Tag Archives: Charles Manson

Thoughts on Reading Errol Morris’ “A Wilderness of Error”

This is part of an article in process.

When I read “drug-addled hippies” [having committed the Manson murders] in Morris’ book, alarm bells immediately went off. Manson’s indoctrination of his followers certainly involved the use of drugs, but drugs themselves were never responsible for the Tate and LaBianca murders, and the killers themselves were not “addled,” nor in a fog. They were in possession of their faculties, and carried out the killings in the quasi-religious, cultish belief that they were foot soldiers in Manson’s apocalyptic vision of attaining penultimate power after the worldwide “race war,” called Helter Skelter, that he believed the murders would instigate. It was this apocalyptic fervor, and the Family’s fierce devotion to Charles Manson (with the exception of Linda Kasabian, who was repulsed by the killings and turned prosecution witness) that lay at the root of the Manson murders. Morris should have known better.

The parallels that he draws between the Tate-LaBianca murders and the murders of the MacDonald family are likewise ridiculous. Morris states that Rosemary and Leo LaBianca were killed by implements in their own home, just like College, Kimberly, and Kristen MacDonald. True, but the killings of Sharon Tate and her companions at 10050 Cielo Drive involved guns and knives brought by the killers; Tex Watson told Manson afterward that there was “a lot of panic,” and so Manson accompanied the killers on the next night’s rampage in order to show them how to perform a controlled household killing[i]. Also, Morris conveniently forgets that the killers of the LaBiancas raided the fridge and ate the food that was there—and even fed the LaBianca’s dogs—while the supposed intruders at 544 Castle Drive left without taking any jewelry, food, or the plethora of drugs available in an open closet. Any resemblances between the MacDonald and the Tate-LaBianca murders are superficial at best.

[i] Bugliosi, Vincent, and Gentry, Curt. Helter Skelter. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1974. p 302.