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Cult leader was Svengali 'Girls all obeyed him'

Title: Cult leader was Svengali 'Girls all obeyed him'
Date: Wednesday, 3 December 1969
Publisher: Press-Telegram
Main source:

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"Charlie was like a Svengali ... he could get anything he wanted from anybody in his 'family' ... what he said was law. He once put several of his girls in a hillside cave, with only water, for a week. They stayed. Nobody disobeyed Charlie ..."

Twenty-four-year-old Juan Flynn, an employe [sic] of the Spahn Ranch where members of the kill-for-thrills hippie cult lived for two years, talked freely of the man they called "Jesus".

"Jesus" is Charles Manson, leader of the weird religious cult believed to be responsible for the murder of actress Sharon Tate and possibly 10 others. The "Messiah" of the cult currently is in Inyo County jail charged with auto theft.

"I can't say anything good about that guy ... he tried to kill me twice, and tried to take over the ranch and everyone in it," Flynn said.

"We still don't know what happened to one of our ranch hands — I've told police about that."

MANSON arrived on the 33-acre spread in Chatsworth in "an old black truck that was leaning over on one side", Flynn said. He and his "family" left — shortly after a mid-August police raid — on dune buggies which ranch hands say he refashioned from old Volkswagens he "picked up somewhere".

But it was not too long after Manson arrived that one of the ranch hands, Donald ("Shorty") Shea, disappeared, leaving behind his prized guns.

"Charlie said once he was 'striking knives into Shorty' but I thought he was only trying to scare me," Flynn added.

"Shorty didn't like the hippies around and he said so. If he had decided to leave the ranch — even though he wouldn't say goodbye to anybody — he'd have taken his guns. They were his whole life."

Manson's 'rule' at the ranch, the cowboy said, began slowly.

"He got a lot of girls first, then began to bring in the men. He called the men Zombies, I guess because they couldn't, do what they wanted to do.

"CHARLIE WOULD get them around a fire at night and chant ... they'd all chant ... then they'd all go to bed. There was a lot of gang sex stuff.

"He tried to get me to join. He said the only rule was that there were no rules."

Flynn said he joined the commune, briefly, but "ended up in the hospital", so refused to join their activities any further.

"I think that's part of it," he said. "These people get these diseases and they don't believe in doctors; it gets to the stage that it affects their minds. They had sores all over their bodies."

Manson "conditioned" his disciples, Flynn said.

"HE HAD STUDIED Scientology — he apparently was a top man in it — and he used what he learned with the 'family.'

"Charlie believed in girls having babies: one was born in a trailer on the ranch. But he didn't believe in educating children — he only wanted them to serve him, like the girls."

The girls did exactly what Manson wanted them to do, ranch manager Ruby Pearl verified.

"They never refused," she said. "And if any one of them didn't do it right away, she was condemned by the others.

"If they spent money, and Charlie needed money, that was terrible. They were supposed to give it to Charlie right away — everything they had. He decided what to do with it."

THE GIRLS, she said, got sums of up to $1000 sometimes from their parents. "We cashed the checks, so we know," she said. "They were good checks; they never bounced. And they'd turn it all over to Charlie.

"He never had money of his own.

"He was a good singer and guitar player, and they'd just sit around him and enjoy him because he was their big idol, their leader."

Slightly built, Manson's attraction for girls, Flynn agreed, was extraordinary. But Flynn said he felt nothing of the magnetism, especially when he had to repair things Matson frequently broke.

"I spent all my time doing repairs" he said.

But that wasn't the worse part, he added. "One day he came at me with a pitchfork in the barn. I'm a little bigger than he is so he changed his mind, swerved around and put the pitchfork through a rooster that was just sitting there."

ON' ANOTHER occasion, Flynn said the hippie leader held a knife to his throat — "but I thought he was kidding, I didn't think he'd have the guts."

"I've seen him take girls and bash their heads against the road and car doors, and they hadn't done anything. It was because Charlie got mad at somebody else — usually me — and took it out on the girls."

But no matter what the cult leader did, he said he knew he was right, Flynn added, because "he felt he had the seal of God in his forehead."

"When he called himself Jesus Christ, he believed it. His favorite quote from the Bible was Revelation 9: 'Neither they repent of their murders, nor their sorceries, nor of their fornications, nor of their thefts'."