Max Lachaud (Obsküre): First of all, let me tell you that I was quite impressed by this one thousand pages volume of this new edition of the Manson File. I must also say that we are honoured that this work is first translated into French before it being released in its original language.
Nikolas : I’m glad you enjoyed it. There was a method to my madness of publishing it in French first. European audiences have always understood the nuances of my work better than most of my fellow Americans. Then there’s the many ”French Connections” to this case, beginning with Roman Polanski’s birth in Paris in 1933, one year before Manson’s birth. And if Polanski’s old friend Voytek Frykowski hadn’t followed him into French exile, would the drug dealing disaster that exploded in Polanski’s house in 1969 ever have happened? Then there’s Bobby Beausoleil, who set the catastrophe in motion and who Manson calls ”The Frenchman”. On a more personal level, I fell into the Tate-La Bianca rabbit hole in Paris, where I saw Polanski’s Le Bal du Vampires in the late 60s. Watching the film, I was struck by what I now feel was an uncanny premonition of what was to come. Twenty-six years later, the actor Ferdy Mayne, the star of that very film which first drew me into this web, revealed some of the hidden circumstances of the Cielo Drive slayings to Zeena and me, which was the genesis of this book. Also, Camion Noir is continuing a long tradition of subversive American books being published in France before they hit Anglo-Saxon shores that goes back to the Olympia Press.
Zeena : On a more mystical level, the French edition for me was also directly inspired by Sethian gnosis. Nikolas originally intended to have the English and French editions released simultaneously. Concurrent to signing the contract with Camion Blanc, we were negotiating with two other English speaking publishers. But sometime between correspondence exchanges, something strange happened during the creation of my God Bless Charles Manson suite. While working in the darkroom on the piece, “You don’t see the light,” it became clear to me that we should withdraw negotiations with any English speaking publishers for The Manson File. This wasn’t a rational thought but a “message” in the developing darkroom while the chemicals were at work slowly bringing the religious iconography of that piece to view. It was crystal clear. And I know where it came from. Seth is the god of many things. He is known as the God of Foreign Lands and of Sovereignty. He is the Awakener and the Severer. He is the god who breaks from his native land and is always in exile. He is the god of oases and crossing borders. He is the same as Abraxas. And Abraxas, as you know from Le Dossier Manson is who has guided Manson in his own sovereign struggle through the borderlands of his mind, in the “hallways of always” – what he refers to the prison he’s been in so long. Another thing: In the darkroom the only light is red. Seth’s color. So the conditions were ripe, the message was clear, and I received it. This book needed to be released into the world first in a form Foreign to its author’s and subject’s native language. And in its native language it will maintain its Sovereignty, free from the shackles of potential censorship or selective editing.
Nikolas, it’s been 25 years that you have worked on the Manson case, that you have made research and tried to find what really happened. Where did you find the energy and the will to work on such a project? What did fascinate you on a personal level to get so involved in this story?
Nikolas : There’ve been many times since I began staring into this bottomless pit when I didn’t have the energy to carry on. After the banned Radio Werewolf benefit concert for Manson in ’87, the first Manson File in ’88 and my film Charles Manson Superstar in ’89, I was totally burned out on the subject. When interviewers asked me about the case, I’d tell them I was finished with the topic. Even though my affection for and supportive correspondence with Charles continued, I got sick of the pop culture merchandising of his image. I also realized that for every intelligent person my work enlightened about Manson, it encouraged many more idiots to adopt him as a safe subcultural consumer product with no more depth than a T-shirt or a tattoo. Once something revolutionary becomes a cool toy for hipsters, I lose interest. But even after that, a steady stream of people on all sides of the Manson universe continued to provide me with unknown pieces of the puzzle. As these clues mounted, I saw that my work wasn’t over. I learned that the ”copy cat killing” explanation for the murders I’d previously accepted was wrong, and was just as much as a cover-up as the ”Helter Skelter” theory. In 1993, a close friend of Dennis Wilson interviewed me for a BBC show about Manson’s music, and confirmed my suspicions when he revealed some of Wilson’s secret knowledge about the case. Shortly thereafter, Zeena and I befriended Ferdinand Mayne. He told us about the role a drug-dealing actor of his acquaintance played in his friend Sharon Tate’s murder. That led us to the inner circle of Hollywood figures who broke their silence about what they knew. From then on, the information came to us. It still took a long time before I accepted my moral obligation to reveal the truth about what happened, a task which required an immense amount of detective work. As for my own fascination with this saga, I could offer you a glib explanation but truthfully it’s mysterious even to me. Ultimately, I got enmeshed in this cosmic riddle due to ancient karmic bonds with all those involved that needed to be resolved. In that sense, writing this book was an exorcism. Or should I say a Texorcism?
Zeena, Le Dossier Manson tries to put some truth in a story which is rather based on myths and fantasies than on what really happened. Can you clear up for us the myth about the relationships between the Manson family and the Church of Satan? Were they just at the same place at the same moment or were there much more intimate connections between the two?
Zeena : The story of how there came to be a perceived connection between Manson, Polanski, and The Church of Satan could be a book in itself. And although I’m centrally positioned with all the data to pen such a volume, I have no interest in that endeavor so this answer will have to suffice.
It’s well known that my father hired Susan Atkins as a stripper for his Witch’s Review night club act in San Francisco. Bobby Beausoleil’s involvement with Kenneth Anger, who was very enmeshed in my family’s lives at the same time, has also been well documented. But those two drifted into my family’s orbit independent of each other. And these brief connections were made before Atkins and Beausoleil even met Manson. Even when the news of Beausoleil’s murder of Hinman reached us, which came to us personally via Anger, we had no knowledge of the name “Manson”. Only when the news broke about Susan Atkins’s involvement in the Hinman and Tate murders did we recognize Atkins and first heard media talk of her supposed “guru”. But we just assumed she was the type of drifter there were so many of in the 60’s that got “passed around” from one group to the next, looking for a leader.
After the media depicted Manson as a “satanic” cult leader, The Church of Satan, with its then very “law and order” and pro-Hollywood public image as counter-culture to the counter-culture stance needed to take a hard-line opposition to the murders and the so-called Manson Family. There was also the fear that someone might leak the fact that Susan Atkins had been directly associated with a Church of Satan event, which would’ve been a public relations disaster at the height of LaVey’s popularity. So, LaVey granted numerous interviews in part to take the opportunity to do damage control to avoid guilt-by-association media accusations. Many of his early 70s interviews in my files underscore the difference between what he thought the Manson Family, and even the victims – who he also disliked for their “hippie aesthetic” – represented as opposed to the Church of Satan ideology. Even during Manson’s trial, one of the Manson girls wrote a standard form letter asking The Church of Satan for help for his case. My mother filed it away, never to speak of it again until she met Nikolas many years later and gave him a photocopy of it. But to her it was just something to be filed away under “nut cases” – “do not respond”, which certainly makes it clear there was no prior connection between the two groups.
Without a doubt, the media’s inaccurate portrayal of the Tate-LaBianca murders as ”ritual” and the Manson “Family” as a satanic cult directly led to satanism as we experienced it from being thought of as a “fun cocktail party”, a devilish Playboy-After-Dark, to something dangerous that needed to be stamped out. By the early ’70’s, by the time Helter Skelter came out, there was a marked shift in the difficulties The Church of Satan had to deal with both publicly and privately in terms of daily harassment and vandalism to our home, death threats, letter bombs, telephone abuse, murderous stalking, kidnapping, murder and rape threats against my sister and me, and accusations of sacrifice, murder, and what later became the full-blown ’80s “satanic panic”.
So it went without saying that after 1969 The Church of Satan’s party-line, for its own survival, was to distance itself from anything to do at all with Manson and his associates. This was a firm Edict passed down from the Black Pope himself. No, I’m not joking, it was deadly serious. In interviews, we were not to even suggest flirting with the very idea of an association with the Manson Family. My father’s cover-up of his having known Susan Atkins succeeded until she let the cat out of the bag in her autobiography, which led to a new wave of problems for The Church of Satan. You’ll notice that even in some of my own interviews as High Priestess of the Church of Satan prior to meeting Nikolas I dutifully maintain my father’s party-line about that topic. That’s how firmly The Church of Satan was Anti-Manson.
Until 1988 when Nikolas contacted LaVey to interview him for a book he was doing on satanism in general. When my father saw the treatment Nikolas gave a notorious reviled character like Manson in The Manson File and noticed the media attention it got, I watched LaVey’s attitude about Manson change over night. Old LaVeyan satanism’s ego stepped in and thought, “If he can do that for Manson, what could he do for ME???” LaVey promptly presented Nikolas with a bright red membership card to The Church of Satan and proclaimed him an “Agent” which basically meant, “I’m flattering you into wanting to write The LaVey File.” I was living in Los Angeles at the time and heard from my father about this writer who came to interview him, who’d written a book on Manson. In the past year, I’d already begun to notice that Manson and I were always on the same T.V. shows together, and wondered if Manson wasn’t being as falsely portrayed by the media as I was. Gradually, I began to back off of our party-line about Manson and just leave it out of my interviews. But when my own father who was so rabidly hostile to Manson called me in Los Angeles and told me I’ve got to see this guy Nikolas on an upcoming TV interview promoting his The Manson File, I thought my father had gone senile. You can imagine after the previous years hearing this sudden turnaround in attitude about Manson and how shocked I was. This was totally against everything he stood for. But anything to get a similar book about himself which might rehabilitate his image too.
There was absolutely NO public connection between The Church of Satan and Manson until 1988 when I was invited to perform at the 8-8-88 rally as the High Priestess of the Church of Satan. By the way, there’ve been numerous reports that Anton LaVey either attended that rally or performed at that rally. Let’s set that record straight once and for all. He wasn’t there at all that night in any way whatsoever.
After Nikolas completed Charles Manson Superstar, LaVey’s insistence on a similar documentary about himself, as with The Manson File, grew even more emphatic. I’ll allow Nikolas to describe the details in another forum. Briefly, video footage was shot and the beginning of a Video Werewolf documentary like Charles Manson Superstar for LaVey was begun. But LaVey made the conditions so intolerable that Nikolas put an end to the production. In short, Manson was more professional and easier to work with than LaVey. Now, twenty years later, the historical background is long covered up. People would like to conveniently forget that I’ve got documentation. We find extremes on all ends claiming wildly differing versions of revisionist Manson/Church of Satan history. On one extreme we find the very squeamish Church of Latter-Day Saint LaVey who believe that “Manson = Nikolas Schreck” so there can be no mention of anything to do with Manson whatsoever. On the other extreme, you’ve got fantasists like my very own mentally challenged offspring, who ignorantly spout whatever pops into their heads to whomever holds a microphone in front of them, without a clue about what they’re talking about. People like this, whose need for attention is so out of control will babble anything, no matter how ludicrous. My estranged son for example is quoted by credulous “authors” and “journalists” as saying that Manson actually co-founded The Church of Satan with LaVey, Susan Atkins, Bobby Beausoleil et al. And the pea-brain journalists never question if this fantastic cast of characters he describes makes any sense, but report it as fact. Nor do they do just a little extra fact checking. They might learn that Manson couldn’t possibly have helped found The Church of Satan in 1966 while incarcerated at Terminal Island Prison! Nor could Susan Atkins since she wasn’t yet employed by LaVey in 1966 but a little too busy with two boyfriends on a cross-country robbery spree. This sort of rewriting of history is at the other extreme of the squeamish but rather of anything goes, make it up as you will.
Most of us have read about the Manson case through Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter which was obviously a romanticized horror story rather than an account of what really happened. This new book is a kind of answer to all the false things that were written in this book. Nikolas, Bugliosi is now quite old but do you know if he is aware of your research ? And what kind of reactions did you receive?
Nikolas : Based on my observation of Bugliosi’s violent reaction to a colleague who confronted him with the many inconsistencies in his Helter Skelter cover-up in the 90s, I decided it would be a waste of time to interview him directly. However, considering my frequent critique of Bugliosi during my interviews on mainstream American television and radio in the late 80s, I’m sure someone as concerned about his ”good reputation” as Saint Vincent must be aware of my accusations. Some of my sources for the book were private detectives and law enforcement personnel who worked closely with Bugliosi during the trial, so they may have mentioned my research to him. But knowing his modus operandi as well as I do, I’m sure Vince would just dismiss me as a heinous lunatic fringe ”Manson follower” and ”conspiracy theorist”. He was assigned to do a job for the powers that be in Los Angeles and he was handsomely rewarded for pulling it off. I’m sure he’s not losing any sleep on my account.
One of the main points of the book is that what happened at Cielo Drive was a kind of vengeance between drug dealers and everything in this story was linked, in a great part, to the drug traffic and criminal activities that were taking place in this house. So what was the role of Manson in all that and had he a role at all? In other words, this argument can be felt as provocative in some ways because some people can think that you try to suggest that Manson was innocent.
Nikolas : If I said ”1 plus 1 equals 2” some people would say, ”There he goes, being provocative again!” I’ve never said Manson had no role in what happened. It’s just that he played a relatively minor supporting role, whereas Tex Watson, his supposed ”follower”, was the sole instigator of the Cielo Drive carnage. My book establishes the precise degree of Manson’s guilt and/or innocence not only for the Tate slaying, but in all nine counts of murder he was convicted for. I’ll limit my remarks here to the Cielo Drive episode since that’s the one you asked about. Manson was aware that Watson had a grudge against Frykowski and Sebring after they sold Tex and his girlfriend Linda Kasabian a defective solution of the new drug MDA and he knew the couple planned to go up to the Polanski home to get back at Frykowski and Sebring by stealing their drug stash. What’s been erased from the public record is that Manson, Watson and the girls had all partied at the Cielo Drive house many times, going back to when Manson’s musical patron Terry Melcher lived there over a year earlier. Melcher even let Tex live in the Cielo Drive guesthouse before the Polanskis moved in, so there’s nothing ”random” about this. Not only was this revenge robbery Tex’s plan alone, Manson didn’t order anyone to be murdered, for the simple reason that dead bodies of people you know tend to attract police attention, something any competent crook wants to avoid. As you say, the crucial fact that’s been concealed about the Hinman, Tate and La Bianca murders is that they resulted from the mutual drug dealing activities of the killers and the victims. They were typical underworld disputes between two criminal factions that turned deadly. Manson’s only role in the Cielo Drive incident was that he participated in the desperate attempt to erase evidence when this routine drug theft went wrong. That makes Manson an accessory to the crime, as he acknowledged during at least one parole hearing. But it’s a charge for which he should have served 12-18 years maximum rather than a lifetime sentence. After his arrest, he was offered an eighteenth-month sentence if he testified about what really happened, but he stayed true to the criminal code of silence. In fact, a major reason why he’s still locked up is because of his own refusal to talk about it. All three Manson trials were fatally flawed by major judicial errors and malfeasance by both defense and prosecution. Based on those legal technicalities alone, including the fact that he was deprived of his constitutional right to defend himself, Manson would have been freed decades ago if he was anyone else. So what I argue in my book is something much more complicated than Manson’s innocence.
