“The first thing I learned about the Helter Skelter murders was a lie. I was 18-years old, a senior in high school. We were covering the Sixties in American History when the teacher muttered the name, ‘Charles Manson’. I didn’t know who Manson was but I heard several classmates hitch in their breath at the sound of his name. My teacher explained that Manson was a cult leader who commanded his followers to kill people in 1969. Then she told us, “One of the victims was a movie star. Her name was Sharon Tate and she was pregnant when they stabbed her. One of the killers actually cut Sharon’s baby out of her womb!” After the murmur of ooh’s and ahh’s subsided, the class moved on to the subjects of Woodstock, the moon landing and the My Lai Massacre. But all I could picture the rest of the hour was a baby sliced out of a woman’s belly. A year later, a friend loaned me his paperback copy of Helter Skelter, the true crime tale of Charles Manson, his cult of thrill-kill followers and their infamous murder trials. Written by Vincent Bugliosi, the man who prosecuted the Manson Family for their crimes, Helter Skelter thoroughly explained the bizarre motive that was used to convict the killers and revealed to the public a criminal mastermind the likes of which we had never seen before. Charles Manson, an ex-convict, pimp, forger and auto thief, somehow brainwashed a bunch of hippie kids in California into murdering for him.”
— The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing
Like most of you, I first really learned the story of the Manson Family by reading Helter Skelter. And like you, I was fascinated by the tale spun in those pages. I will admit I was less interested in Charlie and in the murders, and more curious about the girls.
I saw myself in nearly all of the female members of the Manson Family — maternal Mary, starved-for-love Squeaky, Katie and Sadie, bookish Sandy, free-spirited Cappy.
It was certainly frightening that many of these young people turned to violence and it was tragic, what happened to their victims. But as someone who was born in the late’60s (but had no memory of that era) and someone who gravitated toward counterculture ideas, I found myself asking one eternal question:
What causes a girl or young woman to fall for someone like Manson? What lead these women to join the Family?
In many ways, that question is what led to the research and writing of ‘The Manson Family: More to the Story’, the book I published this past summer. Over the years, I had never fully answered the question, although I read a number of books about the subject, and watched most tv news programs and documentaries that I found.
I was never obsessed with the case, nor do I consider myself a ‘Mansonphile’. I simply wanted to know, I suppose, if I was as susceptible to a dangerous Svengali like Charlie as these young women were. I wanted to know how to spot the signs of cult-like behavior and persuasion. I wanted to learn how to protect myself, and others.
In early 2016, I went to dinner with my friend Jake. Over sushi, we caught each other up on all the details of our lives, and then sometime at the end of the conversation, we started chatting about ‘Helter Skelter’. I don’t remember why that topic came up, or who brought it up. But I do remember that, during the conversation, I mentioned to Jake, “You know that Helter Skelter wasn’t really the reason for the murders, right?”
Jake responded back, no — he assumed that was the correct motive. We continued to discuss the matter, and at one point he asked me — “So, what WAS the right motive? Why did the Manson Family kill all those people?”
Ladies and gentlemen, I have to admit that I was stumped! I knew (based on numerous things I’d read and seen over the years) that Helter Skelter didn’t fully explain why these crimes were committed but I actually had no reasonable answer. I hadn’t thought about it any further than to acknowledge that Helter Skelter wasn’t the reason why but I didn’t know what was.
And so Jake told me, “Well — you’re a researcher and a writer. I bet you if you explored this further, you can probably solve it.”
So that is the reason why I began researching this topic, in the summer of 2016. I spent one year doing nothing but research and then two more years writing (and continuing to gather evidence and information). In June 2019, I published ‘The Manson Family: More to the Story’ and now I have launched this website, in order to connect with others who want to learn the truth.
I did discover what I believe to be one primary motive, one secondary motive and four additional sub-motives (or motivations — including yes, Helter Skelter) to the murders of ten innocent people. But deeper down, I think I’ve identified a bigger purpose to my story: the only way to inform the public about what may lead an individual down the path of control and manipulation (like the Family was) is for those who are in cults and secret sects to speak out, when they can. To explain how they were attracted to those ideals and people and circumstances. The more we know, the better informed we are about the ways to protect ourselves and young people in our care.
What members of the Manson Family have not yet spoken out that you wish would?