Evidence of maniacs is as much part of the lore of hiking as anything. Although I have never encountered anything but wonderful people out on the trail, certainly there must be murderers and bandits roaming about from time to time, just waiting to make bad music and take funny family photos.
Video of Manson Family Picture Cave:
Hiking can, at rare intervals, be a little boring, and sometimes my hiking buddies and I venture into odd topics of conversation to spice things up. For example, whenever I see a matted down spot under some bushes I declare that I’ve spotted a teenager sex spot. A couple of my other friends whose minds turn more to the macabre like to imagine where maniacs probably have or will dump bodies. Whoever said we aren’t all a little strange?
What is more titillating than imagining the weird, is hiking to an actual location where weird things took place. The Charles Manson family lived for a time in Spahn Ranch (Chatsworth, CA). This is, in fact, where they lived when they committed the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders. The hills around that area are peppered with abandoned and rusting vintage vehicles. Naturally, lore attributes these to the Manson Family, claiming that they stole and discarded them at their whim.
During his residency at Spahn Ranch Charles Manson did something even more heinous than commit murder and grand theft auto, he recorded a ton of ridiculously bad music. Manson’s terrible, boozy, pseudo-poetic folk music actually endears him a little to me. It is known that Charles Manson had aspirations to grandeur, but rather than become king of the maniacs he really wanted to famous rock star. This dream was squelched by the obvious fact that he wasn’t a very talented musician, and if he’d ever had any talent it probably evaporated a little more each time he puffed at the bong. I’m probably the only person who feels this way, but the fact that Manson was really really bad at something that he wanted to be really really good at reveals something of his humanity to me and makes me see him as slightly funny.
The most famous landmark the Manson Family left at Spahn Ranch is the notorious Manson Family Picture Cave where the family squatted like cave people beneath the overhang of a boulder. I’m a fan of the funny family photo so this one really appeals to my warped sense of aesthetics.
That rock is still there today, same as it ever was. Charles Manson is gone, away in prison starting a new life with a new wife. And, yes, prison is a very good place for him to live from now on, but I’m glad he left a few fun memories at Spahn Ranch for weird-history-seeking freaks like me to enjoy.