Monday, September 29, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: The Hippies vs. The Slippies

Click here for an update on The Golden Ganesh.

Ed Sanders affirms the dominant view of Manson’s actions and motive. Nevertheless, he noted in The Family that the counterculture did not primarily influence Manson and his followers, despite widespread opinion that it had. While their enemies might have seen hippies as naïve, dippy, irresponsible, unkempt or just plain flaky before the killings, they began to perceive them as a direct threat to safety, order, and the American way of life afterward. Many a time, in fiction, in news and in other depictions, the public got the message “See what happens when you let people have too much freedom? Lord of the Flies!!!”

Problem is, Manson and his bunch weren’t hippies. In fact, they hated hippies. They referred to themselves as “slippies,” for they had slipped out of society.

It’s clear that some of the Family’s lifestyle came from the counterculture: the hair and clothing styles, the communal living, and so forth. Other behaviors featured things that outwardly appeared Aquarian, but in fact had strange twists. For example, hippies practiced free love. The Mansonites had rampant sex. But since Charlie directed and manipulated the action--oftentimes to establish control, domination, or indoctrination, or simply to pay off debts—we really have to question how “free” that love was. Like real hippies, the slippies also did copious amounts of drugs. But their drug experience was in many ways different, for Manson also directed the use of intoxicants, and deliberately used them as a mechanism of control.

Mostly, the philosophies and ideology of the slippies and the hippies were diametrically opposed. Hippies constantly sought to expand their awareness. Manson deliberately inhibited awareness among his followers, isolating them in places where their circle of contacts were quite small, cutting them off from outside new sources for the most part, and chastising them for trying to understand anything. “Thinking is stinking,” he often said. Instead of expanding consciousness, Manson insisted that those around him focus consciousness on survival and immediate surroundings, and rely upon instincts much in the way that coyotes did.

Whereas the counterculture at least professed love and brotherhood, Manson and his group exhibited racist tendencies and misanthropic characteristics. Despite their desire to woo over bikers, for example, Manson objected to their love for Motown and jazz, because it, to him, that music represented the debased culture of an inferior people. He would typically forbid more swarthy bikers from partaking in the sexual favors of his followers, out of suspicion that such would constitute miscegenation.

The hippies believed in making love, not war. The slippies believed in doing both, preferably at the same time. Unlike the hippies who advocated flower power over bloodshed, the Mansonites took great pleasure in developing tactical skills. Trafficking in stolen autos, they would sometimes convert the cars into dune buggies, vehicles with superior off-road capabilities, and practice driving them around in desert maneuvers. They trained in the use of weapons, particularly knives. Through a former jailmate, Manson developed a cache of firearms, which eventually included the Colt Buntline that shot Bernard Crowe, Jay Sebring, and Wojeciech Frykowski. They trained with these as well. Mae Brussell found out that the slippies also had field radios and other equipment that made clear the group’s preparedness for armed conflict.

In addition to their combat training, the slippies developed their own urban war game, something they liked to call 'creepy-crawling.' Dressed in black, they would break into random (usually random) homes in the dead of night, and cause mischief. Sometimes they would burgle the place. Other times, they would simply come in and rearrange the furniture. Whatever they did, they intended for the results of their handiwork to become obvious to the victims upon waking.

Geez. I knew a lot of hippies back in the day. I never knew any who liked to play paramilitary and espionage games.

In other words, the slippies kinda looked like hippies. They kinda sounded like hippies. Subsequently, confusion has followed ever since. Manson’s rhetoric fuelled this perspective through his physical appearance, and by echoing some of the catchphrases of the youth movement.

Mind you, the Mansonites were neither hippies, nor Aquarians to people who actually were hippies or Aquarians. But for that mythical land called Middle America, they were close enough. Rolling Stone, whose success heavily relied on the counterculture, quickly disowned them, declaring Manson “The Most Dangerous Man in America.” That didn’t stop mainstream media sources from decrying the dangers of communal living or other cultural aspects of the younger generation.

The fallacious depiction of “The Family” as hippies persists to the present day in mainstream sources. Cable channel Discovery ID has run a number of shows, both live and OnDemand, in which they constantly refer to the cult as hippies. They interview Vincent Bugliosi extensively in these shows. Despite the fact that the former Manson prosecutor carefully points out that they weren’t, these producers bluntly ignore their expert and refer to them as hippies anyway.

Little did anyone realize back in 1970 that the hippies and the slippies had nothing to do with each other. Here in 2008, that realization seems even more obfuscated and distant.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Devil's in the Slide: Legacy of Evil

The public notion of the Tate-LaBianca murders comes either directly or indirectly from Vincent Bugliosi’s memoir Helter Skelter and the dramatic works derived from it.

Bugliosi focused on Charles Manson, a career criminal with extraordinary cunning and a true gift of persuasion. According to the official story, Charlie brainwashed a number of disaffected hippies living in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the desert areas of Southern California. He maintained control of his flock through a number of techniques. First of all, he took advantage of the new openness within countercultural discourse, which seriously considered the validity of tenets of philosophies outside of the Western tradition. Through a series of half-baked truisms, he conned some of his more educated followers into believing his spiel, and simply dazzled the others with rhetorical BS. Secondly, he projected himself as both father and lover to the parentally neglected and abused female members of his “Family,” successfully manipulating them emotionally and sexually. Third, he chemically altered the perception of his flock by feeding them copious amounts of illegal drugs, mostly LSD, while feigning drug usage himself. Mostly, however, he controlled them psychologically by tapping into their worst fears.

Racist rage, mostly against African Americans, consumed Manson, whose black biological father abandoned him at birth. In the winter of 1968-1969, he became convinced that a rock band, the Beatles, had laid out a plan to get even not only against Negroes, but the white bourgeois society that didn't recognize his superiority. Taking his cue from their latest recording, simply titled The Beatles (colloquially known as The White Album), he eventually fixated on an idea named after a song on one of its tracks, “Helter Skelter.”

To Manson, Helter Skelter meant a cataclysmic race war in which blacks would ultimately prevail. But because of inexperience with power, blacks would soon be unable to govern their own affairs, and their society would decay into chaos. Meanwhile, Manson and his followers, after riding out the apocalypse in a secret desert location, would suddenly emerge to take control from blacks, who would be eager to relent it.

