The ‘Manson Family’ Murders
Sunday, January 11th, 1970
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 11 – Last month when the grand jury here indicted a motley group of hippies — most of them girls — for the senseless slaughter of film actress Sharon Tate and six others, the public became progressively more appalled and incredulous.
How, people asked, could these flower-power children whose memorable slogan had been — “Make love not war” — brutally butcher a group of persons they had never before met, seen, or knew anything about?
Who was Charles Manson, their revered leader? What occult magic did this 35-year-old Pied Piper practice? What sex rites did he employ to enslave half a dozen women? How did this small (5 feet 4, 110 pounds), bearded, long-haired cultist, this pitiful little ex-convict, half of whose life had been spent in jail, allegedly mesmerize his hippie tribe into executing any order he gave, from petty theft to ritualistic murder?
As the horrendous activities of the so-called “Manson Family” leaked out, the public, especially in Southern California, grew more fearful: “I bet they must have killed a hundred … It’s hard to believe we’ve had them in our midst … I’ll never pick up another hippie so long as I live … I’d feel safer if we got new locks for the doors and the windows.”
Nevertheless, people are morbidly enthralled by the Manson Family, by the bizarre behavior and motivations they cannot understand.
To the psychiatrists and psychologists, however, to the sociologists and the social workers, Charles Milles Manson and his harem are easily explicable.
The Manson Family of murderers consists of lost children, homeless, loveless, rootless outcasts who could not make it in conventional society. For such lost souls, bereft of fathers or father-figures, what are the choices? A nervous breakdown is one. A life of crime is another. The world of drugs is a third. The search for a father-substitute is a fourth. The discovery of an escape world such as the Haight-Ashbury hippie community of San Francisco is a fifth.
Take the case of Susan Denise Atkins, 21. It was she who blew the whistle on the Manson group and subsequently informed the police how she and three other Mansonites had committed the Sharon Tate murders.
Susan was born in San Gabriel, Calif., on May 7, 1948. Her father was a construction worker, a sometimes carpenter who drank heavily, was sick with lung trouble, and had been hospitalized periodically for alcoholism. Her mother, Mrs. Jeanne Jett Atkins, originally from Kansas City, Mo., died of cancer in 1964 when Sue was 15. A year before her death Mrs. Atkins began to drink excessively and to quarrel frequently with her husband.
The family never had enough money. Sue does not recall her father as a good provider. From time to time relatives had to help out. Sue’s older brother, John, escaped into the U.S. Navy, while Sue and a younger brother, Steve, lived at home in San Jose, a picturesque city in California’s Santa Clara Valley.
For a while Sue worked as a waitress in the Los Banos Pancake House. She sang in the Baptist church choir. She attended Los Banos High School until the 11th grade. As a teenager she was boy-crazy, and for a time her father sent her to live with an aunt in Los Angeles. But the aunt found Sue uncontrollable and sent her back to San Jose.
When Sue’s mother died, her paternal grandmother moved in to look after things. But money was scarce. Her father lost his job, her mother’s medical bills were mountainous. Sue and her father argued bitterly about almost everything. The family came apart at the seams. One day Sue’s father walked out, ostensibly looking for a job. When he didn’t come back, Sue quit school and headed for San Francisco.
At 17, she was on her own with no mother, an estranged father, one brother in the Navy, another brother in a foster home. She had no skill, no contacts, no money—a young wanderer on the face of the land, searching for a modicum of warmth, a molecule of love, a safe harbor.
In San Francisco she got a job hashing in Burke’s Restaurant on 14th and Market Street. It was there she met a pair of ex-convicts, Al Sund Jr. and Clinton Talioferro, both of whom had freshly stolen a new Buick Riviera from a San Leandro parking lot.
“I met Al Sund in mid-August, 1966, in San Francisco,” Sue Atkins related, “while I was working at Burke’s Restaurant. He asked me to Lake Tahoe just for a fun week with him and Clinton Talioferro. I liked Al right off the bat. They told me they had a car, and it was leased…I had no reason to think otherwise…We took off, stopped at Stockton, then decided against Tahoe and decided to stay in Stockton for two days…
“I didn’t want to leave Al. I was in love with him. I just decided to stay with him and go where he went … We took off north and kept driving, stopping at some hotel … I didn’t realize they were stealing the car until after we were in Oregon. I asked Al how they were going to pay rent on the car and Clint said, ‘They’re just going to have to catch us.’ That was when I knew they were stealing it.
“We dumped the Riviera, I think in Salem, and bought a 1957 Rambler for $65 cash. We ended up camping, the three of us. The men were presumably hiding from the police. We got caught because Clinton told everybody about the stolen car, the guns, and shot his mouth off. We were arrested by the Oregon state police on Sept. 12th, 1966.”
