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