Standing behind a basic wooden table in a rural cabin, the eyes of the three girls seem empty and glassy, while their smiles resemble those of the mystics who have a vision.
His hair is trimmed in military buzzes, different frames show them cradling rifles or playing with knives, and one plays dreamily with a snake wrapped around his neck.
They seem to be talking about what would happen if someone threatened their leader, a man named & # 39; Charlie & # 39;
The tapes (in the picture) unearthed in California after four decades reveal the chilling control that the American cult leader Charles Manson had over his followers
"We could respond so fast," says the girl in the middle, Lynette & # 39; Squeaky & # 39; Fromme.
"With what?" Asks an interviewer outside the camera.
"Anything," says the girl on the right, Sandra Good. & # 39; Whatever. Whatever is at hand. We are animals! & # 39;
"We are," interrupts Fromme.
"And I know if they put a finger on Charlie," Good continues, "if we were unarmed, we would kill our necks." It fixes its eyes. And they know it. "
In another segment of the film, we see Fromme once again. This time her hair is long and it seems she has been crying. She holds a rifle and leans on it.
"Every girl should have a dad like Charlie," she says, her voice drunk as if drunk.
Manson (in the picture) brainwashed his young followers to commit a series of wild murders in the summer of 1969
In another context, it would be easy to assume that the footage is from a B movie of the seventies. But the girls, wearing denim jackets with the words "Maidens of Satan, Witches of the Devil and Daughters of the Devil sewn on the back", are not actresses and the words they speak are tremendously real and sincere.
For the & # 39; Charlie & # 39; of whom they speak with such violent loyalty is none other than Charles Manson, the famous leader of a cult he called his "Family", who brainwashed his young followers to commit a series of wild murders in the summer of 1969 in Los Angeles that would surprise the world.
Among the nine people who killed was the actress Sharon Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant, and married the film director Roman Polanski.
Tate had pleaded for her life and that of her unborn child, but members of the sect hung her from a beam and stabbed her 16 times.
One of those who stabbed her later told her that she murmured the words: "Mother … mother" while they were killing her.
What made the murders even more shocking was the identity of those to whom Manson had brainwashed into killers.
In general, they were American children, who had fallen prey to their satanic charm and who had been seduced by a life of sex and drugs without hindrance.
But as the 50th anniversary of the killings approaches, many questions about Manson – who died last November – and his cult still remain, the biggest of which is this: what led these young people not only to kill but to kill so wildly?
The answer, I think, lies in the extraordinary lost footage of the Manson family that I discovered in California, and which is the basis of a documentary series that will be shown at ITV later this month. What the film shows is nothing less than the radicalization in real time of a group of young, disgruntled people, who would fall under the spell of a highly charismatic leader.
The first time I heard about the existence of the images was when I received a text message. "I think I've found what you're looking for," he said.
Three images are attached, showing about two dozen rusty film cans. They seemed to be stored in an attic, and many had the word & # 39; Manson & # 39; still visible on their labels.
Over the past 30 years, I've made several movies about serial killers, and I've always wanted to make one about Charles Manson. In 2016, I found an intriguing reference in a book for a young filmmaker who had had access to Manson and his cult for a period of almost four years, from 1969 to 1973.
This was Robert Hendrickson, and there was almost no trace of him for decades. His career seems to have focused almost exclusively on Manson, producing two documentaries about the Family, one of which had a cinema premiere in 1973 and was later banned, and one of which was never released at all.
The buzzing girls cut cradle or toy rifles with knives while they discuss what would happen if someone threatened their "Charlie".
Manson had let him in because he was a friend of one of the associates of the Family, but perhaps also because, in his heart, he wanted the world to witness what he had created, one day at least.
He may not have known then that it would take almost 50 years.
I hired a private investigator and asked him if he could find any of his unseen images. A few weeks passed and I waited more with hope than expectation.
Then that text arrived. They told me that Hendrickson had died a few weeks before and that the tapes had been in his attic for more than 40 years.
It turned out that the find was even better than I had dared to hope for. What Hendrickson's lost footage showed was nothing less than the unexpurgated life of the Manson cult for four years.
