Elite Adventure Tours are the foremost private luxury tour company in Southern California offering the best in family, group and individual luxury VIP tour experiences. No cramped buses, vans or fast paced tours cramming in the sights with barely a stop for a pic and a good view. Locations on any given tour are customized based on guest interests and how much time they have with the guide. Tours are hourly rated with perks and professional services offering sight-seeing by land and air.
In addition to personal cameras, complementary guide-taken photography on high quality SLR cameras is offered as an Elite exclusive. Certified translator services are also available as needed. Company tours include wine tasting, pet approved treks, and a chance for a private tour with your favorite celebrity (subject to celebrity availability), among others. Many tour takers request family orientated itineraries based on landmarks and world famous LA locations. Elite does not hesitate to offer tours that give guests a good scare.
Their “Dark Side” tour visiting Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Brentwood is very popular especially around Halloween. The DS tour includes OJ Simpson’s neighborhood, the death sites of John Belushi, Michael Jackson, Dean Martin, Natalie Wood, Farrah Fawcett, Bettie Page, Bob Crane, Robert F. Kennedy, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, River Phoenix, Whitney Houston, and the remains of the Black Dahlia among others. Horror movie haunts are also on the list including the original Halloween house and locations from the Friday the 13th movies. The Hotel Cecil, a haunted hotspot so spooky it inspired this season’s American Horror Story is also included. DS location requests are welcomed. Though Manson Family related locations are included (Cielo Drive, El Coyote), a specifically themed “Manson” tour (averaging 10-12 locations) is usually rare.
Out of all the gruesome, infamous true crime cases given major mainstream attention, the Manson story has had one of the longest lasting effects on public consciousness. The official Manson tour guide Paul Fleck has said that the show Aquarius has bolstered interest again. The overall interest in Charles Manson and “the family” still lingers in society’s subconscious over 40 years later. Regardless of opinion and POV the curious still come to LA to see things for themselves.
For those wanting their money’s worth, the tour features Cielo Drive, Spahn Ranch, the Manson Tree, the Life Magazine photo shoot spot in the “Manson Cave,” the rock where Manson auditioned for Terry Melcher and the baby caves. If desired, though considered too obscure by most, a bit down the road guests can take a self-discovery hike to Gypy’s Waterfall (water seasonal) under the overpass to see a family hangout documented in the Inside the Manson Gang DVD. Parking is tricky in this area so the guide must stay with the van. Time permitting guests will venture to Waverly Drive (site of the LaBianca house) and El Coyote (where Sharon Tate and company had their last meal) for an end of tour dinner.
The Private Manson Tour
Fleck will arrive in an air conditioned company van with beverages and snacks available. Once the signs for Simi Valley, Topanga Canyon, Santa Susana and Chatsworth appear, “you’re officially in Manson country.”
Fleck will go where you want, whether it’s where Spahn Ranch once stood, the cave, the tunnel where Spahn Ranch worker Donald “Shorty” Shea was murdered or his “burial” spot. For the more dedicated adventurers, the baby caves are between the ranch and the tree, over the guardrail where the road curves. It’s a steep (somewhat dangerous) climb down a rocky hill for those who want to see the spot where Sadie hid the kids whenever the police stopped by. Also for those that enjoy walking, a healthy hike behind the ranch will lead you to the “Zodiac” car.
A routine first stop before the ranch is the tree (where Charlie played his guitar alone or for an audience). Right below at the creek bed is the tunnel where Shea was killed. It’s said that Barbara Hoyt heard his screams from the ranch down the road. According to Manson lore, Shea was beheaded and cut into pieces. However when his body was found with help from family member Steve “Clem” Grogan, who was partially responsible, he was intact, body suffering stab wounds and a skull fracture.
Despite its history, the natural scenic beauty of the area can’t be denied. The trails and area behind the ranch have a certain ambiance as well as the area of Topanga Canyon and the Santa Susana Pass. Many come just for the experience of seeing everything in person and walking on the same ground they did.
The family cave, what most guests come to see is located below the main ranch area. The “hammock picture” area is immediately after the cave to the right, and a few feet up the trail to the left sits the Manson rock.
The main area of the ranch where George Spahn’s house once stood along with the building’s, and horse stables carries a serene, surreal, almost haunting feeling. Like the wind still carries the memories.
Over the years many have come hoping to pick up vibes, energy, “experiences” or just to remember history. To imagine where the buildings were its best to have a copy of the ranch layout and judge by the large hill behind the ranch, present in wide range vintage pictures.
There’s a tall water tank down the hill. The “truck frame,” rumored to be the truck with the Spahn Ranch sign in old photos sits almost sideways mid-point on the hillside. Most guests call it a day after this. If hot weathers an issue, try going in the cooler months with waterproof, durable hiking shoes.
Images by Mike Ritchie