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May 8th, 2008
12:15 PM ET

More bodies buried at Manson’s Death Valley ranch?

Program Note: Are there more victims buried on a remote ranch in Death Valley where Charles Manson and some of his cohorts were arrested nearly 40 years ago? Watch Ted Rowlands' report tonight on 360° 10p ET

Gabe Ramirez
CNN Photojournalist

After 90 minutes of driving down dirt roads and up narrow rocky trails in our four-wheel-drive truck I finally said it, “Wow, this place is in the middle of freaking nowhere”. It’s not hard to understand why Charles Manson and his “family” decided to make the Barker Ranch in Death Valley, California their hideout.

Even today when it seems no part of Southern California is without a sub-division and a Starbucks, the infamous ranch exists in another dimension. Abandoned gold mines dot the steep canyon walls. Old mining equipment rusts half buried in the hot sand. As retired local prospector Emmett Harder likes to say, “These canyons are full of ghosts”. This place sure feels that way.

Correspondent Ted Rowlands, producer Sara Weisfeldt and I are navigating these trails to find ghosts. After the infamous “Helter Skelter” murders in Los Angeles almost forty years ago Manson and his followers fled to the Barker Ranch. It was the last place Manson would breathe free air. In the end police found him hiding inside a bathroom cabinet.

Recently, a police investigator and his K-9 partner put the Barker Ranch back in the news. Over the years Mammoth Lakes Police investigator Paul Dostie had come across reports that Manson family members, various wannabes and ill-fated passers by were murdered and buried at the ranch...
The detective decided it was a good opportunity to work out his cadaver dog Buster, as part of their training regimen. Buster has the rare ability to alert his partner to decomposing bones, which means he can find very old graves. It was during this session that Buster started to key in on several possible burial sites around the Barker cabin. That’s when Dostie started to believe in ghosts.

Now here we are, hours from nowhere and with nobody around. The dead quiet of the canyon is broken only by the occasional Navy F-18 streaking overhead on its way to bombing practice at nearby China Lake. Ted and Sara are out walking the area trying to find Manson's old truck. It is nothing more than a bullet riddled heap with “Helter Skelter” written in faded spray paint on the back.

I am in the cabin shooting video. Alone. The place is beyond creepy. The cabin is what real estate agents would call rustic, in other words it’s falling apart. The kitchen stove is still there along with various cabinets and a broken down refrigerator. The bathroom cabinet (where the diminutive Mason was found curled up in a ball) is long stolen. Being alone in there, the breeze gently banging the door against the frame, I almost felt old Charlie breathing down my neck.

While continuing to shoot video I hear the whine of motorcycle engines approaching. A gang of British tourists dismounts their dirt bikes. One of them starts singing “Helter Skelter!” With media reports of the new search, it seems the Barker Ranch going through a mini tourism boom.

Before the Manson family took residence, many a gold prospector met his doom on these jagged cliffs. Before them, Indians buried their dead in these parts.

It’s getting late in the day and we still have a long rough ride back to civilization. Ted jokes that we should overnight in the cabin. Ah, no thanks. I don’t scare easily, but if ghosts do exist you can bet you will find them here.

 


Filed under: Crime & Punishment
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. nancy

    next yhing you know you will blame the Manson clan for the
    disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa and global warming.
    I don't believe that they will find anything . The whole situation is sad but unless you have absolute proof , Charles Manson is about to get
    railroaded.

    May 9, 2008 at 5:58 am |
  2. Joe from Canada

    Once again Manson must be up for parole, that seems to be the time the press gets manipulated into running these stories.

    May 9, 2008 at 5:04 am |
  3. Janet Bollero

    I was about five or six when the news broke. I was mesmerized by this man's eyes. I can't express how scary his face looked to me.... the boogie man. He was the Boogie man.

    May 9, 2008 at 4:29 am |
  4. habeas

    shorty shea's body was found years ago.
    during the trial, one of the defense attorneys also disappeared. who knows if he is buried here at barker???

    May 9, 2008 at 2:26 am |
  5. Fran Miles

    Oh Lord, not again! By all means dig up Sphan's Movie Ranch, too.
    Why are these ex-acid freaks up for parole every year. Didn't they get
    life without parole? I am still not over the fact that the death penalty
    was taken off the table right before these freaks were arrested.
    Justice? Insanity is more like it.
    God forbid any of these zombies gets out. Also, whatever happened
    to Mr. Boulgiosi? If that was him in "Helter Skelter" he did a good
    acting job.
    Crazy California!

    May 9, 2008 at 2:22 am |
  6. Gary

    The authorities already found Shorty..

    May 9, 2008 at 2:14 am |
  7. Del

    The Manson Family saga will go on forever as long as they walk the earth and breathe the same air we do!! Unfortunately societies "do gooders" prefer to lock these maniacs up as "death" chambers are a cruel and heartless way to administer punishment. As opposed to being blungeoned to death, shot several times, and hacked up into more pieces than you have fingers on your hand(s). Hello!, what's wrong with this picture?
    The Manson Family should already be in Gods' hands, and long forgotten by now. They're not really important anymore. Why do we make celebrities of heiness murdrers? Who profits in that game?
    There's a travesity of "justice" in this country, and it's normally referred to as the "law". Who's zooming who here? Who are we trying to kid? There's no justice in this land because it's profitable in the court system. America makes MONEY off of socities misery. Do they have this in your foriegn countries? You'd be surprised what happens to you over there...........and the fact that they actually follow through with it!!!!
    Too bad America doesn't learn from her mistakes! We could all use a lesson from other countries.............WHEN will it be safe to walk the streets down middle America again?????????

