“I’ll Unleash Those Animals”

How Charles Manson spent the week before Helter Skelter

Charles Manson

On July 28, 1969, Manson Family members Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins murdered Gary Hinman, a chemist, musician, devout Buddhist and former friend of the Family.

They killed him during a disagreement over money involving a drug deal with a group of outlaw bikers.

Bobby stabbed Hinman, while the women took turns smothering the 34-year old victim with a pillow and wiping down fingerprints at the scene of the crime.

Bobby then left a sign, or clue for police, at the scene: A paw print and the words ‘Political Piggy’ — both drawn in Gary’s blood.

Gary was found a couple days later.

Part of Bobby’s motivation in killing Hinman was protecting Charles Manson. A day or more before the victim died, Charlie came to his Topanga Canyon home and slashed Gary badly with a sword — actually severing the top of his ear from his temple. Charlie then left, with another Family member (Bruce Davis), taking a set of Gary’s bagpipes and one of his cars with them.

Charlie wasn’t present at the actual murder, but his vicious act would no doubt have implicated him as an accessory to murder. He also could have been charged with assault or attempted murder, even if the victim survived.

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Gary Hinman, the bloody scene of the crime, and a mannequin used at trial to show how Manson wounded the victim with a sword

In 1969, Manson was on federal parole. He knew that he would go away for a long time if caught, even just on those potential assault charges. The only way to make sure that Hinman didn’t spill the beans, was if he was dead. So Charlie coerced Beausoleil into killing Hinman, to protect himself.

Charlie had hoped that the messages left at Topanga Canyon would implicate other people in Gary’s murder — namely the militant Black Panthers, who he currently (believed he) had a beef with. But when the body was discovered and the news released, it made no mention of the Panthers or anyone else. Frankly, the investigators had no idea who had killed Hinman.

But Charlie and the Family had been friends with Gary, and he knew it wouldn’t be long before someone connected the crime to them. So he had to get out of town while the investigation was ongoing.

On August 1st (two days after Hinman’s body was discovered), Charlie told some of his followers that he was planning to take off:

Charlie was talking about taking a trip up north to gather recruits… the girls cleaned up the Hostess Twinkies Continental Bakery Truck, outfitting the bed in the back for the Wizard’s important trip to Big Sur. Danny DeCarlo said that Charlie talked about being gone for about three months. Others say he talked about going north to recruit girls.” — The Family by Ed Sanders ©2002 Thunder’s Mouth Press

(Danny DeCarlo was a member of the outlaw motorcycle gang, the Straight Satans — the same gang that was involved in the botched drug deal that resulted in Gary Hinman’s murder.)

So, after telling everyone various different stories about where he was going, and why and how long he’d be gone, Charlie took off in the Hostess truck on August 3rd. As best as I was able to piece together, here are his activities for August 3–5th:

Sunday, August 3rd: Charlie departed Spahn in the early morning hours. He purchased gas at a Canoga Park station, using a stolen credit card. He spent the afternoon and early evening with friends in Santa Barbara. There, he acquired a sizable amount of drugs. He was still hopeful that he could rectify the situation with the Straight Satans. If he couldn’t pay them back, at least he could replace the drugs that were bad. He departed Santa Barbara in late evening, north along the coast toward Big Sur.

Monday, August 4th: Before dawn, Charlie met Stephanie Schram, a pregnant 17-year old at a service station near Gorda (about 50 miles south of Big Sur). Stephanie, who was camping near the beach with her boyfriend, walked into the gas station restroom where Manson was. He flirted with her, discovered she wasn’t happy with the guy she was with, and asked if she would rather join him. She agreed, as long as he would drive her back to San Diego in a couple days. They camped together beside the Pacific, dropping acid and frolicking in the ocean waters before making love. Later that day, Manson again purchased gas at a station in Lucia (along US Highway 1) using a stolen credit card.

Tuesday, August 5th: Manson arrived at Esalen Institute in Big Sur in the late afternoon. His memoir says nothing about what happened there, but we know from other sources that he experienced some kind of rejection. Stephanie later recounted to police, “Then we went by the Esalen Institute where I think Charlie had hopes to get some recording people on his side to record some music.

Officer: Did you go in with him?

Stephanie: No, I didn’t.

Officer: When he came out was there a change in his attitude at all?

Stephanie: No…

{She then contradicts what she just said}

Officer: When he came out of Esalen was he even more angry?

Stephanie: Well, yeah he was. He seemed to kind of stick to himself though then. I mean he was obviously angry, was not real communicative with me so I was just along. I was just kind of along at that point.”