The problem was that African Americans weren’t militant enough. He complained to followers about how passive resistance and miscegenation were inhibiting blacks from firing the first salvo in this war. So, in order to make Helter Skelter a reality, he had to initiate it himself, by brutally murdering wealthy white people at random, and framing blacks for it. At the time, he felt certain that innocent blacks would be arrested, brutalized and railroaded for the crime, prompting the same kind of riots which had already occurred in Watts, Detroit and Newark, NJ, and for the same reasons. Only this time, Blacks would prevail over the police, thus permanently polarizing American society once and for all.

Bugliosi presented this scenario into evidence during the Tate-LaBianca trials as the motive. In later years, the vast majority of Mason's former followers—both inside the joint and out—have echoed their agreement with this interpretation of events. Yet, some researchers have questioned it over the years, to varying degrees. They base this opinion on several things. First of all, there’s the work of a number of journalists, private detectives, and police officers, who investigated the case for themselves and came up with startling different information, some of it provable, some of it not. Secondly, they note that the Helter-Skelter explanation only makes perfect sense if you buy into a lot of the mythology surrounding Manson and his associates.

Most important, however, is that those involved with Manson have reason to acknowledge this version of events. For starters, some might fear reprisals. As Gary Hinman, Barbara Hoyt and the Willets could attest, the “Family” had no compunctions about killing its own. Nowadays, Manson gets tons of fan mail in prison. So those who contradict this version could still face danger, even, or especially, if Manson didn’t instigate it. Secondly, it diminishes their culpability, for it forces the responsibility of their actions onto an evil genius madman who controlled them to the nth degree. This is especially important for Krenwinkel, Van Houten and Atkins, all of whom dream of parole.

Atkins has a special incentive to lay the guilt of her sins on Manson. Currently stricken with inoperable brain cancer, she might not even live long enough to see the end of this series. She has petitioned for early release so that she could die a free woman, but has so far met with resistance. She will most likely pass away quietly, behind bars, fairly soon.

Like the others, she’s claiming that she’s a victim of Manson’s mind control. To a certain extent, I am inclined to agree with that. At the same time, if we look at the events of that night, one thing becomes clear. Like the Hinman murder, the Tate-LaBianca murders—and the later killing of cowboy Donald Shea for knowing too much—Manson’s actual involvement is either minimal, or not in evidence.

That’s not to say that Manson doesn’t belong in prison. After all, he definitely conspired with the others to deprive Leno and Rosemary LaBianca of their lives. Under California State Law, conspiracy to murder carries the same penalties as first-degree murder. That’s the actual crime that Bugliosi convicted him for.

On the other hand, it’s not nearly as clear in the other murders whether Manson participated as a conspirator, or merely as an accessory. We only have the words of the other participants to go by, in this case, and they have need for a scapegoat. While this doesn’t absolve him from responsibility in the murders, it does present a challenge to the most prevalent understanding. We’re told that Manson initiated the murders to foster this race war. But if he’s negligibly involved in seven of the nine killings, then we have to wonder who really called the shots.

Worse, we would the have to then wonder about the actual motive behind the slayings. Along these lines, a number have surfaced. In the following posts, we’ll take a look at some of these.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Healter Skelter

Things did not go smoothly for the killers on their first night of murder. Among other things, Susan Atkins and Charles Watson both left behind evidence detectable by even 1969 forensic technology. What’s worse, their knowledge of knots left much to be desired.

So on the second night of mayhem, August 9, 1969, Charles Manson accompanied them. This time, they augmented their numbers, with Steve Grogan and Leslie Van Houten coming along. After stopping for gas, the gang drove around, seemingly in circles, before coming to the house of an old friend of theirs, Harold True. Kasabian, who’d witnessed the carnage of the night before, recognized the house, for she had been there with the rest of them. She shuddered to think they might kill someone they actually knew. But Manson told her that they would enter not that house, but the one next door.

The house next door, 3301 Waverly Drive (LA), belonged to Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. They had just gotten back from visiting their son/stepson Frank Strothers. The teenager had initially planned to go back with them after a trip with relatives, but was having so much fun that he asked to stay. So they left him there, went back home, and settled down for a quiet Saturday night.

Or so they thought.

As Leno relaxed on the living room sofa with the paper and a can of beer, he looked up to see Manson brandishing a sword. Charlie told LaBianca to remain calm, assuring him that he wouldn’t hurt them. He only wanted their money. He then found Rosemary alone in the bedroom. He escorted her to the living room, and bound her to her husband with leather straps, before sitting them down on the divan.

At that point, Manson left, alerting the others that he had tied up the victims. According to his cohorts, he then ordered Watson, Krenwinkel and Van Houten out of the car, and ordered them to kill the couple inside.

Upon entering the house, the three headed into the kitchen and began looking around. They found a carving fork in one of the drawers.

They then went to the LaBiancas, and untied Rosemary. Krenwinkel and Van Houten led her back into the bedroom Once there, they tied the cords of a couple of lamps around her neck, and slipped a pillowcase over her head. She could hear Leno’s screams as Watson pushed him onto the couch, slit his throat several times, and then stabbed him repeatedly in the stomach.

Van Houten held Rosemary down while Krenwinkel stabbed again and again. One of Patricia’s blows severed LaBianca’s spinal cord, rendering her paralyzed. After finishing off Leno, Watson came to the bedroom to take over the hacking duties. Together, they stabbed her forty-one times, some of the blows post-mortem. Determined that Van Houten should get into the act, Watson ordered her to take part in the stabbing. By this time, both of the LaBiancas had shuffled off this mortal coil. But Leslie still hesitated. After the others hiked up the corpse’s nightgown, Van Houten finally gave in to the insanity, and unleashed a flurry of sixteen wounds to the victim’s bare bottom.

