The Myth of ‘Helter Skelter’
By Susan Atkins-Whitehouse
By permission from  James W. Whitehouse
The Shattered Myth of ‘Helter Skelter’
The following is a very rough draft of a project I tried to get Susan to finish which more clearly described what she saw happening, not just during the summer of 1968 to the fall of 1969, but during her trial as well. This was a particularly distasteful subject to Susan and she only consented in the hope that it would help to dispel the misconceptions about the case and make it less a subject of obsession to some misdirected young people.
Susan never got a chance to finish proof reading this copy, especially the early chapters. But she felt the later chapters, particularly the chapters describing the trial, were very accurate.
We started this project with the understanding that any intelligent, objective reader will (should) naturally weigh Susan’s uncorroborated account as suspect. It was also our hope that this book will be read by intelligent objective readers.
With this in mind it was our intent to document and reference absolutely everything that is covered in order to produce what we hope will be an account that is as objective as humanly possible.
We have also tried to limit ourselves to references and documentation that is as credible as possible. This means that our primary source for reference was the account written and published by the Prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, himself. This account was written and published only a couple years after the events, which increases the chance that it is not tainted by poor memory. It was also produced by the very person who argued that Susan should be executed. This in itself makes it the most credible source for facts which support Susan’s account.
We have also occasionally referenced the book written by Charles Watson, Will You Die For Me? This account was also produced about thirty years ago (about 1978), and so is less likely to contain unintentional memory errors. Like Susan’s own account one might understandably question the truthfulness of Charles Watson’s account, except to the extent to which he makes admissions against his own interest. (i.e. – it’s hard to believe that he would lie to make himself look worse.)
We have further referenced a book by Chaplain Ray, God’s Prison Gang, in which Chaplain Ray interviewed both Susan and Charles Watson about 1974. Once again, while objective readers might question the truthfulness of statements made to exonerate themselves, it is hard to question statements made against their own self interest. And so we feel that this is a credible reference.
We have referenced the work of Paul Watkins as well. This account was also written more than a quarter century ago, and may therefore be less likely to contain errors of memory. Since Susan did not associate directly with Watkins either before or after the crimes it is hard to determine why he would be untruthful about Susan’s part in them. To this extent his account appears credible enough to consider.
On occasion we have also referenced things Manson himself told the writer of the book Manson, In His Own Words, which was published around 1980. This account is, at points, wildly fictionalized and self serving. In all fairness, the writer makes a point of stating Charles Manson appeared medicated to various degrees during the time he was being interviewed, and displayed varying moods – so perhaps the fantastic parts of his story were not intentionally erroneous. In addition, a lot of the story seems prompted, which is to say it appears Manson is responding to questions concerning either Susan or Charles Watson’s earlier published accounts, and not a direct account of his own memory. (It seems unlikely that, ten years after the fact, Charles Manson’s memory of the crimes would touch on the very same several moments that Susan or Charles Watson’s memory did.) While both of these facts make Charles Manson’s account somewhat suspect, once again to the extent Manson makes statements against his own best interest it may at least arguably be assumed to be correct. So to this extent we have occasionally included citations to this work.
Lastly, we have occasionally cited Susan’s own book, Child of Satan, Child of God. References to Susan’s own book are not made with the purpose of compelling the reader as to their truthfulness, but simply to show that this is the same account she gave almost 30 years ago. This is not “Susan’s new version of the crimes.”
This heavy footnoting may become ponderous at time, and we apologize for that. But this whole book is worthless if it is not a process toward a more thorough understanding of the events associated with this terrible tragedy, an undermining of the myth surrounding these events, and a means of producing an intelligent discussion of these events. Merely producing another unverifiable and wildly speculative account of these crimes serves no purpose at all other than to continue to hurt the families who have lost irreplaceable loved ones and to contribute to the aggrandizement of the myth of Charles Manson. Tragedies like this shouldn’t be discussed at all unless they are discussed with a legitimate goal. That goal should be to try to see that similar tragedies do not occur in the future.
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