Linkletter, Whitson, and Manson: Agents Provocateur for the Helter-Skelter Plot

Robert Linkletter aka the Zodiac Killer was the inventor of an improved version of the childproof safety cap. This useful, commonplace, and innocuous product gained unexpected significance last year with the publication of an excellent book on the Manson Family by Tom O’Neill called Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. A brief mention in his book of a “childproof medicine bottle” led to the discovery of a connection between Linkletter and Reeve Whitson, a secretive man who had unlimited amounts of cash from mysterious sources. Whitson was not only an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency but he was also a stone cold, white supremacist, Nazi killer.

The article “Who was the Zodiac Killer?” said the following about Robert:

Linkletter was a prolific inventor, with many patents to his credit. His best-known invention was the childproof safety cap for bottles containing medications. After his death, his father set up “Robert Linkletter Associates” to promote the safety cap and placed as its head Charles Crozier (the attorney who was with Robert in his fatal crash). In 1983, the company was expected to produce eight billion caps for the pharmaceutical industry.

Linkletter’s interest in bottle caps went as far back as 1966. An application he submitted to the U.S. Patent Office for an improved type of reusable bottle cap was filed on November 14, two weeks after the murder of Cheryl Bates. His business address was “Linkletter Enterprises, 765 Baker St., Costa Mesa, California.”

Another container cap from the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office appears below. It shows that a patent was filed on the Monday following the Tate-LaBianca murders.

In an April 8, 1970 column about television highlights and personalities, Charles Gloman wrote: Robert Linkletter would make an interesting guest on the “Life with Linkletter” series, co-hosted by his father, Art, and his brother, Jack. A major drug firm has just purchased Robert’s invention of a child-proof safety cap for medicine bottles. Later that same year President Nixon signed into law the Poison Prevention Packaging Act on December 30, 1970, thus making the safety cap investment a very profitable enterprise.

An article entitled “Life not just fun ‘n’ games for Linkletter” by Beverly Creamer appeared in The Honolulu Advertiser, June 26, 1983. It said:

Two years ago, the Linkletters lost another of their five children, Robert Linkletter, 32, the quiet inventor of the family who could fix or make anything, was killed in a car accident. As a teen he built his own electric guitar when dad wouldn’t buy him one. As an adult he had become interested in children who were hurt when they got into improperly stored home poisons. As a result, he designed a poison-prevention, tamper-evident cap for medicine and pill bottles. Now, as a memorial to his son, Art Linkletter is about to start manufacturing the caps. Five years from now, he expects to be turning out 8 billion a year. “All the giant pharmaceutical companies are banging on our door.”

Last September I notified Tom O’Neill by email of ongoing discussions of his book on the Deep Politics Forum and the Tate-LaBianca Homicide Research Blog. In reply on September 12, 2019 , he wrote:

Thanks, William. And I’m curious about Mae Brussell’s claim that Robert Linkletter’s were the glasses found at Cielo. Did she have a source? He was quite close to Reeve. They were involved in a few business ventures together.

In my next email, I sent O’Neill a link to the article “Who was the Zodiac Killer?” In turn I asked him for more information on the business ventures Robert and Reeve were involved in, but he did not respond.

Mentioned on page 205 of O’Neill’s book are various enterprises that Reeve Whitson financed including “a new variety of childproof medicine bottle.” Turning to the reference section, I saw that for this part of the book O’Neill had interviewed nineteen individuals, including Art Linkletter.

I contacted O’Neill by email on October 23, 2019 and asked:

 “Did you find out from Art Linkletter that his son Robert and Whitson were involved in the design and production of the child safety cap?”

His brief reply:

“Yes I did!”

Robert Linkletter’s connection to Whitson, plus his connection to another CIA agent, Claude Capehart, is an indication that the Zodiac Killer was not a homicidal nut working alone, but rather he was a member of a special operations group working under the direction and control of a highly secretive intelligence organization hidden deep within the national security establishment. See the article “The Zodiac Killer and the CIA.”

Among those who said that Reeve Whitson worked for the CIA was his daughter Liza and his ex-wife Ellen. Liza said, “He told me that he worked within the Central Intelligence Agency. And he was in a part of the agency that was absolutely nonexistent. He did not exist.” Whitson’s lawyer, Neil Cummings, said that he was in a top secret arm of the CIA, even more secretive than most of the agency. Richard Edlund, a Hollywood special effects man, [1] said: “He operated in the CIA – I believe he was on their payroll.” Others who averred that Whitson was part of the CIA, or an offshoot special operations group connected to it, include Bob Sharman, former NBA player and general manager of the Lakers, and LAPD detective Mike McGann.

Reeve Whitson entered the murky world of espionage sometime prior to the 1960s. His mentor was Pete Lewis, who taught him the ways and means of undercover work. Lewis eventually came to an untimely end from a poison dart hidden in an umbrella.

