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Spahn Movie Ranch
The Spahn Movie Ranch, with a portion of the Old Santa Susana Stage Road.
|Built||1920 - 1930|
|Founded by||William S. Hart|
|• Total||200 ha (500 acres)|
|Elevation||415 m (1,364 ft)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC-7)|
Spahn Ranch, also known as the Spahn Movie Ranch, was a 500-acre (2.0 km2) movie ranch used for filming generally Western-themed movies and television programs. With mountainous terrain, boulder-strewn scenery, and an 'old Western town' set, Spahn Ranch was a versatile filming site for many scripts. No longer in use, the entrance to the historic ranch was at 12000 Santa Susana Pass Road (street numbers have since been changed) of the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains above Chatsworth, California. Now part of the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, Spahn Ranch is notoriously and best known as the primary residence of Charles Manson and his followers, the "Manson Family," for much of 1968 and 1969.
The ranch took its name from dairy farmer George Spahn, who purchased the property in 1948. Silent film actor William S. Hart owned the ranch prior to Spahn. Many western-themed movies and television shows were filmed on the ranch, including Duel in the Sun (1946) and television episodes of Bonanza, The Lone Ranger, and Zorro. It was also the filming location for the B-movie The Creeping Terror.
The Manson Family
Spahn was 80 years old and living at the ranch when he allowed The Manson Family to move in, rent-free, in exchange for labor. The family did daily chores and helped run the horse rental business, which had become Spahn's main source of income. Despite this arrangement, Spahn was never accused of any role in the many murders for which members of the Family were later convicted, the most infamous being the Tate-LaBianca murders committed on August 9th and 10th, 1969.  In late 1969, Robert Hendrickson began filming the Manson Family at the ranch for his documentary film Manson. There he filmed Spahn, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, Bruce Clayton Elliott, Nancy Pittman, Catherine "Gypsy" Share, Sandra Good, Paul Watkins and others. It is the place where the 'family' lived while committing the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles. The 'family' also stayed at Barker Ranch, which is located in the Panamint Range between Death Valley and the Panamint Valley in the northern Mojave Desert.
Fire, Spahn's death, and incorporation into a state park
A wildfire destroyed all of the Spahn Movie Ranch's film sets and residential structures on September 26, 1970. George Spahn died on September 22, 1974, and is buried in Eternal Valley Memorial Park in nearby Newhall, California.
The Spahn Movie Ranch site is now part of California's Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park, with the "Devil's Slide" section of the historic Old Santa Susana Stage Road on the park's northern side. Many hiking trails give access to the natural beauty and the panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley.
- LA Curbed Blog: "The Story of the Abandoned Movie Ranch Where the Manson Family Launched Helter Skelter", 22 October 2014.
- Cielodrive.com: Spahn Movie Ranch
- Cielodrive.com: Manson Family story evidence.
- Police Raid Ranch, Arrest 26 Suspects In Auto Theft Ring Cielodrive.com
- Santa Susana Pass SHP California State Parks
- Escondido Canyon Park LAMountains.com
- California State Parks: official Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park website
- LAMountains.com: Santa Susana Pass Park website
- Spahn Ranch: 1960s photos
- IMDB: List of films shot at Spahn Movie Ranch
- Seastwood: Spahn Movie Ranch info
- Spahn Ranch History