Charlie, What the Hell Happened, Dude?

07 Apr

Prison hasn’t been kind to Charles Manson. Or maybe it’s his psychosis shining through. New pictures of the now 77 year old Charlie were released ahead of his upcoming parole hearing. Not sure he will show up for it as he has missed them in the past, but if he does I’m sure he will deliver another disjointed and convoluted rant about his views on life, death, and the world in general.


The Tate-LaBianca murders shook LA and indeed the entire nation and led to the wonderful book, Helter Skelter, by Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. The book definitely changed me. Growing up in the South, we never locked up our house. Not when we went to the movie or out of town, never. No need to. There was essentially no crime and neighbors looked after each other. Manson changed all that for me. Not just the murders but also the creepy crawly missions Charlie sent out his minions to perform. They would break into houses in the LA area, creep around inside, maybe move some furniture or something like that, and then leave, completely undetected. I read somewhere that they did this over 100 times. Good training for the later murders.


My first trip to LA came during my cardiology fellowship in Houston in 1975. I visited a friend who lived in Marina del Rey. I got in late one night so the next morning he asked, “So this is your first day in LA. What do you want to see first?” I asked if he knew where Benedict Canyon was and he of course did. “That’s where I want to go.” He asked why and I simply said, “You’ll see.”

Driving up Cielo Drive was an experience. My heart raced and I kept wiping my hands on my jeans. This was it. The road Susan Atkins, Tex Watson, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel walked up to reach the Tate house. The road dead ended at a tall chain link gate and beyond the house where Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and innocent bystander Steven Parent died. I had read Bugliosi’s book and simply could not believe it. The story must be fiction. Of course, I knew it wasn’t. I knew these horrible murders had occurred. Everyone knew that. But I needed to see it. Needed to have something concrete. Standing there, fingers entwined in the chain links, looking at the Tate house, I knew the entire insane ordeal was absolutely true.


Susan Atkins recently died but Charlie and the others remain in prison. It’s too bad Charlie ducked his execution date when California suspended the death penalty and his death sentence was commuted to life, but at least he’s slowly wilting away. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.


7 responses to “Charlie, What the Hell Happened, Dude?

  1. whattawoman

    April 7, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I experienced a similar reaction at the doorstep of Florida State University’s Chi Omega sorority house, the site of Ted Bundy’s grim finale. The Commonwealth, by that time, had exacted ultimate justice, but the “why” remains a terrifying mystery. ~m


  2. journeyofjordannaeast

    April 7, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Helter Skelter was the first True Crime book I ever read…Scared the crap outta me.


  3. Betsy

    April 7, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I, too, have been to the Tate house with a similar reaction. I shook and felt ill. I think life in prison without the possibility of parole, which is what Manson’s death sentence, became is worse than death. Sure, he’ll come up for parole, but this man will never walk free again. He had his chance. Life in prison is society’s revenge, So be it.


  4. Jodie Renner

    April 7, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Wow! Powerful writing. Got me thinking. Thanks for this, Doug.


  5. Mar Preston

    April 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    I wonder what it’s like for O.J. in prison. Is he still a sports hero who gets special treatment? Do inmates admire him for getting away with it?

    I’d really like to think he suffers some deprivation, even if its only being able to preen in public.

    Has anyone read anything about this recently? I wonder too about the fate of his children.


  6. Teresa Reasor

    April 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I read Helter skelter when it first came out. It had the same effect on me. I also read In True Blood by Truman Capote. An Avon lady came to the door and I wouldn’t answer it. I was 10.

    There will always be monsters in the world. Anyone who doesn’t believe in them, is blind.

    I’m so glad Charlie is still in prison.

    Teresa R.


  7. Karen Tintori

    April 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I can so relate to your drive there, to your tension as the miles passed, your emotions as you got to the fence and your need to see for yourself. I made a similar journey when Larry and I drove to Cherry, Illinois, to stand at the site of the Cherry Mine disaster. All these years later — for Cherry, for those who died at that LA mansion — we stood witness to history and gave honor to the memory of those souls who perished in such horror.

    Sharon Tate’s unborn baby still haunts me most.



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