26. When released in 1967, Manson begged not to leave prison
But if you thought he’d be pleased to be released, you couldn’t be more wrong. As his release date grew ever closer, Manson panicked. His final prison report from Terminal Island stated that ‘he has no plans for release as he says he has nowhere to go’. It’s unsurprising that a man who had spent so much of his life, including those important teenage years, in prison had become somewhat institutionalized, no matter how hard incarceration had been. As he was led from Terminal Island on March 21, 1967, he begged the escorting officer to let him stay.
25. He soon attracted a group of followers known as ‘The Manson Family’, who went to live at the Spahn Ranch, California
Manson reluctantly moved to San Francisco to pursue a musical career, and his strange aura soon attracted a group of besotted and psychologically damaged people. Setting himself up as a guru of sorts, Manson attracted mostly middle-class women from broken homes, and announced that he was the Second Coming. He ordered his followers to recruit male members through sex, and soon had sway over around dozens of people, a cult that swallowed his pseudo-Buddhist spiritual teachings line and sinker. After years of drifting, they eventually moved to the Spahn Movie Ranch in exchange for free labor.
24. Manson subjected his brainwashed followers to horrific abuse and control
Manson recruited only the most vulnerable and credulous people into the Family, and exercised a terrifying level of control over them. He convinced them that they were reincarnations of the original Christians, with himself as Christ, and that the authorities were the Romans who persecuted them first-time around. He forbade members from owning anything, including prescription glasses, and dosed them with LSD while he gave his lectures on the future. He forced female members to have sex with each other and forage for food in bins. Even after Charles’s life sentence, one Manson Family member tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford.
23. Manson made friends with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, and even wrote them a song
In 1968, Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys picked up hitchhiking Manson Family members and took them to his house. Sensing a shot at musical glory through the pop star, Manson himself turned up a few days later, and the two became friends. The whole Manson Family even moved into Wilson’s home for a while but were evicted after spending a fortune on his credit cards. Wilson refused to discuss his relationship with Manson after the latter’s murder convictions but, creepily, the Beach Boys song, ‘Never Learn not to Love’, is actually an adaptation of the Manson original, ‘Cease to Exist’.
22. Before their falling-out, Dennis Wilson tried to get Manson a record deal, with nearly disastrous consequences
Manson convinced the Family that stardom was the way to spread their message of love to the world, and even managed to persuade Dennis Wilson to get him an audition with record producer Terry Melcher. Melcher, son of Doris Day, was interested in Manson’s music, but rightly determined that he would be too difficult to work with after the apparently peace-loving hippy pulled a knife on Melcher’s staff when they criticized his performance. Manson auditioned at Melcher’s rented Beverly Hills home at 10050 Cielo Drive, which he would make notorious the following year…
21. He predicted an apocalyptic race war between white and black people was coming
Along with the standard, ‘60s peace-and-love aphorisms, Charles Manson had other messages for the Family. He saw the simmering racial tensions between black and white people in the US, and concluded that there was a global race war coming. It would be kicked off by black people, sick of being oppressed, violently murdering white people, leading to revenge murders of black people. This would quickly erupt into a wholesale civil war across the globe, which black people would eventually win, exterminating all white people in the process, who would also turn against themselves and kill one another.
20. Manson planned to hide out for the war’s duration, then rule the victorious black race with the Beatles
And what did all this mean for the all-white Manson Family, you may wonder? Well, Manson’s big plan was for them to hide with the Beatles in a secret city at the bottom of an abandoned mine shaft he found in Death Valley and wait for it to end as predicted. Once it was all over, they would emerge, and become the rulers of the victorious black race. He believed that black people were incapable of ruling anything because they were made to serve, and so would willingly hand over control to the Manson Family and the Fab Four.
19. This whacky prediction was drawn from the Beatles song, ‘Helter Skelter‘
Manson’s name for the coming race war and its aftermath was Helter Skelter, named after a track from The White Album (1968) by the Beatles. This was no act of whimsy: the album as a whole was seen by Manson as a coded revelation of the race war, and from these hints and intimations he derived his whole prophecy. For example, he thought the song ‘Helter Skelter’ referred to the Family hiding in the mine shaft with the Beatles, rather than getting to the bottom of a slide, and that ‘Piggies’ referred to the black uprising against the white authorities.
18. He planned to kick off racial Armageddon by releasing music with subliminal messages
Just as the Beatles had reached him through subtle messages on The White Album, Manson felt that he could achieve something similar and presumably more widespread with his own music. He planned to write and record a follow-up to The White Album with the Family, which would be a call-to-arms to all black listeners, according to Manson Family member Charles Watson: ‘they were message songs, like the Beatles’, with lots of subtle symbols aimed at the different parts of society that would be involved in what was coming’, in order to kick off Helter-Skelter once and for all.
