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Publisher's Summary

A journalist's 20-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.

Over two grim nights in Los Angeles, the young followers of Charles Manson murdered seven people, including the actress Sharon Tate, then eight months pregnant. With no mercy and seemingly no motive, the Manson Family followed their leader's every order - their crimes lit a flame of paranoia across the nation, spelling the end of the 60s. Manson became one of history's most infamous criminals, his name forever attached to an era when charlatans mixed with prodigies, free love was as possible as brainwashing, and utopia - or dystopia - was just an acid trip away.

Twenty years ago, when journalist Tom O'Neill was reporting a magazine piece about the murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Then he unearthed shocking evidence of a cover-up behind the "official" story, including police carelessness, legal misconduct, and potential surveillance by intelligence agents. When a tense interview with Vincent Bugliosi - prosecutor of the Manson Family, and author of Helter Skelter - turned a friendly source into a nemesis, O'Neill knew he was onto something. But every discovery brought more questions:

  • Who were Manson's real friends in Hollywood, and how far would they go to hide their ties?
  • Why didn't law enforcement, including Manson's own parole officer, act on their many chances to stop him?
  • And how did Manson-an illiterate ex-con-turn a group of peaceful hippies into remorseless killers?

O'Neill's quest for the truth led him from reclusive celebrities to seasoned spies, from San Francisco's summer of love to the shadowy sites of the CIA's mind-control experiments, on a trail rife with shady cover-ups and suspicious coincidences. The product of two decades of reporting, hundreds of new interviews, and dozens of never-before-seen documents from the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA, CHAOS mounts an argument that could be, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven Kay, strong enough to overturn the verdicts on the Manson murders. This is a book that overturns our understanding of a pivotal time in American history.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Tom O'Neill and Dan Piepenbring (P)2019 Hachette Audio

What the critics say

"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

What listeners say about Chaos

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Fascinating and Compelling Listen

One of the most interesting books I have listened to in a long time. Fact based and steering clear of speculation, I imagine this is what true investigative journalism (something that seems to have disappeared these days) actually sounds like. Kudos to the author on his work, persistence, and overall professionalism.

4 people found this helpful

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Sucked me in

I thought I knew what the Manson story was… NOPE
Author spent 20 years so I could understand in 16 hours. Buy this.

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Fascinating!

Tom O'Neill is a true investigative journalist who is searching deep down the rabbit holes for real answers. He states when something he is saying is his opinion or factual (with documentation to back it up). Instead of just telling us what he found he takes us along with him on his 20 year journey, which made it an enjoyable read, and made it easy to grasp why he was searching a particular rabbit hole. I have nothing but respect for Mr. O'Neill, his dedication, his investigative style, and his well written book.

I have already listened to it twice and look forward to my 3rd listen as I'm sure to pick up even more than I did on the first 2.

The only downside is that the very ending is not terribly satisfying. Part of me really wanted Mr. O'Neill to wrap it all up with a grandiose flourish, a wild theory that interconnects and explains all the facts he uncovered, but that was not to be, and instead it just ends. Upon reflection I appreciated that he kept to the facts and will let others weave the "conspiracy theories".

I look forward to a follow-up book. Mr. O'Neill has said that he had to edit entire chapters to get the book down to length and has lots more info that he didn't include in this one.... and the investigation continues. Hopefully the next book won't take 20 years.

My highest recommendation 6/5 stars.

2 people found this helpful

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WOW

Get seated and READY for the beginning. It was a surprise.
The rest of the book was absolutely fascinating. This warrants a re-listen

2 people found this helpful

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Relentless pursuit of the truth

So much conspiracy, so much corruption, when will the system acknowledge the truth and actually get it right

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I Hate the end...

Much like life this is not about the end, but the journey.
This book brings you on an almost unbelievable journey through everything you haven't heard about the Manson case. The ending does not bring closure, but closure was never an option from what you learn through the book. The audio performance is excellent and the book is excellent, for my money I would recommend, for sceptics and conspiratorial minded alike.

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Riveting

Growing up in the 70's Manson was synonymous with the boogeyman to me. Now, as an adult, listening to this book made me realize just how much scarier the world can be. Amazing work by Mr. O'Neill reporting his work and findings. An excellent and mind boggling journey for the truth. I will probably not stop talking about this book for the next few months!

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  • M
  • 2022-06-29

Great book

I love books that do a deep dive into the events of the past, and I've always known that the JFK assassination was a inside job.

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Amazing story, amazing narration

loved it, the time flew by, the story teller does an amazing job as well.

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Most Important Book I'm the Last 10 years

this book is fascinating and exposes deep corruption that questions the fabric of narratives we are lead to beileve.

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  • Wagger
  • 2019-08-30

16 hours went by fast

I heard about this book on the Greg Fitzsimmons podcasts and it sounded interesting. If you don’t like real crime and conspiracies, this might not be your cup of tea. I loved all details about the characters and how they dovetailed into the American culture of the 60’s. I’m in my 50’s and I recognized many of the references. I appreciated the thoroughness of the author and his extensive interviews. I couldn’t believe how fast this book went; I listened every spare minute of the day.

66 people found this helpful

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  • Visualverbs
  • 2019-08-04

Don't fall for the negative reviews...

This work is tremendous, in scope and execution. There are reviews about it being "self-indulgent rambling" or "great book about Tom O'Neill", or "a lot of nothing..." - all of which is nonsense. Clearly these people haven't the mental capacity to follow a mystery any more complicated then "Murder She Wrote."

