Listen Here: Manson Family Member Susan Atkins, while in custody for another murder, admitted to another inmate that she was involved in the Tate-LaBianca killings. Charles was there, too. After Investigators sorted out that the Charles she spoke of was not Charlie Manson but Charles Watson, they matched his fingerprints from a recent arrest to one recovered on the front door of Sharon Tate’s house at 10050 Cielo Drive. Their search for the man with the prints led them to Texas.1The Title for this episode comes from the testimony of Dean Moorehouse given in The People of California vs. Charles Tex Watson on August 23, 1971.
The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me ’til I’m sane
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.2Brain Damage by Pink Floyd on The Dark Side of the Moon. Written by Roger Waters (1973).
Charles “Tex” Watson was raised in Copeville, Texas, a town 35 miles North of Dallas with a population of 150. He grew up with both parents, a brother and a sister. His father owned a combination gas station and grocery store. The family’s house was on the same property. Tex worked there after school. A gifted athlete, he lettered in 3 sports – football, basketball, track – earning 12 Letters for Farmersville High School. For years, he was the record holder for hurdles in the entire State of Texas. He was a regular churchgoer, and participated in the Future Farmers of America. He was ranked in the top 10 in his class. In addition to working at the Grocery store, he worked at an onion plant in the summers leading up to college, saving money along the way.
He got along well with his family. His brother was a Scholarship Football Player at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Tex also went to College at North Texas State University, now called The University of North Texas, for 3 years. It was there that he discovered girls, drinking, and fraternity life. He pledged Pi Kappa Alpha, and liked to party. He was outgoing, friendly, and social. In his last year at UNT he got a job with Braniff Airlines at Love Field just outside of Dallas. Tex wanted something more than Texas had to offer, so he moved to California. Before he left for California, he had only smoked marijuana one time with a girl in Dallas. No Speed, No Belladonna, No LSD.
When he arrived in California, Tex moved in with his fraternity brother David Neale, and worked at a wig shop, passing out cards and selling wigs. He enrolled at Cal State College in Los Angeles, and lived in Hollywood. In January, 1968, he had a car accident, and injured his knee. After surgery, he opened up his own wig shop with Mr. Neale, but the shop didn’t last long.
Right around this time he picked up a hitchhiker on Sunset Boulevard named Dennis. As in Dennis Wilson, the drummer for the Beach Boys, the biggest band in the world besides the Beatles. Tex picked him up and took him back to Dennis’s house.
That’s how and where Tex met Charlie Manson.
Dennis eventually asked Tex to move in. He did. A man named Dean Moorehouse lived there, too. The Ex-Methodist Minister was considerably older than Tex. His stated occupation was “A Pilgrim – I go Around turning people onto the Truth. I am a link between 2 worlds. Those that were ready to receive the truth, they would find me, and I would share what I had with them.” While living at Dennis Wilson’s with Tex, he philosophized with Tex, casting his own imprint on the younger, impressionable Texan. Chief among the beliefs were that the desire for material things were costing the world Love; that nothing truly belongs to anybody; and that they should drop out of society.
Tex began frequently using LSD. According to Dean Moorehouse, LSD is a catalyst that clears the mind and boils life down to two choices: “you can either choose the lie that everybody is living in this dimension or you can choose the truth that elevates you and lifts you into the next dimension.”
He lived at Dennis’ house until August ’68. Tex and Dean eventually moved into an old movie set called Spahn Ranch, 25 miles away from Downtown LA.
Life on Spahn Ranch
There were numerous girls, a few men, and no individual possessions. Their daily lives revolved around smoking weed, dropping acid, making love and Charlie’s music. The family would sing songs and Charlie would preach. They sustained themselves by making trash runs, living off food from the dumpsters behind grocery stores and restaurants.
