Spahn Ranch, built in 1920, also known as Spahn’s Movie Ranch, was a ranch used for filming Western movies and TV shows. Episodes for Bonanza, The Lone Ranger, and Zorro were filmed at Spahn’s Ranch.
Spahn Movie Ranch was the home of the Manson Family during the Tate/LaBianca murders. In late 1969, Robert Hendrickson filmed the Manson Family at Spahn Ranch for his Oscar-nominated documentary Manson.
By 1968, when Charles Manson arrived at the ranch, George Spahn was 80 years old and nearly blind. Spahn allowed out-of-work stuntmen and ranch hands to live on the property in return for labor.
Manson and his followers fit right in and did chores and helped run the horse-rental business. George Spahn primarily made money by renting horse rides through the property.
But at the ranch several ranch hands disapproved of the new tenants, repeatedly warning Spahn about Manson. A ranch hand named Donald “Shorty” Shea would eventually be killed by members of the family.
On August 16, 1969, around 6:00 am, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department raided Spahn Ranch. They were looking for stolen cars not knowing they had the Tate/LaBianca killers in reach.
The sheriff’s report states they found Manson hiding beneath the building marked “Saloon”. Manson was laying face down in the dirt between the foundation timbers.
As he crawled out and stood up, a stolen credit card fell out of his pocket. Manson and most of the family members were arrested and booked at the Malibu police station.
The police also seized and impounded vehicles at the property, mostly VW dune buggies, a couple of motorcycles and, most importantly, a 1959 Ford (registration plate GYY 435). The Ford had provided transportation for the Tate and LaBianca murders.
In September 1970, a wildfire destroyed all of Spahn Movie Ranch’s sets and structures. After the fire, George Spahn moved back to North Hollywood to live with the wife he left years before. Today the site is part of California’s Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Quentin Tarantino recreated Spahn Ranch for the movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Burt Reynolds was originally cast as George Spahn, but he passed away weeks before he was scheduled to shoot his scenes.
The film was originally scheduled to be released on August 9, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Tate murders, before Sony changed the release date to July 26, 2019.