The murders perpetrated by members of Charles Manson's "Family" were inspired in part by Manson's belief in Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise from tension over racial relations between blacks and whites.:311-2 This "chimerical vision"—as it was termed by the court that heard Manson's appeal from his conviction for the Tate/LaBianca killings—involved reference to music of The Beatles (particularly songs from the album The Beatles, also known as The White Album) and to the New Testament's Book of Revelation.:238-44
Manson had been predicting racial war for some time before he used the term Helter Skelter. His first use of the term was at a gathering of the Family on New Year's Eve 1968. This took place at the Family's base at Myers Ranch, near California's Death Valley.
In its final form, which was reached by mid-February 1969, the scenario had Manson as not only the war's ultimate beneficiary but its musical cause. He and the Family would create an album with songs whose messages concerning the war would be as subtle as those he had heard in songs of The Beatles. More than merely foretell the conflict, this would trigger it; for, in instructing "the young love," America's white youth, to join the Family, it would draw the young, white female hippies out of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. Black men, thus deprived of the white women whom the political changes of the 1960s had made sexually available to them, would be without an outlet for their frustrations and would lash out in violent crimes against whites. A resultant murderous rampage against blacks by frightened whites would then be exploited by militant blacks to provoke an internecine war of near-extermination between racist and non-racist whites over blacks' treatment. Then the militant blacks would arise to sneakily finish off the few whites they would know to have survived; indeed, they would kill off all non-blacks.
In this holocaust, the members of the enlarged Family would have little to fear; they would wait out the war in a secret city that was underneath Death Valley that they would reach through a hole in the ground. As the only actual remaining whites upon the race war's true conclusion, they would emerge from underground to rule the now-satisfied blacks, who, as the vision went, would be incapable of running the world; Manson "would scratch [the black man's] fuzzy head and kick him in the butt and tell him to go pick the cotton and go be a good nigger...."
The term Helter Skelter was from the Beatles song of that name, which involved apparent reference to the British amusement-park ride of that name and was interpreted by Manson as concerned with the war. The song was on the so-called White Album (formal name, The Beatles), first heard by Manson within a month or so of its November 1968 release:
When the Beatles’ White Album came out, Charlie listened to it over and over and over and over again. He was quite certain that the Beatles had tapped in to his spirit, the truth — that everything was gonna come down and the black man was going to rise. It wasn’t that Charlie listened to the White Album and started following what he thought the Beatles were saying. It was the other way around. He thought that the Beatles were talking about what he had been expounding for years. Every single song on the White Album, he felt that they were singing about us. The song "Helter Skelter" — he was interpreting that to mean the blacks were gonna go up and the whites were gonna go down.
In the months before the murders were conceived, Manson and his followers began preparing for Helter Skelter, which they thought inevitable. In addition to working on songs for the hoped-for album, which would set off everything, they prepared vehicles and other items for their escape from the Los Angeles area (their home territory) to Death Valley when the days of violence would arrive. They pored over maps to plot a route that would bypass highways and get them to the desert safely. Indeed, Manson was convinced that the song "Helter Skelter" contained a coded statement of the route they should follow.:244-5
Manson had said the war would start in the summer of 1969. In late June of that year, months after he'd been frustrated in his efforts to get the album made, he told a male Family member that Helter Skelter was "ready to happen." "Blackie never did anything without whitey showin’ him how," he said. "It looks like we’re gonna have to show blackie how to do it."
On August 8, 1969, the day Manson instructed his followers to carry out the first of two sets of notorious murders, he told the Family, "Now is the time for Helter Skelter." When the murderers returned to Spahn Ranch, the Family's Los Angeles area headquarters, after the crime, Manson asked Tex Watson, the sole man among them, whether it had been Helter Skelter. "Yeah, it was sure Helter Skelter," Watson replied.
At the conclusion of the second set of murders, the following night (August 9–10), one of the killers wrote "Healter [sic] Skelter" on the refrigerator of the house in which the murders took place. That, along with other references to Beatles songs, was written in blood.
References to the Beatles and the Book of Revelation
When The Beatles first came to the United States, in February 1964, Charles Manson was an inmate in the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island, in southern Puget Sound. He was serving a sentence for attempting to cash a forged U.S. Treasury check;:142-3 he was 29 years old.:136 His fellow inmates found his interest in the British rock group "almost an obsession." Taught by inmate Alvin Karpis to play the steel guitar, Manson told many persons that "given the chance, he could be much bigger than the Beatles.":145
To the Family, a few years later, Manson spoke of The Beatles as "the soul" and "part of 'the hole in the infinite.'" When he delivered the Helter Skelter prophecy around the campfire at Myers Ranch, the Family members believed it:
[A]t that point Charlie’s credibility seemed indisputable. For weeks he had been talking of revolution, prophesying it. We had listened to him rap; we were geared for it – making music to program the young love. Then, from across the Atlantic, the hottest music group in the world substantiates Charlie with an album which is almost blood-curdling in its depiction of violence. It was uncanny.
