was not accomplished — mostly due to interviews with the man himself from inside San Quentin prison. In case that wasn’t enough, the documentary is partially narrated by Zeena LaVey, daughter of Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, and the person behind the topless revue called “the Witches’ Sabbath,” where Atkins was a dancer before she joined the Family.
‘Manson, My Name Is Evil’ (2009)
The plot of this movie centers around a fictional member of the Manson jury: a straight-laced, sheltered young man who becomes infatuated with Leslie Van Houten — one of the three women eventually accused of murder for the deaths of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. The Canadian-produced film draws parallels between the Manson murders and the 1968 My Lai massacre, when American soldiers killed more than 500 civilians in Vietnam, including pregnant women and infants. It’s part satire, part social commentary, and a little odd, but overall a different spin on a well-known story.
‘The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter’ (2009)
If you’ve ever wanted to take one of those tours in Los Angeles that visit locations associated with Manson, but have never had the opportunity, this documentary has you covered. which makes sense, considering it was produced in conjunction with Dearly Departed Tours, a company that specializes in showing tourists the macabre side of Los Angeles. (They’ve even had a five-hour tour of Topanga Canyon and Spahn Ranch scheduled for the 50th anniversary of the murders which sold out.) The draw of this film is being able to virtually visit more than 40 Manson-related locations in southern California from the comfort of your own couch — including footage Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor shot in 1993 while he was recording in the house on Cielo Drive where actor Sharon Tate and four others were murdered, shortly before it was demolished.
‘Life After Manson’ (2014)
This quick, 25-minute documentary focuses on Patricia Krenwinkel — a Family member who participated in both nights of murders in August 1969. If you’ve ever wondered how a person could get to the place of leaving their old life behind to wholeheartedly follow someone like Manson, this film will provide some background. Krenwinkel openly discusses her life before Manson, as well as what it was like to endure his abusive manipulation techniques, and why she considers herself to be an entirely different person than the 19-year-old who committed murder almost 50 years ago.
‘Manson Family Vacation’ (2015)
Unlike the other scripted films on this list, this movie’s plot isn’t a retelling of the Manson murders or trial. Instead, this film takes place in the present and stars Jay Duplass as your average family man whose adopted brother is obsessed with Charles Manson. When Conrad (the brother, played by Linas Phillips) makes a surprise visit to Los Angeles, he insists on dragging Nick (Duplass) around on a tour of the Manson murder sites. The final stop on their excursion is a remote house in Death Valley where Conrad supposedly has a job lined up with an “environmental organization.” At this point, Nick learns the real reason behind this trip and the truth about his brother.
‘Manson’s Lost Girls’ (2016)
In a surprise move, Lifetime made a movie about the women of the Manson Family that Variety described as “a credible account of that historical moment.” This time, former follower Linda Kasabian — who played chauffeur and lookout for both nights of murders in August 1969 — takes center stage. She was granted immunity for her role in the crimes for agreeing to testify against Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten in court (both in real life and this movie). With an impossibly attractive cast and plenty of sex, drama and violence, it’s basically everything you’d hope for from a Lifetime movie.
‘Manson Speaks: Inside the Mind of a Madman’ (2017)
This two-part documentary examines Manson’s claim that the Family was responsible for more than 35 murders. Armed with more than 26 hours of conversations with Manson, taped over a decade, a retired cold-case detective and an independent researcher investigate several unsolved murders that took place in November and December 1969 in an attempt to determine if they were the work of Manson or his followers. Highlights include interviews with Aesop Aquarian — a former friend-of-the-Family who is reluctant to share too much — and Windy Bucklee, a former Spahn Ranch worker who lived there at the same time as the Family, and says he almost shot Manson during an argument.
‘Manson: Music from an Unsound Mind’ (2019)
Manson made no secret of his ambitions to be a rockstar, famously befriending Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson. This documentary provides an in-depth look into his failed attempt to be a professional musician, starting with his love of music as a child. What really makes this documentary stand out, though, are the interviews. In addition to former Family member Dianne Lake — who was known within the Family as Snake — there are interviews with Manson’s fellow inmate from 1966, the Beach Boys’ producer who recorded Manson’s demo, as well as Anthony DeCurtis and David Felton from Rolling Stone.
‘Charlie Says’ (2019)
Another recent entry to the Manson movie canon, Charlie Says tells the story of the Family and murders from the perspective of three of his female followers. It flashes between the summer of 1969 and after the trial, when Atkins, Van Houten, and Krenwinkel are imprisoned for their crimes. This movie also stands out because it was written by Guinevere Turner, who was born into the Lyman Family — a commune lead by folk musician Mel Lyman, who Rolling Stone referred to as the “East Coast Charles Manson” in 1971.
MR. PART: This is 3 p.m. in the afternoon, and Leslie Van Houten and myself, Marvin L. Part, her court-appointed attorney, are sitting in a private room at the Sybil Brand Institute. And I’m going to ask Leslie some questions, and she’s going to give me some answers.
Leslie, we’ve had previous interviews that have not been recorded, and I want —
(A hiatus occurs in tape.)
MISS VAN HOUTEN: “You were only waiting for this moment to arrive.”
And then, “Have you seen the little piggies.”
And at the end of the song it had like tat tat tat tat tat tat tat, like the sound of a machine gun.
And then further on in the album it had Helter Skelter. And it’s, “When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide; then I turn around and I go for a ride,” and it’s coming down fast, “Helter Skelter.”
And also then the revelations — Revolutions 9.
And then when we read in the Bible, it said about the four-headed locusts. And it just described the Beatles so perfectly.
MR. PART: You say Revolutions 9.
Did you read anything — any title in the Bible that you thought might have been the Beatles’ song Revolutions 9?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah.
We looked up Revelation in — in the New Testament, and in the Bible we read Revelations, and it talked about a four-headed locust that would have hair of woman and mouths of lions and faces of man and a shield of protective armor.
And we thought it was like the guitars, because their album, when we would listen to it on acid, would say so much more.
And someone even told me one time about how it was made to erase certain parts of your mind, the way they got their different electric currents going together in their music.
And revelation — Revolutions 9 is just mostly a song of sounds. And it has “Rise,” and it would — it says stuff like they are standing still, and as time goes on they get a little bit older and a little bit slower.
And we believed that once you were perfect in your mind you didn’t age any more. There was no getting old.
MR. PART: Then, did you believe that the Beatles were the four-headed locust and a prophet?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Uh-huh, I believed it.
And also they sing a song, “You Know that What You Eat You Are, What is sweet Now Turns So Sour.”
And Revelations 10 is when an angel comes out with one foot on the sea and one foot on the land, and he said to some guy, “Eat this book that — and it will taste sweet in your mouth, but when it gets in your stomach it will be so sour.”
Like in and out of the album, they’ve got parts of the Revelations in the Bible throughout it. All right?
I believed that they were.
MR. PART: Now, I believe you told me that during the time that you were at the Gresham Street address everybody was on acid trips. Is that correct?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Uh-huh. We were taking acid a lot, and just listening to the album to more or less —
Well, see, when we came back to the city it was only to start, only to start —
MR. PART: Excuse me; let me interrupt. Don’t, don’t put your finger over the microphone.
Go back to what you were saying. But I want you to — I think you told me in the past that you thought you heard the Beatles sing Charlie’s name.
Could you elaborate on that.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yes.
In the Revolutions 9 there is a part where the women are singing, “Your home is where you’re happy.”
And in the one part, if you listen on another track, it sounds like they are saying “Charlie.”
You know, just — I don’t know how many times they do it; just once, I think.
