Poisoned by the Manson Family

The Manson Family gave her a burger with 10 tabs of acid to silence her testimony

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Manson Family member Barbara Jeanne Hoyt

In 1970, members of the Manson Family (a commune and cult led by charismatic psychopath Charles Manson) went on trial for murdering Sharon Tate and several others. This is the story of one of those witnesses, and the Family’s attempt to silence her.

Born December 27, 1951 in either Idaho or Washington State as Barbara Jeanne Hoyt, she was the daughter of William George Hoyt and Jeanne McPherson. William, Barbara’s father, was born in 1919 in Bezenet, France during World War I. His father was an American GI and his mother was French. They fell in love, married and had a child together before the War was over. The family was then transferred to Ontario, Canada and later to the United States. William’s father remained in the service and the child grew up in several states with his siblings.

William was drafted into service for World War II and later met and married Jeanne McPherson. Barbara’s mother was born in Burkburnett, Texas and her father had also served in World War I.

Barbara had two older siblings, William Junior and Katherine. The family moved from Idaho to the Los Angeles area sometime in the late ’50s or early ’60s. There, Barbara attended William H. Taft High School in the San Fernando Valley. Barbara was attractive and curvaceous with medium brown hair and an open smile, and wore glasses.

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A highschool yearbook picture of Barbara Hoyt

But by her teens, her older siblings had graduated and moved out, and she was alone with her parents. There were fights, and conflicts, and on April 1st, 1969, she ran away from home.

She decided to hitchhike. A VW van pulled up beside Barbara. A blonde teenager was driving, and a dark-haired woman was beside her.

The blonde was none other than Deirdre Shaw, the daughter of Angela Lansbury (star of stage and screen including Murder She Wrote). Didi, as Deirdre was known to friends, was friends with many of the people in the Manson Family including Nancy Pitman. Pitman and Shaw both met the Family around the same time (early spring 1968) and Shaw frequently let members of the Manson Family use her mother’s credit cards. Didi wasn’t exactly a full-fledged member of the Family — she never lived with them, but she certainly was close to them for well over a year.

The other young woman was Stephanie Rowe. She too had joined the Family in early ’68 and was one of the ‘Witches of Mendocino’.

Didi and Stephanie picked Barbara up in the VW van and brought her to a house in Canoga Park where the Family was staying.

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Barbara Hoyt in 1969

The following is excerpted from The Manson Family: More to the Story

Barbara had run away from home. She explained, “I got in a fight with my dad — I don’t even remember what it was about — and stomped off… I was picked up by two of the girls — one was Deirdre Shaw, Angela Lansbury’s daughter. I met Charlie that first night. They had dinner, and everybody sat on the floor. We passed around casseroles and salads… After the meal, the group shared a couple of joints. Then Charlie got out his guitar.”[1]

The following day, Manson took Barbara “for a motorcycle ride and we went for doughnuts. He was very nice.”[2] Then she learned about Helter Skelter. “Sadie was the one who told me about it. She told me Helter Skelter was coming. She said the blacks were going to rise against the whites, but the Family would escape it. They were building dune buggies with fur seats and gun mounts. They were making clothes out of hides… I thought, ‘Wow!… It’s like camping’.”[3]

Hoyt didn’t really believe the story about a race war, but escaping into the desert on dune buggies sounded like a hoot.

  • The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications (including the following quotes: [1,3] Barbara Hoyt quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine; [2] Barbara Hoyt quoted in ‘Free Manson Family Members Haunted by Horror” by Doug Kramer ©2009 Cleveland.com

Barbara then joined the Family that summer at Spahn Ranch, the old movie backlot in Chatsworth that was primarily used then for rented pony rides. The owner of the ranch allowed the Family to stay at the property on and off during ‘68-’69 because he owned the IRS for back taxes and couldn’t afford to pay his hired help and the Family offered to do a lot of the work for him.

Barbara wound up becoming one of the caretakers of the children, along with Patricia ‘Katie’ Krenwinkel and Ruth Ann ‘Ouisch’ Moorehouse.

In June 1969, Catherine ‘Gypsy’ Share brought a new person to the ranch: Linda Kasabian. Kasabian was a young wife and mother and she had her 10-month old daughter Tanya with her. Tanya joined Pooh Bear (aka Valentine Michael Manson, Charlie’s son with his first follower Mary Brunner), Ze Zo Ze Se Gadfrack Glutz (Susan ‘Sadie’ Atkins’ son), Dennis DeCarlo (the son of Straight Satans biker Danny DeCarlo) in the ‘nursery’ which was usually the caves of Spahn Ranch.