In 1961 Reeve was in Sweden, where he met Ellen Nylund and began a romantic relationship. Before the end of the year, they married and moved to New York City. During the months that followed he became a journalist, writing pro-Communist pieces. He met fellow radicals and developed contacts with Russians. He was not often home, going to remote areas of the world for months at a time, and returning with no explanation as to where he had been or what he had been doing. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Reeve went to Cuba. His wife, who was very anti-Communist, was outraged that he was making friends with Russians, Cubans, and Communists. How could she have married such a “pinko”? Reeve finally had to admit to her that he was actually working undercover for the CIA.

Whitson’s undercover activities paralleled that of another CIA agent, Lee Harvey Oswald, payroll number 110669. While employed as a cameraman for a Dallas typographic company, Jaggers Chiles Stovall, Oswald wrote letters to American Communist Party chiefs Gus Hall and Benjamin Davis in New York City offering photographic services. In 1963 he moved to New Orleans and formed the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which had only one member, Oswald himself. The true nature of this organization is indicated by the address stamped on pro-Castro brochures – 544 Camp Street, the same place where far-right extremist Guy Banister had his office. Banister was an ex-FBI man, who worked as an investigator for the Louisiana Un-American Activities Committee. He published the racist Louisiana Intelligence Digest, which said that the civil rights movement was part of a plot by Communists and Russians to create racial conflict. A former employee, Delphine Roberts, told author Anthony Summers that he employed Oswald during the summer of 1963. Banister’s investigator, Jack Martin, told friends that Banister and David Ferrie were involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

Sometime prior to the assassination, Reeve sent his wife and infant daughter Liza back to Sweden. For a period of time, Ellen heard nothing from him. When he finally made contact with her after the assassination, he demanded a divorce. He warned her that things could happen to her if she did not agree to it. [2] The legalities dragged on for two or three years. For a long time after the divorce was finalized, neither she nor Liza heard anything from him.

In the meantime, Whitson moved to Los Angeles. He circulated easily among Hollywood people, including such celebrities as actress Julie Newmar, Leon Uris (author and movie screenwriter), John Raitt (actor-singer), Art Linkletter (radio and television entertainer), Dan Gurney (race car driver), and John Irvin, a British film director connected to MI5.

Also among Whitson’s friends were people in the defense industry, such as Air Force General Curtis LeMay, a well-known enemy of President Kennedy, who was in the autopsy room to gloat over the death of his nemesis. [3] In 1965 LeMay became vice president of Networks Electronic, a missile parts manufacturer located in Chatsworth less than five miles from Spahn Ranch. The founder and president of the company was Mihai Patrichi, a far-right former general of the Romanian Iron Guard. According to John Irvin, Whitson had garnered so much clout with the defense industry that he could meet with top company executives at a few minutes notice.

Whitson was a very likable person, incredibly charming, with a gift for gab. Joyce Sharman, wife of Bill Sharman, said “Reeve would tell us the most preposterous things and eventually we’d find out that they were true .. . we learned to start believing him. We loved him very much, but he was always a mystery to us.” His daughter Liza went to see him when she was eighteen years old. She said, “He was a master of telling you things but not really spelling it out.” Frank Rosenfelt, former president and chief executive of MGM, called him “the strangest guy in the world. … He didn’t lie. He did not put himself in a position where he told you something and you could disprove it.” He was, according to O’Neill, “usually on the periphery, coming and going, his purpose unknown, his motives inscrutable.”

To help him in his endeavors, he found people who shared the name Whitson. (Or perhaps he found fellow agents who were assigned the name Whitson.) According to Rosenfelt, “He had a strange habit of getting in touch with people named Whitson and saying they were his cousins.” Many of his “cousins” were not blood relations, but they bonded with him anyway. Among the “cousins” who provided O’Neill substantial information about Reeve were Clyde Whitson, Robert Whitson, and William Whitson.

Whitson was an astute and skilled intelligence operative. He had a photographic memory, which enabled him to absorb large quantities of information without taking notes. To keep people from spotting him as he got out of his car at night, he would turn the bulb of the overhead light, so that when he opened the door, it would not go on. Baron Oswald von Richthofen, a German-born film director and producer, [4] said, “He always wanted to go to restaurants that no one went to. He said ‘I have to keep a low profile.’ It was so low that there was no profile.” His preferred place of lodging was his parents’ apartment, sleeping on a cot in their kitchen. To maintain his shadowy lifestyle, Whitson adamantly refused to be photographed. Another quirk he had was calling from pay phones. Frank Rosenfelt said “Whitson had the odd tendency to call from pay phones. He would call me for hours … I always wondered, who the hell is paying the bills? And always from a phone booth on the street!”

Although he lived like a pauper, he often got enormous amounts of cash. O’Neill writes: “So where did the money come from? No one knew. He always paid in cash – he stowed it in his freezer – and when he had it, he was quick to settle a tab. He wore gabardine suits, but for much of his adult life, an ex-girlfriend recalled, [5] he lived ‘like a hermit’ sleeping ‘on a cot in his parents’ kitchen.’ The man who loved fast cars drove an economical Ford Pinto.”