    May 9, 2008 at 1:37 am |
  8. Mark

    I believe that Shorty's body was eventually discovered, but I agree witrh Moo. There might well be bodies at Spahn too. I don't understand why Inyo County seems so reluctant to start digging at Barker.

    May 9, 2008 at 1:25 am |
  9. stuart veaudry

    To all the people who are against capitol punishment get your head out of the sand...This guy should of been gone long ago, however our legal system lets him live on....WHY..To perpetuate his memory??? There is probably an excellent chance more bodies can be found, I just hope modern science can identify them so families can have some kind of peace and resolution, even after all these years it will at least eliminate doubts for them.

    Scott in Southwest Asia

    May 9, 2008 at 1:12 am |
  10. Kim Barcello

    I have always felt that everyone has redeeming qualities, But I don't think Charles Manson has. He is the devil reeincarnated. I remember when these crimes happened. He should have been executed.He's just as crazy today as he was then. Kill the the prick and save our tax dollars.

    May 9, 2008 at 12:39 am |
  11. lawrence Robertson

    Why is that creep allowed to live, He should be dead 2 weeks after
    being arrested, Is the justice department smarter than GOD??
    Rob

    May 9, 2008 at 12:39 am |
  12. Craig

    The bad part about this story is that it continues to give Manson more attention. The redeeming part of the story is that it gives attention to the victims families and the suffering that they went through. We must stop turning these losers like Manson into celebrities and give them what they deserve.

    May 9, 2008 at 12:26 am |
  13. Anne B.

    It makes no sense to me that Manson and his folks would take the time to give the dignity of burial to any of their victims, especially in the hot, unforgiving sun of aptly named Death Valley. That notwithstanding, a corpse would quickly be eaten and dispursed by vultures and other animals in the desert. In short, if graves do exist, I seriously doubt they are victims of the Manson Family. Stop giving these animals the media attention that they crave.

    May 8, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  14. C. Wolfe

    Years ago, I rode my horse up the canyon where the Manson murderers hung out. It was, without a doubt, one of the eeriest and frightening times of my life. The canyon walls are scattered with barrel cactus, which to my fevered imagination looked like little people peering from behind the rocks. My friend and I galloped our horses back out of that canyon lickety split. I've never felt so spooked – the hair on the back of my neck really did rise. No more canyon visits for me!

    May 8, 2008 at 11:32 pm |
  15. Matthew P. Sokalski

    Since late 90s I am frequent visitor to the Barker Ranch, during my off-road explorations. The place is nasted in beautiful surrandings, but has a creepy feeling to it, even by just knowing that Charls Manson and his gang were hiding out there. I don't know whose bodies may be burried out there, but they probably are. I have read visitors logs and to my surprise I found that Manson still has many supporters; what do you make out of that?
    The tragedy of 1969 murders should never be forgotten, but maybe we just should leave the place as it is, let the time heal the wounds instead of oppening them up and let the dust and wind to blow over the footprints of the past, so visiable over there. The violance is a part of an American nature and it found its way to the beauty and nature of Death Valley.

    Matthew P. Sokalski
    San Clemente, Ca

    May 8, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  16. g.gaiser

    FYI: the Manson ranch is not in Death Valley it's 1-valley to the west; not that hard to get to, accessable by paved road...for the most part. I was just there. You should visit...take your sun screen

    G. Gaiser

    May 8, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  17. Moo

    The Family also stayed at Spahn's Movie Ranch. Shorty Shea disappeared while they were there. It was rumored that he was dismembered and buried in nine places. Why aren't they searching there also?

    May 8, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  18. Karen

    While they're checking for bodies they should go to the area around spawn ranch. Supposedly a ranch hand there that Manson never got along with was killed,dismembered and pieces were buried in different spots. Maybe those grave sites are his body pieces?

    May 8, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  19. Annie Kate

    So Manson rears his ugly head again – he is like a recurring nightmare. I remember the headlines when his group killed actress Sharon Tate and the others at her house. It was almost beyond belief that anyone could do what Manson's group did to those people. They had no respect for human life – if there aren't more bodies out there around where they lived I'll be more surprised than if there aren't.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 8, 2008 at 8:55 pm |
  20. Rodger Harris

    This is one of the big things that is wrong with America – We should have executed Manson and be done with this magot. But, no we don't so the lawyers can make money we keep this nothing alive. This guy was a murder and should have been put of his misery. Bad human being who has no right walking the earth. Hang him now!

    I suppose there will be a show on CBS NBC ABC on H. Rivera going to the ranch while the cameras roll as they dig up the bones.

    Why do we let these things go on! Wake up America

    May 8, 2008 at 8:55 pm |
  21. Carol B., Virginia

    Hopefully, the victim's families can finally learn of their fate and give them a proper burial. What a painful reminder for victim's families when unauthorized movies are made. Certainly forensic pathology is an important field. However, there still doesn't seem to be definitive answers in most cases to age old questions like is it a matter of evil, mental illness, or both? What about more stories where certain tragedies were averted? It's most difficult to keep tabs on anyones lesser or greater criminal behavior once their grown and out of the house, even despite a history of interventions.

    May 8, 2008 at 3:42 pm |
  22. deborah,OH

    They were portrayed as being HIGH most of the time, so would any of them even REMEMBER?!

    May 8, 2008 at 2:45 pm |
  23. Cindy

    It wouldn't surprise me one bit if there were many people buried out there on Barker Ranch or the surrounding areas. Charles Manson was a maniac and probably killed or had people killed on a whim because of any little thing. So there are probably more remains out there than we think.

    May 8, 2008 at 12:31 pm |