The Manson Family

The history of The Manson Family and their victims is long and vast, scattered all across California and beyond, spanning through the heart of Hollywood, into the far reaches of the desert.  We’ve previously we posted articles covering Spahn Ranch and Barker Ranch.  Here we will take a look at many additional sites related to the history of The Family, in semi-chronological order.  We do not endorse any of the crimes related to this subject matter. This article’s sole intention is to simply acknowledge the places where these events happened and show them as they stand today.

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who would become the second member of The Manson Family and one of the most devoted, did not get along with her father from a young age.  Not far from LAX airport, you’ll find the childhood home of Lynette.

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LOCATION: 6511 W 82nd St, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Of particular interest is the lamp post in front of the home.  On the cement in front of it, Lynette scrawled her name as a child, which remains there to this day.  Eventually Lynette ran away from home, leading her to Venice Beach, where she met a recently paroled Charles Manson.

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When released from Terminal Island in San Pedro in 1967, Charles Manson headed north to the Bay Area.  He played guitar at the UC Berkeley campus, where he would meet Mary Brunner, the first member of the Manson Family.  Here is the famous Sather Gate at the Berkeley campus.

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LOCATION: Sather Gate, Sather Rd, Berkeley, CA 94720

Just inside the gate is the courtyard area where Manson played his guitar and met Brunner.  Here are some views of what the general area looks like today.

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Mason became a resident of the famous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Fransisco during the “Summer of Love” in 1967, renting an apartment unit in this building.  It was in San Francisco that he also met future family member Susan “Sadie” Atkins.

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LOCATION: 636 Cole St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Around this same period, Bobby Beausoleil, who would later become involved in the first of the Manson Family murders, was also in San Francisco.  He posed for a famous photo on the front stairs of this house, which at the time was occupied by underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger.  Anger filmed portions of his short film “Invocation of My Demon Brother” at the house, which featured Bobby Beausoleil and Anton LaVey, with music by Mick Jagger.

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LOCATION: 1198 Fulton St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Here are the stairs where Bobby posed for his photo.  While serving his sentence for his murder conviction, Beausoleil later composed the score to Anger’s film “Lucifer Rising,” after a score by Jimmy Page was rejected.  You can read a bit more about this home in our separate article about the Kenneth Anger House.

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Eventually Manson would make his way back down to Southern California.  Susan Atkins joined Manson in his trek south, along with other Family members.  Sadie worked as a stripper at the Candy Cat One in Chatsworth, California.  The Candy Cat remained open for decades until 2017, when it finally closed its doors.  You can still see the faded letters where the sign once was.

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LOCATION: 21625 Devonshire St, Chatsworth, CA 91311

Just across the street from the former Candy Cat One is The Munch Box, a staple of the San Fernando Valley that has been in business since 1956.  Charles Manson used to sit and eat at The Munch Box, waiting for Sadie to finish her work shifts.  A market also once stood in this area, which was one of the spots the women of the Manson Family would go digging through the dumpsters, looking for discarded food.

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LOCATION: 21532 Devonshire St, Chatsworth, CA 91311

There are conflicting stories about how Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys came to know The Manson Family.  The most common story is that he picked up members Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey in 1968, who were hitchhiking, and brought them back to his place on Sunset Blvd.  The story has been disputed, but what is known is that the Family began staying at Dennis Wilson’s home for a time.  During this period, Wilson and Manson undertook some musical collaborations.  Manson’s song “Cease to Exist” ended up being recorded under the name “Never Learn Not to Love” on The Beach Boys’ “20/20” album, though the sole songwriting credit went to Dennis Wilson.

Eventually the Family would overstay their welcome and Wilson split from them by selling the home.  The house still stands, but it is fairly difficult to get a decent view.  Fencing and trees surround the entire property along the street.  Here is a view of the driveway gate.

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LOCATION: 14400 Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Here is a view within the property, when one of the gates was open.

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Across the street on Will Rogers State Park Rd, the road goes up an incline, allowing for views over the fence.  The trees still obscure most of the property though.  It should be noted that parking is difficult here.  Sunset Blvd is quite busy along this stretch and has no parking shoulder.  You can go up Will Rogers State Park Rd, but the nearest parking area is at the top, meaning you’d have a long walk down and back up to return to your vehicle.  Your best bet is to take one of the side roads in the vicinity, but many of them are private, so it can be tricky.

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Here is a view of the horse stables at the property.

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Both Charles Manson and Charles “Tex” Watson visited the famous Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood.  Watson is said to have lived on the road just behind it for a time.