Whitson invested a lot of his money in exotic schemes, such as the construction of a maglev monorail train stretching from Las Vegas to Pasadena or the building of a theme park in Scotland based on the Brigadoon legend. He had a passion for race cars – building them, selling them, driving them – which may explain how he came to know Jay Sebring, another racing enthusiast. John Irvin said he was “on the fringes of very far-out research” for the government, “not discussed openly because it verges on the occult.” Fantastic ventures such as a maglev train or a theme park in Scotland usually wound up as failures, perhaps because they were not truly business deals to begin with. To trustworthy friends, Whitson revealed that these bottomless money pits were really covers to disguise the funding of covert activities.

Among these activities was the killing of undesirable people. Having worked in South America, he told von Richthofen, “We should kill the drug lords in Bolivia and their whole families . . . If there’s a baby, you kill the baby.’ Von Richthofen added, “I don’t think he would say something like that and not be capable of doing it. He didn’t believe in the individual, but in the larger picture.” Neil Cummings said “He talked a lot about his training in killing people, implying that he’d done it at least a few times.” He also delighted in torturing people. In 1993 about a year before he died, he went to a movie theater with one of his “cousins,” Robert Whitson, to see the thriller The Pelican Brief. Reeve leaned over in the dark of the cinema and said to Robert, “I wrote the yellow papers on everything that happened.” He explained that “yellow papers” detailed interrogation techniques. He then spoke nostalgically of horrible and disgusting forms of torture involving the use of rats.

Whitson’s business partner, Robert Linkletter aka the Zodiac Killer, also spoke fondly of various ways of torturing people. With misspelled words typical for him, he wrote in one of his letters:  “Some I shall tie over ant hills and watch them scream + twich and sqwirm. Others shall have pine splinters driven under their nails + then burned. Others shall be placed in cages + fed salt beef untill they are gorged then I shall listen to their pleass for water and I shall laugh at them”.

Another sadistic associate of Whitson was Charles Manson. He talked a lot about cutting people’s throats, hanging women from the rafters, and smashing babies against the fireplace. He met Reeve Whitson through Dennis Wilson, a member of the Beach Boys. According to Richard Edlund and his wife Rita, Whitson “was friends with Jay Sebring, and Polanski was a buddy of his, and the Beach Boys – and he met Manson through all this.”

At the same time he was befriending CIA agent Reeve Whitson, Manson was also meeting with Charles Winans, an operative from Naval Intelligence. Winans was the one who coordinated the Tate-LaBianca killings. In a Rolling Stone article, Paul Krassner wrote, “I had hoped to get confirmation of the heaviest lead in my research. I’d been tracking down the path of Charles Winans, an individual in Navy intelligence who had posed as a hippie artist, orchestrating the scenario of violence and witchcraft in meetings with Tex Watson, who then fulfilled the prophecy of this agent provocateur with all that shooting and stabbing. Manson had merely instructed his ladies to go and do whatever Tex told them.

Krassner again wrote about Winans for the Berkeley Barb in an issue dated April 18-24, 1975. He said The most startling discovery in my Manson research was Charles Winans of Navy Intelligence, who posed as a hippie artist — he blurted out an anti-Semitic epithet on one occasion — and provided the family with dope and a scenario of violence and witchcraft for Tex Watson, who actually committed the Tate murders. Charlie merely instructed his brainwashed girls to go with Tex and do what he told them.” Writing for the Berkeley Barb, Dec. 14-20, 1973 Krassner said that Winans provided “the dope and the Helter-Skelter scenario” to Manson and Watson.

The name Helter Skelter came from a Beetles song about a fairground attraction consisting of a tall spiral slide winding round a tower. Helter skelter also means chaos and disorder. A Record Mirror reviewer said the song track contained “screaming pained vocals, ear splitting buzz guitar and general instrumental confusion.” The composer, Paul McCartney, said that the helter skelter ride with its giddy descent symbolized the fall of the Roman Empire. Another interpretation, perhaps, is that it symbolized masses of slaughtered innocent people descending into their graves.

Charles Manson told his followers that the Beetles were speaking directly to him through their songs. Combining the words and sounds of the Helter Skelter song with his own unique interpretation of chapter nine of the Book of Revelations, he prophesied a devastating race war between whites and blacks. While the war raged in the cities, Manson and his followers would hunker down in the desert. Manson said that the blacks would emerge as the victors, but because of their inability to govern, they would need a charismatic white leader to help them run the country. Manson and his followers would then emerge from the desert, present themselves to the blacks, and then become their rulers.

To get the race war started, a provocative act was needed. By murdering rich white people in their homes and leaving clues that would falsely put the blame on the Black Muslims and Black Panthers, Manson’s provocateurs hoped to turn the hostility between whites and blacks into a violent confrontation. They wanted to incite terror among the middle class who feared black people invading their homes to murder them. Tex Watson told fellow prison inmate Chet Starkey that the Tate-LaBianca murders were “a test for something bigger than ripping off a few people.” Starkey remembered Tex saying:

Helter Skelter was an over-all plan and it had to be tested in some way. The Tate and LaBianca killings were that test! . . . a test for something bigger than ripping off a few people.