And then that’s when the songs he’d written many years ago was — “Your Home is Where You’re Happy.”
And there were just little things in and out.
Like they were calling for their monkey. And a long time ago we used to call Charlie the monkey.
You know, just all kinds of little things that made it seem real to us to connect the Beatles with us.
And so — because Charles is the type of person he is, like he’s out front with people. And a lot of people had a hard time seeing him or looking at him. And that’s another line that the Beatles said, “He’s got to be good looking ’cause he’s so hard to see.” Because so many people couldn’t even look at him.
But we — after that, we started decide — seeing where we were in this position, because we knew that we were part of this Revolutions — of the Revelations in the Bible. We knew that we had a part in it.
And so we read, and it talked about a hole in the desert or going to the Kingdom.
We found out — we started looking into the Death Valley, what’s underneath Death Valley, and we found out there was the Armagosa River and blind fish and all kinds of things that just made us believe that there was a whole world underneath. And that some of the Montezuma’s people are already under there waiting for us.
And that what would happen is that about a couple thousand of the chosen people — white people — would go down into the center of the earth and stay there for about fifty years. And then there would Athens or — I can’t remember all the names, but something was going to happen. And then we were going to come back up.
And this was when we — the earth would be all black.
MR. PART: First thing is wouldn’t you be pretty old by that time; and second thing is why was the earth going to be all black?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: No, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t be old, because we wouldn’t age.
Because to go into the hole, you would have to be perfect in your mind and in your body.
And so it would be black just meaning that there would be no more white people,up on the earth. They would all be wiped out completely.
And, let’s see. And I was going to say something else, but I can’t remember what it was.
Oh, yeah. And the Beatles saying that after the Revolutions song they say, “Now the moon begins to shine,’ you know, “Good night, sleep tight.”
It’s almost like a lullaby for everyone — for all the right people having their karma to be completed.
MR. PART: What do you mean by the word “karma”? I think you used it twice.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: It’s used in India, and it’s just so — it’s like, “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
Like, “What you put out you get back.”
Like, we, — we being the white man — have put out a lot of pressures on other groups, like the Indians when we first came over, and the slavery on the black man.
And we’re going to get it back, and the time has come to get it back because the cities and everything is moving at such a high speed that it’s going to break.
That’s what I mean by “the karma.”
MR. PART: Now, how were you supposed to get down to the center of the earth?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, we hadn’t quite figured it out yet. We were looking for the hole.
That’s what we were doing in the desert with the dune buggies. And that’s why we needed more dune buggies.
And we were — we had a good idea that it was in the Death Valley area, but we weren’t sure just where.
And we weren’t quite — we weren’t quite sure of how it was going to work, where we’re going to get in there.
But maybe it was going to be rigged up from someone who’d gone down before, that it would have water on the top and then like the water would like move away — go away somehow by some kind of mechanism.
And if we played around the hole enough that went down there, we’d find it out.
And then we could just walk down it and then we’d have to float down a river, one of the rivers, and then it would take us down and take about — I think about two weeks, we figured it out, to get down to the center.
And then once we got to the center we’d be tiny, and everything would be great big, magnified, like the pearls.
It talks about the pearls. There’d be giant pearls, and we’d be just little tiny, about maybe five inches compared to everything else.
MR. PART: You say it talks about the pearls.
Who talks about the pearls?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: At the end of Revelations, in the very last book, almost to the last page, it says that the kingdom will have giant pearls.
I don’t know who said it — I don’t know who wrote it — but it talks about that, and gold everywhere.
MR. PART: Now, you say that you all used to sit around Gresham and the desert and talk about this philosophy of going down to the center of the earth.
Could you name some of the people that used to talk about it?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Gypsy and Brenda and myself and Katie and Charles and Tex and Clem and Snake and Rachel.
There was — we’re the ones that usually talked about it the most. Sadie did sometimes; but I don’t know if she actually believed it or not.
But all the rest of us, we really believed it.
MR. PART: Now, to go out to the desert in Death Valley and find this hole that was going to lead you to the center of the earth you needed dune buggies; is that right?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Uh-huh.
MR. PART: Now, where were you going to get the dune buggies?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, we’d boughten four of them, and then they got taken away. So we started just taking them.
MR. PART: Now, I remember in one of our conversations we were talking about the Hinman murder.
There was something that you said about Hinman and dune buggies.
Could you tell me what that was?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: We had — I — just from talk — I didn’t know too much about what was going on; but from talk, he was wealthy. And with the money he gave us, we were going to get dune buggies.
But he never gave us any money.
MR. PART: Okay.
Now, is that all that you can think of, or all that you remember, about this philosophy about going to the center of the earth?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I think so right at the time.
MR. PART: Now, you said something about thinking that Charlie is or was Jesus.
Do you still believe that; and, if you do, was there anything that he ever said or did that made you believe it?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah, I still believe he is. And, you know, I can’t say it in words. Only that he’s almost not even human.
I mean, you know, he’s got his body and all, but he’s gentle. I mean he’s everything. He’s just everything at once.
It’s hard, you know, I can’t even almost explain him. You know? And like —
And it’s like he has no ego, meaning — you know.
Do you know what ego is?
it’s faces that we put on for each other.
And he has none of that. He’s just a person.
And, well, it’s so hard to explain why I believe he is, but I know he is.
MR. PART: Now, did he ever say anything about being Jesus except for what you just told me?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: He used to — he used to say, “I see too much; I see what’s happening, and I don’t want it; I don’t want to be in this position.”
He’d say,”I wish someone else would.”
He’d say, “I — I know that I died on the cross before.”
He told us about a suicide — dream sort of, like acid trip he had one time. This was when he first got out after his seven years.
And he — he said that all of a sudden he was being he was carrying the cross again, and he was being nailed on it.
And Mary, the first girl that was ever with him, was crying at his feet.
And he said he felt it all over again, and he knew, you know, that he had died. See.
And if you, if you could give up your personality and your ego and be willing to die, then you were already dead; that the body didn’t mean anything.
MR. PART: Now, you say “Mary.” Are you talking about the Mary Brunner, the girl that was with him?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I’m talking about Mary.
MR. PART: So when you say that he had the dream, or the whatever it was, after an acid trip, that he was again nailed to the cross, the Mary that was with him is the Mary that we all know now as Mary Brunner; is that right?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Um-hmm, yes, uh-huh.
And so one time I had an acid trip like that. He said that, he said that he died and everybody wrote about it, and that they are using him as they do, you know, Jesus, so holy and so great, because they didn’t, they didn’t go when he went.
But he said all his true followers went with him. In other words, they said, “If you, if you crucified him you’re going to crucify us, too.”
And so I was in Hollywood one time and I had an acid trip and I, and I was up on the cross.
It sounds far out, but I was, for real. I was feeling them do it. And I could feel the knife or the sword when it went in, too.
I know that he is. You know, I believe that he’s Christ. I never would deny it.
MR. PART: Now, as you know, Charles Manson, along with yourself and a lot of others, are in great jeopardy in this trial.
And there are many indications that if Manson is convicted of these first degree murders, that he may die in the gas chamber.
Have you ever had any thoughts that perhaps this would be like a second crucification?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah, many times.
MR. PART: Tell me about it.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, it seems strange that it would happen again, seeing as he already died once; but if it did it would be all right; because what we did was because of this part of the plan that we have no control of.
MR. PART: Now that you mentioned “the plan that we have no control of,” tell me what you mean.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, it seemed like after we knew what was going to come down we tried talking to leaders, you know, black leaders, and we saw that they were stalling.