Other people talked about this drugs use and abuse in the underbelly of Hollywood’s milieu. You quote Michael Caine who spoke about a party with Manson and his girls at the house of Mama Cass from the Mamas and Papas. I also thought of the movie Mondo Hollywood in which we see Jay Sebring, Bobby Beausoleil and many others who are mentioned in your book, as if all these very different people had all one common point: acid and LSD. How would you describe the Hollywood of that time?
Nikolas : A non-stop psychedelic orgy whose drugs were supplied by the same East Coast Mafia syndicate running the movie studios and record companies which employed the celebrity orgiasts. It was an open secret that the 10050 Cielo Drive house in which record producer Terry Melcher lived and which Roman and Sharon Polanski later rented was the center of a swinging acid and orgy social circle. This endless party spilled over to the Woodstock Drive home of the Mamas and the Papas singer Cass Elliot and the Sunset Boulevard mansion of the Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson as well as the villa owned by Elvis Presley. That incestuous scene had been going full blast since 1966, even though it began with the earlier excesses of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack. One of the main sources for acid and cocaine for this exclusive clientele was Jay Sebring, whose hairdressing business was a front for an organized crime enterprise funded by a New Jersey Mafia family. This was the already wild situation Dennis Wilson brought his new ex-con musical discovery and lover Charles Manson into in 1968. When Wilson introduced Manson to his young live-in friend and dope dealer Charles Watson and his show biz colleagues Terry Melcher, Sharon Tate, John Phillips, Mama Cass and the agent/realtor Rudy Altobelli, the stage was set and the cast was selected for the bad trip that happened one year later. As my book uncovers, a major motive behind the Helter Skelter cover-up orchestrated by the entertainment industry and the L.A. legal establishment was preventing the public from learning about the secret lives of the stars who invited Manson and his circle into their mansions, their recording studios and their beds. Zeena’s art accompanying ”The Beverly Hillbilly” chapter in my book captures the spirit of late 60s Hollywood better than any words could.
What I liked very much in your book is that you emphasize the fact that Manson was a Southern boy, a ”redneck” and farm boy from rural Kentucky, brought up in Southern churches and listening to country music. And when we listen to his music, this aspect is much more obvious than the supposed influence of the Beatles (but once again, it was Bugliosi’s fantasy). He seemed to speak quite a lot to you about this ”hillbilly” upbringing. It leads to very interesting social questions: Is a ”hillbilly” an outcast in modern American society? Is it impossible for this class of people to be accepted in artistic, intellectual or other urban circles? Is the case of Manson a kind of allegory or metaphor of the discrimination that can be felt when you are a ”redneck” from the South? Of course, I thought of some books like Jim Goad’s The Redneck Manifesto, but, according to you, how is this rural background manifested in Manson?
Nikolas : Charles is the last Confederate soldier, holed up in a cave, waiting for the rebel yell that means the South has risen again. His revolutionary and ecological ideas as well as his free-form Christian mysticism can be traced to his hillbilly roots in a traditional love of the land, connection to animals, deep religiosity, and distrust of the federal government, which many rural Southerners still see as the diabolical invention of the hated Abraham Lincoln, who they view as a despot who destroyed the Constitution. The social questions you pose are very important to understanding why Manson is perceived as the archetype of Evil in America. In the late 1960s, when Manson emerged in the media, the murders of Kennedy in Texas and Martin Luther King in Tennessee were still fresh, as was the violent Southern opposition to the civil rights movement. There was no more stinging insult among the liberal intelligentsia and the hippie counterculture than ”redneck”. So, yes, a hillbilly like Manson is definitely an outcast in U.S. society, whose norms are dictated by a media controlled by East and West Coast urban intellectuals who regard Southerners with contempt. Despite this bias, Manson’s rural outlaw Southern authenticity was embraced by the rock music elite. His persona fit perfectly into the country rock fad popular among the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters springing up at a time when Dylan and the Rolling Stones flirted with the Nashville sound. If the Capitol Records Manson LP and rockumentary Terry Melcher and the Beach Boys were preparing to release in ‘69 hadn’t been rudely interrupted by the murders, Manson would’ve had a career in the vein of The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Kris Kristofferson or Willie Nelson, more Lynyrd Skynyrd than Helter Skelter.
Of course, a writer puts much of himself when he writes such an investigative work, and sometimes I had the feeling of reading more about yourself than about Manson himself, especially when you talk about his Gnostic shamanism. We know about your interest for the history of religions, your analyses are very interesting, but don’t you think that’s putting too much intelligence in the logorrhoea of Manson?
Nikolas : One man’s logorrhoea is another man’s Logos. As I say in the book’s epilogue, there’s no such thing as an ”objective author”. I openly reveal my prejudices in this book rather than pretend at scholarly impartiality. I’m not claiming that Manson himself defines his spiritual insight in the language I used to analyze it. What makes him a remarkable figure in contemporary Western mysticism is that an uneducated self-described ”dummy” and common criminal attained spontaneous realizations identical to the most profound teachings of Gnosticism, shamanism, Sufism, Tantra, and Christian mysticism. The Manson myth claims that he merely spouts a con-man’s half-baked double talk borrowed from popular occultism. By comparing Manson’s metaphysics with these ancient traditions, I sought to demonstrate that he possesses a genuinely prophetic and visionary wisdom of universal initiatory value. I really believe that he’s an ”outlaw shaman”, with all the contradictions that phrase implies. Having had the privilege of learning from several realized spiritual masters from many religious lineages, I can testify that many of my conversations and religious debates with Manson have been on an equally insightful level. Privately, the person Charles is very different from the Manson act he puts on for the media. If he hadn’t been dragged into a series of Tex Watson’s drug robbery scams, Manson would be revered today as a religious teacher and as a force for positive change instead of being doomed to his current status as a media monster. That’s one of the many tragedies of this case.
One of the most delicious part of the book, and one of the funniest ones, is the part in which you speak of Manson’s homosexual tendencies, his fantasies about Cary Grant, and his refusal to have sex with Robert Conrad and Peter Falk. There is even, if I remember well, the suggestion of a sexual relationship with Dennis Wilson. What’s your point of view on all that? Do you think it’s true or part of Manson’s provocative talk?
Nikolas : Not only is it true, there’s much more to the neglected homoerotic aspect of the case than there was room to include. Manson really did become involved in the closet Hollywood homosexual underworld when he parked in Cary Grant’s space in the Universal Studio parking lot. And he’s told me in great detail about other closet cases in the music and movie industry who he serviced as a ”rough trade” male prostitute, clients he calls the ”secret suckers.” Manson’s relationship with Dennis Wilson was so intense it even made some of the girls in Charlie’s commune jealous. One of the many show business secrets the Helter Skelter myth covered up was the then career-destroying fact that Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boys’ only sex symbol, was a promiscuous bisexual, who, like Manson, was notorious for fucking anything that moved, regardless of gender. Worse still for the Beach Boys innocent public image was the notion of their macho dreamboat drummer being sodomized by a man reviled as the most sinister serial killer in history. While none of these escapades would shock anyone today, these were deep dark secrets even in the ”free love” atmosphere of the late 60s. But these hidden homosexual hijinks aren’t just celebrity gossip – they led directly to the murders. Manson first met Dennis Wilson while buying dope from their mutual friend, the gay drug dealer and musician Gary Hinman, who also discreetly serviced Hollywood homosexuals. Bobby Beausoleil only met Hinman, who he killed, because he was trying to get away from Kenneth Anger’s unwanted advances. The Hinman connection led directly to Wilson introducing Manson to his live-in friend Tex Watson, who Manson and several other sources allege was also an active bisexual. Again, much of the secrecy this case is enshrouded in was meant to obscure the kinky lifestyles of the rich and famous and their sexual slumming in society’s lower depths.
The portrait you make of Voytek Frykowski, one of the persons who were killed at Cielo Drive, is just terrifying: he killed Sharon Tate’s dog, he sodomized Billy Doyle in a public humiliation ritual that was apparently shot on video. Where did you get these pieces of information? What kind of person was this Frykowski, who was also a close friend of Polanski?
Nikolas : Polanski’s autobiography describes how Frykowski accidentally killed Sharon Tate’s dog Sapirstien. It’s also mentioned in several other accounts by people who knew him. Frykowski’s public rape of the drug dealer Billy Doyle is chronicled in police reports, since homicide detectives investigated this incident immediately after the murders in search of motives. Doyle sold the bad MDA to Frykowski that Frykowski then sold to Tex Watson and Linda Kasabian, which, in turn, motivated their revenge robbery on August 9, 1969 that ended with a stoned Frykowski getting killed. Every source described Frykowski as a brutal self-destructive drunk with an uncontrollable violent streak. Even the day after the murder, Polanski said Voytek was a ”loser” who he should have thrown out of his house. Sharon Tate hated this dangerous houseguest dealing drugs to strangers from her living room, even though her ex, Jay Sebring, was doing the same thing. Tate’s mother later admitted that Sharon bitterly complained that she wished Polanski would get rid of Frykowski in the days before her death. But the most interesting puzzle about Frykowski is how an exile from a Communist country during the Cold War could travel freely in the USA without a proper visa. As I explore in the book, one layer of secrecy surrounding the murder investigation had to do with what the FBI and other agencies suspected about Frykowski’s intelligence connections, since he knew many Polish exiles who were CIA agents, some of whom also died mysterious deaths.
You have talked about a malediction concerning the persons who try to find the truth about all this? Have you encountered some special problems and magical events that make you believe in this malediction?
Nikolas : I know that seems absurd to materialists unaware of the role unseen spiritual forces play in our lives. But experience has shown me that this is a very real phenomenon that should be taken seriously. Contrary to what one might imagine, I don’t think this malevolent power has much to do with Manson himself. He’s only one of a long list of people fated to be involved in a case much bigger than him. One example of the malediction is the almost unbelievable series of tragedies that have dogged Roman Polanski’s whole life. Then there’s Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. When he was drunk or stoned, which was most of the time, he told his friends about the true circumstance of the killings, dismissing the Helter Skelter legend as ”bullshit” and suggesting that he bore some motivating responsibility for the crimes. He kept threatening to write a book that would tell the true story. I believe his death by drowning was a result of the curse. Closer to home, one summer day in 1987, I was collecting the material for the first Manson File. I’d had trouble making a copy of the coroner’s drawing of Gary Hinman’s wounds, which clearly showed how his ear had been sliced by Manson’s sword a few hours before Hinman was killed by Bobby Beausoleil. The copy kept coming out wrong so that I had to look at this picture again and again. That night, I was attacked by unknown assailants who cut my right ear off. If that wasn’t magical warning enough, as soon as I got to the hospital, a social worker told me that I was eligible for financial compensation from a fund Doris Tate, Sharon Tate’s mother, had set up for victims of violent crime in Los Angeles. A magician ignores such obvious synchronicities at his peril. In the mid-90s several investigative journalists interviewed Zeena and me about what we’d discovered about the hidden facts of the murders. None of these sceptics believed Zeena when she warned them that this was a black hole one should only approach with spiritual precautions. When they researched what we told them they were hit by instant bad luck, unexplained violence, mental and physical illness or financial catastrophe. Even while getting this new edition of The Manson File into print, a ridiculous number of obstacles delayed its completion. This happened so often, every time my editor called to tell me the latest problem, he’d say, ”the Manson curse strikes again!” After a few decades of this kind of thing, you feel like you’re trying to open a locked door that some demon’s holding shut with all of its strength.
Zeena, there are links between your own story and the story of Manson, and you have crossed each other’s paths several times. What does he represent for you today?
Zeena : I almost feel that I know Charles too well at this point to put words to our relationship and the bizarre connections we’ve had to each other before we even knew each other, that he was like the patron saint that brought Nikolas and me together, and that he’s brought many very wonderful things into our lives that people would find difficult to imagine. For this reason, I felt I really needed to connect to Charles and the saga that has become his curse in this lifetime through the nine-fold artpiece I created God Bless Charles Manson. I feel I’ve come to know this person in ways that can’t be described in mere words. Even when I was doing the transcription of Nikolas’s interview with him for the book, getting every nuance of his special language, I got into his mind and understood him on a level of love and compassion. Many people who think they understand Manson, because they think he’s cool or interesting or funny, or “mean”, think they understand him. But they’re only understanding a projection of themselves. He’s said as much. But when I got into my artwork and carefully placed the details of his own formulae of positives and negatives, lightness and darkness, mirrored images, Abraxas as the counterforce to all duality, I believe I came to understand Charles in an even deeper way that often brought tears to my eyes while working on the whole project.
To end up with Manson, why is there such a fascination for him in America? I have talked to many American artists, lately with Lydia Lunch, and he is still, like some famous serial killers are (even though he did not commit any murder himself), a source of inspiration for those who shared the ”American nightmare”. Why is it so?
Nikolas : The pop cultural fascination with Manson is mostly inspired by the fantasy Bugliosi manufactured than by the real human being. Manson’s telling the truth when he says that he’s a mirror in which people see in him what they’re capable of seeing. We need to separate the positive inspiration he exerted on many of the people who met him during his pre-notoriety 1967-69 phase from the legend which consumed him after his arrest. Even in his own lifetime, he’s become just as much of a myth as King Arthur or Bluebeard. And like them, the myth doesn’t have much to do with the historical reality. Some anti-Manson obsessives are convinced he’s Satan incarnate. They’re vicariously excited by the idea of hypnotic powers turning innocent ”followers” into sex slaves and mindless killers of random strangers. When I explain that that wasn’t what happened at all, and that it was a squalid drug robbery, they react with the same indignation of Christians presented with facts that cast doubt on the literal truth of the Bible. At the opposite extreme, there are equally fascinated Manson admirers who naively believe he’s a harmless Santa Claus figure, a saint martyred by the pigs because he wanted to save the trees. These dreamers tend to be in denial about his long criminal history as a thief, pimp and drug dealer with Mafia ties going back to the 50s. They don’t want the complicated details about the crimes to intrude on their simplistic fantasy. When the first flying saucer sightings took place, Carl Jung theorized that humanity projected the suppressed archetypes of all of their buried religious fears and hopes onto these inexplicable apparitions. Manson, too, is an UFO who touches some deep chord in the human imagination. The mystery of the fascination Manson inspires is rooted in the equally mysterious nature of charisma itself, which was originally understood as a gift from the gods. That’s why I predict that in centuries to come Manson, for better or worse, will be remembered as a religious figure. I should point out that nobody’s more bemused and amused by this weird fascination with his person than Manson himself, who recently asked me, ”How the hell did I get this life?”
Of course, we remember you as the leader of Radio Werewolf. Musically speaking, what did you work on since that time? Have you had other projects? Are you working on new stuff? Is it very different to your earlier work? Are there plans for re-releasing your past records?
