John Wisniewski: Neil, could you tell us how you began writing your book on “Now’s The Only Thing That’s Real” about Manson and mind control? How did the project start?
Neil Sanders: Well, I was forced to watch the original Manchurian Candidate by an older friend. I resisted obviously because what youngster wants to watch a black and white film with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury? Any way, I had no choice and it turned out that I loved the film. It opened up ideas about political espionage that I had never thought of but also the mind control aspect struck me as plausible. Not strictly as shown in the film, but I was at University studying psychology and the mechanism of introducing thought or splitting the mind seemed a bit far fetched but not beyond belief. I became obsessed with reading about MK Ultra the CIA mind control program and became fascinated with the stories from the Doctors involved. I spent a lot of time going through the available declassified documents and searching for any interviews with those who did the experiments and the scale of what was achieved and admitted is mindblowing. At University I also studied aspects of marketing and advertising and started to notice that a large part of that is psychological manipulation, these techniques are also used in all sorts of aspects of everyday life to gently prod you in a direction. I have always been fascinated with conspiracy theories – some are fun and nonsense but some fall more under the categories of international crimes – so I compiled a book showing the various ways we can be manipulated from Military experiments all the way down to jingles in adverts.
The Manson book took several years to get together. I had always been drawn to his story – the cult leader with the hypnotic power – but the more I read about the case the more I realized that there is a huge amount of disinformation and myth surrounding the case. I really don’t think the story that most people know is very accurate at all and I think there were reasons that this story was concocted and spread. Originally I was convinced that Manson himself may have been under some sort of mind control or connected with CIA programmes to create cults and practice group manipulation – which seems to have been a practice of theirs – but when researching it I soon changed my mind. I just started to get as much information as I could and absorb it. I got all the various documents and incidents and constructed a timeline from Mansons birth to after his sentancing to see what actually aligned. There are several theories concerning what happened with Manson and I wanted to test all the theories to see which was the most likely. When you had the timeline you could lay the different theories on it and see if they matched. The first thing that struck me was that certain elements of the Bugliosi prosecution didn’t ring true to the actual events. Out of interest the Manson story also involves Angela Lansbury.
John Wisniewski: Could you tell us Neil, what COINTELPRO is, and why it is connected to
the Manson Case?
Neil Sanders: COINTELPRO was an illegal FBI operation to discredit and disrupt political organisations. It was mostly aimed at domestic leftist movements such as the anti-war movement, feminists, the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party. Tactics included smearing political activists, infiltrating organizations, framing them for crimes, causing dissent in their movements by spreading rumors or fermenting rivalries and just straight up murdering people who couldn’t be “neutralised” in other ways. They also used things like psychological warfare to create a false impression of these groups with the public. This would include invented negative stories in the press or the production of fake leaflets or messaging supposedly coming from the group that the public.
It appears to be tangentially connected to the Manson case via the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground was a radical militant group that felt terrorist action against the state was required to make society fair. They formed out of the SDS which was an anti war student movement. Now this is where it gets a bit murky. The SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) always claimed that their group and message was hijacked by the more radical Weather Underground – almost seeming to discredit them. Similarly the Black Panthers originally refused to be associated with the Weather Underground (despite the latters efforts at seducing them) because they felt they undermined their message too. The Weather Underground had a tactic of setting off bombs, robbing banks and other militant, terrorist actions but decided to remain anonymous – not announcing these crimes beforehand. This has always troubled me. It seems that this course of action only served to discredit leftist movements and paint them as violent. In 1969 Bernadine Dohrn, a leader of the group, publically praised Manson and named that year – “The year of the fork”. She made the Manson murders seem like a political action in the eyes of the public, well, he’s anti-establishment act – which they absolutely were not, they were a bungled and grubby drug murder.
