Showing posts with label Charles Manson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Manson. Show all posts

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Bent Sørensen of Aalberg University (Denmark) left a comment in connection with my blog entry yesterday on Susan Atkins. I encourage everyone to read the complete text of his post, but I must say I was struck by his speculation, “One wonders whether she [Atkins] does not continue after all these years to be a victim, first of Manson’s manipulations, now of the continued hatred and fear of this dark American icon.” Actually, the same thought had occurred to me as one of the reasons why a virtually helpless woman would not be released from prison simply in order to die, but I chose not to include it in yesterday’s blog, so I thank Bent for giving expression to the idea. As familiar an icon in American popular culture as Darth Vader and Nazi SS troopers, Charles Manson (whose stylized icon is pictured) has become a conventional symbol of evil (perhaps as well-known as the image of the Devil with horns and tail), even by those who know next to nothing about him or the crimes for which he is infamous. (If you don't think so, click the link to the Los Angeles Times news article I made available on yesterday's blog and look closely at the nature of the responses and comments to Susan Atkins' petition for compassionate release.)

I encourage those interested to read Bent's fascinating discussion of Charles Manson as an icon of transgression, which is available on his lectures page at his university website. I've also included a link on the list on the right to Bent's Rarerarefind blogspot.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Death Valley Days: Two (Over And Out)

The L. A. Times reported late this afternoon (4:58 PDT) that the two areas near the Barker Ranch site where bodies were suspected of being buried yielded nothing but a shell casing, ash and small animal bones. According to the latest report, Inyo County sheriff's investigators today apparently called off their search for human remains at the site. Lt. Jim Jones of the Inyo Country Sheriff's office is quoted as saying, "forensic testing indicates that there were no human remains in or around that site." Whether Charles Manson and his "Family" committed murders heretofore unaccounted for thus remains unconfirmed.

Initial reports indicated the investigation would continue through Thursday, but apparently the investigation was ended today given the complete absence of any promising evidence. As I noted in an early blog entry, there was a similar kind of search at the ranch a couple of months ago, which also turned up nothing. The claim that there were bodies buried there was never entirely believable, but now, in any case, the matter can be laid to rest in the absence of any leads.

And that, as they say, is that. The question remains as to why investigators found the assertion "within the realm of probability." I should add that I have no idea how often Ed Sanders (author of The Family) updates his website, but I noticed no comment on the investigation on his website, which could be interpreted as an indication of his skepticism regarding the recent endeavor. I have ordered a copy of his 2002 update of The Family; if there is any information in it that can shed light on this recent activity, I will certainly let you know.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Death Valley Days: 1.1

The current dig at the Barker Ranch is promising to become the equivalent of Geraldo Rivera's opening of Al Capone's vault. Here are excerpts from this afternoon’s Los Angeles Times website report, filed by Louis Sahagun at 4:36 p.m. PDT (updates may supplant this initial report):

A day’s work in 100-degree heat at a remote ranch once used as a hangout for the notorious Charles Manson family yielded only a .38-caliber shell casing today. But a posse of Inyo County sheriff’s investigators was expected to continue the dig in Death Valley National Park.


Of particular interest today were two sites where cadaver dogs and analyses of soil samples produced mixed but somewhat encouraging results that could possibly support lingering rumors that bodies may be buried at Barker Ranch. The collection of sheds and a rock-and-plaster ranch house are five miles up a rugged black rock canyon at the park’s southwestern boundary.

Inyo County Sheriff Bill Lutze has said a total of five sites may be excavated over the next few days amid temperatures forecast to hover near 110 degrees. Sheriff’s authorities were expected to provide reporters with a progress report later today.

To reiterate: we shall see. Aside from the allegation, without source, by a former Manson "Family" member that there are bodies buried at the Barker Ranch, there may be other motivations for the dig that are, in fact, unrelated to the Mansion "Family."

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.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Death Valley Days

According to a report published this afternoon on the Los Angeles Times website, early tomorrow morning (Tuesday), Inyo County Sheriff’s investigators, accompanied by forensic scientists, will begin lugging portable ground-penetrating radar, magnetometers, shovels, and other excavating tools up to the Barker Ranch at the edge of Death Valley on a mission to confirm or deny speculation that there may be graves at the ranch, used in 1969 as a secluded hideout by Charles Manson and his so-called “Family.” The excavation at the Barker Ranch, located at the southern end of Death Valley National Park—in terrain so formidable that it can only be reached by 4-wheel drive vehicles—is expected to continue through Thursday.

I look forward to the findings of this intriguing archaeological/forensic research mission, as it has been rumored for almost forty years that the Manson Family committed murders that were recorded on film (or video, depending on the specific version of the rumor). I invite readers to read David Kerekes and David Slater’s book, Killing For Culture (Creation Books, 1994) for further information on the putative Barker Ranch murders. Kerekes and Slater aver that the idea of the Manson family making “snuff” films dates back to Ed Sanders’ book on Charles Manson, The Family (first published by E.P. Dutton, 1971). It was Ed Sanders, in this book, who coined the term “snuff” to describe the content of these elusive films purportedly containing scenes of actual murder. Kerekes and Slater write:

These “whispers” [of snuff films] date back to Ed Sanders’ book, The Family. Here, Sanders states that Family members stole an NBC-TV wagon loaded with film equipment sometime during the Summer of 1969. The truck was subsequently dumped and most of the film given away, but Manson took one of the NBC cameras with him to Death Valley in September [1969]. The Family were also in possession of three Super-8 cameras. It is alleged that they shot porn-movies and, determines Sanders, “the Barker Ranch chop-stab dance, where they [the Family] danced in a circle, then pretended to go into frenzies—attacking trees, rocks and one another with knives.” He adds, “God knows what else they shot with their stolen NBC camera”.... Speaking with an anonymous one-time member of the Family, Sanders learns of a “short movie depicting a female victim dead on a beach” (Killing For Culture, p. 223).

According to the Los Angeles Times report, locals in the area predict the investigators will turn up nothing but ancient Indian graves. Others, however, say the situation is more problematic in that some California state park rangers claim that if indeed human remains are discovered at the Barker Ranch, they may be connected to an unrelated Death Valley mystery from 1996, the mysterious disappearance of four German tourists.

We shall see.