17. Manson shot a black drug dealer, Bernard Crowe, in May 1969
Manson announced that Helter Skelter was imminent on New Year’s Eve 1968. Preparations began immediately: Manson continued to write his subliminal album whilst the Family gathered weapons and money. Along the way, the Family defrauded Bernard Crowe, a black drug dealer, out of $2,500. Crowe was a hardened criminal and threatened to destroy the Spahn Ranch in retaliation. Seizing the initiative, Manson drove with Family member Thomas Wallemann to kill Crowe first, but Wallemann chickened out, meaning that Manson had to pull the trigger. Crowe survived, but Manson believed he was dead, bragging about having killed another ‘blackie’.
16. Tired of waiting, Manson had members of the Manson Family kill Gary Hinman, in order to frame the Black Power movement and start Helter Skelter, in July 1969
Manson’s album never got made, allegedly because Terry Melcher pulled out, and he grew sick of waiting for Helter Skelter to begin unassisted. In July 1969, Manson changed tactics, and ordered three Family members to the home of Gary Hinman, a student and political activist, initially to get money off him. They held Hinman hostage for 2 days without success, before Manson himself turned up and ordered Bobby Beausoleil to kill him. The words ‘Political piggy’ and a panther paw were daubed on the walls in Hinman’s blood to frame the Black Panther movement and help Helter Skelter along.
15. On August 8, 1969, the Manson Family were ordered to Roman Polanski’s home to murder everyone ‘as gruesome as you can’
On August 8, 1969, Bobby Beausoleil was arrested for Hinman’s murder, and Manson announced Helter Skelter must begin. He ordered Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to kill white celebrities ‘as gruesome as you can’ and make it look like the Black Power movement was responsible. He sent them to 10050 Cielo Drive, where Manson auditioned for Terry Melcher. Melcher no longer lived there, and instead, in August 1969 it was home to Roman Polanski and his young wife, Sharon Tate. This was no accident: Manson personally called at the house beforehand and spoke to Tate.
14. First they murdered an 18-year-old boy leaving the property in his car
The four Manson Family members arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive on the night of August, 8. Watson first cut the home’s telephone line, then they snuck in through a hedge. As they approached the house, a car drove towards them, which Watson halted. The unfortunate driver was Steven Parent, a teenager visiting the home’s caretaker. As he aimed the .22 at the boy’s head, Parent begged for mercy, but Watson simply stabbed and then fatally shot him four times in the chest and abdomen. Watson entered the property through a cut-out window, leaving Kasabian to keep watch outside.
13. Confronted by Wojciech Frykowski, Family member Charles Watson replied ‘I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work’
The four occupants of 10050 Cielo Drive were in bed at around midnight when Watson broke in. They’d spent the evening at a Mexican restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, and everything seemed perfectly ordinary upon their return. While they slept, something was afoot: after letting in Atkins and Krenwinkel, Watson accidentally woke Wojciech Frykowski, a 33-year-old screenwriter spending the night on the couch. When Frykowski asked the Family who they were in his fatigued confusion, Watson brutally kicked him in the head, and uttered the chilling words: ‘I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work’.
12. The Family next rounded up the house’s occupants and began to execute them
Acting on Manson’s orders to ‘totally destroy everyone in [the house]’, Watson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel patrolled the house, rounding everyone up at gun and knife-point and frogmarching them to the lounge. The four occupants were tied up and rough-housed, but Frykowski managed to wriggle free. Atkins stabbed him in the legs, but he made it to the front porch before Watson managed to stab him 51 times, shoot, and pistol-whip him to death. Frykowski’s lover, Abigail Folger, also managed to make a run for it, but was tackled by Krenwinkel by the swimming pool, where Watson fatally stabbed her 28 times.
11. Sharon Tate, 8 and a half months pregnant, was tied to her former lover, who was then executed while still attached
The final two victims were Sharon Tate, the young wife of Roman Polanski who was 8 and a half months pregnant at the time, and the hairstylist Jay Sebring. Polanski himself was in Europe, but Sebring, Tate’s former lover, was there to keep her company. The pair were tied together by their necks with a rope suspended over a beam, and Sebring twice protested about the treatment of the heavily pregnant Tate. In response, Watson shot him while he was still attached to Tate, then fatally stabbed him 7 times in front of the hysterical actress.
10. Tate begged for her unborn baby’s life in vain, as she was stabbed 16 times
After dealing with Frykowski and Folger outside, Watson returned to find Tate sobbing and begging for her life. She asked that they spare her unborn baby’s life, and take her with them as a hostage. ‘It was the first time I’d realized she was pregnant, and for a moment it almost seemed like a good idea’, recalled Watson, ‘but then… Charlie’s [Manson’s] tape whirred, “Kill her!” inside my head’. Atkins simply replied, ‘Look bitch, I don’t care about you’. As Tate called out ‘mother’ over and over again, Watson stabbed her 16 times until she lay lifeless and mutilated.
