A Murder on Mulholland Drive: Marina Habe and the Twisted Odyssey of 1960s L.A. Crime

Marina Elizabeth Habe was a 17-year old college student who was violently murdered in L.A. in 1968. Her murder remains unsolved and has prompted endless speculation and theories, many of which include the rather fantastical allegations of involvement by the Manson Family.

Hollywood breeds many children of privilege, and most grow up to become bratty party queens. Enter Marina Habe. She was a dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty- by all accounts a shy, quiet, and moral Catholic girl attending college at the blissfully located University of Hawaii.

Her mother was B-movie bit part actress Eloise Hardt, and her father was author Hans Habe, a Hungarian-Jewish refugee of WWII who fled Europe after publishing the unflattering original name of Adolf Hitler’s father Alois (it’s Schicklgruber, if you’re curious). Her parents made an odd couple, and went on to divorce promptly. Hans moved to a beautiful Swiss village and married a 6th wife, leaving Marina in the care of her mother. He wrote dozens of bestselling books until his death in 1977.

Aftermath (1948) by Hans Habe, a critique of the “empancipated” postwar American woman

Eloise was always busy filming roles for the silver screen and TV. In fact, her IMDB credits show only a 2 year hiatus period after her daughter’s death. She was never a big star, but she was committed and reliable in performing small roles.

Marina was sent off to Hawaii after graduating high school, and she seemed to have no complaints about relocating to the sunny paradise. Her future seemed bright. She was attaining an arts degree, and planned to become an actress. With her mother being an industry veteran, this would have been a piece of cake.

At the close of 1968, Eloise had Marina return home to L.A. for the holidays. The pair spent Christmas together, and New Year’s Eve soon approached. Little did they know that Marina would not live to see 1969.

Eloise Hardt, actress and mother

It was the night of December 29, and Marina was out on the town partying with friends. She was accompanied by her date, 22-year old John Hornburg, who was 5 years her senior. The pair were with two other couples at the Troubadour nightclub, watching Larry Hankin’s stand up comedy act. Personally, this is not the comedian I would have selected for my last night on earth.

The couple left the club at 11:30 PM, and hung out in Marina’s expensive sports car for a couple of hours, parking near John’s Brentwood home. They most likely engaged in a heavy makeout sesh and other R-rated activities.

At 3:15 AM, Marina changed out of her swanky date ‘fit and into a white turtleneck sweater, a lux fur trim coat, and brown capris. She began her drive home. This is where the mystery of her fate begins.

The Troubadour Nightclub

At her West Hollywood home on 8962 Cynthia Street, Eloise was awoken by noisy muffler exhaust sounds from a car engine – an unknown black vehicle was parked in her driveway. Marina’s car was parked right next, but she was nowhere to be seen. Eloise then saw a young man in his 20s running towards the black car yelling, “Let’s go!” The driver gunned the engine, and the occupants of the vehicle took off.

Marina disappeared without a trace, kidnapped by ominous men right out front on her driveway. When her car was examined, police claimed that the handbrake was set with such force that it was impossible for petite Marina to have done so herself.

Marina’s yearbook photo

Eloise was hysterical with worry, and called the police. According to her stepson’s dramatic account, she paced her bungalow screaming “Why don’t you take me [instead]?” Hans Habe left Switzerland to return to L.A. immediately. They waited in vain for a ransom note from the kidnappers, but there was only silence.

Two and a half days later on Jan. 1, 1969, a couple walking on Mulholland Drive noticed a discarded purse. Inside, there were Marina’s credit cards, makeup and a small amount of cash. This did not bode well, as it showed that whoever kidnapped her had clearly had no interest in money or extortion.

A passing civilian’s dog then discovered Marina’s mutilated corpse 30 feet off the side of the road down a ravine. Puzzlingly, the dog’s owner requested that police ensure that his name would appear in the newspaper. His wish does not appear to have been granted.

Lover’s Lane on Mulholland Dr, 1950s

There was so much overgrown foliage in the ditch that detectives had failed to spot her body from the search helicopter which circled above Bowmont Drive for days. She was found only 4 miles from her home, and very close to the house of Robert Goulet, AKA the weird turtleneck singer guy Will Ferrell does impressions of.

