Unraveling a mystery about the Manson Family
(this was originally posted at https://www.mansonfamily.net/)
She is mentioned only three times in the pages of Helter Skelter, her name spelled as ‘Madaline Joan Cottage’.
She was present at the November 5, 1969 ‘suicide’ of John Phillip Haught aka Zero aka Christopher Jesus. Madaline (or Madeline as other publications and websites spelled her name) was allegedly lying in bed with Haught at the Venice Beach house where several were staying. Haught picked up a gun and said he was going to play Russian Roulette and then spun the cylinder. He fired, instantly killing himself, although when police were finally dispatched to the scene they found the gun had been wiped clean of prints.
There is one photograph of ‘Madeline Joan Cottage’ in the pages of Helter Skelter, as well. She is standing beside the bed of a pickup truck, during one of the police raids at Spahn Ranch. Squeaky, Brenda, Sadie and Katie are sitting in the bed of the truck but only Madeline and Squeaky are looking at the camera.
During the summer raids at Spahn Ranch, the October raid at Barker/Myers Ranches in Death Valley and the police report from Haught’s suspicious shooting death in Venice, Miss Cottage alternately gave the names:
- Madeline Joan Cottage
- Shirley Amanda McCoy
- Patricia Baldwin
- Linda Lou Baldwin
Of course, everyone in the Family had alternate names — nicknames, aliases, pretend names, straight names. As I wrote in The Manson Family: More to the Story:
“Nicknames, false names, even switching names — these were ways of shedding their skins, discarding past identities. Nicknames gave them an amorphous relationship with one another with a titular head — Charlie himself — as a fixed constant. Charlie never pretended to be Bruce Davis, or Bruce Bluestein. Charlie was Charlie. But the others could reinvent themselves at whim. Every day they could be a blank slate. For them, there was nothing nefarious about these changes. For Charlie, it was another tool of control.”
“Many accounts of the Family led us to believe Charlie gave his followers their nicknames. Sometimes he did (like Sadie) but often they were bestowed by George Spahn…
No matter who originated them, Charlie embraced the new names. After all, when you give people new names, you take away their past identity. They can belong to you. ‘Oche’ was probably easier to smack around than intelligent nature-lover Mary Brunner. ‘Brenda’ was stronger and braver than the surfing socialite Nancy, and eventually ‘Katie’ would be more likely to stab someone, than former file clerk Patricia Diane.”
— The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing, Published June 2019 from Swann Publications
When Sherry Cooper (aka Simi Valley Sherry, a 15-year old part-time horse groomer at Spahn Ranch) was arrested, she used the name ‘Ruth Ann Huevelhorst’ which was actually Ouisch’s (Ruth Ann Moorehouse) married name. Switching names and playing with identities was definitely part of the Family’s raison d’etre. But at some point, law enforcement did figure out who each person in the Family really was and the public learned about each of them.
That picture above of Madeline Joan Cottage shows her looking defiant, almost with a smile. Scrappy, short — maybe a tomboy? Her mugshots are even tougher looking:
She isn’t one of Charlie’s prettier girls. She was rumored to be one of Bill Vance’s (true name possibly William Rex Cole) gals. She was called Little Patty and, according to her arrest record, she was indeed petite (just 5’2” and 100 pounds):
Allegedly, Ms. Cottage was also known as ‘Crazy Patty’ in the Family and ‘mean as a snake’. After her ‘involvement’ with Zero’s death/suicide/murder, she left the scene. A passage in Ed Sanders’ book The Family alluded to her having gone east with Bill Vance to Missouri and then having been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown.
As I began the process of researching this book (summer 2016), I was especially curious to know what had become of all the Manson Family women — obviously we know about the ones who were/are incarcerated (Susan, Pat Krenwinkel, Leslie, Squeaky, Sandy, Gypsy) but I was profoundly intrigued about the lesser-known women. The ones who haven’t spoken publicly about their time with Charlie. The ones who have kept under the radar.
I didn’t intend to ‘out’ anyone who has led a law-abiding and private life since the bloody shenanigans of 1969 but I did manage to locate some of the women. I know where Ruth Moorehouse is. I know where Mary Brunner lives. I found fairly solid traces of many others. But I never found anything on Madeline (or Madaline) Joan Cottage.
And then, just before my book went to press, I read this blog:
In it, the author documents a series of newspaper articles that were published in the Stanberry Headlight, a publication based in western Missouri. The author (Neal Sheehan — not the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, but a local reporter who just happens to have the same name) explains that he heard, in 1971, that a group of hippies were running a local farm in nearby McFall, Missouri. He went out to meet them and interview them, and encountered three young people at this farm: two women, one man. The man and one of the women (a women who identified herself as LINDA BALDWIN) were friendly. The other woman, identified as PATRICIA BALDWIN, was decided UNfriendly, even warning the others not to trust anyone who came around snooping.
