B.C. reporter reflects on covering Charles Manson

B.C. reporter reflects on covering Charles Manson

Charles Manson, leader of a murderous cult, died on Sunday at 83

A retired Penticton reporter is reflecting on the impact Charles Manson’s murderous cult left behind after authorities announced his death Sunday evening.

Manson became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969. He died Sunday after nearly a half-century in prison. He was 83.

Related: Charles Manson, leader of murderous ’60s cult, dead at 83

Deb Pfeiffer spent the majority of her reporting career covering California news, entering the media business in the 1980s, years after Manson was arrested and put in jail.

But the impact that story had was felt even decades later when Pfeiffer set out to work on a 40th-anniversary story.

In May 2009, the isolated Barker Ranch cabin in Death Valley where Manson was arrested was gutted by a fire.

Later that year, while working for the San Bernardino Sun, Pfeiffer reached out to those affected by Manson’s crimes.

She managed to snag an interview with Vincent Bugliosi – chief prosecutor in the Manson case and author of Helter Skelter, the story of the Manson murders.

“I thought I would never get a hold of him, but he actually called me back,” said Pfeiffer.

“It was so vivid in his memory. What struck me was that this was 2009 when I was interviewing him and yet the memory was very fresh in his mind. What happened, 40 years later, was still fresh in the minds of those who met him. It stuck with people because it was so awful.”

“He convinced them that he was the second coming of Christ and the devil all wrapped up in one,” Bugliosi told Pfeiffer in the 2009 San Bernardino Sun article. “He was also a racist who believed that by committing the crimes, then blaming it on black men, he could create an apocalyptic race war known as Helter Skelter, while the family hid out at Barker Ranch.”

Pfeiffer said she cannot imagine the impact the case must have had on those immersed in it.

“How horrifying it must of been for him (Bugliosi), for anyone involved with it back then. It was such a terrible crime – they stabbed a pregnant actress to death.”

The slayings horrified the world and, together with the deadly violence that erupted later in 1969 during a Rolling Stones concert at California’s Altamont Speedway, exposed the dangerous, drugged-out underside of the counterculture movement. Pfeiffer said this case seemed to mark the end of the era of peace and love.

“It happened right at the end of the 60s, the hippy-dippy time was really over when that happened,” said Pfeiffer.

“The country was going in such a negative direction, so many people led astray by Charles Manson.”

After a trial that lasted nearly a year, Manson and three followers — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — were all found guilty of murder.

“It was one of the worst crimes ever in Southern California. It really did mark the end of an era, a time that was supposed to be about changing the direction of the US and instead, there was this horrific crime that struck with people, that marked people for the rest of their lives. It had a far-reaching impact on so many people,” said Pfeiffer.

— With files from The Canadian Press

To report a typo, email:
newstips@pentictonwesternnews.com
.


@carmenweld
carmen.weld@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

B.C. reporter reflects on covering Charles Manson

Just Posted

A WestJet flight on the runway leaving Comox. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Aviation company seeks contracted employees to fill former WestJet roles at YQQ

Menzies Aviation from Edinburgh Park, Scotland, operates in 34 countries across the world

A cougar was spotted Monday near Queneesh Elementary. (WildSafe BC photo)
Cougar sighted Monday near Courtenay school

Conservation officers are warning the public to avoid the wooded areas around… Continue reading

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
SD71 to address COVID-19 exposures with virtual town hall

The meeting is set for Thursday, March 4

Courtenay Elementary is the latest school on a growing list that has COVID-19 exposures. Google Maps photo
Courtenay Elementary latest school on growing list of COVID-19 exposures

Exposure dates at the school on McPhee Avenue are Feb. 22, 23 and 24

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Most Read