And it was almost as though we had to make the first move for it to continue to develop, to get bigger so that it would happen because the black man loves us so much that he would be our slave and do everything we said, let us beat him and mistreat him for so many years that he almost doesn’t want to do what he has to do, but he sees that he has to do it.
And so it was up to us to start it.
MR. PART: Now, you say that you talked to some black leaders.
Who were these black leaders?
And you say it was up to us to start it.
Now, what do you mean by starting it?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I don’t know. All I know is his name is John and he — he’s pretty big in government.
And I don’t know. He may not be, you know. But we thought he was.
And starting — starting it was that — to just start killing people. Because it’s going to be blood for blood.
MR. PART: Now, did you believe that the — that the black people would to have to start killing the white people?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: No, it wouldn’t be that way.
White man would kill white man. The black man would sort of be there, too, helping him along.
Because we — it was — it’s like white man is divided, you know. We aren’t united in our thoughts. And the black man is more together. They are more one in their thoughts, you know.
They’re — they’d — in here I’ve gotten a lot of talk about how they call each other sister and each other brother. But very seldom do two white girls say, “Hey, sister,’ you know.
They greet you when you come in, you know. Say, “Say, sister, come on in. Want a cigarette?” You know.
They don’t do that.
And so white man would kill white man for their beliefs. If they didn’t believe the same, they’re going to knock each other off.
And then black man would be there to sort of help them.
Crawling in the night.
MR. PART: Well, how were you going to start the this revolution?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: By killing.
MR. PART: Could you explain that?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: By doing a murder that had no sense behind it, and by putting words that would make people scared.
Because the more fearful the people get, the more frantic it will get, and the faster it will happen.
MR. PART: Now, I’m going to get — now that we’ve learned the theory I’m going to start talking about specific events.
Will you tell us starting what you know about the Hinman murder, then switch to what you know about the Tates and after that to what you know about the LaBiancas.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Okay.
I knew that three of us — Do you want me to give the names? — Bobby and Mary and Sadie went to Gary Hinman’s to get some money. And anything else he had. And him.
And if he wouldn’t — and if he wouldn’t come, they were going to kill him.
And he didn’t come.
But they were there for a lot of days. And they would call up, and they were real scared and everything.
And Charles went over there one night to tell them to, you know, relax, because he could — he could keep his cool.
But I would never call him villainous, even though all this has happened.
And then he came back, and about the next day I think the rest came back, and they said that they had killed him.
MR. PART: Who said that?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Sadie. Sadie came in grinning saying, “We killed him.”
And then I asked her what it was like, you know; and she just said that it was real weird and he made funny noises.
MR. PART: All right.
There’s been some talk that at one time Charlie Manson had gone over there and cut off Hinman’s ear.
Would you comment on that if you know anything about it; and also would you comment on anything that Sadie or Bobby Beausoleil said about the actual killing.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah. Charlie went over there —
I heard from someone — I don’t remember who — that Charlie had gone over there and cut off Gary’s ear, and that he had come back.
That’s when I said, in just a little bit before, when Charlie went over there that’s what happened.
And I guess that all I ever really heard about it was they had a hard time killing him; that he wouldn’t die, and that —
I don’t even remember who actually did the killing or not. I never got that straight.
MR. PART: You told me once that Sadie was always around sharpening knives, and that after Hinman had died she could hardly wait till the next time.
Could you elaborate on that.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, Sadie was always more or less the rougher of us girls.
You know, she was always up front. In fact, she Beatles had a song about her called “Sexy Sadie.”
And that song just fit her so perfect, you know.
And after that — Well, we were all almost fascinated by the thought of killing people just because we’d been, you know, taught to stay away from it and nobody knows about death, really, you know.
And when she came back she was almost infatuated by it. She kept sharpening the knives, getting them real sharp.
And she was always wanting to go creepy crawl and, you know, get credit cards or do this and that.
She always wanted to be in on the murders. She liked to be in on the rough stuff that Charlie would have us do.
MR. PART: Okay. Now, tell us about, about the Tates, and then go to the LaBiancas.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, I don’t, I don’t really remember how I learned exactly that the Tates had been done.
I can’t remember knowing before they left that they were going to go do that.
I know that Charlie came in to Katie and I –we were sitting in taking care of the babies — and this was that night; and he said something about, “Do you see why I believe that we have to kill?”
And we both said, “Yes,” you know, “we see.”
He said, “Do you want to do it?”
And we said, we said, “No, but we know that it has to be done; so,yes.”
You know, in other words, we didn’t want to go out and actually like do somebody in, but it had, it had to be done; and we were the only ones that saw that it had to be done.
So I went on to sleep, and Katie did, too.
And then Charlie came in and woke her up, and I didn’t know why, but I sort of had an idea it was to go do some, you know, knock somebody off.
And then the next morning Sadie was watching the news, I think. Somehow I found out that they had done it.
Oh, no. I asked Katie, and she told me.
MR. PART: What did she say?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: She said that — that they had murdered five people; that they didn’t know there were going to be that many at the house; and they didn’t know who the people were; and there were a whole lot of them.
And it happened so quick, and it was a horrible thing. You know, she was shaken up by it.
And then — see? — and then somehow we heard the news, and they said, “Oh, my God, they were rich,” you know, “they were famous people,” you know.
That’s really all that was said about it.
And then the next night —
Oh, but Sadie said she’d left her knife there. They said it was done real messy; and it happened in about twenty minutes, you know.
I didn’t really get the details too good.
And then the next night — Well, I was feeling bad, to tell you the truth. Because Sadie — because Katie was my best friend. And to think that she was strong enough in her believing not — you know, to be able to go kill, I wanted to, too.
Because I wanted to be just like Katie.
MR. PART: Is that Katie or Sadie?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Katie. That’s Patty. I wanted to be just like her.
And almost it was like it would make myself stronger to know that I could kill somebody, because at the moment I’m killing them I have to be that willing to die.
MR. PART: Well, was Katie — this Patricia Krenwinkel was she out on — in the Tate murders?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Um-hmm, yes.
MR. PART: The so-called — the Tate murders?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Tex and Sadie and Katie were on the inside, and Linda was supposed to be on the outside.
That’s the way the story
And then —
So I was feeling kind of bad, because I didn’t get to go.
I was sure hoping that if we did it again I could go.
MR. PART: Why in the world would you want to go out and kill somebody?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Because it had to be done. It had to be done just in order for the whole thing to be completed, for the whole world’s karma to be completed we had to do this.
And I wanted to do it, because I thought that if I could go out and kill someone that I would — you know — it’s not an easy thing to do it — and that I — in a sense I would be giving up totally to what I believed in because I would have to pay the consequences if they were to come back.
MR. PART: You said, “if they were to come back.”
What do you mean by that?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, I didn’t — you know, like even after it happened I wasn’t really scared about being arrested for it, you know. I was never hiding.
We were in the desert hiding, but not — you know, it was almost like a game to get ready for when it really came down we’d know how to hide.
You know, we weren’t like doing a real good job of hiding out there like we could have been doing.
MR. PART: You say, “They were going to come after me.”
Do you mean the people, or you meant the people that were killed would come back, or what do you mean?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: No. That the man would come and try to get me for doing what I did.
MR. PART: What man was that?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Oh, the police.
MR. PART: Oh.
So the night after the Tate killing, what happened then?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, we were all sitting in the kitchen, and Charlie pulled me out to the side, and he said, “Are you crazy?”
And I said, “Well, yeah.”