There are many conflicting reports online as to the condition of Marina’s body and the time of her death. Some allege she was killed the same night she was kidnapped, mere hours later. Others claim she was held captive for over a day and fed by her captors.

While many sensational news outlets claim she was raped, the official coroner’s report pointed to the conclusion that Marina had recently had consensual sex, most likely with her date John Hornburg during the parked car rendezvous. There were no signs of sexual assault or forcible entry on her body. Either way, it would prove impossible to tell with complete certainty exactly what had happened to Marina after she was abducted.

Marina bled to death after being stabbed by several attackers

The autopsy report from Jan. 2, 1969 says that she was found lying supine near dense brush. She was fully clothed, with the exception of her shoe, which was tossed nearby. Marina was 5’5 and 128 lbs, and had alcohol in her system at the time of death. Her last meal was vegetarian-based.

There are rumours that she was burned and found nude, but these allegations are categorically false.

Marina’s wounds were extensive and sordid. She had two black eyes caused by a man’s fist, as well as blunt force trauma inflicted with a small hard object. Her throat was cut so violently that her left carotid artery was severed, and her liver was lacerated.

She was also stabbed numerous times in the chest and neck, with one deep slash penetrating her breastbone through her sternum. None of these wounds were fatal, however, and her cause of death is listed as exsanguination, or death by excessive blood loss.

Notably, there were no defense wounds on her body. This indicates that Marina was either physically incapacitated (by her injuries, or due to being restrained by her captors), or she was just too afraid to fight back.

Marina’s grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in L.A.

The report also said that an old motorcycle frame was found near Marina’s feet, which is strange because newspapers never dished this rather juicy clue and cops never discovered its origin. Was this the case of a biker gang gone mad?

The coroner determined that at least two different knives were used in the frenzied attack. By now, it was certain that there was more than one person involved in Marina’s murder.

Marina’s Catholic funeral was attended by 350 mourners at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. A priest by the name of Father Acton gave a rousing speech:

“We wonder about a society, the products of which can be… capable of such heinous crimes. There you have the perfect formula for bitterness, resentment, hatred, perhaps despair. This we must guard against.”

It is said that Eloise was never be able to recover from the murder of her only child, and spent years obsessing over it, full of guilt and despair. She was 99 years old when she died in 2017.

Hans and Eloise at their daughter’s funeral

Marina Habe’s homicide was never solved, despite the fact that there were 6 detectives and 20 deputies on the case. At the time, Sherriff Harold White claimed that the LAPD was “trying very hard. But we have turned up nothing that is even remotely interesting.” There appears to have been no official police suspects as released to the media.

Enter the Manson Family: There is zero concrete evidence to link Charles Manson & Co. to Marina’s murder, but that hasn’t stopped true crime enthusiasts from coming to far-fetched conclusions. It seems that every late 1960s unsolved California murder is blamed on the Mansons, without actual proof.

When interviewed about his whereabouts on the night of Marina’s murder, Manson stated he was at a New Year’s eve party thrown by John and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas. Lucky him!

The low IQ Manson Girls sing songs in court while on trial for the Tate & LaBianca murders

There are harebrained claims that Marina was friendly with certain Manson Family members, such as Bruce Davis, Bobby Beausoleil or Tex Watson. These three men were known as the Family lotharios: they would befriend women (sexually) and then attempt to recruit them into the Family, all at the behest of Charlie M. LSD-fueled orgies were said to have followed.

Friends claim Marina was too “square,” and too rich and high-class to associate with hippie hoodlums like the Family. The time frame in which she would’ve befriended them is skewed as well: Marina was attending college in Hawaii for most of 1968.

It is worth noting, however, that Angela Lansbury’s daughter Deidre joined the Manson Family in the 1960s, much to her mother’s chagrin, despite also being a wealthy and famous celebrity child. Though unlike Marina, there is actual evidence of her doing so.