The killers continued stabbing both bodies post-mortem with the carving fork they found in the kitchen. Watson left the knife he used to kill Leno in his neck. Someone left the carving fork in his stomach. This time, they had greater opportunity to indulge in their witchy signs. Someone carved the word “WAR” on Leno’s stomach. They also wrote the words “DEATH TO PIGS,” on one wall, “RISE” on another. Depending on whose version you read, either Krenwinkel or Van Houten wrote the phrase “HEALTER SKELTER” on the refrigerator—which they then raided. They also fed the LaBiancas’ dogs, who watched passively as their master and mistress met their brutal demise.

The killers then left in the old Ford they took to 10050 Cielo Drive the previous night, and left.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Helter Skelter

What follows is not necessarily my opinion in part or in whole, but rather the dominant narrative that serves as the official story. Disturbing descriptions below.

On the night of Friday August 8, 1969, Manson gave explicit instructions to Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian to drive to the mansion formerly occupied by his record producer, Terry Melcher, kill everyone there, and leave a sign, “something witchy.”

Upon arriving at 10050 Cielo Drive, Watson cut the telephone lines, and parked the car, an old Ford, on the street. Entering the sloped driveway, they saw a light at the top of the hill, and hid in the shadows. Watson ambushed the driver, Steven Earl Parent, when he arrived at the entrance, and attempted to push the button for the automatic gate. Despite his pleas for life, Watson shot him four times.

Watson then entered through the window of a recently built nursery, and then proceeded into the living room, where he found Wojiciech Frykowski, covered either by a US flag or a blanket colored as such, asleep on the couch. Tex opened the front door for Atkins, and told her look for something to bind Frykowski, despite the fact that Watson had brought with him a large piece of rope. Atkins dutifully went to the bathroom, and came back with a towel. He then instructed her to search the rest of the house for people, his orders waking up Frykowski.

Atkins found Folger reading in one bedroom, and exchanged brief greetings with her. In another, she found a fully dressed Sebring casually chatting to an underwear-clad Tate.

Atkins herded them all to the living room. Watson commanded them to lie down on some pillows in front of the fireplace. When Sebring protested that they be careful with Tate, because of her pregnancy, an enraged Watson gunned him down, and then kicked him in the face for good measure. Taking the rope, Watson tied one end around the necks of Tate and Folger, looped the cord over a rafter, tied it to Sebring’s unconscious form, and demanded money. Folger gave him all the cash she had, some seventy-two dollars.

After ordering Krenwinkel to turn off the lights, and announcing his intention to the victims, Watson then told Atkins to murder Frykowski. She took out a knife, but hesitated in using it, giving Wojiciech enough time to free his hands, yank Atkins’ hair, and pull down her arm. He bolted toward the door, but not before Atkins sunk the knife into his legs, back and lung. Atkins jumped on his back, and Watson raced over to stop him. But Frykowski still went on, prompting Watson to shoot him twice. He tried to shoot him a third time, but the gun misfired. So Watson caught up with him on the front porch and proceeded to pistol-whip him, leaving him for dead. Kasabian would later testify that she and Frykowski made eye contact at that point, but the only thing that she could say to him was “I’m sorry.”

While they struggled with Frykowski on the porch, Sebring, now awake, Folger and Tate tried desperately to free themselves from the rope. When he came back into the living room and saw Sebring trying to undo his knot, Watson stabbed him four times and kicked him in the face again.

Meanwhile, Folger had managed to free herself. She tried to leave the house with Krenwinkel in hot pursuit. Watson caught up with her, whereupon she apparently gave up, saying, “Take me.” Watson slit her throat, stabbed her numerous times in the stomach, and smashed her face in.

By this time, Frykowski had made it to the lawn, and he screamed as loud as he could for help. But for him, it was too late. Out of blood, and out of time, he fell over into the grass, this time for good. Folger also managed to escape the house, leaving a trail of red gore behind her. But she too finally keeled over from her wounds in the front yard.

At one point, as the killers busied themselves chasing Folger and Frykowski, Tate found herself alone in the house with Sebring’s corpse. She tried to leave just as Krenwinkel came back into the house via the back door. She led Tate back to the living room sofa. Tate pleaded to spare the life of her unborn fetus, to which Atkins replied, “Look, bitch, I don’t care if you’re going to have a baby. You’d better be ready. You’re going to die.”

Atkins apparently had more reservations stabbing Tate than she did Frykowski, so she asked Watson to do it. Watson made four or five stab wounds to her chest. After that, he, Krenwinkel and Atkins took turns stabbing her, a total of sixteen wounds altogether.

They had grandiose plans on what to do with the bodies that included mutilation, and symbolic signs. But they felt the need to split. So, in the wee hours of Saturday, August 9, 1969, Atkins took another towel, dipped it into Tate’s blood, and scrawled the word “PIG” on the front door. They then headed back to Spahn Ranch, where Manson waited in the saloon.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: First Blood

I apologize for being so scarce, lately. Meatspace concerns are taking my time. I'll be back to normal in a week or two.

Despite rumors that he masterminded thirty-nine killings, authorities charged and convicted Charles Manson (and his) associates in only nine slayings. Depending on your point of view, the meaning behind the first murder might vary, for the precise motive behind it remains unclear to this day. However, most sources stipulate (a) “Family” came to coerce, not kill him; (b) the victim’s death came after hours of torture; representing a fruitless effort to force his capitulation; (c) Bobby Beausoleil pulled the trigger of the fatal gunshot wound that ultimately killed him; (d) the killers used a similar modus operandi later in the Tate-LaBianca killings; and (e) Manson himself played only a minor role in the events of that night.

Gary Hinman, a UCLA grad student, opened up his house to other young people, as was the custom in the freewheeling days of 1960s hippiedom. Among those who came to share his Topanga Canyon house were a young couple, and Bobby Beausoleil. Hinman, who partially supported himself by giving piano lessons, also taught Beausoleil to read music. According to some, Hinman’s largesse to him, and later to Manson, stemmed from his infatuation with both men.

At the same time, Manson had uses other than sex for Hinman. As it turns out, the young couple, who shared the house with him and Beausoleil, were small-time drug dealers. Hinman, among his other intellectual talents, was also an amateur chemist.

