Charles Manson Dies; The World's Morbid Fascination Continues

Charles Manson, the mass-murderer and leader of the "drug-induced flock of followers " known as the Manson family died aged 83 of natural causes at 8.13pm on Sunday night.

Although his followers committed the seven “Tate-La Bianca” murders in the summer of 1969, Manson was convicted of murder for directing them and was sentenced to death in 1971. He was spared when the death penalty was abolished in California following a supreme court ruling in 1972. Footage of Manson and his female followers in the Manson family have surfaced a number of times over the years as their bids to be released were repeatedly rejected at parole hearings. During a parole hearing in 2012, John Peck, a member of the parole panel, quoted Manson as saying to one of his prison psychologists.

“I’m special. I’m not like the average inmate. I have spent my life in prison. I have put five people in the grave. I am a very dangerous man.”

Following Manson’s death, a statement was released by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation which contained the most recent photo.

From the Associated Press.

In the summer of 1969, a scruffy ex-convict with a magnetic hold on young women sent some of his disciples into the night to carry out a series of gruesome killings in Los Angeles. In so doing, Charles Manson became the leering face of evil on front pages across America and rewrote the history of an era. Manson, the hippie cult leader who died of natural causes Sunday at age 83 after nearly half a century behind bars, orchestrated the slayings of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people, butchered at two homes on successive August nights by intruders who scrawled “Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” (sic) in the victims’ blood. The slaughter horrified the world. To many, the collateral damage included the era of peace, love and flower power. The Manson Family killings, along with the bloodshed later that year during a Rolling Stones concert at California’s Altamont Speedway, seemed to expose the violent and drug-riddled underside of the counterculture and sent a shiver of fear through America. “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969,” author Joan Didion wrote in her 1979 book “The White Album.”

Manson was every parent’s worst nightmare. The short, shaggy-haired man with hypnotic eyes was a charismatic figure with a talent for turning middle-class youngsters into mass murderers. At a former movie ranch outside Los Angeles, he and his devotees — many of them young runaways who likened him to Jesus Christ — lived commune-style, using drugs and taking part in orgies. Children from privileged backgrounds ate garbage from supermarket trash. “These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them; I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up,” he said in a courtroom soliloquy.

Fear swept the city after a maid reporting for work ran screaming from the elegant home where Tate lived with her husband, “Rosemary’s Baby” director Roman Polanski. Scattered around the estate were blood-soaked bodies. The beautiful 26-year-old actress, who was 8½ months pregnant, was stabbed and hung from a rafter in her living room. Also killed were Abigail Folger, heiress to a coffee fortune; Polish film director Voityck Frykowksi; Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker; and celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, killed by Manson follower Charles “Tex” Watson, who announced his arrival by saying: “I am the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work.” The next night, wealthy grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, were stabbed to death in their home in another neighborhood. Manson was arrested three months later.

The rationale for Manson’ murder spree has been much discussed in the intervening 48 years. The most colourful explanation is that he believed that the lyrics in the Beatles’ White Album, notably the song “Helter Skelter”, were directing him to start a race war in America. Helter Skelter is also the name of the best-selling book about the Manson family murders written by his prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. An alternative explanation is that he was angry with society when, unlike the Beatles, he was denied a recording contract. Manson’s background was undoubtedly a contributing factor as AP continues:

Manson’s childhood was a blueprint for a life of crime. He was born in Cincinnati on Nov. 12, 1934, to a teenager, possibly a prostitute. When he was 5, his mother went to prison for armed robbery. By the time he was 8, he was in reform school. He spent years in and out of penal institutions. “My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system,” he said in a monologue on the witness stand. “I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you.”

Manson’s chaotic trial in 1970 transformed a courtroom into a theater of the absurd. He and three female followers, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, sang and chanted, and Manson at one point launched himself across the counsel table at the judge. Many of his followers camped outside the courthouse, threatening to immolate themselves if he was convicted. When Manson carved an “X″ in his forehead, his co-defendants did the same, saying they were “Xed out of society.” He later changed his “X″ to a swastika. Despite the overwhelming evidence, he maintained his innocence. “I have killed no one, and I have ordered no one to be killed,” Manson said.

Manson’s wild-eyed stare and the brutality of the murders have sustained a morbid fascination for people in the US and around the world. This is from the New York Times.

The Tate-LaBianca killings and the seven-month trial that followed were the subjects of fevered news coverage. To a frightened, mesmerized public, the murders, with their undercurrents of sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and Satanism, seemed the depraved logical extension of the anti-establishment, do-your-own-thing ethos that helped define the ’60s. Since then, the Manson family has occupied a dark, persistent place in American culture — and American commerce. It has inspired, among other things, pop songs, an opera, films, a host of internet fan sites, T-shirts, children’s wear and half the stage name of the rock musician Marilyn Manson.

This is AP’s take on the same issue.

The Manson case, to this day, remains one of the most chilling in crime history,” prominent criminal justice reporter Theo Wilson wrote in her 1998 memoir, “Headline Justice: Inside the Courtroom — The Country’s Most Controversial Trials.”


