Manson ‘Black Magic’ Told by Ex-Followers
Friday, December 5th, 1969
SHOSHONE, Calif., Dec. 5 – The three men formed an odd partnership.
First there was Paul Crockett, a weathered, 50-year-old itinerant handyman-miner.
Then there was a young guitar player, Paul Watkins, 19, short, dark-haired and easygoing: and his friend, Brooks Poston, 21, a tall blond youth, whose blue eyes betray a certain tenseness.
They met in the desert near this town at the south end of Death Valley, at a place called the Barker Ranch in the company of a man called Charlie — Charles Miller Manson, later to become known as the strange power behind the Sharon Tate murders.
And before foreign journalists began bidding against each other for the men’s story — thus alerting them to the fact that it might have cash value — the trio sketched a bizarre tale of sex, black magic and rumors of murder.
Watkins and Poston said they first met Manson about two years ago — “right after Charlie got out of prison” — in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco, when the hippie movement was in full flower.
Both followed Manson to the Los Angeles area, where they settled at the old Spahn Movie Ranch near Chatsworth.
Later, the hippie band — still led by Manson — migrated to the Death Valley area.
There, Paul Crockett entered the picture.
He and the younger men told a story of a twisted life with Charles Manson.
They spoke often with amazement, as if the experiences still remained unreal.
“The whole thing,” Watkins said, “was held together by black magic. You don’t believe it? Well, it really exists, and it is powerful. We could show you.”
And the high priest of the cult was Charles Manson.
“He believes,” Poston said, “that he — and all human beings — are God and the devil at the same time. He believes all human beings are all part of each other.”
“You see what that means,” Crockett interrupted. “It means that human life has no value. If you kill a human being, you are just killing a part of yourself. So it’s all right.” The others nodded agreement.
No Killing of Snakes
“But you couldn’t kill an animal,” Crockett continued. “Not a bug, not a snake, nothing. There were snakes all over the desert. They got in the cabin and everywhere. But you could never kill one. They picked up snakes in the house and carried them outside and turned them loose.”
“That’s right,” Poston said. “I saw them carry a footlong sidewinder out of the cabin one day.”
“And you couldn’t eat meat,” Watkins said, “because you were killing an animal. It was crazy.”
To this day, two girls who were members of the Manson “family” will not eat meat.
The three men indicated that Manson, over a period of time, developed virtual hypnotic power over his tribe, particularly the women. In fact, the two girls, when asked to describe Manson, invariably mention Manson’s “motions,” describing them as slow, deliberate and moody.
Crockett said that as a long-time “student of human nature,” he carefully watched Manson while he lived with the group in the desert. “This sort of power takes a long time to work an effect,” he said. “Motions are tied to emotions. Certain motions create certain responses if you know how to use them.”
Manson’s talent as a musician and a songwriter magnified his hypnotic hold on the group, the men said.
Manson claims to be the author of a song, “Cease to Resist,” which was recorded by a rock group, The Beach Boys.
“No one knows,” Poston said, “that the words and the title of the song were changed. The way Charlie wrote it, the song was called ‘Cease to Exist.'”
Poston also quoted a fragment of another Manson song:
“There is no good, there is no bad / There is no crime, there is no sin.”
That lyric, the three men suggested, embodies the philosophy Manson tried to instill in his followers.
Women the Key to All
Manson, according to Poston and Watkins, developed a prodigious reputation as a lover.
“The women around the place were always his property,” Watkins said.
“You were always welcome to share them,” Poston said. “But then you became his property, too.”
“Yeah,” Watkins said. “He needed to have some men around.There was a limit to what any man can do. But then, you see, the women held power over the other men.”
“That way,” Crockett said, “the women were the key to everything.”
Although the commune’s vegetarian diet required little money, funds were needed for such necessities as gasoline for the cars.
When those needs arose, Manson sent the girls in the group out to panhandle.
“They could beg more in two hours,” Crockett said, “than you and I could earn working in a week.”
Manson never used the girls as prostitutes, Watkins said. “They were so good at panhandling, they didn’t have to hustle,” he explained.
Watkins and Poston said that months passed before they fully understood what Manson was doing to their lives and the others around and then it was only because Crockett warned them that the state of affairs in the desert commune pointed to disaster.
Watkins finally left the group in May. Poston left in mid-October, shortly before the police raid that resulted in Manson’s arrest.
They Remained Silent
Only Watkins would say without hesitation that he knew Manson was involved in stealing cars.
When asked if they had knowledge of more serious crimes, they became reluctant to talk.
“We can’t comment on that right now,” Poston said. “It is still dangerous, and police still want this stuff. We could get in a lot of trouble if we don’t watch what we say.”
Each of the men still recalls with affection a lanky, fortyish man called “Shorty,” a sometime movie stuntman, who lived with them for a while on the desert.
It is rumored that while there he met a violent, bloody death. Did they know anything about it?
As one they replied:
BY CHARLES T. POWERS