MR. PART: He said, “Are you crazy?” and you said, “Yeah.
Now, what does “crazy” mean to you?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: In other words, it meant, “Are you almost, to the regular person’s thinking mind, are you crazy enough to believe the way I believe, to see the way I see, that we are, you know — that we had been sent down to start this in motion?”
And I said, “Yes.” Because I — I do. I’m crazy enough to believe it.
And he said, “Are you crazy enough to be able to go out and kill someone for this?”
And I said, “Yeah,” that I was.
So he said, “Okay. Go get two changes of clothes and get in the car.”
So I did.
Do you want me to continue?
So there was Linda and Charlie and Tex and me and Katie and Sadie and Clem. We all went out that night.
We went driving around. We were driving and —
MR. PART: Now, did everybody have a change of clothes; what kind of a car was it; and were there any weapons in the car?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah. Everybody had two changes of clothes.
And I think we only had two weapons that I knew of in the car, and those were big knives. And they were underneath the floor mat — one of them was, anyway — that I was sitting on in the back seat.
And it was Johnny Swartz’s car, an old, probably in the fifties, a Chevy or something like that.
And so we drove and we drove and we drove, and they couldn’t find any place.
And I was tired and most everybody was tired, so we went to sleep.
And then when I woke up I heard Charlie talking to Sadie — or, no, Tex; that’s who he was talking to, Tex.
And he said, “Everything’s — I got everything okay. And they think it’s a robbery. And just to tie it up, just go on in. I got their wallet. They’re sure it’s a robbery. And just tell them everything is okay so that when they go don’t make it so that they got to be tortured. Make it quick and easy,” you know, “for them, because just as –”
MR. PART: Did he say anything about what had happened the night before, something about Tex getting everybody all heated up?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I remember talk about it, but I can’t really say for sure if I actually heard him saying it. But it was mentioned, that he’d blown it.
Because then these people we afraid, and the idea was to do it —
(End of first side of tape.)
They were going to go anyway sooner or later because when it came down they were going to get it.
So we tried to make it as easy — like
Oh, so Katie and Tex and I were in the house. I didn’t tell you that part.
So we went in —
No, Tex went in. Yeah, that’s right. Then Tex went in.
And Katie and I walked in.
And this alarmed the people. You know, that two girls would be walking in if it was only a robbery, you know.
And the woman, she turned around and said, you know, ‘What do you want? What are you guys doing here?’
And we told her, “We only want to take what you got that’s worth anything.”
She said, “Well, we don’t have much money, but I’ll get” — you know, she got this little box that had some change in it.
And Tex was real calm and cool, and he was just saying, “Everything is going to be all right. We are just going to take your money.”
MR. PART: Now, what was Tex armed with and what were you armed with?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Oh, when we entered the house we hadn’t gotten anything, and we hadn’t brought in anything, but Tex had this long knife.
MR. PART: Was this a bayonet?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah, that’s what it was. It was –because it was heavy. It was almost like an iron.
And we went in the kitchen and we got the knives, some kitchen knives.
And then we were supposed to go — we were supposed to go take the woman into the bedroom and put a hood on her and then wait for him to do the same thing, and at the same time we’d, you know, knock them both off so that they wouldn’t hear each other dying.
And so the woman — I was going to hold the woman down, and because Katie had done it before it would have been easier for her to actually stab the woman because I was getting kind of freaky about the whole thing.
And then I was watching, you know, I was looking more than I was paying attention to what I should have been doing.
And the woman, I guess she heard her husband —
MR. PART: Now, I understand Tex was in the other room with the man, and you and Katie were with the woman.
When you talk about a hood, was that a pillowcase that you somehow fastened around her head? And if you did, what did you fasten it with?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah, it was a pillowcase, and we fastened it with the lamp cord.
And, let’s see; for some reason I’m fogging out,but —
MR. PART: Well, did the woman hear her husband die?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Oh, yeah. So her husband — so the woman heard her husband — the woman heard her husband —
She must have because all of a sudden she jumped up, and it surprised me.
And she got the lamp shade, and she was about to knock me on the head with it, and I put it back, and she kept going, “What’s happening to Leo? What’s happening to Leo?’
And we kept telling her, “He’s all right, he’s all right.”
And then Katie tried to stab her, and the knife wasn’t strong enough. It kept bending.
So we called Tex in. And I can’t remember which one of us did it; could have been me.
And we said, you know — “Tex come in,” that, “we can’t kill her; the knives won’t bend.”
And — but only — she was dead within a minute, it seemed. She didn’t make any of those breathing noises.
MR. PART: Well, who stabbed her?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Katie did, and then Tex did, although I didn’t see Tex do it.
So I couldn’t say for sure, but he had the good knife.
MR. PART: If you were in the same room, how was it that you could not see Tex do it?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, I had run out of the room.
Yeah; I ran out of the room to tell — you know, I’m it’s sort of foggy, that part, but this is the way I can recall it:
That I had run out of the room to get Tex, and I had seen the man; and Tex ran by me in the doorway because I remember —
You know, like it comes in pictures, and the picture I see is Katie trying to get the knife in her throat and it wouldn’t go.
And then I remember seeing her laying flat in front of her closet, all bloody on her stomach.
And then I remember the man laying on the sofa gurgling that deep bloody gurgle.
And so then we were going to make the house look freaky.
MR. PART: Now, had anybody given you any instructions about what you call “making the house look freaky”?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, in order to create fear it had to be — look like an obvious, just an obvious murder; that there was no robbery , nothing behind it; just flat out to do it, to start this paranoia going.
And so we had been told that this was the best time to use our witchcraft.
MR. PART: Who told you that? When was it told to you? And what is witchcraft?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, Charles told it to us; and I can’t remember just when.
It might have been before we went in the house or before we even left.
MR. PART: When you say “Charles” in all these conversations, dear, you mean Charles Manson; is that correct?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Um-hum, yes.
So — and, oh, what witchcraft was or is to the group was just that women are more aware of than men, and that — because they know how to take care of the man.
So witchcraft is just all the little things a woman does.
Like sewing would be a form of it.
And so he said, “This is when you can use your greatest amount of witchcraft,” meaning you can use your imagination and do, you know, a whole number, meaning making it look ugly.
But I couldn’t get behind that, and I don’t think any of the others could, and I really don’t think that Charles could.
So I went back in the bedroom and I saw the woman laying down; and Tex handed me the knife and, you know,said, “Okay,” you know, “get to it.”
MR. PART: Now, was the woman dead at that time? If you think she was dead, what made you think she was dead?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I’m positive she was dead. She was just laying there, like the man was, like I say, he was gurgling; and she was just laying there.
She didn’t even make a moan or a groan. I didn’t feel her, you know, her pulse, or anything. And her head was covered, so I didn’t see her face. I kind of wished I had of.
MR. PART: Why?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Because I could have seen what I had done more, you know.
A face shows so much more; that maybe it would have stirred something more up in me.
MR. PART: Was the actual stabbing of the woman — did that — was that unusual to you; did it feel different than you thought it might have felt?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: It felt so weird that I blew my mind behind it; if you understand what I mean by blow my mind.
I mean, I lost control. I went completely nuts that moment. It was —
Do you want me to explain?
It was hard to get it through. Like when I thought of stabbing, I didn’t really have any idea in my mind, but it’s a real feeling. It’s — it’s not even like cutting a piece of meat. It’s much tougher. And it was — I had to use both hands and all my pressure, all my strength behind it to get it in.
And so once I started, the feeling was so weird that I just kept doing it.
Like I say, I did it about ten times, I think.