That’s when he told me of the plan to choose three large cities on the West Coast and subject them to a massive plot, a plot to frighten and terrorize their entire populations, to literally scare the people out of their wits. . . . It was a test to see if total terror in a manner of unequalled horror could go undetected. If it were successful, then the over-all plan, conceived by Manson, would have been started. [6]

A race war between whites and blacks was not just a horrible fantasy dreamed up by Manson and Winans. Helter Skelter accorded with the ideology of George Lincoln Rockwell of the American Nazi Party, who predicted a great race war, where “the uniform would be skin color.” After he was murdered in 1967, he was followed by William Pierce, who wrote the Turner Diaries, a novel depicting a violent race war leading to the systematic extermination of non-whites. This book served as a guide and inspiration for white supremacists such as Timothy McVeigh since its publication in 1977.

Like Rockwell and Pierce, Charles Manson hated blacks and Jews. According to Jeff Guinn, author of Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, he “was one of the most virulent racists that ever walked the planet.” Manson believed in the Nazi ideology of a master race and that their leader, Adolph Hitler, had the answer to everything. He said that Hitler was “a tuned-in guy who leveled the karma of the Jews.” Manson collected magazines that featured Hitler and his favorite general, Rommel, the Desert Fox.  He and other members of the Family carved swastikas in their foreheads. Several members of his Family were connected to a white supremacist organization called the Aryan Brotherhood.

Particularly abhorrent to extreme white supremacists are mixed marriages and the offspring of such marriages. It is notable that the primary occupants of the house at 10050 Cielo Drive were a Jewish filmmaker and his pregnant wife, an actress with beautiful Aryan features.

On the night of August 8, 1969, Charles Manson told his followers at Spahn Ranch, “Now is the time for Helter Skelter.” He then instructed Tex Watson, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Susan Atkins to go to the house on Cielo Drive and kill everyone there.

That same night Reeve Whitson told his parents that he was going to Sharon Tate’s house. He and his parents were then living in a twelve story apartment building in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles at 432 Curson Street. Neil Cummings said Whitson had the Tate house under surveillance. “He had a reason to believe,” Cummings added, “something weird was about to happen at the house. He might have been there when it happened, right before, or after – the regret was maybe that he wasn’t there when it happened. He told me he was there after the murders, but before the police got there.” Cumming’s remarks confirm the suspicion of Doris Tate, Sharon’s mother, that the house was under some type of law enforcement surveillance that night.

After Tex and his girls brutally stabbed and shot five people, they went back to Spahn Ranch. Following their return, Manson and his “partner” – whom he did not name – went to the house to view the carnage and to make sure there were no survivors. His partner left a pair of glasses by the blood-stained steamer trunks. According to Manson, his partner left his glasses as a ruse to “confuse the police.” According to a letter written by Marie Vigil, the man who left behind his glasses was Robert Linkletter. See the article “Zodiac Killer at the Tate House.”

Since Whitson told Cummings that he was on the premises of the Tate house after the murders but before the police arrived, this would mean that he was there either at the same time as Manson and Linkletter or shortly after their departure.

At 7:00 in the morning Whitson called Shahrokh Hatami, Sharon Tate’s personal photographer. He told Hatami the shocking news that Sharon was murdered along with four others. Numb with terror, Hatami and his girlfriend switched on the radio and listened for news reports. They had to wait a while. As Hatami later learned, that call came long before the police arrived.

Ninety minutes after Whitson called Hatami, Ray Asin, a neighbor of the Polanskis, heard a woman banging on the front door and screaming hysterically “Murder, death, bodies, blood!” He opened the door to see Winifred Chapman, Sharon’s housemaid. Ray told his son Jim to call the police. Jim did so and noted the time as 8:33.  Police response was not immediate. According to a report, “At 0914 hours, West Lost Angeles Units 8L5 and 8L62 were given a radio call, ‘Code 2, possible homicide, 10050 Cielo Drive.’”

When the police arrived, they found the bodies of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Wojciech Frykowski. An unidentified fifth body was in the driver’s seat of a car in the driveway. Despite a license plate and the probable presence of a wallet and vehicle registration papers, the body remained unidentified. Although access to the premises was denied to reporters, one reporter peering through the gate noted the license plate number of the car. He got a trace on the plate and the body was finally identified. News reports around 8:00 that night said the unknown body was Steve Parent, a teenager visiting his friend William Garretson, the caretaker of the premises. When the police arrested Garretson, they apparently did not ask him to make an identification of the body in the car.

About the same time that Reeve called up Hatami on the phone, his father, Mervyn Whitson, noticed that his son had not come home. When he heard the first news reports of the murders, he feared that the unidentified body was his son. He called the police who sprang into action. According to Linda Ruby, Mervyn’s niece, who heard the story from Mervyn himself in the presence of her cousin Reeve, who kept silent the whole time, the police set up a command center in their apartment. Ruby could not understand the strange behavior of the police. Why would they set up a command center in the apartment of an anonymous resident? Why not check the body in the car to see if it was Reeve?

The police remained at the apartment, manning telephones, until Reeve finally returned home late that night. The police were eager to debrief him. Richard and Rita Edlund said, “I knew he helped in the Manson investigation… Reeve was among those, if not the one, who broke the Tate case.” Cummings said, “He was actively involved with some sort of investigation when it happened. He worked closely with a law enforcement person. I believe he said he knew who did it, and it took him a long time to lead police to who did it.”

