Charles Manson and his “family” of killers became famous after a brutal series of murders in Southern California. Some of the family members had left messages written in blood at the crime scenes. Charles Manson and other family members spent time in the San Francisco Bay Area, leading some to speculate that the Manson family was somehow connected to the Zodiac murders.

A report written by Department of Justice Special Agent Mel Nicolai stated that the Zodiac investigation included an examination of “all male members of the Charles Manson family.” SFPD Inspector Bill Armstrong traveled to Los Angeles to investigate the possible Zodiac/Manson connection but found no evidence to support the theory. In his book The Family, author Ed Sanders noted that Inyo County District Attorney Frank Fowles had investigated the possible Zodiac/Manson connection but offered no evidence that any connection existed.

Conspiracy radio host Mae Brussell speculated that the Manson murders were part of a government plot involving brainwashing, satanic cults, and the CIA. Brussell theorized that the same group of sinister conspirators was also responsible for Zodiac killings in California and the “Son of Sam” shootings in New York.

Zodiac/Manson conspiracy theorist Howard Davis claimed that a relative of one Manson victim had hired private investigators who uncovered evidence that the Manson family was responsible for the Zodiac crimes. Davis also claimed that a “pristine source” in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office revealed that the original investigation into the Manson murders had uncovered evidence linking Manson to Zodiac, including the hooded costume worn by the Zodiac during the stabbing at Lake Berryessa. According to Davis, his source also stated that authorities in Southern California conspired to conceal this important evidence.

The alleged Zodiac/Manson suspect Bruce Davis was convicted for the murders of music teacher Gary Hinman and ranch hand Shorty Shea. Howard Davis claimed that those behind the cover-up feared that another trial would somehow jeopardize the previous convictions. A Zodiac prosecution would not somehow undo Bruce Davis’s previous murder convictions.

Members of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department search a small well at a movie ranch near suburban Chatsworth, Dec. 11, 1969 in Los Angeles, looking for signs of Donald O’Shea, a stuntman who has been missing since last August after a reported quarrel with Charles Manson.

Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi dismissed the conspiracy claims as “preposterous on its face and obviously 100% wrong,” and added, “I reject it completely out of hand.” Bugliosi noted the illogical scenario, “If Manson committed more murders than the Manson murders, why would anyone want to protect him on that?… It makes no sense… What you’re talking about is a crime, obstruction of justice… A massive conspiracy of many, many people being involved, for no believable reason.”

Howard Davis also claimed that Vincent Bugliosi had endorsed the Zodiac/Manson theory. Bugliosi denied that he had ever endorsed the theory and said, “I’ve never heard of anything to support that allegation. I doubt it very much. I think it would have come out by now.”

A triumphant Vincent Bugliosi talks to the press on January 25, 1971, after the four defendants in the Manson trial were found guilty. (Credit: AP)

The “pristine source” inside the LA DA’s office was identified and he denied that he had ever made such statements to Howard Davis. He dismissed the conspiracy tale as absurd. “I can’t believe that whoever suggested it has any credibility whatsoever.” He further described Davis as a “nutjob” also known for “some extraordinarily bizarre and fanciful so-called investigative insight into the Mormon church.” In 1977, Davis and others published a book titled Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon Book? which claimed that the Book of Mormon was a work of plagiarism. Davis claimed that he and his co-authors had received death threats and that the Mormon church was trying to seize control of the U.S. economy. “I’m dead serious about this… But our lives are definitely in danger… Please don’t think we’re afraid… We are not afraid… trying to fight a multi-billion dollar organization that is trying to take over the economy of the United States.”

The cupboard Charles Manson was hiding in during his arrest. When police raided the Barker Ranch on suspicion of auto theft in 1969, they couldn’t find Manson — until they noticed his hair dangling from under the sink. He had squeezed himself into the 12×16-inch cupboard but then couldn’t quite close the door.

The so-called “Zodiac/Manson connection” remains a popular myth and a common theory on many websites, but the available evidence does not indicate that Charles Manson and his followers were involved in the Zodiac crimes.