This house, located on Old Topanga Canyon Road in Santa Monica, California–in the hills above Los Angeles–looks peaceful and beautiful now. But 44 years ago today, on July 27, 1969, it was the scene of one of the most brutal and depraved murders in American history, all the more horrific for having lit the fuse to an almost mind-boggling paroxysm of violence, the likes of which has seldom been seen before or since.

In 1969 this was the home of Buddhist musician Gary Hinman. The house was much smaller then–what you see in this picture was added on, I think, in the 1980s. During the summer of 1969 Hinman fell into the orbit of the strange cult surrounding Charles Manson, a short-statured, sexually frustrated ex-convict who had already spent half his life in prison, who dreamed of being a singer and songwriter, and who had vivid violent fantasies about bloody race wars and messages inciting revolution that were supposedly hidden in Beatles albums.

Gary Hinman had some sort of falling-out with the Manson family, the exact nature of which remains unclear even 44 years later. Drugs may have been involved. But on July 25, 1969, several members of the Manson family came to this house demanding that Hinman give them certain things, including title to his cars that were parked in the driveway of this house. When he refused, they attacked him. One of his attackers was an attractive guy named Bobby Beausoliel, a musician, who was simply too cute to seem like a vicious killer. Beausoliel stabbed Hinman in the chest, and ordered his girlfriends–including Susan Atkins, who spent the rest of her life in prison–to torture Hinman until he relented.

Poor Gary Hinman lingered for two days, lying on the floor of this house, bleeding, crying for mercy and reciting Buddhist prayers. When the Manson gang got impatient that he hadn’t died yet, Charlie himself appeared, wielding a Samurai sword. Manson sliced and diced what was left of Hinman, badly cutting his ear–a wound that one of the girls sewed up with dental floss. (EWWW!) Manson’s torture was no more effective than Beausoliel’s. Hinman refused to give them anything. In the afternoon–44 years ago today, July 27–the girls finally killed him.

But they weren’t done yet. Hoping to frame militant Black Panthers for the crime, the girls wrote on a door panel in blood with a faux paw print and the words “POLITICAL PIGGY.” These words were similar to those that would be left in blood at the home of movie director Roman Polanski less than two weeks later–a horrific crime that was, as I argued in a history class last fall, at least arguably one that met the definition of genocide.

As of today, July 27, 2013, Charles Manson is still alive, and still in prison. So is Bobby Beausoliel. Susan Atkins, who seems to have inflicted the fatal blow on Gary Hinman, died in prison a few years ago. Many of her friends are still in jail. And this house–this haunted place–still exists, peeking out of the trees in the sunshine, still trying to erase its horrific past after almost half a century.

Who remembers Gary Hinman, other than as one name in a long line of names of people whose lives were destroyed in the most awful fashion imaginable? As someone married to a Buddhist–which Hinman was–I hope that, despite the horror of his death in this house, he was able to find peace in the afterlife.

Corrections:

The involvement of drugs in the Hinman murder appears to be controversial. I’m going back to the sources to research that issue.

Update:

I researched the drug issue. According to Ed Sanders in The Family, page 179, Gary Hinman and a partner cooked up mescaline in this house (the original version of this blog erroneously stated it was MDA). That appears to be historical fact. Some members of the Manson family claim that the motive for this slaying initially had to do with drugs. That is not known for certain, and given the savagery of his slaying, I tend to disbelieve it. While Hinman was involved in drugs, and mescaline may have been tangentially related to his contact with his killers, it is doubtful it was the primary motive (and I never stated that it was).

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