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LOCATION: 8901 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Members of the Family attended parties at the house of Harold True on multiple occasions.  This is Harold’s former house, which was located directly next door to Rosemary and Leno LaBianca.

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LOCATION: 3267 Waverly Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Over in Beverly Hills is the original home of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, before they moved to Cielo Drive, where the fateful murders took place.  It was here that they first met their maid, Winifred Chapman, who would continue working for them at the Cielo house and would have the unfortunate role of discovering the bodies the morning after the murders.

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LOCATION: 1600 Summitridge Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Jay Sebring, another victim of the Manson Family, was a celebrity hair stylist prior to the murders who had connections all over Hollywood, including Warren Beatty and Bruce Lee.  His hair salon could be found on Fairfax Ave in Los Angeles.  The space remains a hair salon to this day, albeit under different ownership.

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LOCATION: 725 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046

Sebring’s house could be found in Benedict Canyon, about a mile from Tate and Polanski’s house on Cielo.

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LOCATION: 9860 Easton Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

In early 1969, Charles Manson rented a house in Canoga Park, where members of The Family stayed with him.  They called the house the “Yellow Submarine,” due to its paint color.  By this time, Manson had already discovered Spahn Ranch, but he felt it was too disorganized for musical recording and wanted to use the home as a studio.  The Family’s time there would be brief and the house was eventually demolished.  Today, an apartment complex stands in its place.

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LOCATION: 21019 Gresham St, Canoga Park, CA 91304

The most well-known home of The Manson Family was of course Spahn Ranch in Chatsworth, California.  This is where the murders were ordered.  You can read much more detail about the history of Spahn Ranch in our article here.

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LOCATION: Formerly 1200 Santa Susana Pass Rd, Chatsworth, CA 91311 (now defunct), nearest present address is 22601 Santa Susana Pass Rd., Chatsworth, CA 91311

The events that set the stage for the Tate-LaBianca murders really kicked into full motion in 1969 with the shooting of Bernard “Lotsapoppa” Crowe.  Crowe had agreed to a drug deal with Charles “Tex” Watson, who burned him and kept the money.  An angry Crowe called Spahn Ranch and asked for Charles.  The name mix-up put him on the phone with Charles Manson, rather than Watson.  Crowe threatened to harm Watson’s girlfriend if the situation wasn’t fixed, so Manson headed to his apartment in the middle of Hollywood.  There things escalated and Manson ended up shooting Lotsapoppa.  Leaving under the belief he had killed Crowe, when Manson watched the news, he saw reports of a murdered member of the Black Panther party.  Crowe had in fact survived the shooting and was not a member of the Panthers.  However, Manson erroneously believed he was on the hook for murder and that the Panthers would soon visit Spahn Ranch seeking retaliation.  Manson also believed that Watson owed him big for having taken care of his situation.

The apartment where Lotsapoppa was shot has long since been demolished.  It is now a parking lot for the famous Magic Castle.

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LOCATION: 7001 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028

More trouble would soon come when Gary Hinman set up a drug deal with a biker gang through Bobby Beausoleil.  While Beausoleil denies ever being a member of the Manson Family, he held many ties with them.  After the bikers claimed the drugs were bad, they demanded their money back from Beausoleil.  Beausoleil went to the house of Gary Hinman, along with Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins and held Hinman captive.  Believing he had received a large inheritance, they demanded money from him.  Hinman denied having money and also disputed that the drugs were bad.  Eventually Charles Manson would visit the house as well, slicing Hinman with a sword.

Bobby Beausoleil would then murder Gary Hinman, with words written in blood on the walls, in an attempt to make it look like a crime committed by the Black Panthers.  Not long after, Beausoleil was found asleep in Hinman’s car and charged with murder.  Here is the former Hinman house, which has since been remodeled and is obscured by trees and shrubs.  There used to be stairs leading up to the house, which have also since been removed.

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LOCATION: 964 Old Topanga Canyon Rd, Topanga, CA 90290

With Beausoleil arrested for murder, the events fell into place for the first night of the Tate-LaBianca murders.  Many members of the Family have claimed the murders were intended to appear as copycat crimes, to make it appear as if Hinman’s killer was still on the loose, thus resulting in Beausoleil’s release.  Others have disputed this motive, however.

Steven Parent lived at this house in El Monte, California.  Parent had the misfortune of trying to sell William Garretson a clock radio on the night of the murders on August 8, 1969.  Garretson was staying in a guest house at the Tate residence when Parent paid him a visit.  As Parent was leaving, he encountered Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian.  Watson shot and killed Parent in his car in the driveway.