Charlie Manson was the leader. There were two Choices at Spahn and with Charlie: 1) total submission, spiritually, sexually, physically; or 2) leave the Family. It was “Charlie’s will, Charlie’s Law” according to family member Paul Watkins. Tex gave all of his property to Charlie because “there was no such thing as property.” Everything belonged to everyone and no one: communal clothes, communal food, communal living arrangements, communal love, no girlfriends, no boyfriends, no boundaries.
Tex claimed that Charlie could read Tex’s mind. “We’d be singing and you could ‘hear your thoughts coming out in his songs.’” Tex began to look at Charlie as a “supreme being, that could see all [the] thoughts that were in my head and the longer I was around him, the more these thoughts I didn’t have anymore. I was losing myself. I was becoming Charles Manson and becoming the Girls. That’s why I left in December.”
Tex left the Ranch to take an Army physical in December of 68, but his knee injury from the car accident the year before kept him out of service. He returned to living with his fraternity brother David Neale for about 6 weeks. But there was a power at Spahn, a “magnetic thing between my mind and their mind [the Family’s] that just pulled me back.” So in March of 1969, he went back. The drug use became heavier. He began working on dune buggies and continuing to expand his mind with illicit substances. The Family discovered Belladonna, a very powerful hallucinogenic. Charlie wanted to put this very powerful natural hallucinogenic that plentifully grew on the ranch. It was around this time that during a Belladonna trip, he wound up in Van Nuys, crawling around on the sidewalk beeping. That’s the book-in that led to his arrest, and his fateful fingerprint.
Charlie’s Frustrating Musical Journey
Terry Melcher lived at Cielo Drive for 3 years, from 1966-1969, until he leased it to the Polanski’s. Melcher was a friend of Dennis Wilson.3Charlie wrote the song called Never Learn Not To Love recorded by The Beach Boys. The band didn’t give credit to Charlie. The song contains the lyric, “Submission is a gift. You can give it to your brother or mother.” Listen to the song here. Greg Jakobson was one of his talent scouts. Charlie made all of the arrangements to have Melcher come and listen to a concert of his out at Spahn Ranch. The Family rehearsed, dressed up the place, and readied for the big show. Melcher didn’t show. Charlie insisted and finally got Melcher to come, this time with his talent Scout Jakobson. Manson played for them for an hour. The girls sang with him in certain parts letting Melcher in on the hours of rehearsing they had completed. Melcher was not that impressed. He made some suggestions, pointed out that no one would record him because Charlie wasn’t a Union Member, and left.
That was it. Charlie’s hopes that Melcher would launch his musical career were dead.
When Greg Jakobson saw Manson a few months later in the Spring of 69, Manson was a “completely different person, physically and mentally.” He was still furious at Melcher, and looked like a wild animal that had been caught, “reeking of fear, energy pouring out of him like electricity.” Around the time Tex was in the Army and away from the Ranch, Charlie discovered The Beatles’ White Album. What Jakobson saw in Charlie was a man on a mission to take over the world. And it started with that album recorded in the Abbey Road Studios by the Fab 4 in the Fall of 1968.
As 1968 turned into 1969, Charlie obsessed over the Album. He played it constantly, over and over at the Ranch. He felt, he believed, that the Beatles were speaking to him – Charlie Manson – directly through this album. 4 songs in particular were prophetic. In combination with the Bible, and as properly deciphered and decoded by Charlie, the songs foretold a race war between the blacks and whites and an ensuing revolution that would leave Charlie as the leader of the world.
The name of this race war was “Helter Skelter.” It was imminent, and coming fast. Any day now.
We’ll start with “Blackbird,” sung and played by Paul McCartney, including the tapping of his separately mic’d feet. The song was written in India, and recorded on 6/11/1968. According to the way Charlie deciphered the lyrics in the first 60 seconds, the Blackbird was the Black Man, and was being encouraged to rise up against the White Man: “Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arrive. Blackbird fly, blackbird fly, into the light of the dark black night.”