9. As they left, the Manson Family wrote ‘PIG’ in blood on the front door, again to frame the Black Power movement
The Family had carried out Manson’s orders perfectly. They’d killed everyone at 10050 Cielo Drive ‘as gruesome as possible’ and simultaneously stolen all the money they could find, but one important task remained: to ignite Helter Skelter. So as they were leaving the house, Atkins grabbed the blood-soaked towel she’d used to bind Frykowski’s hands and smeared the word ‘PIG’ in the unfortunate screenwriter’s blood. The ‘logic’ here was that the Black Panther movement had frequent run-ins with the police and establishment, ‘piggies’ in Manson’s warped interpretation of the eponymous Beatles song which predicted this stage of Helter Skelter.
8. The very next day (August 9) Manson took his Family out to murder more people
The following night, Manson summoned the Tate murderers and Leslie Van Houten to commit more atrocities. Manson felt the previous night’s work had been sloppy, and wanted to show the Family how to murder properly. They drove around for three hours reviewing potential victims before settling on Leno and Rosemary LaBianca of Los Feliz. Entering through the unlocked backdoor, they roused the sleeping couple, and, at Manson’s command, brutally stabbed them to death. Watson carved ‘WAR’ into Leno’s stomach, and the words ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘Rise’, and ‘Death to Pigs’ were written in the victims’ blood on the walls and refrigerator.
7. After a bungled, 4-month investigation, the Manson Family were finally charged with the murders
On August 12, the LAPD told the press that there was no connection between the bloody murders of August 8 and 9, overlooking some fairly obvious and intentional similarities. Manson Family members were arrested a few days later, but ironically for vandalizing part of Death Valley National Park weeks before, and Manson himself was arrested a few weeks after the murders for stealing cars. But one of the Family implicated Atkins in the Hinman murder, and whilst in prison Atkins bragged about the Tate and LaBianca massacres. She was indicted, and confessed all: Manson and the Family were charged.
6. The trial lasted 7 months, and all defendants were sentenced to death
After their arrest in December 1969, Manson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel were charged with both the August 7th murders, and Van Houten with murdering the LaBiancas. Linda Kasabian was controversially given immunity in exchange for her witness testimony against the Manson Family, for she had only been an accomplice at 10050 Cielo Drive. The Family’s behavior was bizarre during the 7-month trial: they showed no remorse whatsoever, chanted in Latin, and Manson was prone to strange outbursts. All 4 received the death penalty. Watson was tried separately in 1971 after fighting extradition from Texas, and received the same sentence.
5. Manson was originally sentenced to death, but when California rules changed, he was able to apply for parole
After the trial, more murders came to light for which the guilty parties were convicted, and other Manson Family members were sentenced for crimes committed after their leader’s imprisonment. But in 1972, the People vs Anderson case saw the death penalty outlawed in the state of California, and the Family’s sentences were automatically changed to life imprisonment. This meant that they were able to apply for parole, and Manson made a bid at the earliest possible opportunity in November 1978. His application was thankfully rejected, and he was unsuccessful on a further 11 occasions.
4. Manson had a swastika tattooed between his eyebrows
Throughout their trial, all Family members, including Manson, had the letter ‘X’ carved between their eyebrows to show solidarity. But when Manson suddenly changed his appearance from innocuous-looking, long-haired hippy to thuggish skinhead, he altered the mark into a crude swastika. He later turned this into a tattoo during his incarceration, when he had more time on his hands. ‘The mark on my head simulates the dead head black stamp of rejection, anti-church, falling cross, devil sign, death, terror, fear’, he explained in a 1971 interview. His white supremacist beliefs presumably also contributed to his adoption of the Nazi symbol.
3. In 1984, a fellow inmate set Manson on fire, leaving him with burns covering 20% of his body
At the time of his final, unsuccessful appeal for parole in 2012, Manson had committed 108 serious discipline violations during his incarceration, 35 of which were violent. His predilection for violence, swastika tattoo, and the heinous crimes he committed made him a target for many other prisoners. In 1984, he was involved in a particularly nasty incident at the California Medical Facility. After threatening fellow inmate, Jan Holmstrom, for his religious beliefs, second-degree murderer Holmstrom doused Manson in paint thinner at the facility’s hobby shop and set him on fire. Manson suffered burns on 20% of his body.
2. He died in 2017, having never expressed any remorse for his crimes
In total, Manson was convicted of 9 murders, some of which only came to light during his imprisonment. For decades, he denied all charges against him, but in 2011 he had the following to say to a prison psychologist: ‘I am special. I am not like the average inmate. I have put five people in the grave.’ But although he seems to have admitted to some of the murders for which he was convicted (assuming these weren’t others that hadn’t been discovered), Manson never once showed remorse for what he’d done. He died alone after a heart attack in 2017.
1. Manson has released several albums, and there is still something of a cult surrounding him to this day…
Manson’s trial gave him the level of fame he had long-coveted, and the platform from which to spread his beliefs. Unable to secure a record deal before his arrest in 1969, a recording of 13 of his songs, Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, was released shortly before the trial got underway, and he recorded many other albums during his imprisonment. Manson gave many interviews while in prison, some of which were filmed for documentaries. References to Manson’s thoughts are numerous in popular music but, most disturbingly, he is still idolized by Neo-Nazi groups across the world today.
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