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LOCATION: 11214 Bryant Rd, El Monte, CA 91731

Earlier the same night, Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski had dinner at the El Coyote restaurant.  The Mexican restaurant was a favorite of Tate’s.  It would unfortunately turn out to be their final meal.

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LOCATION: 7312 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

Here is a view of the front entrance of El Coyote, which remains in business to this day.

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This is alleged to be the table where the group ate their dinner.

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This is the entrance to the private road of Cielo Drive.  Much of Cielo is actually a public road.  It is only the portion leading up to the houses that is marked private.  It is at the foot of the private road where the killers parked their car, heading up the rest of the way on foot in darkness.

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LOCATION: Formerly 10500 Cielo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 (now defunct), changed to 10066 Cielo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

While that portion of Cielo Drive is private, the road directly across the street, Bella Drive, is not.  It too goes up an incline and from the top you get a clear view of all the homes along Ceilo Dr.  The house furthest to the left in front of the city skyline is where the Tate/Polanki residence once stood.  The killers’ original plan was to murder the occupants of every house along the block.  The Tate murders proved more difficult than they had anticipated, however, so they abandoned plans to enter the other homes.  While neighbors did hear sounds the night of the murders, the canyons echoed sounds and it was difficult to place where the noises came from.

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LOCATION: Cielo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, as seen from 1436 Bella Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Here is a better view of where the Tate/Polanski home once stood, taken from Beverly View Drive.  The home has since been demolished and a mansion belonging to “Full House” creator Jeff Franklin stands in it’s place.

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After the murders, the killers traveled about 1.5 miles up Benedict Canyon Drive and stopped at this home on Portola Drive.  Here they used a hose to wash off the victims’ blood.  However, the homeowner discovered them and wrote down their license plate, which would become a heavily incriminating piece of evidence during the murder trials.

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LOCATION: 9870 Portola Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

The killers then made their way further up Benedict Canyon.  They pulled over to this section of the road, across the street from 2901 Benedict Canyon, where they tossed the clothes they wore during the murders.  In 1969, this area was a wide shoulder where cars could pull over.  Now a guard rail blocks it, but there is still a strip of land there with enough space to fit a car.  Based on descriptions later provided by Susan Atkins, which described the area as mountain on one side and a ravine on the other, a local news station recreated the drive from Cielo, traveling at a moderate speed and changing their clothes.  When they finished, they pulled over to the nearest shoulder they could find, leading them to the precise location where the clothes were tossed.

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LOCATION: 2901 Benedict Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Here’s another view of the area.

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Upon making the discovery, the reporter headed across the street to notify the police.

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The killers then made their way over to Beverly Glen Blvd, where they tossed the gun.  They believed this area to be an empty canyon where the weapon would not likely be recovered.  From the road above, this is the view they would have seen.  It was not an empty canyon, however.  At the bottom of the hill was a neighborhood and the gun was tossed into one of the back yards.

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LOCATION: Beverly Glen Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 (near 3627 Longview Valley Rd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423)

This is the home where the gun was discovered.

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LOCATION: 3627 Longview Valley Rd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Here you can see a view of Beverly Glen Blvd in the distance, where the gun was tossed as the killers passed.

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Not content with one night of murders or with how they were carried out, Charles Manson decided to accompany the group for a second night of killings.  After roaming around in search of a suitable site, they made their way over to the neighborhood of Harold True and eventually selected the house next door, belonging to Rosemary and Leno LaBianca.  The group consisted of Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, and Steve “Clem” Grogan.  Manson entered the LaBianca house and tied up the victims, telling them they were only there to rob the place and would not be harmed.

He then returned to the car with Rosemary LaBianca’s wallet and sent Watson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten in to do the killings.  He told them to hitchhike back to Spahn Ranch and he would take the remaining group out to perform a different set of murders.  Here is what the LaBianca house looks like today.  A gate and garage have been added and trees planted to obscure the view.  Much like the Cielo house, the address was also slightly changed.

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LOCATION: Formerly 3301 Waverly Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027, changed to 3311 Waverly Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Manson then took the second group to this gas station in Sylmar and had Linda Kasabian dispose of Rosemary LaBianca’s wallet in the restroom.  Here is the side of the building where the restroom once was.  During the trial, the prosecution alleged that this gas station was chosen in a predominantly black area, as to implicate black killers and bring about a race war called “Helter Skelter.”  One of the few blows against the “Helter Skelter” motive came when the defense noted that Sylmar was not a predominantly black area.

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LOCATION: 12881 Encinitas Ave, Sylmar, CA 91342

Manson then walked over to this Denny’s and ordered a chocolate shake.  The Denny’s still stands there today.