Two weeks later Sue Atkins pleaded guilty to charges of receiving stolen property and concealing a weapon. Judge George Jones of the Marion County District Court sentenced her to six months in jail. Because she had no prior criminal record, however, he suspended sentence and placed her on probation for two years. Her boyfriend Al Sund was sentenced to two years in jail, and Talioferro was handed over to federal authorities for interstate car theft.
Sue asked the Oregon probation authorities to let her return to California. She promised to live with her aunt, Mrs. Joy Curry, in Sunnyvale when her father told state officials he could not provide a home for her.
After a few weeks in Sunnyvale, Sue, 18, 5 feet 7, a well-built comely young lady, told authorities her aunt had to be hospitalized and that she was moving to San Francisco.
There, she got a job as a go-go girl and waitress at the Guys and Dolls Bar on Geary Street, earning $150 a week. She lived in Room 30 at 2162 Market Street, rent: $13.50 a week, and was doing all right, until she was told that because she was under 21 she would have to give up her job at the bar.
Sue’s father then showed up at the probation department and explained that his daughter needed psychiatric help. He said that she had turned her back on her family, that she was drinking, taking narcotics, and hanging around with the Haight-Ashhury hippies. He was asked if he would care to commit his daughter to a state institution, and he said no.
He explained further that he had talked to Sue’s landlady, who reported that various men had been trying to visit his daughter in her room at odd hours. One time, he said, he had seen a red-headed beatnik with a knapsack sleeping on the floor of Sue’s room.
He said that Sue had a fiance who had learned about her delinquent behavior in Oregon and had broken off their engagement even though he still loved her.
A few days later, confronted with her father’s allegations, Sue denied them vigorously. She admitted that she had a fiance but explained that she was the one who had broken their engagement, “because he drinks on occasion and, when he does, he whacks me around and accuses me of being a lesbian and of taking narcotics. I never really loved him, but he stood behind me while I was in jail in Oregon, and I thought I could get to love him.”
She described her father and his medical history in unflattering terms, but claimed she was healthy and happy and was sure she could make it on her own without getting into any trouble.
After working for a grocer, Sue hired herself out as a domestic. She worked for a Mrs. Greenfielder and a Mr. Entricken in Muir Beach, lived for a while in a cabin.
On Nov. 6th, 1967, Sue explained in detail to a social worker that she was anxious to make dancing her career. She had soured on men, wanted nothing to do with them. Marriage was of no interest to her, and she felt sure that she would never again be interested in any man.
Less than one week later she saw a probation officer and announced ecstatically that she had fallen madly and tempestuously in love with hippie leader Charlie (Manson) and was leaving the state with him.
“I informed her,” the probation officer wrote to Oregon authorities, “that she could not get permission for this move from our department but from the originating agency (in Oregon).
“I told her to telephone her probation officer and discuss her plans since she rejected my counseling on her new plans. She was advised I did not approve of the move.
“Susan stated she and seven other girls, two of whom are pregnant, were going off with Charlie, a traveling minister. She does not know his last name, and claims she has known him for some time.
“Charlie has a big yellow bus and they all live in it. Charlie is in love with all of them, and they all love each other. When they run out of money, people give it to them. Someone gave Charlie a credit card, and he has identification, so they don’t have to worry about gas, she claimed.
“I pointed out the fact that Charlie did not have the right to use anyone else’s credit card and that this could result in jail for anyone who used it. This did not disturb her as she said she would just have to live through it as she did previously.
“She then volunteered the information that Charlie had spent 17 years in jail already. She feels that he is a soul, as everyone else, that it does not matter what happened before, and there is no past. She explained that they started on this mission of Charlie’s on 11-9-67, and they traveled to Sacramento, Calif., and cities en route.
“Today they leave for Los Angeles and then on to Florida. I told her she was not to leave without permission of the Oregon Probation Department, but am just as certain she will do as she pleases. She admitted it was sort of a hippie movement.
“Since she will be on the road, and we don’t know just where, there seems no need to keep this case open any longer. I feel perhaps Susan needs to be brought back before the court to see if her probation should be revoked. Hopefully, she won’t get into further difficulties with Charlie and the other seven girls.”
Susan Atkins got into plenty of trouble. Under the “hypnotic spell,” of little Charlie, she became pregnant by him, took the alias of Sadie Glutz, placed her baby, when he arrived, in a foster home.
Later, under the complete domination of Manson, she joined other members of his “Family” in the brutal murders for which they will all probably stand trial next month.
Susan Atkins is typical of the girls and young men who did Manson’s bidding. She is gullible, disturbed, emotionally immature, an easy mark for primary brainwashing. She suffers from debility, dependency, and dread, the three “D’s” that psychiatrists have long pointed to as prerequisites for ardent cult membership.
She is one of the large army of lost and empty people who have so little of value in their lives that they search constantly for some cause or group or organization, someone or something to make them feel worthy and desirable.
Once they find such a group — in Susan’s case it was the Manson Family —and discover that it offers no solution to their feeling of inadequacy, they become frantic.