In My Life with Charles Manson, Paul Watkins wrote that Manson "spent hours quoting and interpreting Revelation to the Family, particularly verses from chapter 9." In an autobiography written with assistance some years after the murders, Tex Watson said that, apart from Chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation, the Bible had "absolutely no meaning in our life in the Family." (Even so, Watson stated that "we... knew that Charlie was Jesus Christ.")
For a period in his childhood, Manson lived with an aunt and uncle, while his mother was in prison. He later told a counselor that the aunt and uncle had "some marital difficulty until they became interested in religion and became very extreme.":137
Lyric: Oh, honey pie, my position is tragic/ Come and show me the magic/ Of your Hollywood song
Meaning: The Beatles know Jesus Christ has returned to Earth and is in Los Angeles. They want Manson to create his "song," that is, his album that will set off Helter Skelter.
Lyric: Oh, honey pie, you are driving me frantic/ Sail across the Atlantic/ To be where you belong
Meaning: The Beatles want Jesus Christ to come to England
Consequence: In early 1969, Manson and his female followers attempt to contact the Beatles by letter, telegram, and telephone; they are struggling to make clear to the Beatles that it is they, the Beatles, who are to come across the Atlantic, to join the family in Death Valley.
Lyric: I'm in love, but I'm lazy
Meaning: The Beatles love Jesus Christ but are too lazy to go looking for him They've worn themselves out in a trip to India to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whom they now regard as a false prophet.
Lyric: I Listen for your footsteps coming up the drive/ Listen for your footsteps, but they don't arrive/ Waiting for your knock dear on my old front door/ I don't hear it; does it mean you don't love me any more?/ I hear the clock a-ticking on the mantel shelf/ See the hands a-moving, but I'm by myself/ I wonder where you are tonight and why I'm by myself/ I don't see you; does it mean you don't love me any more?
Meaning: The Beatles are calling for Jesus Christ.
Lyric: There's a fog upon L.A./ And my friends have lost their way/ They'll be over soon they said/ Now they've lost themselves instead/ Please don't be long/ Please don't you be very long/ Or I may be asleep.
Meaning: The Beatles are calling for Jesus Christ.
This connects the Helter Skelter prophecy with a song from outside The Beatles. "Blue Jay Way" appeared on Magical Mystery Tour, the 1967 album that preceded The Beatles and that had, itself, influenced Manson. The Family had come to call its roundabout journey from its place of origin, San Francisco, to its place of settlement, the Los Angeles area, the "Magical Mystery Tour."
The primary sources of information on Helter Skelter do not detail Manson's interpretation of the lyrics of this song. If the "friends" are imagined to be the Beatles, looking for Manson in Los Angeles, the lyrics retain their ordinary sense, in which someone is trying to get to a place inL.A., not out of it. If, on the other hand, the "friends" are the Family, who, because of the "fog upon L.A.," have "lost their way" to the Beatles in England, the interpretation would seem to be consistent with Manson's view that the lyrics are a call to him ("Please don't you be very long") and that the Beatles want him to "sail across the Atlantic." (See Honey Pie, above.)
"Blue Jay Way" is the name of an actual Los Angeles street; the primary sources of information about Helter Skelter do not indicate whether Manson knew that. George Harrison was staying at a house on that street when he wrote the song.
Significance: Manson had renamed Family member Susan Atkins "Sadie Mae Glutz" long before the release of The Beatles. This served to reinforce the mental connection Manson felt he had with The Beatles.
In San Francisco, where she met Manson, Atkins had been a topless dancer.:80Paul Watkins wrote that Atkins "thrived on sex," and he even seemed to suggest she had the nickname Sexy Sadie before the Family heard the song. Similarly, Tex Watson wrote that the words of "Sexy Sadie" fit Atkins so well "that it made us all sure [the Beatles] had to be singing directly to us." Watson specifically noted that the song's title character "came along to turn on everyone," "broke the rules," and "laid it down for all to see." Atkins, he said, "had broken all the rules, sexually, and liked to talk about her experience and lack of inhibitions."