Sure, it is very much a book about the author's search, twenty years in the making, about the truth of the Tate-LaBianca murders. I appreciate that the author kept is informed of his personal journey in the process of uncovering all this NEW (to me) data. For the reviewers who said nothing "new" was uncovered, that couldn't be further from the truth. It was O'Neill's painstaking combing over all the clues that led to some HUGE discoveries about Charles Manson and MK Ultra, and how there was clearly something going on between law enforcement, federal intelligence agencies, and the Hippy Movement. For the record, this is NOT the only book that goes into that subject (See "Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon"...: by David McGowan).

For me the clincher was the author's discoveries about Manson's year in the Haight-Ashbury before the murders occurred. How someone on federal probation could commit so many additional crimes (before the murders) and NOT be violated is amazing (to me it is clear that Manson was a subject of research and very probably a Federal snitch). That fact that his federal probation officer had ties to LSD research at the HAFMC, and other significant clinicians at that free medical clinic in the Haight turned out to be knee-deep in MK Ultra research, up to and including admitting in hidden memo's (that O'Niell uncovered) that MK Ultra / LSD / hypnosis was able to implant "memories" into a subject's consciousness.

This is not a self-indulgent work. It is not a rehash of old clues. This is a very thorough refutation of the "Helter Skelter" murder theory with which the LA District Attorney gained convictions for Manson and the Family. There was clearly FAR more going on than we were told for the last 40 years.

Basically, this work illustrates the fact that we really cannot count on our government, our law enforcement, our justice system, or our academicians to tell us the truth (about perhaps anything). And, for the record, I am a conservative, Christian, registered Republican, who wants deeply to believe that our "leaders" have our best interests at heart but it's increasingly clear that we're all being lied to.

Get this book, read or listen to it, and draw your own conclusions. Good luck, America.

175 people found this helpful

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  • Ricky Patton
  • 2019-08-13

I'm ready for the sequel!

This book could not have been long enough. Mr. O'Neil has blown my mind with the revelations and the possibilities that continue to emerge from a chapter of history we had all been told was written long ago. Thank you, Tom, for giving twenty years of your life to tell this story. Please don't stop reporting. There is no expiration date on the truth, or humanity's need for it.

39 people found this helpful

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  • Karen or Jason
  • 2020-03-30

Garbage

After finishing this book, I returned it. It absolutely went nowhere. The entire story was a 20 year analysis paralysis, so much that his publisher sued him. There were interesting questions and inconsistencies proposed but zero answers. The book was all over the place which made it incredibly hard to follow. This is my 42nd book from Audible and the first I’ve returned.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Babatunde Ayinde
  • 2020-04-21

Self Absorbed Author Gets In The Book's Way

Unnecessarily long book. Full of author's inconsequential ramblings about himself. Story could have been told in half the words. A few beight spots and insigjts that lead to nothing. Everything you need to know was discussed on the Rogan pidcast.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Ryan
  • 2019-12-27

Meh

Narrator doesn’t know how to pronounce “Bugliosi,” kinda ruins the whole thing. A lot of information that really goes nowhere. Ends up being a book about someone who doesn’t know how to write books.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Hans J. Wollstein
  • 2020-02-14

Much to do about nothing

So here’s a magazine writer desperately attempting to come up with a new angle for the 30th anniversary of the Manson Family slayings. Which means interviewing a host of now old timers, including Vince Bugliosi, the prosecutor and best selling author of THE Manson true crime book HELTER SKELTER. Author Tom O’Neill doesn’t buy Bugliosi’s crazy hippies being manipulated by a madman because of playing the Beatles’ White Album backwards or some such. Neither do I. This whole Bugliosi hocus pocus was a means to an end: how to convict a man who was only present, and briefly at that, at one of the two crime scenes for the murder of 6 people? To me, it really doesn’t matter, the right culprits went to jail for life. Like CHAOS, I too, believe that Doris Day’s son, Terry Melcher, then a major music producer, knew the Family much better than he and Bugliosi would admit to. Knowing hippies, and being seen with them, was part of the times. But Melcher would always deny that he had much more to do with Manson because were he to do that one question arises: why hadn’t he gone to the authorities the very day after the killing of Sharon Tate? For Bugliosi, Melcher’s involvement would simply muddle his established HELTER SKELTER bottomless pit in Death Valley motive. And Manson, at least, may have walked. So far so good. So why my one star review? Because already in chapter 4, Mr O’Neill’s accusations go off the rails when he claims that witness Danny DeCarlo told Bugliosi that he saw Melcher at the Barker Ranch near Death Valley where Manson and the Family would be arrested soon after. "The girls yelled ‘Terry’s coming, Terry’ coming’ and Melcher arrived at the ranch in a Mercedes convertible." Really? Anybody familiar with Manson saga topography will know that that would be impossible. Even today, the Barker Ranch remains one of the most isolated places in California, reachable only by traversing up a dry wash filled with rocks and boulders. No road, not even a track. And I was done. Because once you start questioning the reality of a true crime book, you might as well put it aside. Which I have.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Susan
  • 2019-07-10

I couldn't stop listening

I wish I could meet Mr. O'Neill and tell him how much I appreciate his efforts. I've read a lot of books on this topic and finally someone has questioned the "party line" on just about everything. The authors aren't telling us what to believe. They are telling us what was found over many, many years of research. You feel like you are there with O'Neill doing the research, trying to figure out how to write it and not sound crazy. I'm really glad that I read this.

Narrator is very good. I'd listen to other books he narrates for sure.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Ashley
  • 2019-07-21

compelling and sincere!

an inspiration for further investigation. one of the best and most interesting books I've heard. I would call it a page turner but I didn't turn any pages lol! keep it up buddy!!

19 people found this helpful

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  • Phoenix
  • 2019-12-31

Whole lot of nothing.

Whole lot of information, but, unfortunately no payoff.
The extremely long bibliography was particularly interesting.

8 people found this helpful