Much is made of Susan and her inconsistency when describing what happened. If she can’t stay consistent how do we know when she is lying, and what is true? Many people hold Susan as a liar who changes her story for her own selfish interests. And the truth is there are a lot of contradictions in what she says.
For instance in her book she says she talked to Linda in the house and got a second knife from Linda. Linda’s testimony is that the conversation happened outside and doesn’t mention a knife. This is shown as a lie by Susan.
If Susan’s story is correct that would place Linda inside the house and contributing a knife to the murders. It would undermine Linda and thus her testimony. For the very same reason Linda would want the conversation outside. As would the Prosecutor and the writer of Helter Skelter as he gave Linda immunity. She is presented as the little hippie girl who just happened to get caught up with Manson’s demons from hell. Susan is the vampire gleefully killing people. Yet as you read the Grand Jury testimony of Susan and her various writings she states was also in shock. More lies? We don’t know. We also don’t know if Linda lied, or if the book is accurate on all the accounts. After all Charles Watson the main guy called it 85% accurate.
Susan in her 1976 book describes losing her child to protective services and then sneaking into the new parents house and taking her child back. In her Myth of Helter Skelter on line book she describes how she lost her child but then was made go with some of the men to take the child back so Manson could hold it and manipulate her. Are these two situations or the same?
Susan told prisoners in jail she killed Sharon, and Bugliosi the Prosecutor says he was told the same thing by Susan.
So where is the untruth in this? How do you know the two prisoners Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham haven’t embellished? Or for better impact the TV crews and various movie makers didn’t push to make it more intense? How do we know Mr. Bugliosi put his own interpretation and didn’t miss something?
Ultimately it is hard to tell what of any of this is true, except that those people died.
So why is Susan lying? Or is she? Or is there a less nefarious possibility?
I think the most likely explanation is that she isn’t sure what happened in detail. Susan was raised in an alcoholic family and apparently offered for sex by one of her brothers. Her mother died while Susan was in her teen’s and the her father left. She had no real skills and supported herself with odd jobs and being a stripper or dancer. Not to be insult her but she was not the brightest person in California.
She had a strong sense of self degradation from this and thought of herself as worthless except for sex, which is how woman were quite often treated in the 60’s (and still are in many places). She thought of herself as trash and figured she might as well totally ruin herself, or as she put it see how far down she could go. She pretty much didn’t care and had a death wish, yet craved attention and love with the deepest pit in her heart.
And then she met Charles Manson, who told her she was beautiful, he loved her, and could teach her heart and soul the secrets of the universe, of God. And so she followed.
Mr. Bugliosi constantly talks about how Susan returned to her God, that she thought of Manson that way. But that is in the end just his opinion. Apparently Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel thought he was a god, but with Susan it is not so clear. She speaks of it more like she was
experiencing god and the eternal within. It isn’t clear she thought Manson was God.
She is also pictured as part of the unit, the three crazy girl’s walking hand in hand singing for Charlie. Yet in her book, and also by the words of the other two, they didn’t like each other. Susan was the one who broke the story open, gave the names, what had happened. Without Susan the State may never have solved these murders. Leslie was especially hard on Susan, though Leslie did her own little cutesy girl act that revealed a lot of information also. Truth was though Susan was not really a believer. She was a poor essentially penniless girl with a desire to know and love but not aware of how to do it in with a group that was really a street gang.
Much is made of the MANSON CULT, that he had some strange mystical hold over everyone. And in a sense he did. He held all the money, the men got to have sex with chicks and the women were made totally subservient. Isn’t that the description of a street or biker gang? A central charismatic leader who rules by derision and insult, parceling out women to the men in reward for their compliance, physically threatening the women into service? Manson’s real difference is he did this in the guise of a bunch of psycho babble and mis-borrowed spiritual concepts which he seems to have believed to cover his own soulless childhood as a throw away. Really it wasn’t a cult, it was a group of lost middle class kids living in a street gang. And it may be that which horrified America the most. There were lots of gangs around causing mayhem, but not our middle class kids. But there they were.
So there was Susan, no way to support herself, child held by Charlie for it’s “betterment”. No way to drive away, no money, food not that great, endless sex use and drugs, inconsistent sleep. And then she participates in a couple horrible events that were a shock to her and the others. In the movies we all watch it looks like everyone is fine with what happened, but by their own words they were all in shock and horror at what they were doing.
Much can be asked of why they did it, but as for the inconsistency I suggest this as a possibility. Susan really doesn’t have a strong hold on the details. I don’t know if you have been around horror like this, but the tendency is to completely shut down and block it out. Like my mothers suicide - I know I walked in, saw her, had the feeling of splitting in two, ran to the police station and they came. But you ask me for detail and it changes as the memory changes, because memory is there to protect, not remember. Only the fundamental points remain.
Bugliosi makes a point that when Susan talked about Stephen Parent she referred to the thing she saw in the car. Yet if you read the Grand Jury transcript she describes being scared testifying, in shock at the shooting, trying to not look at the car as she passes.
This isn’t to excuse her actions, just that she was not totally present. She was on Speed, adrenaline, fear, shock and horror. And she probably does have conflicting memories mixed with other’s descriptions to the point the details are mixed up.
But except for her jail house bragging and her defense portion “admission of guilt” she has been consistent about two things. She didn’t kill Gary Hinman, and she didn’t kill Sharon Tate. And all we have to go on to say she did is her own words in those admissions and bragging.
Her knife had no blood on it. Linda didn’t give her a knife. Watson says Susan felt the need to brag in jail, but it was he who killed. Susan maybe have been deranged, but she did not kill.