In case you didn’t know, amateur chemists were quite popular in the ‘60s. Working from homemade labs, they could synthesize a number of popular street drugs, from bennies to acid. People with a flair for underground business could always find buyers for batches of chemically induced sunshine. So, this living arrangement would seem to have worked out for all concerned.
Manson also served as a middleman between Hinman’s lab goodies and the general public, and according to one version of the story, this became the motive behind Gary’s murder. In this story, Hinman made a batch of drugs that Manson had sold to a biker gang, the Satan’s Slaves. The SS came back to Spahn ranch, however, complained that Manson had given them “bad shit,” and demanded a refund. Instead of forking over $2,000 of his own money, Manson sent Beausoleil, Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins to collect it from Hinman.

At least, some say that was the reason. Others say that Manson heard that Hinman had inherited $20,000 from a recently deceased relative, and believed that Hinman needed to share it with him. So he sent Beausoleil, Brunner and Atkins over to collect it.

Then too, others say that Manson sent over the deadly trio to keep an increasingly distant Hinman in the fold. Moreover, researcher Ed Sanders believed that Hinman planned to contact police with information on all of the “Family’s” illegal activities, among them trafficking in drugs and stolen vehicles, prostitution, rape, and assault.

We’ll suspend, for the moment, speculation as to why they went over. The fact remains the deadly trio arrived on the night of July 25, 1969. After unsuccessfully trying to part Hinman from his money, Beausoleil took out a gun. He gave it to Atkins, with instructions to force him to sit still, while they searched the house for anything of value they could find. Hinman, however, wouldn’t cooperate. The others heard the gun go off, and rushed in to find Hinman and Atkins struggling for control of the weapon. Beausoleil finally got hold of it, and pistol-whipped Hinman severely enough to cause bleeding.

Manson, perhaps wondering what had kept the others, dropped by the house. Armed with a sword, he threatened Hinman, and then cut a five-inch gash in his face, from his ear to his jaw, and then left. Afterwards, those in the house continued their search, which lasted into the next day. They didn’t get $20K off of Hinman, but they got the titles of his Volkswagon bus and his Fiat. They either forced him to sign them over, or simply forged his name.

But it all got to be too much. Eventually, Beuasoleil simply decided to shoot him. Donkey Dan DeCarlo told Sanders that someone at the Hinman house called Manson, who then ordered the three to kill him. Manson said that Hinman panicked and started hollering out the window, thus prompting Beausoleil to panic and pull the trigger on July 27. We'll hold off speculation on this too, for the time being.

The killers then decided to frame the Black Panthers for the murder, by painting a paw print on the wall with Hinman’s blood, along with the phrase “POLITICAL PIGGY.” No one discovered his body until July 31, 1969, when a group of bagpipers wondered why he missed playing in their parade that day. By that time, various “Family” members had gone in and out of the place to look for stuff, or to clean up any evidence they left behind—despite the swarm of flies that had gathered around the body, and a stench that would peel paint off the ceiling.

If you’re wondering why people didn’t come over to check on Hinman right away, the fact is they did. On the 26th, as he sat helpless and tortured by the family, he received two calls: one in person, the other by telephone. The telephone caller—identified by Sanders simply as ‘Jay’--said that a British accented female answered. Many believe the Englishwoman was none other than Atkins disguising her voice. Yet, another person, identified as ‘Dave’ (an acquaintance of Manson’s via Hinman), went to the house on that day, whereupon a strange woman unconnected to the family shooed him away.

The Hinman murder seems quite fascinating to me. After all, two of the three assailants are currently in prison for life. They have nothing to hide anymore….

Or do they?

And what’s up with the mystery Englishwoman?

To read earlier posts in this series, click here.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Playbill; Bystanders, Innocent or Otherwise

Altobelli, Rudy—Owner of 10050 Cielo Drive, acquaintance of Charles Manson and other “Family” members. Landlord of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. Discussed Manson with Sharon Tate the day following Charlie's only known contact with her.

Anger, Kenneth—Occultist, Satanist, writer and filmmaker. Long-time Crowleyan associate of Anton LaVey. Former friend and benefactor of Bobby Beausoleil. Cast Beausoleil and Jack Parsons’ widow, Marjorie Cameron, in his films.

Beatty, Warren—Actor. Friend of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Along with Yul Brenner and Peter Sellers, offered up a $25,000 reward for the immediate capture of Tate’s killers. Rumored to have participated in an underground sex scene that included Jay Sebring, Sharon Tate, and some of Manson’s followers.

Brynner, Yul—Actor. Friend of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Along with Warren Beatty and Peter Sellers, offered up a $25,000 reward for the immediate capture of Tate’s killers. Rumored to have participated in an underground sex scene that included Jay Sebring, Sharon Tate, and some of Manson’s followers.

Cohen, Baroness Ellen (aka Mama Cass Elliot)—Musician. Friend of Abigail Folger and Wojiciech Frykowski. Rumored to be a friend of Charles Manson and his gang. Also rumored to have indulged in an underground sex scene in which Jay Sebring and Sharon Tate putatively participated.

Crowe, Bernard (aka Lottsapoppa)—Drug dealer. Neighbor of Cass Elliot. One-time financial backer of Charles Watson. Acquaintance of Gregg Jacobson. Associate, and possible follower of Charles Manson. Diane Lake described him as “the Negro member” of the “Family.”

Garretson, William—Caretaker of 10050 Cielo Drive. Early suspect in the Helter Skelter murders, but police determined that he slept through them in the guesthouse.

Jacobson, Gregg—Musician, songwriter and record producer. He often worked with Terry Melcher and Dennis Wilson, and helped arranged Charles Manson’s studio time.

Karpowicz, Alvin (aka Creepy Al Karpis)—Gangster (last survivor of the Ma Barker Gang of the 1930s) and amateur musician. Provided the bulk of Charles Manson’s instruction in music.

Kaufman, Phil—Record producer and noted road manager. A jail mate of Manson, who later spent time with him and his “Family.”

Levey, Anton (aka Anton LaVey)—Occultist, Satanist. Founder of the Church of Satan. Friend of Kenneth Anger. Mentor of Susan Atkins.

Melcher, Terry—Record producer. He tried to get Manson a record deal, but cut ties with him after the Bernard Crowe shooting. Former tenant at 10050 Cielo Drive.

