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The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman

Revised and Expanded Apocalypse Edition, by Nikolas Schreck

The Manson File coverAt the turn of the century it seemed that Live Freaky, Die Freaky written by former Beach Boy session musician and investigative journalist, Bill Scanlan Murphy would be the book to explode the Manson myth and detail the actual events that lead to two nights of murder in what's become known as the Manson murders. Murphy, a close confidante of Dennis Wilson, was first to seriously consider a drug angle to the case. Ill health and other circumstances saw to it that Murphy's book never made it to print. Schreck, a friend and associate of Murphy, picks up on and expands many of the tenets of Murphy's theory. It should be noted that this isn't Nikolas Schreck's first study about Manson. In 1988 Schreck edited the original version of The Manson File, a collection of Manson writings, letters, testimony, artwork, stories and lyrics compiled by Manson supporters including Boyd Rice, Adam Parfrey, John Aes-Nihil, Nick Bougas. This was the first publication to feature Manson's thought uncensored, and it was regarded by many as an apologists take on Manson. Schreck followed this is up in 1989 with the interview documentary video Charles Manson Superstar, featuring an interview with Manson, while incarcerated in San Quentin, one of the many institutions Manson has spent since time in ever since his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment for commanding disciples of his cult to commit murder in what's now known as the Manson murders. Except, as Schreck reveals in painstaking detail in The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman, this was never the case. And over the course of 900 pages Schreck posits a compelling case, compiled from over 20 years of research. It's a scenario that entwines the Mafia, the swinging Hollywood scene and the film industry. Lurking behind it all is a Mafia money laundering scheme. A grand scale scam which lead to the financing of the Hollywood Paramount studios which, according to Schreck, was under investigation by the FBI at the time of the murders.

Public opinion on the so-called Manson murders has been largely based on Helter Skelter: The True Story of The Manson Murders written by Vincent Bugliosi, the Prosecuting District Attorney. In it he paints Manson as a vengeful cult leader who ordered his band of brainwashed followers to kill. The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman exposes Bugliosi's "helter skelter" theory as an elaborate whitewashing of the facts revealing the motive for the murders to be a typical drug trade slaying between rival factions in the seedy Hollywood scene. The shady relationship between the criminal underworld and Hollywood circles, which revolved around the illicit drug trade is revealed for the first time. Even the chronology and order of who died when at the Tate house, according to Schreck, is wrong. With three victims already dead, there was a second trip back to the house, to clear-up any incriminating evidence and to plant misleading clues. Schreck confirms that Manson was present on the second visit, when Frykowski and Folger were killed.

Not only does Schreck dispel Bugliosi's theory he concludes that the real motive was suppressed. It is these aspects that were underplayed, time shifted and intentionally excluded that make Schreck's book so compelling, and ultimately convincing. The myth that the victims and perpetrators were unknown to each other is exposed as a smokescreen. Manson and Watson knew exactly who lived at Cielo Drive; Schreck makes known that both Manson and Charles Watson (the key protagonist in all of this, according to Schreck) had frequented the Cielo Drive house and were known to Tate and the other victims, as members of the same drugged-up party circuit centring around Mama Cass Elliot's dope house. The story that these were random killings is revealed to be the lie, which many suspected it to be.

The true nature of the relationship between the Manson group and the victims revolved around drug deals. Sebring was "Candyman" to the Hollywood milieu and Frykowski was one of many dealers to the Manson group. Steve Parent, the first to die on the night of the Cielo Drive murders isn't as innocent as he has been painted either. Neither were the La Bianca's, who were to die on the second night's killing spree. Leno La Bianca was up to his neck in mob debts, while his wife, Rosemary, was a regular supplier to Sebring and Frykowski, and was known to have dealings with Charles Watson. Schreck concludes that the only innocent victims in all of this was Sharon Tate and Abigail Folger, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time as their drug-addled boyfriends conducted a drug deal that went badly wrong, with fatal consequences.

The usual lists of characters play their role but Schreck also introduces a number of other players from the Hollywood milieu such as Steve McQueen (who was due to pick up a drug order from the Cielo Drive residence on the evening of the murders and then feared for his life due to his intimate knowledge of the key players), Van Dyke Parks (whose innocent appearance at the Cielo Drive house would take on a greater significance), to a number of other Hollywood and Canadian drug dealers along with a number of Polish immigrants, with relevance to the Manson case, close to Roman Polanski who were sucked into Mafia and FBI related activities.