Significance: Rocky Raccoon means "coon," vulgar term for a black man
Of all the Beatles songs known to have been connected with Helter Skelter, this is the only one that mentions the Bible. (It is possibly the only Beatles song at all that mentions the Bible.) A play on the Gideons International practice of leaving Bibles in hotel rooms, the references are to a Bible left in the room of the title character by a "Gideon":
So one day [Rocky Raccoon] walked into town/ Booked himself a room in the local saloon/ Rocky Raccoon/ Checked into his room/ Only to find Gideon's Bible... Now Rocky Raccoon/ He fell back in his room/ Only to find Gideon's Bible/ Gideon checked out/ And he left it no doubt/ To help with good Rocky's revival.
Manson made the connection. In the period before his trial, he was visited at the Los Angeles County Jail by David Dalton and David Felton, who were preparing a Rolling Stone story, about him, that appeared in the magazine in June 1970. In an article in the October 1998 issue of the periodical Gadfly, Dalton, recounting the visit to Manson, relayed the remarks Manson made to Felton and him about "Rocky Raccoon":
"Coon," said Charlie. "You know that's a word they use for black people. You know the line, 'Gideon checked out / And left no doubt / To help good Rocky's revival.' Rocky's revival—re-vival. It means coming back to life. The black man is going to come into power again. 'Gideon checks out' means that it's all written out there in the New Testament, in the Book of Revelations [sic]."
Lyric: Blackbird singing in the dead of night/ Take these broken wings and learn to fly/ All your life/ You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
Meaning: The black man is going to arise and overthrow the white man. The Beatles are programming blacks to rise.
In detailing Helter Skelter in his autobiography, Tex Watson invoked this lyric obliquely:
[The white establishment] would slaughter thousands of blacks, but actually only manage to eliminate all the Uncle Toms, since the "true black race" (sometimes Charlie thought they were the Black Muslims, sometimes the Panthers) would have hidden, waiting for their moment. (Emphasis added)
Indeed, the song was intended as an allegory for race relations in the United States, as explained by Paul McCartney. However, the difference between a song about racial struggle in the 1960s and a song predicting that hidden groups of black revolutionaries waiting to take over the world after the white establishment has exterminated all the so-called "Uncle Toms," is, kind of obviously, enormous.
Lyric: When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide/ Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Significance: A reference to the Family's emergence from "the Bottomless Pit," the underground Death Valley hideaway where the group will escape the violence of Helter Skelter
In British English, helter-skelter not only has its meanings of "confused" or "confusedly" but is the name of an amusement park slide, which this portion of the lyrics suggests is one of the term's surface denotations in the song. There is nothing to indicate Manson was aware of this meaning.
Lyric: Look out... Helter Skelter... She's coming down fast... Yes she is.
Meaning: The upcoming explosion of race-based violence is imminent. These are the "last few months, weeks, perhaps days, of the old order."
Even to someone unaware that helter-skelter is the name of a slide, the song's mention of a slide might have indicated that the "she" in this part of the lyrics is someone who, literally or otherwise, is riding on a slide and "coming down fast" (i.e., "helter-skelter", or "out of control"). In My Life with Charles Manson, Paul Watkins makes clear Manson construed "she" as a reference to the words "helter skelter" themselves. It is Helter Skelter—which, in America, at least, can be the noun "confusion"—that is coming down fast, i.e., is imminent.
Significance: Blacks are going to give "the piggies"—i.e., the establishment—a damned good whacking. This phrase Manson particularly liked.
Lyric: Everywhere there's lots of piggies/ Living piggy lives/ You can see them out for dinner/ With their piggy wives/ Clutching forks and knives/ To eat their bacon.
In Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, which he wrote with Curt Gentry, Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Manson and the others accused of the Tate-LaBianca murders, draws attention to this. He notes that Leno LaBianca was left with a knife in his throat and a fork in his stomach. (Bugliosi has to make the point somewhat indirectly in the text because George Harrison, who wrote the song, refused the book authors' permission to quote the lyrics.)
Lyric: You say you want a revolution/ Well you know/ We all want to change the world.../ But when you talk about destruction/ Don't you know that you can count me out (in)
Significance: The singing of "in" after the word "out," even though "in" doesn't appear in the lyrics as they were presented on the printed sheet enclosed with the album, indicates that the Beatles had been undecided but now favor revolution.:242-3 Though they are no longer on a "peace-and-love trip," they can't admit as much to the establishment.
Lyric: You say you got a real solution/ Well you know/ We'd all love to see the plan
Meaning: The Beatles want Manson to tell them how to escape the horrors of Helter Skelter. They are ready for the violence; they want Manson to create his album that will tell them what to do. Its songs will be "the plan" whose subtle messages will be aimed at the various parts of society that will be involved in Helter Skelter.
This is the White Album piece Manson spoke about the most, the one he deemed most significant. An audio collage more than eight minutes long, it has no lyrics.