“Even people who were not yet born when the murders took place,” Wilson wrote, “know the name Charles Manson, and shudder.”

We suspect that now he’s dead, the fascination with Charles Manson and the “Tate-La Bianca” killings is not going to diminish, far from it. At its heart, people still want an answer to the question “why?”.

The New York Times summed it up this way: "Throughout the decades since, Mr. Manson has remained an enigma. Was he a paranoid schizophrenic, as some observers have suggested? Was he a sociopath, devoid of human feeling? Was he a charismatic guru, as his followers once believed and his fans seemingly still do? Or was he simply flotsam, a man whose life, The New York Times wrote in 1970, “stands as a monument to parental neglect and the failure of the public correctional system."


Haus-Targaryen TahoeBilly2012 Mon, 11/20/2017 - 06:03 Permalink

Its not too often we have the ability to look at someone as pure evil.  Even the most "evil" people in world history -- the most famous ones -- have small groups of followers who say that they "weren't evil but misunderstood"Manson was one of the few everyone, from left to right, male to female could unanimously agree was the true embodiment of evil. Now that the world has some 6 billion more people than it did when he was born; how many more Mansons are out there today, walking among us?  

In reply to by TahoeBilly2012

how_this_stuff_works kralizec Mon, 11/20/2017 - 09:08 Permalink

"Manson is poster boy of excess permissiveness."

I doubt that. According to a WaPo article, he was born in 1934 to a 16 y/o mother. That'd have been pretty shameful back then. You know how kids can get blamed for the sins of the parents. Article says he was shuffled around relatives, so in essence he was homeless and unwanted. That screws with a kid's mind. Plus, there may have been some mental instability in his genetic code.

I'm not excusing his behavior. He did what he did and there was (virtually) no doubt. The most expeditious thing would have been euthanization as he was irredeemable. But those eyes, yeah, I'd go with schizophrenia too.

In reply to by kralizec

CaptainObvious how_this_stuff_works Mon, 11/20/2017 - 09:44 Permalink

Have you ever read "Helter Skelter", the book mentioned in this article?  There's some speculation that Manson's father was black.  How taboo was that in 1934? The part of the book that details Manson's childhood basically reads like a rap sheet.  He spent most of his childhood in reform school and prison.  As an extremely petite man, he was the prison bitch, I'm sure, so part of Manson's special brand of insanity could be related to his prison experiences.Nevertheless, it's astonishing how magnetic Manson was.  He was friendly with members of the Beach Boys, so much so that he was in possession of one of their gold records.  The land the Manson Family lived on sometimes was owned by an important record executive.  And of course, there's the total control he exercised over his Family.  Manson was able to manipulate his Family members, and the hangers-on of the Family, to an astonishing degree, so I tend toward the sociopath diagnosis.

In reply to by how_this_stuff_works

Bemused Observer CaptainObvious Mon, 11/20/2017 - 10:26 Permalink

You had several things converge in young Manson's world...the 'sociopathy' bred from growing up uncared-for, the sytem that incarcerated these young boys and threw them into close contact with professional criminals, and Manson's own unique personality style, which made him a perfect cult-leader. He was born with the natural ability to lead and influence people, and his upbringing and early years gave him both the anger and the skills needed to refine that into what we ended up with.What Manson actually HAD was all the qualities needed for success, he was born a shooting star that quickly flamed out and crashed. Had things gone differently, he might have become one of the movers and shakers in the world today.I want to know WHY. A bad upbringing, and some bad luck, might satisfy some people, but not me. Plenty of people have lived through stuff as bad or worse, yet didn't take that same path, in fact, they are inspired to GREATER things as a result. There's something else, something we're missing here. And we need to find out what that is. We need to STUDY these people.But every time we get a hold of one, you guys all want to execute him, and he ends up taking all his secrets to the grave. Well, let me tell you something...there are others out there, other Mansons, other Bundy's, other Gacy's...right NOW. They haven't started killing yet, but they WILL. SOMETHING about these people is different, something stands out that we would SEE if we knew where to look.Some of us would really like to find out. So please stop killing our lab rats, it is making it very difficult for us to study them. We promise they will die in our custody, AFTER we have extracted all the useful info we can. It didn't take the death penalty for Manson to die in State custody...time took care of that. No one was EVER going to parole him, ever, so there was no hurry. It's too bad we weren't able to use that time constructively with him, as he was just warehoused in that prison.Think of it like a disease...something is going around, and it is fatal. So you finally isolate the causative organism, and bring it to the lab, where techs take it from you, throw it in the sink, douse it with bleach, and toss it in the incinerator, yelling, "It's BAD! We need to KILL it!"I guess we won't be learning anything from THAT sample. And don't hold your breath waiting for a 'cure'.

