What You Think You Know About the Manson Family Murders May Be Wrong

For those who consider Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter 1974 book about Charles Manson, the murders he ordered, and ensuing trial to be canon, Tom O’Neill’s new book Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixtiest History of the Sixties suggests a rift in the fabric of the universe as we know it. The product of some 20 years of exhaustive, obsessive research, Chaos suggests that the case made to the court by Bugliosi, who prosecuted the case before he wrote the definitive book about it, was fraudulent and that the entire “Helter Skelter” motive, which stated that Manson attempted to kick off a race war via the Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969, does not hold up to scrutiny in light of unearthed evidence. For one thing, according to O’Neill’s report, the relationship between Manson and record producer Terry Melcher (a previous resident of the house on Cielo Drive where Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent were murdered), was more involved than it was conveyed during the trial—O’Neill says he found notes from two witness interviews that placed Melcher in the presence of Manson after the murders. This information was suppressed from the trial because, O’Neill suggests, it did not square with another part of Bugliosi’s suggested motive: Manson ordered murders to scare Melcher, who had refused to record the cult leader’s music.

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