According to Dr. Gerald Aronson, clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, a consultant to the Rand Corporation on psychiatric approaches to problems and a physician who has had extensive experience with hippies and hippie-types, “there follows a peculiar operation in the minds of such people. They deny the shortcomings of their group. They assert that everything about it is wonderful and that their leader is super-marvelous.
“They cannot stand to tell themselves the truth,” Aronson continues. “Manson’s followers, for example, could not afford to realistically assess this ridiculous little guy who had spent most of his life behind bars, who was relatively unlearned, unloved, and filled with tremendous hostility. They could not permit themselves the luxury to judge him honestly. Because once they permit doubts to creep into their minds, then the value of their group starts to crumble and eventually they crumble themselves.
“Thus, they eventually become fanatics. Everything connected with their group is good, everything outside their group is bad. Once you have established that belief, everything becomes permissible, murder included. There is an idealization of your group and the denigration of the other. The whole world becomes polarized.”
Dr. Aronson maintains that hippie-leader Charles Manson did not have to practice hypnotism or post-hypnotic suggestions on his subjects.
“If Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel, Charles Watson, and the others,” he asserts, “did not do what Manson offered or suggested, they would feel themselves disconnected from everything which heretofore had given them a sense of value, a feeling of worth, a pleasure of belonging. That’s why they carried out his orders. They dared not chance what would happen within themselves if they said no.”
Dr. Ernest Hilgard of Stanford University, who has placed more than 1000 students in hypnosis and is an authority on that therapy, says that generally no one will perform in a trance a deed which he considers strongly anti-social or “which rubs him the wrong way.” There are exceptions, he grants, “but trust in the hypnotist is what makes for a most compliant subject.”
Charles Manson is not a hypnotist. He is a tiny man who found the hippieland of Haight Ashbury a garden of lost female souls to be plucked for the asking.
Unwanted from the day of his birth in Cincinnati on Nov. 11, 1934, conceived by a prostitute and an unknown father, farmed out first to relatives in McMechen, W. Va., then to other foster homes, Charles Manson was a child of adversity.
Semi-abandoned by a drinking mother, he tried to survive on his own by working as a Western Union messenger boy and stealing from groceries. He never had a chance. Sent to a variety of correctional and charity schools — Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, lnd., Boys School in Plainfield,Ind., Boys Town in Nebraska, the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C. — he spent 13 of his first 25 years in either reformatories or prisons, learned no skill, no trade.
Small, thin, perceptive and intelligent (I.Q. 114), he managed to hide his loneliness and hostility with a strange, ingratiating smile. It was purely cunning and defensive. In his mind he grew to hate the world and his personal fate.
In 1954, in between prisons, he returned to West Virginia. There, early in January of 1955, he married Rosalie Jean Willis. She bore him a son, then quickly divorced him. He learned about both events while he was in a federal prison, serving time for transporting stolen cars.
In 1967, released from the federal prison in San Pedro, Calif., where his parole applications had been turned down four times, Manson evolved for himself and later for his followers, a personal philosophy which completely and conveniently obliterated the past.
“According to Charlie,” one of his disciples explained to me, “there is no past. We are all free souls, living and loving from day to day.”
Free of prison, Manson bummed north to San Francisco. In hippie country, he passed himself off as a traveling minister and a wandering minstrel. Quickly he collected a harem of lost, naive, young women who moved into a converted school bus with him.
There, he sang, lectured, played the guitar, and made love to them in long-lasting, pleasurable sex sessions, “giving off lots of magic.” It was there, too, that these girls became subservient and obedient to his every whim, agreeing that he was “God, Jesus, Satan,” or whatever he chose to call himself at the time. In Charlie Manson, the little guru, these young women found what they had long been seeking—a father-image to love, serve, protect, cherish, and respect. He promised them no less, and they believed him.
He led them south to the environs of Los Angeles where he was sure success would come to him as a composer-guitarist. He struck up friendships with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, with Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son who lived in the Benedict Canyon house Sharon Tate was later to rent, and with Gary Hinman, a musician who let Charlie and his family move into his Malibu pad. Last July, according to Susan Atkins, they murdered Hinman because he had aroused Charlie’s anger.
Eventually rebuffed by figures in the music world he had counted on, convinced that they were part and parcel of life’s conspiracy against him, Manson detonated his prison-pent hostility. He ordered his followers to murder indiscriminately people with the status symbols of wealth — a big house, a large car, a boat.
Allegedly Charles “Tex” Watson, former high school honor student and star athlete from McKinney, Tex., age 24; Patricia Krenwinkel, 22, of Inglewood, Calif.; Linda Kasabian, 20, of Milford, N.H.; Susan Atkins, 21, of San Jose, Calif., and Leslie Van Houghton, 19 (first identified as Leslie Sankston) ,performed their master’s bidding.
Along with Manson, these rejects who became outcasts will undoubtedly, when their case comes to trial, plead “diminished responsibility.” In other, more primitive societies, their parents would stand trial, too.
by Lloyd Shearer