“I Just Did What I Was Told”

Tex Watson Part 2 — his early months with the Manson Family

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Charles ‘Tex’ Watson: Manson Family Murderer

In June 1968, Charles Watson picked up a hitchhiker while driving to the beach. The hitcher was drummer Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, who invited the Texan to his home. Shortly after Watson’s arrival, he was introduced to Charles Manson who was staying at Wilson’s home along with several young women.

Manson and the girls moved out of Wilson’s place and onto Spahn Ranch, a large property in Chatsworth near Simi Valley. But Watson had the chance to interact with them both before and after their move. And their philosophies caused Watson to question his previously cavalier lifestyle.

“I began to realize how alone I’d felt for the past year on my own in Los Angeles. Rich had been a good friend to me, and there’d been girls and friends from the wig shop and people you got to know through drug deals and parties. But now I saw how empty and plastic all that had been — people spending time with people but never knowing them, people using people but never caring, people like Dennis Wilson making you think they were your friends and then turning their backs on you. The Family was different. Here were people you could count on, people you could share everything with, people you could become so one with that you’d give your life for them and know they’d do the same for you.” — Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson and Chaplain Ray ©1978 Fleming H. Revell

Watson was living in the pool house at Wilson’s along with Deane Moorehouse, a 48-year old former pastor. Moorehouse had been given LSD by Charles Manson the previous fall and it had a dramatic effect upon the older man. His 15-year old daughter was now living with the Family, and Moorehouse had come looking for her but was soon enamored of Wilson and his entourage especially the young girls.

By August, Dennis was sick of his houseguests and there had been complaints by girls about Moorehouse. So Wilson asked both Deane and Charles Watson to leave. Watson wound up at Spahn Ranch with the Manson Family.

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A map of Spahn Ranch, hand-drawn by Charles ‘Tex’ Watson during his later murder trial

“Tall, rangy with a laid-back attitude, the women adored Charles Watson and he proved useful to Charlie with (property owner George) Spahn. It was Spahn who gave Watson the moniker ‘Tex’ for obvious reasons but also to differentiate him from Manson…

“To keep Tex off-balance and willing to perform hard unpaid labor, Charlie initially withheld full Family membership from him,” wrote (Manson biographer) Jeff Guinn. “He was allowed to be at the ranch and do whatever he was told, but Charlie said that Tex still had not surrendered his ego sufficiently to become a permanent member of the group. If Tex worked really hard and never complained, he might eventually convince Charlie otherwise. Tex, often befuddled with drugs, spent every waking hour demonstrating that he was an egoless, willing worker.”

Charlie essentially gave Mary Brunner to Watson. Tex was a favorite among the women. But Manson made sure that Mary was Watson’s primary girl.” — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications including quote from Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn ©2013 Simon & Schuster

Tex was soon indoctrinated into the Family’s LSD-fueled orgies. Years later he was able to understand how acid provided a subtle inroad for Manson to impose his philosophies and control over the group. It started with making each person feel that they belonged there, and continued with taking over their egos for him to manipulate.

“This was the Family that was going to protect me from the loneliness the city had come to mean to me; these were the people who would populate my world, the people I would live with, make love with, drop acid with, and finally kill with. It was a strange collection. Charlie would later refer to us as the ones society didn’t want and threw away. But who we were really didn’t matter all that much. The only personality that counted for anything was Charlie: Charlie — our father, Charlie — our god, Charlie — ourselves…

Each night the Family would eat together, smoke a little grass or hash, often drop acid. Then after the meal we’d all sit in a circle to listen to Charlie sing his songs and preach to us. He called it deprogramming, that is, stripping away all the untruth and ego and confusion that our parents and our society had laid on us from the moment we were born, stripping it away to get back to a purity and nothingness that was ours when we first came into the world. His teaching at first seemed complex, its terminology a strange mixture of Eastern religion, Scientology and pop psychology, but at its core was a simple, powerful message. Everything was one, he said.

As bizarre as Charlie’s teaching might sound to an outsider, it was compelling to us. The more acid we took and the more we listened, the more obvious and inevitable it all seemed.

There was no talk of killing, not yet. But Charlie’s theology of death — death in life, death as life — laid a compelling groundwork for murder.” — Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson and Chaplain Ray ©1978 Fleming H. Revell

George Spahn allowed the Family to stay at his ranch on the condition that they help out around the place — making things look tidy, helping with the pony rides. Manson used his relationship with Spahn to gain new followers.

“One of Charlie’s primary rules was keeping up a good front around guests and customers at Spahn. A lot of the girls were kept in semi-seclusion on the back part of the property. If anyone in the Family was visible, he was supposed to be working, making the place look like a real ranch, not a commune. We’d groom the horses along with Juan and the other stable hands, clean up around the buildings, do odd jobs, and sometimes the girls would serve as guides on weekends. If the customers seemed likely candidates for the Family, they’d find their guides spending a lot of the tour talking about this fantastic, loving guy named Charlie. If the visitors were interested and if they were girls, they’d sometimes end up sleeping with Charlie or Paul (Watkins). If the newcomer was male, one or two of the girls might take him back into one of the shacks or ravines and give him a taste of what Charlie’s kind of love was all about.” — Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson and Chaplain Ray ©1978 Fleming H. Revell