Nikolas : My first post-RW musical project was completely removed from the bohemian subcultural milieu I’d spent so much time in. I conceived, organized and produced Sir Christopher Lee’s first album as a singer, a logistical and artistic intercontinental challenge that encompassed opera, country music, and Broadway musicals. That expanded the musical horizons of my own work. Since then, I’ve composed many songs and longer instrumental pieces, and now that I’ve finished a series of forthcoming books, the first of which to be published was the new Manson File, I’m recording a solo album. Yes, it’s very different from Radio Werewolf, but my voice, my preference for the keyboard and my penchant for the minor key probably offers some continuity to what came before. We’re frequently asked to record new Radio Werewolf music, or to go out on a Radio Werewolf ”comeback” tour. Going backwards doesn’t interest me at all, so that will never happen. But because new generations keep discovering Radio Werewolf, we’ve agreed to put out a re-release of the beast from its cage. It doesn’t really matter that Radio Werewolf withdrew from the field of battle so long ago. We still get mail addressed to ”Radio Werewolf” as if it’s still in operation. The Frankenstein monster that escaped from our lab now lives a posthumous life independent of its creators.
That band was quite difficult to classify. In its first period, it was quite rock-oriented, not so far from a theatrical ”batcave” sound (the song ”Cadillac Hearse”), then there has been a more dark ambient/ magical side (The Lightning and the Sun) and finally the more spoken-word oriented side, with sermons based on a minimal accompaniment of organ and percussions. Looking back on that band, was the message more important than the music itself? Did you consider yourself as a musician or more like a man who had a spiritual mission and a message to tell?
Nikolas : When I’m writing a song I never think about what genre someone might label it. I’ve been condemned to the Gothic and Industrial ghettos, but none of the ten musicians who did official duty in Radio Werewolf, including myself, had any interest in those styles of music. The ”Werewolf” in Radio Werewolf refers to the shapeshifting inherent in lycanthropy. That’s why I presented a different persona in each performance and recording just as we used whatever musical form suited the subject matter rather than limiting ourselves to one fixed mode of composition. For instance, from the early RW period, ”1960 Cadillac Hearse” draws on early Beach Boys hot rod tunes and corny horror novelty records circa 1964-65 without a trace of the usual whiny and suicidal ”Goth” sound. A theatrical character piece like ”Triumph of the Will” could’ve come from cabaret or a Broadway musical and certainly doesn’t fit into the Gothic genre. As far as ”The Lightning and the Sun” being more magical, all of our music followed magical principles, including the songs that don’t announce themselves as obviously ”occult”. I prefer the German phrase ”Tonkunstler” or ”sound artist” to ”musician”. The spiritual mission you mention was inseparable from the musical vehicle that conveyed it. When I left the USA and went to Egypt in 1983, I intended to renounce worldly life and settle down there to devote myself to quietly mastering the art of magic and meditation with a commune of like-minded souls. But I was given divine marching orders that told me to go back to the West with what I’d learned and confront the forces of ignorance and repression directly with the power of sound. RW’s music and message were equally important, as in our many instrumentals, where pure sound absent any verbal overlay was the only means of communication.
Love Conquers All remains my favourite album of Radio Werewolf (especially haunting pieces like ”Barbarossa” or ”Heidentor”). Do you think you had reached the ending point at that moment and said all you had to say?
Zeena : Not an ending, but as the first part of Love Conquers All symbolizes, a new beginning. When we recorded that album we’d come to a stage where Radio Werewolf’s ritual performances at various magical and sacred sites in Austria and Germany caused us to realize that what we were doing was mutating into a strictly religious phenomenon. After you’ve had intense initiatory experiences at such sacred genius loci it changes your consciousness and spiritual sensitivity so that you can’t go back to the mainstream music marketplace. When I wrote the songs “Heidentor”, “Barbarossa”, “Pleasure Dome”, “TWO”, and “Luchorpan” I found I was tapping into the same timeless mystical experience that inspired some of my favorite religious music such as Messiaen, Hildegard von Bingen, Satie’s Vespers and his mystical compositions. Those songs mark a turning point in my initiation that eventually led me to renounce worldly life in general and make my spiritual development my main priority. After you’ve seen behind the facade of a stage set you can’t take the play seriously any more. In other words, you can’t go backwards and regain your ignorance, you have to move forward.
Nikolas : Love Conquers All was the climax of the journey from darkness to light our publicly available album-length recordings takes the listener on. The Fiery Summons, as the title indicates, invokes the Fenris Wolf, Abraxas, and the other spiritual forces required for the rite. Songs for the End of the World‘s evocation of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, was the necessary act of destruction and opening of empty space, the long night of the soul the initiate passes through to be reborn. Love Conquers All is the dawn of a new creation, the rising of the alchemical phoenix from the ashes. The three vinyl sonic magic talismans released in between the albums served to seal each stage of the transformation and to effect augmenting magical changes in the material world. However, that was only all we had to say to a public forum. After Zeena and I called a moratorium on public performance and the conventions of the mainstream music industry after a rally in Switzerland, we recorded and performed several esoteric Radio Werewolf transmissions which were only made available on a sworn contractual basis to initiates who signed the Werewolf Order pact. If we’d stayed within the limits of the alternative music scene we would have become dancing bears offering what could be misunderstood as escapist entertainment. So we created a purer vehicle that clearly separated spirituality from show business.
There was also this cover of ”These Boots Are Made For Walking”, which was very surprising at that moment. Was this song just a kind of joke or something much more seriously ironical with a special meaning?
Nikolas : ”Seriously ironical” is the mot juste. By that time, we’d endured years of right-wing Christian fundamentalist police and media harassment during the ”Satanic Panic” witch hunt. Our albums were declared ”Jügendgefährlich” (dangerous to youth) by the notoriously irony-free German government, thanks to some overly sensitive left-wing cultural commissars. And our reputation made us what Zeena called ”the world’s most banned band”, so that our concerts were carried out like secret military operations. Our Sinatra tribute had a deeper encoded meaning, but it’s also a deliberate self-parody of our image, a reaction to all of the heavy seriousness with which we were regarded. Black humor, sarcasm, and irony were always essential to the Radio Werewolf experience. But because we kept unsmiling poker faces throughout the public part of the rite, only those on our wavelength got the joke. Loki, a deity central to Radio Werewolf, is a trickster, a cruel cosmic comedian who breaks boundaries through laughter, mockery, and inappropriate behavior. As with our song ”The Last Laugh”, humor can serve a deadly serious purpose. What appears to be a joke can touch on hidden truths a more sober presentation wouldn’t get across. In describing Radio Werewolf to one interviewer, I quoted that line from a Bee Gees song that says, ”I started a joke that got the whole world crying.”
Zeena : On the most obvious level, my recording of “Boots” was having fun with our public image. But there was a special meaning too that was communicated in the entire package. Don’t forget that we are magicians, and that every aspect of what we release has a specific alchemical balance, from the costume I designed and wore in the cover photograph to the precise location at which that photograph was taken. I can say that I was working with the energy that comes from mixing extreme hypereroticism with humor and fear. But as with all magic, a talisman like “Boots” achieves its desired effect on a subconscious level. So I’d defeat the purpose if I explained the “special meaning.” One of the problems with the downloading of music originally issued on vinyl in a sleeve is that the listener only gets the song itself without the necessary context that the package provides. When the original recording was presented as a magical object of art, and you’re only hearing a digital distillation of the sounds without even the correct accompanying image, then obviously the special meaning has been lost.
I do not want to get into your personal life, I know it must be painful enough, but you were spokeswoman for the Church of Satan at the same time you got involved in Radio Werewolf, and you appeared in many TV shows and were a kind of ”public person”.
Zeena : Though it’s true I was “a kind of ‘public person'”, that wasn’t my own choice. As soon as I was born, my parents used me as a media prop for their circus act, like the family lion, the interesting artifacts, the antique cars, the Black House, or any number of accoutrements that made their “show” more interesting. They thrust me into their PR activities when I was still an infant, even before The Church of Satan existed. By the time I entered school, I was already notorious as the ”real Rosemary’s Baby”. Discrimination from teachers and schoolmates was my constant shadow once I entered the structured world of schools and rules and rights and wrongs. Nonetheless, I was raised to believe that this was our religion. I took it seriously and argued my Constitutional right to freedom of religion in school, because so many people in The Church of Satan took it seriously in those early days. We didn’t know we were the suckers the High Priest was referring to when he quoted P.T. Barnum about a sucker is born every minute. We didn’t know that we were all being conned by both the High Priest and his live in partner who everyone thought was his wife (my mother). And that old saying about blood being thicker than water isn’t true because they lied to their own blood as much as they did to their customers.
Appearing in TV shows was the result of a specific event. In 1985, a US news show called 20/20 accused The Satanic Bible of being responsible for child daycare center molestations, animal mutilations, and the rest of the allegations we’re familiar with now – but which were new then. I was working for The University of California’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety at that time. Prior to the night of that broadcast I never had any problem at work. Only close friends and colleagues knew who I was. But the morning after that show when the first co-workers came into the office, one person asked me, “What’s your father’s name?” Then I knew this was going to be a nightmare to deal with. I called my father and asked him what his media strategy would be to deal with this catastrophe. Nothing. He didn’t care. As far as he was concerned it didn’t concern him. It wasn’t anything he needed to worry about. He certainly wasn’t going out in public to do anything about it. He admitted that many media sources had already contacted him and he was just going to ignore it until it went away. I tried to convince him that this would only get worse if he didn’t respond and that he really needed to get someone to answer calls quickly or it would be taken as an admission of guilt or suspicion. Finally he admitted he had no one to deal with interviews or media. I offered to help temporarily until he found someone. This was not what I’d intended to do with my life, I had other plans. After about the third TV interview the byline under my name, instead of the title “Magistra”, mistitled me as “High Priestess”. To me, my mother was the only High Priestess, so in my mind this was a big mistake. But my father’s bitterness about my mother leaving him was so great that when he saw the caption, he was so relieved to have someone doing anything for him, his exact words were, “Well, I don’t see anyone else around here doing anything for me. You may as well be the High Priestess.” So from May 1985 until I left in April 1990 that’s what I was. And to this day I have no doubt as to the blood, sweat and tears I poured into my dedication to that position and my work for that organization. I only regret that I’d been lied to since childhood about what it really was and that my dutiful nature was wasted on ingrates all the way around. But all for the better to have opened my eyes, which was very painful, as you pointed out, but necessary.
Now, as for Radio Werewolf: I should clarify how I became involved since there’s so much confusion about Radio Werewolf’s different phases. The notorious 8-8-88 Rally was the only time the old line up of Radio Werewolf and the yet-to-be new line up of Radio Werewolf worked together. It would be the only performance that Nikolas, the original percussionist Evil Wilhelm, and I ever performed live together. That marked the transition point spanning three phases of Radio Werewolf: 1) the Nikolas Schreck/Evil Wilhelm collaboration, 2) the solo Nikolas Schreck (The Fiery Summons), and 3) the Nikolas Schreck/Zeena collaboration. However, back in May of 1988, I went to see Nikolas and Gisela Getty and Non perform in Berkeley. This wasn’t specifically a Radio Werewolf performance. But Nikolas was reciting Ezra Pound’s poetry to Gisela’s Japanese Kodo drum performance. I had a strong theatrical background with an emphasis on surrealism, Dada, and Expressionism but also in ancient Hellenic drama. Having no knowledge of the earlier Radio Werewolf performances, I came to the Berkeley performance fresh and its stark, streamlined delivery very much appealed to me. I’d known and dated many musicians, and though I’d supported them as artists, I never considered having anything to do with them professionally. I just had no interest. And to be honest, had I seen the previous Radio Werewolf, I also wouldn’t have wanted to do that type of music either. But when I saw Nikolas perform entirely to his own design with Gisela’s accompaniment, I was very impressed. In retrospect, I’m very glad that the first time I saw Nikolas perform was a rare occasion like that. It gave me the opportunity to see who he alone really was. Based on that performance, we got talking about other performances we’d both done of a similar nature and out of that developed the idea to do something together but still it was too early to know that it would be Radio Werewolf. Perhaps something different, because things had not yet worked out the way they did between Nikolas and Wilhelm yet. When I’d shown Nikolas my artwork and a draft for a piece called “Bring Me the Head of Geraldo Rivera” inspired by the Geraldo Rivera TV interview with Manson prior to my meeting Nikolas, we began plans to do something together with that, which later became the Radio Werewolf EP of the same name. So it’s not as though Nikolas simply incorporated his wife into Radio Werewolf, but rather we would’ve collaborated as equals on something regardless. That Wilhelm stopped participating in Radio Werewolf just allowed Nikolas to continue what he’d done with The Fiery Summons anyway, but with new collaborators. But really, Nikolas and I, and only a couple of months later, Kirby, all began working quite nicely together as a unit when we recorded Songs for the End of the World. So it was I who made the decision to work with Nikolas as a collaborator, not as a hired hand or a “back-up singer” to Radio Werewolf. In fact, we probably would’ve formed our own “other thing” if Wilhelm had continued on with Radio Werewolf and not pulled out. So it’s all a matter of shifting collaborators.
I know you rejected the Church of Satan, your family, and what you consider to be lies, but do you think these thoughts have had an influence on the records you have made with Radio Werewolf or, on the contrary, do you see Radio Werewolf’s subject matters as something purer, devoid of these external influences?
Zeena : Overall, I try to reach something more transpersonal and religious in music, though the message might not be readily apparent. So, no, my experiences from my past and upbringing didn’t play a part in what I brought to my Radio Werewolf recordings. Even the ones recorded during my time still in the Church of Satan. For example when I was working on The Lightning and The Sun. I would say the mindset that I was in when recording or conceiving of the pieces was so faraway from the influences you mentioned, not simply in terms of theme but in crossing over into other dimensions, and that feeling of absorption one gets when working on a composition that you know is linking to other celestial forces or entities, then you can’t say that has anything to do with you personally or your personal human experiences in terms of a contrived thought that creates the piece. When I create music, I work it until I feel I’ve hit something that is connecting to whatever is the “not-me” eternal mental continuum that can in a more pure sense navigate other energies ancient or future to act as a medium. But I try to avoid what’s popularly termed personal expression. For some people personal expression is a very rewarding form of artistic experience. But I tend to find it rather boring. Even though it can be cathartic, and I occasionally create things privately for such purposes. In the end, and this could have much to do with my meditation and spiritual practices as well, if there were to be some feeling of representation in my music of that nature, it wouldn’t be entirely personal but rather an overall mood as experienced generally in the human condition.
Nikolas, have your vision of things changed since the late Eighties? Do you assume everything that you have said and believed in your early career?