This was exactly what was needed to make the film he wanted about radicalization and, better yet, there were grisly revelations in the images about Manson and the madness of his "family", a madness that would lead some of his members to stab. to his victims. more than 100 times and defacing the walls with his blood in an exhibition of absolutely horrible barbarism.
So, what does the movie show?
Clearly, Charles Manson is the central figure. Undoubtedly, a man who committed many evil acts was born in 1934 in the kind of unfair and abusive environment that encouraged crime.
With an absent father and an alcoholic mother, young Manson went from truancy to delinquency, before graduating from auto theft and armed robbery.
Manson was condemned to the type of institutions where physical abuse and homosexual rape were common, acts that would later correspond to his companions.
At some point in her problematic life, she found time to get married and have a child, although her criminality meant that her roles as husband and father were very scarce.
In 1967, Manson had spent half his life in "correctional" facilities or in prisons and when he was released in March of that year, he headed to San Francisco at the height of the hippie era. Here, Manson, 32, realized that the counterculture of free love offered him the opportunity not only to exercise his darkly charismatic personality for his own sexual satisfaction, but also to establish a community of impressionable young people who would be his acolytes.
He was, in his crooked way, in need of love and desperate for some kind of control.
While some members saw Manson as his "Dad", others were even more extreme in their affection for him.
Drawing on the lessons he had learned from pimps in prison, Manson took advantage of young men and women, especially the latter, who were vulnerable and lacked family ties and self-esteem.
He would tell them that their parents had betrayed them and that he would become their new father, give them a sense of belonging to a new family.
While some members like Lynette Fromme saw Manson as his "Dad", others were even more extreme in their affection for him.
"I'm Charlie," says family member Thomas Walleman in the newly discovered images. & # 39; When he dies, I die. I gave up my personality and became what he showed me what it could be: total love. "
This was the first stage in the process of radicalization of Manson, although even he still did not know his ultimately horrible destiny. The second stage was, simply, to give young people a good time. It provided an environment, a run-down ranch in the Santa Susana Mountains, about 30 miles north of Los Angeles, which was free of moral restrictions and full of sex and drugs.
It was here that a group of up to 30 family members lived together.
Paul Watkins, one of the first male members of the Family, describes in the films his first experience of the culture of everything else.
"There was a large room with mattresses everywhere and a small table in the middle," he says. & # 39; Charlie was playing the guitar.
Among the nine people who killed was the actress Sharon Tate (pictured), who was eight and a half months pregnant
"He extended all these girls in front of me and said:" They are yours. What are you going to do with them? I was flattered.
As expected, Watkins stayed, although he had to discover that Manson used sex as a means of control. "We all had to go through many and many changes," says Watkins. & # 39; All the boys had to overcome all their homosexuals [reticence] doing everything you can possibly think of doing with the boys.
"And all the girls had to do everything you could think of with other girls." Manson watched everything. This allowed him to know the most intimate nature of his disciples, which, of course, would help him to control them.
Some of the members of the sect were very young, such as Dianne Lake, who was only 14 years old when he joined the Family, and when Manson had sex for the first time. It seems that Lake enjoyed the attention.
Her parents, she told us when we tracked her last year, were not the "warm, fuzzy, hugging variety."
"He expressed his love and admiration for me," he said. & # 39; It was a stop. It was magical.
& # 39; It was an incredible stream of love and joy. Charlie invited me to be part of his family. It was what I was looking for.
But along with the reward of sex, Manson would also use punishment to keep his followers in bondage. When the girls did not do what they wanted, hit them.
Many of them became battered wives, with Manson using intermittent cruelty followed by love and intimacy.
The use of drugs was the fourth stage of radicalization, and the Family took them daily.
WHO WAS SHARON TATE?
Sharon Tate was an American actress and model who rose to fame in the 60s, appeared in several small screen productions and starred in several fashion magazine campaigns before making her film debut in Barrabas in 1961.
Her most notable role was as Jennifer North in the 1967 cult classic Valley Of The Dolls, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
After starring in The Fearless Vampire Killers in 1967, he married the director and co-star Roman Polanski in August 1968.
Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski in 1968
She was two weeks away from giving birth to the couple's son when she was murdered by members of the Manson family at Polanski's home in Southern California in 1969.