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In the summer of 1968, Manson invited some influential new friends to Spahn Ranch to listen to him perform his music. Charlie met both Gregg Jakobson and Terry Melcher through Dennis Wilson. Jakobson was a talent scout, and Melcher (the son of film star Doris Day) was a successful producer with Columbia Records. Tex remembered that meeting:

“One night Gregg and Terry Melcher came out to the ranch and we all sat around a fire back behind the buildings and ate and smoked dope together and Charlie sang his songs with the girls. We knew what he meant when he sang: A home is where you’re happy, not where you don’t belong. Burn all your bridges, leave your old self behind; You can do what you want to do If you’re strong in your mind. This was our home, this was where we belonged — with Charlie. We were happy and, to our ears, Charlie’s music was perfect, flawless, the girls’ random harmonies blending into a oneness that was beauty itself. Terry didn’t seem too impressed, though.” — Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson and Chaplain Ray ©1978 Fleming H. Revell

But that fall, Charlie wanted to leave Spahn Ranch and Hollywood. One of the Family’s newest member Catherine ‘Cappy’ Gillies had access to a meager desert property out in Death Valley. The Family headed there at Halloween 1968. It was a rough and arduous journey, through gulches that were dry and eroded.

“We filled up the bus with as much of our stuff as it would hold and started for the desert. The only food we had on the way was ten cases of canned chop suey that had gone bad. Every time someone opened one of the cans it would stink up the whole bus, but some people were hungry enough to eat the stuff anyway. Catherine directed us down the road to within about five miles of Golar Wash, as far as the bus could go. We piled everything on our backs and started walking. When we reached the Wash — standing there in the blazing desert sun with all our gear dumped around us — the seven miles of rocks and gullies and dried-up waterfalls did not look very inviting, but Charlie said to move out, so we did… Up in the desert, cut off from everything except the blazing sun and the dry hills and the acid and each other, it was even easier to let the past die, let everything you had been fade away like water vapor on the sand. It was a self-contained world as Spahn Ranch had never been, and up here it didn’t seem to matter quite so much that our so-called friends in Hollywood had let us down. In the desert we could truly be one. But Charles wasn’t satisfied for long.” — Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson and Chaplain Ray ©1978 Fleming H. Revell

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Myers Ranch in Death Valley

After a bad day in Death Valley, Charlie decided to go back to Los Angeles, reconnect with Melcher, Jakobson and Wilson, and get his music career jump-started. They arrived back to bad news:

“We got back to Spahn Ranch sometime in the third week of November. There was a letter waiting for me that had somehow gotten forwarded through several addresses to the ranch: I was ordered to report for an army physical in Los Angeles on December 2, my birthday.

Squeaky had stayed behind with George and she had news, for us too: Gregg Jakobson was in jail on some kind of drug charge. Charlie decided I should go to Terry Melcher and see if he would be willing to help bail Gregg out, even if he wouldn’t do anything for us. I don’t think Charlie was as much concerned about Gregg as he was still hanging on to the hope that somehow Jakobson would be able to do something for him professionally. At the time it didn’t occur to me to ask him why he was sending me to Melcher. I just did what I was told. The next morning I hitchhiked into Beverly Hills and went to 10050 Cielo Drive for the second time. I pushed the gate button as I’d seen Dean do and wandered up to the back door. The driveway was fairly long and I took it slowly, listening to see if anybody was up yet. Ten months later, on that same driveway, I would kill a human being for the first time in my life — the first, but not the last. The maid remembered me from my earlier visit with Dean and brought me into the kitchen. I was still pretty grubby from bumming around in the bus and while I sat there alone, waiting for her to get Terry, I felt out of place, over my head, especially when a glamorous star, who was living there with Terry at the time, walked in on me and demanded to know what I was doing there. Even after I mentioned Gregg it was obvious she didn’t think I belonged in that kitchen. Terry was friendlier, but I got the feeling he wasn’t particularly interested in getting involved. He said it was Saturday and there was no way he could get his hands on any money.” — Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson and Chaplain Ray ©1978 Fleming H. Revell

I will remind you that the man describing this encounter later sliced open a screen window at Melcher’s former home, climbed inside, and slaughtered everyone there including a pregnant woman. The former Texas college student who jet-setted to L.A. during his college career to show off to stewardesses and sample the drug culture, who stole someone’s business idea and then abandoned it for the easier job of drug dealing, and then dropped out to take acid and have sex with teenagers in the Manson Family, was clearly an opportunist who resented Melcher’s good fortune. Charlie may have sent him to Cielo Drive the following August, but the rage he expressed while he killed the residents is clearly linked to this event, the autumn before.

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Tex photographed in 1971 during his murder trial for Sharon Tate and six others

Watson used a previous car-accident injury at his Army physical, to get out of being drafted. Then he left the Manson Family immediately after he and Charlie listened to the Beatles’ White Album, while visiting a friend in Topanga.

Watson wanted more than what he had, living with the Family at dirty Spahn Ranch out in Hicksville. He opened the back door, and headed for the highway with his thumb stuck out.

Watson did not return until March, four months later.

Part 3 of this story will be posted early next week.

For more about Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, please visit MansonFamily.net.

Written by

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series. https://www.mansonfamily.net/

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