The strange mystery of the death of John Philip “Zero” Haught


Strange Crime Mystery?

John Philip Haught began living with the Manson family after he, and his friend Kenneth Richard Brown, moved to California from Ohio. Haught went by the aliases Christopher Jesus and Zero. He was arrested with the family in the October 12, 1969 Barker Ranch raid. After getting out of jail, Zero moved with other family members to a Venice Beach house, rented by a man named Mark Ross.

Barker Ranch
Barker Ranch

On Wednesday November 5th, 1969 Venice police responded to a call at 28 Clubhouse Avenue. There they found a young man called “Zero” (His true name was John Philip Haught, but that was unknown at the time) who was dead. He was lying on a mattress in the bedroom of the home. He had an entrance wound to the right temple. There was a leather gun case and a revolver lying beside the body.

Alive in the home were Bruce Davis, Madaline Joan Cottage, Sue Bartell and Catherine Gillies. They told the police that Haught had shot himself playing Russian roulette.

Cottage said that she had been lying in bed next to Haught when he noticed the gun in the leather case on a stand next to the bed. She said he remarked “Oh, here’s a gun.” picked it up and removed the gun from the case and said it only has “one bullet in it.” Holding the gun in his right hand Cottage said that Haught had spun the cylinder and placed the gun muzzle to his right temple and fired.

The others said they heard the gun fire and raced into the bedroom whereupon Cottage exclaimed that “Zero” had shot himself, “just like in the movies.” They indicated they then called the police, and indeed the body was warm to the touch when the police officers arrived. Davis told the officers that he had picked up the gun. When the gun was dusted later for prints neither Haught or Davis’ prints were found. The leather case was also devoid of prints. (Later a Manson case researcher would state that he was told that Davis’ prints were found on the gun. But no proof of that statement can be found)

The gun was found to have been fully loaded. The officers were not aware that Davis and the girls were members of the Manson family. They questioned Davis, Cottage, Bartell and Gillies separately and they all told basically the same story. The police department then ruled the death a suicide.

November 26th, 1969 Sgt. Mike McGann was interviewing Leslie Van Houten at Sybil Brand and advised her of the death of Haught. Van Houten was upset upon learning of her friend’s death. When told that Haught had been playing Russian roulette and that Bruce Davis had been present she asked McGann:

“Was Bruce playing it too?”
McGann advised her that he wasn’t.
Leslie Van Houten: “Zero was playing Russian roulette all by himself?”
Mike McGann: “Kind of odd isn’t it?”
Leslie Van Houten: “Yeah, it’s odd.”

It seems obvious that neither McGann or Van Houten believed the Russian roulette story. As of the date of this writing no charges have ever been brought in the death of John Philip Haught and his death is officially listed as a suicide.

Later, an anonymous man told a Los Angeles Times writer that he was present when Zero died. According to the man, Zero didn’t kill himself; one of the girls shot him. However, the man disappeared before authorities could talk to him

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