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LOCATION: 12861 Encinitas Ave, Sylmar, CA 91342

Manson, Grogan, Kasabian and Atkins then went to this apartment building on Venice Beach, looking to commit the next murder.  They came here because Kasabian remembered a resident there she disliked.  After knocking on a door and failing to find the correct apartment unit, which Kasabian later claimed to have done intentionally to avoid more killings, the group abandoned plans to commit murder here.  Upon making their way down the stairwell to exit, Susan Atkis deficated in the building before leaving.

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LOCATION: 1011 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291

The morning after the LaBianca murders, the family arrived at the house.  Noticing some unusual activity; the fact that the LaBianca’s boat had been left out and the curtains were drawn closed, then went across the street to phone the police.

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LOCATION: 3306 Waverly Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027

In the wake of the murders, The Manson Family fled to Barker Ranch in Death Valley.  It was here that Charles Manson was eventually captured.  You can read our article about Barker Ranch here.

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LOCATION: Just off of Goler Wash Rd, Death Valley National Park, Panamint, CA 93592 (easiest access is via Ballarat, CA, GPS coordinates: 35°51′34.57″N 117°5′18.76″W)

While at the Sybil Brand Institute, Susan Atkins confessed to a cell mate named Virginia Graham about the Tate Murders. Graham in turn shared what Atkins had told her with homocide detectives, which eventually helped lead to the indictment of Charles Manson. The prison shut down in 1997, but today the grounds are still owned by the Los Angeles sherrif’s office, where it is used by warehouse companies and for filming purposes. Walking the grounds, however, it still very much feels like a prison.

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LOCATION: 4500 City Terrace Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90063

The trial for the Tate/LaBianca murders was held at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles.

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LOCATION: 211 W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Members of the Manson Family who were not incarcerated sat at this corner on Broadway and Temple, speaking with media throughout the duration of the trail.  After Manson shaved his head and carved an X into his forehead, the members followed suit.

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LOCATION: Intersection of N Broadway / W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

After Manson was convicted and sent to Folsom Prison, Family members Sandra Good and Lynette Fromme moved into the attic unit of this house in Sacramento, in order to be nearer to him.

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LOCATION: 1725 P St, Sacramento, CA 95811

There used to be an outdoor starcase on the side of the house leading to the attic unit, which has since been removed.

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Over at the Historic Sacramento City Cemetery, a famous photo of Lynette Fromme and Sandra Good wearing robes was taken for a German magazine at this grave plot.  The gravestone is marked Heintz at plot B83 276.  It actually sits very near the entrance at the intersection of Broadway and Ninth St.  From there it can be found 2 plots forward, 4 plots to the left.

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LOCATION: 1000 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95818

On September 5, 1975, Lynette Fromme left her house on P Street dressed in a red robe and came to the California State Capitol building in Sacramento.  She stood at this tree and aimed a gun at then President Gerald Ford, who was walking past.  Secret Service members immediately subdued her with no shots fired.  For her crime, she served 34 years in prison before being paroled in 2009.  The easiest way to reach the tree where the incident happened is from the intersection of 12th St and L St.  Ford was leaving the Senator Hotel and crossed that intersection, heading for the California State Capitol building.

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LOCATION: 1315 10th St, Sacramento, CA 95814

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The final tenant of the original Cielo Drive residence before it was demolished was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.  When Trent relocated from Los Angeles to New Orleans, he took with him one piece of the Cielo property; the infamous door that had “Pig” scrawled in Sharon Tate’s blood by Susan Atkins.  Trent purchased this former funeral home in New Orleans in 1995 and converted it into a recording studio.  He had the Cielo door installed as the front entrance to the studio.  Trent would eventually relocate back to Los Angeles in 2004 and abandon the former studio, this time leaving the Cielo door behind for good.  The building stood vacant until 2010, when it was purchased by a surgeon looking to convert the property into a retail area.  It has since been remodeled beyond recognition, but we managed to visit back when the original building still stood.

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LOCATION: 4500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Here is the Cielo door at the front entrance to the former studio on Magazine Street, where it sat behind a steel gate.  The door remained until around 2012, when the building was completely remodeled.  The current whereabouts of the door is unknown.

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After Charles Manson died in 2017, his funeral was quitly held in Porterville, Califonia and his ashes were spread in a nearby, undisclosed location.

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LOCATION: 765 W Henderson Ave, Porterville, CA 93257

Here is the back of the funeral home.

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There are countless more locations related to these events, which we have not covered.  There are also many books that dive much deeper into the subject.  We simply aimed to present a visual timeline of one of the most infamous crimes in American history.  It is a fascinating, tragic story.  It was very real and these are the places where it all unfolded.

