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The California Witch Killers were a murderous couple in the 1970s. Here's what you need to know about the true crime case.

Who were the California witch killers? See the strangest true crime story

True crime leads us down to some disturbing, fascinating, and, frankly, strange paths. From the several dozen robberies that have taken place while in Santa suits to the horrifying works of Mr. Cruel, there are many paths that true crime stories can take for those that love it. Some of the oddest ones? They tend to have to do with the belief in the supernatural taken to a terrifying extreme.

Today, we’re going to talk about a little known true crime case. One that certainly is odd enough that it should be talked about more. We’re going to share the story of Michael Bear Carson and Suzan Bear Carson, a serial killing couple for a group of crimes known as the California witch killers. 

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Unholy unions

When divorcees James Clifford Carson and Susan Barnes met, things got pretty weird, pretty fast. Susan, who was deep in the free love and hallucinogens of the 70s, knew that he was the one. Why? Because of a vision she had while tripping on mescaline told her. Jenn Carson, James’ daughter from a previous marriage, told Oxygen, “It was almost like two magnets just shooting across the room and joining.”

This was not a good thing. The two quickly got into a life of sex and drugs. It led to a name change for the pair after Susan had more visions while on drugs. James Clifford Carson became Michael Bear Carson while Susan became Suzan Bear Carson. The visions of Suzan kept getting wilder as the two also tried to create their own religion. 

Eventually, it culminated into one deadly vision from Suzan saying that she and Michael should become “Muslims” and kill witches. No. There is nothing in Islam about killing witches. You’re not even supposed to be taking hallucinogenic drugs. And there is a very clear rule about not killing people in there. 

How did this thing start?

After living in Europe until the money ran out, Suzan and Michael moved to San Francisco where they moved in with 23-year-old aspiring actress Keryn Barnes. While Keryn was very much into the whole free love idea of the hippie movement. She drew the line of becoming Michael’s other wife in some sort of polyamorous arrangement with him and Susan. 

Susan then had a vision that Keryn was a witch. Under Suzan’s orders, Michael beat Keryn with a frying pan and then stabbed her 13 times. They then covered her body, drew on the walls, and left the apartment. Unfortunately, Suzan left her name on the wall, which led to friends of Keryn tipping off police about her new roommates and their odd beliefs.

But the Carsons were just gone.

What happened next?

After lying low for a year in Northern California, Michael and Suzan were bored. They decided to go down to Southern California and start working on a marijuana farm there. Unfortunately, the couple started having issues with the friend of a farmer owner, Stephen Clark. After he cussed Suzan out, she told Michael he was a witch. Michael shot Clark in the face. 

It was back to Northern California for the pair after that. In order to get into the nearby town, Suzan and Michael would hitchhike. In 1983, two years after Keryn’s murder, they caught a ride with John Hillyer. At some point, John’s leg touched Suzan’s and she didn’t like that. Suddenly, she had another premonition about John being a witch. Michael was supposed to kill him as well.

The thing is, however, John fought back. This led to witnesses to the fight and Michael shooting and killing John. The two attempted to drive off in John’s truck, going on a high speed chase with police, and ending up in a ditch after spinning off the world. They were then arrested.

Press conference confession?

The only way Michael and Suzan would confess, however, was via a press conference. On March 10, 1983, a press conference was held, and it got pretty weird, pretty fast. The pair ranted about George Orwell’s 1984, President Reagan as the devil, and why witches needed to be killed. They said that Allah told Suzan where to kill the witches and Michael was the executioner for them. 

After six hours of ranting, the two were arrested for three counts of first degree murder amongst other crimes. Despite this, the pair pled Not Guilty at trial, which lasted three days and was described by Jenn Carson as a “zoo”. They were convicted of all charges and are currently serving 75 years to life.

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