Prepare To Be Scared With “Helter Skelter”


thGiven my penchant for murder mysteries and biographies, I almost can’t believe it took me this long to read “Helter Skelter.”  Before reading “Helter Skelter,” I knew very little about Charles Manson, the senseless and brutal murders he ordered, or why anyone would join his “family”.  Six hundred pages later, I’m no closer to understanding this utterly bizarre scenario, but will admit that it captivated me from the first page.  I am hesitant to say that this was a great book due to the horrific premise, but honestly, it was.  What made this book so interesting was that it was written by Vincent Bugliosi, the attorney tasked with prosecuting the Tate-LaBianca murderers.  His perspective allowed the book to be extremely accurate.  The legal aspect and trial were described so well that the intricate details were easy to understand.  By the end, I was even more impressed that Bugliosi had been able to condense such an immense amount of information into one book.

Manson is a quintessential example of how instability during youth can having damaging consequences.  Growing up in the justice system, the governmental agencies and doctors believed Manson was a threat to others and should remain in custody, but couldn’t keep him there.  Manson exerted mind control over so many people, whom he called his “family”, yet their submission is unexplainable.  Because the “family” would do anything for Manson, they followed his orders when he instructed them to brutally kill several people.  The details of the tragic deaths of the people in both the Tate and LaBianca homes were gruesome and sickening.  I was appalled at the poor police work and general apathy of the police department during such a high profile case.  The police destroyed evidence, ignored evidence, failed to investigate leads, and basically did everything possible to sabotage these cases.  Had it not been for the confessions of several “family” members, I wonder when, if ever, the police would have learned that Manson and his crew were responsible for the murders.

Immunity is such a controversial tool, but here, I was content that Bugliosi offered it to Linda, one of the women involved in the murders.  Her participation in the murders was limited to driving the car, not killing anyone, and unlike the other defendants, she exhibited true remorse.  Her testimony allowed the others to be convicted, and after understanding what a gigantic task that was, her testimony was absolutely crucial.  The trial itself was such a circus.  Every attorney involved was held in contempt of court at least once, and some even spent multiple nights in jail.  Manson and the girls who were his co-defendants were banished from the courtroom on multiple occasions because of their disruptive and chaotic behavior.  Manson was constantly threatening the lawyers and witnesses, but the most terrifying event was when Manson leapt at the Judge holding a pen in an attempt to stab him.  By the end of the trial, the Judge was packing a gun under his robes, both the Judge and Bugliosi had a protection detail, the police installed an intercom in Bugliosi’s house so he could contact the police directly in case of a home invasion, a witness was poisoned, and one attorney was missing (later found dead).

“Helter Skelter” is an emotionally charged story that kept me up nights while I was reading it.  There were so many aspects to the story that I imagine all readers would have very strong feelings about the events described.  I could go on and on about the information contained in this book because the complexity of what happened is hypnotic.  The crimes committed by Manson and his “family” are so unnerving and senseless that there just isn’t any way for normal people to comprehend why these murders occurred, but if you dare to try, I highly recommend this book.

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3 thoughts on “Prepare To Be Scared With “Helter Skelter”

  1. I read this in about 1973 and I still remember how startling it was. One of the best books I ever read for all the reasons you mentioned. Yes, hypnotic is the way to describe all the unbelievable details.

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