Why do bad things happen to the Beatles?

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by Michael H. Brown

       Last week came news that Michael Abram, a man who tried to kill former Beatle George Harrison, was on trial in England. A year ago he had burst into Harrison's home and stabbed him. Abram was described as a "wild-eyed intruder" who thought Harrison possessed him. He thought the Beatles were "witches." 

        The incident was one in a series of events that have haunted the Fab Four. Why do strange things keep happening to the Beatles? Why do these famous rock-and-rollers -- who many consider the greatest musicians of the twentieth century -- keep running into bad luck?

           I'm not sure, but there are some potentially telling coincidences, a circle of events that some would call synchronicity. Consider the fact that in 1969, when the cult led by Charles Manson murdered actress Sharon Tate, they did so because they felt they were being directed to start killing people by the Beatles song Helter Skelter. In fact, they scrawled the words Helter Skelter in blood on Tate's walls. 

        This is our first link: Manson and a drug-hazed Beatles song. Tate was married at the time to director Roman Polanski, whose latest hit had been the movie Rosemary's Baby, about a woman (played by Mia Farrow) who gives birth to a child of the devil. Much of the movie was shot at the Dakota apartment building on the Upper West Side of New York. 

         That's important because the Dakota was the apartment building that John Lennon later moved into with wife Yoko Ono. 

         Now the plot thickens. The Dakota is a spooky place. When I lived in Manhattan, I occasionally passed it. And it seemed to inspire Lennon's mystical bent. While living there he and Ono immersed themselves in various forms of occultism. They participated in seances (the Dakota is famously "haunted"). They followed astrology. I once met a psychic, Dean Kraft, who used to personally visit them. The Beatles had a real spiritual hunger, but on occasion they looked in the wrong places and like many of us strayed into dubious realms. There had been a famous involvement with transcendental meditation (which uses mantras, which according to critics are sometimes the names of demons), and their use of drugs opened the doorway to spirits. Indeed, in one of his last interviews, Lennon said he was like a spirit "medium," with entities writing through him. "I felt like a hollow temple filled with many spirits," he once commented.

          Did that all come back to haunt him?

          It was twenty years ago next month that Lennon was killed, and his assassin -- like the man who recently tried to kill Harrison -- was a wild-eyed type with clear indications of demonism. His name was Mark David Chapman and he talked about "little people" he communicated with. Although he had once been "born again," Chapman had turned to the dark side. He read about the occult. He heard voices. He complained about waking up and feeling something evil in his room. He even prayed to Satan. His wife Gloria heard his voice turn to a weird guttural tone proclaiming that John Lennon "must die." 

         And so it was that on December 8, 1980, Chapman went to the Dakota -- to the same building where Rosemary's Baby was shot -- and waited for Lennon. 

       For no logical reason, Chapman was obsessed with killing Lennon, who had been his hero. A voice in his head said, "Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it!" 

       Demons were calling him to do it. They had been summoned and they meant business. They had unwittingly been invoked in a way that touched John Lennon -- who had written Helter Skelter -- and they called on Chapman to commit the murder.

       Just before he did -- just before he pumped five shots at the Beatle -- Chapman had spotted a soft-eyed, vaguely familiar actress walking down the street. She was walking with a group of children to Central Park. To his amazement Chapman realized that it was Mia Farrow, the star of Rosemary's Baby.

(NEXT MONTH: More on the Beatles mysteries)

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