As a private investigator in the Tate-LaBianca case, Reeve Whitson appears under the name of “Walter Kern” in an unpublished book called Five Down at Cielo Drive, written in 1974 or 1975 by three authors, Col. Paul Tate, father of Sharon Tate; Lt. Robert Helder, who headed the LAPD’s investigation into the murders; and FBI agent Roger “Frenchie” LaJeunesse who unofficially assisted the LAPD. The book refers to “a somewhat shady character who can best be described as a ‘police groupie’ named Walter Kern. Apparently he had been a friend of Jay Sebring … and wanted to help in any way he could.” According to Helder: “In this business, as you might imagine, a policeman gets to meet many strange people. Kern was among the strangest. No one knew what he did for a living, yet he always seemed to have money and knew just about everyone on the wrong side of the tracks. I didn’t like him but he was useful.” LaJeunesse said he was an informant of some kind, an “astounding fellow” who “wanted to project an aura of mystery.” Although Kern shared leads and took orders, he was so shrouded in mystery that Helder referred to him as “Mr. Anonymous.”

One day Helder went to interview Roman Polanski at the Paramount studio lot, where he was sequestered with a fellow Pole named Witold Kaczanowski. Helder was surprised to see Kern already there “lurking in the shadows.” Helder added, “He sure did get around.” Believing that Frykowski was involved with drug dealers who might have murdered him, Helder instructed Kern to cozy up to anyone who might known them, especially those in Mama Cass’s circle.

 “Walter Kern”, according to LaJeunesse, was really Reeve Whitson. It was Helder who assigned him the name “Walter Kern” to protect his identity as an undercover agent.

Not only was Whitson a significant figure in the investigation, but he was also actively involved in shaping the official story surrounding an incident that occurred five months before the murders. In March 1969, Hatami had been at the house for about two weeks. While Sharon was preparing for a trip to Rome, Hatami was photographing her for a television show. He happened to be looking out of a living room window “when I saw a man enter the yard…He was hesitant — not very sure of where he was going — but at the same time walking very aggressively; he just came in, not knocking or ringing a bell or anything.” He was a short, thin man, 30 to 32 years old, with long dark brown hair. Hatami asked him what he wanted, and the man asked if Terry Melcher was around. Melcher was a music producer and son of actress Doris Day, who previously lived in the house two or three months earlier with his girlfriend Candace Bergin. Wanting to be rid of the visitor, Hatami sent him to the guest house beyond the pool where the landlord, Rudi Altobelli, was living. Hatami figured that, since Altobelli knew Melcher, he could answer the man’s questions.

The following year during the trial, Rudi Altobelli testified that the man who came to the guest house was a man he had previously met, Charles Manson. He spoke to him briefly and sent him away. The significance of this to the prosecution case was that it showed that Manson knew where the Benedict Canyon house was and how to get there.

Hatami himself could not make a positive identification. All he could say, or was willing to say, was that he saw a short, scraggly man. Not satisfied with this uncertainty, Reeve Whitson went to see him and said, “‘Hatami, you saw that guy, Altobelli said so, we need another person to corroborate it.’” When Hatami declined, Whitson took Hatami to the office of Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi. Together Whitson and Bugliosi pressured Hatami to modify his statement to say that the man he saw was indeed Manson. Hatami declined again to change his story. Whitson threatened him with deportation. He told Hatami, an Iranian, that if he wanted to stay in America, all he had to do was say he saw Manson at the Tate house. This was no idle threat, for Whitson had a lot of pull with immigration authorities. Not long after threatening him with deportation, Whitson brought Hatami to his car and showed him his gun. Another threat, perhaps?

Tom O’Neill questioned Bugliosi about Hatami’s claim that he and Whitson pressured Hatami to commit perjury. Bugliosi denied that this occurred and even denied that he knew Whitson. On the latter point the trial transcript shows otherwise. Manson’s defense lawyers called Bugliosi to the stand and asked him who was in the room when Hatami was being interrogated. Bugliosi said, “Just Reeve Whitson, myself, and Mr. Hatami.” Bugliosi also had to admit that there was no stenographer nor a tape recorder during the interrogation.

Mention of Whitson’s name occurred only four times during the trial, all four pertaining to the interrogation of Hatami in Bugliosi’s office. Notwithstanding his almost complete disappearance from the official record of the case, his importance in the Tate-LaBianca investigation was huge. He was closely associated with Paul Tate, a colonel in Army Intelligence and Sharon Tate’s father. Whitson and Tate were very active in checking out leads and interrogating witnesses. O’Neill comments: “You wouldn’t think that LAPD detectives would have been so keen on two outsiders helping them, especially given those outsiders’ connections to intelligence.” O’Neill interviewed Tate and asked him about Whitson. Tate said that “Reeve was my main person to help me. . . . He’s been a friend of Roman Polanski and Sharon and mine and Jay Sebring. . . . He was very, very helpful.”