Nikolas : My work since then makes it clear that I’ve renounced a great deal of what I said and believed in that early period. I’ve always been happy to admit when I’ve been wrong about something and to change my mind accordingly. In the late Eighties, I was an arrogant and vengeful blood-drinking theistic Devil worshipper with ”visions of swastikas in my head and plans for everyone” to quote the poet James Osterberg. In the years to come, to make a long story short, Zeena and I discovered that the Devil we thought we were worshipping was actually God. I know you Frenchies have a problem with God since you chopped your king’s head off, but bear with me. After some misguided wandering through the more confused depths of organized occultism, we founded the Sethian Liberation Movement in 2002 as a vehicle of this revelation. Another major change was our realization that the West was spiritually dead and that nothing will revive it. When we moved to Austria we began to reincorporate Eastern yoga techniques we’d learned as teenagers back into our practice. Slowly but surely, over many years, that led us to formally convert to the left-hand path of Tantric Buddhism, which is centered on generating the universal compassion we used to disdain and dissolving the very ego we used to glorify. That doesn’t mean that I now deny the existence of the Devil, by whatever name you prefer to call him. But now he’s more like an old friend I don’t have much reason to keep in touch with anymore.
What memories do you keep of the artistic exchanges you had at the time of Radio Werewolf and the energy that was going on at that time? Have you got a certain nostalgia about what was going on at that moment? Or on the contrary, do you think that everything was driven by a certain anger and disgust at the world around you?
Nikolas : Honestly, I have fonder memories of the more pleasurable exchanges of bodily fluids at that time than I do of some of the ”artistic” exchanges. I have no nostalgia for the ”good old days”. I know our activities from that more intense pre-virtual reality era have been idealized and demonized through the fog of legend. But when I look back, I see that my youthful naivete, idealism, and wishful thinking blinded me to the negative nature of much of what I was involved in. And it’s painfully obvious to me what terrible character judgement I used in choosing some of my collaborators. I do have positive memories of the actual creative work accomplished in the studio, the stage and the screen which has stood the test of time and continues to inspire our admirers and annoy our detractors today. And yes, Radio Werewolf, as a creature born in the ominous year 1984, was definitely driven by my anger and disgust at the grotesque conditions that ruled Reagan’s America. But my reactionary and destructive revulsion to the times was balanced by a creative urge to provide a positive alternative and a force of spiritual guerilla resistance.
What was your relationship to public performance as you were the leader of Radio Werewolf and as you participated in many TV shows? When we type your name on the Internet, we fall upon these TV shows, and a friend of mine told me he discovered you through these appearances? How do you react to that?
Nikolas : My performances drew on the discipline of traditional ceremonial magic and my early theatre experience in classical drama, the theatre of the absurd and musicals. On TV or in our concerts we were carrying out public magical rituals. One unbreakable rule of ritual, as in theater, is that you stay in character and you keep going no matter what happens around you, even if the curtains are on fire, the amps have blown and the audience is rioting. As for your friend learning about me from YouTube, that happens a lot, and it’s been a mixed blessing. It’s interesting when people from the former Soviet Bloc, the Middle East, and Asia who never encountered my early work contact me to share their positive feedback. The Internet’s illusion of immediacy makes it brand new for them. The same thing’s happened with young Internet-bred Radio Werewolf enthusiasts for whom the 80s and 90s are ancient history but who are even more fanatical than our original admirers were. And we’ve won plenty of new enemies too, who wrongly assume that our Satanic Televangelism crusade over twenty years ago still reflects our current position. The Internet’s random, digressive and fragmentary nature takes bits of audio-visual data out of their historical context. Mix that with information-overloaded multi-tasking attention spans that can’t focus longer than a Tweet and it’s very unlikely that the data received will be understood on more than the most superficial level. When someone watches these old programs on the web today they don’t grasp that when Zeena and I defended our religious beliefs on national TV in the last century, we weren’t providing entertainment. We were fighting a very real threat from a well-funded right-wing Christian political movement determined to persecute all occultists and minority alternative religionists. And Zeena had already been fighting that battle alone for four years before we met each other.
By Nikolas Schreck
In February 2010, when I was completing The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman, I attended the book launch in Berlin for Die Zwillinge by my friends Jutta Winkelmann and Gisela Getty, the twins who became infamous in the Sixties and early 70s as the photogenic faces of the German counterculture. This event was populated by a veritable love-in of prominent survivors from the rapidly thinning Teutonic communard contingent of the ageing acid and revolution generation.
A gaunt grizzled gentleman with the bearing and look of a battle-worn pirate captain came up to me. He told me, with a snaggle toothed grin, that he was an admirer of the Radio Werewolf album The Fiery Summons. As we conversed, it turned out that this was none other than the notorious terrorist activist and author “Bommi” Baumann. A legendary and controversially contrarian figure in the radical insurgency that rose in West Germany in 1968, Bommi was revered and reviled for his founding of the self-described terrorist unit the June 2 Movement, and though he eventually renounced his violent actions as counter-productive, his dramatic fugitive years on the run as a wanted man and eventual imprisonment had made him a divisive and polarizing force.
I had quoted Bommi’s positive reflections on Manson in the original 1988 edition of The Manson File, a work he was also familiar with. When I told him that I was in the process of finishing a greatly expanded and updated version of my book, he graciously invited me to his home to interview him in depth about the relatively forgotten influence of Manson on the German radical left. Although already suffering from the liver disease which eventually killed him on July 16th, 2016, Bommi took time to share his memories of that volatile period with me. After our formal interview, to the soundtrack of old Nepali and Afghanistani music cassettes he’d purchased as a fugitive in the hippie meccas of Katmandu and Kabul in the mid-70s, he regaled me with anecdotes from his colorful criminal escapades, including his extremely eye-opening encounters with German and U.S. Intelligence operatives. As a tribute to one of the last of the free thinkers, here below is an excerpted section from The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman which includes the information gleaned from my interview with Bommi. Om Dewa Ami Hri!
Manson Über Alles: Comrade Charlie and the German Radical Left
“That much-spoken of but so vaguely defined Revolution remained something of a middle-class student fantasy in the USA and Britain, nations with no domestic model of serious armed uprising against their ruling elites to draw on.
German hippies, known as Gammler, were far more inclined toward violent revolution than their pacifist flower children cousins in America. Imminent social upheaval was simply a more realistic prospect in West Germany. Working class street-fighting against capitalism was no pot-induced pipe-dream in the homeland of Karl Marx but an everyday historical reality.
Especially in the country’s former capitol and Cold War hotspot, that walled island of ideological ferment stranded between the Superpowers which had long been known as “Red Berlin.” It was there that the police shooting of young student protestor Benno Ohnesorg during a peaceful demonstration against the Shah of Iran on June 2, 1967 split the first fissures in the then-new Federal Republic’s staid social structure.
The Ohnesorg murder abruptly radicalized the formerly sedate post-war German left, giving birth to a movement recalled today as the “68ers”. The heavy-handed brutality with which German police and intelligence agencies, often at the behest of the omnipresent CIA, infiltrated and repressed the far left only served to push anti-establishment street fighters to ever more desperate and violent countermeasures. From the other side of the Iron Curtain, the East German Stasi manipulated and secretly funded many of these often hapless amateur Western revolutionaries in order to fulfill their owncynical Realpolitik agenda.
By December of 1969, the atmosphere was so tense that several German leftist factions could even interpret the Manson commune’s then inexplicable deeds in far off California as revolutionary acts of war. Naturally, once the German media got hold of the already grossly misreported and sensationalized story much was lost in translation. Nevertheless, the rudiments of Manson’s larger-than-life outlaw mystique struck a particular chord in West Berlin’s radical underground. Long-haired stoned orgiasts offing rich pigs? Groovy!
At the forefront of West German leftist pro-Mansonism in the early Seventies was young Michael “Bommi” Baumann, charismatic co-founder of the Central Council of Wandering Hashish Rebels. Even the name of Baumann’s loose-linked anarchic network was anathema to the more orthodox oldschool of West German Marxist-Leninists, who cleaved closely to the Bolshevik party line from whence sprang the now overused phrase “politically correct”.
Baumann’s Hash Rebels took off from where RainerLanghans’s then much publicized Kommune 1 left off. The Hash Rebels enlivened their anarchist socialist political platform with an aggressive and provocative sex, drugs, guns, and rock and roll attitude that polarized the puritanical German left, which favored bookish hyper-rational intellectualismrather than bohemian countercultural extremes. Affinities between Baumann’s Hash Rebels and Manson’s Slippies on the Spahn Ranch were obvious.
Like his confreres in the Weather Underground in the\ U.S.A., Baumann had lost faith in the potential of peaceful protest to bring any substantive change to the war-mongering pro-U.S. German establishment. By 1968, he already extolled armed revolution. However, his plans for the radical reform of society extended beyond the usual limits of leftist political platform. Even before the Hash Rebels embraced sooutre an outlaw as Manson, they supported Valerie Solanis, the eccentric ultrafeminist and failed assassin of Andy Warhol whose SCUM Manifesto is one of the more bizarre screeds produced in a period marked by incendiary rhetoric.
When I spoke with Baumann about the early days of the Hash Rebel Movement, he told me that he believed then and now that a truly transformative revolution must “reach out to all factions” including the forces of spiritual liberation. This vision included the consciousness-raising properties of psychedelic drugs, which the law-abiding “uptight” West German left largely disdained as counter-revolutionary escapism.
In this eclectic spirit, Baumann’s Hash Rebels joined forces with several disparate metaphysical streams. Along with the usual yogic acid-heads drawn to the counterculture world-wide, the Hash Rebels’ iconoclast allies ranged from a prominent Sufi translator of Islamic mystical texts to a psychedelic Satanic coven in the Berlin district of Moabit centered around an esoteric bookstore operated by an initiate of the German sex-magical order, the Fraternitas Saturni. According to Baumann, these socialist Satanists celebrated rituals on certain nights on the Teufelsburg, an artificial mountain made ofWorld War II rubble which served as one of the CIA’s most important listening posts.
In 1968, influenced by the international Satanomania craze unwittingly unleashed by Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, the Hash Rebels had already adopted some Satanic elements into their revolutionary position. The Hash Rebels’ then unheard of penchant for dressing in black at political demonstrations defied the norms of counterculture conformism and made them antinomians among the antinomians. Baumann, like Manson, didn’t consider himself a hippie and generally considered the romantic utopianism of the flower children to be naive and self-destructive.
Manson’s image as a creature of the Teufel was particularly pronounced in Germany, whose long history of xenophobic witch-hunting goes back to the sadistic Kramer and Sprenger of Malleus Maleficarum infamy. This prevalent notion of Manson as seditionary Satanist which prevailed in the German media inspired the Baumann group’s activism in its early days of street-fighting. In his once banned autobiography Terror or Love? – a title which echoes LIFE magazine’s description of the Manson circle as “The Love and Terror Cult” – Baumann wrote:
“The whole action was a little crazy, and of course everyone shouted, ‘Say hello to Charles Manson’. When the bulls came in we put on the record Sympathy for the Devil and yelled ‘Hail Satan!’ Sure, Charles Manson, we wrote that on the wall with red paint. And we were on that trip of signaling with two fingers: ‘Hail Satan’ was actually our internal greeting. Unconsciously we had touched one of those borderline places- we didn’t think Charles Manson so bad. We found him quite funny.
We still had a guy among us who celebrated Black Masses in a torn-down house on the Kreuzberg. He turned us on to this. In that film, Rosemary’s Baby, that’s where the ‘Hail Satan!’ is from, at the end, where they’re all standing around the crib, screaming.
People like Proudhon, the old anarchists, often were also Satanists at the same time; Bakunin too. God and the State is actually in some ways a Gnostic piece. It has religious content when he says that once we take the Bible seriously, we can only say at the end, ‘Hail Satan’. That story fascinated us.”
When I asked Baumann if this was pro-Manson grafitti he explained that, “We went into the apartments of guys we had some trouble with or we with them, and we painted ‘Greetings from Charles Manson’ on the wall. It was an image you can travel on, that frightened, and it was directed against certain people.”
Naturally, Baumann told me, a magical-Gnostic approach to revolution aroused the disdain of the traditional West German Left, including his erstwhile friends in the Baader-Meinhof gang, or Red Army Faction, which followed the Marxist-Leninist and Maoist hatred of anything that smacked of the supernatural or mysticism. Like Manson, Baumann’s vision of revolution broke with the old Communist model of a repressive and purely materialistic dictatorship of the proletariat. In many respects, Baumann’s anarchic approach to societal transformation has more in common with the Digger ideals of a total freedom transcending ideology than the blind Ho Chi Minh and Mao worship indulged in by so many of his supposedly “anti-authoritarian” revolutionary peers.
Baumann was amused to note that his unrepentant advocacy of Manson later led Professor K.H Frick, an academic historian of Western Occultism, to float the absurd rumor that Baumann was personally chosen by Manson to be the “head of the Satanists in Germany”. Which only goes to show that the Ed Sanders “ooo-eee-ooo” school of gullible occult fantasy so associated with Manson in Satanic Panic-prone Anglo-Saxon culture also infected Europe.
After a brief spell in West German prison which granted him his own local reputation as an outlaw hero to the subversive young, Baumann formed the clandestine terror group, the June 2 Movement, whose Mansonesque motto was “A Pig is a Pig … The Pig Must Be Offed!”
Under the aegis of the June 2 Movement, Baumann went underground, wanted by the German state as a Terrorist, arsonist and bank robber. He later served time for these crimes after a long adventurous period on the lam that brought him as far afield as India, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan. There he became involved in the highest levels of the shadowy global narcotics trade, with its murky connections to intelligence agencies. Baumann’s book Terror und Rausch, informed by that experience, sheds light on the same hidden connections between narcotics traffic and the governmental power structure which Manson so often refers to.
Even forty years later, Baumann still retains a fellow convict’s collegial pirate respect for Manson and has continued to follow the case.
When I asked him what attracted him to the Charlie mystique in his youth, he said,
“It was a big thing here in the newspapers as well when they got arrested. We had a certain sympathy because it ended all this naive hippie ‘have a nice day’ way of thinking. That love, peace and brown rice bullshit which doesn’t correspond with reality, let’s face it. So, we saw it as something that goes our way, so we supported Manson, based on what information we had. Yes, it was a bit gruesome but it stops all that idiotic bullshit. The whole idea that it went our way in that sense it was militant, it was clandestine. More extreme. We corresponded somehow … Here in Berlin he had many followers, several fans, the girls liked him, his clothes, his looks, a lot came together to create that image, of course. The real Marxist-Leninist and Maoist left-wing was appalled, of course, goes without saying, but to the counterculture, he was a hero, and somehow accepted. You could get his record, posters from America, and pictures of Manson were pasted up everywhere. He had a certain influence in 1969 and 1970.”
Baumann claims that the iconic German left-wing rock group Ton, Steine, Scherben were also Manson admirers, as were several prominent left-wing activists who eventually sold out to the establishment by becoming involved in mainstream political parties. Baumann suspected these reformed revolutionaies would no longer admit the Manson influence of their youth.
