Title: Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders
Author: Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
Genre: Non-fiction, True Crime
Publication Date: 1974
Purchase Price: $14.95 (Paperback)
On August 9, 1969, five people–Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowski, and an 8 months-pregnant Sharon Tate–were brutally murdered in their home at 10050 Cielo Drive in California.
Several days later, the grown children of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca discovered the bodies of their parents in their home.
Not only were the murders themselves horrific, the crimes scenes themselves were the stuff of nightmares. Scrawled on various walls in the blood of the victims were words like PIG, DEATH TO PIGS, and most strangely, HEALTER SKELTER [sic].
The entire nation, especially the citizens of California, were stunned, and terrified. Who could have perpetrated such horrible acts? What was their goal? And who might be next?
It turns out that the reality was even more terrifying than conjecture.
A deadly recipe
Vincent Bugliosi’s book, Helter Skelter, was originally published in 1974, and has become the biggest-selling true crime book in publishing history: 7 million copies and counting.
With all of the early mismanagement of evidence and witness, I think that Bugliosi was as surprised as anyone when suspects were found and a motive discovered. Never mind that said motive was one of the craziest ever brought into a courtroom.
A group of people living in the desert, hoarding food and supplies and waiting for the time when “blackie” would rise against civilized society and kill everyone.
Add in a psychotic leader and malleable followers, a dash of LSD and weaponry; mix well and serve to the music of The Beatles’ The White Album.
Yields: The scariest crimes in United States’ history.
The worst part
I know that some will disagree with that last statement. After all, the Manson murders were not the first crimes, and certainly weren’t the last.
What makes these particular murders so fascinating is that it wasn’t one person doing them: it was multiple people committing these horrible crimes because someone else told them to.
I first read Helter Skelter sometime in high school, and it gave me nightmares for at least a week — even now I can’t read it at night, especially when I’m alone. I also can’t listen to any music from The White Album.
Most of the people connected with the murders are out of jail, and are living under assumed names in various parts of the country.
Squeaky (Manson’s head cheerleader) was released from prison in August 2009; Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel are eligible for parole in 2013 and 2011, respectively; Susan Atkins died in September 2009; and Charles Manson will be eligible for parole in 2012.
It’s been said that the 1960s came to an end on August 9, 1969, with the murders of five innocent people (plus Sharon Tate’s unborn son). And that’s about as non-fiction as it gets.
” ‘…where in the world — Terminal Island, Haight-Ashbury, Spahn Ranch — did you get the crazy idea that people don’t like to live?’ ” (p. 408)
“She was holding Sharon Tate and ‘Tex came back and he looked at her and he said, “Kill her.” And I killed her…and I just stabbed her and she fell, and I stabbed her again. I don’t know how many times I stabbed her…’ Sharon begged for the life of her baby, and ‘I told her, Shut up, I don’t want to hear it.’ ” (p. 555)
” ‘I didn’t know any of them. How could I have felt any emotion without knowing them?’
Fitzgerald asked Susan if she considered these mercy killings.
‘No. As a matter of fact, I believe I told Sharon Tate I didn’t have any mercy for her.’
Susan went on to explain that she knew what she was doing ‘was right when I was doing it.’ She knew this because, when you do the right thing, ‘it feels good.’
Q: ‘How could it be right to kill somebody?’
A: ‘How could it not be right when it is done with love?’
Q: ‘Did you ever feel any remorse?’
A: ‘Remorse? For doing what was right to me?’
Q: ‘Did you ever feel sorry?’
A: ‘Sorry for doing what was right to me? I have no guilt in me.’ ” (p. 557)