Related articles: Spahn Ranch, Barker Ranch

Barker Ranch

One of the most remote locations you’ll ever likely encounter is Barker Ranch in Death Valley, California.  It was the last hideout of Charles Manson and the Manson Family.  Getting there is no easy task and requires planning and caution, due to the extreme desert conditions.  To begin, you’ll have to head to the virtual ghost town of Ballarat, California, located in Inyo County.  There are a few scattered people who pass through Ballarat, who are usually deliberately attempting to stay on the outskirts of society.  One of the few buildings you’ll see in the town is the Ballarat Trading Post.

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Directly in front of the Ballarat Trading Post is this truck, which for years has been rumored to have belonged to Manson Family member Charles “Tex” Watson.  The rumor even got distorted one degree further, with some eventually claiming Charles Manson himself once owned it.  The most common story is that when “Tex” fled Barker Ranch for Texas, he took this truck, which quickly broke down in Ballarat (Watson hitchhiked from there).  However, according to locals, the actual truck “Tex” drove ultimately fell into the hands of another Ballarat local after it broke down, who was the caretaker of a nearby mining camp.  He is said to have eventually dismantled the Watson escape truck.  The one that sits in front of the trading post is similar, but locals claim it was never a Manson Family truck.  However, the truck has sat in the same spot for quite some time and was likely in Ballarat at the time the Family was there, even if there is no direct connection.  There is another truck, which is much more strongly argued to have belonged to “Tex” Watson, located at Barker Ranch itself.

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Another old, rusty truck body, located near the Ballarat Trading Post.

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To get to Barker Ranch, you will need to take a right at the Ballarat Trading Post, down Coyote Canyon Road.  Surprisingly, most GPS systems, including Google Maps, can navigate you to Barker Ranch.  However, it is strongly advised not to rely solely on GPS.  Some GPS systems can be a bit off and cellular service is nowhere to be found in this region.  So it is highly advisable to bring written or printed directions as well.  There are no paved roads here, everything is dirt roads.  Without a 4-wheel drive vehicle, Coyote Canyon Road is about as far as you will likely make it in a standard vehicle.  Once you reach Goler Wash Road, you will likely traverse no further, unless it’s on foot or in a 4×4 vehicle.  Here is a photo of the entrance of Goler Wash, which does not do justice to how rough the road truly gets.

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Goler Wash is occasionally graded by the National Parks Service, which makes driving the road much easier.  You can check online to see the various road conditions in a given season around Death Valley.  Even with the road graded, it’s still difficult in certain spots.  Even though it isn’t a long road, it will take you quite a long time to drive through it, due to the canyons becoming quite narrow at times (you can probably touch the rocky walls from your vehicle at various points).  There is also a regular stream of water that runs through the wash.  Depending on the season, this can be minor or significant.  At one point along Goler Wash, you even need to drive up a small waterfall.  Depending on the amount of water runoff, this can be fairly difficult.  Another factor is simply all the loose rocks and gravel beneath you as you drive.  It is recommended that an experienced off-road driver handle this road, but if conditions are agreeable in certain seasons, it’s possible for a first time off-road driver to handle it.  Do your research and be careful if you do elect to attempt it.

Once you get through the war of attrition that is driving Goler Wash, you will finally arrive at Barker Ranch and Myers Ranch.  Charles Manson first became aware of the ranches through Manson Family member Kathy Gilles, whose grandparents lived there.  She brought Manson to the property, which he immediately liked for both it’s seclusion from society, as well as it’s perceived freedom from authority.  Eventually, the Family began occupying both ranches, after Manson offered a Beach Boys gold record in exchange for permission to remain on the properties.  While the Tate / LaBianca murders were planned from Spahn Ranch, it is Barker Ranch where Charles Manson and most members of the Manson Family were finally captured.

The path up to Myers Ranch and Barker Ranch.

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The gates of Barker Ranch.

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Some remnants of the outbuildings and stables at the ranch.

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A plaque at the ranch, made by the National Parks Services, noting the history of the ranch.  It shows a photo of what the ranch looked like before it was mostly destroyed by a fire.  They also installed a picnic table beside it for travelers adventurous enough to make it out that far.

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A view back towards the entrance, standing on Barker Ranch.

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The remnants of Barker Ranch, as it is today.  In 2009, a fire burnt down the majority of the building.  However, the rock walls still partially remain, including the exact spot where Charles Manson was captured.  The fire was reportedly accidental, when travelers passing through knocked over a grill.  However, like so many things related to the Manson Family, this too has been called into question by some who believe it was intentional.  In spite of the fire, it’s still fairly easy to identify each room in the remains of the ranch.