And then — Well, do you want me to continue?
And then I went into the other room, and I noticed that there had been things written on the wall. There was “Pig” and “Rise,” and “Helter Skelter,” and — and that might be all. There might have been something else.
MR. PART: Now, what do those words mean to you, and what were they written in, and where were they written?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: “Helter Skelter” was written on the refrigerator. And that was used to let people know that the Beatles were the prophets, and they were telling it like it was, and that it’s coming down fast, and you just be ready, you know.
You know, get it on. Do whatever you have to do for this whole thing to be over.
And “Pig” was the white — the white businessman who hated his neighbor, couldn’t look at his neighbor with love, who was going to get it in the end.
And then “Rise” was for the black man saying that it was his turn to, you know, be leader after all that time.
And I don’t remember where — “Rise” I think was written on a wall, and I’m not sure where “Pig” was written, but I know that they were written in blood.
MR. PART: Whose blood?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Mr. LaBianca’s.
MR. PART: Now, all these things that we’ve talked about, “Helter Skelter” and “Pig” and so on and so forth, that they are all things that came out of this Beatle album that we have been talking about; is that right?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah, um-hmm.
MR. PART: Who wrote them?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: The Beatles.
MR. PART: Who wrote the words in Mr. LaBianca’s blood?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I think Katie did.
MR. PART: Tell us about what property, if any, was taken from the LaBiancas, what property, if any, was left, and what you did after the killings.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Umm, we took some change, and then I was busy with the fingerprints, ’cause I didn’t want any to be left. And the others.
MR. PART: What did you do with the fingerprints, and who told you to do something, if someone did?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Umm, Katie handed me a towel and
No, I said, “What about the fingerprints? I left some on the lamp shade.”
And Katie handed me a towel and said, “Go wipe them off with this
So I went, and I just about did the whole bedroom all over and everything I had touched.
And we did the kitchen and just sort of all over, just a whole fingerprint thing, ’cause we hadn’t worn any gloves.
And then Katie and Tex, when I came out of the bedroom, they were taking a shower.
I don’t know if Katie actually took one, but I know Tex did.
And then after that we were hungry. And so we went and we took some cheese and milk out of the refrigerator. And we took it with us. And we left out the back door and went down the fence and down the sidewalk.
Oh, we changed our clothes inside the house from our black clothes into regular clothes.
And Tex’s zipper broke, so I had to give him my pair of pants, and I took a pair of Mrs. LaBianca’s shorts and put them on.
MR. PART: Tell us if Tex’s clothes or anybody’s clothes had blood on it, and tell us what you did with the bloody clothes.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Uh-uh, I didn’t see blood on any of our clothes.
And we really didn’t need to even change them other than they were all black and dark colors.
And we took the clothes, and we walked and walked for a couple of blocks, and then we threw them in a trash can and then went and we hid in the bushes. And we waited for daylight to hitchhike home.
MR. PART: Tell us about the ride home.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: First ride we got was from a black man. And he took us to Griffith Park where the freeway starts. And then this man in this funky old blue and white car picked us up. And he drove us almost all — he drove us to Chatsworth Street.
And we even stopped and bought him breakfast at some place on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. I don’t remember the name of it. I think it starts with an N.
And then he dropped us off at Chatsworth Street, and we went around an orange grove and then over the highway real quick. And then down in a creek.
And we walked up, and then Katie went over to Devil’s Canyon, and Tex walked up around the dump, and I came up through the pony corral.
You know, we all just went, you know — let’s see, it was morning —
We all just started doing whatever we were going to do.
Oh, I went down to the farmhouse.
And the hitch — and the man who had picked us up hitchhiking came driving around. He came — but I covered up my head and played like I was sleeping so he never saw me.
But he wondered if we were from Spahn’s Ranch, and we told him no.
MR. PART: Now, did anybody see you coming back to the ranch — when I say “anybody,” I’m talking about girls at the ranch — see you coming back, and did anybody see you and everybody else leaving?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Uh-huh. Cathy saw us leaving, Cathy Myers.
And Squeaker saw me coming back. That’s LynnFromme.
And other than that, no, huh-uh.
I just went —
You mean when I walked up from through the pony corral? Lynn saw me.
But other than that, everyone else thought I’d just been sleeping all night.
MR. PART: Now, when you left with Charlie in the car, was there anybody else who saw you leaving?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Only Cathy. And she knew. ‘Cause she wanted to go.
MR. PART: Well, how did you know Cathy wanted to go, and why didn’t she go?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, Cathy — Cathy was more or less coming and going and coming and going.
She said she was with us, but she was — you know she’d leave every couple weeks for a few days.
In other words, her amount of loyalty to the Family wasn’t complete.
So for her to do it would almost be like a risk, like she would freak out and then run away, and who knows what she’d do.
And she was feeling bad ’cause she wanted to go ’cause she wanted to help out.
MR. PART: Now, after you got back — Strike that.
Were — were any — Was anybody else who went with you that night supposed to go into any other houses and commit any other murders?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Uh-huh. All the rest were going to. They were — I don’t know where they were going, they were just going to do what we had done. Same thing. Only it was going to be Linda and Clem and Sadie.
MR. PART: You say that Clem was also in the car, and he was about to go out and do the same thing that Charles Watson had did — done.
Is that correct?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yes.
MR. PART: And had there been some conversation or anything between Charles or anybody as to what was going to happen that night before everybody went out, and specially was Clem present during any of these conversations?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah. We were all present. We all knew what we were going to go out to do. Nobody didn’t know.
MR. PART: Well, how did you know?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: We all talked about it.
MR. PART: Tell us what you said and what other people said.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, not — really not that much was sa id other than the fact that we were going to do it because it had to be done and that we were going to do it the next night and that this was just the beginning, you know.
But this would be probably all we’d ever have to do.
MR. PART: Now, Kasabian, the Kasabian girl was on the Tate murders but she never went inside the house, at least to my knowledge.
And what exactly did she do in regard to the LaBianca murders concerning the car, or anything like that?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: She drove it most of the time. But then she got too nervous and –’cause, you know, Charlie was directing the driving.
Like he’d say, “Turn right, turn left, go straight,” you know, “Turn around.”
So he got too nervous and she said, you know, “Well, then, you drive the car.”
So she got out and then he drove it.
MR. PART: Now, did the Kasabian girl — Her name is Linda; is that right?
Did Linda Kasabian have a change of clothes with her that night, too?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, the way —
All these, you know — like’ I’m not positive that every person did like they were asked to do, you know.
In other words, I know that every single person there was asked to get two changes of clothes for their own well-being, you know.
But I can’t remember actually seeing everybody’s two changes, you know.
Like they were sort of like, “Get it for yourself and keep track of it.” But I pretty much remember everybody having it.
MR. PART: How, in some articles I have read in the newspapers and in some transcripts that I’ve also read Susan Atkins is also known to you as Sadie Glutz, says that after they let everybody off at the LaBianca house that they went home to — back to the ranch.
But there’s also been a story that they stopped at another house to do the same thing that you did.
Now, did you know anything about that? Or did you hear anything about that?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: No, i hadn’t; but I knew that was the idea.
And so I said, I said to Sadie the next day, I said, well, you know, “What did you guys do,” you know. “What happened with you guys after you left us?”
And she said, “Nothing; we just came back.”
You know, I — I didn’t hear anything about that other.
She said they looked around for awhile but nothing came — nothing happened.
MR. PART: Now, when we sat down here before I actually turned on the tape recorder I asked you if you know what the word “remorse” meant; and you said “No.”
