question the need for another "Helter Skelter"
movie. These crimes, which I deeply regret, were
atrocious. It was a tragedy not only for the victims,
but for their families, to whom I eternally and
humbly apologize. I owe a debt to society that
I can never repay, but I can pass along insights
for constructive purposes with what's left of
my life. I am saddened to see the hunger our society
has for this phenomena. One day, I believe this
evil will be overcome by good.
This new version, by writer-director John Gray,
will be responsible for awakening and shaping
the minds and beliefs of a new generation concerning
the Manson family. The true sense of what Manson
personified could only be known by his former
followers, who know how they were manipulated.
I feel after the movie, viewers were still asking
themselves how and why? It seems Gray had his
own agenda in mind, focusing more on externals,
instead of helping his audience to understand
the internal transformation that took place in
the hearts of Manson's followers to carry out
such savage acts.
This movie distorted the characterization of
Manson and his former followers, but in all fairness,
we were told it was dramatized and fictionalized
at the start. CBS's executive producer Mark Wolper
told TV Guide, "We want to create a film
that was really, really scary to overcome the
retro-cult fascinated with Manson." In my
view, greater emphasis should have been given
to the deceptive philosophy of Manson rather than
emphasizing "scariness." If the purpose
was to empower people to not be enticed by cults;
I question the ability to scare people straight.
Instead viewers left the movie fearful, with Manson's
face embedded in their minds. To protect impressionable
minds and overcome cult fascination, sound belief
systems must be developed based on a loving God
who satisfies a longing soul. To the contrary,
this movie has now enflamed the world with fear
and hatred, from this presentation of the Manson
Family's demonic wave of horror.
The mistake is often made to show Manson as a
hyper, long haired, arm waving, wild man. This
was his court persona and how we see him acting
out in interviews after the crime. Because the
movie started one month before the crimes, in
July, 1969, the timeline did not allow the viewers
to see the progressive change in Manson for the
previous year, after his release from prison.
At that time, he was calm, young looking, personally
charismatic, with short hair (at first). He gradually
changed to a madman, able to deceive his followers.
This gradual change, we all experienced was sadly
missing; so the viewers were left asking themselves
how these kids could be turned into killers. At
one point in this movie, even Vincent Bugliosi
This movie depicts Manson as a drug-crazed, want-to-be
rock star, who sends his groupies out to kill
in anger and revenge to start "Helter Skelter".
If he appeared like that to us from the start,
we would never have followed him. Those willing
to die for Manson, were not willing to die for
the madman portrayed in the movie, but for a man
whose philosophy deceived us. I was in turmoil
when I realized his philosophical doctrines were
all lies, designed to enslave us to his plan.
We see exactly the same thing when we see terrorists
lay down their lives for a cause of their leader.
The suicide bombers have come to believe the philosophy
they have been taught by their charismatic leaders.
The world sees their leaders as crazy lunatics
and can't understand why anyone would follow them,
especially parents who offer their children to
The Manson family was made up of young adults
who were depressed, with spiritual and psychological
problems, often coming from dysfunctional families.
We were often hungry, eating from garbage cans,
a dirty bunch, bathing in creeks or taking cold
showers at best. We were a small, lost, demonized
cult of 16 hard-core followers and several drifters,
who lacked identity and acceptance. We were looking
for answers from Manson. After it was too late,
we found he had no answers, only a mixture of
philosophies he manipulated to make us believe
we were much more than we were.
The role of drugs and music were under emphasized,
relative to Manson's ability to capture our beliefs
and deceive us. The drugs caused us to become
gullible with an openness to accept his ideas.
His music helped to hypnotize us, making us willing
to do anything he requested for the cause of "Helter
Skelter". Charlie sung the family into a
trance while on drugs, but the actor in the movie,
Jeremy Davies, hardly ever sang. I was surprised
that the movie depicted me as sniffing methamphethetamine
in the car before the final crime. Actually, I
did this before leaving the ranch. The actor portraying
me did not look as young as I did and walked with
more maturity and authority. I was aloof, a heavy
thinker, mesmerized by the philosophy of Manson's
mission and drug crazed as seen from my jail photo
while on the hallucinogenic plant belladona.
