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

 

Just Posted

While the weather in Williams Lake wreaked havoc on roads and flooded homes this week, the swans didn’t seem to mind it at all. (David Fait photo)
Waterlogged: Williams Lake downright soggy after days of rain

October has seen an unusual amount of rain fall in the Cariboo this year

Roberts Drive resident Lisa Tarlings awoke at 6 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 to water roaring down the driveway. She and other residents began working to try and divert the water off the road into the ditch. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune.
‘I could hear the water roaring outside’: Williams Lake homes flood after snow, heavy rain

Bette McLennan has lived in her home 41 years and this is the worst it’s ever been

Residents of Riske Creek came to the rescue of a truck driver who slid off Highway 20 in icy conditions with a load of calves Tuesday night (Oct. 27). (Facebook photo)
Riske Creek residents rush to scene of overturned cattleliner on Highway 20 Tuesday night

Residents rounded up cattle and directed traffic in the dark during a heavy snowfall

One person was killed in a two-vehicle crash south of Williams Lake on Highway 97 Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Highway 97 crash south of Williams Lake claims one life

Road conditions at the time were slippery and covered with slush: RCMP

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

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

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

A study by SlotsOnlineCanada notes there is at least 88 hours of top-rated horror movies for Canadians to consume this Halloween. (Unsplash)
Spooks and Chill study reveals Canada’s favourite horror flicks

88 hours of top-rated horror movies can fill COVID-19 Halloween

Most Read