Polanksi, Roman—Actor and director. Widower of Sharon Tate. Best friend of Wojiciech Frykowski. Friend of Abigail Folger, and other Hollywood luminaries. Police considered him early as a suspect.

Sellers, Sir Peter-- Actor. Friend of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Along with Warren Beatty and Yul Brenner, offered up a $25,000 reward for the immediate capture of Tate’s killers. Rumored to have participated in an underground sex scene that included Jay Sebring, Sharon Tate, and some of Manson’s followers.

Smith, Dr. David (possibly aka Dr. Roger Smith)—Physician. Volunteered at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, and, along with his wife, provided temporary foster care for Pooh Bear, son of Charles Manson and Mary Brunner.

Smith, Dr. Roger—Manson’s first parole officer.

Spahn, George—Rancher. Owner of the Spahn Movie Ranch, and benefactor of the “Family.”

Struthers, Suzan—Daughter of Rosemary LaBianca, step-daughter of Leno LaBianca. Currently, a supporter of Charles Watson.

Tate, Doris Willet—Activist, housewife and politician. Mother of Sharon, Patti and Debra Tate. Wife of Paul Tate.

Tate, Col. Paul—US Army intelligence officer. Father of Sharon, Patti and Debra Tate. Husband of Doris Tate. Went undercover, posing as a hippie, to find out information about Sharon’s death.

Wilson, Dennis—Musician. Mutual benefactor and friend of Charles Watson and Charles Manson. Wilson connected Manson to Terry Melcher and Gregg Jacobson, and spent a good amount of the wealth he accrued with The Beach Boys taking care of Manson and his family.

To read later posts in this series, click here.

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The Devil’s in the Slide: Attorneys and Authorities

Alexander, Judge Adolph--Presiding jurist in the Charles Watson trial.


Boyd, Bill—Lawyer. He represented Charles Watson in Texas.

Brown, Judge David—Texas jurist. He ordered the arrest of Charles Watson’s LA attorneys, David DeLoach and Perry Walshin, for contempt of court when they did not leave Texas immediately. Judge Brown claimed that the lawyers were “making a circus” out of the Tate-LaBianca case in order “to enhance [their] own future by cheap publicity.”

Bubrick, Sam—Along with Keith Maxwell, represented Charles Watson during his murder trial.

Bugliosi, Vincent—Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, young and aggressive prosecutor of the Manson-Atkins-Krenwinkel-Van Houten and Watson trials.

Caballero, Richard—Susan Atkins’ main counsel.

DeLoach, David—Conservative Republican attorney and politician, former-Chair of the California Young Republicans, and unsuccessful candidate for the California State Assembly in 1964. After Manson’s arrest, he and partner Perry Walshin flew to Texas to represent Charles Watson, a client with whom they had consulted with at least thirty times before the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Fitzgerald, Paul—Charles Manson’s first attorney, he later represented Patricia Krenwinkel at her trial.

Fleischmann, Gary—Linda Kasabian’s counsel.

Guenther, Sgt. Charles—Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, investigated the Hinman murder.

Helder, Lt. Robert—LAPD Detective, lead investigator of the Tate murders.

Kanarek, Irving—Criminal Defense attorney. Charles Manson’s chief counsel.

Keith, Maxwell—Court-appointed attorney who represented Leslie Van Houten after the disappearance of Ronald Hughes. With Sam Bubrick, he also defended Charles Watson in California.

Kay, Steven-- Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, co-counsel to Vincent Bugliosi in Manson-Atkins-Krenwinkel-Van Houten and Watson trials.

LePage, Lt. Paul­—LAPD Detective, lead investigator of the LaBianca Murders.

Melcher, William—Los Angeles Country Deputy DA. Friendly to Lynette Fromme and other “Family” members.

Montgomery, Sheriff Tom—Sheriff, Collin County (Texas). Cousin of Charles Watson.

Musich, Donald—Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, co-counsel to Vincent Bugliosi in Manson-Atkins-Krenwinkel-Van Houten and Watson trials.


Older, Judge Charles--Presiding jurist of the Manson-Atkins-Krenwinkel-Van Houten trial.

Reiner, Ira—Criminal defense attorney. Leslie Van Houten’s third lawyer, who left in deference to her main attorney, Ronald Hughes. Reiner would later become Los Angeles County District Attorney.

Shibley, George—High-priced and noted criminal defense attorney, working with powerful clients in Beverly Hills and the Middle East. Met with Manson prior to his release in 1967 from Treasure Island. Before the murders, he represented Sirhan Sirhan after the Robert Kennedy Assassination.

Walshin, Perry—Prominent California attorney. After Manson’s arrest, he and partner David DeLoach flew to Texas to represent Charles Watson, a client with whom they had consulted with at least thirty times before the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Whiteley, Sgt. Paul—Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff, investigated the Hinman murder.

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The Devil’s in the Slide: Playbill; The Dead

As complete a list as I can make on confirmed victims and potential ones.

Folger, Abigail (aka Gibby)—Folger’s Coffee heiress, charity volunteer, civil rights activist and financial supporter, Robert Kennedy presidential campaign staffer, and Thomas Bradley mayoral candidacy volunteer. She worked with her mother, Ines Folger, at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic during Charles Manson’s stay in San Francisco. Fiancé of Wojiciech Frykowski. Friend of Cass Elliot, Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski, and Jay Sebring. According to Adam Gorightly, she “developed a heavy drug habit, and just prior to the Tate house massacre was attempting to kick” her addiction. Frykowski and Jay Sebring were reportedly her main suppliers.

Frykowski, Wojiciech (also spelled Voytek, Vojiciech, Wojtek or Voityk)—Actor, writer. Best friend of Roman Polanski, friend of Jay Sebring, Sharon Tate and Cass Elliot, and fiancé of Abigail Folger. After financing and acting in some of Polanski’s earliest films, Frykowski accompanied the director to Paris, London, and ultimately LA. Some allege that after frustrating attempts to publish, and an almost total dependency upon Folger, he decided to go into the illegal drug business with some Canadian friends.