It turns out that ‘Linda Baldwin’ was none other than Manson Family member Claudia Leigh Smith and ‘Patricia Baldwin’ was our own Madeline Joan Cottage. The man was a young man from California — not clear who he was, but does not appear to be anyone associated with the Manson Family during the time of the murders and arrests.
So, we have two Family women using two of the aliases previously used by Madeline Cottage. Hmmm.
Then, to get even wilder, we discover that the farm is actually being leased by BILL VANCE aka William Rex Cole aka Bill Van Sickle aka Billy Vansicki aka Duane Schwarm or whatever the fuck his name d’jour was. Vance/Cole (personally I don’t think any of these names are his true one) had gotten himself ordained as a minister from one Youth-for-Life ministry based in Florida. Then Cole rented the McFall farm and property under the name of Youth-for-Life, acting as Nubian Farms. They were trying to grow tomatoes and other produce, but the way they set up the plants wasn’t conducive for growing and never bore much fruit.
Also, in this blog series, we learn that Sergeants Whiteley and Gunther (the investigative team for Gary Hinman’s murder) arrived in McFall to try to locate the whereabouts of a recorded tape, purportedly in Cole/Vance’s possession, which included an alleged audio reenactment of the murder of Hinman by the Family! However, by the time the investigators landed in Missouri, Bill Vance, Little Patty, Claudia Smith and the other young man were gone (along with any potential recordings). Ed Sanders later learned that Little Patty aka Crazy Patty had gone demented, burned down a building on the farm’s property, and Vance called her parents in Pittsburgh, who retrieved poor Madeline and checked her into a mental health facility in Memphis, Tennessee.
Vance and Smith, who had just delivered a baby girl in late ’70 while living in MIssouri, had fled back to California where they soon married. Records show they divorced in ’78. I know Claudia Smith’s whereabouts, as well as that of her daughter, Dawn’s. But again, out of respect, I feel no need to reveal that information. Dawn, the now-grown child, certainly hasn’t done anything to warrant scrutiny by the Mansonphiles and her mother’s crimes are long, long in the past (a drug arrest, among her Manson Family-related arrests).
But Madeline, Madeline — wherefore art thou Madeline? Will it CREEP you out to learn that one of the items that investigators found at the scene of the abandoned Missouri farm was a letter, sent from some Manson affiliate in California to the gang at Nubian Farms, which read:
“That’s really something Patty leaving. I sure as hell hope she keeps her mouth shut… Don’t take any chance with Patty. I don’t know the whole story but from what you wrote in the letter it doesn’t sound too safe… You take it easy. Be careful. I don’t know what Patty’s trip is. Don’t take the chance. She could (blank) you up.”
— Letter from an unnamed party, summer 1971
As my research went on and on, from 2016 into 2017 and even 2018, during the process of writing my book, it confounded me that I found literally ZERO trace of Madeline Cottage. Zero! Not one little whiff, not one iota, not one tiny clue. She seemed to have completely disappeared.
As I prepared to launch the book last summer, and found this information about the goings-on in western Missouri, I worried that Bill Vance (who was definitely involved in the murder of Shorty Shea, so not someone to be trifled with) might have done something to Little Patty? Was she silenced, so as not to testify about what REALLY happened when Zero died? Vance was also at the Venice Beach property when poor John Haught ‘took’ his own life. Is there any chance that her parents didn’t send her to a mental hospital in Memphis but that something far more nefarious happened to this young women?
I’m a researcher, and one of my tools in finding information (and particularly people) is genealogy. So, I decided to try to discover where Madeline Joan Cottage was, by looking for her on ancestry sites. I tried both variants of the name Madeline/Madaline. I adjusted dates of birth, and locations. I included the middle name. I omitted it. And then I tried looking for anyone named Madeline Cottage who had been arrested under the names of any of Little Patty’s aliases. Nothing came up under ‘Shirley Amanda McCoy’ or ‘Linda Lou Baldwin’ but when I searched for aliases under the name of “Patricia Baldwin” I got a ‘hit’ for a P. Baldwin, who was photographed in the pages of a 1964 yearbook in the Pittsburgh area.
I had to look at this photo a few times, asking myself — could it? Was it? Look at the eyes… the chin? Was this our Madeline Joan Cottage?
It is, folks. I have found her. Her name isn’t or wasn’t Madeline Joan Cottage. It is Patricia Joan Baldwin. Stay tuned — I have more to unlock and reveal! Stay tuned as we continue this series…
Be sure to read the next installment — a third installment will conclude this series.