The second of the 4 songs is “Piggies,” written and sung by George Harrison. The song was inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, adopted by many as a mark against the establishment and materialism: “…in their eyes there’s something lacking. What they needs’ a damn good whacking. Everywhere there’s lots of piggies, living piggy lives, you can see them out for dinner with their piggy wives, clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.” A “Pig,” or “Piggie” was a well-off, materialistic, property-hoarding member of society without a soul; an oppressor that wanted to keep the Black Man down. The message Charlie received was that the Black Man should whack the White Man.
Song 3 was Helter Skelter. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it was recorded in various forms dozens of times throughout 1968. The version we hear on the album is raw and gritty. Some have said that heavy metal wouldn’t have happened without it. “Look Out, Helter Skelter, Helter Skelter, Look OUT! Helter Skelter, She’s coming down fast. Yes!…Coming down fast.”
Revolution 9 and Revelation 9
Finally, Revolution Number 9 is a strange patchwork of sounds, music, speeches, baby voices, guitar and piano, some played forwards, some backwards. Charlie and the Family heard the word “Rise” at around the 2:30 mark. Charlie connected the song and it’s authors to Revelation 9, the Apocalypse of John verses 1-10: “The 5th angel sounded his trumpet and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only torture them for 5 months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During these days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. The Locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lion’s teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle…20: The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands. They did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
4 of the Angels were the Beatles, who, according to Manson “had the hair of women.” The “breastplates of iron” were their electric guitars. The dune buggies were the “horses prepared unto battle.” The 1/3 of mankind that will be destroyed were the white people who worship silver and bronze, or cars and Houses.
Charlie, the 5th angel was given a key to the abyss. That’s why he was leading his Family around the desert: they were looking for their appointed place to multiply to 144,000.
Manson and The Family would commit crimes to make it look to the world like the Black Man is “rose up and revolted” by “coming out of the ghettos” and coming to some “rich piggy homes” in Bel Air and Hollywood. They would commit atrocious murders, and write “pig” on the wall. The crimes were designed to get the White Man angry so that he would run into the ghetto and go after the Black Man. The Black Muslims, however, were different. They would survive the carnage because they would hide from the onslaught of the angry whites. They would come out of the ghettos and say, “look what you’ve done to my people, help me.” Their emergence would divide the White Man into 2 main factions: one would be supportive of the blacks, the other would not. These two factions would fight, and eventually wipe themselves out, leaving only the black Muslims. The Black Man would come out and destroy the remaining Whites except for Charlie and his Family because they were going to be in the desert where they would grow and grow, into 144,000 people.
According to Charlie’s “Helter Skelter,” because the Black Man would realize that they couldn’t function without the White Man, they would serve Charlie and the Family, fulfilling Charlie’s view that the White Man was closer to God than the Black Man, and that the Black Man was there to serve the White Man. Then Charlie and his people would then take over.
And Charlie Manson would rule the world.
This was the state of the Family heading in the summer of 1969. In June, Tex tried to get his old UNT Roommate David Neale to live at Spahn Ranch with them, wanting to indoctrinate him into Helter Skelter’s philosophy. The revolution would be “happening in a matter of months.” Mr. Neale noticed that Tex referred to him and Charlie and the girls as “one.”
Tex was gone, no identity, he was not the same person. Tex really bought into the idea of Helter Skelter. Per Paul Watkins, in August 1969 right before the Tate LaBianca murders, Tex came back from being in the city, and told him that “Blackie really has his shit together. He is uptight and coming down fast.”
The time had come.
While Tex and Charlie and the family planned on making Helter Skelter a reality, Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski went out to dinner at her favorite restaurant, El Coyote Café, Steve Parent was being a normal 18 year-old-radio-whiz-kid, Rosemary and Leno LaBianca were at the lake with their family. These 7 lives would soon be taken and discovered in the way we’ve described in Episode 1.
Meanwhile, as investigators were trying to solve these crimes, Tex became quite a world traveler. He made it back to Texas, went to Mexico, Hawaii, and to the California desert looking for Charlie and the Family. All to no avail. He wound up at home in Copeville, Texas.
