Six Degrees of Manson, Dahmer, Van Houten, Atkins and Wesson
Here is another guest post from Elaine of Littlemissattitude.blogspot.com. She's had some proximity to some famous killers. Whereas I've just worked with Ben Blauvelt, one of three men who murdered Chinese professor Maurice Lam at IPFW, Elaine has had invites to the Spahn Ranch and known people who've interacted with some notorious men. Enjoy!
I've always been fascinated by the whole Six Degrees of Separation phenomenon, ever since I first read about it back in, oh, must have been in the Eighties sometimes, in an article in the old Omni magazine (which I miss horribly, by the way).
I'm sure you're familiar with the idea, even if only through the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" meme, that any individual in the world can link to any other individual person in the world through six other people or less. It's an interesting idea, but one that I didn't believe when I first read about it. It just didn't seem a likely proposition. How would I link to someone in Africa, say, or Australia, or Asia? I couldn't think of anyone I knew who lived on any of those continents and didn't really expect that I ever would.
At any rate, I started thinking about this kind of linking, especially after I remembered that when we visited with my mother's cousins in Texas on a vacation one time, one of them mentioned that she lived down the street from John Young, who had walked on the moon as part of the crew of Apollo 16. Which meant that I knew someone who knew someone who had walked on the Moon. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid, so that was pretty cool.
What about presidents? But that one was too easy. I only had to look as far as my friend Debbie's mother, who had hosted Ronald Reagan for a campaign event in her home when Reagan was first running for Governor of California. True, this had been before he had actually been president, but nevertheless Debbie's mom had met him, and I certainly knew her.
Okay, then. Movie stars. And that wasn't a difficult lift either, since I had grown up in Southern California and lived across the road from a movie director (and a fairly famous one) until I was six and a half years old. I had talked to him, and he was friends with all sorts of old-Hollywood celebrities. Peope like Clark Gable and Errol Flynn. Not to mention the fact that there were a lot of old western stars who had settled around the area where I grew up, which was still semi-rural when I was growing up, and my dad knew most of them - people like Walter Brennan and Joel McCrea and James Arness.
One way and another, I realized, I didn't have to go anywhere near six links to connect to the greater part of Hollywood. I probably even have a Bacon number (look that up if you don't know what it is), although I've never bothered to figure out what it might be.
But that's all still mostly here in the US. What about connecting to folks around the rest of the world?
Turns out that despite my reservations when I first read about the Six Degrees game, it isn't all that difficult to link to people in other parts of the world, either. I've got friends, or at least acquaintances on most continents now, so even leaving out people I just know through the Internet (those folks my friend Jolene calls "Imaginary friends"), I don't find it out of the realm of possibility that I can connect with the greater part of the world within the six degrees of separation.
On the other hand, the whole idea of connecting fairly closely with any given individual can turn a bit creepy, something I realized when I figured out that I can connect with at least five mass or serial killers with just one intervening individual, and that the ones I can connect with are not just flash-in-the-pan killers. Most of them are ones you've probably heard of.
Take Charlie Manson, for example. I can connect with him through only one intervening individual two different ways. First of all, having lived near the Spahn Ranch when Charlie and his gang were doing the awful things they became so famous for, I had a friend (I was in junior high at the time) who went up there all the time to go horseback riding. She really liked the folks who lived up there and occasionally tried to talk me into going up there with her. I declined, of course, since everyone knew there were weird things going on up there. We just didn't know how weird. So, that's one connection, from when Charlie was still out and running around free. The other connection is an adopted cousin of mine who was (maybe still is; we've lost contact) a prison guard, and part of whose job was to guard Charlie.
I can also link to two of Charlie's followers in one link each, separate from the paths to Charlie himself. When I was still living in Southern California, I was taking a night class. One of the other students in the class was a deputy sheriff who worked in the county jail system. At the time, Leslie Van Houten was getting her retrial separate from Charlie, and the guy in my class was the one who was in charge of coordinating her transportation back and forth from jail to court every day. And then, a few years later I was taking some classes at another community college, and got to be friends with a woman in some of my classes who had done time with another of Charlie's pet killers, Susan Atkins.
So, that's three killers I can link to with just one intermediary. There are two more.
One, you might not have heard of, although his case did get some national attention at the time. This was the case of Marcus Wesson, who killed nine of his children and grandchildren (and some of them were both; it was an exceedingly creepy case) one day in Fresno. Although I know two people who were living in the neighborhood where this happened at the time it happened, those aren't the links. The link is that one of my instructors when I was learning to be a paralegal was the first lawyer Wesson hired after he was arrested for the killings.
You've definitely heard of number five, Jeffrey Dahmer. It turns out that his mother lived in Fresno. A friend of mine's old roommate had lived next door to her, and had picutres of herself and Dahmer in her living room. I've seen the photos, so I know she wasn't making it up. She showed them to me one time when I was visiting my friend while they were roommates.
That makes five. You know, it really makes me wonder about the people I hang out with sometimes.