And I told you it meant feeling sorry.
Could you tell us how you feel now about what happened to the LaBiancas and all the other people that were killed.
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, I can’t really feel sorry, because I did it, and I did it with every intention of it being right.
Sometimes when I think about it —
See, I try not to think. That sounds pretty ridiculous, but I don’t. I try not — I try to keep my mind clear. When I think about it, it makes me feel bad, you know.
I can start to cry, specially ’cause the kids, ’cause they are my age. I didn’t really have any —
MR. PART: Now, you say you feel badly. What makes you feel badly?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, when I start thinking about the kids having to find their folks, the parents. You know, that seems ugly to me.
MR. PART: Are your talking about the LaBiancas?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah, the LaBiancas.
And I heard that Mr. Tate sort of blew his mind, he’d put on a hippie hairdo looking for the people that did it to his daughter.
I feel sorry for those people.
MR. PART: How about the people that are dead? Don’t you feel sorry for them?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I really — I — To be honest, no.
MR. PART: Why don’t you feel sorry for the dead people?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Well, all it is is a body.
You know, I mean, that’s the way I feel about my life. In other words, when I went out and I did them in, it’s like I’m that willing to have myself killed.
I only see all this around me as just a body and just part of what I come from.
And what I come from is much greater.
In other words, I believe that you come — I believe that you come from nothing and you are going back to nothing; and while you’re here you almost are nothing. You’re just an animal.
MR. PART: When you went out to — and were part of the group that killed the LaBiancas did you think that what you were doing was right? And if you did, why was it right?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I thought it was perfectly right, and I thought it was perfectly right because I see — 1 —
And I even today still see the way I did then. I see it coming up to the vibrations of everything is coming up.
It’s like a big tune coming up. It’s going daaaaa, and it’s going to get up to the highest point and then it’s going to break.
And this paranoia had to be started to get the vibration going even stronger; and it’s just part of the plan.
And I have no control over it.
MR. PART: So, then, do you think that the things that you and Charlie and Sadie and the rest did are kind of preordained?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Uh-huh; and I think what happens here is probably going to be preordained, too.
MR. PART: When you say “what happens here,”you mean you the that the results of the trial are preordained no matter what anybody does; is that right?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah.
In other words, I think that everything that happens is perfect.
I know it sounds probably real far out, but it’s true.
Sometimes I doubt it, and then I get nervous and shakey and everything. But most of the time I’m pretty sure that everything that happens is perfect.
MR. PART: What do you think is going to happen at the trial?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I have no idea. I know that I’ve thought a lot about the worst, not that I think it’s going to happen, because I wasn’t wrong; but I’ve been trying to, in case it would happen, I’ve been trying to prepare myself for such a thing.
MR. PART: Do you really care if — if you are given the death penalty in this case and die? Do you really give a darn whether you get life imprisonment or something less than that?
Is that — do you really want to die?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I don’t — I don’t want to and I don’t not want to.
In other words, I’d love to get out of this, you know. I’d love to go back on the street and just mingle with people.
Because, see, I love — I love everything just as much as everybody else, but I just happen to see what’s going to — I just happen to see what’s going to be happening.
MR. PART: Leslie, if you could turn the clock back and go back that night that you asked Charlie to go along with him to kill the LaBiancas, although you didn’t know who was going to be killed, dear, would you do it again?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yes, I would. I can’t — I can’t feel sorry for what I’ve done.
And like — like I say, I have — I have no control And like I’m not trying to, you know, do like Sadie’s doing and put it on Charlie, ’cause I don’t think Charlie has any control.
In other words, when he talks, he talks with words that, like, come from another place. He doesn’t like even talk with words that regular people use.
And — and he used to — he used to even say, umm, “I’ve become an empty hole.” He’d say, “I can –” He says, “I have no control of what I’m saying.” He just says, “I have no control of my actions. I don’t even think about what I’m doing or saying.”
And — and it was like that for a lot of us, especially those of us who almost gave up more to the Family. In other words, gave up more of our own wants for the for the whole group.
So in other words, if the clock could be put back, if I saw that this is the way it was coming down, again, I’d do it again.
MR. PART: You’d do it again even if you thought you were going to get caught and be in the same position you are now?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Yeah. Like, you know, I hope I can — I hope I can walk, you know, out, or that I can — in other words, I want to be free.
But I’m not afraid to die.
MR. PART: You’re a religious girl, I know. We’ve talked about that.
Do you think that maybe you’re kind of like, oh, one of God’s messengers carrying out his will, or something like that?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: You’re going to really think I’m nuts, but, yeah, I do. I think I’m an angel, so to speak.
Not with wings, you know. Naturally I know I don’t have wings.
But, I mean, in other words, I believe I’m one of the disciples. I’m one of the people spoken about in the Bible.
Maybe not mentioned, you know, like names, but I know I’m —
In other words, what I feel is so real. I can’t — I can’t talk the reality of it, but I feel it
It’s a fulfillment inside me.
MR. PART: Is — is there anybody else in the group that you think might be an angel, too?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Or, yeah.
Well, it’s all up to the person. I mean, if they believe it, then they are.
Like Brenda does. I’m pretty sure Brenda knows she’s she’s one.
And Gypsy would know she’s one.
And Katie would. And Diane and Rachel probably would.
MR. PART: Well, if Charlie’s Jesus and you girls are angels and you are doing God’s will and God’s will is that the revolution start so that the colored people can take over the earth, why do you think that everybody’s in jail?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: Oh, I don’t know.
You know, it would almost be for the publicity, assilly as that sounds. So that all —
See, there’s no — we were trying to find out ways of letting the youth know, because the people that are going to go into the hole are going to be the young people.
And we tried with our music, and nobody would put out our music.
And, you know, we tried lots of different ways, and nothing worked.
But now everyone is finding out. Like our music is finally coming out. And Charles will be able to speak for himself at the court and — to show —
I guess it just happened to let people know that that this is the way it was happening. ’cause some people will believe.
MR. PART: So in the way you think, perhaps this trial will be a good thing, and maybe some kind of a — a way to start the revolution; is that right?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: It will be one of the — one of the movements towards starting it, yeah.
Like it’s already happening. In jail here there’s a, – you can feel a lot of it. The tension, the Black Panthers and that type of thing. It’s already starting.
But by no means — by no means were we ever prejudiced or disliked the black, you know. It’s not that way at all. If anything, it’s we have love for them, and we’re giving them their turn, which they deserve.
MR. PART: Do you think the fact that all the publicity and things about the Black Panthers that started just about the same time as this trial is just a coincidence, or do you think that’s ordained, too?
MISS VAN HOUTEN: I don’t think there’s any coincidences. It’s —
It just all comes together, all these things. Like I don’t think that the Beatles’ “Blackbird Fly –” and
Cults whether fictional or real are having a cultural moment. The recent success of Hulu’s “The Path” and “American Horror Story: Cult” in which we see versions of cult leaders like David Koresh and Jim Jones – all portrayed by Evan Peters. Our fascination with cults – real or fictional – may stem from the fine line between being drawn to what appears to be a utopian community and a dangerous, free-will-stripping group.
