Online Book  

Helter Skelter I (August 8-9)

There were three basic motives behind the murders that took place sometime past midnight on August 9. The most obvious was the one Charlie had articulated to us that afternoon: to do what blackie didn't have the energy or the smarts to do-ignite Helter Skelter and bring in Charlie's kingdom. There was also the need for more cash, first of all to finance our preparations for Armageddon-the same thing that had motivated the drug burn and Bernard Crowe's supposed murder, the killing of Gary Hinman, and all the proposed abductions and murders in the Chatsworth area-and also to pay $600 bail for Mary Brunner, who had been arrested earlier that day for using a stolen Sears' credit card. If she had not been in custody, Mary would most likely have been the one sent with us that night, instead of Linda, since Mary had the other valid driver's license in the Family and had already proven herself at Gary Hinman's. Beyond getting money and bringing down Helter Skelter, there was a third, less important purpose: to clear Bobby Beausoleil of the Hinman slaying by committing a similar crime while he was in jail.

After Charlie's announcement in the afternoon, the ranch became very quiet, with an undercurrent of electric excitement, even dread. With everything that had been happening over the past weeks there was no question that we would be the ones to bring down the Apocalypse, not some black militants from Watts. The only question was which of us and how.

We ate late that night, and sometime after dinner a lot of us were in the back ranch house with our clothes off, just lying around, some people making love. Usually these times were very mellow, all of us together like animals in a nest, nuzzling and warm, bodies close, but tonight the tension of the afternoon continued, putting everyone on edge. Earlier that afternoon I'd taken some acid Charlie gave me, but by now I was coming down from it.

It all began with something I didn't see, only heard about later: Charlie sat up slowly and ran his finger across his throat. Then he told me to put on my clothes and come with him. As we walked up the hill in the darkness he said, "I've got a favor I want you to do for me tonight . . . but it'll take a lot of nerve to do it."

I told him he knew I'd do anything he wanted. He brought up the "killing" of Bernard Crowe, saying how he'd taken care of that for me when it was really my mess. Now he wanted me to take care of something for him. Again I assured him I would do whatever 'he asked me. He stopped and stared at me strangely, leaning against one of the cars parked around us.

"What I want . . . I want you to go to that house where Melcher used to live-[we knew that by now Terry had moved down to a beach house in Malibu] - I want you to take a couple of the girls I'll send with you and go down there . . . and totally destroy everyone in that house, as gruesome as you can. Make it a real nice murder, just as bad as you've ever seen. And get all their money."

Then he started a careful list of instructions: how we were to take some rope and good knives, how I was to cut the telephone wires before we went in and that I should take the bolt cutters off of his dune buggie to do it, how we should not use the automatic gate since it might be attached to an alarm system. He also said to wear dark colors, take a change of clothes with us, and burn those we did the killing in.

Then he laid out how he wanted the murders themselves done. He apparently didn't know who was living in the house or how many people we might find, but whoever and however many it was we were to kill them all, mutilate them ("Pull out their eyes and hang them on the mirrors!"), and write messages on the walls in their blood. When he started listing what he wanted written-things like HELTER SKELTER and RISE-I told him I couldn't remember all that. But he said it was okay; the girls would know what to write. Just before he went off to get the women, he handed me the .22 Buntline pistol he'd been given by old Randy Starr, but he said to use knives whenever possible, not the gun.

While Manson went back to the movie set to round up Sadie, Katie, and Linda, I reeled over to the porch where Sadie and I kept our Gerbers' jar of speed hidden. Of course we'd known it was coming to this. We'd practiced so many times, in our heads, sitting around that empty chair in the ranch house, projecting scenes much like the one Charlie had just described on some imaginary piggie, and if the world was ending at any moment and if death was only a figment of the mind and if . . . and if . . . . Despite all we'd been taught, I was spinning inside, trembling. I took a couple of deep snorts of speed and went to get the clothes and rope and bolt cutters as Charlie had ordered.

Manson had told me to borrow an old yellow 1959 Ford that belonged to Johnny Swartz, one of the ranch hands, since it was the only car that was running at the time. I did, telling him we were going downtown for some music. Then somehow Charlie was back with me again, whispering in my ear that we needed money to get Mary out of jail and that "if you don't get enough money at the Melcher house, then go on to the house next door and then the house after that until you get six hundred dollars."

We piled into the car, me in the driver's seat with Sadie next to me, Katie and Linda in back, all of us in dark shirts and jeans. I was wearing cowboy boots but the girls were barefoot. There were three knives-one of them the one that Katie would end up with, with a broken handle that was taped-and Randy Starr's gun. We were ready.

As we started off, Charlie stopped us and came over to lean into the open window. "Remember to leave a sign," he told the girls, "something witchy." He waved to us as we drove off.

