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Although I'd heard about Spahn Ranch soon after I first met Charlie, I had never actually been there until the day Dean and I picked up Terry Melcher's XKE at the Cielo Drive house and then stopped by the ranch for several days before continuing north to Ukiah. The fact that I first saw both places-10050 Cielo Drive and Spahn - within an hour of each other on the same day, driving directly to the ranch from Benedict Canyon, is one of those strange twists of fate that could have no meaning for me until much later.

Spahn Movie Ranch had once been used extensively as a location for Western films and some early television series. Any kid who grew up watching half-hour shoot-'em-ups in the early fifties will recognize those strange dry hills, covered with huge sandy boulders. By the time Charlie and his Family moved in, the place had gone to seed and was only used for an occasional Marlboro commercial. The real business was renting out horses, mainly to teenagers, usually on weekends.

Shortly after Dean Moorehouse went to Ukiah the second time (and never returned), Charlie took me up to the ranch house to meet George Spahn, the blind owner of the place. The old man was sitting in a chair with one of his little dogs in his lap, his cane beside him. Charlie introduced me and explained that I was a good mechanic and might be able to get some of the old trucks that George had sitting around the ranch running again. I didn't realize it at the time, but most of the people that Charlie brought out to Spahn, at least the ones he told George about, were supposedly there to help work the place. I'm not sure Spahn even knew about a lot of the others, especially the women, but if he did, Charlie kept him satisfied by giving him Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme-one of the original San Francisco Family members who was eighteen at the time-as his housekeeper. She also spied on the eighty-yearold man for Charlie, as well as making love to him.

When I spoke to Spahn he recognized my accent and dubbed me "Tex," a nickname that was quickly picked up by the Family. Part of Manson's method of deprogramming us, of breaking our ties to the past and our usual perceptions of ourselves and the world, was giving all Family members new names. I think, in my case, there was an added reason: there could only be one Charlie.

He decided that hard work was the best way to get rid of my negative karma. True to his word to George, he had me start by fixing up some of the old trucks. It was an uphill fight; most of them were past repairing, and I'd just think I had one going and something else would go wrong with it. A bigger project was what came to be known as the In Case Place, a small house-some might say "shack"-that he had me build for him at the back of the ranch. As the name suggests, the little cabin was where Charlie and the others were supposed to escape in case the ranch was ever raided. I spent two months working on it-digging out a floor and putting it together with scrap materials the girls would throw down the bank to me. Never in all those two months did it occur to me to wonder why-with all this talk of peace and love-Charlie thought he'd need a place to hide from the police. When I wasn't repairing trucks or building the house, he kept me busy going down to the Valley on garbage runs with some of the girls and even helping George Spahn's son repair fences on the property.

After several weeks of work, Charlie let me move up the hill to the movie sets and ranch buildings where the Family lived. After he directed one of the girls, Mary Brunner, to be my special "love," I began to feel a little less like an outsider, but there was still pressure to prove myself, especially with some of the women constantly preaching to me that I wasn't as dead as I should be, that I hadn't reached awareness.

Mary was a blond Scandinavian type, a year older than I was, prettier than most of the pictures published of her later would show. Like all the Manson women-taught that their only purpose in life was taking care of men and having babies-she knew how to make you feel good.

During the months that Mary and I were more or less together, I learned practically nothing about her past. The past was nonexistent for the Family, something to discard along with all the materialistic, middle-class programming and the ego that it had built. The Family lived in the present, the moment and its fancies, not questioning where we'd come from, who we'd been. People simply were who they were, and it never occurred to anyone to wonder how or why. If one day one suddenly changed his or her name (as many of the girls did more than once) and took on a new personality, then you just rode with it.

Our only real history was an assortment of occasional fragments we picked up of Charlie's own past: his time in jail, the fact that he reached "beta" (a Scientologist term for the highest state of mental and spiritual awareness), his discovery of love in a San Francisco park when a young boy handed him a flower.

