Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Death Valley Days: One

An update on yesterday afternoon's blog about the archaeological/forensic dig going on at the Barker Ranch, the remote set of buildings in the Panamint Mountains at the southwestern edge of Death Valley used by Charles Manson and his “Family” as a refuge in 1968-69: this afternoon the Los Angeles Times provided an update on the excavation, but no new details were added to the report.

However, after having re-read yesterday’s blog, it occurred to me that I might have given too much emphasis to the issue of the “snuff” film rather than the issue of whether there might be bodies buried near the Barker Ranch in that remote area of Death Valley. As I pointed out, the use of “snuff” to refer to films (or videotape) purportedly containing scenes of actual murder was originated by Ed Sanders in his 1971 book on Manson, The Family (most recently reissued in 2002). But it occurred to me that there are actually two, unrelated, issues here: whether there were, in fact, any “snuff films” ever made, by Manson and his “Family” or by others, on 8mm or other storage media; and whether there might be any bodies to be found buried in the environs of the Barker Ranch.

Having reflected on the issue, I'm now wondering why law enforcement authorities believe there might be bodies buried near the Barker Ranch in the first place. My interest rekindled by the archaeological/forensic research mission presently going on, this morning I was motivated to re-read Ed Sanders' The Family, the first edition hardcover I bought in the early 1970s (the edition published prior to a lawsuit that required its author to remove any references to "The Process"). He makes no reference to murders or burials that might have taken place at the Barker Ranch, although he does refer to murders in the state that occurred when Manson Family members were placed in the area. One brief sentence, however, in today's report explains the reason for the recent investigation:

A member of the Manson family later suggested that there were bodies buried at Barker Ranch.

Apparently this information surfaced many years after Sanders published his book. I should note that a preliminary dig occurred at the ranch in February of this year, so perhaps the information surfaced only recently.

To reiterate the conclusion I made at the end of yesterday's blog: we shall see.

No comments: