The Manson Family spent plenty of time haunting the citizens of Hollywood, yet the cult wasn’t frequently out searching for places to commit their next crimes. They had several long-term kickback spots around California, some locations being more surprising than others. From the desert of Death Valley to the mansion of a multi-millionaire, these are five places where the Manson family used to spend their time.

Spahn Ranch: Their quirky headquarters

Perhaps the most obvious location that the Manson family hung out is Sphan Ranch: the notorious headquarters of the Manson Family cult. The property was originally a shooting location for a number of Western films and was owned by an old farmer named George Spahn. As popularity for Western movies spiraled down the drain, Spahn had to find other ways to get some money out of the ranch. He opened the property to welcome in tourists, yet he also invited in charismatic Charles Manson, who was a huge fan of the farm. Rather than buying it off of Spahn, Spahn gladly agreed to let Manson and his buddies live there, free of charge, so long as they looked after the animals on the ranch and cared for George as he began to go blind. Manson happily agreed, and thus, the Manson Family was born.

When Manson took over control of Spahn Ranch, the rules of 1960s society were thrown out the window. Days were spent having orgies and performing public sex acts, inhaling hallucinogenics and psychedelics, running around naked, singing fireside songs, and doing whatever else the ranch’s population pleased without restriction. Of course, they kept their deal with the farmer, still taking care of the ranch and old George and pitching in with chores where they could. As they grew more comfortable at the ranch, Manson began to invite more people to come to live with the growing population of free-spirited outcasts, forming a cult of nearly 100 people across the course of a couple of short years. All of what happened at the infamous ranch isn’t fully known to the public, and, after the ranch burned down due to a raging California wildfire in 1970, many of its secrets died with it.

The ‘Yellow Submarine’: the original meet-up spot

Before Manson put his full faith in Spahn Ranch, he was already on a mission to build up his cult. Although Manson adored the Ranch, he began to question if it was the right place to train his cult members. In early 1969, Manson found himself in desperate need of a place to preach to members of his growing family other than Spahn Ranch. He eventually settled on a rental house in Canoga Park. The canary paint coating the entire home earned the location the name “Yellow Submarine.” This title also paid homage to the Beatles, whose thoughtful lyrics inspired Manson to frightening ends. Of the Yellow Submarine, Manson said this:

“Of course, we still had people at Spahn, mostly girls who spelled each other looking after George. But things at Spahn were too disorganized for us to do any serious rehearsing. Finding a place that would accommodate fifteen or twenty kids wasn’t an easy task. I finally found a house on Gresham Street in Canoga Park.” Much like Spahn Ranch, the Yellow Submarine was destroyed in the 70s, dying with a notorious history under its belt.

Death Valley: ‘The bottomless pit’

While many people who joined his cult believed he was all about peace, love, and sex, Manson’s life on the ranch and beyond revolved around one concept: “Helter Skelter.” The scenario, which Manson preached about frequently to his followers, talked of an inevitable racial doomsday that was on the horizon. Manson fundamentally believed that there would be a race war during which white and black citizens would rise up against one another and only one race would survive/come out victorious. Two interesting texts convinced him of his beliefs: the “Helter Skelter” Beatles lyrics and the Bible. While this may not sound like firm support for an argument, Manson was steadfast in enforcing his interpretations…even when they dragged him out into the burning hot Death Valley to find shelter for doomsday.

What was he searching for? The bottomless pit. Manson genuinely believed that he and his followers could escape doomsday by diving into the center of the earth and hiding for a half-century, only emerging after the war had died down. The bottomless pit he was searching for was acknowledged in the Bible in Revelations:

“Then the fifth angel sounded…and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him. He opened the bottomless pit…and the sun and the air were darkened…Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power was given them…”

When Manson and his family read more about both Death Valley and the bottomless pit, they turned up fascinating information about the Amargosa River, which boasted deep wells, blind fish, and other underground obscurities. This drew Manson and his followers to believe that there was a world beneath their own. As excruciating as it must’ve been, “chosen” members of the Manson Family frequently made trips to the desert of Death Valley to search for this life-saving bottomless pit. Manson supposedly knew its location…but wandering around in the scorching California desert for hours to try to lead them there wasn’t entirely convincing. Van Houten, one of the Manson Family murderers, described that “to go into the hole, you would have to be perfect in your mind and in your body.” The members of the Manson Family felt that they were worthy of the descent. We wouldn’t exactly call murderers “perfect,” but hey, everyone’s got their own views.

San Fransisco: picking up new recruits

Manson’s followers didn’t appear out of thin air. Where did he pick up those who would come to adore the killer cult leader? Two words: San Fransisco. Charles Manson was charismatic enough to find followers almost anywhere, yet he collected many of his early Manson Family members in the Bay Area. There, he met young women at bars, nightclubs, parties, and other San Fransisco social events, roping them into dances, long drives, and sex. At the time, San Fransisco’s hippie culture was abundant and social/sexual freedom was celebrated in many parts of sunny California. The Haight-Ashbury area of San Fran. was particularly hippie-friendly, boasting a counterculture that drew many young, poor, and lost young men and women into its vibrant streets. However, by relocating to the hippie scene of San Fransisco, many poor souls also wandered into Charles Mansons’ trap.

Manson hunted throughout San Fransisco/the Bay Area for people he could convince to join his cult. Manson successfully seduced a handful of young woman and men in the area with loaded promises, money, and sex. With his charisma and addictive personality, he convinced many individuals from San Fran. to join the Manson Family. Through romantic trips, sexual encounters, and attending wild social gatherings, Manson worked tirelessly to collect followers. At the start, he focused mainly on women, finding the first batch of female victims lingering in the hippie city. From driving down the California coast to taking young girls’ virginity in the back of his Volkswagen, he managed to seduce the naive girls into believing that he loved them. The Bay Area became his hunting ground, and many of his earliest recruits to the Manson Family originally hung around in San Fransisco. If Manson was eager to pick up new members, you could surely find him stalking the streets of San Fransisco.

Dennis Wilson’s home: Overstaying their welcome

Dennis Wilson was nothing more than a good samaritan who caught a bad break with the manipulative Manson, who, at first, Wilson praised as “a wizard.” In 1968, the Beach Boys’ star picked up a couple of girls from the Manson Family, Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey, who were hitchhiking in the summer heat. He dropped them off where they were headed, yet their paths crossed again, and Wilson eventually brought them back to his luxurious mansion. This would be a costly mistake. Later that evening, after returning home from the recording studio, a strange presence was in his driveway: Charles Manson. The duo hit it off, and Wilson was soon convinced that Manson was a visionary. He allowed Manson to begin to move in his family members with the guarantee of sexual favors and singing sessions with Wilson. Wilson didn’t realize that once he invited the Manson Family in, there was no getting them out. The Manson Family spent several summer months living it up in Wilson’s house. The summer romance between Wilson and Manson’s cult cost the superstar close to $100,000 in living expenses. During their months spent together, Wilson introduced Manson to Terry Melcher, the record producer who would eventually become the intended target of the first Manson Murder. Yikes.