Manson’s death brings up memories of local connection

Linda Kasabian testified in Tate party murder cases

A photo grabbed from the Telegraph files shows Linda Kasabian, left, and Deborah Carlson being led from Nashua district court on April 19, 1976, following their arraignments on charges stemming from the attack on police and firefighters in Litchfield the night before. Kasabian lived in several Nashua area locations after testifying against Charles Manson, who died last week in prison.

A wise old sage whose veins ran thick with ink once remarked, “pretty much every story has some kind of local angle.”

I thought of that little nugget of advice last week when the news began emerging regarding the death of one of America’s most infamous outlaws, a twisted drifter whose surname – Manson – would become synonymous with evil across the land in the same way another surname – Hitler – became synonymous with evil on a far greater scale throughout the world.

And as local angles go, this was right up there with the best of ’em. Or more accurately, the worst of ’em, considering our local tie was – until she saw a glimmer of light and decided to help prosecutors convict Manson and a bunch of his brainwashed followers – part of that same “family” against whose members she testified.

Linda Kasabian, later Linda Christian, was born Linda Darlene Drouin 68 years ago in Biddeford, Maine, but soon moved to Milford with family. She wasn’t yet 20 when she “achieved” notoriety as one of Charles Manson’s flock of followers, most of them runaway girls and young women who sought what was touted by 1960s counterculture figures like Manson as a promised land of unbridled freedom of, well, just about everything.

So mesmerized by the charasmatic Manson were these young folks, who included a few men as well, that they apparently felt it was perfectly OK to barge into a couple of mansions on the outskirts of Los Angeles on two successive nights and violently murder everyone they could find.

THE LOCAL ANGLE

According to the gazillion or so accounts of the murders that began appearing online as soon as that British computer guy invented this “world wide web” thing almost 30 years ago now, Kasabian was 20 and a new mother at the time of the murders on Aug. 8-9, 1969.

Because she was the only “family” member with a drivers license, Manson assigned Kasabian to drive the three soon-to-be-murderers – Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel – to the first murder scene, the home of film director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate.

Kasabian would later tell authorities she was “horrified” when, waiting in the getaway car, she heard “horrible screams” coming from the house.

“I wanted them to stop. I knew … they were killing these people,” she reportedly testified at one of the trials.

So unnerved by what she witnessed, Kasabian would agree to testify against those involved in the killings, including Manson. Once they were convicted, Kasabian returned east, settling once again in Milford.

She returned to Los Angeles for Watson’s trial, then again in 1977 to testify at Van Houten’s two retrials, according to the accounts.

Kasabian also lived in Lyndeborough and Mont Vernon over the years, and at one point was a resident of Nashua’s French Hill.

Understandably, she worked hard at avoiding the spotlight, what with having turned state’s evidence against a man at once revered and feared by his disciples, many of whom insisted he possessed “special powers.”

But on Easter Sunday evening in 1976, that spotlight found Kasabian, when she and a bunch of friends were arrested in the woods of nearby Litchfield.

Longtime Telegraph reporter Don Dillaby covered the arrests, then I joined him, old Yashica twin lens reflex camera in hand, for their arraignments the following day in Nashua District Court.

This was back when the court was upstairs in the rear of City Hall, above the police station, which then fronted Elm Street. It was also in an era when video arraignments were still the stuff of science fiction, meaning Kasabian and her 11 fellow suspects, who spent the night at Valley Street Jail, had to be loaded into a van and transported to Nashua.

According to Don’s story, Kasabian and the others were partying around a huge bonfire, which firefighters were eventually called to extinguish. The partiers reportedly took issue with that plan, and began tossing objects at the firefighters. When local police showed up, “they, too, were driven back” by the unruly mob, according the story.

State police sent a bunch of units, and they and the local officers were able to capture 12 of the partiers while others ran off.

I still recall the following morning, hanging out with other media types in the old police garage awaiting the van’s arrival. After backing it in, the officers flung open the rear doors, and we began looking for Kasabian.

The first out was a great big guy with long, unkempt hair and a rather unsavory greeting for us onlookers; I think he suggested where he’d like to place my camera if he weren’t confined by the double set of handcuffs.

At last Kasabian emerged; photos were taken, observations noted. A short time later, we repeated the process as her State Police escorts led her and the others back to the van.

The photo we used shows Kasabian walking toward the van, tethered to another female suspect by handcuffs. All 12 would later post bail for the various charges, which included rioting, resisting arrest, interfering with firefighters. I’m pretty sure nobody ended up in jail, but I don’t recall how the cases were settled.

Some years later, it was said that Kasabian had moved back west, still pursuing her goal of shunning the spotlight. One report stated she is living somewhere in Washington state.

Manson’s death and the local connection spurred a ton of Facebook posts from longtime Nashua folks, eager to share their recollections of crossing paths with Kasabian.

A post by Sandy (omitting last names, because I didn’t speak with them) says her parents were once questioned by “government officials” about Kasabian when they lived in Milford.

Anna thinks Kasabian may have babysat her once; “that always freaked me out a bit!” she wrote.

Jane met Kasabian in “a big barn in Milford.” Sally said Kasabian lived near her aunt at one time, but she “kept pretty quiet.”

Jill is certain Kasabian once lived on Nashua’s Atwood Court, because “she lived right next door to us.” Marilyn remembers Kasabian working at the White Horse, the former tavern on Nashua Street.

Pat believes Kasabian “used to drink at the Canadian Club,” referring to the former social club on Chestnut Street.

Kathleen said Kasabian “used to come into the Board and Beam … scare the crap out of us, lol … “ referring to the Otterson Street restaurant and lounge now called Pub Grainery.

Ray recalls Kasabian hosting parties in a barn on her family’s property in Mont Vernon. And Jeanne, who said Kasabian once lived “around the corner from me” in Nashua, remembers being “scared that Manson would escape and find her after she testified” against him.

Marsha said she bought homemade bread from Kasabian in the early 70s, and remembers her as “very nice.”

Cindy remembers Kasabian visiting a “hole in the wall” bar on Canal Street.

Besides that bar, the Canadian Club and the others, Kasabian was known to frequent the one-time popular pub Leaky Bucket, which was on West Hollis Street near Palm Street.

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Sundays in The Telegraph. He can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.