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LOCATION: Just off of Goler Wash Rd., Death Valley National Park, Panamint, CA 93592 (easiest access is via Ballarat, CA, GPS coordinates: 35°51′34.57″N 117°5′18.76″W)

A closer look at the ranch, which was an extremely small building.

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The fireplace, with a bedroom located behind it.

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A seating area for eating.

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A spot where someone carved their name, circa 1958.

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The bathroom, where Charles Manson was captured.  The discoloration to the right is where the bathroom sink was located.  Manson spent his last moments as a free man hidden in a cabinet beneath it, in a space so small the arresting officer claimed he would’ve never even thought to look inside of it, if not for a piece of Manson’s hair sticking out.  Before he could open the cabinet door up, Manson opened it himself and crawled out and surrendered.  The arresting officer was not aware at the time of the magnitude of his capture.  Most of the Family was arrested on two separate raids of the ranch, on suspicion of vandalism to some nearby government-owned construction vehicles.  Charles Manson eluded capture on the first raid, but was captured on the second raid.  It was only during their holding in Inyo County that the Family’s connection to the Los Angeles murders was initially pieced together.

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Another angle of the spot where Charles Manson was captured, showing how truly tiny the space was.  Surprisingly, the ranch fire did not destroy this part of the building and it’s still clearly identifiable today.

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One of the outbuildings on Barker Ranch.  Manson Family members Paul Watkins and Brooks Poston stayed in this building.  It was Watkins and Poston who told prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi of the “Helter Skelter” motive.  According to Watkins and Poston, the murders were intended to start a race war between the blacks and whites.  The Manson Family would hide out underground in the desert until the blacks won the war, then they would return to rule over the blacks, who they believed would be incapable of running a society themselves.  Bugliosi used “Helter Skelter” as the primary motive in his case against Charles Manson, Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten and the theory became widely popularized as the motive for the murders.  However, this motive has been disputed over the years.  Many claim the murders were done as a copycat act, in an effort to make Bobby Beausoleil, who was a friend of the Family, appear innocent on the charges of killing Gary Hinman.  Others still claim it was done as to instill fear into society, as an act of retribution for all the times those in power had rejected or imposed punishments upon the Manson Family.  There are many different motives debated and the truth will likely never be conclusively agreed upon.

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A view from behind the ranch.  The most famous photos of the ranch from 1969 are from this angle, with the Manson Family bus parked to the center right of the frame.  The bus was eventually dismantled and destroyed.

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A swimming pool at the ranch, where members of the Family swam.

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Many claim this is one of “Tex” Watson’s trucks, which is located behind the ranch.  However, others dispute this as well.  If you’re not familiar with the ranch, be careful in venturing back too far behind it, as it’s very easy to lose your bearings.

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It’s difficult to make out through the rust and bullet holes, but the words “Helter Skelter” are written on the back of the truck.

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Behind the ranch is also where some of the women were captured and arrested.  The women were hiding in a hole in the ground, which was covered with some loose debris.  This photo is of that approximate area, but perhaps not exact.

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Another view behind Barker Ranch.  From here you can get a better idea of just how small the building was.

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A look at the nearby Myers Ranch, as seen from Barker Ranch.  Members of the Manson Family also stayed at Myers Ranch.  Today, it actually remains a private, occupied residence, unavailable for public visitation.

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Footage of some of the members of the Manson Family at Barker Ranch can be seen in the Robert Hendrickson documentary “Manson,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, as well as his sister documentary, “Inside the Manson Gang,” which is mostly comprised of unused footage from the first film.

Barker Ranch is one of the most desolate places in the United States and it’s easy to see how one might have felt they could escape the eyes of the law in such a remote place.  Everything there is sun-baked, rusted or worn down.  It’s a unique experience to visit, but clearly one that is not for everyone.  We of course do not endorse any of the crimes committed by those that took shelter here.  Our aim is to simply show a unique place in American history, as it appears today.

Related articles: Spahn Ranch, The Manson Family

Spahn Ranch

While once used a movie set, Spahn Ranch is mostly remembered for it’s notorious connections with the Manson Family during the late 1960s.  It’s a unique and significant part of Californian and American history and we wanted to show it as it is today.

Located in Chatsworth, CA, about 30 miles north of Los Angeles near Simi Valley, you’ll find nothing more than empty land there these days.  The property is currently part of Santa Susana State Historic Park, which is owned by the state of California and open to the public.  Today, many joggers and bicyclists enjoy the scenic pass.  This is what the land looks like currently, as seen from Santa Susana Pass.