Jeremy Davies' did a superb job imitating Manson
in the scene on the beach, wildly explaining the
"Helter Skelter" philosophy. More scenes
of this nature may have helped the viewer to understand
Manson's twisted logic. But in reality, does any
of it make sense? Even Manson himself would have
us believe that, "No sense, makes sense!"
Manson's deceptive "Helter Skelter"
philosophy depicted his true motive for the crime,
not his anger towards Terry Melcher, Doris Day's
son, who would not give Charlie a recording contract.
In the "Helter Skelter " 1 chapter of
my book, Will You Die For Me?, I share other motives,
those being: a copycat murder to free Bobby Beausoleil
from jail, a connection the prosecution failed
to acknowledge at first; and to obtain money to
finance "Helter Skelter" and to pay
Mary Brunner's bail. These were the motives. Manson
became impatient to prove his "Helter Skelter"
philosophy, so he saw his opportunity to start
it by choosing Melcher's residence, although he
knew he no longer lived there. I was surprised
the script showed Manson going to the residence
the night before the murders and being offended,
because I was not aware of that until years later.
I felt Vincent Bugliosi's book, "Helter
Skelter", written in 1974, was about 85%
accurate in its portrayal of what it covered.
It's much more difficult to portray character
traits. The movie did tell the story, but roles
were overplayed, especially Susan Atkins, and
there were factual errors. For instance: ID's
were not all put in one box. Dogs did not eat
before the family did. No spotlights were at the
ranch. The $5000 was given to me by Linda, and
I gave it to Manson. Many times I wish I had left
and gone back to Texas with that money. I'm certain
many others do too. There were no girls kissing
one another, and there were no orgies as depicted.
The girls wore no make up and were not Hollywood
dolls. Dennis' beach house was not on the beach.
Spahn's ranch had no lake. I don't remember Manson
ever physically abusing the girls. As far as the
crime is concerned, Manson gave me the specific
orders on a long walk that night. The phone wire
was cut away from the house on the left side of
the road. The car was parked far down the hill.
It was extremely difficult to carry out Manson's
orders. No one enjoyed what they were doing, like
the girls were portrayed as doing. After the crime,
we reported to Manson in the bunk house, very
low-key with him not happy, and there was no celebration
by the family in front of a television.
My book Will You Die For Me? shares a view from
someone who was there. It describes these crimes
chronologically from audio recordings made just
four months after the murders occurred. It appears
some of the research for the movie must have come
from my writings. I can speak of the crimes today,
because they are behind me. I face my past truthfully,
with a healthy identity. But still, the enactment
left me drained, butterflies and knots in my stomach
and deeply saddened by the pain I have caused,
even though that person who killed so freely is
not alive any longer. He died spiritually and
is now forgiven, and made new by the righteous
sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
I've also tried to present additional insights
in my new book Manson's Right-Hand Man Speaks
Out! This book consists of my answers to over
200 interview questions I am most often asked.
The movie fails to tell the powerful story of
how a convicted killer can change and after 35
years become an asset to others with him in prison.
The movie presents the bad news, but shouldn't
we look for some good news in the midst of such
agony? It is seldom told how one of the victim's
family member portrayed in the movie has forgiven
me. These are stories of hope, rather than the
perpetuation of Manson's evil ideas. For this
reason, the Christian outreach of www.aboundinglove.org
Overall, the movie was fairly accurate in its
representation of what we were willing to do,
and what we did for Manson. The Manson case has
taken on a life of its own. It does not deserve
all of this attention. The story does not end
with the arrest, conviction and incarceration
of those caught up in this story. The pain will
never completely go away, but at the same time
for some of us, there has been a new beginning
based upon the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.