Most of Baumann’s surviving fellow revolutionaries fro the ‘68 generation have either compromised their insurrectionary ideals or continue to trade on a nostalgic romantic myth bearing little relation to reality. Baumann renounced terrorism after the police killed one of his fellow guerillas in 1972 but remains an outspoken critic of the system. He has recently made himself a controversial and uncomfortable figure in radical circles by breaking the taboo of critiquing his former comrades’ misguided but still glorified revolutionary actions, including the exploits of the fabled RAF, which he claims were largely inspired by West German intelligence operatives an police agent provocateurs.”
“What was it like to during the Cold War and the Satanic Panic in the US to knowingly wear the stigma of “the most evil man in the world”? asks SANCTUARY webzine’s article about NIKOLAS. Partially a translation from Christopher Bickel’s excellent interview with NS in Dangerous Visions, even if you can’t read Czech or use Google Translate, you can enjoy the photos and music links. http://www.sanctuary.cz/12773-chuze-po-ostri-nikolase-schrecka
“If ever a picture spoke a thousand words, then this telling shot from the Los Angeles Press Corps 1970 Halloween party held during the Tate-LaBianca trial is it. Here we see Vincent Bugliosi posing with his supposed adversary, Leslie Van Houten’s bearded and doomed attorney Ronald Hughes along with three of the most prominent reporters to cover the Manson trial, Linda Deutsch, Mary Neiswender (one of the first journalists to interview Manson and still in touch with him recently), and Sandi Mettetal, dressed as black-clad X-headed, leather thong-adorned defendants Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten. That the prosecuting attorney and a defense attorney would celebrate in a fashion which seems to mock the murders with supposedly objective journalists at a party decorated with a paraphrase of Tex Watson’s supposed statement “I’m the devil here to do the devil’s business” and a dangling noose reminiscent of the Cielo Drive crime scene could have easily led to dismissal due to clear conflict of interests. If it was any other trial, this picture alone, had it been circulated to the public at the time, would have been damning to the careers of all concerned and could have even jeopardized the trial. But of course this was not any other trial! NS”
Photo from the blog of photographer Chuck Boyd – Bugliosi and his mouthpieces in the press celebrate their collaboration in the devil’s business, Halloween 1970.
AN INTERVIEW TO DIE FOR? ANOTHER OOO-EEE-OOO! MANSON FILE SYNCHRONICITY FOR THE RECORD
On Sunday, June 7, NIKOLAS SCHRECK was BRIAN DAVIS’s special surprise guest on the Tate LaBianca Radio Show 4 year anniversary season finale broadcast. Many mysterious Mansonian matters were discussed. You can listen to the full program here: https://archive.org/download/TheTateLabiancaRadioProgramPodcastPage/061TLBRadioProgramSchreckJune072015.mp3 Due to the time zone gap, the interview was pre-recorded on Saturday night, June 6 – at approximately the same time a certain Vincent T. Bugliosi was making his exit from this world. As Brian wrote to Nikolas after their conversation: “Bugs actually passed away on Saturday night which means you are giving a rare interview about TLB at the same time Bugs is actually departing this life. Somewhere during the time we were talking in that realm he was in transition. That is so weird … Also, for some reason that night I chose to end the show by going back to what caused all this real confusion…I started at the beginning and read from HELTER SKELTER until the music bed faded out….then Bugs dies.”
As an antidote to the mainstream media’s inaccurate eulogies, here is the real Vincent Bugliosi, as revealed in a chapter excerpted from Nikolas Schreck’s 2011 book The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman:
The Bug Cashes In: You Saw the Trial! Now Read the Book! And See the TV Movie!
By Nikolas Schreck
“Who we gonna blame it on? Let’s blame it on somebody we can get away with blaming it on. Let’s blame it on some convict that ain’t got no money, let’s blame it on somebody that got no education… When Bugliosi seen me, I was custom made for his ambitions.” – Manson
When it comes to naming and shaming the creators of the false Manson myth that’s been marketed to the public for four decades, the name Vincent Bugliosi stands at the top of the list in a class of its own.
Perhaps the day will come when research into the Manson phenomenon can proceed in its own right without having to constantly differentiate the facts from the tales told by theDistrict Attorney. But as of this writing, Bugliosi’s influenceon the way Manson is perceived far outweighs any other fac-tor. This can be illustrated by the fact that I’ve already been forced to mention Bugliosi 170 times in the course of our inquiry thus far. This present study has attempted to clear away the thick impasto of obscurations that begrimes the Manson mirror. Most of the gunk that needed to be scrubbed away derives from Bugliosi’s courtroom theatrics and his heroic portrait of them in his most famous work.
I would wager that if a survey was held to ask the proverbial man on the street what they know about Charles Manson, the answers would all be based on the Bugliosi-created myth rather than anything remotely like the truth. And I suspect that this would be so even if our theoretical man on the street never read a word of Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter or saw either of the two Made-for-TV docu-dramas based on that questionable source. Since the media made the mistake of turning to Bugliosi so often as the undisputed Manson expert, the attorney’s skewed opinions of Manson have soaked into the mass mind’s conception bysheer osmosis. If we are to understand how and why the Manson myth and the Helter Skelter horror story it’s based on was created, we need to understand something of the enigmatic attorney whose calculating imagination created it.
Helter Skelter (1974), the best-selling true crime book in publishing history, is the veritable Bible of the orthodox Manson myth. We’ve already seen that the story it presents isvery far from being “The True Story of the Manson Murders” the book’s subtitle claims it to be. And yet it has become the standard source of information on Manson.
Whether Bugliosi’s antics in court – the heart of the cover-up – were performed at the behest of the Mob, the Hollywoodmovie industry, the FBI, or all three, cannot be proven with absolute certainty. That the concealment of the truth which Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter” scenario accomplished during the trial primarily served the interest of those parties is incontestable. As previously mentioned, Manson’s informed opinion is that his prosecutor’s main taskmaster was the same branch of the Mafia which Leno LaBianca worked for: the Genovese Family.
But whatever orders from above drove Bugliosi to perform the courtroom cover-up he carried out with such efficiency, his continuing capitalization on the crimes after he won the case had only one beneficiary. Not truth. Certainly not justice.Only the insatiable political ambitions of Vincent T. Bugliosi himself.
As Susan Atkins, who was also manipulated and discarded as a pawn in Bugliosi’s career-making machinations wrote, in her unpublished and unfinished document The Myth of HelterSkelter: “It may be cynical but it has to be pointed out Mr.Bugliosi’s book about the crime was published just before heran for Attorney General of California.”
Far from being cynical, that’s just the plain truth of it. Every copy of Helter Skelter should have come with a VINCENT BUGLIOSI FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL bumper sticker.
Even before the media circus of the Tate/LaBianca trial actually began, it’s clear that Bugliosi already planned to commandeer the Manson case as his personal vehicle to political superstardom. Helter Skelter was the first phase of his cam- paign; anyone who could defeat an evil criminal mastermind like Manson could certainly be trusted to fight crime as Attorney General. As we will see, only Bugliosi’s own self-destructive arrogance and a few glimpses of his paranoid personal behavior which were revealed to the public prevented him from attaining his goal.
Even some of Bugliosi’s own legal associates were astounded and repelled at the shameless way Bugliosi grand-standed for the cameras during the trial. They saw only seven squalid murders which would never even have aroused public attention had not a semi-famous minor actress of Sharon Tate’s caliber been among the victims. But Bugliosi, from the beginning, hyped what he called “the crime of the century” as an event unprecedented in the history of murder. He portrayed the messy but by no means uncommon killings of some drug dealers into a phenomenon of great moral weight andeven metaphysical significance. By so doing, Bugliosi created a stage grand enough for him to play the part of Super-Prosecutor he cast himself in.
Integral to the stark drama of Good vs. Evil Bugliosi intended to enact was a foe fiendish enough to serve as a worthy adversary. One sufficiently loathsome to allow Bugliosi tocome off as the brave dragon-slaying knight he saw himself as.
The real instigator of the crimes, and the man who had done most of the killing, was unavailable since he was still locked upin a Texas jail. And besides, Watson, the bland and clean-cutcollege athlete would never do as the Satanic megavillain that Bugliosi needed as a foil.
This Manson kook, on the other hand, looked and acted the part. But Manson as an accessory to a series of drug rob- beries which he was dragged into once half of the Cielo Drive murders had already happened also didn’t fit Bugliosi’s bill. By inventing a narrative of supernatural evil which featured Manson as a cult leader who cast a spell on his followers to kill in the name of an esoteric race war, Bugliosi had created amonstrosity formidable enough to allow his own ascent to fame and fortune.
But in his blind ambition, Bugliosi didn’t only engineer his own rise to celebrity and political eligibility. By convincing the jury and the watching world of the lie that Manson – who ordered nobody to kill or be killed over the weekend of 8-9 August 1969 – had actually commanded the murders, Bugliosi almost single-handedly created the basis for a Charles Mansoncult that had never existed before.
But that was a very risky game.
Because as Bugliosi’s keenly aware, not only is he largely responsible for his adversary’s legendary celebrity, but Manson’s own stubborn refusal to talk about the actual natureof the crimes is what has kept Bugliosi’s reputation intact all these years. While Manson has lambasted the D.A. as a liar, a Mob stooge, a self-publicist and an opportunist, he has neverreally revealed in clear and unimpeachable terms preciselyhow wrong the case Bugliosi presented in court and in hisbook really was. And to date, of the other defendants, only Susan Atkins finally spoke out and clearly stated that the“Helter Skelter” motive was a lie with no bearing on the crimesshe was convicted for. However, for whatever personal rea-sons, she didn’t take that extra step of revealing her first-handknowledge of what Tex was really up to on that long-ago week- end.
However, Bugliosi’s undeserved reputation as a great legal mind and hero to true-crime fans doesn’t only depend on the silence of criminals. It also relied to a great extent on the passive cooperation of those LAPD homicide detectives who watched Bugliosi pull off his great deception in court. Even though they knew how much evidence had been suppressed and how much false testimony had been uttered to do so. One of the mysteries of the case I have not been able to penetrate is why so many cops kept their mouths shut about what they knew – even after Bugliosi accused them of incompetence in Helter Skelter.
The planning that went into Bugliosi’s scheme to use the Manson trial as his stepping stone to political power was almost military in its efficiency. Bugliosi’s ghost-writer Curt Gentry, who did most of the work of weaving Helter Skelter’s narrative together, was installed in a small room behind thecourtroom throughout the trial. There, he was fed a steadysupply of facts, near-facts and utter fantasies that were ultimately melded into the Helter Skelter product. Bugliosi’s behavior at the trial must be seen with this in mind: he was consciously performing the part he wanted his hired writer to depict. In this sense, from Bugliosi’s self-aggrandizing perspective, you could say that the trial was conducted the way it was largely to assure that it would make for a dramatic and saleable book.
When one interviewer asked Manson what he thought of Helter Skelter, he wrote of how mercenary Bugliosi’s motives were, and how significant the book was as the foundation stone for the profitable Manson industry to come:
“Helter Skelter was written well, names and dates were right – The D.A. won Helter Skelter reality for the People Vs. Manson and made $15.50 a copy 25 million times world wide and 295 17 million and movies = a lot of money – 50 books written and people don’t realize the LA Times sold papers all over the world = 100’s of millions of dollars made in the U.S and the world and the movies and TVs been playing Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s this and that – It would take you 5 years to think through how much was made from one asshole and only money I got was 40 or 50 dollars – no lawyer no rights and 19 years in the hole … people been misleading each other for years and years – the biggest part of what you believe is unreal.”
When the trial was over, Bugliosi took possession of the rough draft manuscript Curt Gentry had been preparing behind the courtroom and gave it its final shape. At one point in Helter Skelter’s composition, Bugliosi’s friend Hugh Hefner let the lawyer hole up in a comfortable Bunny hutch at the Playboy Mansion West. As a guest of Hef’s hospitality, Bugliosi carried out his labors on the book. The patronage of the Playboy entertainment empire in connection with the making of Helter Skelter raises other questions about whose interests Bugliosi’s magnum opus of deception was intended to serve.
Shortly after entering English exile in the mid-Sixties, Roman Polanski befriended Hugh Hefner’s rich British lieutenant and fellow womanizer Victor Lownes. Lownes, in turn, introduced the Polish director to someone who would later play an important role in the events of August 8-10, 1969: Iain Quarrier. Quarrier’s first film role had been in a Lownes pro- duction. Lownes became a powerful patron in Polanski’s career. Through this connection, Hefner invited Polanski to publicize his forthcoming Fearless Vampire Killers with a nude photo spread of Tate published in Playboy’s March 1967 issue.
The next year, on January 20, Lownes arranged for Polanski and Tate to be married at a star-studded party at London’s Playboy Club. Tate and Polanski appeared with Hefner on an episode of Playboy After Dark, a television series Hefner hosted.
Lownes was with Polanski in 1969 when he heard the news of his wife’s murder from L.A., and the British Playboy chief was also among the party that escorted the grieving Polanski from London to Los Angeles. Later, Hugh Hefner and Lownes helped the director return to his career after the trauma by producing Macbeth, Polanski’s first post-murder film, released on Playboy’s short-lived film subsidiary.
So one can only wonder if Hefner’s involvement as a guardian angel in the writing of Helter Skelter was in any way connected to Playboy’s long history of supporting Polanski’s career. Tangential to a possible Playboy-Bugliosi-Polanski con-nection and how it may figure in the mechanics of the cover-up is the fact that Hefner, from the beginning of his career,was dogged by rumors of Mafia involvement which he has, of course, angrily denied. When Hefner opened his first Playboy Club in Mobbed-up Chicago, it was no secret that the syndicate got a cut from every nightclub in that city. It’s often been speculated that Hefner couldn’t have operated his profitable club without paying off the Chicago mob, or letting them in on the action. Such rumors obviously didn’t bother Vincent Bugliosi, even when he was on the brink of running for California’s Attorney General, and, one would imagine, would have wanted to be careful about presenting a law-abiding image to the electorate.
Friendship with Hugh Hefner wasn’t the only thing Polanski and Bugliosi had in common. Polanski was born on August 18, 1933 in Paris. Vincent Torquato Bugliosi, whose fate would interweave with Polanski’s, was born exactly one year later, on August 18, 1934.
His hometown was Hibbing, Minnesota, where Bob Dylan also grew up. Like Leno LaBianca, who Manson so often links him to, Bugliosi’s parents were Italian immigrants. Also like LaBianca, Bugliosi’s father owned a successful grocery market. Bugliosi attended Catholic school. Excelling at tennis, the competitive young man became Minnesota’s state high school champion. His athletic skill won him a tennis scholarship to the University of Miami. There, he met Gail, his future wife.