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The property was once located at 1200 Santa Susana Pass Road, but that address has long since been retired.  Today, the location is most commonly identified by the large, rocky hill in the background.  There is a private road, which starts at a nearby gated entrance and runs behind the former ranch, along the foot of the rocky hill, which is not state property or open to the public.  That land belongs to the Rocky Peak Church, which also owns the land across the street.  As long as you do not go on the private road or up the rocky hill, the rest of the land, which includes the full area in which the ranch stood, is part of the state park and you are welcome to access it.  There is additional land down a steep embankment, which is not visible from the road, which is also part of the state park.

Another way to quickly spot the land is the Santa Susana State Park sign, which is located almost immediately in front of the former ranch.  If you’re looking to get there by using an address, the closest would be that of the Rocky Peak Church in Chatsworth.

LOCATION: *Formerly 1200 Santa Susana Pass Rd., Chatsworth, CA 91311 (now defunct), nearest present address is 22601 Santa Susana Pass Rd., Chatsworth, CA 91311

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If you visit the park, be sure not to not park anywhere on Santa Susana Pass, which has moderate to frequent traffic and does not allow parking.  Instead, parking is available nearby on Iverson Road.  You’ll see a large parking lot on on the left on Iverson, which is property of the church and not available for public use.  Parking on the right shoulder of Iverson Road, however, is permissible and available to the public.

Before we get into what can be seen there today, we’ll first discuss the history of the land.  Santa Susana Pass began as a transportation trail between the settlements of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.  By the 1860s, the trail had been expanded for the use of stage coaches.  In 1897, a settler by the name of James Williams staked his claim to a section the land, part of which would eventually become Spahn Ranch.  Silent film actor William S. Hart later bought the land and started using it to stable his horses, as well as using the ranch for movie productions, such as the David O. Selznick production, “Duel in the Sun,” which starred Gregory Peck, in 1946.  In 1948, the land was purchased by George Spahn.  Spahn looked to continue to utilize the property as a movie and TV location and further developed the buildings, adding prop storefront signs, such as the “Longhorn Saloon” and the “Rock City Cafe.”  Television series such as “Bonanza,”  “The Lone Ranger” and “Zorro” all filmed at the ranch.

With the steady decline of the western genre, by the late 1960s, productions at the ranch had likewise diminished, with mostly low-budget, exploitation flicks filming there.  Spahn began using the property primarily for families to take horseback rides around the nearby trails.  He also staffed a ranch crew and a variety of mechanics for repairing cars (which included future Manson Family member Steve “Clem” Grogan).  By 1967, the ranch had fallen into a state of disrepair.  Manson Family member Sandra Good knew some of the mechanics at Spahn Ranch and would occasionally visit the property, eventually bringing Charles Manson with her during one of these visits.  Manson immediately liked the site, due to it’s isolation, while still remaining adjacent to the greater population of Los Angeles County (the land is much closer to the freeways than you might expect).

By the time the Manson Family arrived at the ranch, George Spahn was 80 years old and blind.  With his property in disrepair, Manson offered to have his group maintain the ranch, in exchange for free living quarters, which Spahn accepted.  The Family then stole cars and would convert them into dune buggies, intending to take them to their other hideaway, Barker Ranch in Death Valley.  Some of the cars are actually still located near Spahn Ranch, a bit further down Santa Susana Pass, where they were pushed down a steep canyon after they’d been stripped for materials.

In the summer of 1969, things reached a fever pitch at Spahn Ranch.  The first significant step towards the Tate / LaBianca murders came when Manson Family member Charles “Tex” Watson arranged a drug deal with a pimp in Hollywood, only to rip him off.  The pimp, known as Lotsapapa, called Spahn Ranch looking for “Tex,” but instead was put on the phone with Charles Manson, who was unaware of the situation up to that point.  Lotsapapa threatened the Family and Watson’s girlfriend, which prompted Charles Manson to visit him in Hollywood, in an attempt to cool the situation.  However, the situation instead escalated at the meeting, with Manson ultimately shooting Lotsapapa.  Although Lotsapapa survived, Manson believed at the time that he had murdered him.  After seeing news on the TV of an unrelated murder of a member of the Black Panther party, Manson mistakenly believed this to be Lotsapapa.  Expecting retaliation from the Black Panthers, the Manson Family entered into a heightened state of paranoia and prepared for war at Spahn Ranch.

