Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties

by Tom O’Neill and Dan Piepenbring

A journalist’s twenty-year fascination with the Manson murders leads to shocking new revelations about the FBI’s involvement in this riveting reassessment of an infamous case in American history.

“We chose to present everything we had that contradicted the official narrative through original interviews and exhaustive research the narrative of Helter Skelter was created to sell a jury — and to sell books.

Tom O’Neill, Author: Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties [Amazon Ad Link]

In 1999, Tom O’Neill was asked by his editor to do a story commemorating what was then going to be the 30th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders by the Manson Family for Premiere Magazine, which went out of business a few years later. O’Neill said:

“I didn’t want to do it. I had never read the book. I wasn’t interested in Manson or that type of case or crime story, but I needed the job and she wanted me to do it. She and I had a good history of working together at another magazine for about 10 years. I did say, “What can I say about this story that hasn’t been said a million times before?” And she said, “You’ll find an angle.” And, sure enough, I did, but it didn’t take the three months that it was originally supposed to take. It took about 20 years of my life, unfortunately. But I’m pretty happy with the outcome. I’m not sure it was worth it, but definitely not going to look back and regret doing it.”

“What if everything we thought we knew about the Manson murders was wrong? O’Neill spent 20 years wrestling with that question, and Chaos is his final answer. Timed to the 50th anniversary of the Manson murders, it’s a sweeping indictment of the Los Angeles justice system, with cover-ups reaching all the way up to the FBI and CIA.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Chaos is less a definitive account of the murders than a kaleidoscope swirl of weird discoveries and mind-bending hypotheticals that reads like Raymond Chandler after a tab of windowpane.”

The New York Times

“O’Neill’s discoveries are stunning, especially when he’s discussing the inexplicable leniency shown by law enforcement officials and by Manson’s parole officer.”

The Washington Post

“If Helter Skelter whets your whistle, then O’Neill’s blistering account of the conspiracy to cover up the flaws in the Manson prosecution is definitely your cup of tea.”


“A page-turner stacked with gobsmacking facts.”

The Ringer

“Whatever you think you know about the Manson murders is wrong. Just flat out wrong. Tom O’Neill’s twenty years of meticulous research has unearthed revelations about the murders, the murderers, the prosecutors who tried them and a rogues gallery of cops, drug dealers, bent doctors, famous celebrities, grotesque government research, secret agents and shadowy figures in a conspiracy/cover up so sweeping and bizarre, you’ll be as astounded as you are terrified. If your friends call you paranoid, maybe they’re just ignorant.”

Joe Ide, author of IQ and Wrecked

“O’Neill’s skillful accumulation of facts, untainted by bluffery, is a victory for honest discourse … The discoveries that O’Neill has shared with the world-about lies, suppressions, and conflicts of interest-should scare the hell out of us.”

Sean Howe, Bookforum

“Forget Tarantino’s film, journalist O’Neill has been working on this book for 20 years and has found all kind of interesting things, including unreleased documents and new interviews that show legal misconduct… Conspiracy or not, this is what you call beach reading.”

Style Weekly (Richmond)

“Fans of conspiracy theories will find this a source of endless fascination.”


“Top-notch investigative work … An excellent work of investigative journalism proving the ‘true story’ is not always the truth.”

Library Journal

“Riveting … True crime fans will be enthralled.”

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Gripping masterful stuff. A dazzling and compellingly obsessed journalistic detective story that invites you down the rabbit-hole to a sex, drugs, and celebrity-serial-killer America. O’Neill’s sunk decades into uncovering something far freakier than Helter Skelter ever admitted. Buckle up kids, this is true crime at its truest and most compelling.”

Charles Graeber, Executive Producer of The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann and New York Times bestselling author of The Good Nurse

Reader Comments:

I’ve read (listened) to it numerous times. Great book! I learned a lot and I have read most everything on the case. I was disappointed that he didn’t go deeper into the Nikolas Schreck theory of motive, though perhaps he was leaving that to NS. What I learned Re HAFMC and MK Ultra and the numerous violations of rights and procedure was invaluable. For anyone not satisfied with the Helter Skelter BS this is a great resource. This and Nikolas Schreck. Especially after you’ve already digested Helter Skelter. Maybe then some of the Family members bios.”

Dean, from Facebook

“Lots in interesting connections between the haight, Manson, the clinic, the parole officer, lots of covering up of relevant facts by Bugliosi. Bugliosi comes off worse than Manson But you’d think Manson in the book ‘In his own words’ would have mentioned being given LSD in prison. Good points, but mostly circumstantial evidence. And I don’t really see how he could have been an MK Ultra experiment in SF or LA. He moved around too much to be dosed and brainwashed.”

Mark, from Facebook

Tom O’Neill, Author: Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties [Amazon Ad Link]


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