In fact, after they departed Esalen, Charlie slapped Stephanie. She explained years later, “We had seen some people hiking in Big Sur and he was hoping they would provide us with dinner. They were afraid. He came into the van and gave me a slap and told me I ruined his chances for dinner that night.” — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications (including the following citations: Stephanie Schram interview with police in October 1969, Stephanie Schram, interviewed on the Tate-LaBianca Radio Program October 2011)

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17-year old Stephanie Schram

The next morning, Wednesday, August 6, Bobby Beausoleil was arrested for Gary’s murder:

A 21-year old transient arrested by a San Luis Obispo Highway Patrol officer on suspicion of car theft was booked into Los Angeles County Jail… on a murder count. The arrest was made Wednesday morning by patrolman Joe Humphrey after he checked out a vehicle parked at the side of Highway 101… and found a man asleep in the front seat. A radio check on the station wagon revealed it had been stolen in Los Angeles and had belonged to a Gary Hinman, 34, whose body was found in Topanga Canyon. He was the victim of a stabbing. Name of the suspect was given as Robert Kenneth Beausoleil. Officers said a blood-stained knife was found in the station wagon. — San Luis Obispo Tribune, August 1969

Not only was a bloody knife found, but bloody clothing was also discovered in the rear of the car. Bobby didn’t dispose of the evidence! He couldn’t have made himself more of a target if he’d hung a sign from the Fiat reading, ‘I did it’.

Charlie had no idea that Bobby was in jail, nor did anyone else in the Family at that time. Manson and Stephanie, however, did stop by Spahn Ranch that evening:

In the late afternoon, Charlie and Stephanie departed Big Sur, purchasing gas at service stations in San Luis Obispo and Chatsworth. They arrived at Spahn Ranch in time for a late dinner but left again the next morning headed south. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications

Charlie had promised Stephanie that if she joined him, he would take her to her sister’s house in San Diego. The two drove down on Thursday morning:

Manson, as agreed, drove Stephanie to San Diego on Thursday morning. They left early in the day, arriving in San Diego in either late afternoon or early evening.

“Stephanie had been living with her sister and brother-in-law. After getting Stephanie’s possessions and having dinner with her relatives, we headed back to Spahn. Though we could have made it back that night, I was in no hurry. I was clinging to the pleasures of the moment and losing the tensions that had been pounding in my head for the last few months. We spent the night sleeping beside the truck. We counted stars, told stories and made love. The early morning sun woke us up. It was August 8, 1969.”

They were actually pulled over in Oceanside, on their return north, and Charlie was ticketed for speeding. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications including citation from Charles Manson quoted in Manson: In His Own Words as told to Nuel Emmons ©1986 Grove Press

But on Thursday, August 7th, Linda Kasabian answered the phone at Spahn Ranch. It was Bobby, calling from jail to let everyone know he’d gotten busted. He told her that he was arrested and charged with murder for killing Gary Hinman.

She was very upset at the news of his arrest and asked what the Family could do to help him. He mentioned that maybe if there was a copycat murder, it might deflect attention from him. Over dinner, some of the women discussed the efficacy of such an act. Later, there were claims that some of them went tricking down Sunset Boulevard, to raise money for his defense. None of the women have confirmed this rumor. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications

It is also unclear whether Linda participated in that larger conversation, or whether she mentioned it to one person who passed it on to several others. We don’t even know if Linda believed that Bobby was guilty of the crime.

But the next day, Charlie drove back to Spahn Ranch with Stephanie. His desire to lay low and keep under the radar, or even to prospect for new ‘recruits’ seems to have been buried under his desire to show off his new love:

Friday, August 8th: Late morning on the 8th, Charlie and Stephanie returned to Spahn Ranch. Charlie was immediately told about Bobby’s arrest. He became very passive-aggressive; threatening to leave again because everything was falling apart and becoming TOTALLY NOT COOL ANYMORE!

He also made a point of informing everyone that he promised Stephanie to be true to her. That’s right, ladies: Charlie had become a one-woman man.

But upon his return, he was reminded of how much danger he faced. At any moment, the Panthers could show up — or Bobby could rat him out. Susan wrote, “Manson couldn’t even run to the desert. As long as Beausoliel {sic} was in jail accused of the Hinman murder, Charles Manson was stuck. If Manson made a run for it Bobby would assume Manson was throwing him to the lions and he’d roll over on Manson in a minute.”

Charlie knew that he might have precious little time before Bobby named names. So, he gathered everyone around and announced, “Now is the time for Helter Skelter.” — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications (including citations from The Myth of Helter Skelter by Susan Atkins-Whitehouse ©2012 Menelorelin Dorenay, and Will You Die For Me? by Charles Watson and Chaplain Ray ©1978 Fleming H. Revell)

As you’ll recall, Charlie had shot a black drug dealer on July 1st (attempting to clean up a botched burn of $2500 orchestrated by Charles ‘Tex’ Watson) and believed that he killed the man, AND that the victim was a member of the Black Panther Party. That was why he encouraged Bobby to leave some kind of clue at Hinman’s crime scene that would implicate the Panthers. But it’s also why it had been so imperative to support the Straight Satans (the purchase of drugs) and not the dealer (Gary Hinman, who sold them either $1k or $2k of mescaline) — because he needed the bikers to protect him.