Four friends were killed next to her at Polanski's house in Benedict Canyon: Hollywood stylist, Jay Sebring, Tate's former lover, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, a Polish actor and writer, and Steven Parent, who had visited the caregiver.
On that fateful summer night, Polanski was in London exploring places for the Day of the Dolphin when he received the call that his wife was stabbed 16 times in one of the cruelest and most brutal murders in the history of Los Angeles.
The media frenzy followed directly to the killings, with the speculation that perhaps it had been part of a satanic ritual.
Polanski posed for photographs in the home, next to where the word "PIG" was written in blood, saying he hoped graphic images would help people to find information.
About a month later, members of the & # 39; Family & # 39; Manson were arrested on suspicion of being involved in an unrelated murder, which led investigators to a breakthrough in the Tate case as well.
The suspects told the police that they had killed Tate and his friends not because of who they were, but because of the home they were in, which had belonged to a previous acquaintance of Manson.
Reports from Megan Sheets
& # 39; We take things like belladonna, we smoke a lot of hashish, we smoke marijuana all the time and we take mescaline [a natural psychedelic]", Says Watkins, in the lost footage.
"When I was with Charlie, I took between 30 and 40 trips with acid alone, they all went completely crazy, I mean just plain crazy.
While the marijuana sedated the members of the family, it was the psychedelic drug LSD that Manson used to cement his control.
Because it was while his cult members were having acid trips that Manson hinted at the idea that he was the messiah.
"Charlie never just said it was Jesus Christ," says Watkins. "But then he always said it in any other way."
Another follower, Brooks Poston, recalls in the video how Manson once said: "Two thousand years ago he had hung on the cross and died for the sins of all, and nothing had failed him."
The family members seemed to believe it.
"We've seen what's possible," says Sandra Good in an audio recording. "We've seen Charlie do things that no human being has ever done, or no human being has revealed that he can do these things, we've seen miracles."
These assumptions & # 39; miracles & # 39; -which apparently included Manson's ability to restore the life of a dead bird and jump higher than what is possible for a human being- were undoubtedly the product of narcotics and not of divinity.
For now, the members of the Family were completely under the spell of Manson, a fact that was aggravated by the way he made sure that no member had access to any means: there were no newspapers, magazines, televisions or radios. There were not even watches on the ranch. The only source of information about the outside world was Manson himself and he presented the world as he wanted to see it, rather than what it was like.
They lived from hand to mouth, picking up food that supermarkets had thrown away, begging in the streets of Los Angeles, persuading parents worried about sending gifts hoping they would leave their Charlie Manson phase and yes, prostitution casual. This paid for the food and, of course, the drugs as well.
Tate pleaded for her life and that of her unborn child, but members of the sect hanged her from a beam and stabbed her 16 times
What made Manson's worldview so violent was that he was full of anger and wanted revenge on those he felt had betrayed him.
An unsuccessful musician, Manson's hatred was particularly intense for the entertainment world, which felt he had ignored his genius. The person for whom he reserved his best bile was a record producer named Terry Melcher, who had been introduced to Manson by Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys.
After making some initially positive noises, Melcher realized that Manson was not so talented, and besides, he was clearly prone to violence. The record producer did not sign Manson and cut all ties with him.
Besides hating Melcher and his industry, Manson was racist, convinced that a racial war between blacks and whites would soon break out in the United States.
Called this upcoming war & # 39; Helter Skelter & # 39; – after a song from the Beatles' white album – and convinced the family that it was real and imminent.
Isolated on the ranch and hooked on drugs, the members of the sect believed him. Imbued with a strong sense of revenge and feeling that his life was in danger of falling apart, Manson began to train his followers to use knives and weapons.
Of all the images we find in Hendrickson's attic, perhaps the most disturbing features are three young goblins, Fromme, Good and Nancy Pitman, posing with pistols and hunting knives.
Their faces are in expressions of ecstasy and they speak openly about their willingness to kill.
"If you want it, here it is, come and take it," Bueno sings with a smile on his face, brandishing a huge knife.
In another section of the images, he says, chilling: "When someone needs to be killed, nothing happens, you do it and then you move on."