After moving to the greener pastures of California, Bugliosi graduated from UCLA Law School in 1964. Ever the over- achiever and pillar of society, he was elected the president of his graduating class. After passing the bar, he entered the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Even before his star-making Perry Mason performance in the Manson show trial,
Bugliosi already had a knack for mixing show biz and jurispru-dence. He served as technical advisor for Dragnet star Jack Webb’s TV series, The D.A.. Bugliosi edited the scripts of two pilot films for the series, providing him valuable experience that later paid off in his exploitation of the Manson case into entertainment. Bugliosi’s resolute crime-busting persona owes more than a little to the morally upright character the cop-loving Jack Webb played on TV.
After the Manson trial made him a nationally recognized public figure, Bugliosi prepared the release of Helter Skelter as a publicity-grabbing first step in his campaign for Attorney General. Many of the hippies who watched Bugliosi carry out character assassination on the counterculture during the Manson trial assumed the aggressively square D.A. must be a rabid Nixonite Republican. In fact, the fervent JFK apologistwas always a loyal Liberal advocate of the Democratic Party.
In keeping with the thin line between entertainment and Californian politics that Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger maneuvered so well, Bugliosi relied on his Hollywood friends as part of his crusade as Democratic aspirant to the Attorney General’s Office. The actor Robert Vaughn, best known as secret agent Napoleon Solo in the popular 60s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E, was recruited to stump for candidate Bugliosi.
Despite the reputation as legal eagle supreme that the Manson trial earned for Bugliosi, his better-financed Republican opponent outspent him and eventually defeated him. But there was another significant factor in Bugliosi’s loss of the Attorney General post he fought so hard for. Candidate Bugliosi’s electoral performance was also badly damaged by an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on May 8, 1974, which quoted fellow attorney George V. Denny, at one time Bruce Davis’s attorney, describing Bugliosi as a “liar, a perjurer and fabricator of false evidence who [is] totally unfitfor office.” At a May 7 press conference, Denny also accused Bugliosi of “lying to police investigators, and making hush money cover-up payments.”
Denny’s allegations, although not directly connected to the prosecution of Manson, are suggestive enough of the state of Bugliosi’s moral probity and character that any serious student of the Manson phenomenon must at least consider them.
The Denny charges were originally brought to light during Bugliosi’s first grab for political power in November of 1972, only a few months after Manson’s conviction. Bugliosi, then Deputy D.A., ran to unseat the incumbent Los Angeles
District Attorney, the Chief County Prosecutor. On November 3, 1972, a press conference was held, in Denny’s words, “to bring to the public’s attention Bugliosi’s misuse of the powers and resources of the District Attorney’s Office when he was just a Deputy D.A.. The implications of yet greater misuse andabuse if he were to become THE D.A. were apparent.”
A Los Angeles couple, Rose and Herbert Weisel, issued legal declarations under penalty of perjury accusing Bugliosi of harassing them with anonymous phone calls and mail.
According to the charges made in the Weisel documents, Bugliosi, who they believed was in need of “professional help from a psychiatrist” was convinced that Herbert Weisel, a milkman by trade, had had an affair with Bugliosi’s wife and may have been the real father of his child. According to Rose Weisel’s statement, Bugliosi’s wife came by the Weisel home to apologize for the harassment. Mrs. Weisel testified that Mrs. Bugliosi said, “I know he’s sick. He’s got a mental problem.”
In pursuing this notion, the Weisels claimed, Bugliosi had misused his position as Deputy D.A. to obtain private information about the Weisels, including their personal telephone number and work address. Bugliosi became a nuisance to them, they asserted, after he’d been given this information.
Herbert Weisel stated:
“It wasn’t until sometime during the Manson trial that I happened to see Mr. Bugliosi on T.V. I called in my wife to show her the guy who had been harassing us, and it was only then that we discovered that he was a Deputy District Attorney.
In June this year, after the primary elections, my wife and I discussed the fact that Mr. Bugliosi had become one of the two run-off candidates for D.A. Based on what had happened to us when he was only a Deputy and not the actual D.A. we were scared of what would happen if he got into office.”
According to George Denny, “Bugliosi had been apprised of the upcoming Weisel news conference before it occurred.
Therefore, the night before the news conference, he concocted a spurious story about a supposed $300 theft that had occurred in his home, his suspicions about Weisel as the thief, and his contact with both Weisel and his attorney regarding those suspicions.”
In his document The Vince Bugliosi Story, Denny claims that the Weisels began pursuing legal action against Bugliosi.
This was settled out of court when Bugliosi paid the couple $12,500. By then, the multi-millionaire author was not goingto be unduly troubled by the loss of such a sum.
Denny also described another case which became public knowledge due to a Herald Examiner article headlined BUGLIOSI ACCUSED OF ASSAULT. A young woman named Virginia Cardwell had allegedly been beaten and choked by the crusading D.A. during a particularly strenuous interrogation concerning an abortion Bugliosi supposedly insisted she should get. Cardwell claimed that she had been impregnated by Bugliosi during a brief affair. She said that Bugliosi had beaten her when she failed to abort the child withmoney he had provided for that purpose.
After Cardwell went public with this incident, Bugliosi was alleged by Denny to have forced her to recant the charges. Bugliosi’s deafening silence in the face of this apparent grossdefamation is remarkable; Denny remains un-sued to this day.
The Cardwell case was, Denny said, ultimately settled out of court. This was revealed in a May 9, 1974 article in the Evening Outlook which stated that Bugliosi “paid $5000 to a former girlfriend to keep her from suing for civil damages over an assault that occurred in Santa Monica, a Beverly Hills attorney has charged.
All of this negative publicity contributed to Bugliosi’s loss of the election on June 4, 1974. These fleeting glimpses of the man behind the mask of public rectitude did nothing to make the public wonder if the prosecution of Manson had been handled with similarly shady methods. But Denny revealed some details of a relatively unknown case more directly related tothe Manson trial:
“The Grand Jury had indicted Bugliosi on three counts of perjury. The charges were based largely on the testimony of Bugliosi’s co-prosecutor in the Tate-LaBianca cases, Stephen R. Kay, and the limited but crucial testimony of reporter William Farr. The gravamen of the charged offenses was that Bugliosi had twice lied to [Manson trial] Judge Charles Older and had also lied to the Grand Jury itself in denying under oath that he had provided Farr with the transcript of a witness’s testimony in violation of a court order.
At Bugliosi’s perjury trial in September-October, 1974, instead of testifying as he had before the Grand Jury, Farr asserted the newsman’s privilege not to reveal his sources of information. Unable to make use of the prior testimony under the Evidence Code and, therefore, unable to establish a prima facie case, the special prosecutor moved to dismiss the case … No conviction. No acquittal. No vindication.”
I believe that a simple comparison of the original police reports in the Cielo/Waverly killings with the trial transcripts suffices to prove that the D.A. suppressed unassailable evidence which pointed away from the Helter Skelter myth.
Unfortunately, that anti-climactic procedure concerning the Farr document remains the only time the question of prosecutorial perjury at the Manson trial has actually come to court.
One of the most frequent charges leveled against Bugliosi by his detractors which has never been legally investigated wassummed up by Sandra Good:
“Bugliosi used the power of the district attorney’s office, the money, the resources of investigators, he was able to coerce witnesses by making deals with them. There were people who testified for the prosecution who had pending charges against them. Bugliosi said, ‘You say what we want you to say or – and we’ll drop your charges.’ People were paid. People were intimidated. Women’s babies were taken away from them. They took my child. They tried to use my child as lever- age to get me to testify against Charlie. They took Susan Atkins’ child away from her. They took Mary Brunner’s child away from her. They used every trick in the book to get people to say what would fit with Bugliosi’s scenario.”
Another kind of trial also sheds light on Bugliosi’s willing-ness to perpetuate the Helter Skelter myth and market it as a profitable entertainment.
In 1986, a British TV network hired Bugliosi to participate in a fictional docu-drama trial of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Attorney Gerry Spence defended the fictional Oswald in this mock trail, and Bugliosi played the prosecutor. In the end, Bugliosi convinced the jury that Oswald had acted alone. The Oswald as “lone nut” theory was concocted in part to prevent the American public from learning of Mafia involve- ment with the Kennedy administration. It also was intended to divert attention from links between Jack Ruby – the man who killed the self-described “patsy” Oswald – and the Mob.
After researching the Kennedy case for this fake trial, Bugliosi became an aggressive opponent against the theory that JFK died as the result of a conspiracy. Bugliosi became devoted to the “Oswald acted alone” hypothesis. He spent over twenty years working on an exhaustive book intended to be the last word on the Kennedy assassination. Bugliosi’s latter-day literary battle in support of the Warren Commission’s no conspiracy conclusion has led many JFK assassination researchers to accuse Bugliosi of being a government disinformation agent.
In light of the Mob background to the Tate/LaBianca murders which Bugliosi’s first book Helter Skelter did so much to conceal from view, his equally adamant refusal to allow that the Mob had something to do with the Kennedy hit in Dallascan only cause us again to wonder whose interests this manhas really been arguing for since 1970. As we will see, Lawrence Schiller, another zealous defender of the Warren Commission, played a crucial part in the early stages of the Tate/LaBianca cover-up and its marketing in the form of yetanother deceitful book.
In the 1990s, those who have some idea of what Bugliosi really got up to at the Manson trial were astonished to see him, of all people, self-righteously preach from the pulpit paid for by the Manson trial about legal improprieties in other trials.
Bugliosi criticized Kenneth Starr’s prosecution of President Bill Clinton as unfair “demonization” – a legal method Bugliosihimself had perfected with his treatment of Manson in Helter Skelter. Bugliosi was also moved to write a book critiquing the errors the prosecution team in the O.J. Simpson trial had made. Bugliosi, who made his career by harping on the completely irrelevant “race war” aspect of his Helter Skelter motive, was especially outraged by the defense playing the famous “race card” in the O.J. Simpson case.
The full extent of the long-lasting damage Bugliosi inflicted with his promotion of Helter Skelter has not been sufficiently realized. By concealing the truth that the murders were simply the routine result of a typical rivalry between drug dealers, Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter cover story unleashed a nightmare in the national consciousness that lingers to this day. Through spreading the false idea that there were motiveless death cults lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on random victims, Bugliosi set off a tidal wave of paranoid fear in American society that was completely groundless.
But the tangled web of deception Bugliosi wove led to consequences far more serious than inspiring false testimony, per-jury, suppression of evidence, and fear-mongering. It seems unlikely at this late date that the Teflon D.A. will ever be compelled to legally account for the mockery of justice he was responsible for in court during Manson’s trial decades ago.Even though the Helter Skelter lie at the center of Bugliosi’sManson myth has already proven to be lethal.
In Nuell Emmons’ book Manson in His Own Words, Manson is recorded as observing, “The media, film directors, and book authors took a molehill and made it into a mountain. The myth of Charles Manson has twisted more minds than I was ever accused of touching.”
How many deranged minds have been twisted to commit acts of violence and murder by the Helter Skelter cover storyBugliosi authored?
Manson has described meeting many ignorant young con-victs in prison who proudly told him that they had killed random rich victims just like he’d ordered his “Family” to do as part of his Helter Skelter plot. Manson had to disappoint thesemisguided souls. He informed them that they’d only acted outa fictional scenario that Bugliosi invented. Manson has stated that the mail he’s received over the years often includes letters from admirers who’ve volunteered to kill for him. More oftenthan not, these confused fans revealed that they got the erroneous idea that he wanted people to commit senseless slayings for him directly from Bugliosi’s book (or the TV movie based on it.)
That the destructive effect of the devious Helter Skelter myth Bugliosi crafted during the trial and popularized through his book went well beyond the courtroom is proven by at least one dramatic example: the Michael Draben case.
Draben was sentenced to a prison sentence of 75-100 years for the brutal murder of a Lincoln, Illinois family completely unknown to him. According to a Tribune Wire Service news account, Draben testified in court, “that he was following the philosophy of the Charles Manson ‘family’ as outlined in the
best-selling book ‘Helter Skelter.’ He said the Manson family ‘killed all those rich people and I saw that if you killed them, that eases the problem.’…He said he chose … his victims simply because they seemed wealthy and lived in a remote spot. … Testimony at the trial showed that Draben continually played the record ‘Helter Skelter’ in his home.”
Here we have a clear case of an impressionable psychopathcommitting multiple murder by faithfully following the false Helter Skelter scenario Bugliosi created. Draben was, predictably, misidentified in the press as a “Manson-style slayer”.
Typical journalistic inaccuracy; even Bugliosi didn’t accuse Manson of slaying anyone.
If the truth were known, Draben is more aptly described as a “Bugliosi-style slayer.”Helter Skelter did more than earn millions. Its success also splattered the blood of innocent victims on its ambitious author’s hands.
In November 2011, shortly after French publisher Camion Noir released the French edition of Nikolas Schreck’s The Manson File: Myth and Reality of an Outlaw Shaman, French music magazine Metal Impact conducted this well-informed and comprehensive interview on the book with Nikolas, discussing many other topics, including Radio Werewolf, the counterculture, his practice of Buddhism, his rejection of Satanism, and his views on the god Seth.
Metal-Impact. Hi Nikolas and thanks for this interview. First, I’d like to congratulate you for this book, The Manson File, which really moved me (And what moved me even more, was to see that my review of your book was on your own website…). What motivated this « Apocalypse Edition » actually?
Nikolas Schreck. Thanks for your kind words. I see you’re going to soften me up with old-world Gallic flattery before going in for the kill! This Apocalypse Edition was motivated by my desire to finally clear away the smokescreen of lies obscuring the truth about Manson. Despite the huge body of mostly sensational and poorly researched hack literature on this subject since 1969, this is the first serious study of every aspect of Manson’s complicated life, thought, and criminal career. I’ve come to accept that Charles will never get the retrial he deserves, despite all the evidence disproving the Helter Skelter cover story painting him as a death cult mastermind. As a counterweight and refutation to forty years of Bugliosi bullshit, my book serves as the case for Manson’s defense that he never got in court. In the long range, as the information in my book slowly becomes common knowledge, I expect “Helter Skelter” will be remembered as the fraud of the century. Just as important to me as finally clarifying what these infamous murders were really all about was offering an equally comprehensive explanation of Manson’s mystical and religious views. In my opinion, that’s his most important legacy. As I said to him not long ago, as long as the public believes he’s a Satanic madman who ordered the killings of random strangers, nobody but a marginal lunatic fringe will ever take his philosophical, spiritual and ecological views seriously. So that was another motivation. I used the word “Apocalypse” in its literal sense of “Revelation” since so many secrets are revealed in its pages. This case provides a perfect example of how history is rewritten by the forces of social control. The irony is that the false Helter Skelter story so many socially conventional good citizens accept as the truth was actually concocted to protect a powerful Mafia drug dealing network from prosecution. I didn’t write this to provide escapist true crime entertainment or to appeal to murder memorabilia ghouls. I hope to encourage even readers who’ve never thought about this case before to ask themselves: if they’ve been lied to about one of the most widely publicized crimes in history, what cover-ups are being perpetrated on them right now?
MI. The fact that this new edition was firstly translated in French was deliberate? Do you think that our sensibility over this subject was more subtle than that of the American readers?