What took place in the next few hours will be difficult to read, even more difficult to tell. Up to now, I've tried to recapture the feelings (or lack of them) and attitudes that were mine at any given point in my story, without interjecting who and what I am today, but there is no way to tell what follows without first saying that the events of that horrible night and the one that followed it cause me more agony and grief than I could ever express. I said earlier that at the time-and in the months following these senseless, brutal crimes-I felt nothing. It is true. But one of the greatest and yet most painful gifts I've been given as I've had my self restored is the ability to realize what really took place those two nights, to feel it more deeply and completely than I could bear if it were not for another gift I've also been given. But all that comes later. That night there was only the knowledge of what had to be done, not with pleasure any more than with revulsion or regret, not with any feeling at all, just done.

We drove in silence for some time, as if we were frozen. Finally I told the girls we were going to the house where Terry Melcher used to live because I knew the place, the layout, and that when we got there we were going to kill everyone we found and get their money. I had Linda wrap up the knives and gun in a rag on the floor and hide them at her feet. If we were stopped by the police on the way, I told her, she was to throw the whole bundle out the window.

We got lost. I missed a turnoff and we ended up going all the way into Hollywood, then back west on Santa Monica Boulevard through West Hollywood and the edges of Beverly Hills. We cut up past the landscaped mansions, most of them dark now, to Sunset Boulevard, then to Benedict Canyon, then finally turned left onto Cielo Drive.

When I pulled up to the big gate at the end of the private drive, directly under a power pole, I told the girls we'd all have to be truly one, truly together to do what we had to do. I climbed onto the hood of the car and shinnied up the pole, cutting the telephone line with the bolt cutters one of the girls had handed me through the window. For some reason I had no uncertainty about which wires were which-it was as though Charlie's instructions were tape-recorded in my mind and being played back, step by step, as I needed them. After the wires had fallen, I backed the car down the driveway to the street below and parked. We gathered up our clothes and weapons and quietly slipped back up the driveway. I carried the white rope over my shoulder. When we reached the gate I peered in-you couldn't see the main house from there, only a corner of the garage (a yellow bug light was burning, so I was assured I hadn't cut any power lines by mistake) and a split-rail fence along the edge of the lawn that had colored Christmas lights glowing on it, even though it was the middle of summer.
There was a steep, brushy embankment coming down to the right side of the fence, so we tossed the extra clothes over the gate and climbed up the slope, dropping to the other side. On my first try, the speed I'd sniffed before we left threw my balance off and I ended up tumbling down to the pavement.

We had barely gotten over the gate when there was the sound of a car, and headlights loomed at the top of the driveway, heading toward us. I told the girls to get into the bushes, lie down, and be quiet. The driver of the car had to stop and roll down his window to push the button for the automatic gate, and as he did so I stepped forward out of the shadows, gun in right hand, knife in left, commanding him to halt. A terrified teenage boy looked up at me, his glasses flashing. He was Steven Parent. Much later I would learn he had been visiting a groundskeeper-William Garretson-who lived in a guest cottage behind the main house and pool, a cottage we never discovered in the rampage that followed. (It would actually be some time before I learned the names of our victims. That night and the night after, they were so many impersonal blobs to be dealt with as Charlie had instructed. To make what follows as clear as possible, however, the victims' names will be used.)

As I lunged forward the boy cried out: "Please . . . please, don't hurt me. I'm your friend . . . . I won't tell." I shot him four times and at some point struck out with the knife, slashing at the left arm he raised to shield his face. After he had slumped back across the seat I reached in the window, cutting the motor and lights before I pushed the car part of the way back up the driveway where it would be less visible from the private road.

Hissing for the girls to follow me, I started up the driveway and rounded the turn to the house. A neatly clipped lawn stretched from the porch to the edge of the terraced hillside that overlooked the shimmering lights of the whole west side of the L.A. basin. There was no sign that anyone inside had been roused by the shots.

I told Linda to go around to the back of the house and check for open doors or windows. She was back in a few moments, saying that everything was locked. A window that opened into the entry hall, just to the side of the front door, was raised several inches, so-after telling Linda to go back down to the gate and keep watch in case anyone was alerted by the sounds of the shots-I slit the bottom of the screen, removed it, pushed up the window, and climbed through. It was very still inside the house.

I crept to the front door and let in Sadie. Katie had disappeared for the moment, gone down to Linda at the gate to get her knife, so the two of us slowly moved past a couple of large blue trunks that were standing in the hallway and slipped into the living room beyond. At first it seemed empty, but as we got in farther we could see a large blond man-Voytek Frykowski-asleep on a sofa that faced into the room, away from the door, and was incongruously draped with a large American flag. As we stood over him, I whispered to Sadie to check the rest of the house.

