By Brian Lancaster
Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is an alternate history dealing with the Manson family murders. In the movie, the infamous psycho hippie appears briefly only one time without a single line of dialogue, snooping around the Polanski residence on Cielo Drive in the hills, witnessed by Brad Pitt’s character as he is fixing an antenna on the neighbor’s roof. Indeed, a witness at the house reported seeing someone fitting his description lurking around outside. Hollywood made Tarantino cut out any Manson lines. In fact, I think it makes the entire film more ominous to have the figure barely appear at all.
The primier history book dealing with the Manson murders is Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, which focuses on Manson’s motive to start a race war by pinning the blame on African Americans or other minorities.
A revision to this theory comes with Tom O’Neill’s book, CHAOS: Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the 1960s, that there may have been other motives behind the murders. O’Neill had been investigating the murders for 30 years, lost his book deal, and eventually self-published his work. He believes that Manson could have been used as a hitman and had the wrong people murdered at the Polanski house, or at least had some connection to the CIA. Polanski was rarely at his house in the Hollywood Hills, and he often let other influential people house sit for him while he was gone.
MK-Ultra was a partially-illegal program by the CIA that experimented with psychedelics and mind control from 1953 to 1973, with a focus on extracting confessions from suspects. According to the book, one of Manson’s parole officers in San Francisco was connected to the program and to amphedamine studies. O’Neill also talked to many of the people who hung out at the Polanski house, one claiming to have worked for the CIA in Jamaica to prevent Cuban influence.
MK-Ultra also experimented with LSD on people in prison, around the same time that Manson was doing his second sentence on McNeil Island for forging a check (he was first picked up for prostituting two women in New Mexico, but the charges were dropped because one claimed she was deeply in love with Manson). There is no evidence of Manson having been given drugs for experimentation purposes in prison, but it is proven that it happened to other inmates. According to O’Neill’s research, there were multiple times in which Manson and his followers were arrested and then mysteriously released, as though the police were convinced to let them go free by a third party.
In 1969, three of Manson’s followers entered the Polanski residence and brutally murdered Sharon Tate, a semi-famous actress, as well as two others. Polanski was not there at the time. It is very possible that the murderers (including Susan Atkins, the most unstable) were there to kill another high-level target. Again, there is no solid proof, but the circumstantial evidence abounds.
O’Neill tried repeatedly to listen to recordings between Manson’s right-hand man, Tex Watson, and his attourney, but they still haven’t been released to the public to this day. O’Neill believes the true answers are on those tapes.
It’s unfortunate that this reporter spent 30 years investigating the Manson murders only to have his book deal retracted. But it is finally published, and I highly recommend the audio book on Amazon.
There is also a Joe Rogan interview with Tom O’Neill here: