Over the years, people have viewed my obsession over the Manson Murders as an oddity. How could I blame them?
The murders took the concept of gore and evil to new heights and dealt the hippie counterculture a body blow it never fully recovered from. Some will fight me on that point, but really — the 60s counterculture’s vision was never the same after Aug. 9, 1969.
So why am I bringing this up now and what does it have to do with the mission of this blog?
I made a new friend on Facebook yesterday: Scott Michaels, founder of Findadeath.com and one of the best experts on the Manson case around today.
He gives special “Helter Skelter” tours around L.A. of not just the murder sites themselves, but every location tied to the case, even those tied by a tiny thread, like one of the buildings Sharon Tate lived in years before her murder.
Manson fed the addictions of his followers and twisted wiring in their heads that was already mangled. Susan Atkins is a perfect example: She had a troubled past and was already mentally unhinged before Manson got his hands on her. He exploited his followers’ various levels of mental illness and addiction and turned some of them into killers.
Not all the Manson followers were mentally ill or addicted from a technical standpoint, but there were plenty of head cases to play around with.
Looking at my own past, when mental illness began to take hold in my early 20s and I was looking for SOMETHING bigger than me, I was a pretty good target for corrupting influences like this. Fortunately, the Manson-like influence never materialized and, even if he or she had, my moral compass was such that I would only take things so far.
I was lucky on many levels and eventually found God and my program of recovery. But in the back of my mind I know how weak I was in those days. Hell, I thought it was cool to wear a Manson shirt, which of course it wasn’t. Fortunately, I had more positive influences in my life than bad.
I’ve also been interested because Susan Atkins and Charles “Tex” Watson — the chief killer at the Tate and LaBianca residences — eventually turned on Manson and became Born-Again Christians. As a devout Catholic myself, I’ve always wondered about where the wall is between forgivable sin and the kind you never recover from. Would God truly let these people into His Kingdom after what they did, even if they repented? Everything I learned during my Catholic conversion says yes, and yet it’s still hard to swallow. I’ll find out the real truth someday.
Some of the Manson followers came from backgrounds most would consider normal. The last sort of folk you would ever consider capable of murder.
And yet they did what they did.
So yes, the combination of historical significance and the multitude of mental illness case studies have kept me fascinated over the years.
I’m glad I’m now in touch with Michaels and who knows — maybe someday I’ll get to go on one of his tours.
It may take me time to get down there, but getting a tour of the West Wing of the White House took some doing, yet it happened eventually.