As for Mary, I did gradually learn that she was the very first Family member. Charlie had met her walking her dog outside the gates of the University of California at Berkeley where she'd been a librarian. She had been present when he discovered his "true identity" on an LSD trip and she had been the "Magdalene" weeping at his feet as he "hung on the cross." It was to her apartment that Charlie started bringing more "young loves"-at first over her objections, I sensed-and when the Family began wandering in the bus, she'd quit her job and joined them. She had been the first of the Family women to bear a child by Charlie-Michael Manson. Charlie himself had delivered the baby, with the rest of the Family watching.

I began to realize how alone I'd felt for the past year on my own in Los Angeles. Rich had been a good friend to me, and there'd been girls and friends from the wig shop and people you got to know through drug deals and parties. But now I saw how empty and plastic all that had been-people spending time with people but never knowing them, people using people but never caring, people like Dennis Wilson making you think they were your friends and then turning their backs on you. The Family was different. Here were people you could count on, people you could share everything with, people you could become so one with that you'd give your life for them and know they'd do the same for you.

It may have something to do with the attitudes I was raised with, or maybe it's just part of the person I am, but I've never been very introspective. I've tended to see life pretty much as what it appears to be on the surface, see it in terms of events and places and things, not trying to analyze inner feelings and motives, my own or anyone else's. Charlie presented himself to me as incarnate love, and I accepted it without question. The girls talked about being free and one-and I believed it. I did begin to notice unique personalities, though, within the inner core of the Family, individual egos and characteristics that survived even as we worked to destroy all traces of ourselves and become perfect blanks, reflecting our father, Charlie.

It was most obvious in the girl we called "Sadie Mae Glutz" - Susan Denise Atkins. Susan had one of those strange faces that was sometimes pretty and sometimes very homely, and there was something about her that reminded me of a lonely child desperately anxious to be liked and noticed and important. Sometimes it seemed as if she even wanted to fight Charlie himself for the center of the stage. Then he'd have to discipline her with a quick slap or jerk at her hair. Later, when the Beatles' song "Sexy Sadie" came out, the words fit her so well that it made us all sure the group had to be singing directly to us: "Sexy Sadie . . . you came along to turn everyone on . . . you broke the rules, you laid it down for all to see . . . ." Susan - Sadie had broken all the rules, sexually, and liked to talk about her experience and lack of inhibitions. Sometimes it seemed to me that she saw her sexuality as just one more way to draw attention to herself. Susan was the evangelist of the group, always praising Charlie, repeating his teaching, urging the rest of us to give ourselves to him totally, even while her own ego was fighting back sometimes, asserting itself against his domination. It wasn't so much that she resisted doing what Charlie told her; she just wanted to be special; she refused to be annihilated.

Then there was Leslie Van Houten, in some ways the prettiest of the women. Leslie was like a little girl-emotional, easily hurt, spontaneous, willing to do whatever she felt like doing, without thinking. The other girls ordered her around a lot and she accepted it, falling into her "mountain folk" role, complete with lazy, exaggerated accent and pretended helplessness. Underneath all the crazy playacting and little-girl manner, I felt she was always genuinely afraid of Charlie. There was no question that she would do anything he told her to, just as she obeyed Susan. I was the only one she'd talk back to.

Patricia Krenwinkel was different. We called her "Katie," and even though she was the sweetest of the girls, none of the men except Charlie ever got involved with her sexually. She was a little standoffish and, probably more important, unattractive. When Charlie started trying to get bikers involved with the Family by offering them girls, they all complained that Katie was too hairy. For all the talk about love and oneness, I think she must have felt the rejection from the men and that made her all the more devoted to Charlie-no matter what the others thought, Charlie loved her, and would make love to her. Why shouldn't she do anything he asked?