Significance: Manson hears machine-gun fire, the oinking of pigs, and the word "Rise." The piece is audio representation of the coming conflict; the repeated utterance "Number 9" is reference to Chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation. Revolution 9 is prophecy, paralleling Revelation 9. "Revolution 9" = Revelation 9.
"Rise" is "one of [Manson's] big words"; the black man is going to "rise" up against the white man.:241-2 While playing "Revolution 9," Manson screams "Rise! Rise! Rise!" (From 2:33 to 2:50 of the recording, a voice that could be that of John Lennon does, in fact, repeat what is possibly the word "Right," not "Rise." About twenty-five seconds before that word is first heard, a voice says something that seems to include the words "lots of stab wounds"; but Bugliosi and Gentry, who mention this in Helter Skelter, do not indicate whether Manson or any of the Family members heard it.)
Manson also hears the Beatles whispering: "Charlie, Charlie, send us a telegram." (See Honey Pie, above.) At approximately 3:45 of the recording, a voice that could be that of George Harrison does, in fact, seem to be saying something about a telegram.
In his autobiography, Tex Watson tied the prophecy to one more White Album song, Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey, though he changed monkey to monkeys, plural. While on LSD at a party in late March 1969, Watson explained, he and two Manson girls realized they themselves were "the monkeys,... just bright-eyed, free little animals, totally uninhibited." As they started "bouncing around the apartment, throwing food against the walls, and laughing hysterically," they were, in their own view (if not that of the others in attendance), "all love—spontaneous, childlike love." It would seem Watson took the song's "me and my monkey[s]" to signify Manson and the Family, though he doesn't say it that way; he doesn't indicate whether the interpretation was brought to Manson's attention.
Manson himself invoked, too, "Yellow Submarine," a Beatles song that was released in 1966 and that inspired an animated movie of the same title. The movie was released in November 1968, within a week or so of The White Album. In the first months of 1969, after he had delivered the Helter Skelter prophecy around the New Year's Eve campfire near Death Valley, Manson applied the name "Yellow Submarine" to a canary-yellow, Canoga Park house to which the Family repaired at his instruction. There, as they would prepare for Helter Skelter, they would be "submerged beneath the awareness of the outside world."
Book of Revelation, as interpreted by Manson
as the scorpions of the earth have power = the power of scorpion, that is, Manson, a Scorpio, will prevail
bottomless pit = as noted above, the underground city in which the Family will ride out the ravages of Helter Skelter. The Family would be lowered into this by means of a gold rope; accordingly, Manson bought expensive gold rope at a Santa Monica sporting-goods store.
Verses 7-8: ... [A]nd [the locusts'] faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women....
Verse 17: And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone.
breastplates of fire = the Beatles' electric guitars
fire and smoke and brimstone out of their mouths = the Beatles' powerful lyrics, the power of their music to ignite Helter Skelter
Verse 7: And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle
things that are shaped like unto horses prepared unto battle = the dune buggies the Family will be riding during Helter Skelter
In Manson's view, dune buggies were the ideal vehicles of the apocalypse; they would enable the Family to outrun police in the Bottomless Pit and were light enough that a few of the girls could carry them. During the war, the Family would be making forays from the Bottomless Pit. Accordingly, the dune buggies the Family acquired, licitly and otherwise, were fitted, on Manson's inspiration, with machine gun mounts; while the men would drive, the girls would operate the guns.
Fitted next to the steering wheel of Manson's personal buggy was a metal scabbard. It held a sword with which, in July 1969, Manson slashed the ear of Family acquaintance Gary Hinman.:102 On the buggy's front was a winch that Manson envisioned using to evade police, apparently in Helter Skelter. He would fling the winch's rope up into a tree and then winch himself up out of sight as pursuing officers would drive haplessly by.
In an article published in Los Angeles magazine in July 2009, as the fortieth anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders approached, former Manson associate Catherine Share was quoted as follows:
Charlie talked about Helter Skelter every night. … [W]e’d learn to live off the land. We’d live in the desert and come in on dune buggies and rescue the orphaned white babies. We’d be the saviors.
