In 1968, seventeen year-old Barbara Hoyt ran away from her Seattle home with her sights set on Los Angeles. Alone in the big city, Barbara was befriended by a man who called himself “Karate Dave.” He took the teen to see some friends who were living at a place called Spahn Ranch, an abandoned movie set in the mountainous terrain north of Los Angeles. She was introduced to Charles Manson, the self-appointed leader of the Spahn Ranch “family.” The group was given free reign of the property by George Spahn, in exchange for doing chores and maintaining the ranch
In August 1969, Barbara was asked by “family” member Susan Atkins to get several sets of dark clothing from a stockpile. When Barbara returned, Charles Manson told her that Atkins and some other “family” members had left. Later that night, Barbara overheard Atkins tell Ruth Ann Moorehouse that that she had murdered actress Sharon Tate.
On August 16th, police raided Spahn Ranch and made a number of arrests, including Barbara Hoyt, but she was eventually released with other “family” members. A week later, Barbara was awakened by screams coming from one of the outbuildings on the ranch. Several “family” members were killing one of their own, Donald “Shorty” Shea. Under the cover of darkness, Barbara decided she had enough of the “family,” and sneaked off the compound with another girl, Sherry Cooper. Somehow, Manson caught up with the girls nearly 200 miles away. He gave them money and convinced them to return to Los Angeles… which they did.
After an investigative breakthrough in the murders at Sharon Tate’s home and a connection to the subsequent murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, members of the Manson “Family” were arrested. Through word from Manson, Ruth Ann Moorehouse was authorized to offer Barbara all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii if she didn’t testify against Manson and his conspirators at the upcoming trail. Barbara agreed. However, Moorehouse was given instruction to kill Barbara in Hawaii.
Moorehouse gave Barbara a hamburger containing a large amount of LSD hoping Barbara would experience an overdose. After eating it, Barbara became disoriented, although she was determined to remain conscious, saying that she didn’t want to die as a “Jane Doe.” She was taken to a hospital and made a full recovery. Her parents were contacted and she flew with them back to Los Angeles, where she appeared as a star witness at the murder trail, providing detailed testimony implicating Manson and those who committed the murders.
After the ordeal, Barbara returned to school and pursued a career in the medical field, acquiring a nursing degree. She later married and had a daughter.
In 2017, she succumbed to kidney failure at the age of 63.