In reply to by CaptainObvious

Bemused Observer how_this_stuff_works Mon, 11/20/2017 - 09:54 Permalink

He is the poster boy for a malfunctioning justice system. He was not raised by his young prostitute mother...he spent most of his formative years in institutions, usually prisons. THAT'S who raised him. The system was suppose to be taking these troubled kids and teaching them what their parents could not...that was the theory anyway. In reality, they simply took him from one dysfunctional environment and put him an another, then walked away.He learned, all right. From the other inmates. But they weren't following the State's 'lesson plan'. Unfortunately for a lot of people, he was an A-student.

In reply to by how_this_stuff_works

Déjà view nmewn Mon, 11/20/2017 - 08:13 Permalink

Calley apologizes for my role in My Lai Massacre...

Calley, 66, was a young Army lieutenant when a court-martial at nearby Fort Benning convicted him of murder in 1971 for killing 22 civilians during the infamous massacre of 500 men, women and children in Vietnam.

Though sentenced to life in prison, Calley ended up serving three years under house arrest...…

Charlie never apologized!

In reply to by nmewn

Bemused Observer nmewn Mon, 11/20/2017 - 09:46 Permalink

And I'll bet that felt good. For about 5 minutes. Then everyone has to come to terms with the fact that 1) All of the victims remain dead. 2) The perpetrator has now taken all of the info locked in his brain to the grave, where it can never be retrieved. And 3) 'We the People' now have blood on our hands. Sure, it may have been 'justified', but was it the right thing to do? I mean, we are executing the guy because he planned and committed deliberate planning and committing HIS deliberate murder. And as 'justified' as we may feel it IS, what does it really SAY about us to do this thing?God allows us justice, but we are not permitted to take vengeance. THAT is God's alone to seek. We HAD justice when we caught and confined Bundy...he was stopped, and would be held accountable for what he had done. We should have left it there, and put Mr. Bundy straight into a secure facility where he would be picked apart and examined thoroughly, every organ biopsied and tested, all fluids collected, brain scans and daily psych sessions where every thought, every utterance, is laid on the table and dissected. And this should be his routine till the day he dies on his own.ALL of this data should be gathered and looked at...eventually something is going go start standing out, and we might actually LEARN something we can USE. How much better would it be if we didn't have to argue about executing a man like Bundy, but if we could STOP him before he amasses a body count? Before Bundy was a serial killer he was, well, Bundy. But the serial killer was IN there, we just couldn't SEE him then. Imagine if we COULD? Imagine if we really knew what to look for, in those early days before the killing starts?

In reply to by nmewn

Bemused Observer nmewn Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:11 Permalink

I'm sorry about your friend, and I do understand the rage that makes a person just want to smash. It's normal, natural to feel that way. It's also why close friends and family are NEVER permitted on the juries that judge these people.While you mourn your friend, there are, as we speak, numerous "Margarets" out there, who will never know, or be able to avoid, the next 'Bundy' that crosses their path. And we will have no way to spot them either. The death penalty ensures that.If sparing the life of a murderer many years ago could have led to a discovery that spared the life of your friend, would you do it? And keep in mind that the friends and family of THAT killer's victim would probably feel a lot like you do...

In reply to by nmewn

Bemused Observer Theosebes Goodfellow Mon, 11/20/2017 - 09:20 Permalink

Hey, if all you do is warehouse your prisoners, then yeah, it's gonna cost you, and plenty. But it is your own stupidity if you choose not to make use of this unexpected resource. And I don't mean work-gangs or forced labor...that is just juvenile petty vengeance type stuff that ends up being a waste of time and resources. Having captives perform mindless make-work tasks may make some people feel good, but where is the benefit to society?Everyone wants to know why these people keep committing crimes...what makes them TICK? Well, you have already acquired the pool of test subjects, and have them all under one roof so to speak, why not start conducting intensive research? Make it a condition of their sentence, that they participate in this study.I'll bet folding money that, for most of the past 40 or so years, Manson has largely been left to his own devices, free to 'talk' to the voices in his head all day long. Seen by the prison shrink every 3 months, asked a bunch of rote questions, gives a bunch of 'uncooperative' answers, sent back to his cell till the next visit...He should have spent that time living like a sort of lab rat, being poked, prodded, and having his brain picked over thoroughly by a team of professionals. This man, and others like him, are disease organisms, human bacilli...why are they not being studied? If a fatal disease was going around, and you managed to contain the causative organism, wouldn't you study the SHIT outta that thing? Or would you just slap a lid on the tube and shove it in the back of a drawer?

In reply to by Theosebes Goodfellow

MisterMousePotato Ecclesia Militans Mon, 11/20/2017 - 14:55 Permalink

I once spent a very-long-into-the-wee-hours Saturday night bouncing from one YouTube video to the next, the subject of which was the existance of lizard/reptilian people.In a sane world, I would keep that to myself, but I live in a world where people like James Carville and Maxine Waters and Henry Waxman and Mitch McConnell hold sway over the vast majority of people.I mean ... have you LOOKED at these people? Sure, there's a superficial resemblance to human beings, but there's also something definitely alien about them, too.By the way, I did not see even one video or photograph that I found even slightly persuasive or compelling.All I saw were videos of Hillary and the videographer's voice saying, "See? Lizard people!"Wait.... .

In reply to by Ecclesia Militans