Verse 15: And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men
the four angels = The Beatles, prophets who are preparing the way for Jesus Christ, Manson, to lead the chosen people away to safety
slay the third part of men = destroy the white race, that is (it would seem), one of the three races
Verse 16: And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them.
two hundred thousand thousand horsemen = motorcycle gang-members Manson is attempting to recruit into the Family, in advance of Helter Skelter
The motorcyclists, whose attention Manson began cultivating when the Family moved to the Yellow Submarine, were to be the Family's "needed military wing." They and the Family would cruise through Helter Skelter in the manner of a flock of birds, all turning in one direction or another without even a sound from their leader. If the cyclists were to be worthy of surviving Helter Skelter alongside the Family, it was, of course, necessary they attain the Family's level of hippie enlightenment. Toward this end, Manson unleashed his girls as seductresses, to wean the gang members from predisposition to marriage as well as materialism and concern with time of day (the latter horrors jointly embodied in the wearing of wristwatches); with a passing exception or two, the cyclists remained bourgeois.:101
Verse 4: And it was commanded [that the locusts] should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree = only humans, not nature, will be destroyed in Helter Skelter
seal of God in their foreheads = a mark that would indicate whether someone was on Manson's side or not; in Helter Skelter, those without it would perish (Manson never described the mark, but he left no doubt he would be able to recognize it.)
Verse 20: And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk....
worship of idols of gold and silver and brass = the establishment's worship of automobiles, houses, and money
Verse 1: And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
Verse 4: And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.
One hundred forty-four thousand would be the membership of the Family when, in Helter Skelter's aftermath, it would emerge from "the bottomless pit" to rule.:246 "It would be our world then. There would be no one else, except for us and the black servants."
It is difficult to determine how the Family's number was to grow to one hundred forty-four thousand. In his autobiography, Charles Watson seems to think, with incredulity, that the growth was somehow simply to be a result of procreation; the trial testimony of Paul Watkins, on the other hand, seems to indicate the increase was to result from the release of the Family's album, which would draw "the young love" to the group. The Family would also acquire (rescue) babies made homeless in Helter Skelter. Several decades were to pass before the Family would at last depart the Bottomless Pit; the group would live there in miniaturized form.
Verses 10 and 18: And [an angel] carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God... and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
Verse 21: And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
Verse 23: And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
The Family's Helter Skelter sanctuary under Death Valley would be a city of gold where there would be no sun and no moon.
Verse 2: In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month....
The city underneath Death Valley would have a tree that would bear twelve different kinds of fruit, a different kind each month. (The city was also expected to have chocolate fountains; but in that detail, it seems to have departed from the Biblical scheme.)
Verses 14 and 16: For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.... And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
Verses 1 and 2: And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth....
For about two weeks after their departure from the "Yellow Submarine," Family members moved into—or broke into—an unoccupied mansion that had recently been vacated by the rock group Iron Butterfly. Overlooking the sea from the Mulholland Hills, the house met Manson's demand that "[the Family] have access to the sea and to the desert and that the two roads be joined."
With the help of three hundred dollars' worth of topographicalmaps, the Family laid out a complete and continuous Helter Skelter escape route that ran from Malibu beach (near this Iron Butterfly mansion), past the Family's headquarters at Spahn Ranch, and to Golar Wash, site of the Family's desert ranches near Death Valley. From Spahn, Manson, peering toward the heart of Los Angeles, really could have his right foot upon (toward) the sea and his left foot upon the earth. It was even rumored that Manson or a Family member stole and maybe ruined a half-track supposedly used to clear a Spahn-area portion of the route.
The escape route was marked with locations for supply-caches, command posts, campsites. The Family's topographical maps were found buried in Death Valley.
To Manson, the synthesis of Beatles and Bible was hardly to be questioned:
Look at [the Beatles'] songs: songs sung all over the world by the young love; it ain’t nothin’ new.... It’s written in... Revelation, all about the four angels programming the holocaust…the four angels looking for the fifth angel to lead the people into the pit of fire…right out to Death Valley. ... It’s all in black and white, in The White Album — white, so there ain’t no mistakin’ the color....
Abbey Road epilogue
If Manson's interest in and references to Magical Mystery Tour constituted a prologue to his focus on the White Album, there was also a kind of epilogue in the form of Family references to Abbey Road, the Beatle album that came after the White Album.
Abbey Road was released in the United Kingdom in late September 1969, after the murders. By that time, most of the Family was at the group's camp in the Death Valley area, searching for the Bottomless Pit.:233 Around October 1 (the U.S. release date), three Family members arrived at the camp with an advance copy of the album, which the group played on a battery-operated machine.
In the second week of October, the desert redoubts were raided by law officers who found the Family with stolen vehicles, including dune buggies; Manson and several others were arrested.:126-8 By mid-November, when Manson had become a suspect in the Tate-LaBianca murders, Family members who had been released from jail had made their way back to Spahn Ranch. There, on November 25, 1969, LAPD confiscated a door on which someone had written "Helter Scelter [sic] is coming down fast.":294
A photograph shows the confiscated door was also inscribed with "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 — ALL GOOD CHILDREN (Go to Heaven?)" [sic]. This children's rhyme is heard in "You Never Give Me Your Money," a song that appears on Abbey Road. In October 1970, the prosecution offered testimony about the door during Manson's trial for the Tate-LaBianca murders; but only the "Helter Skelter" inscription seems to have been noted.:376
In late September or early October 1969, before the arrests, Tex Watson had left the desert camp and gone on to separate himself from the Family. Late in the separation, he, too, bought a cassette recording of Abbey Road. Walking for miles across the desert to rejoin the Family in late October, he played his tape continuously to see what The Beatles might have to tell him. When, at the last moment, he turned back, an old prospector informed him the arrests had taken place. Watson returned to his native Texas, where his own arrest, for the Tate-LaBianca murders, occurred a month later.