The association of Manson to anti-establishment actions worked both ways and soon the hippie anti-war movement, communal living and living off grid were connected to the idea of Manson. Manson became a go-to representative of the negative qualities of hippies and by association the anti-war movement. By politicizing Manson the effect was to demonize the hippies. Personally, I think that was the point. I suspect that the Weather Underground were not quite what they claimed to be. Perhaps they were CIA, perhaps they were part of COINTELPRO? Regardless, they served to hinder the leftist movements far more than they helped and they certainly framed the publics notion of the Manson trial. As an interesting aside Manson was good friends in prison with legendary Black Panther Geronimo Pratt. Manson even saved Pratt’s life once. That kind of flies in the face of the assumption that Manson is a racist that wanted a race war.
John Wisniewski: Could you tell us about Bobby Beausoleil, and why he was part of the Manson
Neil Sanders: Bobby was a young musician who was circulating the Los Angeles and San Francisco area. He had worked with Arthur Lee of Love and Frank Zappa. The band Love was named after Bobby who was nicknamed “Cupid” by Arthur Lee. This was an ironic name as Bobby was known to be a moody and miserable character at times, his main nickname around the local musicians on the scene was Bummer Bob. Bobby met the Satanist and film maker Kenneth Anger who approached Beausoliel at a gig and announced “You are Lucifer”. Evidentally, Anger felt Beausoliel was a bit of a muse and footage of Bobby with the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton Lavey, appeared in the Anger film Invocation of ‘My Demon Brother.” Beausoliel would compose the soundtrack to “Lucifer Rising” when Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page failed to provide Anger with anything useful. Anger and Beausoliel would later fall out. Anger claimed that Bobby had stolen some footage from the uncompleted film and cursed him by threatening to turn him into a toad. The results were disappointing, and despite Angers wishes, Beausoliel remained human. Beausoliel also had a small role as the character Cupid in the film “Modo Hollywood” – which also had an appearance from Jay Sebring, who would die at the Polanski house in 1969, murdered by Tex Watson. Bobby aso appeared in a soft-core exploitation western named “Ramrodder” that was filmed at Spahn ranch. He made teepees for the production and stayed in one of these at the edge of the ranch. This was the ranch where Manson and his group was also staying.
Beausoliel originally met Manson at a house known as the Spiral Staircase where they hit it off jamming songs out together. Beausoliel wasn’t really part of the group that stayed with Manson, he was more of a friend. At times the Manson group stayed in their bus outside properties that Bobby was renting. Ultimately he and Manson were to produce music together. A tape exists of Manson playing accompanied by Beausoliel on electric guitar. Both Manson and Beausoliel were offered record contracts with the Beach boys Brother records. Manson even recorded music in Brian Wilson of th Beach Boy’s bedroom studio. You see, Terry Melcher had been interested in Manson, Beausoliel and his group (The Family Jams) since 1968 – that is a year before the official story states. We know this because Deana Martin – daughter of Dean(of ratpack fame) wrote of a party at Terry Melchers house in 1968 in her autobiography and she vividly recalls Manson playing for everyone.
Bobby had his own small harem. He was married but also had a teen girlfriend called Kitty and Leslie Van Houten. Although she is believed to be one of the “Manson girls” she was actually enamoured with Bobby and had very little to do with Manson.
Bobby is in prison for murdering their frend Gary Hinman. Interestingly Gary Hinman was also involved in the musical group the Family Jams. The official story is that Manson told Bobby to go and steal $20,000 from Gary so that the group could finance a move to the desert – to escape the upcoming racewar as allegedly prophesied by Manson. This isn’t true at all. What happened was that Manson had got in with a group of bikers from Venice Beach called the Straight Satans. To try and impress them Bobby provided them with £1000 worth of mescaline bought from Hunman who used to make it in his bath tub. The following day the Straight Satans turned up looking for Bobby claiming the batch was bad. Danny DeCarlo (who would eventually be the material witness in the Beausoliel trial) told Bobby that he would slit his throat if he didn’t get the money or some replacement drugs. DeCarlo provided Bobby with a gun and told him there would be serious consequences if he didn’t return with something for the Straight Satans.