And killing is what would happen soon. Towards the end of July 1969, Manson ordered his followers to begin their murders. On the 25th, Manson and members of the group went to the house of music teacher Gary Hinman in Topanga Canyon, outside of Los Angeles
They worried that Hinman had sold them some bad drugs and wanted to get their money back. But Hinman insisted that the drugs were good and would not pay.
Eventually, Manson challenged the family's associate, Bobby Beausoleil, to stab him to death.
Afterwards, Beausoleil and the gang smeared their victim's blood on the wall, defacing it as a horrible graffiti that suggested that the murder was the work of the radical black power group, the Black Panthers.
On the night of August 8, Manson ordered four family members, a man named Tex Watson and three women, to a house at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles and kill everyone there. The address had been the home of Terry Melcher, the music producer who had put Manson aside.
Although it is often thought that Manson knew that Melcher had moved, our documentary reveals that he really wanted the gang to kill Melcher and not those who were going to die, five victims, including the actress Sharon Tate.
This revelation is made by Beausoleil, who gave us an exclusive interview from prison, where he is still serving a life sentence.
While he and Manson were locked together in a cell during their subsequent trial, Manson told Beausoleil that Melcher had been the target.
"He confessed to me that he had made a mistake," Beausoleil told us. & # 39; And he said: & # 39; I sent Tex to kill Terry & # 39 ;, which means Terry Melcher, the producer of The Beach Boys & # 39 ;.
What happened that night was really barbaric.
After cutting the telephone line, the first victim of the group was Steven Parent, 18, who had been visiting the caretaker of the house. Watson first tried to stab him, then shot him four times in the chest.
The group then entered the house and this is where the butcher shop began.
His four inhabitants, including Tate, who was very pregnant, were tied up, whipped with a gun, hanged, stabbed and shot.
One was stabbed 51 times. Tate begged the killers to let her live long enough to give birth, but her appeal fell on deaf ears.
After she was stabbed repeatedly, her blood was used to paint the word "pig" on the front door, in another absurd attempt to convince the authorities that the murders were committed by black activists who wanted to start a racial war.
The following night, six other members of the cult, including Manson himself, participated in the double murder of a supermarket owner and his wife, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, apparently chosen at random after four hours of searching for possible targets. Leno was stabbed 12 times, his wife 41 times.
Justice would finally catch up with Manson and his cult after one of the killers, Susan & # 39; Sadie & # 39; Atkins, he spilled the beans to a fellow inmate in a cell where he was detained for an unrelated fire, three months after the murders. .
In June 1970, the family was brought to trial.
However, even then, the cult was determined that his messiah would never be punished and plotted a scandalous plan that is revealed in our film.
One of the people we spoke to, former member Aesop Aquarian, now a character actor, told us that the Family wanted to kill the judge appointed for the case: "One of the girls came up to me and said: & # 39 We have to get Charlie out, we need you to go to court and kill the judge. "
"I felt my jaw fall to the ground." Do you want what? & # 39;
& # 39; We want you to kill the judge. That will show them that we are serious and will get Charlie out. "
"Are you real?" And she said: "Yes." "My first thought was:" What the hell am I doing here? "As if he needed more persuasion, Aquarius immediately abandoned the cult." It would be easy to say that the demand to attack the judge was mere bravado, but the brutality of the gang murders means that the existence of such a plan should not be ruled out.
Once again, the video shows what extreme measures some members of a cult were willing to take to protect their "Dad": "I'm ready to die for Charlie," says Fromme.
& # 39; You are ready to die for me. He has died for me. I'm ready to die. I'm ready to die to protect mine. The snitches will be taken care of ".
When one of the original members of the film crew asks him how he leans on a pumping shotgun and says ominously: "Ah. We'll see.
The plan to kill the judge never came to fruition and Manson and the family members directly involved in the murders were first sentenced to death and then, when the death penalty was temporarily abolished in California, for the rest of their lives after the jail.
I hope this is a warning from history. It clearly shows how impressionable young minds can be twisted to adapt to the violent extremes of a dominant and cunning personality.
In short, nobody deserves a dad like Charlie.
Manson: The Lost Tapes starts at ITV later this month.