On July 1, 1969, Charles Manson shot a black drug dealer in an altercation in Hollywood. He fled back to Spahn Ranch and from there, became increasingly paranoid and dangerous. He believed he killed the man (the victim actually lived) and he thought the man was a member of the militant Black Panther Party (he wasn’t) and was convinced that the Panthers were going to come kill him. He became focused on two things at that time: getting to Death Valley so he could hide from the Panthers (and law enforcement) and staying alive long enough to do so.

Staying alive meant deputizing everyone in the Family to ‘circle the wagons’ to protect him.

Charlie’s other preoccupation that July was military-style training. These included field exercises like the proper way to kill somebody (stab them then yank the knife upward, apparently) and martial arts. The man conducting Kung Fu lessons was known as Karate Dave. Lynette recounted, “Charlie was driving the three-wheeler around the Valley one night with three of us girls in the back when, at a stoplight, we met Karate Dave on a rust-dusted Indian motorcycle — a nice old bike. Dave wasn’t bad looking either. He was atypically clean-cut, blond, and masculine, and he came home with us after a few more stoplights. Charlie called him Karate Dave after learning he had a black belt.”[1] Barbara Hoyt had a crush on Dave, who was AWOL from the military. At Spahn Ranch, Karate Dave got bit by a rattlesnake and was glassy-eyed for hours but recovered.

  • The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications (including quote from Reflexion by Lynette Fromme ©2018 Peasenhall Press)

Karate Dave’s real name was Dave Lipsett and in online forums about a decade ago, Barbara referred to him as her boyfriend.

At the end of July, the Manson Family did kill a man — musician and chemist Gary Hinman, who had been their friend. Bobby Beausoleil stabbed him to death. Mary Brunner, Susan Atkins, Charles Manson, Danny DeCarlo and another man (Bruce Davis) were all involved in the murder.

A few days after Hinman’s brutal slaying, Charlie fled town. He returned about five days later to bad news: Beausoleil had been arrested. Charlie knew that Bobby could rat him out, reveal his role in Hinman’s death and therefore send Charlie to prison.

In prison, Charlie would be vulnerable to black gangs operating at the behest of the Black Panthers, he believed. So to create a distraction before he could get his ass out of town, he decided to unleash Helter Skelter: his vision of apocalypse. A violent global conflict between black and white people.

He decided to have his followers kill establishment white people and pin the murders on black militants, so black people would retaliate and start this war.

He gathered Charles ‘Tex’ Watson, Sadie, Katie and Linda Kasabian. He told Tex what to do, and told the women to follow Watson’s orders. Then he told Sadie to go get dark clothing, to wear:

Sadie went to find creepy-crawling clothing for everyone. She first asked Barbara Hoyt to bring dark clothes from the back ranch up to the driveway. But she didn’t wait for Barbara.

Barbara said, “I got a call on the ranch’s field phone from Sadie, who was up at the front of the ranch. She wanted me to bring three sets of dark clothes. I got the clothes from a big pile we kept and brought them to the front, but they’d already left.”[1]

… Barbara (later) claimed that as the four drove toward the road, Juan Flynn asked where they were going. Hoyt said that Sadie shouted out the window that they were going to go kill ‘some motherfucking pigs.’ This is not accurate. Juan Flynn did testify that he “had been watching TV in the trailer when Sadie came in, dressed in black. ‘Where are you going?” Juan asked. “We’re going to get some fucking pigs,’ Sadie replied. When she left, Juan looked out the window and saw her get into Johnny Swartz’ old yellow Ford. Charlie, Clem, Tex, Linda, and Leslie got in also.”[2]

Flynn was actually referring to the following night, when the killers set off on the mission of murder that resulted in the deaths of married couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca — not the night that Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel and Kasabian went to the Tate/Polanski house. Barbara, who often attended parole hearings for the convicted members of the Manson Family, got this wrong. Sadie did not say she was going to go ‘kill’ some pigs — she told Flynn she was going to go ‘get’ some pigs, and not in the presence of any other witnesses. She said it to him while he was watching TV in the trailer, alone, then she left the trailer and through a window, he saw her get into a car with the people he named in his testimony.

