Sunday, May 29, 2016

Manson and Helter Skelter, Part 1

Caution: descriptions and photographs of violence

Yesterday I posted the notes on the Beatles' song Helter Skelter and said that I would post the Manson association with that song and album separately.  Here is part 1 . . .


Born in 1934, Manson was born of a single mother who was sentenced to jail when he was aged 5 for robbery. Manson was placed with relatives and later at age 13 in a home, from which he fled. His mother then also rejected him. A succession of crimes (including armed robberies), arrests, committal to juvenile institutions, escapes and more crimes followed. By 1967, the 32 year old Manson had spent more than half his life in prisons and institutions.

Manson had a charismatic personality, was skilled in manipulating the minds of people, and had hypnotic eyes. In a 2014 interview, Vince Bugliosi, who prosecuted Manson for the Tate –La Bianca murders, stated:
“He had a quality about him that one thousandth of 1% of people have. An aura. ‘Vibes,’ the kids called it in the 60s. Wherever he went, kids gravitated toward him”
Living in San Francisco in 1967 during the “Summer of Love”, Manson became a guru in the Haight-Ashbury hippie district. His philosophies were a mixture of bits and pieces of religions, cults and sci-fi, including scientology, that he had come into contact with in prison or which he devised himself.


The Family:

Manson’s followers were known as the Family and they saw Manson as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Manson himself fostered this belief by referring to himself as Charles Willis Manson, spoken slowly, so that it sounded like "Charles' Will Is Man's Son", implying that his will was the same as that of the Son of Man.

In the summer of 1967, Manson and his followers travelled from place to place in a school bus decorated in hippie fashion with the seats taken out and replaced by rugs.


Dennis Wilson:

In spring 1968 Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys picked up a couple of hitchhiking women members of the Family and took them back to his house in Pacific Palisades. The next day he returned home to find Manson and 12 members making themselves comfortable in the house. Manson and friends, mostly women, double the original number, stayed for months. Wilson paid for everything including $21,000 to treat the gonorrhea of the group members. Wilson provided Manson, who had picked up some guitar and song-writing skills in prison, with recording and studio facilities. He also introduced Manson to various entertainment industry execs, including Rudi Altobelli who would soon rent a house to Roman Polanski and his actress wife Sharon Tate. It had been let to exec Terry Melcher.

Dennis Wilson

In August 1968 Wilson’s manager evicted Manson and the Family from Wilson’s premises. They relocated to the Spahn Movie Ranch, a former set for TV and film westerns. By the time that Manson took up occupancy, the buildings and deteriorated and the main source of income was horseback ride hire. Spahn allowed them to live at the ranch for free for doing work around the place. In addition, under orders from Manson, some of the women, including Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, had occasional sex with the 80 year old Spahn, who was nearly blind.

George Spahn

Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme

From November 1968 Manson established a second headquarters in some unused ranches in Death Valley. Manson described himself and another male member of the Family to one of the ranch owners as musicians in need of a place to work. He gave the elderly owner a gold Beach Boys record, having been gifted several by Dennis Wilson.

Helter Skelter and the Beatles:

In December 1968 Manson heard the Beatles’ White Album for the first time and came to believe that the Beatles were talking to him through coded messages on that album. His views as to what was to come down was a mix of perceived messages from the album and from Revelations. By mid February 1969 Manson was preaching to the Family that:

o The four Beatles were the four angels referred to in Revelations 9.

o The locusts referred to in Revelations was a reference to the Beatles coming out upon the earth.

o The Biblical reference to prophets having "faces as the faces of men" but with "the hair of women" was also an identification of the Beatles.

o In Revelations 9, the four angels with "breastplates of fire" was a reference to the Beatles with electric guitars, the “fire and brimstone" being their song lyrics.

o The Beatles' song "Rocky Raccoon" meant black people

o "Happiness is a Warm Gun" was a song about getting firearms to carry on the revolution.

o “Piggies" meant members of the Establishment, who needed "a damn good whacking." 

o “Helter Skelter” was the coming race war between the blacks and the whites, hence the line from the song “Look out helter skelter, she's coming down fast.” He believed that the blacks would rebel against the whites but that he and his followers would sit out the race war in a city below Death Valley that they would access via a hole in the ground. When the war was over, they would emerge and rule, setting up a new order. The Beatles were sending them, specifically them, a message to enable the worthy to be preserved from the coming apocalpyse.

o “Revolution 9” was really a reference to Revelations 9.

o “I Will” was interpreted as being a call to Manson to make an album to send out his own coded messages to attract like minded people. He did in fact write songs for the intended album.

o “Honey Pie” lyrics recognised Manson as the new Jesus Christ. He and his followers sent several telegrams, wrote numerous letters, and attempted at least three phone calls to the Beatles in England to get them to join Manson but the Beatles did not do so.

