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Charles Manson Dies at 83: A Short History

Grace Keith, Contributor

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Charles Manson, a psychopathic killer and hippie cult leader, died at the age of 83 by natural causes in California State Prison in Corcoran on November 20th, 2017. But although many know his name, some don’t know the complete backstory of this man who organized and committed such monstrous acts in the past.

Manson’s childhood was choppy. His mother, Kathleen, had him when she was 16 in 1934, and named him, “no name Maddox”.  She married his stepfather, Eugene Manson, whom Charles took his last name from. Kathleen was an alcoholic, and at one point was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing. Eugene left Kathleen and divorced her with a charge of, “gross neglect of duty”. Charles was sent to his uncles house in West Virginia quite often, as it was his only option for a place to call home. Due to his unfortunate family life, it is no surprise that Charles began to skip school, steal, and become interested in weapons at a young age.

In 1958, he was put behind bars at McNeil Island prison in Washington state for 10 years for a variety of different crimes including pimping and passing stolen checks. He was in and out of other jails as well, and went on to spend half of the 32 first years of his life behind bars. But he liked prison, as it was where he learned to play the guitar and read music. According to biography.com, Manson was released from prison on March 21, 1967.

In 1969, Manson started experimenting with the beliefs of various different quasi-cult religious groups, taking LSD and other psychedelic drugs, and formed a family of followers that were loyal to him. He believed that he was the man who could truly predict and prevent the world from reaching its eventual doom, and enforced this belief into his cult, of which is now called, “The Manson Family”. According to people.virginia.edu, he “preached that the black man would rise up and start killing members of the white establishment and turn the cities into an inferno of racial revenge. The blacks would win this war, but would not be able to hang onto the power he seized because of innate inferiority”. During his time as a quasi-cult leader, he planned to carry through with a racial war. During Manson’s time in prison the Beatles came out with their White Album, which contained the song “Helter Skelter”, a song the perfectly depicted the philosophy that Manson believed in regarding the potential for racial war, thus giving his famous murders an ongoing name.

“Helter Skelter” began when Manson’s Family committed horrific crimes against whites in Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, staged in a way that made it look like the murderers were blacks. He staged these murders this way in an effort to enrage the white community enough to force them to start an open racial revolution in the streets. Then the black man would win the war, assuming the white man’s karma. He wanted this war to be apocalyptic, and while it went on, his family would hide out in the dessert. According to people.virginia.edu, “He believed that the ‘bottomless pit’ mentioned in the Book of Revelations was a cave underneath Death Valley. There they would find a city of gold–a paradise where his chosen Family would wait out the apocalypse. Meanwhile, they would multiply to 144,000, a number he drew from Revelations, and return to the surface to rule the world over their black servants”.

The Manson Family went on to carry out 35 notorious murders in the late 1960s, resulting in Manson’s life in prison. According to biography.com his cult was a, “group of around 100 followers… who shared his passion for an unconventional lifestyle and habitual use of hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD and magic mushrooms. After Manson was released from prison for petty crimes in 1967, the Manson Family moved to San Francisco and later to a deserted ranch in the San Fernando Valley. Manson’s followers also included a small, hard-core unit of impressionable young girls. They began to believe, without question, Manson’s claims that he was Jesus and his prophecies of a race war”.

The details of Manson murders are gory and intricate and were aimed at Hollywood movie stars. One of the most famous massacres took place at the Polanski household in Beverly Hills.  According to biography.com, “the Polanski household had been targeted because it represented the showbiz world that had rejected Manson”. The four residents of the household had returned home from a nice dinner before the murder took place. Interestingly enough, Polanski himself was in London shooting a film at the time of the murder, avoiding the horrific scene. The names of those killed in the murder were: Polanski’s wife, actress Sharon Tate; writer Wojciech Frykowski and his partner; the coffee bean heiress Abigail Folger; and celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring. Folger escaped the main murder scene, but was caught in the front yard and stabbed 28 times. The most notorious murder was Sharon Tate’s, who was stabbed repeatedly in her pregnant stomach by the faithful Manson family member Susan Atkins. Atkins took Tate’s blood and wrote the word, “PIG,” on the front door.

Throughout the Manson trials, the suspects laughed and exchanged chuckles with each other as there gruesome crimes were discussed in front of them.  On January 25, 1971 Charles Manson was convicted of first degree murder for directing all of the deaths of his Tate and LaBianca (another notorious Manson massacre) victims. He was originally sentenced to death, but was commuted to a life in prison after California’s Supreme Court invalidated all death sentences prior to 1972.

 

Sources:

http://people.virginia.edu/~sfr/enam481/groupd/helter_skelter.htm

https://www.biography.com/people/charles-manson-9397912

http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/us/manson-family-murders-fast-facts/index.html

https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/charles-manson-3419.php

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Charles Manson Dies at 83: A Short History