As an Army Intelligence officer, Tate had been stationed at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro. He last saw Sharon with Jay, Abigail, and Wojciech on July 20 to watch the moon landing on television at her Benedict Canyon home. The day after his daughter’s murder, at the age of 46, he resigned his commission, grew a beard and long hair, and disguised himself as a hippie. He associated with drug addicts and wandered among hippie clubs and dens, coffee houses and communes, in search of his daughter’s murderers. At the same time he visited the offices of Robbery-Homicide Division almost daily. Charles Guenther, a detective of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office, told O’Neill that Colonel Tate “appeared to be running the LAPD.”

Colonel Tate’s wife, Doris Tate, also mounted an investigation into the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s death, apparently independently from her husband, since they hardly spoke to one another and lived in separate parts of the same house, according to O’Neill’s informants. Doris was a close friend of Reeve’s mother, Florence Whitson. This fact along with the fact that police set up a command post in the parents’ apartment six miles from the crime scene ostensibly to determine if the body in the car in the driveway was their son Reeve when more convenient and more obvious methods of identification lay close at hand suggests the possibility that there was more to this couple than simply being the parents of a superspy.

O’Neill provides a brief resume of Reeve’s parents. At the time he was born on March 25, 1931, his parents were in Chicago. His mother was a dancer and his father was a world-renowned circus acrobat, part of a family traveling act. Reeve was their only child. Later the family moved to Kendallville, Indiana, where they raised their son.

A little known fact is that circuses were often used as a cover by secret agents. An article in the New York Times, July 8, 1939, reported that German spies infiltrated Romania disguised as clowns in a German circus. The fake clowns were exposed as a result of a counter-spy operation. A prominent feature in the James Bond film Octopussy was a circus troupe involved in smuggling activities. A book called Total Espionage: Germany’s Information and Disinformation by Curt Riess, published in 1941, said that circuses were used by Nazi spies. Riess writes: “The smuggling in of agents under the guise of circus performers and workers was particularly effective in Poland and Czechoslovakia. It is, after all, natural that circuses travel from place to place, and the police usually leave them in peace.” The circus background of Mervyn and Florence Whitson along with the tantalizing and puzzling bits of information mentioned above suggests the possibility that they might have been, like their son, involved in espionage activities.

At the University of Indiana, their son was the lead in school plays. He so enjoyed acting that he moved to Los Angeles and transferred to the Pasadena Playhouse, hoping to become an actor or a singer. As a friend put it: “His great strength was his natural affinity for people … He could play all these roles. His life really was a series of theatrical productions.”  

In his desire to act and sing, Reeve had a lot in common with his business partner Robert Linkletter. Robert also sang and aspired to a career in acting. In the early 1960s he played the guitar for the Cornells, a Los Angeles band that mostly played surf music. At Santa Monica City College, he performed in a play and expressed a desire to go to a university and become a theater arts major. Instead he went into the Air Force. Like Manson, Reeve and Robert were hardcore rightwing extremists, who hated blacks and Jews. Robert was involved in an extremely violent white supremacist organization called the International White Guard.

The International White Guard might be the same cabal of right-wing military intelligence and Hollywood figures, spoken of by Joe Torrenueva, or Little Joe, a barber in Jay Sebring’s hair salon. Torrenueva said that the cabal “did terrible things to black people” and that one of Sebring’s clients, Charlie Baron, a friend of Reeve Whitson, was the one “who did the worst things.” Baron was a Chicago mobster and trusted associate of Meyer Lansky, who hired him to manage the Riviera Hotel in Havana, Cuba in the 1950s. Baron later became the official greeter at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. In addition to Whitson, Baron was also a close friend of General Curtis LeMay, who in 1968 became a vice presidential candidate with George Wallace, a notorious racial segregationist.

Another ultraconservative who hated blacks was Ed Butler. He became notable in November 1963 for having tarred Lee Harvey Oswald with the communist, pro-Soviet brush on the Bill Stuckey Radio Show in New Orleans during the previous summer. Recordings of this program were played over and over in the news media after the assassination of President Kennedy.

Six years later he appeared on radio and television talk shows aggressively pushing his theory that black militants were responsible for the murders committed at the Tate house. He wrote an article for a right wing periodical called “Did Hate Kill Tate?” in which he presented the following evidence for his specious theory: (1) The hood over the draped bodies was a turn about for the Ku Klux Klan. (2) The rope found around their bodies, strung body to body, was an ironic reminder of lynchings. (3) The words “death to pigs” that were scrawled with human blood over the front door was a challenge to the “Blue Meanies”. (“The Blue Meanies” was another Beetles song.) (4) Time magazine quoted an article that Jay Sebring was supposed to be anti-black.

(Butler’s distorted description of the crime scene was a product of the sensationalism of the news media covering the case. For example, the hood over the draped bodies turned out to be a towel wrapped around Jay Sebring’s head. Butler did not comment on the LaBianca murders, for at this time the police were claiming they were unconnected to the murders at the Tate house. He also did not comment on the provocative details of the Gary Hinman case, such as the words “political piggy” and a panther paw print daubed in blood on the wall of his house. These details were unknown to the general public at the time Butler wrote his article.)