On Friday, August 8th, when Sadie, Katie, Linda and Tex departed for Cielo Drive, the mission that resulted in the murders of Sharon Tate and her guests, Barbara did not actually see the killers depart Spahn Ranch. Hoyt’s own statement in 2009 to Los Angeles magazine was, again, “I got the clothes from a big pile we kept and brought them to the front, but they’d already left.”[3] She was not there when the four departed and could not verify what, if anything, they might have said.

… (Linda) said, “We got about to the middle of the driveway… and Charlie called us and told us to stop, and he came to the car to my side of the window, stuck his head in, and told us to leave a sign. He said, ‘You girls know what I mean, something witchy’.”[4]

Barbara then came up the drive with the clothes, only to find Manson alone. She didn’t see Juan Flynn or any others. The car had departed.

  • The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications including the following quotes: [1,3] Barbara Hoyt quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine; [2] Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry ©1974 W.W. Norton & Company; [4] Official Court Transcript: July 1970 trial testimony of Linda Kasabian

During her later trial testimony and at parole hearings for the killers, Barbara Hoyt often made statements were provably false. Yet there is no question that she was witness to important events in the Manson Family timeline and she had good reason to fear them.

Barbara Hoyt waits to testify in the Manson Family trial

The night after Sharon Tate and the guests at 10050 Cielo Drive were killed, a married couple in Los Feliz were targeted for murder by the Family. A week later, the entire Family were arrested at Spahn Ranch on suspicion of auto theft and other charges. They were released two days later due to administration failures with the warrant. Charlie suspected a ranch hand, Donald ‘Shorty’ Shea of tipping off the police, and at the end of August he sent several of his followers after Shorty.

Bruce Davis, Steve ‘Clem’ Grogan, Tex Watson and several others participated in the brutal murder of Shorty Shea.

Barbara believed she heard Shorty screaming, and later testified to this. However her time frame does not align with the later statements of the killers.

After Shorty’s murder, the Family fled to Death Valley. There, Barbara learned about the Tate/LaBianca murders:

“In early September I was taking a nap in the bedroom at Myers Ranch… I woke up and heard Sadie talking to Ruth Ann Moorehouse. I didn’t pay attention until I heard the name ‘Tate’. Then I started listening. She said that Sharon Tate was the last to die, that she had to watch the others die first. She said that Sharon had called for her mother. She said that Abigail had called for God, and she said Tex ran over and gutted her.

I walked back to Barker Ranch and saw Tex… He said, ‘Barbara, your face is all the colors of the desert’. I thought that if he or anyone else figured out what I knew I wasn’t going to be alive anymore… I started working on trying to get out of the desert.”

  • Barbara Hoyt quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine

Meanwhile, Charlie was losing control.

Around September 15th, Charlie tried to force Simi Valley Sherry to perform oral sex on Juan Flynn. Sherry refused and Charlie beat her soundly for her insubordination. He then forced Barbara to do what Sherry refused and in fear for her safety, Hoyt complied.

That night, Sherry and Barbara started talking. Barbara whispered that she overheard Sadie talking about stabbing someone. In panic, the teens decided to run away.

…When Charlie discovered Sherry and Barbara missing, he tore into whoever was on sentry and then drove into Ballarat. He found the girls eating breakfast in the local General Store. He stood outside and tried to lure them back to him, using some kind of ‘witchy’ hand signals. The girls went outside and flatly told him they weren’t coming back. Charlie simmered down, gave them some cash and wished them well. The girls got a lift to Trona by the owner of the store, where they bought some shoes and purchased bus tickets back to L.A.

  • The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications
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A mugshot image of Barbara Hoyt

Barbara was at her grandmother’s that fall when the Family were arrested in Death Valley on charges of arson and property destruction. But Sadie was in Sybil Brand facing murder charges for Hinman’s death and started snitching. This led to law enforcement finally solving the Tate/LaBianca murders and the appointment of Vincent Bugliosi as lead prosecutor.

Bugliosi wanted Barbara to testify, and called her several times in early 1970 to talk with her. But the Family were also calling the young woman, and pressuring her to stay loyal to Manson.

Barbara was terrified for her life and that of her family. But she also felt a moral responsibility to tell the truth and was seriously considering Bugliosi’s request to take the stand.

The trial began in July 1970, and Barbara was scheduled to take the stand sometime in September. But under pressure from the Family, she agreed to take a vacation with Ouisch.