In late July 1970, while Manson was on trial, three persons were hacked, two fatally, on the beach near Santa Barbara, California. One of the Manson girls spoke of this incident as "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," an Abbey Road song that plainly is about homicidal madness.
March 21:Charles Manson, aged 32, is released from Terminal Island, San Pedro, California, after seven years' imprisonment for attempting to cash a forged government check. He is granted permission to move to San Francisco.:146
Summer: Manson and the first members of what will come to be known as his Family leave the San Francisco area in an old school bus they modified in hippie style. (In an alternate account, some months of Manson travels and acquisition of Family members precede the group's departure from San Francisco in the school bus, around November 10.)
November 27: The Beatles' album Magical Mystery Tour is released in the United States. The Family will come to call its geographical and psychological movement in the school bus "the Magical Mystery Tour."
Late spring: Having ended up in the Los Angeles area after months of roaming through the West Coast and the Southwest,:174 Manson and the Family become associated with The Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson after Wilson picks up two female Family members hitchhiking in Malibu. Several Family members begin living in Wilson's Pacific Palisades home while, by midsummer, others will be living at the Spahn Ranch in (or near) Chatsworth.:250 During the spring/summer of 1968, Dennis Wilson also introduces Manson to his friend Terry Melcher, a record producer who has worked not only with the Beach Boys, but also with The Byrds, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Mamas & The Papas, & many other L.A. based musical acts.
August 9:Gregg Jakobson, another music industry friend of Dennis Wilson, pays for studio time to record songs written and performed by Manson.:214
August: Three weeks before his lease on his house is to run out, Dennis Wilson has his manager evict the Family members from it.:251
October 31: Having been consolidated at the Spahn Ranch since the eviction from Dennis Wilson's house, the Family members set out in a new school bus (purchased September 1) toward Death Valley to set up an alternate base.
November 1: The Family members arrive at the Death Valley area's Golar Wash, maybe one hundred twenty miles north of Los Angeles and ninety miles west of Las Vegas, Nevada. They load themselves into the unused Myers Ranch, which is owned by the grandmother of a new Family member.
November 3: When Manson and Family member Paul Watkins take a short trip from Golar Wash to visit "Ma Barker," owner of another unused (or little-used) ranch, not far from Myers, Manson presents himself and Watkins to her as musicians in need of a residence congenial to their work. When she agrees to let them stay at the ranch if they'll fix what needs fixing, Manson honors her with one of The Beach Boys' gold records, several of which he'd been given by Dennis Wilson. On the way back to Golar Wash, Watkins, who has seen a newspaper while they've been on their trek, mentions a police shooting of a young black in San Francisco; Manson replies that a black revolt has been building up for years. He says the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr., is a "heavy number."
Mid-December: Family member Paul Watkins and two female Family members go to Los Angeles for a few days. While they're there, they see Yellow Submarine.
Before the end of December: While back at Spahn Ranch, Manson and Charles "Tex" Watson visit an acquaintance in nearby Topanga Canyon. When, in response to a question from the acquaintance, they tell him they haven't heard the new Beatles album, he plays it for them.
New Year's Eve: Around a campfire on a bitter cold night at the Myers Ranch, the Family members listen as Manson lays out the prophecy of Helter Skelter.
~January 10: Word comes from Manson, who is in Los Angeles, that the Family is to move from the desert to a house he's found in Canoga Park. Because the canary-yellow house is a place where the Family, preparing for Helter Skelter, will be "submerged beneath the awareness of the outside world," Manson dubs it the Yellow Submarine.
Mid-February: While riding in a car with Paul Watkins, Manson sees a white woman and a black man holding hands on the street. He explains to Watkins that that's why black men have not yet risen up in rebellion against whites: they're pacified by access to white women.
Before mid-March: In preparation for a visit they are for some reason expecting from Dennis Wilson's friend Terry Melcher, owner of a record company, Family members clean the Canoga Park house, set up their instruments, and prepare vegetables, lasagna, salad, French bread, freshly baked cookies, and marijuana. They are hoping Melcher will agree to record the music they've been preparing to trigger Helter Skelter; Melcher doesn't arrive.