Propaganda that black militants were responsible for the murders at the Tate house was a factor leading to public acquiescence of a law enforcement war against the Black Panthers. On June 15, 1969, J. Edgar Hoover declared, “The Black Panther Party, without question, represents the greatest threat to internal security of the country.” He pledged that 1969 would be the last year of the Party’s existence. He developed and supervised an extensive counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance, infiltration, perjury, police harassment, and many other tactics, designed to discredit and criminalize the Party. The program was responsible for the assassination of Black Panther members Fred Hampton and  Mark Clark on December 8, 1969 in Chicago.

On June 20, 1969, Tom Charles Huston, Staff Assistant to President Nixon said that student protest movements in the United States were being supported by communists in foreign countries. He proposed the expansion of an existing program of the CIA called CHAOS (an operation involving the collection of data on the anti-war activities of American citizens in foreign countries) to include the surveillance and infiltration of leftist groups within the United States. Among the leftist groups targeted by Operation CHAOS was the Black Panther Party.

Meanwhile, Army Intelligence agents were infiltrating campus dissident groups in order to neutralize the “troublemakers.”

The narrative that black militants were responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders swiftly changed to hippies, when a hippie cult was identified as the perpetrators. On December 1, 1969, LAPD Chief Ed Davis had a press conference announcing that police had solved the murders and that they had warrants for the arrest of Watson, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian. Manson and Atkins were already in custody.

Consequent refutation of Butler’s idea that black militants were involved did not embarrass him. On the contrary, he was satisfied that the perpetrators turned out to be hippies. As explained by Mae Brussell on a Dialogue Conspiracy program:

So you see, Ed Butler has you in the palm of his hand. If they don’t have a suspect, you’re going to think that the blacks come into fancy residential homes and massacre these lovely white people. To make that even worse, when the people were arrested they admitted on their own volition that they took the credit cards from Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca after they cut their bellies open and stuck — they went to the ice box to eat, and then took their forks and stuck the forks in their stomachs. They took out their credit cards and left them in the black part of town in Los Angeles, so the people would think the blacks killed the LaBiancas.

To back up my own feelings, every word from what these people said afterward confirms what I knew they were doing. They could come down on two groups, one for sure. And if they’re caught, they’ll come down on the second. So the first group was to press fear that the blacks are now in our part of town, that they’re communists, and they hate the rich.

Ed Butler goes into their motives, and he says, “Well, one of the things, is that Mr. Polanski is an ex-patriot from communist Poland, and we know the Panthers are communists.” And he said the hate and propaganda they have will make other people want to continue these murders. He said that the Panthers were doing this kind of murdering to test the stomach of America for future violence. Ed Butler: the authority on riots. He comes out all the time in the news. He said that they want to see how many of these massacres people will take. He’s convinced that the blacks did this murder. But he is covered because when the actual facts came out it turns out that it wasn’t the blacks at all. So what are you left with now? You’re left with a hippie group; you’re left with this great hippie clan. This is where the real problem comes in, because, as I said before, and I’ll say it over and over today, Charles Manson was not a hippie. [7]

Mae Brussell is correct. Manson was not a hippie; he was actually an undercover agent like his buddies Winans and Whitson. As an acquaintance of Whitson said to O’Neill: “The entire Manson situation, the Black Panther movement, and probably similar other movements were discredited by certain things that, according to Reeve, may have been staged or done by government authorities in order to make them look bad.”

The identification of people from a hippie cult as the killers led to police, FBI, CIA, and military intelligence repression of hippies, leftist radicals, and anti-war demonstrators. In 1970, there were a series of confrontations between police and student war protestors on college campuses, culminating on the campus of Kent State in Ohio on May 4, 1970 with National Guardsmen shooting into a crowd of students, leaving four dead and nine wounded. Eleven days later, police fired into a crowd of predominantly black demonstrators at Jackson State College, leaving two dead and eleven wounded.

Five years after the Tate-LaBianca murders, Whitson became involved in the writing and publication of a book that would set forth the official story of the case. He helped Helder, Tate, and LaJeunesse secure a contract with a publisher, Talmy Enterprises, for their book Five Down at Cielo Drive. La Jeunesse said, “Reeve didn’t want his name associated with a book. Not on the jacket, not even in contracts — he didn’t even want money.” When too much time had passed without a viable book, a ghostwriter, Stanley Ralph Ross, came on board. By the time the manuscript was ready, Bugliosi beat them with the publication of Helter Skelter.

In the late 1970s, Whitson told his wife and daughter that he was retired and wanted to reconnect with them. Not long after his “retirement” he began investing money in a business venture aimed at the construction of a high speed maglev rail linkup between Las Vegas and the Los Angeles area. Using experimental technology, the train would use a combination of magnets and electricity that would levitate the train a few inches above the rails and run silently at an astounding speed of 250 miles per hour.

Contracts for the construction of the proposed train were to go to Thyssen AG, a giant German-owned corporation. It had already built a maglev train in West Germany that was approved for passenger service in 1979. Reeve Whitson was special advisor to the chairman of the board of Thyssen.