Frykowski stirred at the sound of my voice and mumbled something like: "What time is it?" I kicked him in the head. As he struggled up in confusion, mumbling: "Who are you? What do you want?" I answered, "I'm the devil and I'm here to do the devil's business."

I jerked my head to Sadie and she disappeared down the hall. Frykowski started to say something else but I cut him off: "Another word and you're dead!" When I asked him where his money was, he nodded toward a desk, but then Katie appeared and Sadie returned from the back of the house, saying there were three others: a man and two women. I told her to get them.

She brought back Abigail Folger first, a dark-haired woman in a long white nightgown. Katie held a knife on her while Sadie went back for the other two. When she looked helplessly to Frykowski he shook his head slightly and she said nothing.

Sadie returned with the other man, Jay Sebring, and a blond woman in bra and panties with a negligee thrown around her shoulders. She was Sharon Tate. Somehow I didn't notice she was in the last stages of pregnancy.

One of the many effects of speed is to make the intention or thought of an action and that action itself almost inseparable, as if you leap ahead in time and experience your next move before you actually make it. There in that living room on the hill, with Charlie's instructions ticking through my brain, it was as if time telescoped, until one act tripped over the next in sudden bursts of blinding color and motion.

Sharon hesitated at the entrance to the living room, and I leapt forward and grabbed her arm, jerking her in after Sadie and Sebring while I flipped off the hall light with my elbow. (Avoid fingerprints, my mind had clicked.) When Sebring turned back, protesting my roughness, I told him, as I had Frykowski, that if he said one more word he would die. "He means it," Frykowski warned from the sofa.

I had already tied Frykowski's hands behind him with one end of the rope we'd brought and now I dragged the rope over to Sebring and tied him, while Sadie tied a towel around Frykowski's wrists according to my instructions. I wrapped the rope around Sebring's neck and then slung it up over one of the rafters that ran across the room and supported a loft above the fireplace. When I started to tie the rope around Sharon's neck, Sebring struggled forward in the chair he was seated in beside the fireplace, shouting for me to be careful of her.

"I told you, 'One more word and you're dead,' " I screamed and shot him. As he slumped forward onto the rug, still alive, Sharon became hysterical, but the Folger woman seemed anxious to cooperate, as if somehow she could bring sanity into the madness simply by maintaining her own control.

"I want all the money you've got here," I barked, and Abigail took Sadie into her bedroom and gave her the money in her wallet. When they came back with only seventy dollars, I shouted: "You mean that's all you've got?"

"How much do you want?" Frykowski asked.

"We want thousands!"

Sharon had pulled herself together enough to say that they didn't have any more money in the house but that they could get us some if we'd give them time. "You know I'm not kidding," I asked, and she murmured, "Yes, I know."

Sebring was breathing hard, groaning, and in the sudden silence I didn't know what else to do-I went over to him and stabbed him until I thought he was dead.

The women began to scream and someone asked, "What are you going to do with us?"

"You're all going to die," I answered.

They began pleading with us for their lives, and suddenly Frykowski started kicking and fighting, jerking at the towel that bound his hands. "Kill him!" I ordered Sadie, but he dragged her down as she flailed at him awkwardly with the knife, stabbing him in the legs several times. Then she had lost the knife in the cushions and Frykowski was loose, tearing her hair and pulling her down onto the floor. I would have shot him, but he and Sadie kept rolling and fighting, so I finally threw myself on him and beat him over the head with the butt of the gun until it broke, a section of the grip dropping to the floor. He was enormously powerful, fighting for his life as he dragged the two of us across the hall toward the front door, knocking over the trunks.

As we staggered out onto the front porch, he kept screaming, "Help me. 0 God, help me!" I stabbed him over and over, blindly, the whole world spinning and turning as red as the blood that was smearing and spattering everywhere. Finally I shot him twice and he slumped onto the stone porch. I looked up and realized Linda was standing on the walk, staring at me in horror. She must have been there when we first came out, as well, since I could suddenly remember her screaming to Sadie, "Make it stop!" and Sadie shrieking back that it was too late.

As Frykowski sank down on the flagstones, Sadie yelled that someone was getting away. I looked across the lawn and saw Abigail Folger dashing toward the fence with Katie behind her, knife raised. Blood was already streaking the white nightgown.

I ran across the grass as Katie tackled her. Suddenly she stopped fighting. Looking up at me as she lay on her back, she whispered without emotion, "I give up; you've got me." It was as if my hand and the knife were one, plunging up and down. I felt nothing.