Key to all of this was Joel Rostau, a shady mob figure, whose name was mysteriously excised from the trial and subsequently from Manson history. It was Rostau who dropped off a consignment of cocaine and mescaline to Sebring and Frykowski on the evening of the murders. Informed by the Cielo Drive dealers that they were in need of LSD for a big transaction later that night, Rostau raced across town to his regular supplier, Rosemary La Bianca, who was unfortunately out of town. With an impending trial for unrelated mob activities, Joel Rostau was executed before he could reveal the connections between Cielo Drive, the La Bianca's and the Manson group. If Rostau's name is unfamiliar to those well versed with the Manson case, the same can't be said of Terry Melcher, the music producer and son of Doris Day. According to Bugliosi, it was Melcher's initial support and then rejection of Manson's musical career that resulted in the revenge killings at the Cielo Drive residence. Not only does Schreck fully elaborate on Melcher's plans to record Manson for Capitol Records, his research reveals that Melcher while resident at Cielo Drive allowed Watson and others in the Manson group to live in the guesthouse. Interesting as that is, it is the appearance of another LA musician that really sheds light on the case. Just after Rostau arrived with his order of drugs for Frykowski and Sebring, the young songwriter Van Dykes Park knocked on the door of Cielo Drive looking for Terry Melcher, who had moved months earlier. Why, according to Schreck, is this important? Well if Van Dykes Park was confused about Melcher's whereabouts, then why not Manson too? Park's confusion about Melcher's whereabouts was co-opted by Bugliosi and shifted onto Manson, to further bolster his revenge theory for the Tate slayings. Schreck goes further, though, arguing that Park's presence was intentionally omitted as Park could also provide evidence that Rostau, a known mafia drug dealer, was present at the Tate residence on the night of the murders. Even on the basis of these few examples from The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman, it's clear that Schreck's research is in-depth, wide ranging and casts serious doubts about the accepted version of events.

The central role of Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson in the chain of events that lead to murder is fully explained for the first time. It was Dennis Wilson that championed the musical talent of Manson, setting up recording sessions and bringing Manson to the attention of the Beach Boys (who backed up Manson on some of those now missing tapes), and introduced him to Greg Jakobson and Terry Melcher, who planned to release Manson's music on Capitol Records/ Brother Records, after introducing him to the public via a film that would capture the communal activities at Spahn Ranch. More significantly, it was Dennis Wilson that brought together all the conditions that resulted in the slayings. Wilson would forever be plagued by guilt which drove him to drink and drugs with reckless abandon. In one of Schreck's more surprising revelations it seems Wilson's relationship with Manson went far beyond just drugs and music though.

Even the togetherness of the so-called Manson Family was shown to be a lie. Manson's so called "right-hand man" Charles 'Tex' Watson, wasn't a regular fixture at Spahn Ranch, preferring his home in the Hollywood hills where he ran his small scale drug operation. The blame for the botched robberies that lead to murder is laid squarely at the feet of Charles 'Tex' Watson. Four months prior to the Tate slayings, Watson instigated a botched drug robbery at the home of Joel Rostau and his girlfriend - who just happened to be the secretary at Jay Sebring's hair salon - which predated and mirrored the Cielo Drive murders. Despite the LAPD being aware of this, Schreck makes clear that, once again, these details were never aired in the courtroom or mentioned by Manson or the other defendants.

You might wonder why the defendants never came clean. Susan Atkins, whose big mouth blew open the case and whose fanciful confession serialised in newspapers worldwide and published as The Killing of Sharon Tate - a book which kickstarted the whole Manson publishing conveyor belt - was offered immunity from the death penalty if she agreed to testify. Likewise the other defendants Krenwinkel, Van Houten were pressurised into agreeing to be brainwashed cult killers to fit with Bugliosi's theory. Manson, who was raised in institutions and prison for most of his life, adhered to the prison code of not snitching, effectively signed his own death warrant with his unwillingness to tell all. Furthermore, the legal establishment ensured his silence by taking away his rights to testify, and when Richard Nixon, the incumbent President, declared Manson guilty long before the trial ended meant there was scant chance that Manson would ever receive a fair hearing.

In his desire to seek out the truth Schreck gives light to evidence that was never considered by the courtroom, witnesses that were never called, and highlights the inconsistencies between sworn testimony and later retellings that key figures have made over the years in interviews, biographies and subsequent TV docu-dramas. Just on the basis of this, the number of revisionist "facts" should be a cause for concern for even the most hardened believer of Bugliosi's book.

In short, Schreck's convincing thesis contends that Bugliosi's "helter skleter" theory was an elaborate cover-up aimed to suppress the real reason for the murders. If the truth was told, then the links between Hollywood and the Mafia would have been exposed, and in the process a number of Hollywood careers would have been curtailed, while an ongoing FBI investigation - which had the drug dealing antics at Cielo Drive and at the La Bianca residence under surveillance - into a Mafia operation, which saw proceeds of a Kennedy airport scam laundered through drug dealing and which lead directly to Paramount Studios, would have been blown. The collusion between the Hollywood, the mob and the FBI - who clearly botched this sting operation - ensured the truth would never be told. Whether Bugliosi was an active participant in this collusion is never confirmed.

