California property with dark ties to 2 cults, including the Manson Family, lists for $6.2M

A promotional video for this listed California property calls it Xanadu — the fabled city built by Kublai Khan — but it’s not what many may think.

The massive parcel of wild land in Box Canyon in Southern California’s Simi Valley, which asks $6.2 million for sale, has a dark history.

For starters, the Spahn Movie Ranch, a former cowboy movie set where many western films and TV favorites like “Bonanza” were shot, is a neighboring property. Spahn was infamously taken over by the Manson Family in the late 1960s.

It was from up there, about 25 miles northwest of Hollywood, that Charles Manson and his followers plotted two of the most brutal multiple slayings in American history. Collectively known as the Tate-LaBianca murders, the six victims included actress Sharon Tate and her unborn child, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and the LaBiancas, an elderly couple. Charles Manson and several Family members were eventually convicted of nine murders, including these, but they are suspected in at least 15 more.

That certainly put the dilapidated Spahn Movie Ranch, owned by George Spahn, in the headlines. But it wasn’t Manson’s first choice as a place to hang his hat. Before moving a few miles west over to Spahn, Manson initially wanted to live on this plot of land in Box Canyon.

Today, this property listed as 585 Box Canyon Road is a serene 17-acre spread within the hills around the well-to-do town of Chatsworth. The land has several rental homes built among shading old oak trees at its lower elevation.

“It is a very unique property — huge, probably the largest in the area,” listing representative Chris Johnson told The Post. Johnson and his partner Holly Hatch — of Holly & Chris Luxury Homes Group, Coldwell Banker Calabasas — are handling the sale.

“It’s beautiful and peaceful, unspoiled. It’s like the wild, wild west up there,” he added. “But you’re very close to Calabasas and you can be in LA in 45 minutes.”

Those are the comforts of today. Even before Manson came along, bizarre events were already happening in Box Canyon.

In 1948, a man calling himself Krishna Venta (real name Frank Pencovic) founded the Fountain of the World cult, aka the WKFL (Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love), there. It’s not entirely clear who owned the land at that time or how Venta acquired it. But smoke and mirrors was Venta’s modus operandi as he spun his doctrine to blindly faithful followers — one that said he came to Earth half a billion years before on a spaceship (he was born in San Francisco), and that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ. Venta also predicted that the human race would be all but obliterated after a black vs. white race war, also involving the Russians — it was the Cold War era, after all. The eventual survivors would, of course, be the Fountain members, who would then rise victorious in an inheriting the Earth-type scenario.

Venta wielded absolute power with his charismatic sermons from his pulpit in the Box Canyon compound’s church. He would make grand declarations, then sometimes miraculously disappear from the pulpit.

“There’s a tunnel on the property, which leads from the pulpit,” said Johnson with a laugh. “Apparently, he’d disappear and pop up and surprise people and say, ‘See, it’s a miracle! I really am Jesus,’” he added. “There are so many stories about this place it’s hard to keep up.”

One of them is especially tragic. Venta had a feud with a couple of men in the cult, who accused him of sexual interactions with their wives. Those men loaded up with explosives and blew up Venta in a suicide bombing, which also killed nine Fountain members — including children.

Apparently, according to UCLA records, Venta’s right hand man, Bishop Asiaiah, became the cult’s new leader. Around 1968, the already much-troubled Manson and his followers moved in, and Manson tried to take over the cult.

The already-mentally unstable Manson is thought to have admired Venta and is said to have wanted to emulate the way he had absolute control over his followers. Also, Venta’s doctrine is eerily similar to Manson’s rantings about a race war destroying the US, and it is widely thought that the cult leader’s influence steered him onto his megalomaniacal path.

“Manson seems to have viewed Krisna Venta as a role model,” Hatch agreed. “The new leader tried to push Manson out of the way. That’s how Manson and his followers ended up at nearby Spahn Movie Ranch.”

Apparently, Bishop Asiaiah may have thought Manson a bit of a loser, and mocked him, saying Manson didn’t hold absolute power over his followers like he and Venta did. According to local lore, to show Bishop Asiaiah who was boss, Manson challenged one of his own followers to prove his loyalty by tying himself to a pole on a nearby rock formation, telling him to stay there for two weeks.

“Yes, Skull Rock is right there on the Box Canyon property,” said Johnson, who had heard the story. “The land has so many caves. I grew up in the area and would hike the hills with my father. The locals called the caves up there the Manson Caves, because the Manson Family members would use them.

“After the murders,” he added, “the Manson girls are said to have fled to the caves to hide out. They would certainly have known about them, so that story is quite likely.”

Hatch agreed: “They knew where to hide up there because they had been there on the property so much.”

The property includes 11 parcels with several buildings, which date to the Fountain’s occupation, including the original main lodge.

Nobody has done much with the buildings since then. They are lived in, but they need modernization,” said Hatch.

“The land has three artisan wells, and there are waterfalls and seasonal creeks,” added Johnson. “It’s really beautiful.”

Spahn Movie Ranch burned to the ground in 1970. A couple years after, the Fountain began petering out with members dispersing to found or join other cults — two members even died in Jim Jones’ Jonestown mass suicide in 1978 in Guyana.

Only one member of the Manson Family murderers has been freed from prison; Manson himself died in prison in California in 2017 at age 83.

After the Fountain folks moved on, the current family acquired the land and buildings, and it’s been happily inhabited ever since by many tenants.

Hatch and Johnson are wary of oddballs being attracted to this listing, but neither thinks the controversy surrounding Box Canyon will harm the property’s sale.

“There’s so much more to this intricate property than that controversial side,” Hatch said. “Most people know it for its incredible landscape. It’s magical; it’s very different. Nobody says anything negative about it. This would be perfect as a resort or wellness center with a focus on healing.”

Photo credit : Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

“I don’t think it’s a big deal, the property speaks for itself,” agreed Johnson. “It’s very creative and … flowing. It would make a great resort or artist colony. It’s similar to Topanga Canyon, but Topanga has become so oversubscribed. Box Canyon is still undiscovered. It’s quiet, untouched and mountainous. It’s the last frontier of LA.”

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