We know Bobby had no intention of killing Hinman because he took Susan Atkins and Mary Bruuner with him. They were both friends with Gary and expected a friendly visit. When they arrived Gary was preparing for a trip to Japan. Bobby explained the problem but Gary didn’t have the money and besides which the bikers hadn’t returned the drugs – it sounded like a con. Bobby panicked and they began to fight. The gun went off and a bullet smashed into the sink. This calmed everyone down – they were friends after all – and they arranged for Bobby to take and sell Gary’s cars in order to solve the immediete problem. Unknown to them, during the fight, Mary had called Manson, who flew over armed with a sword and struck Hinman in the face cutting his cheek and part of his ear. Manson soon realised that he had made a huge, embarrassing error and slunk off. Beausoliel tried to stitch Hinman up with dental floss but Gary was angry. he had been extremely helpful and now his face was cut. He wanted to go to the hospital and was even talking about getting the police involved. Bobby called Manson for advice and was told to “be a man” – meaning, hey this is your mess. Bobby panicked and, unable to calm the now hysterical Gary down, he stabbed him in the chest. The group knew Gary was friends with leftist activists and so Bobby painted a panther print in blood on the wall to try and throw investigators off the tracks, they also wrote “Political Piggy” on the wall to further imply this was a politically motivated murder.
Bobby spent the next few days in a daze and was arrested in Hinmans stolen car, still wearing the same bloodstained clothes with the murder weapon in the car with him.
This meant that Manson owed Beausoliel a favour, due to his error in attacking Hinman. Later during the shooting of Bernard Crowe – caused by a drug burn that Tex Watson initiated – Manson figured Tex owed him a favour. When it was discovered that Bobby had been arrested, Manson told Tex that he now owed Bobby and he needed to do something to raise money for a lawyer. Tex decided to go and rob his friend and drug dealer Jay Sebring who was staying at the Polanski house. Also staying there was Voytek Frykowski, who had ripped Tex and Lind Kasabian for about £1000 worth of bad MDA a few days prior. It was this transferring of favours that led Tex to try and rob Cielo Drive.
John WisniewskI: What was Mansons apocalyptic vision of an imminent race war?
Neil Sanders: Well, Vincent Bugliosis and the prosecution claimed that the motive for the murders at Cielo drive and Waverly drive were carried out to initiate a race war in America that would ultimately envelope the world. Bugliosi called this Helter Skelter and claimed that messages from the Beatles white album (on which Helter Skelter is a track) had informed Manson of his apocalyptic vision by transmitting inciteful instructions via the music. Bugliosi claimed that the plan was for Manson and his followers to find a bottomless pit in the desert and go and live there until their number reached 144000. Whilst they were hiding the inevitable race war would start. The oppressed black population would rise up and murder the white population of the world and take control. Once all this had settled down Manson and his followers would emerge from the bottomless pit and take control of the world – reasoning that black people would not have the required experience to run the world and would welcome Manson’s leadership. The main problem with this theory is that it is all a complete fabrication, it is a lie concocted by Vincent Bugliosi who needed to provide a motive and witness Paul Watkins who was looking for attention by involving himself in the case (in reality Watkins had moved away from Charlie months before the murders and had no knowledge of them). Susan Atkins did not mention the race war in her original deposition, it was invented later in the case to provide a motive. The concept of the race war was bought to Bugliosi by Watkins – the only problem was that he had taken all the plot points from a cult leader called Krishna Venta who lived in Box Canyon fifty years prior. All of the beliefs, the race war, the bottomless pit, swelling the numbers to 144000 were simply taken from the life of Krishna Venta and appropriated to Manson to offer a motive. The motive itself doesn’t actually make any sense. The idea is that Manson picked two houses at random and killed the occupants to frame black people – the white population would fight back and the race war would begin. Now aside from the fact that the houses chosen were not random, thay knew the occupants personally and went there to steal drugs, this doesn’t make sense. How would that start Helter Skelter? Why did they not continue killing until Helter Skelter started if that was the plan? Why did they start Helter Skelter before they found the bottomless pit where they would be safe? Why not leave explicit evidence that the murders were commited by black people? Why no anonymous call saying a couple of black guys did it? The whole thing was created by Bugliosi and Watkins. Helter Skelter was actually an illegal gambling club at the back of Spahn ranch. That’s why there was a door with Helter Skelter is coming down fast written on it – it was the door to the club. We know this is true because George Spahn was fined by the police for allowing this club to exist on his property. So how did Bugliosi get away with such a story? Well 1967 was not just named the Summer of Love but also the Long Hot Summer due to the 159 race riots that took place that year. In the climate of racial tension, although the plot was nonsensical, it was believeable that a “cult leader” as they had designated Manson with the stories of Krishna Venta, might want to initiate a race war given the circumstances. So Helter Skelter was a race war but it wasn’t promoted by Charlie, it was invented by the prosecution as a motive.