Katie-Leslie-Sadie-and another girl, a quiet, motherly little hippie named Linda who wouldn't even join the Family until five weeks before the murders-and me: Tex Watson. Why us? Why were we willing to be sent out into the night with guns and knives? More important, why did we say yes - all of us but Linda-when Charlie told us to kill? There was the acid and the domination and the Helter Skelter doctrine that gave a reason for it all, but still-why? Maybe for Katie it was gratitude and devotion to Charlie, who accepted her when no other man would. With Susan-Sadie perhaps it was a matter of keeping in the middle of the action, close to Charlie and his plans. Maybe Leslie did what she was told on the second night because she was a born follower and afraid. And perhaps I had to prove to these women that I was just as dead as they were, just as open to Charlie, just as one, just as aware.

Whatever the reasons, that was all a year away. Now it was love-love that meant death-and freedom-freedom that meant total slavery to Charles Manson. We weren't the only ones, of course; even though later estimates of the Family's size were exaggerated, there were eventually about thirty of us.

I'd gotten to know some of the girls while I was living at Dennis Wilson's house with them: Ouisch (Dean Moorehouse's daughter Ruth)-one of the young girls Charlie kept for himself; Brenda McCann (her real name was Nancy Pitman)-of all the women probably the most like Charlie, the most blanked out. The time would come when she and I would be so completely dead, no thoughts in her head, no thoughts in mine, that we could look into each other's faces when we were on acid and see our own reflection staring back at us. There was also Gypsy (Catherine Share)-a raven-haired free spirit who sang and played the violin. Others I met for the first time at the ranch: Squeaky (Lynette Fromme) - so devoted to Charlie that she would shut herself away with an eighty-year old man most of the time, being his eyes and Charlie's ear; Dianne Lake-the sad little girl whom Charlie kept having to hit and whip but who loved him anyway; Sandra Good-she was pregnant but still seemed to think she could somehow keep herself for Manson, maybe hoped she could someday have him for herself alone.

There were men, too, though never as many. "Clem" (Steve Grogan) was Charlie's favorite of them. He was severely retarded and acted as if he were about five years old, parroting everything Charlie said and following the girls around with a stupid sort of grin on his face. Charlie told us he should be an example for everyone because he needed very little deprogramming. He was innocent, like a little child before his mother got to him and killed his soul and laid the whole sick society's trip on him. "No sense is sense," Charlie often said; and Clem hardly ever made sense.

Paul Watkins - later freed from Manson's control by Paul Crockett, the old Scientologist in Death Valley-was Charlie's chief recruiter when I arrived at Spahn Ranch. He was goodlooking and smooth and useful, since Charlie was always anxious to get himself new young loves and build up the Family. A young girl might come up horseback riding and end up with Paul in one of the ranch buildings. He would make love to her and draw her into the beautiful world we all shared. Then Charlie would give her acid and pretty soon she'd be living with the rest of us, learning how to die. Brooks Poston, who was later sent to the desert with Paul and came under Crockett's influence as well, began as a stable hand at the ranch, shoveling manure. He was always weak and unreliable as far as Charlie was concerned, because on his first acid trip he laid on a mattress for three days in his own excrement, completely out of his mind.

Of the others, I probably became closest to T. J. (Tom Walleman), a sort of gypsy in his late twenties whom Charlie had picked as his right-hand until the trip changed from love to death and T. J. split when people started being killed. On the fringes of the Family were ranch hands like Juan Flynn, the Panamanian cowboy who stuck around even after Charlie threatened him-partly because he liked the sex and partly out of stubbornness.

This was the Family that was going to protect me from the loneliness the city had come to mean to me; these were the people who would populate my world, the people I would live with, make love with, drop acid with, finally kill with. It was a strange collection-Charlie would later refer to us as the ones society didn't want and threw away-but who we were really didn't matter all that much. The only personality that counted for anything was Charlie: Charlie-our father, Charlie-our god, Charlie-our selves.

Chapter Six Table of Content Chapter Eight

(Will You Die For Me? Copyright 1978, by Ray Hoekstra. Published by Cross Roads Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

About Helter Skelter

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California Dreamin'

Cult Madness

An Angel of Light

Helter Skelter Review

Terrorist Connection


Will You Die For Me?

Manson's Right-Hand Man Speaks Out!

Christianity For Fools

Our Identity in God's Family
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Statement of Faith
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