Nikolas. Definitely. The words “subtle” and “American” don’t belong in the same sentence. Our national bogeyman Manson stirs up so much knee-jerk hysteria in the USA it wouldn’t be the right place to begin the historical reassessment of Manson my book seeks to trigger. The French, to their credit, maintain a healthy skepticism about the proud American tradition of twisting the truth. Right after JFK’s assassination, the French media suspected a conspiracy long before Americans began to doubt the official story. More recently, the French refused to go along with the war criminal George W. Bush’s fictional reasons for invading Iraq. The Helter Skelter cover story I’ve exposed is just as explosive in what it reveals about the corruption of the American legal system and media. With all that in mind, my wife’s unerring feminine intuition determined that the truth about the Manson case was best introduced to a more impartial European readership likely to grasp the subtleties of the situation. Another factor arguing for a European release first was that the Polanski side of this sordid epic is a story of European exiles sucked into the peculiar American alliance of the Mafia and Hollywood that’s never been told before. And of course, I expect your Minister of Culture to thank me for my contribution to French literature by awarding me one of those fancy Legion of Arts and Letters medals. If Jerry Lewis can get one, it’s only fair that I get one too.
MI. Can you tell us more about your relationship with Charles Manson? What was the real starting point of this bilateral communication?
Nikolas. As far as “bilateral communication” one amusing and revealing thing Charles said to me recently was “You and me have a communication problem. You keep trying to talk!” Our rapport is deeper and weirder than an ordinary friendship, and as complicated as relatives who fight and make up with each other over decades. A relationship with Charles is like befriending a wild Bengal tiger; you never know if he’ll be a purring pussycat or a snarling beast. A mutual friend who’s heard Charles and me in conversation said that we relate to each other like an old married couple. Although I felt a connection with him as early as 1970, I contacted Charles in late 1985. This was right after Radio Werewolf’s drummer Evil Wilhelm and I became obsessed with a Manson interview on a late-night TV news program. Charles and I had an instant affinity, which was at first based on our mutual spiritual kinship with the wolf as a totem animal. Those who only know him from the crazy Charlie act he puts on for the media might find it hard to believe that he’s often been a fount of wise counsel to me. For example, when I was starting out in the 80s version of the same Hollywood sex, drugs, and rock and roll game he’d floated through in the 60s, Charles offered me practical down-to-earth advice based on his own similar experiences. He warned me that the rock industry and the clubs Radio Werewolf played at on the Sunset Strip were Mafia fronts and that if I stayed in that world I’d lose my creativity and my soul. I took his advice. Because Charles has so little privacy, and has been betrayed by so many people who he and I once trusted, I prefer to keep most of our volatile camaraderie private. Charles introduced me to some of my dearest friends and he’s also introduced me to some of my most noxious enemies. Knowing him led directly to my meeting the love of my life and also led directly to me nearly getting killed. What else can you expect from a guy who’s Jesus on Monday, the Devil on Tuesday, and Abraxas on every other day of the week? We have a powerful but not always easy karmic bond it will probably take a few more lifetimes to fully resolve.
MI. According to me – please correct me if I’m wrong – this book is a demystification of the Manson myth, as a “serial killer” and even as a kind of “modern evil”, as he’s still seen in America. You turned him into a simple citizen, always on the verge of legality and on the loose. Do you think he was a kind of scapegoat for the government, and used as a symbol for the 60’s freedom repression?
Nikolas. Yes, you’re right; my book’s devoted to demystifying the myth, thus the “myth and reality” subtitle. Not only the Manson-bashing myth of the Satanic serial killer, but also the equally untrue Manson fan’s fantasy of the completely innocent political prisoner. If there’s a “modern evil” in this case, it’s not the petty crook Manson but the lawyers, mobsters and show biz sleazebags who used him as their fall guy. It’s too simple to say that Charles was specifically selected by some all-powerful “Them” as a scapegoat. It’s more that right-wing politicians ruling California and Washington shrewdly leaped on the convenient opportunity of “a hippie cult leader” to discredit the counterculture by redefining its revolutionary aspirations as criminal psychosis. With such opponents of peace, love and LSD as the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, Ronald Reagan as Governor of California, and Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon as Commander in Chief, Manson’s media coverage and trial was a tightly controlled exercise in government propaganda. And the way the Manson case was covered really did have political consequences in that it defused the counterculture by convincing the public to fear hippies and dissidents as potential murderers. However, we can’t ignore the fact that Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten cooperated with the official script by convincingly playing the parts of “brainwashed hippie cultists” for the TV cameras at their trial. As I attempt to clarify, if Charles or any of his co-defendants opened their mouths at the trial to reveal even some of the real motives of the crimes, they could’ve brought down Bugliosi’s fragile house of cards instantly. But the girls’ defense attorneys convinced them they could get off if they showed the jury they were mindless zombies under their master’s hypnotic control. And Manson’s loyalty to the underworld code of silence meant that the Establishment knew that they could get away with their “Helter Skelter” anti-hippie theater without being questioned in court. So the government’s scapegoat for the Sixties was at least partially responsible for allowing himself to be scapegoated.
MI. The real story – and I must say that my opinion is very close to yours on this matter – was actually just a struggle between two parallel worlds. Hollywood “glamour” (Dennis Wilson, Sammy Davis Junior, Kenneth Anger, Mama Cass) versus Drug dealers. In your book, the real frontdoor protagonists emerge as the true actors of the tragedy, I mean, Charles « Tex » Watson, Jay Sebring and « Voytek » Frykowski, Polanski’s “friend”. Was this version of the story too Down-to-earth for the conservatives? Did the American people really need a tragedy in flesh and blood to bury the 60’s?
Nikolas. I’m glad you came away from the book understanding that “the true actors of the tragedy” were actually the Watson-Sebring-Frykowski drug dealing network. I wanted to finally cast light on this trio usually relegated to the sidelines as “brainwashed follower” and “innocent victims”. This was never the bizarre story of a cult attacking innocent strangers for irrational reasons. It’s just a fairly typical tale of violence breaking out between two criminal factions who were working together. Actually, though, the cover-up of the drug-dealing nature of the crimes wasn’t inspired by the conservatives. A clique of hip liberal rock stars and film industry players concealed the Mafia narcotics ring being run from the home of one of Hollywood’s leading directors while he was out of town. Also, as my book makes clear, the FBI were preparing a sting operation on Jay Sebring, Leno LaBianca, and Joel Rostau (the mobster who delivered the drugs to Sebring and Frykowski the night of the murders) and others involved in a large-scale Mafia money-laundering scam whose trail they suspected led directly to Paramount Studios. To allow the true circumstances of the murders to be known to the public would have blown the FBI’s agenda. The FBI, the Mafia, and the Hollywood establishment were united in their vested interest to distract the public from the truth with the “Helter Skelter” fairy tale. The utter failure of journalists to question the huge inconsistencies in the official version of the murders is to blame for letting the powers who ruled Hollywood get away with the perfect crime in court.
MI. Your book can be seen as an objective piece of work. But what’s your intimate feelings and opinion over some of the protagonists of the Manson story, Tex Watson, Lynne Fromme, Susan Atkins, Jay Sebring or even Dennis Wilson for instance?
Nikolas. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the main players rather than judging them. You can’t write in such depth about the intimate lives and deaths of even the most flawed people without feeling empathy for them. My subjective feeling is that they were all caught up in the momentum of a needless tragedy that wouldn’t have happened if psychedelic drugs hadn’t been made illegal three years before the murders. I’ll give you my spontaneous impressions of the people you named. Tex Watson: an emotionally impoverished sociopath. His violent temper was triggered by his abuse of amphetamines and Belladonna in the weeks leading up to his rampage on Cielo Drive. He didn’t have a serial killer profile, he just freaked out in a speed-fueled rage. As I once wrote to him, if Watson was the disciple of Jesus he pretends to be, he’d practice what the Bible preaches about “the truth will set you free” and tell the truth about the crimes he instigated. Lynette Fromme: I know her to be of great integrity, intelligence and idealism. She was sincere in her revolutionary zeal to change society and the natural environment for the better. I hope she finds peace in her newly won freedom. I only spoke to Susan Atkins once. She was so guarded it was hard to see beneath her pose of Christian repentance. But she’s a tragic case too, since despite her self-destructive bragging, she didn’t participate in the murders of Gary Hinman and the Cielo Drive victims, but was just along for the ride on what she thought were going to be non-fatal settlings of her friends’ drug dealing disputes. She was promised immunity if she “confessed” to the crimes according to the fictional cover story contrived by her Mafioso lawyers. Her life can only be seen as a complete waste. Jay Sebring: a professional criminal who knew the risks of the dangerous profession he chose – and I don’t mean hairdressing. Violent death is an occupational hazard for high-stakes drug dealers. Sebring was an insecure striver concerned with putting up an impressive front who numbed his anxiety with cocaine and alcohol. Dennis Wilson: a nervous wreck haunted by the knowledge that he introduced Manson to the whole fatal cast of characters, including Tex, Tate, Terry Melcher, Rudy Altobelli, John Phillips, Mama Cass. His last years were a wasteland of remorse. And long before that he was a tortured soul due to the stress of living up to his clean-cut Beach Boys image. All of these people’s lives and the Sixties dream itself were ultimately torn apart simply because a few petty drug burn disputes got out of hand on a stoned summer night. And, as Manson’s pointed out, if a minor but newsworthy celebrity like Sharon Tate hadn’t canceled her plans for staying at a girlfriend’s house that night, the drama would never have escalated into the legendary nightmare it became.
MI. Don’t you think sometimes that Bugliosi was just a puppet whose strings were pulled by both the Nixon Administration and the Mafia? To focus the attention of the American people on a mock trial, rather than on the Vietnam crisis and the influence of the mafia over the entertainment/drug industry?
Nikolas. Not a puppet of the Nixon administration, because Bugliosi was a Democratic Party supporter, and an admirer of Nixon’s liberal arch-enemy John F. Kennedy. As for your second charge of who pulled his strings, it’s relevant to note the Mafia’s long-standing ties with the Democratic Party and the Kennedy family, a power syndicate Jay Sebring was also closely connected since he provided drugs for his most famous haircutting client JFK during his secret trysts with Marilyn Monroe. I find it interesting that like several other shady characters behind the Helter Skelter smokescreen, Bugliosi ardently argues that Lee Harvey Oswald was JFK’s lone assassin and that the Mafia had nothing to do with the Dallas hit. Manson’s told me explicitly that he believes that Bugliosi’s primary task was to conceal Leno LaBianca’s long-standing Mafia activity and “bring New York to Hollywood.” That translates from Mansonese to mean covering up the real circumstances of the crimes to allow the East Coast mob to secure their hold over the L.A. film industry. This hostile takeover was celebrated in the movie The Godfather, which was filmed while several mob figures who could have testified in the Manson trial were executed to keep them from snitching. Bugliosi wasn’t only a puppet. He had his own motives in exploiting the publicity the Manson trial received to push his own failed political ambitions to be elected as the Attorney General of California.
MI. How and why do you think the Beatles got involved in all this mess? Simply because at that time they were the leaders of the counter culture? Was Charles really fascinated by their music?
Nikolas. Whoever had the bright idea of misspelling “Healter Skelter” on the LaBiancas’ refrigerator assured that the Fab Four would be smeared by association for all time. But despite that still unexplained clue, Charles himself was never particularly impressed by the Beatles. Anyone can hear that his folk/country music isn’t inspired by the lovable moptops, which it would be if he was so obsessed with them. If this Beatlemania was so central to Manson’s philosophy, why has he never spoken about it in any of the many sermons he’s given in hundreds of interviews since then? Also, Charles’s close friend and supporter Dennis Wilson knew the Beatles very well, as did the other Beach Boys. So did the actor Peter Sellers and many of the other rock and movie stars who Manson partied with and sold drugs to. If Charles wanted to contact the Beatles so badly, as was later claimed, he was always just a phone call away from his supposed heroes. It was “Little Paul” Watkins and Susan Atkins who were the real Beatle fans on Charlie’s black bus. And it was those two who most closely collaborated with Bugliosi in crafting the fictional Helter Skelter/Beatles race war motive which we now know had absolutely nothing to do with these routine drug dealing murders. Atkins finally admitted that the Helter Skelter motive was a lie in the last document she wrote before her death. There wasn’t a hippie commune in all of California that wasn’t listening to The White Album in 1969. Thousands of young people in that year sought secret messages in Beatles songs, which is what led to the “Paul is Dead” rumors. So I agree with you that the Beatles were dragged into this along with acid, free love, witchcraft, and all the rest of the counterculture cliches to defame the hippie movement as a dangerous threat to society. If the killers wrote “Mellow Yellow” in blood on that refrigerator, that would have been the name of Bugliosi’s book instead. And Donovan would be stuck with the blame for the “crime that killed the Sixties.”
MI. I guess the writing of this book was sometimes like a struggle for you. How did you find the strength to go on writing and obviously face many difficulties? Was it like a quest for the truth, or, so to say, another truth?
Nikolas. Yes, even though there were times I couldn’t bear to even think about this subject again, it really was a quest for truth that drove me to continue investigating the Manson enigma’s hidden history. As soon as I thought I’d wrapped it all up, a new surprising bit of data would emerge. Gathering accurate information about the nights of the murders and how the truth was covered up was especially tricky. It involved gaining the trust of suspicious and powerful sources who’d never broken their silence before and were guarding secrets that had led to others getting killed. Also, it isn’t only the Mafia and Hollywood figures involved in the cover-up who were hostile to my research. Plenty of Manson fans and supporters are in denial about the mundane nature of the crimes, since they prefer to believe that the Tate-LaBianca killings were some kind of revolutionary action, which is nonsense. Also, although Charles rightfully complains about the Helter Skelter cult leader caricature Bugliosi created, I don’t think he’s thrilled about the sleazy truth of his minor after-the-fact role in a drug robbery finally emerging either. Looking into this case for so many years required looking under every rock and digging up every buried skeleton, a task which is emotionally draining in the extreme. It’s overwhelming to realize the extent to which so many well-known public figures conspired to conceal the ugly truth, because it forces you to unravel the spider web of illusions we accept as “reality.” The actual writing of the book was relatively easy once I’d organized the vast amount of information I had to cover into a workable form. My struggle took place during the years of gathering the research without really knowing what the end result would be. Through this ordeal, I’ve come to view the Helter Skelter cover-up as a metaphor for the larger cosmic cover-up which prevents us from grasping the true nature of reality in general.
MI. If this whole affair had taken place nowadays, how do you think it would have ended?