In December of 1969, a warrant for his arrest was issued, and he was to be arrested and taken to California. But the Extradition process was hardly routine or quick.
Extradition and the pre-trial process
While in custody awaiting extradition, Tex got special treatment to say the least. He received vegetarian meals cooked and delivered by his mother, wore his own clothes, had his own record player and records, and his cell was next to the female prisoners. Tex’s Attorney Bill Boyd said that he’d fight extradition all the way to the Supreme Court, a promise he would keep. Boyd’s father was a powerful southern politician. He was the campaign manager for an Attorney General of Texas candidate, and the campaign manager for a Judge named David Brown. The same Judge would hear the extradition request. United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black eventually refused to stay extradition. Tex lost and would have to go to California.
Watson flew back in September of 1970, arriving at the same time Charlie Manson’s Trial was happening. Manson wasn’t tried alone. He was also tried with Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Leslie Van Houton. A lawyer for one of these co-defendants wanted to see if witness Danny DeCarlo could identify Tex. So, on September 11, 1970, Charles “Tex” Watson made an appearance at Charlie Manson’s trial. When Tex walked in, the Manson Family Girls blew him kisses. When he was identified by DeCarlo, the jurors saw a 20-something-college-kid who appeared not the type to do anything wrong, much less instigate seven murders on his own.
He left court, was remanded to the custody of California authorities, and waited in line for his own death penalty trial.
Charlie Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Leslie Van Houton were tried, convicted, and were all on San Quentin’s Death Row. Charlie and his girls put on quite a show at the trial. They were kicked out of court numerous times, and gave numerous interviews to the frenzied media. Lawyers from both sides were held in contempt (Bugliosi’s colleagues at the Los Angeles DA’s office even set up a fund to help offset his contempt of court fines). The President of the United States, Richard Nixon, almost caused a mistrial when he opined that Manson and his family were “guilty.” Before the trial was over, one of the lawyers disappeared and was never heard from again. The trial was quite a spectacle.
While waiting for his own trial, Tex’s own behavior was peculiar to say the least. He wouldn’t eat. He would throw himself into cell walls. He was, according to 3 psychiatrists, “rapidly reverting to a fetal state.” He lost 50 pounds, down to a dangerous 115. He refused to speak. He was remanded to the Atascadero State Hospital.
Prosecutor Bugliosi was skeptical of this hospital stay and the genuineness of Tex’s psychiatric problems. Charlie might have been, too. One day during his own trial, Charlie even asked to speak to Bugliosi about Tex: “Vince, give me just half an hour with Tex. I’m positive I can cure him.” Bugliosi: “I’m sorry Charlie, I can’t afford to take that chance. If you cured him, then everyone would believe you were Jesus Christ.”
The trial styled the People of California vs. Charles Denton Watson began on August 16, 1971, 2 years and 1 week after the Tate-LaBianca killings.4The Trial Visualization Report can be viewed by clicking here. You’ll find a summary of each witnesses testimony, their purpose, subject matter, and an interactive map of both offenses. Tex faced 7 counts of murder both as the principal actor and as a conspirator. In order to be convicted as a principal, California law required that the Prosecution prove Tex committed the killings with malice aforethought; to prove him guilty as a conspirator, they must prove that Tex “conspired, confederated and agreed to commit murder” with some combination of Charles Manson, Patricial Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and/or Linda Kasabian.
Tex’s attorneys entered 2 pleas on his behalf: 1) that he was not guilty, and 2) that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. These pleas triggered a three-step process for jurors potentially. First, they would be called upon to decide whether they believed he was guilty. If so, they would next hear testimony on whether they believed he was insane at the time of the killings for which they found him guilty. If they found him both guilty and sane, they would finally decide whether he should be executed for his crimes.
On August 16, 1971, the case styled The People of California vs. Charles “Tex” Watson began.
-End of Episode 2-