Habe, Marina—Underage daughter of writer Hans Habe. No known contacts with the Manson family, but “Family” members continue to be suspects in her murder.

Haught, John (aka Zero, Christopher Jesus)—Petty thief, and follower of Charles Manson. Arrested with Manson during the Barker Ranch raid.

Hinman, Gary—Music teacher, graduate student (PhD, Sociology, University of California at Los Angeles) and drug dealer. Former roommate of Bobby Beausoleil.

Hughes, Ronald—Third-rate court-appointed attorney, first for Charles Manson, and later for Leslie Van Houten. Despite barely passing the bar exam after three failed attempts, lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi characterized his defense of Van Houten as expert. A long-time conservative, he gained a reputation for being a hippie lawyer because of his long hair and slovenly appearance. On a camping trip, during a court-ordered recess before closing arguments, Hughes disappeared. Among the last to see him were a young couple calling themselves James Forsher and Lauren Elder.

Jane Doe #44—Police believed the body of Jane Doe #44 belonged to former “Manson Family” member Susan Scott (aka Stephanie Rowe). Because they lacked identification and other evidence, no charges were ever filed, even though authorities suspected Charlie and his gang of her murder.

LaBianca, Leno—Businessman, he inherited the Gateway Market Chain from his father, and sold the business in order to concentrate on expanding it as President and board member. (The “Family” regularly raided the Gateway dumpsters until employees began leaving the refuse out in boxes for them.) He married Rosemary, his second wife, in 1960. Next-door neighbor of Harold True, a “Family” acquaintance.

LaBianca, Rosemary—Former hotel waitress, businesswoman. Rosemary married Leno, her second husband, in 1960. Partnered with him to form Boutique Carriage, an upscale clothing store. Next-door neighbor of Harold True, a “Family” acquaintance.

Parent, Steven—Recent high school graduate, deliveryman and salesman. Friend of William Garretson.

Pugh, Joel—Former “Family” member. Sources differ regarding whether he legally married Sandra Good or not. He is generally stipulated as the father of her son, Ivan.

Scott, Darwin—Uncle of Charles Manson. Found knifed to death in his apartment in May of 1969.

Sebring, Jay—Highly respected hair-stylist and wig-maker specializing in A-list Hollywood glitterati. Ex-boyfriend of Sharon Tate. Some allege that he was the major supplier of illicit drugs to the Polanskis and their frequent party guests. Other rumors depict him as a closeted Satanist/occultist, and a ruthless torturer in a Hollywood underground S&M scene that involved "Family" members.

Shea, Donald (aka Shorty)—Spahn Ranch hand, and part-time actor.

Tate, SharonActress. Daughter of Col. Paul and Doris Tate, ex-girlfriend of Jay Sebring, friend of Abigail Folger, Wojiciech Frykowski, and numerous celebrities--among them Yul Brynner, Peter Sellers and Warren Beatty. Wife of Roman Polanski. Although she had backed away considerably from the fast lane, jet-set lifestyle because of pregnancy, she had a wild reputation (deserved or not) that included drugs, sexual escapades (filmed or not), and Satanic/occult practices. Adam Gorightly quoted, from J.D. Russell’s 1970 book The Beautiful People: Pacesetters of the New Morality, an unidentified friend of Tate saying

Sharon was a student of black magic, voodoo and occult arts, including spiritualism....he told me she had once tried scopolamine, the active ingredient in henbane, which is called ‘The Herb of the Devil'.

While they were making ‘Rosemary’s Baby’s [sic] an initiation ceremony into the world of black magic was held at the home of a friend. One of the guests told me that he was met at the door by Sharon, was blindfolded and led into a dark room filled with white-robed people wearing animal masks. They lit black candles on a crudely made wooden alter; then Jay offered me two antique goblets I had seen earlier at his home. One contained wine, he said, and the other, rat poison. He said for me to take my pick.
Walts, Mark—Teenager who frequently visited Spahn Ranch as a tourist.

Willett, James (aka James Forsher?)—Husband of Lauren Willett. Vincent Bugliosi strongly suspected that he and Lauren lured Ronald Hughes to his death.

Willett, Lauren (aka Lauren Elder?)—Wife of James Willett. Vincent Bugliosi strongly suspected that she and James lured Ronald Hughes to his death.

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The Devil’s in the Slide: Playbill; Meet the "Family"

A select list of Manson and associates.

Atkins, Susan (aka Sadie Mae Glutz, Donna Powell, Sharon King)—Underaged stripper and protégée of Anton LaVey. According to Charles Manson, she was also a sexual acquaintance of Jay Sebring. Putative author of A Psychosexual History of the Manson Family, and the Death List.

Beausoleil, Bobby (aka Cupid, Jasper, Cherub, Robert Lee Hardy, Jason Lee Daniels)—Musician, soft-core pornographic actor (work-safe link), occultist. Former Love guitarist. Protégé and close friend (later bitter enemy) of Kenneth Anger. Although deemed by most mainstream sources as a Manson follower, Adam Gorightly notes that many close researchers see him more as a competing alpha male, who occasionally went in and out of the group as he pleased. Just as Manson had “Charlie’s Girls,” Beausoleil came with his own female entourage, which included Catherine Share and Leslie Van Houten.

Brunner, Mary (aka Mother Mary, Linda Dee Moser, Marioche, Och, Christine Marie Euchts)—Librarian, UC Berkeley. She became Manson’s first recruit in 1967.

Davis, Bruce (aka Jack Paul, Bruce McMillan, George McGregor)—Former Scientologist who joined Charles Manson’s group in 1968. Rumored to have been the Zodiac Killer, or at least one of them in conjunction with members of the Process Church of the Final Judgment. According to a February 2000 letter written by Barbara Hoyt to Davis’ Parole Board, he secretly planned to take leadership of the “Family” away from Charles Manson.

DeCarlo, Danny (aka Donkey Dan, Daniel Romeo, Richard Smith)—Biker (Straight Satans) and drug smuggler. Despite Charles Manson’s attempts to entice him deeper into the “Family,” DeCarlo remained independent. On November 13, 1969, DeCarlo explained the concept of ‘Helter-Skelter’ to police during questioning.