Nikolas. That’s a good question. In the corruption of 1960s Los Angeles, cops and journalists were routinely paid off to prevent the public from learning inconvenient facts. In the 80s and 90s there were several Hollywood drug-dealing murders just like the Cielo Drive murders. However, times had changed and the media and legal system reported them and tried them accurately without misleading the public with fanciful nonsense about cult killings and hypnotic powers. One was the so-called “Cotton Club Murder” which involved some of the supporting cast of the Tate/LaBianca slayings. The other was the “Four on the Floor” or “Wonderland” murders, a Tex Watson-like drug dealing robbery/murder possibly committed by the coke-addicted porn star John Holmes. If some minor actress was killed last night as the result of her ex-boyfriend conducting a drug deal gone wrong, which was essentially all that happened at Roman Polanski’s house, nobody would be particularly shocked today. But in 1969, the drug and sex habits of celebrities were still kept secret. Now, it’s routine celebrity PR to confess to your latest drug addiction on a reality TV show or to “accidentally” leak private porno videos to the Internet. (I mention this because another aspect covered up in this case were the videotapes of celebrity orgies the police confiscated from the Cielo Dive crime scene.) These days, the Italian Mafia doesn’t have the clout over Hollywood and the media it had in the 60s. The movie studios are no longer powerful enough to pay off the police to protect their product as they always had in the past with messy celebrity crimes. I don’t think investigative journalists today would cooperate so willingly with the Hollywood power structure as the media did back then.
MI. Do you think that Charles Manson would ever get out of jail? Does he wish to?
Nikolas. I’d be surprised if any of the surviving “Manson Family” who were convicted for the murders are ever paroled. After all these years of the media pushing the frightening fiction of random cult killings, the public outcry would be too great. Even when Susan Atkins was dying of brain cancer after having one of her legs amputated, they wouldn’t let her out on a “compassionate release”. Regardless of Manson’s guilt or innocence, his trial was conducted illegally. That means he’s technically entitled to be released if an efficient lawyer ever petitioned for a mistrial. Charles’s constitutional right to defend himself was denied. Crucial forensic evidence was suppressed and manipulated which presented a completely inaccurate picture of the chronology and crime scene of the Cielo Drive murders. Witnesses were pressured to perjure themselves. Witnesses who could’ve told the truth about what happened were deliberately excluded from testifying. The President of the United States prejudiced the jury by publicly stating that Manson was guilty before the trial was over. Before the trial began, Susan Atkins’s scripted confessional testimony to a grand jury was illegally sold to the newspapers, which guaranteed there could never be a fair trial since millions were exposed to her declaration of Manson’s guilt. My book uncovers for the first time just how suspicious the circumstances of Atkins’s staged “confession” really were. These are all causes for a mistrial. Even though I’m making these facts public knowledge, no politician in California will risk the political fallout of freeing these notorious figures, even though none of these elderly men and women present any kind of threat today. Does Manson want to get out of prison? I still don’t know even after seriously discussing that topic with him many times in the past twenty-six years. Since 1987, I’ve been involved in several efforts to get a new trial moving. As recently as December 2010 and April 2011, I spoke with two different attorneys of varying degrees of sincerity who volunteered to help Charles attain justice. As happened many times before, once it came down to signing papers to set the legal process in motion, Charles balked. On one hand, he’s always said he wants the rights that were stolen from him in court. But then he’ll say that if he’s released, he’d have nowhere to go since the Manson myth’s made him such a hated monster he’d be even more of a target than he already is in prison. He’s made a few serious attempts to escape over the years. Maybe he’s too much of an outlaw to want to get out the legal way.
MI. Manson is known to be a huge influence – “spiritually” and musically – for various musicians, from Marilyn Manson to Blood Axis or Henry Rollins. As a musician yourself, do you think this fascination is sincere or just a promotional argument based on cheap provocation ? (What do you think of the cover of “Look At Your Game, Girl” by GUNS N’ ROSES, as an hidden track of their album The Spaghetti Incident?!?”)
Nikolas. Any judgment I make about the sincerity of other musicians could only be a subjective opinion open to debate. However, since I’ve had personal dealings with all of the distinguished colleagues you mention, I can offer partially informed answers. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Radio Werewolf shared a rehearsal studio in Hollywood with Guns N’ Roses at the height of our Free Manson crusade. They were all pleasant enough, but since they never expressed any interest in Charles then, I find it hard to believe that their later cover version was anything more than cheap provocation and negative publicity fodder. I’ve never heard it, so can’t comment on its quality. Henry Rollins sincerely wanted to produce a mainstream release of a Manson prison recording in the mid-80s. According to Charles, Rollins was scared off by all of the negative reactions and death threats that proposed album inspired and dropped out of contact decades ago. As for Blood Axis, despite his faithful devotion to the defamatory LaVeyist party line against my wife and me, I’d say he was the most sincere on your list when it came to actually supporting Manson’s ATWA cause and working to clear up some of the lies about the case. When it comes to the one who stole Manson’s name, I’ll diplomatically reserve comment. The funny thing about all those who claim to be so influenced by Manson is that none of them actually play his kind of country and western tinged Americana. So other than their fascination with the legend of the murders, it’s hard to discern any actual artistic influence.
MI. What do you think of Charles’ music?
Nikolas. One reason I got in touch with him in ’85 was my admiration for his then largely unknown music and his theories about the spiritual effect of sound on the human mind. After much paperwork and persuasion, San Quentin Prison granted me permission to film Charles giving a solo concert with his guitar. Charles Manson Unplugged, so to speak. When I showed up to film the performance we’d planned for a year and a half, the prison suddenly decided they wouldn’t let Charles play his guitar outside of his cell because “he could use it as a weapon.” That’s why in my interview with him in Charles Manson Superstar, you’ll notice he picks up a trash can and beats on it and says sarcastically, “We can’t get any music out of this.” Just like Bobby Beausoleil, Terry Melcher, Dennis Wilson and Neil Young all did, I think Charles has a great spontaneous poetic songwriting talent. It could’ve been developed with the proper producer and recording techniques into something of enduring artistic value. But as he admits, he didn’t have the patience to submit to what he saw as the restrictions of the studio recording process. Even if the Manson album Capitol Records was set to release in 1969 came out as planned, I can’t imagine Charles going along with the show biz routine of promotion, playing the same songs the same way night after night, or obeying a record company’s legal necessities. Some of the songs on Lie have become timeless classics because Charles put a lot of effort into perfecting them and practicing them going way back to 1963 when he was waiting to be released from Terminal Island Prison. The best music he’s recorded in prison was in his Vacaville period, the only time he was encouraged to develop his creativity in a fairly relaxed environment. Metal Impact readers may be interested to know that by the time this interview appears, previously unheard Manson music will be released on vinyl as Horsefly via www.atwaatwar.com. Zeena provided the album’s cover art portrait and I contributed the liner notes.
MI. You were yourself an active member of the 80’s counterculture, as the leader of Radio Werewolf. Do you think that counterculture still exists today? Don’t you think that this era of politically correct is just a sterile way to falsely admit what we fear or still refuse, like homosexuality, or racial equality?
Nikolas. The phrase “political correctness” comes from Marxist-Leninism, which also began as a revolutionary counterculture but turned into a tyranny once it gained power. The politically correct mindset ruling the West since the 1990s is a form of social control that sweeps all differences away to create one big bland homogenized consumer group. We learned many lessons about how countercultures function during the Radio Werewolf ritual from 1984-1993. Whatever dominant culture you “counter” strikes back hard in ways you can’t predict. When we were seen as harmless entertainment we were allowed a certain measure of freedom. Once we advocated social and spiritual change and developed a following who sought an alternative to consensus reality, the police state clamped down on us with ruthless efficiency in both the USA and Germany. Radio Werewolf faced official harassment, banning, surveillance and blacklisting. It’s amazing we accomplished as much as we did under those circumstances. Right-wing Christian law enforcement tried to frame Zeena and me for crimes in order to silence us. Leftist atheists tried to get us banned. This strategy successfully interrupted our creative work and forced us to defend ourselves in the mass media to make it clear that we weren’t going to surrender to secret police intimidation tactics. If it wasn’t for some timely last minute warning phone calls from Richard Ramirez (the Night Stalker) and a sympathetic L.A. police detective who we helped investigate occult-influenced crimes, we could’ve easily been branded with the same “dangerous cult” scare stories that were used to destroy other resistance movements before us. Does the counterculture of that time still exist today? No, not that I see. In fact, I don’t think there’s any real counterculture anymore; just niche consumer groups. Sure, the outer symbolism and aesthetic of what we did in the 80s and early 90s still influences popular and alternative culture. But it’s been defanged and neutered into such lightweight Radio Werewolf impersonators as Marilyn Manson and others of his ilk. Just as 60s counterculture imagery was absorbed into the mainstream after the revolutionary spirit was crushed. Our goal of transforming consciousness and creating a new spiritual and social order was hindered by opposition from outside and – as always happens in extremist groups – by internal feuding fanned by agents provocateur from within. That’s why we broke with the received conventions of secular music to provide deeper long-lasting one-on-one spiritual instruction to a few chosen initiates instead. Countercultures, utopias, and revolutions come and go, but human nature remains unchanged. We’ve seen that the only revolution worth fighting is the inner jihad that seeks to depose the tyranny of the ego.
MI. You said in a previous interview that ” The devil we (You and your wife) thought we were worshiping was actually God”. Can you explain us the real meaning of this? Who’s “God” according to you? A concept, an abstract entity, or just a figure created in the purpose of moral enslavement of the masses?
Nikolas. None of the above. I’ll make a very long story short, since your readers may not be familiar with the obscure world of Anglo-Saxon occultism. When I was living in London in the early 80s, I drifted into an informal sex-magical circle inspired by the goofy but interesting British occultist Kenneth Grant. The rituals we did were based on Grant’s theory that the ancient Egyptian god Seth was the prototype for the Biblical Satan. Researching actual Egyptology rather than occultism, I learned that Grant’s depiction of Seth was historically inaccurate. To trace the mysteries of Seth to their source, I went on a pilgrimage to Egypt in ‘83, where I encountered folk survivals of ancient Sethian worship and experienced my first major religious awakening. For a long time after that, my magical work was still conducted under this mistaken notion that Seth was the Devil’s true name. Only in 2001, when Zeena and I were Temple of Set clergy and we were writing our book Demons of the Flesh, did we began to uncover archaeological evidence that Seth was in fact the original prototype for the mysterious being known as God, Iao, and Allah by the three major Middle Eastern religions. Shortly before we, along with sixty other Temple of Set members, resigned from that organization to form a more authentic Sethian religion, Zeena had a vision concerning Seth’s identity and her relationship to Him. This revelation, hinted at in a document released at that time called The Four Horsemen, became the foundation of our resurrected Sethian cult first called the Storm, and later renamed the Sethian Liberation Movement, or SLM. Because Seth and Jahweh are identical with the Gnostic god Abraxas, an important figure in Manson’s theology, I explore this subject in a chapter in the Manson File entitled Le nom secret de Dieu. Anyone crazy enough to be interested in looking more deeply into this arcane matter of divine identity will find several useful sources for further research cited there.
MI. Anton LaVey has often been described as a perverse hedonist, only aiming at money and fame. He was treated as a false and grotesque satanist, but don’t you think at the contrary, that he was the only one to apply the real dogmas of satanism? Putting the Ego over everything else?
Nikolas. I always forget about the small print in my pact with the Devil obliging me to answer at least one question about Anton LaVey in every interview for all of eternity. I can see how you might come to your conclusion based on his public image. But knowing the real human being first as a friend, then as a father-in-law, and then until his demise in ’97, as a mortal enemy, I saw him a bit differently than you do. Was he a perverse hedonist? Considering my own sex life, I’m the last person to accuse anyone else of perversity. But despite all his talk of self-indulgence, LaVey was no hedonist. His sad, angry, lonely and frustrated existence was far less pleasurable than the average sane and healthy person’s. Nor was LaVey a satanist by any sensible definition of that word. Satan was just one of his publicity gimmicks. I’ve come to understand that Satan, by whatever name, is not a man-made symbol but a supernatural being, an angel whose cosmic role is to test and tempt initiates at spiritual turning points. Placing ego over everything else is a normal symptom of every unenlightened being’s selfish grasping. So it takes more than just excessive ego or a lust for money and fame to make one a Satanist. Actually, LaVey didn’t strike me as particularly interested in money either; he wasn’t a very ambitious con man. There’s an old saying that the Devil must be paid his due. LaVey ended up as he did because he made the arrogant atheist’s mistake of playing with Satanic symbolism without acknowledging the spiritual reality those symbols represent. His own daughter spelled this out quite succinctly in her 1990 open letter to Temple of Set founder Michael Aquino seven years before LaVey’s death. Unfortunately, the damaging effect he’s had on the gullible remnants of the Anton LaVey Memorial Fan Club and all of the suffering he caused for his own family and followers will assure that he’ll find out just how real Hell is for a very long time.
MI. What are your beliefs nowadays? Religious and social? Did you find peace?
Nikolas. Appropriate that you ask about peace, since it’s very relevant to my religious practice today. The abbreviation of the name of the religious body I serve as a priest are the letters SLM, which not only stand for Sethian Liberation Movement, but is also the ancient Egyptian word for “peace”, the state of mind one can attain through Sethian gnosis. And when I converted to Buddhism, the monk conducting the refuge ceremony renamed me with a Buddhist word for “peace,” the name by which my students and closest friends refer to me. As for my social beliefs, I’m convinced that as we fall ever deeper into this terminal Kali Yuga, or unlucky age, society in general is fucked beyond repair. I’ll spare you my anti-Internet lecture here, but I believe the worst social ill of our time is the mass addiction to social media and digital gadgets of every kind. Zeena and I remain ecology and animal rights activists. We’ve protested Communist China’s genocidal policy in Tibet. And as part of our left-hand path devotion to the feminine, we’ve supported the cause of women’s rights in Iran and India. As a prerequisite for being initiated into SLM, candidates are required to volunteer in some socially engaged altruistic activity of their choice in their local communities. For the most part, though, the futile game of partisan human politics is of no concern to us. We’ve discovered that lasting peace isn’t based on outer material or social circumstances. It can only be realized by diligently taming the mind’s deluded interpretation of reality through meditation.
MI. As a musician and a music listener, what’s your judgment over the whole Heavy Metal scène of the 1990’s and 2000’s years?
Nikolas. I’m far too much of an old-fashioned square in my musical tastes to be qualified to answer your question. The last time I paid attention to contemporary popular music was during my wayward youth in the late 1970s, and even then I was never a great admirer of the electric guitar. If it’s any consolation, here’s what I listened to while I answered your questions: Zero Gravity, a pioneering 1975 Moog synthesizer album, Matrix 17 by one of my all-time faves, Krysztof Penderecki, and – another French connection! – an amazing album called Musique de la Gréce Antique. If your readers want the full Sensurround interview experience, they should read this interview again with that music as a soundtrack. No guitar solos in any of them, alas.
MI. The final word for the readers of Metal Impact?
Nikolas. What more is there to say but AEMINAEBAROTHERRETHORABEANIMEA?
MI. Thank you very much Nikolas.
Nikolas. My pleasure.