March 23: Entering uninvited upon 10050 Cielo Drive, which he has known as the residence of Terry Melcher, Manson gets a cool reception from a male friend of Sharon Tate, who, with her husband, Roman Polanski, is the new lessee; Tate looks on. Manson, who possibly knows Melcher no longer lives at the place, has come calling for someone and is told to check the guest house; after briefly going back to the guest house, he leaves. In the evening, when he enters the property again, Manson is received with an equal lack of enthusiasm, at the guest house, by landlord Rudi Altobelli, an entertainment-industry figure who had met him the previous summer through Dennis Wilson. Though Manson asks for Melcher, he prolongs the conversation with Altobelli and attempts to establish a connection with him. Altobelli, who will be going to Europe the next day, lies that he will be out of the United States for a year; he gives Manson incomplete information about Melcher's new location. In learning that Manson had been directed to the guest house by persons at the main house, Altobelli expresses his wish that Manson not disturb his tenants. Manson leaves; Tate later asks Altobelli whether "that creepy-looking guy" showed up at the guest house.:226, 228-31
~April 1: The Family starts settling back into the Spahn Ranch, which they had quit after owner George Spahn, under pressure from police, had shut down an unlicensed nightclub they'd set up at the ranch to raise money for their preparations for Helter Skelter. They will not concern themselves with Spahn's objections; during Helter Skelter, they must be at Spahn, from which they'll have a "clear escape route to the desert."
Mid-June: While Manson and Family member Paul Watkins are discussing Helter Skelter, Manson tells Watkins "it looks like we're gonna have to show blackie how to do it."
July 27: In a dispute over money, Family member Bobby Beausoleil acts on Manson's instruction to murder Family acquaintance Gary Hinman. After stabbing Hinman to death, Beausoleil writes "Political piggy" on a wall in Hinman's blood.:33, 102-3
August 6: Beausoleil is arrested after he is caught driving Hinman's car; the knife he used to stab Hinman is found in the car's tire well.:33
August 8: In the afternoon, Manson tells the Family members, "Now is the time for Helter Skelter."
August 9: After midnight, acting on Manson's instruction, three Family members including Tex Watson murder Sharon Tate and four other persons on the premises of 10050 Cielo Drive. Susan Atkins, one of the killers, writes "Pig" on the house's front door, in Sharon Tate's blood. When the killers and a fourth Family member, who accompanied them, return to Spahn Ranch, Watson assures Manson it was Helter Skelter.
August 10: After midnight, three Family members acting on Manson's instruction murder Leno and Rosemary LaBianca at their Los Feliz home, next door to a house at which Manson and Family members had attended a party the previous year.:182, 207 Using LaBianca blood, one of the killers writes "Rise" and "Death to Pigs" on the living room walls. She writes "Healter [sic] Skelter" on the refrigerator.:39
Tex Watson, who, as noted above, was with Manson when Manson first heard the White Album, took part in both the Tate murders and the LaBianca murders. Indeed, in his own recounting of the crimes, he is the only killer to participate directly in every one of the seven homicides and is the sole killer of at least three of the victims. While awaiting trial, he told other Family members, “It seemed like I had to do everything.”
On the late 1968 day he and Manson first heard the album, Watson separated himself from the Family, which he did not rejoin until the following March (1969). By that time, Manson’s prophecy had captured the group’s imagination; but Watson would be a while in grasping its details. In his 1978 autobiography (as told to Ray Hoekstra), he wrote as follows:
Although I got it in bits and pieces, some from the women and some from Manson himself, it turned out to be a remarkably complicated yet consistent thing that he [Manson] had discovered and developed in the three months we'd been apart.
It was exciting, amazing stuff Charlie was teaching, and we'd sit around him for hours as he told us about the land of milk and honey we'd find underneath the desert and enjoy while the world above us was soaked in blood.
At his 1970 trial for the Tate-LaBianca murders, Manson was permitted to testify, after the attorneys for the other defendants and him had attempted to rest their case, without calling a single witness. Lest he violate the California Supreme Court's decision in People v. Aranda by implicating his co-defendants, the jury was removed from the courtroom.:388 He spoke for over an hour.:388 As for Helter Skelter, he said the following:
It means confusion, literally. It doesn't mean any war with anyone. It doesn't mean that some people are going to kill other people ... Helter Skelter is confusion. Confusion is coming down around you fast. If you can't see the confusion coming down around you fast, you can call it what you wish.:390-1
As to there having been a conspiracy, of which he was alleged to have been a part, to commit the murders, Manson said this:
Is it a conspiracy that the music is telling the youth to rise up against the establishment because the establishment is rapidly destroying things? Is that a conspiracy?