The amount of detail Schreck sets out makes it difficult to summarise. But The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman, goes way beyond the Manson murders touching upon Hollywood sex rings, orgies at Elvis' house and implicates the role of the Genovese Mafia whose connections stretched back to Manson's prison cell dealings with Alvin 'Creepy' Karpis, to his involvement in Bugsy Siegel's death right up to the Cotton Club murders. While Jay Sebring's star studded hairdressing career which acted as a front for mob money laundering brings into its orbit such Hollywood stars as Yul Bryner, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the affair between JFK and Marilyn Monroe. Veering as it does from the criminal underworld to the higher echelons of US politics, although credible, it does, at points, edge into the realms of conspiracy theory. This may superficially weaken Schreck's viewpoint somewhat but Schreck's book goes into detail into how all these strands combine, something that this review can only hint at.

And where does this leave Manson? As Schreck concludes he remains a car thief, pimp, drug dealer but he's not as Bugliosi would have us believe a mastermind of a killer cult, at best he is an accessory to murder for his knowledge and involvement in the Hinman, Tate and La Bianca killings. It's probably worth stating that Schreck was part of the industrial-goth outfit Radio Werewolf and performed in pro-Manson shows during the eighties. He's still in contact with Manson - in fact, when Manson was caught with a mobile phone in his cell, Schreck was one of those on his call list. Yet Schreck doesn't gloss over his more unsavoury attributes. I'd suspect that confirmation that Manson was present on the second visit to the Cielo Drive residence would surely prove irksome to Manson. So it's fair to say that The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman, isn't another whitewashing. Nikolas Schreck (and his wife Zeena) have previously blown the lid on the true life of (Zeena's father) Anton LaVey, the former High Priest of the Church of Satan, so he's not one to hide from the truth.

It's important to state that The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman isn't a true crime book; though it does develop all the different strands, using all the available evidence, testimony, transcripts and interviews together with material that's never made into the public arena, into a cohesive whole to explain what he believes was the true motives and chronology of the murders. In many ways The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman brings things full circle, expanding on his philosophy which along with his music appealed to the initial members of the Manson group and enamoured Dennis Wilson to approach Terry Melcher who wanted to promote the philosophy, the communal living and the music of Manson as an entire counter-cultural package. Apart from the 1970 Rolling Stone interview, R.C. Zaehner's Our Savage God and Schreck's own original version of The Manson File - along with the ATWA sites - it's rare to find Manson's true thought appear in print. Schreck does a commendable job in outlining Manson's philosophy, while analysing groups and individuals, both musical and political, who have used Manson as a vehicle for their own ends. Schreck concludes that most in their own ways have based their beliefs on Bugliosi's fictionalised version of Manson - which is just as misguided and deluded as the countless Manson detractors who base their views on similar sources.

Schreck provides a comprehensive account of all the tenets of Manson's philosophy. His spiritual philosophy is examined, from within a mystic tradition and as self-taught 'mystic', formed from a Christian upbringing that marred his troubled childhood to the years spent in isolation in prisons and institutions. Schreck argues that Manson should be viewed in the Shamanic tradition, and this can be seen in his nature mysticism - given form in his ecological activist movement ATWA - and in his psychedelic explorations and rapport with animals. Schreck delves further into Manson's affinity with the Gnostic god Abraxas. In doing so, Schreck brings clarity to Manson's spiritual outlook, where others have been stuck with the image of a hippie cult leader, cribbed from a number of sleazo inputs.

With sections on books, films, featuring numerous writings from Manson and appendices including a full transcript of Charles Manson Superstar and a comprehensive round-up of Manson's music releases, The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman provides an informed take on the entire Manson industry, with an illuminating take on Charles Manson, separating the man and his thought from the myth built up over the decades by the rehashing of the same old misinformed stories. It is Schreck's own study of the motives for the murder that make The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman so essential though. The amount of information he packs in a book that's just shy of 1000 pages is staggering. Bringing together the results of 20 years research into the Manson case Schreck slowly weaves together all the differing elements to build a solid and convincing case. It's probably way too late to change public opinion on Manson but by putting the information out there Schreck clearly shows there is another angle to the case, one that has been hidden to the public for over 40 years. The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman is an important book, not only does it go some way to explaining why much of this information has been actively withheld, it put its forward a believable scenario for public scrutiny and supplies enough leads for others to investigate further. If there's a criticism, it's the lack of an index to cross reference the amount of information provided. But that's a minor quibble as The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman acts almost a reverse image to Bugliosi's Helter Skelter book and for that alone it deserves to be read. It's by far the most comprehensive and most balanced book on Manson I've read, and I've read many. The Manson File: Myth And Reality of An Outlaw Shaman deserves to be regarded as the definitive book on Charles Manson and the murders attributed to his group. If you thought you knew the true story of the Manson murders or thought you knew Charles Manson, Nikolas Schreck will make you think again. For more information go to