Charles Manson and other Family members are arrested in a 1969 raid on Spahn Ranch

In 1968, the Manson Family ran an illegal car and motorcycle chop shop in the desert, next to Spahn Movie Ranch. They bought and recycled stolen auto parts, and were involved in the death of a 16-year old supplier named Mark Glen Walts. He was shot to death and dumped in Topanga Canyon near Mulholland Drive.

Coincidence, or not? Does the motorcycle frame found on Marina’s corpse point to the Mansons? Or was it some other biker gang gone haywire, such as the Hell’s Angels? It is glaringly evident that the police failed to investigate her case properly.

Marina’s death is also tied to several other unsolved murders, such as the Nov. 1969 homicide of Reet Jurvetson, a 19-year old girl dumped on Mulholland Drive, very close to where Marina was discovered. She was stabbed over 150 times, and like Marina, her carotid artery was severed and she was discovered in a ravine.

Reet Jurvetson: does she resemble Marina, or am I crazy?

In the same month of the same year, Scientologists Doreen Gaul and James Sharp were found gruesomely butchered to death in L.A. Their eyes were cut out, they were run over with motorcycles, and they had been whipped with chains. They were stabbed nearly 60 times each, and Doreen had been raped.

Like Reet and Marina, their cases are still unsolved, and the only suspects anyone can come up with are, you guessed it, The Manson Family.

It is very likely that all of this could have been the work of an unknown serial killer who was active in the late 1960s, or a rogue biker gang. L.A. was in the midst of a hippie flower-power revolution, and any number of creepy psychopaths could have taken advantage of this cultural chaos to kill young, beautiful and vulnerable women. Charles Manson was just one among many.

19-year old Doreen Gaul

To muddle the waters even further, let us return to Marina’s actress mother, Eloise Hardt. In 1966, she starred in a hauntingly atmospheric horror film named Incubus. This was one of Eloise’s larger roles, and she received top billing.

Incubus is a must see for vintage B-movie fans, as it was filmed entirely in Esperanto and starred William Shatner in all his pre- Star Trek glory. It was directed by Leslie Stevens, creator of the spooky TV series The Outer Limits. What does this nerdy trivia have to do with the murder of Marina Habe, you ask?

Simple: the film is said to be cursed. It sounds ridiculous, but the horrific occurrences that plagued the stars of Incubus makes for interesting reading.

Eloise Hardt in Incubus (1966)

Shatner claimed that while on set in Big Sur, a weird hippie approached the cast and crew, asking too many questions and irritating the actors, who responded curtly. The hippie was indignated, and loudly recited a curse that was supposed to have damned all those involved in production. Did he really? Or was he just high as shit?

In another odd link to the Manson Family, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski attended the San Francisco Film Festival premiere. Sharon would be slaughtered by the Family three years later in 1969.

Mere weeks after filming wrapped, actress Ann Atmar committed suicide. She was a part time girlie mag pinup who killed herself at only 27 years old, before the film even premiered.

Ann Atmar, victim of the incubus

There is no further information available on her death, or why she killed herself. Could it have been due to the disturbing part she played in Incubus? Her character was that of a naive blind girl who is brutally raped by a demon, played by Serbian actor Milos Milos.

Born Miloš Milošević, the hot-tempered Serb was a streetfighter and former bodyguard of Alain Delon. Shortly after Incubus’ release, he murdered Barbara Ann Thomason, wife of Mickey Rooney, whom he was having an affair with. He then shot himself. Some suspect ol’ Mickey was in on the crime, enacting revenge for his cuckoldry.

Eloise and Milos attempt to kill Shatner in a tragicomic scene from the film

This bad publicity basically tanked the film in all regards. And then, years later, the curse was completed with the unsolved murder of Eloise Hardt’s daughter Marina. The film itself would be lost until 1993, when it was discovered archived in a French cinematheque.

With the case of Marina Habe, everything must be taken with a grain of salt. The Manson Family and Incubus curses aside, her story is a dark one that seems to have uncorked all sorts of evils in its wake.

Whoever killed Marina Habe on that dark New Year’s Eve of 1968 is possibly still out there, or has died unpunished. But her story lives on, and that of so many other women whose lives were claimed in the crazed frenzy of late 1960s L.A.

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