The music speaks to you every day, but you are too deaf, dumb, and blind to even listen to the music ...
It is not my conspiracy. It is not my music. I hear what it relates. It says 'Rise,' it says 'Kill.'
Why blame it on me? I didn't write the music.:391
At about the one-fifth point of his 1992 parole hearing, Manson said the following:
[A]s far as lining up someone for some kind of helter skelter trip, you know, that's the District Attorney's motive. That's the only thing he could find for a motive to throw up on top of all that confusion he had. There was no such thing in my mind as helter skelter.
More detail about Helter Skelter is found in the following:
My Life with Charles Manson by Paul Watkins and Guillermo Soledad
As has been noted, Bugliosi led the prosecution in the Tate-LaBianca trials; at the time of the trials, he was a Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney.:xiv, 117Charles Watson is the above-mentioned Family member who took part in the murders. Watkins was an above-mentioned Family member who was not involved in the murders.
Another source is The Family by Ed Sanders (Thunder's Mouth Press, New York, 2002. ISBN 1-56025-396-7). Sanders covered Manson's trial for the Los Angeles Free Press; during the trial and in the period that led up to it, he spent time in the company of Family members. His book avoids much detail of the Beatle and Bible references, but it enables the reader to grasp Manson's vision of the Family as marauders wheeling through Helter Skelter's chaos. (When originally published, in 1971, the book was entitled The Family: The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion.)
See also the trial testimony of Gregg Jakobson, who met Manson at the home of Beach BoyDennis Wilson in May or early summer of 1968 and who arranged a recording session for Manson in August of that year.:155, 214 Jakobson indicated that Manson and he had talked about Manson’s "philosophy on life" in various settings "innumerable times" – "Maybe 100.":223
^In trial testimony, Manson associate Paul Watkins indicated the militants would be "the Black Muslims." In his autobiography (as told to Ray Hoekstra), Manson associate Tex Watson said Manson sometimes indicated the Black Muslims, sometimes the Black Panthers. On page 246 of the 1994 edition of Bugliosi and Gentry's Helter Skelter is a similar statement, apparently based on statements made to Bugliosi by Paul Watkins. In Chapter 10 of the Watkins autobiography, My Life with Charles Manson (written with Guillermo Soledad), Manson is quoted as follows: "The heavy dudes, though, are the [Black] Muslims. I’ve seen those cats in jail. They sit back real stoic like and watch and stay cool, you know. But they’ll be the ones who bring the shit down. Yeah, it’s gonna come down hard... a full-on war." The statement predates Manson's formulation of Helter Skelter.
^In an interview, Family member Tex Watson has indicated he and Manson first heard the White Album on December 1, 1968; but this does not appear to match recollections in Watson’s autobiography, in which, among other things, Watson seems to indicate he and Manson first heard the album on a Saturday (which December 1 was not). In an autobiography of his own, Paul Watkins, another Family member, seemed to think Manson first heard the album near December’s end. This is not the only chronological mismatch between the recollections of Watkins and Watson.
^Manson 2009 documentary by Cineflix Productions et al.
^Watson, Ch. 7 Oddly, the song seemed to continue to be about Atkins, even after the murders. When David Dalton and David Felton, in their 1970 Rolling Stone story about Manson, wrote that "Sexy Sadie laid it down for all to see," they were referring not to Atkins's sexual frankness but to her crime account as published within a week of the Tate-LaBianca indictments. Running nearly three pages when it appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, December 14, 1969, the said account was based mainly on a tape-recorded interview of Atkins by her attorney at his office on December 1; it detailed the "2 Nights of Murder" of the Tate-LaBianca crimes. (See Bugliosi 1994, pages 160 and 193.)
^Watkins, Ch. 12. As Watkins tells it, Manson said, "Are you hep to what the Beatles are saying?... Dig it, they’re telling it like it is. They know what’s happening in the city; blackie is getting ready. They put the revolution to music... it’s 'Helter-Skelter.' Helter-Skelter is coming down."
^In Chapter 3 of his 1978 autobiography, Watson indicated he left the desert camp on October 2, 1969. In a letter of April 1, 2008, to CNN, he revised this and indicated he had left around September 25.
^In an interview, Tex Watson has indicated he and Manson first heard the album on December 1, 1968; but this does not appear to match recollections in Watson’s autobiography, in which, among other things, Watson seems to indicate he and Manson first heard the album on a Saturday (which December 1 was not). In an autobiography of his own, Family member Paul Watkins seemed to think Manson first heard the album near December’s end. This is not the only chronological mismatch between the recollections of Watkins and Watson.