On September 5th, Barbara Hoyt flew to Hawaii with Ruth Ann Moorehouse. The Family had continued to hound Barbara, insinuating that her folks could be in jeopardy if she testified against Charlie, and that she’d be happier if she was back with them.

“I was getting death threats,” Hoyt recalled. “Sometimes I knew who was calling — it was Squeaky or Sandy. The prosecution had to give my depositions to the defense. So they knew what I was going to say, and they knew it wasn’t going to be good for Charlie. I stayed in touch with a few of them, trying to make them think I was still on their side.”[1]

According to Sanders, “Clem drove Barbara and Ouisch to one of the Family hideouts, a house in North Hollywood which was being rented by one of the newer Family members, Dennis Rice. Rice took the pair to the airport, bought them tickets, and gave them fifty dollars in cash plus some credit cards… Using assumed names, the two girls flew to Honolulu, where they booked the penthouse suite of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. Barbara saw little of the islands, however, since Ouisch, sure the police would be looking for Barbara, insisted they remain in the suite… At approximately the same time each morning, Ouisch made a long-distance call. (The number was that of a pay phone… three blocks from the Rice residence. At least one of these calls was to Squeaky…) Just after the call on the ninth, Ouisch’s manner suddenly changed. ‘She became very serious and looked at me kind of strangely,’ Barbara said. Ouisch told Barbara that she had to go back to California, but that Barbara was to remain in Hawaii. She called and made a reservation on the 1:15 flight to Los Angeles that afternoon. They caught a cab to the airport, arriving just before noon. Ouisch said she wasn’t hungry, but suggested that Barbara eat something. They went into a restaurant, and Barbara ordered a hamburger. When it arrived, Ouisch took it and went outside, telling Barbara to pay the check. There was a line at the cash register, and for several minutes Barbara lost sight of Ouisch. When she came out, Ouisch gave her the hamburger, and Barbara ate it while they were waiting for Ouisch’s flight. Just before she was to board, Ouisch remarked, ‘Imagine what it would be like if that hamburger had ten tabs of acid in it.’ Barbara’s response was, ‘Wow!’ She had never heard of anyone taking more than one tab of LSD.”[2]

After Ruth Ann departed, Barbara “then went into the city. All of a sudden I was feeling really weird, very high, and I realized there were ten tabs of acid in the hamburger. I got to a bathroom and made myself throw up. I don’t know how I did it, but I got to the steps of the Salvation Army building… A man asked me, ‘Are you all right?’ I said no. I told him to call Mr. Bugliosi. They took me to a hospital and gave me Valium by IV to bring me down…. That’s when I lost consciousness.

Even though they tried to kill me, I had to testify. I’d seen Sharon Tate’s mother on TV talking about her grief. That’s what swayed me… What it finally came down to for me was this: Did I want to be able to live with myself when I got old? I decided that I did.”[3]

Barbara was flown home a few days later and became one of the most willing witnesses against the killers. The attempt to silence her actually turned her into a weapon against the Family for the rest of her life.

  • The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications including the following quotes: [1,3] Barbara Hoyt quoted in “Manson: An Oral History” by Steve Oney ©July 2009 Los Angeles magazine; [2] The Family by Ed Sanders ©2002 Thunder’s Mouth Press
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Barbara Hoyt stands with lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi

On December 18, 1970, five members of the Manson Family were indicted for poisoning Barbara Hoyt including Ruth Ann, Squeaky, Steve Grogan, Dennis Rice and Gypsy. They were charged with attempting to silence a witness. All were all sentenced to time in jail, with the exception of Ruth Ann who, 8-months pregnant, fled the state.

Barbara was again called to testify in the trial against Charles ‘Tex’ Watson in the summer of 1971. After that, she left California, determined to put the past behind her, always mindful that the Family had targeted her once and might do so again. Over the next decade, Barbara went to school to become a critical care nurse. She also married and gave birth to a daughter, before divorcing in the early ’80s.

In recent years, Barbara gave several eyewitness accounts about the Manson Family and their crimes, in news programs and documentaries.

A longtime resident of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, Barbara also spoke at many parole hearings (in opposition to release) and became a close friend of Sharon Tate’s younger sister, Debra.

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Barbara Hoyt (seated) with Sharon Tate’s younger sister Debra

Barbara died December 3, 2017 of kidney failure. She was 63 years old.

You can learn more about other Family members here:

Written by

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

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