After he thought he’d killed the drug dealer, Charlie starting talking non-stop about Helter Skelter: his vision of an apocalyptic global race war — it created a ‘circle-the-wagons’ mentality around Spahn Ranch (protecting him) and discouraged anyone from leaving (especially the women, who were told that they would never survive Helter Skelter without him — like Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten). This was all part of a larger plan to escape to Death Valley and hide during the ‘race war’ but that meant getting his hands on enough vehicles, provisions and money to survive out in the desert for months, maybe even years.

So when Bobby was arrested, Charlie knew there was a good chance that Beausoleil would name him as an accessory. He had to prevent that from happening (and was willing to consider the copycat murder idea, to throw suspicion OFF of Beausoleil) but he also needed to ramp up his plan to escape to the desert.

So, in the late afternoon he asked two of the women to go buy supplies, in anticipation of returning to Death Valley:

He sent Mary and Sandy in the Hostess truck with several stolen credit cards, to buy supplies. Mary was one of two people who had valid driver’s licenses that summer — herself and Linda…

They entered the store at 4:00pm and purchased several items, using a credit card in the name of ‘Mary Vitasek’ (the sister-in-law of Vern Plumlee — a Spahn Ranch hand). Mary Brunner forged the receipt.

All they had to do was act nonchalant and depart, but neither of these two weird birds could do that. Sandy, in particular, was acting strangely and the clerk (a Ms. Ramirez) noticed. As the women walked away from her register, she pulled out her list of stolen credit cards (mailed to merchants weekly) and checked if the card used was on that list.

It was. And again, if Mary and Sandy had simply left the store and calmly walked to their truck and driven away, they would have been free to return to Spahn Ranch. Instead, they went into another section of Sears and continued shopping. Ms. Ramirez alerted the store manager, who approached Mary and Sandy. They then fled the store, the manager chasing them into the parking lot.

The women got into the Hostess truck and peeled away but the manager kept going. He got into his own car and followed them out to Brand Boulevard, toward the freeway.

Mary was driving and, attempting to flee the manager, swerved into a gas station. There, Sandy tried to get rid of the evidence, tossing the credit card out the passenger window.

Mary was approaching the entrance to the 405 freeway when she crashed the truck. The police, who finally joined the chase, closed in on the two criminals. Both Mary and Sandy were arrested. The police found a number of stolen credit cards and eventually found Mary Vitasek’s card at the gas station.

Mary was charged with burglary and forgery, Sandy for burglary alone.

They were both booked at the West Valley Police Station in San Fernando. But that station didn’t have jail facilities for women, so they were transferred that evening to the Sybil Brand Institute in East Los Angeles, the main women’s jail for the county. Their movements that evening (shopping, car chase, initial arrest and transfer to Sybil Brand, including processing) took several hours. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing © 2019 Swann Publications

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Mary Brunner and Sandra Good

Around 11pm that night, Sandra Good called Spahn Ranch and spoke to Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme and told her that she and Mary had been arrested. She ran and told Charlie right away.

Charlie was enraged.

That meant that Mary and Sandy could not bring Manson the supplies he needed. That also meant that the Hostess truck was impounded, and the stolen credit cards had been confiscated.

That meant that Manson couldn’t escape.

Plus, it still meant that Bobby was still in that jail cell and could name Charlie at any moment.

“I walked away from the buildings, stood beside a tree and pounded my fists against it until the shaking rage left my body… I forgot that the girls were doing something illegal, forgot the murder of Hinman and the shooting of Crowe. All I could focus on was ‘What the fuck is happening here? One by one this fucked-up society is stripping my loves from me. I’ll show them! They made animals out of us — I’ll unleash those animals — I’ll give them so much fucking fear the people will be afraid to come out of their houses!” — Charles Manson quoted in Manson: In His Own Words as told to Nuel Emmons ©1986 Grove Press

He gathered Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian. He gave orders to Watson, and told the women to do whatever Tex told them.

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The Killers

Watson was selected because Manson knew he’d do as commanded, and because he owed Charlie for setting up the drug burn with Bernard Crowe.

Susan Atkins was selected because she’d been at Hinman’s and knew what went down there.

Patricia was selected because Charlie knew she’d been thinking of leaving, and he wanted her to prove her loyalty to him.

Linda was chosen because, with Mary in jail, she was the sole person at the ranch that summer with a valid driver’s license.

The four climbed into a Ford long-body sedan that they’d borrowed from a ranch hand. Tex got into the driver’s seat. Linda got into the front passenger seat — prepared to move into the driver’s seat if they were pulled over.

Susan and Pat climbed into the rear of the vehicle.

Manson had told Watson to drive to 10050 Cielo Drive — the former home of music producer Terry Melcher and current home of pregnant actress Sharon Tate. Manson said to kill everyone there, make it look like the Panthers did it, and get enough money to bail Mary and Sandy out of jail.

Just before the killers left, Charlie stuck his head into the open window of the Ford and said, “Leave something witchy.”

You can learn about the Manson Family trial here:

And you can visit MansonFamily.net for more news and information on the Family, their crimes and motives.

Written by

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

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