The next blow came when Bobby Beasoleil, a friend of the Family, murdered Gary Hinman.  Bobby had sold some drugs to local bikers, who in turn claimed the drugs were bad and demanded their money back.  Bobby had gotten the drugs from Gary Hinman, who insisted the bikers were lying and the drugs were good.  With Bobby demanding money and Hinman refusing, the situation escalated, with members of the Family holding Hinman hostage in his house.  Charles Manson paid a visit and threatened Hinman, slicing him with a sword.  With other members of the Family present, Bobby Beasoleil eventually murdered Hinman.  Soon after, Beasoleil was captured and arrested, which sent an already volatile Manson into further anger.

Just after the Beasoleil arrest, Manson Family members Sandra Good and Mary Brunner were also arrested for credit card fraud, after attempting to use stolen credit cards at a grocery store.  With dead bodies accumulating, members of the Manson Family in jail and Manson himself believing he was a murderer and that others would soon come for them, be it the Panthers, police or others, Manson became enraged and ordered the first night of murders, which became the Tate murders.  The women had suggested the murders be done to look like a copycat of the Hinman murder.  Believing the women would not successfully carry out plans by themselves, Manson ordered Charles “Tex” Watson to lead them, insisting Watson owed him for Lotsapopa.  It was at Spahn Ranch the murders were ordered and it was there the killers returned after the slayings.

Unhappy with the first night of murders, which Manson felt were not well-executed, he ordered a second night of random killings and went out himself, to show the others how it’s done.  This lead to the LaBianca murders, although after he tied up the victims himself, Manson would leave back to Spahn Ranch, ordering the others to handle the killings instead.

Soon after, Spahn Ranch was raided by police, but not for the murders, which the police hadn’t yet connected to the Family.  Instead it was for a car theft ring.  Manson and others were all arrested at Spahn Ranch.  However, all charges were later dropped after a clerical error on the date on the police warrant invalidated their raid and arrests.  The Family then fled to Barker Ranch in Death Valley, where they were ultimately captured.

From here, we will cover a bit of what can be seen at the land today.  First up is a view of the land where the ranch buildings used to stand.  The entire area is much smaller than most people might expect.  You can see the tree tops here, stemming up from the lower embankment, behind where the buildings once stood.

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Here is a reverse view towards the street of Santa Susana Pass.  The view of the road is obscured by overgrowth.  It was towards the left where Manson Family member Susan Atkins posed barefoot on her toes in a pair of bell-bottom jeans, standing in the driveway near the mailbox at Spahn Ranch, for a well-known photograph.  The famous photographs of the ranch itself were also taken from atop those rocks across the street.

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Towards the left side of the land (right if you’re facing the road), you’ll find the last remaining artifact of the original ranch.  A wildfire in 1970 burnt down all of the buildings, but remnants of the telephone pole survived the fires and it still stands today, albeit somewhat hidden in the brush.

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On the right side of where the ranch stood, you’ll find a trail, which leads down the embankment to the area behind the ranch.  Be sure to wear proper clothing if you visit, as there is a lot of poison oak in the area, as well as possible rattlesnakes.  Just keep a keen eye as you walk and these things can be avoided.  As you make your way towards the lower area, you’ll come across this open area, where the 1969 exploitation film “The Ramrodder” shot scenes.  The cast of the film included Bobby Beausoleil, as well as Manson Family member Catherine “Gypsy” Share.

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Once you’ve reached the bottom of the lower embankment, the first thing you’ll see on your left is the location of the most famous photo of the Manson Family.  Several Family members gathered under this small cave rock for a photograph for Life Magazine.  As you see in the photo, the cave occasionally gets tagged with graffiti, but park rangers are usually quick to clean it off.

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Just ahead on the right, you’ll see another location where members of the Family posed for Life Magazine, between these two trees, where a hammock was draped.

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Charles Manson used to sit and play guitar on the large rock seen in the next photo.  The rock has since been partially destroyed.  It was here that Manson performed his audition for Terry Melcher.

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There are many trees throughout the lower area, which are littered with bullet holes, where Charles “Tex” Watson and Charles Manson practiced firing guns.

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There are, of course, many more sights to be found here, the deeper you dig into the history of the place.  Countless books have been written about it.  Out intention here is not a comprehensive breakdown, rather a broad overview.  If you’d like to see footage of the ranch from when the Manson Family lived there, we recommend the Robert Hendrickson documentary “Manson,” which was nominated for an Academy Award, as well as his sister documentary, “Inside the Manson Gang,” which is mostly comprised of unused footage from the first film.  If you’re considering a visit to the area, just be prepared by dressing appropriately and bringing plenty of water.  You’ll find it mostly calm and quiet today, but there is obviously a great deal of infamy surrounding the area, so it’s not for everyone.  We simply aim to acknowledge what happened here and show it as it is.

Related articles: Barker Ranch, The Manson Family