Fromme, Lynette (aka Squeaky, Red, Elizabeth Williamson)—A neglected teenager, Manson took her under his wing moments after her father kicked her out of the family home. After Manson’s arrest, Paul Watkin’s defection, and the incarceration of most of the men, she served as the “Family’s” ersatz leader until her arrest for the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford.

Good, Sandra (aka Sandy, Blue, Sandra Collins, Sandra Pugh)—A wealthy socialite and civil rights activist, she became the “Family’s” most prominent spokesperson, a role that she ardently maintained for decades after. Co-founded Air, Trees, Water, Animals (ATWA), an environmental organization, with Charles Manson and Lynette Fromme.

Grogan, Steve (aka Clem, Scramblehead, Grant Mollan)—High school dropout, petty criminal and musician.

Hoyt, Barbara—Nurse. As one of the last recruits before the killings, Hoyt had not received sufficient indoctrination to condone the killings, once she heard about them. She later became a critical prosecution witness after other “Family” members tried to murder her.

Kasabian, Linda (aka Linda Christian, Linda Chiochios, Yana the Witch)—Kasabian flew out from the East Coast to Southern California in a last-ditch effort to reconcile with her estranged husband, Robert, during the summer of 1969. In California, she lived in a trailer with her husband Robert and his friend Charles Melton. Melton met Catherine Share, and introduced her to the Kasabians. In turn, Share, managed to convince a still-unhappy Linda to accompany her to Spahn Ranch, where Charles Watson sexually initiated into the “Family.” The "Family" then convinced her to steal $5,000.00 cash from her husband, who then left her for good, after Charles Manson and the rest of the gang drove him off of the Ranch. Because she had the only valid driver’s license, Manson (or someone else) tapped her to drive to 10050 Cielo Drive and 3301 Waverly Drive on the night of the Tate-LaBianca murders. Granted immunity, she became the prosecution’s star witness.

Krenwinkel, Patricia (aka Big Patty, Yellow, Mary Ann Scott, Katie)—Processing clerk and aspiring nun. Made initial contact with Dennis Wilson.

Lake, Dianne (Snake, Diane Bluestein)—Then-fifteen-year-old Lake met Charles Manson as she partied with her mom and dad at the Spiral Staircase. With parental consent, Manson sexually initiated her into his group. Police arrested her during the Barker Ranch raid. Despite blistering interrogation, she would not volunteer any information until befriended (and later cared for) by Inyo County Deputy Sheriff Jack Gardiner and his wife. Authorities credited her with providing valuable leads and corroboration.

Lutesinger, Kathryn (aka Catherine Drake)--One of Bobby Beausoleil's girlfriends who drifted in and out of the family during the time of the murder and the trials. She and Stephanie Schram escaped Barker Ranch before the raid, and discussed Manson, Beausoleil and Atkins' possible role in the Gary Hinman murder with police.

Manson, Charles (aka Charlie, Jesus Christ, Satan, Robert Moore, Robert DeGrimston, Chuck Summers)—Petty career criminal who has spent the vast majority of his life incarcerated. Refashioning himself as a guru of sorts in the 1967 Height-Ashbury scene of San Francisco, he showed promise as a musician and songwriter. His “followers” included Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Diane Lake, Paul Watkins, Charles Watson, Steve Grogan, Mary Brunner, Lynette Fromme, Sandra Good, Ruth Ann Morehouse, Rev. Dean Morehouse, Barbara Hoyt, Linda Kasabian, Bruce Davis, and others. Worked musically with Dennis Wilson, Terry Melcher, and Gregg Jacobson. Allegedly had contacts with a number of people via the Spiral Staircase, among them Cass Elliot and Jay Sebring. Had one known contact with Sharon Tate at 10050 Cielo Drive.

Morehouse, Rev. Dean—Father of Ruth Ann Morehouse, who offered Charles Manson a ride, a stay at his house, and a piano, which Manson quickly bartered for a Volkswagen van. Upset with Manson for taking the underaged Ruth Ann away and having sex with her, Morehouse confronted Manson. Manson managed to convince him to let Ruth Ann stay with the "Family" by placating the reverend with a generous hit of LSD, smooth talk, and a blowjob. From that point on, Morehouse in part funded the “Family” via his credit card. In turn, Manson convinced Terry Melcher to let Rev. Morehouse live in the guesthouse at 10050 Cielo Drive.

Morehouse, Ruth Ann (aka Ouisch, Ruth Ann Huebelhurst, Rachel Susan Morse)—Rev. Morehouse’s daughter, Morehouse met Charles Manson when her father picked him up hitchhiking in 1967. After her father put him up in the family home for the night, the then-sixteen-year-old Ruth Ann left with Manson. Arrested during the Spahn Ranch raid of August 16, 1969, and subsequently released to her mother, Morehouse came back to the “Family” in 1970.

Schram, Stephanie--Seventeen-year-old Schram met Charles Manson on a California hyway only days before the Helter Skelter murders. Manson had taken a week-long trek to San Diego and the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. According to some sources, Manson really fell for her, not only because of her youth but because of her purebred Teutonic heritage. This irked many of the female members of the "Family," who met her for the first time only hours before the slaughter of Sharon Tate and her friends.

Share, Catherine (aka Gypsy, Manon Minette, Jessica)—Born 1942 in Paris, she was the oldest female “Family” member. Her parents, anti-Nazi spies, orphaned her at an early age when they committed suicide, apparently in an effort to avoid detection and arrest by the Germans. Adopted by an American family, she became her father’s main caregiver after the suicide of her second mother. When her father remarried, she drifted, making ends meet doing a number of things, which included acting in soft-core pornographic movies (work-safe link), where she met Bobby Beausoleil, and subsequently became one of his girlfriends.

Van Houten, Leslie (aka Lulu, Leslie Skankston, Louella Alexandria)—Former homecoming queen, horrible speller, and one of Bobby Beausoleil’s girlfriends. Came within Charles Manson’s sphere of influence when Beausoleil joined in.

Watkins, Paul (aka Little Paul)—Charles Manson’s second-in-command during much of the "Family's" existence. He left the group before the killings.

