Illinois Murder Mystery/ Manson Family

Hosted byDave Schrader

Illinois Murder Mystery/ Manson Family

About the show

Michael Arians moved to the small town of Oregon, Illinois to open a roadhouse. After he was elected mayor, he became obsessed with a double murder that occurred there in 1948. He contacted Chicago Tribune reporter Ted Gregory, who also became beguiled by the case. Both joined Dave Schrader (email) to discuss their research on the unsolved crime, and how a conspiracy theory might just be the truth. Gregory said that at first, he was wary of the story, particularly when Arians described his belief that the roadhouse was haunted by the spirit of Mary Jane Reed, the female victim. She was on a date with Stanley Skridla when he was killed by multiple gunshots, and Reed's body was found four days later. The case remained cold until Arians read about it in 2008. The guests believe that the murder was covered up by the local authorities, perhaps to protect a jealous lover who may have been a police officer.

Speaking from the actual roadhouse itself during the interview, Arians spoke of the spirit of the dead girl, and how it seems to inhabit the place. After renovations, Arians remembered that the jukebox would play the same song over and over, even after it was replaced with a new one. Almost as a joke, he "made Mary Jane a member of the roadhouse family" simply to be able to deal with the mounting strangeness there and in his life, which seemed to subside when he began looking into the history of the murder. After a series of court battles with the local authorities, Mary Jane’s body was exhumed, which revealed that it had been buried with someone else’s head. Arians feels like he "communicates with Mary Jane somehow" but that he has never sensed that she could identify her killer.


At the age of 14, Dianne Lake became one of "Charlie's girls," a devoted follower of cult leader Charles Manson. Lake recalled her early family life in Minnesota as fairly normal until her father decided to leave for California with a girlfriend. He returned in 1965 and reunited with his family, moving them to Santa Monica, California. It was there that her parents began to experiment with drugs and the hippie lifestyle. During an LSD trip at the age of 13, Lake said she experienced a "sensation that a big cable between me and my parents was severed" making her feel that she needed to leave. They emancipated Lake at the age of 14 and, giving them a photo of Lake, told the Manson group to look for her in San Francisco, where she had moved to get away from a commune where the leader said she was unwelcome.

Returning to Los Angeles, she eventually met Manson at a party and soon became a member of the Family. She recalled that Manson "had this gentle way about him and he was funny, but it was all part of his con." Lake remained in Manson’s good graces for awhile, but disobeyed him once, whereupon he "became furious" and tried to take her back to her parents, but Lake refused. After this, she was shuttled between various extended parts of the group, until she ended up near Death Valley at the new Family headquarters. Because she was not trusted, she was left out of the murders, and only found out about them when some of the other women began to talk, and when Family member Tex Watson showed her headlines in the newspaper. With this realization, Lake said she felt as if "my whole world had been pulled out from under me," and two months later, testified against Manson and other Family members in court.

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