Charles Manson's former remote hide-out has been gutted in a suspicious fire, according to the Death Valley National Park Service. Authorities are not sure whether Barker Ranch, famous for being Manson's last home before he was nabbed by police for the notorious Tate-LaBianca murders, was torched accidentally or if someone maliciously tried to burn down the 70-year old mining cabin.
"It has been burned," said Terry Baldino, chief of interpretation at Death Valley National Park. "All we know is a fire has gutted the building. The walls and the tin ceiling are still up but we are not sure how stable it is. Our local law enforcement is working to get an investigation team up there. At this point we have no clue as to what happened. It started at the house but beyond that we don't know what instigated the fire."
Barker Ranch: Apres Fire
According to Baldino, the park service found out about the fire on Wednesday morning when it was contacted by employees at a nearby resort. The park service sent up a ranger that day to confirm that the former mining cabin's interior, including shelves, a table and chairs along with its porch had been gutted. A garage was also destroyed.
"We are asking folks to look but don't go into cabin until we finish up
the investigation," he said. "We are just not sure how stable it is.
The last thing we need is someone to have a chunk of ceiling fall down
Death Valley National Park Service
Baldino said that the fire started sometime last weekend because there were reports posted on a Death Valleywebsite
that Barker Ranch was still standing last Friday. The following Tuesday
a hiker reported on the same website that the ranch had been burned
Barker Ranch is in a rugged area of Death Valley
National Park in the Panamint Mountains where access is by four-wheel
drive only. According to Baldino, backcountry campers often camped out
at Barker Ranch. It had a stove and a fireplace, but there was no water
source in the area, so if a fire was accidentally set, there was no
water to put it out. There were no locks on the door either.
there hadn't been the notoriety of Manson I wonder if anyone would have
cared or if there would be any interest," said Baldino. "It was a
valuable resource to us and not because of Manson. It was because it
was another piece of mining history. Our history goes back to the
A month ago, the park service spent thousands of dollars restoring and stabilizing the Barker Ranch.
were just trying to make sure we didn't lose the structure to time and
elements but a fire is a hard one to deal with," he said.
cabin was built in the 1940s by a retired Los Angeles Police Department
officer, who wanted to strike it rich in gold. Striking out, he later
sold it to the Barker Family.
In the fall of 1969, the Inyo
County Sheriff's department and other law enforcement agencies
descended upon Barker Ranch. They were out to crack the case of a
destroyed $40,000 bulldozer, and their suspects were a ragtag group of
hippies - strangers who'd recently moved in. Instead, they came across
24 members of a hippie cult known as the "Manson Family." They found
Manson cowering inside a cabin underneath a sink.
preached of an apocalyptic race war he said was predicted in the
Beatles song "Helter Skelter." His followers believed they would
eventually control the United States - if they performed grisly murders
for Manson. To that end, about two months earlier, they had murdered
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seven people and were suspected in two other slayings. The dead
included pregnant actress Sharon Tate, and wealthy Los Feliz grocer
Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary.
Barker Ranch hit the news again last year when a Mammoth Lakes detective and his cadaver dog Buster searched the site for possible Manson victims. No bodies were found.