Watson, Charles (aka Tex, Charles Montgomery)—Former high school star athlete, Watson came to LA after a stint handling baggage for Braniff Airlines. He owned a wig-making shop in Laurel Canyon. Appears to have been Manson’s chief associate after the defection of Paul Watkins. Made early contact with Dennis Wilson.

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The Devil’s in the Slide: The Playbill; Settings

Other than the researchers mentioned in the previous post, there are a number of people involved with this story. Moreover, their paths seem to intersect at weird points. In order to highlight the connections, I will list some of the major people and places that repeatedly come up in these discussions.

10050 Cielo Drive; Benedict Canyon; Los Angeles, CA—Former home of Terry Melcher. Charles Manson and his gang visited fairly often. Owned by Rudy Altobeli, who later rented it to Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. William Garretson and Rev. Dean Morehouse occupied the guesthouse at different times. Site of five of the murders.

3301 Waverly Drive; Los Angeles, CA—Home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Site of two of the killings. A former associate of Charles Manson lived in the house next door, and according to many sources, Manson and his followers visited the area often.

964 Old Topanga Canyon Road.; Topanga Canyon; Malibu, CA—Home of Gary Hinman. Site of the first known killing.

3921 Topanga Canyon Boulevard; Topanga Canyon; Malibu, CA (aka The Snake Pit, The Spiral Staircase)—House nicknamed for the activity that took place there and for its most prominent feature, owned by an older woman known to history only as Gina. Notorious for its frequent wild parties, it attracted a number of people from the entertainment industry, and quite a few celebrity bands, among them the Mamas and Papas, Love, the Doors, and various Beach Boys. Charles Manson and his group spent a considerable amount of time there.

1200 Santa Susana Pass Road; Chatsworth, CA (aka Spahn Ranch)—A ranch owned by George Spahn, used mostly for the filming of western movies (oaters). It included a tavern, outlaw shacks, and other buildings that one would need for western sets. This was the main residence of Charles Manson and his other family members. Known site of one killing.

Death Valley; Goller Canyon, CA—Off-road location of the Barker Ranch, where Manson and followers hid out after evacuating Spahn Ranch. Police raided Barker Ranch on October 10, 1969, arresting many “Family” members, including Manson, on charges of grand theft auto.

7008 Woodrow Wilson Drive; Hollywood; Los Angeles, CA—Home of Bernard Crowe. Site of Charles Manson’s only verified attempt to murder someone. Cass Elliot’s home, a site where a number of family members reportedly hung out, was nearby.

558 Clayton Street; San Francisco, CA—The Haight Ashbury Free Clinic. Some presume because of their rampant drug usage, and duties as prostitutes, the female “Manson Family” members must have frequented the place. Abigail Folger and her mother, Ines, volunteered there. Dr. David Smith, a dead ringer for Manson’s parole officer, Dr. Roger Smith, also worked there.

Figure 1. Dr. David Smith


Figure 2. Dr. Roger Smith



2774 Woodstock Road; Los Angeles, CA—Home of Abigail Folger and Wojiciech Frykowski. In the neighborhood of the Bernard Crowe and Cass Elliot residences.

(2775? Or 2773)—Woodstock Road; Los Angeles, CA—Home of Cass Elliot. In the neighborhood of the Bernard Crowe and Cass Elliot residences. Some sources say that Charles Manson and/or associates hung out there with Jay Sebring, Wojiciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger.

612 Pollard Road; Ashland, KY—Apartment complex, home of Darwin Scott, uncle of Charles Manson.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: The Researchers

The Tate-LaBianca (aka Helter Skelter) murders became notorious the world over the instant police arrived at the scene of the crime. The killings have remained so ever since. Few cases have generated this amount of fact, fantasy, and speculation.

Separating what’s real and what’s not could be confusing, in no small part because of the high-profile best-selling book Helter Skelter, co-written by Vincent Bugliosi, the LA Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted the case. First published in 1974, it mostly chronicled the DA’s investigation and trial preparation. As such, it is an invaluable source of information, and for those issues, I regard and recommend it quite highly.

On the other hand, Bugliosi and co-author Curt Gentry seemed not to have a firm grasp on all of the facts they presented. Further research shows that a few minor details are just plain wrong. Others are correct, but misleading, thus meriting clarification. Then, there are items that are correct, but seem to take on a different significance when examined more closely.

This isn’t to say that Helter Skelter is inaccurate, as some have charged. I think it’s accurate as it can be, given its circumstances. Yet there remain myriad gray areas—many of which Bugliosi acknowledges in the text, mostly in passing—that would cast this story in a different light.

For example, he correctly noted the connection between Charles Manson and Georgina Brayton, Robert DeGrimston, Scientology, and the Church of Satan. Still, he seems to dismiss the relevance or potential importance of these relationships. In his 1972 book The Family, Ed Sanders delved much more deeply into the underground occult--what the author refers to as "sleaze inputs"-- inhabited by Charlie and his angels. As a result, we have, more or less the same story in both Helter Skelter and The Family, with the same sequence of events and the same actors. Yet they differ slightly about the motivation behind the crime.

Since the 1970s, many others have written about these murders. Adam Gorightly, in his massive 2001 history The Shadow over Santa Susana: Black Magic, Mind Control and the “Manson Family” Mythos, summarizes the contribution of a number of these authors. Decently written (but miserably proofed and edited), The Shadow over Santa Susana gives an exhaustive biography of Manson and the members of his family. Most important, it adroitly criticizes some of the mythology surrounding the family right from the start (literally on the first page). At the end of the book, Gorightly examines the relevance of other investigators, including that of Mae Brussell

Brussell’s research of the Tate-LaBianca murders shows yet another facet of this story. Her work supports both stories, yet nevertheless challenges them as well with respect to motive. Bugliosi mentioned (again, in passing) that the so-called Manson Family received a lot of seemingly unlikely help from official sources. Far from seeing this as a case of isolated incidences where authorities unexpectedly changed their methodologies just because of quirkiness, Brussell began to suspect that someone else had guided Manson and his followers almost from the beginning.

Moreover, she suspected that this someone was Uncle Sam.

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