Charles Manson, perhaps the most notorious of figures in Southern California history, whose shadow loomed over the region for decades after he went to prison, is gone.
But from Chatsworth to the Hollywood Hills, and from Los Feliz to downtown L.A., his bloody imprint on the Southland — and the eerie cultural fascination his gruesome crimes inspired — remains.
Hints of Manson’s shadow endure in a secluded corner of the northern end of the San Fernando Valley, where a castoff movie ranch once stood.
The site became a breeding ground for Manson’s venom, the indoctrination point for those who followed him and the launchpad for one of L.A.’s most notorious murder binges.
Today, an abandoned lot at the former Spahn Ranch, near Chatsworth, is all that is left of the place where Manson held murderous court while his “family” followed.
“My friend was visiting the Spahn Ranch one day, and I was there with him,” said Jonathan Shaw, a teenager when he first met Manson at the ranch in the late 1960s. “We sat around with a bunch of kids, smoking pot and singing songs.
“Manson was there playing a guitar and everyone was singing along,” Shaw recalled. “He looked very cool, like an Indian chief.”
Failed ‘rock star’
That “coolness” fueled the allure for followers of Manson, a failed rock musician.
Manson coveted fame, said Linda Deutsch, respected Associated Press reporter who covered the cult leader’s sensational trial in the 1970s.
“He just wanted to be a rock star,” she said during a phone interview. “He wanted to be part of the Hollywood scene. But he was not talented enough and couldn’t get the foot in the door….”
At Spahn Ranch, he found his own kind of stardom.
Manson brainwashed his followers. His tools: acid trips, orgies, his own twisted takes on readings from the Bible and his frequent instruction on…