John WisniewskI: How was Manson able to keep control of his followers?
Well, I know that the general perception is that he dosed them up with LSD or was a cult leader that demanded total adherence, but it transpires that was not the case. The cultic aspects including rumors of Manson dressing as Christ and having his drugged followers worship him as he hung from a cross were taken from the legend of Krishna Venta. Interestingly Manson forbade drug use in the week, when they were supposed to be working on the ranch and insisted that everyone dressed respectably. Manson himself was, for the most part, clean shaven, with short hair and dressed like a typical ranch hand. Acid was only for the weekends and harder drugs like speed, cocaine, heroin etc were forbidden if you wanted to stay on the ranch. Tex and Susan broke these rules constantly and on a number of aoccasions were asked to leave. This somewhat goes against the concept of a controling cult leader.
Put simply, he was much older and more streetwise than the girls he approached. The first girls he met – Mary, Lynnette and Ruth were all from troubled backgrounds with absent or strange father figures. Manson used this to ingratiate himself and, to a certain extent, to take advantage. Although to be fair he did keep the girls safe – or safer than if they were alone, and he did seem to have a real affection for them. He had been in prison and could sing and play the guitar – he also exhuded a confidence and willingness to adapt to any situation that must of been quite impressive- even seductive. The other element was his training as a pimp. Manson had already been a pimp for several years and reportedly learned all he could about the trade in prison. He had previously taken girls across state lines and had a small stable in Texas. He also had Three star Enterprses in Hollywood where he worked as a pimp with a Mafia figure named Tony Cassini. It is far simpler to understand the girls attitude to manson if you think of him as a pimp rather than a cult leader.
Manson was also selling drugs and part of a car theft ring. This is how he associated with the bikers and other criminals. The girls were admittedly used as a lure for these outlaw types.
A final piece which is often overlooked is the Scientology connection. Manson claimed to be a Scientologist having receieved hours of auditing in prison from a guy named Lanier Raimer. Now this is in no way official, but Manson did claim Scientology cured his depression. Several of the stories about Manson – changing his face and asking people to match his expression, moving his hands in strange ways and asking people to follow his movements are eerily reminiscent of Scientology training routines. Mansons concept of coming to now – living in the moment wherever you are – is a Scientology concept. Mansons legendary attitude towards insults – letting them bounce of you being totally unaffected and claiming they were just a reflection of the other person is near identical to bullbaiting – another Scientology training routine. Manson was never officially trained as a Scientologist – he simply appropriated what he thought would be useful – evidently it was.
