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May 9th, 2008
05:01 PM ET

A great place to hideout, indeed

Gabe Ramirez
CNN Photojournalist

As the old saying goes, getting there is half the fun. And getting to the old Manson Family hide out in Death Valley National Park is certainly interesting. Anticipating the news of a renewed search for bodies by law enforcement, we decided to try and go live from the Barker Ranch.

To access the ranch you must have a four wheel drive vehicle. The ranch is off a dirt trail called the Goler Wash road. It's basically a dry stream bed that cuts through granite canyons. The road is steep and narrow and full of boulders. Our problem, to go live you need a satellite transmitter. And there is no way a satellite truck can get near the site. So we packed up a satellite kit in three rented SUVs and a pick up truck. Like most four wheel drive SUVs on American roads, these had never been off road, so we weren't sure how well this would work. But we tackled the rough terrain with no serious problems. As soon as we reached the ranch, our field engineers got things set up and we had long hot day of live shots.

The hardest part came after packing up and leaving. We had to navigate the wash road in the pitch black night, dodging boulders and wild donkeys (yes, I did say WILD DONKEYS...a reminder of the areas gold rush days). We managed the ride relatively unscathed. Our fearless correspondent Ted Rowlands was behind the wheel of one truck and had the ONLY casualty of the journey, a tire!! It was punctured by a jagged rock. Thankfully it was after getting through the worst part of the road. While waiting for help I lay on the roof of my SUV and watched falling stars. There was No cell service, no civilization for miles. Producer Sara Weisfeldt finally got through to a 24 hour tow service on our satellite phone. And few hours later he picked up the truck. We would have left it until morning but it was loaded with large and expensive generators. After a day at Barker Ranch it was easy to see it was a great place to hide out indeed.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Leslie

    If there are people buried at Barker ranch, maybe they were there before the Manson clan, maybe they were victims of the Manson clan, maybe they were members of the Manson clan. Regardless of the outcome to Manson and his followers who are/were in prison, if there are human remains there, they key word is HUMAN. They were people, they matter. Even if they are never positively identified, their silent voices deserve their day, they deserve a decent resting place and acknowledgement that they existed, not silently awaiting eternity ignored as well as unknown. They were somebody's child, maybe somebody's parent, brother, sister, friend. We are a sad race indeed if we do not acknowledge they are there, silent as the grave.

    May 13, 2008 at 12:00 am |
  2. Kim in Kansas

    If more bodies are found in and around the house, it goes a long way in keeping the Manson "family" behind bars indefinitely. The family members are currently up for annual parole hearing reviews and could possibly be released under California laws. None of the family members should be released and for good reason. Their murders were horrific and grisly and just for the fun of it.

    May 12, 2008 at 12:51 pm |
  3. Bill in Montana

    Why didn't you just put on the spare tire. Four vehicles of people, including field engineers, and you couldn't change a tire? You should have had that cell phone service that shows a herd of people as a support crew.

    May 12, 2008 at 12:15 pm |
  4. Dave, Maine

    I have been intrigued by the Manson/helter skelter story for about 25 years, and have stayed as up to date as anyone would be. Judging by Sadie's comments in 1969, there may very well be some sort of remains at Barker. But, how would they be identified? Im sure if anyone was killed out there, they werent buried with a loaded wallet vacuum sealed in case someone found them 40 years later! How could they compare DNA? To who? Im sure dental records on missing persons in 1969 werent as common as todays, And remember, alot of people went missing running from the draft also. You cant get fingerprints from a skeleton. Identifying anyone would be a stretch. Unless Squeaky Fromme knows everyones name, if there IS anyone there, how would you be able to bring ANY family closure? It would appear even though all of Mansons disciples have MORE than rehabilitated, Other than him of course, they are all going to die in prison anyway. Theres probably more bodies buried at Spahn too, Only the family knows for sure. At any rate, what is going to change if there are more bodies {unidentifyable} ,more life sentences? The manson girls have been MODEL prisoners, as has Bobby, Tex, and Bruce. Are they any closer to parole? NO!! The government has been using them as an example for years. If any of them had done a similar murder and was'nt affiliated with Charlie, they would all be out! Think about it! The average life with parole sentence in the U.S is 22 years! Virtually all of them have sued for being political prisoners for a reason! They are! What they did is unfathomable that is for sure. But, they did it high as kites, with fried out brains, and under the power of a cult like leader, They did'nt act with sound mind, they were on LSD all the time. They do deserve a chance, even though they arent going to get one. Now Sadie is dying of brain cancer, Why dig up more of the past? Honestly, who will benefit except someone who wants publicity for a book they want to write. In my opinion, all 3 unidentified corpses is going to do is reopen old wounds and interest in a tragic case that ended many lives so long ago... If there IS anyone out there, let them rest....Enough people's lives have already been ruined, Including the young people who did the crime.

    May 11, 2008 at 11:10 pm |
  5. SteveMG

    In a place that was that remote, that inaccessible, that desolate you really thought somebody would come along and take your stuff?

    May 11, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  6. Spider

    Helter Skelter, a book wriiten by the Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi (pardon the spelling), talks about how hard it is to get to the ranch. When police got there for a raid, after toiling as Mr. Ramirez did, they found a school bus on the property. In an interview with one of the Family members, Squeeky Fromme I believe, they asked her how in the world the Family had gotten the school bus across all the rough terrain. They were told, "Charlie made it fly".

    May 10, 2008 at 7:59 am |
  7. Christina, Windber, PA

    And here we thought being getting the news was glamorous. Are all your assignments this adventurous?

    May 9, 2008 at 9:11 pm |
  8. Kent, Illinois

    I don't really understand the reasoning behind looking for dead bodies thirty years after. Manson will always intrigue people even though after all these years he isn't that interesting anymore. He isn't scary anymore. And, there are plenty of other killers that won't sidestep the issue of killing. Others will confess. Manson pretends too much. He has turned into a raving idiot.

    May 9, 2008 at 7:56 pm |
  9. Cindy

    Gabe,
    Glad you all made it back in one piece...well except the truck! I can see why they would hide out there too. It is in the middle of no where and they probably thought that no one would ever find them there after they committed their killing sprees much less make the long trek up there. Plus being out there they could live however they wanted with no outside interference like most other cults try to do.

    I hope that they are allowed to dig out there and try to find the supposed remains that the dog smelled.

    May 9, 2008 at 5:19 pm |