The founder of the corporation was Fritz Thyssen, a Ruhr Industrialist and early supporter of Adolph Hitler. After World War II, the corporation moved its headquarters to Buenos Aires, Argentina, a country that was the terminal point for the resettlement of Nazi war criminals. It was also the repository for much of the treasures and wealth stolen by the Nazis during World War II. Guarding this wealth was Otto Skorzeny, one of Hitler’s most trusted operatives. After the Third Reich fell, he appeared before a U.S. military court. Although he was alleged to be “the most dangerous man in Europe”, the court acquitted him, because he was an asset to U.S. intelligence. Otto’s wife, Ilse was the daughter of Hitler’s banker, Hjalmar Schacht. Known for her beauty and charm as well as being a shrewd businesswoman, she negotiated arms deals and contracts for German engineering companies such as Thyssen AG. According to John Irvin, who met Ilse many times through Whitson, “she was always doing Heil Hitler salutes” when she got drunk.

At the same time he was working on the Maglev train project – which never came to fruition – Whitson became immersed in the Nicaraguan Contra support effort. As described in “the Panama Papers” Reeve Whitson was a CIA supervisor of a unit called the “Quarry.” According to Kenneth Rijock’s Financial Crime Blog:

The Panama aspect of the Iran-Contra operation, wherein arms and ammunition delivered to Central American airstrips, ostensibly for the Contras, who opposed the radical Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, and money was earned through the sale of narcotics, smuggled into the continental United States, was commanded by CIA supervisor Reeve Whitson, and assisted by a Canadian covert operative known by a code name; Maximilian. Whitson’s unit, known as the Quarry, supervised the arrival of cash, at a private CIA-controlled airfield at Punta Pacifica, in the area where the Trump building now stands.”

In his final years, Whitson was destitute and disgruntled, telling rueful stories of the “Quarry” and trash-talking the agency. “Once you’re in,” he told one friend, “you really are a pawn.”

Whitson died at the age of 63 in 1994. He gave conflicting explanations of his health problems: a heart attack, a spider bite, a brain tumor, or lymphoma. Some of his friends suspected that his death was actually due to foul play.

When Whitson died, Liza flew to Los Angeles to attend his funeral. She was astonished to see how many powerful friends he had, and how few of them knew much about him beyond their personal experience. She went to his sparsely furnished apartment, finding nothing of sentimental value. He did leave behind a few photos. One of them was a black-and-white picture of her father. The photo was a surprise, since he always refused to be photographed. He was dressed like a hippie with long, flowing hair, a plain shirt open at the neck, bell-bottom blue jeans and a wide belt. The cars in the background date to mid-1960s. He was not really a hippie. According to his daughter, he was an archconservative with a rabid disdain for leftists. She believed that the photograph was from one of his undercover operations. She said, “He looks like he could’ve been one of the Manson Family members.”

Probably around the time this picture was taken, Whitson became partners with Robert Linkletter in the development and the production of the child-proof safety cap. That two such men would become business partners and also participants in the Tate-LaBianca murders is an indication that the Manson Family and the Zodiac Killer were not unconnected but rather they were joined together for a common cause. This link lifts the veil on other seemingly isolated events and people such as the Kennedy assassination, the systematic repression of the Black Panthers, the Iran-Contra operation, the shootings of student protestors, and the use of Nazi war criminals as intelligence assets. These are the interlocking components of a broad plan to bring fascism to the United States. That the plan failed to bring about a police state at that time is a tribute to the resilience of the democratic institutions of the United States.

  1. Richard Edlund was notable for doing the special effects for many movies such as George Lucas’s Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  2. The timing of these events plus his strange warning to his wife suggests that Whitson might have had a hand in the assassination of President Kennedy.
  3. See “Where was Gen. Curtis LeMay on November 22, 1963? at
  4. The ex-girlfriend was Simone Zorn Hunt, an actress.
  5. Von Richthofen was a co-director along with Roland Emmerich of a movie called Franzmann, made in 1979 in Munich, Germany. He also produced 10,000 BC (2008) and 35 Cows and a Kalashnikov (2014). He died in August 2013.
  6. The source for the Tex-Starkey conversation is at the link below
    When I first read Tex talking about “ripping off a few people”, I thought it had something to do with stealing money and valuables.

    From Gregg Jakboson’s testimony we find out what ripping off really means.

    Q: Did Mr. Manson ever tell you how helter-skelter was going to start?
    A: Yes.
    Q: How?
    A: He said that some blacks would go into some white homes and really rip the people off, to use his words.
    Q: What does the term “rip off” mean?
    A: Well, I mean really rip off, to scatter limbs and hang them from the ceiling and so on. I remember that, because it was quite a picture.
  7. Dialogue Conspiracy, October 13, 1971.

Author: William Weston

Researcher of conspiracies for over 25 years. Among articles written are "On the Death of JFK: Spider’s Web at the Trade Mart" and "The USS Indianapolis Conspiracy."

2 thoughts on “Linkletter, Whitson, and Manson: Agents Provocateur for the Helter-Skelter Plot”

  1. that is some really interesting stuff, you guys did good researching and sharing, all that had me intrigued .. i just had to look up the robert letter guy,, amaiizinnng


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