John WisniewskI: Could you tell us about Manson’s trial. How much evidence did the
Neil Sanders: At first Susan Atkins confessed to other inmates that she was the one who killed Sharon Tate. She told this to a whole series of inmates who didn’t believe her, thinking she was just trying to act tough as protection in prison. She had been arrested for her part in the death of Gary Hinman. The strange thing is that her confession is mostly sensationalist lies that go against the known facts of the case. Susans knife was found at Cielo Drive, having fell behind the cushions of the sofa toatally clean of blood. This means her lurid tales of stabbing Voyteks legs or trying to cut the baby out of Sharon were just fantasies. The bizarre thing is that her confession and subsequent grand jury appearance was heavily coached by her lawyers Richard Cabellero and Paul Caruso. Strangely these high-priced lawyers approached this murderous teen and offered to help her for no initial fee. They did however publish her wildy contradictory explanation of the murders in the Los Angeles Times and also in the form of a book that was published before the trial started. This would prejudice the case terribly and really shouldn’t have been allowed. During the trial there were at least five incidents that should have resulted in a mistrial. Susan later retracted her story and claimed that she was blackmailed by her lawyers who threatened her child. The problem with all of this is that Susan is a habitual liar. After she dropped out the prosecution offered Linda Kasabian the chance to become states witness – she had previously been facing the death penalty. Her story too was very contradictory, often going against known facts. The prosecutuion painted Linda as innocent but the evidence suggests that she was a liar, thief and an irresponsible acid freak who left her daughter with people she apparently feared. Linda went to at least two communes following her departure from Spahn ranch and never once mentioned her infant daughter. The child later grew up to be a Meth dealer and gangster nicknamed Lady Dangerous. The evidence also suggests that Linda attacked and stabbed Stephen Parent before Tex shot him. There was a lot of physical evidence tying Tex and Patricia to the scene including fingerprints left at the sight. A group of journalists were the ones who found the bloody clothes, thrown from the car on the way back to the ranch. The gun that was used was found by a young boy name d Stephen Weiss who handed it in to the police in order to recieve the promised reward. The police promptly lost the evidence and didn’t proceed. It transpires that Weiss’s father knew a newspaper reporter and threatened to go to the press if the Police didn’t follow up his lead. Miraculously then the Police found the evidence. One thing that is odd is that the prosecution insisted that Manson never went to the crime scene. This again is provably not true – he was heard arguing with Tex early in the morning just prior to the gunshots that finished Voytek off. The point of this was that if Manson had to go to the scene himself he wasn’t the cult leader that they painted him as. Therfore it was vital to the prosecutions motive that Manson simply ordered the killings for Helter Skelter. This is how flimsy the Helter Skelter theory is. They had the evidence against the actual perpetrators but had to tie Manson in to create a motive that explained the scenario with a wild cult theory rather than expose the grubby drug dealing.
John WisniewskI: What part did occultism play in the Manson Case?
Neil Sanders: Not really much, although much has been written about supposed occult connections. The theme started with a misreporting by the Los Angeles press. Jay Sebring was left with a towel draped over his face, this was reported in some cases as a hood. This was combined with a headline in the local papers that proclaimed the killings were ritualistic in nature, it had no basis in fact it was just sensationalism with the few available details of the case. The occult angle was really pushed by author Ed Sanders who wrote “The Family.” He believed that Manson was connected to a group of Satanists called the Process Church of Final Judgement who were floating around LA at that time trying to get new members. Sanders wrote that these were black robe wearing hardcore satanists that revered black German shepherds and that the killings were in some way connected to this cult. People have also tied this in with a film called “The Eye of The Devil,” a 1966 horror film in which Sharon Tate appeared. The story was that Alex Sanders (all the Sanders – I swear I am no relation to either) who procliamed himself to be the “King of the Witches” allegedly initiated Sharon into the occult on the set of the film. People believe that she was murdered for transgressing this role in some way. The only problem is it is all nonsense – Alex Sanders admitted that this never took place – he just made it up for publicity. The Process church of Final Judgement did actually cross paths with Manson on several occassions but their reputation as hardcore Satanists is a wild exaggeration. They believed that certain deities/entities controlled the actions of man and that a person can be part devil and part Jesus – this is not dissimilar to certain things Manson said. The Process also held orgies, as did Manson. However they were just a nutty offshoot of Scientology. They required total adherance to the group and shunned all drugs- which proves Manson was certainly not involved. So where did Ed Sanders get all these stories from and why did he believe tham with little evidence? Because he got the lead illegally from the prosecution – Ed Sanders admits this in interviews. So why did the prosecution tell Sanders this? To bolster their case. If we think it possible that Manson was part of a wider Satanic cult then we have tacitly accepted that he himself was a cult leader. Why did the prosecution not bring this up in court? Because it was a lie and they would have been sued by the Process Church. Sanders himself was later sued by the Process and had to remove their name from his book. Sanders was at the time also investigating the idea that snuff films were made by the Manson group – which he tied in with Satanism. Again this was nonsense – it was all taken from the imagination of a troubled kid named Larry White Rabbit, who just wanted some attention. But where did the prosecution come up with the idea? Well many of Mansons group, including Manson himself claimed to be Scientologists. Bruce Davis, a friend of Manson, worked at Scientology headquarters in London. After the murders the UK tabloids approached the church of Scientology. In order to shift the focus away from their group the chuch pointed the finger at the Process – a group of people who had become disheartened with Scientology and taken its teachings to form their own cult. Scientology not only shifted the blame to the Process but told the UK tabloids that they were also devil worshippers – this was tabloid gold and the UK papers ran with it. The Prosecution saw this as a great opportunity to spread a secondary, supporting story to Ed Sanders and the underground press.