Crowe shooting:

On 1 July 1969, Manson shot a black dealer named Bernard Crowe, who had threatened to wipe out the Family in retaliation for having been defrauded by Tex Watson, a Family member. Manson believed that he had killed Crowe and believed that he was a member of the Black Panthers, a violent pro-black activist group. Expecting them to take revenge and that this was part of Helter Skelter, he turned the Spahn ranch into an armed fortress.

Hinman murder:

On 25 July 1969, Manson sent Family members Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins to the house of acquaintance Gary Hinman, to persuade him to turn over money Manson thought Hinman had inherited.

Bobby Beausoleil,

Mary Brunner

Susan Atkins 

Hinman was held hostage for 2 days, during which time Manson also attended and slashed Hinman’s ear with a sword. On Manson’s instructions, Beausoleil stabbed Hinman to death, the words “Political piggy” being written on the wall in Hinman’s blood. His blood was also used to leave an image of a panther paw, a Black Panther symbol.

Beausoleil was arrested on August 6, 1969, after he had been caught driving Hinman's car. Police found the murder weapon in the tyre well. 

Two days later, Manson told Family members at the Spahn Ranch, "Now is the time for Helter Skelter.”

Tate murders:

On August 8, 1969, Manson directed Watson to take Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel to Terry Melcher's former home and kill everyone there. 

Tex Watson

Linda Kasabian 

Patricia Krenwinkel

Manson had met Melcher previously, was aware that Melcher owned the house and he had briefly attended at the house a couple of times previously. When Manson sent the murder team there, the house was being rented by Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant. Polanksi was in London, working on a film project.

Sharon Tate on her wedding day to director Roman Polanski on January 20, 1968.

Sharon Tate

Also present at the Tate house that night were her friend and former lover Jay Sebring, a noted hairstylist; Polanski's friend and aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski; and Frykowski's lover Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folger coffee fortune.

Jay Sebring

Wojciech Frykowski

Abigail Folger

Shortly after the group arrived at the property, 18 year old Steven Parent drove up, intending to visit the property caretaker. Despite pleading for his life, he was slashed with a knife, then shot dead.

Steven Parent

Gaining entry to the main house via a window, Watson then let in Atkins and Krenwinkel, telling Kasabian to keep watch at the gate.

When a sleeping Frykowski awoke on the living room couch and asked Atkins who he was, Atkins kicked him in the head said "I'm the devil, and I'm here to do the devil's business."

The other occupants of the house were forced into the living room, where they were tied up. Watson tied Sebring and Tate together by their necks with a rope over one of the ceiling beams. When Sebring protested at the rough treatment of Tate, Watson shot him. He was then stabbed multiple times by Watson.

Despite attempted escapes, both Frykowski and Folger were caught and killed, Frykowski was stabbed in the legs by Atkins as he struggled to get away, then was bashed with a gun multiple times by Watson, shot twice and stabbed. He was stabbed a total of 51 times. Folger was stabbed 28 times by Watson and Krenwinkel.

Tate pleaded for the life of her unborn child and offered to be a hostage but this was ignored, Either or both Atkins and Watson stabbed Tate 16 times. Watson later wrote that Tate cried, "Mother ... mother ..." as she was being killed.

When they had been sent by Manson, he had told them to "leave a sign ... something witchy". Using a towel, Atkins wrote "pig" on the house's front door, in Tate's blood before they left.

Polanksi at the premises upon his return.
There are photographs on the internet of the crime scene, including of the bodies of Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring, which I have chosen not to post.
Eerily, there are also photographs of Roman Polanski posing in front of the large bloodstain from his wife's slaying, plus posing in other parts of the house including on his wife's bed.

LaBianca murders:

The next night Manson sent out another killing team, the four from the previous night, plus Leslie Van Houten and Steve “Clem” Grogan.

Leslie Van Houten

Steve “Clem” Grogan

Manson had expressed displeasure at the messiness and panic at the Tate house and went with them. Deciding on the LaBianca household, Manson and Watson woke and tied Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Manson then left and sent Krenwinkel and Van Houten to join Watson to kill the LaBiancas. Police found Leno LaBianca with a knife lodged in his throat, twelve stab wounds, and seven pairs of fork wounds. The word "WAR" had been carved on his stomach. Rosemary LaBianca was found with multiple stab wounds in her chest and neck. On the LaBianca's living room wall, written in blood, were the words "DEATH TO PIGS" and "RISE." On the refrigerator door was written, "HEALTER SKELTER."

Leon and Rosemary LaBianca

Continued next week.

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