The Peoples Temple (1955 – 1978)
When Jim Jones founded the Peoples Temple in Indiana in 1955, it appealed to many as a progressive organization advocating for civil rights, and operating homes for the elderly and those with mental health issues. Like previous progressive groups, Jones’s goal was to create an egalitarian utopian community. In 1965, Jones moved his family and the Peoples Temple to the Redwood Valley in California, based on recommendations from an article in Esquire suggesting places to survive a nuclear war. In 1974, the Peoples Temple leased land in Guyana, where the group would flee media scrutiny in the United States and set up an agricultural commune. By 1978, the population of “Jonestown” in Guyana had grown to around 900, but a few disillusioned members tipped off the American media of the armed compound in South America and rehearsals of mass suicide. In November 1978 Congressman Leo Ryan traveled to Jonestown where he, three journalists and one defector were shot and killed, before Jones ordered his followers to drink a cyanide-laced drink, resulting the loss of 909 lives.
The Branch Davidians (1955 – 1993)
Although this extremist sect of the Seventh Day Adventists has been active since the 1950s, the Branch Davidians are best known for the 1993 standoff in Waco, Texas. David Koresh, the leader at the time, believed he was the Messiah and declared all women – including those underage or already married – his “spiritual wives.”The group believed the apocalypse was imminent and, fearing its arrival, locked themselves into a sprawling compound. On February 28th, 1993, agents from the Department of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco raided the Waco compound on the suspicion that Koresh was stockpiling weapons. What started as a shootout soon turned into a standoff between the Branch Davidians and the FBI. Itlasted 51 days, and eventually ended when tanks were brought in: the compound was filled with tear gas and caught on fire, leaving more than 80 people dead.
Sullivanians (1957 – 1991)
Saul B. Newton founded The Sullivan Institute in 1957 with his wife, Dr. Jane Pearce, in an attempt to create a viable alternative to the traditional nuclear family, which he viewed as the root of all social anxiety. Located in three buildings on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Sullivan Institute operated as both a therapy center and a polyamorous commune, despite the fact that Newton, the leader, had no formal training as a therapist. Unlike other practicing therapists who worked under a strict code of ethics, there were no such boundaries for the Sullivanians, as the members of the Institute were known, with therapists and other members of the community sleeping with each other regularly. In fact, they were forbidden from engaging in exclusive relationships. Any children born to Sullivanians were sent away to boarding school or caretakers with very little visitation from their parents. All members were encouraged to cut ties with their former friends and family members. In the 1970s, the group – which had around 500 members – merged with a progressive theater collective call the Fourth Wall and relocated to Orlando in 1979 following the nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island. After seeing a decline in membership in the 1980s, the Sullivan Institute ended with the death of Newton in 1991.
Children of God – Family International (1968 – Present)
David “Moses” Berg founded this communist Christian offshoot in California in 1968. For someone so concerned with moral decay and evolution, Berg had a very sex-centric perspective on how to spread the views of Jesus, including reported recruitment through “flirty fishing” (i.e. using young women to lure in new members by having sex with them) and apparently opposing anti-pedophilia laws – according to some former members, having sex with children was not only permitted, but also a divine right. Berg was a master of propaganda, writing, publishing and distributing pamphlets discussing his teachings. The group changed its name several times – most recently to “Family International” in 2004 – and still exists today, operating in 80 countries, although no longer permits sex between adults and children. Actors Joaquin Phoenix and Rose McGowan were born into the cult and have since left and spoken out against the group.
Heaven’s Gate (1972 – 1997)
Heaven’s Gate – founded in San Diego in 1972 by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles – was based on the premise that aliens would escort members of the group to the “Kingdom of Heaven” via extraterrestrial spacecraft. They first made headlines in 1975, when they convinced 20 new followers to give up their earthly possessions, leave their families and disappear. On the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite reporting that “it’s a mystery whether they’ve been taken on a so-called trip to eternity – or simply taken.” (They turned out to be living underground, camping everywhere from Rhode Island to Oklahoma.) But Heaven’s Gate is best known for a much more tragic event two decades later. In March 1997, the group carefully planned and then executed a mass suicide, timed to coincide with the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet, which members thought would conceal the alien spacecraft on its way to earth. Clad in black tunics and Nikes, 39 Heaven’s Gate members ate applesauce mixed chased a sedative with vodka, covered their heads in plastic bags and died. Nine of the 18 men – including Applewhite – had been surgically castrated, as the group mandated celibacy. An upbeat videotaped message made the members prior to the suicide indicated that they were willing – even happy – to die and move to the “next level.”
Dianne Lake was just 14 years old when she first met Charles Manson. Her parents were hippies who moved in the same circles as the charismatic cult leader, who would go on to orchestrate the murders of at least seven people, including actress Sharon Tate. In 1967, Lake was going to love-ins and communes, having been given a note from her parents granting her permission to live on her own. While she never participated in any of the cult’s gruesome crimes, she would spend two years living with the Manson Family, becoming its youngest member. Lake, opened up about the man whose spell she fell under in her book, “Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties”
[It all started with meeting him at a party in LA’s Topanga Canyon at a place called the Spiral Staircase House.]
When we arrived, we climbed the stairs that led into the living room, and a red-haired girl got up to greet us. She stared at me for a minute and ran back to her friends yelling, “Dianne is here! Dianne is here!”
I was incredibly confused. As far as I knew we weren’t planning to go to the party until the last minute, so I couldn’t imagine they were expecting me. The girl returned with three other girls, who all took turns hugging me. The red-haired girl, who called herself Lynette, said, “You are even prettier than your picture. Charlie is going to be so happy to meet you.”
She took my hand and led me to where a bunch of people were sitting in a circle, and in the middle of the floor sat a small man playing the guitar. There were girls surrounding him, singing along to his soulful music of songs I’d never heard before. The girls sat me down, and Lynette kept her arms around my shoulder. As soon as the music stopped, she jumped up and pulled me by the hand.
“Charlie, we found Dianne. She’s here!” They weren’t just excited, they were overjoyed. It had been ages since I felt truly wanted, and all the attention made me feel like royalty.
They were beaming with love and I felt it. Without hesitation, they sat me in their circle as if I belonged and, strange as it may seem, I felt like I belonged there, too.
Lynette must have sensed my confusion, because she began to explain how they recognized me. While I’d been off in the Haight, they’d met my mother at the [hippie commune] Hog Farm. Apparently, my mother had given them my photo and told them to keep an eye out for me if they made it to San Francisco.
What I didn’t understand then and only learned much later was that my parents and siblings had done more than just run into the Family at the Hog Farm and given them my photo. They’d actually taken a trip into the desert with them, traveling in the black school bus that Charlie drove around in and outfitted for his followers.
Many people during this period were painting buses, bread trucks and VW vans with psychedelic Day-Glo colors. Charlie and the girls chose to make a different statement with their monochrome home on wheels, tricking out a surplus school bus by painting it all black, including the windows, which made him easy to spot. To the residents of Tujunga and the Hog Farm, Charlie was known as Black Bus Charlie.
Charlie stood up and looked into my eyes so deeply and intimately that I almost turned away on instinct. Instead I held his gaze and felt like he was looking into me.
“So, this is our Dianne,” he said and pulled me to his chest in a hug so close I could feel his heartbeat. He held on for several seconds and I felt my resistance fade. I was used to the hippie hugs at the Hog Farm, but this felt warm and real. Tears welled up into my eyes as I took in his embrace.
Charlie held me at arm’s length, looked at me and said, “Oh, you’re beautiful. I want to talk to you. I’ve been looking for you.” I sat next to him and listened as he sang and told funny stories. My first impression of him was that he was charming, witty and most of all intriguing.
“Have some root beer, little darling. I give you the last sip in honor of your arrival.”