John WisniewskI: did politics play a role in the case?
Neil Sanders: Nixon nearly caused a mistrial. He stated that Manson was guilty and that became a front page headline. Film maker Robert Hendrickson slipped Manson a copy of the paper and Charlie held it up for the jury to see. This should have predjudiced the trial and halted proceddings. Hendrickson at the time had interviewed several witnessess – specifically Virginia Graham and Ronnie Howard, who Atkins confessed to – and determined they were lying. It is suggested that his conscious made him slip Manson the paper. As I have already said I think Bernadine Van Dohrn politicised the case by intimating it was a rebellion against rich pigs by hippies – it wasn’t. Also the Helter Skelter theory was deemed plausible due to racial tensions at the time. I seriously doubt any of the rest of Manson’s friends will be released as no one wants to be the politician that freed them.
John WisniewskI:.could you provide some background on Lynette Fromm, Susan Atkins,
And Patricia Krenwinkel?
Neil Sanders: The key theme that runs through the majority of the girls that surrounded Manson was a lack of a father-figure or estrangement from their parents. Lyn was no exception. She was described as a talented and popular kid at school. She was part of a dance troupe called the Lariats and at one time was friends with Phil Hartman who would go on to star in Saturday Night Live and do voices for the Simpsons. She also once dated Bill Siddons who went on to manage the Doors. Her father was known to be an uncaring tyrant and as she grew into her teens she began to experiment with drugs and alcohol. When she was about 13 her dad simply stopped talking to her, convinced she was no good. At the time Lyn was known to put cigarettes out on her skin to deal with the pressure. Her father resumed talking to her a few years later but they often argued. After one particularly nasty argument over something as petty as the correct usage of a word he kicked her out and she hitched to San Francisco where she bumped into Charlie.
Both Susan Atkins parents were alcoholics and Susan herself had endured sexual abuse from relatives and an older sibling. When she was fourteen her mother died from cancer and her fathers drinking increased even further. Susan had been part of the local church choir and arranged for the group to sing carols beneath the bedroom window of her dying mother. Following the death of her mother, her father simply abandoned her and her younger brother. Aged 16, Susan moved to San Francisco and shoplifted to provide food for herself. At some point during this time she attempted to kill herself with an overdose of barbiturates and wound up in psychiatric hospital. In 1966 she was arrested with two accomplices who had been robbing petrol stations and small stores. When arrested she pointed a loaded gun at the police and admitted that she would have killed the officer if he hadn’t of got the drop on her. Following her release from prison she briefly joined Anton Lavey – the founder of the church of Satan – in his topless review where she would play a semi naked vampire. This lasted for a very short time before she was again hospitalised for a combination of LSD psychosis and a dose of Gonnoreah that nearly killed her. When she met Charlie she was on parole and her parole officer reccomended she be returned to prison. That is why Charlie gave her a new fake ID and started calling her Sadie – to avoid jail.
Patricia’s upbringing was also described as strict and austere. Her parents had divorced by the time she was seventeen. After living with her father in Los Angeles she grew tired of his expectations and moved to Mobile, Alabama to be with her mother and to become a nun. She lasted only a single term at the seminary before she moved back to LA to her sisters house. Patricia was always unpopular and shy due to the act that she was quite hairy and considered not terribly pretty by the local boys. Her sister lived with her boyfriend by Manhattan Beach. She had a baby when she was fifteen and so was practically disowned by her parents. Both she and her boyfriend were in the throes of a rather heavy heroin addiction when Patricia went to live with them. She wandered down the beach to a party held at a neighbours and there she met Charles Manson.