Then I realized that Frykowski had somehow managed to drag himself off the porch and was struggling across the lawn. I ran back to him, and once more the mechanical knife that was my arm drove down, again and again, until my wrist disappeared in the mess.

Finally I stood up and went back inside with Katie. Sadie was sitting next to Sharon on the couch as the pathetic blond woman sobbed, begging us to take her with us and let her have her baby before we killed her. It was the first time I'd realized she was pregnant, and for a moment it almost seemed like a good idea. But then Katie hissed, "Kill her!" and Charlie's tape whirred, "Kill her!" inside my head and I looked at Sadie. But she just sat there holding Sharon, so I reached out and made the first cut across her cheek. Later, Prosecutor Bugliosi-because of some things Susan-Sadie bragged about in jail in one of her attempts to get attention-was convinced that it was she who killed Sharon Tate, but his suspicion was not true. It was my hand that struck out, over and over, until the cries of "Mother . . . mother . . ." stopped. Suddenly it seemed very quiet. It was over.

We found ourselves whispering. "Are they all dead?" I asked. "Yes," Sadie replied. As we started to leave I remembered Charlie's last order. "Write something," I told Sadie. "Write something that will shock the world." She grabbed the towel that had bound Frykowski's hands and disappeared behind the sofa. A moment later she stepped out to the porch and wrote the letters P-I-G on the front door in blood.

Then we were running down the driveway. Linda was gone, so I jammed my finger down on the automatic gate button, leaving a bloody fingerprint that would have been useful evidence if a policeman hadn't obliterated it the next day.

We found Linda at the car, with the engine already started. Katie had grabbed our extra clothes from the bushes, and we all tumbled in-Linda squealing away, while in the front seat next to her I ripped off the blood-sopped black turtleneck I'd been wearing. As we hurried away, I suddenly remembered that Charlie had told us to go on to other houses until we had $600. But we were already heading out and I felt as though I didn't have the strength to do anything but drive back to the ranch.

We were all talking at once. Linda asked about the broken gun grip, and I told her I'd cracked it on the big guy's head. I lashed out at Sadie for losing her knife. Katie kept complaining that her hand hurt-her knife hadn't had a proper handle and she'd kept hitting bones when she struck.

Linda turned off Benedict Canyon onto Portola Drive, one of the winding side streets, looking for a place where we could wash. Finally we saw an exposed hose. As we poured the water over ourselves, drenching our hair and clothes, a man and woman suddenly appeared at their door in bathrobes, asking us what we were doing.

I put on my Texas accent, saying we had just been walking and needed a drink. As we ran back to the car, the man followed us, his wife shrieking, "Get the license number; get the number!" from the doorway. In my rush I flooded the engine, and as I struggled to get the car started again the old man came up to my window and stuck his hand in, grabbing for the keys. I managed to crank up the glass and drive off, leaving him shouting after us in the middle of the road. For some reason it never occurred to any of us to try to kill him-he didn't live on Cielo Drive.

We tossed the clothes over an embankment off Mulholland Drive, a winding road on the crest of the hills between the city and the Valley, and Linda threw out the knives one by one as we rode along (one bounced off the curb into the middle of the street and we had to stop and throw it into a ravine). I flung the gun away myself, with my left hand while I was driving. Once we got down into the Valley we stopped for gas (we paid for it out of the seventy dollars we stole from Abigail Folger) and took turns going into the rest rooms to check for blood spots. Linda drove the rest of the way home.

Charlie was waiting for us on the boardwalk of the old movie set, dancing around naked with Nancy Pitman (Brenda McCann) in the moonlight. His first words were: "What're you doing home so early?"

I told him what had happened-it had been messy, like he wanted, lots of panic, everybody dead. Sadie told him my line about the devil, and he grinned, pleased. When he asked why we didn't go to any other houses I just shrugged. Then he looked each of us in the eye solemnly.

"Do you have any remorse?" he demanded. "No," we each replied.

"Okay," he said gently. "Go to sleep and don't tell anyone." As the girls wandered off, he called me back. "Was it really Helter Skelter?" he asked. "Yeah, it was sure Helter Skelter."

Chapter Thirteen Table of Content Chapter Fifteen

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

About Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter

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
Outreach Ministries
Statement of Faith
The Gospel
Prisoner Outreach Ministries
Family Outreach Ministries
Prisoner Prayer List
Friends Testify
Study Chart Galleries
The Ezekiel Wheel Project
Study Charts Chain Booklet
Prison Reform
Bondage-Breaking Prayer
View It Online

Forgiven: The Charles Watson Story - Scenes from original docudrame, including interviews with Charles and Rosemary LaBianca's daughter.

Search This Site
Click Here to Search
Charles D. Watson © 1997-2010 | Home | Contact Us | Developed by: SX Web Solutions