Lynette and a girl named Patty stroked my hair and passed me a joint while Charlie strummed out more tunes on the guitar. At first I thought Patty was homely. She had a prominent, bulbous nose and thin lips. But when she smiled, her face became beautiful to me. She exuded a motherly warmth and was obviously completely smitten with Charlie. His presence was disarming. He continued to sing and seemed to make up the words as he went along.
“Dianne is home,” he sang out, and the girls joined in with the chorus: “Home is where you are happy.”
Everything felt like a dream. I had been around groups of people grooving on music, but they were often into their own trip. These girls seemed to love one another. They were affectionate like best friends or sisters, but it didn’t seem fake. They weren’t trying to outdo each other in their outrageousness, as was true of those at the Hog Farm, where everything seemed like one big joke. There was something different about this group of girls and about Charlie and while I wasn’t sure what it was, I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it. Like a raindrop joining a puddle, I blended in easily, my loneliness disappearing. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was in the right place at the right time.
There was a lot of unspoken communication between Charlie and the girls. His expression changed slightly, and as if the scene had been rehearsed, Patty took his guitar from him. He stood, took my hand and led me outside. We walked hand in hand to the black bus. He went in first and motioned for me to follow. It reminded me of a raja’s palace, with mattresses on the floor and Indian-print bedspreads and carpets hanging from the walls. Pillows were strewn about and colorful swirls were painted on any surface not already covered with fabric. This explosion of color was the last thing I’d expected from the blackness of the exterior.
We sat facing each other and the anticipation swelled up inside me. I expected a kiss, but instead Charlie had me put my hands up against his. He moved his hands in different directions until I caught on that I was to follow his every move. It was a game, and I was more than eager to play. It was like he was syncing up our energy. He sped up until I could no longer follow and he started to laugh. Then he guided me onto the mattress and again looked into my eyes so that I felt there was no one else but the two of us in the entire world. “You are so beautiful, my little one.” His voice was barely above a whisper, but I heard it reverberate through my consciousness.
We had only smoked pot, but I felt as if I were on a trip, his trip, and he was guiding my every move. Charlie was older than the other men I had slept with, but his body seemed younger. He had tattoos on his arms and a small tuft of hair on his chest. There was something magnetic about him, even though I wasn’t sure I even found him attractive. He was small and nice-looking but not as classically handsome as some of the men I had pursued. The attraction was more chemical and inevitable without any thought about whether I would or wouldn’t.
He took his time to explore my body. He avoided the places that made me purr until I could barely stand it. After a few minutes, he put himself inside me while staring into my eyes. He was tender as he held me up to meet his deep thrusts. When he finished, he sighed; I exhaled and realized I was hooked.
I watched as Charlie put on his jeans. He was clearly a man but also seemed like a boy. He was playful, and that made me feel even more comfortable with him. Sometimes after I would sleep with a man, I would be left feeling empty. My experience with Charlie was the beginning of something. I felt appreciated by him, not just like some pretty young thing. Charlie was offering me more than sex. He told me I should forget my parents and give up my inhibitions. He made it clear he wanted me to be a part of the group; his group. It felt as if there was no turning back. When I’d been with other older men, I’d been playing the role of a woman — Charlie made me feel like I’d actually become one. He said everything I needed to hear.
That night I went home with [friends] Richard and Allegra, but I knew I would return. The decision seemed so natural; a date with destiny. Charlie and the girls were now living at the Spiral Staircase House. It was only a matter of time before I joined them.
Things with Richard and Allegra continued much as they had been, with them taking me back and forth to the Hog Farm. Whatever threads bound me to that place were finally severed as it became clear there was nothing left for me there. I was an outsider, and my parents and brother and sister were having a life without me. Each time I took a trip there, my presence seemed to make less and less sense.
When I eventually made it back to visit Charlie and the girls at the Spiral Staircase House, Lynette and Patty told me I should stay with them. Creating a sense of urgency, they told me they were planning to take a trip soon, and I had to make up my mind.
I wasn’t sure yet about leaving my parents for good; in living with Richard and Allegra, I still had a connection to the Hog Farm as well as the possibility that my parents would tell me they wanted me to stay. It was a childish fantasy, but it helped ground me. As long as I was near them, I wasn’t truly alone. Still, I was concerned that I would lose my new friends if I hesitated for too long.
When I got back from the Spiral Staircase House, I told Richard and Allegra about the possibility of going with Charlie and the girls. “I don’t know about that, Chicken Little,” Richard said. For some reason, he had changed his mind about Charlie. “It may not be such a cool scene. Maybe you should stick around here for a little while.”
That was the one warning I got about Charles Manson. It was not from my parents or from people at the Hog Farm. It was from my speed-addict friend who somehow understood something that the rest of us did not. Richard never gave me any specifics about why he felt the way he did, so I don’t know where his hesitation came from, and thus there was nothing to dampen my growing crush on Charlie and his girls. But honestly, I’m not sure anyone could have kept me away. The pull of belonging had become too great.
I thought about the note my parents had given me. Even though it was for a specific purpose, it had given me my freedom to be on my own. I didn’t see any reason not to use it as my passport to Charlie’s world.
I visited the Hog Farm one last time, stuffing what few belongings I had in the bread truck into my knapsack and saying goodbyes to my father, mother, brother and sister. As we parted, I was surprised how little I felt toward them. The rift that had been growing for months was finally complete.
When Richard and Allegra took me to the Spiral Staircase House, all the girls ran out to greet me. It turned out they were packing the bus for a drive and told me I was just in time. Charlie reached out his hand to me. And I took it.
Remembering his face in the December light, I find it hard to reconcile the man I followed onto that bus with the monster the world now knows him to be. Over the years, I’ve wished that I could go back and show my younger self what he was to become, changing the story from the start. Clearly that’s not something anyone can do, so I’m left trying to defend the indefensible: Why did I get on that bus?
In the decades since I first met him, I’ve turned the question over in my mind countless times. The obvious answer was that I felt an attraction to him, and as a 14-year-old girl, I reacted to that hormonally. But that’s not really the answer, or at least the full answer. More than just attraction, I felt a deep connection. It seemed as if he understood me completely and wouldn’t let me down or betray me as all the other important people in my life had. Ever since we’d “dropped out,” I’d been an afterthought, at various points a mouth to feed, jailbait and a reminder of a previous life in the straight world.
With Charlie and the Family, from the beginning, there was none of that baggage. I had a place with them from that first night. I belonged in a way that I hadn’t anywhere in months. Charlie and the girls also made it OK for me to want and have sex. It seems so simple, yet this freed me from some of the deepest confusion and shame I’d been experiencing since I was 9.
There is no doubt that Charlie took advantage of me. This small man oozed self-confidence and sex appeal, and as he would demonstrate time and time again in the months and years ahead, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was a master manipulator, while I was 14 and essentially on my own. I was a naive, lonely, love-starved little girl looking for a parental figure to tell me, “No, don’t do that.”
As I discovered that first day in his magic bus, when he focused his attention on you, he made you believe there was no one else in the world. He also had the uncanny sensibility bestowed upon mystics, yet misused by sociopaths and con men, to know exactly what you needed.
Charlie knew what you were afraid of and could paint a scenario that would use all those insights to his advantage — traits that I would see in equal parts over time. Of course, in this moment, as I walked up the bus steps, I saw none of these things. Instead, all I saw was acceptance.
But perhaps the most impressive trick of all was how he made this seem as if it was my idea. Ever since my father first left home, I’d cultivated a sense of independence. I’d taken care of my siblings, I’d cooked, I’d become a free thinker, I’d taken drugs. I might have been 14, but I thought I understood who I was and what was missing from my life.
What I needed was a family. And now it seemed I’d found one.