Charles Manson

Dishevelled, maniacal and brandishing a swastika in his forehead, Charles Manson is the physical embodiment of pure evil.

From his ranch in California, Charles Manson was the mastermind behind a series of murders of various high-profile individuals, including actress Sharon Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski.

Through his influence and manipulation, Manson convinced his devoted followers to commit murder in order to usher in a race war between blacks and whites. Here's everything you need to know about the life and crimes of infamous cult leader Charles Manson.

Early Life

Charles Manson was born Charles Milles Maddox on November 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His mother, Kathleen Maddox, was only 16-year-old at the time of giving birth, and was living as a transient after running away from home a year before.

Charles Manson As Kid

Manson's father, while the subject of much speculation, was eventually confirmed to be a 24-year-old laborer from Kentucky known as 'Colonel Scott.' Scott was known as a local con artist, and when Kathleen informed Scott of her pregnancy, Scott disappeared on 'military business' and never returned.

Kathleen supported herself through sex work, but by all accounts was an incompetent mother. She married a man named William Manson, and after being sent to prison for armed robbery, Charles was taken in by a number of relatives. Charles dropped the Maddox name and assumed Manson instead.

Young Charlie suffered through extensive abuse at the hands of those who took him in, and by age 9, he'd already dropped out of school and resorted to stealing. His life echoed that of his mother's; transient, reckless and one substantiated by a growing list of petty crimes.

Marriage, Children & Imprisonment

Manson's resume of offenses grew throughout his teenage years. By 13, he'd added grand theft auto to the list, which resulted in a stay at a reform school. Armed robbery resulted in a similar punishment, to which Charlie later claimed that other prisoners would regularly rape and beat him due to his small stature.

Following numerous escape attempts and a staggering number of violent acts, Manson was transferred to a high security facility for more extensive supervision. Amazingly, Charlie became a model prisoner inside, and was released on parole at age 19.

Shortly after his release, Charlie met his future wife - a 17-year-old waitress named Rosalie Willis. The two escaped to California in a stolen vehicle, and it wasn't long because Charles Manson Jr. was brought into the world.

But before long, Manson returned to his life of crime, stealing vehicles around California and shopping them into shady garages for cash. The authorities soon caught up with Manson, and during a three-year tenure at Terminal Island Prison in San Pedro, California, Rosalie filed for divorce.

Rock N' Roll Ambitions

In 1958, Charlie was released from jail and became a pimp, utilizing the sexual services of young girls around California. Manson was continually busted, including being caught for cashing a forged treasury check. This resulted in a 10-year-sentence at McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington.

It was here that Manson's love of music began to grow. He learned to play the guitar in prison, and soon developed an inflated sense of his own musical ability. Once released, Manson claimed, he would release an album and be bigger than the Beatles.

As later proven, Charlie harbored a deep obsession with the Beatles, and invented his own twisted take into their lyrics and song meanings.

Charles Manson Arrest Photo

In June 1966, Manson was set up for early release from prison. Now, at 32 years old, he'd spent around half of his life in prison. He asked officials if it was possible for him to stay behind bars, but his unusual request was refused. Manson was released out into San Francisco with a few dollars in his pocket and dreams of becoming a successful musician.

Family Origins

Armed with his guitar and a sack full of drugs, Charlie began to attract the attention of the more lost and downtrodden members of the California population.

The first woman to fall under Manson's spell was a librarian named Mary Brunner, who invited Manson to move in with her to her San Francisco apartment. Within months, Brunner was taken by Manson's charisma and his generous offering of narcotics, and so quit her job to spend all day alongside him.

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Manson convinced Brunner to invite more girls to her apartment, and shortly after, Manson and Brunner had 18 young women living in their home. One of these girls was future Manson family mainstay Lynette Fromme.

Most of the girls were from troubled backgrounds; abuse victims, runaways, addicts. They found solace in each other, as well as in Manson's guru-like prophesies and his endless supply of drugs, booze and sex. Charlie was able to apply the manipulation tactics he'd learn behind bars to bend these women to his will.

Shattered Dreams

By late 1968, Manson believed that his 'family' had outgrown San Francisco, and so he took a select few family members and made the trip down to Southern California to set up somewhere with more space.

Through his former prison friend, Gary Hinman, Manson made acquaintance with Dennis Wilson of Beach Boys fame. Wilson not only recorded one of Manson's songs, but Wilson was also mightily impressed with the sway Manson had over his harem of women.

Through this relationship, Manson and his family members were invited to luxurious, celebrity-filled bashes in the Hollywood Hills. Wilson allowed the whole Manson family to stay at his Hollywood mansion, where Manson was given access to all the drugs, drink and groupies he could ever want.

But this relationship was short-lived, as Wilson's manager became concerned about Manson's influence. Manson and his women were ordered out of the mansion and so the celebrity lifestyle the family had become accustomed to was brought to an end.

Furthermore, Manson had met high-profile music producer Terry Melcher (son of actress Doris Day) through Wilson, and Manson believed it was his way into the music industry. However, Melcher immediately rejected Manson, leaving him devastated.

A Cult Following

Blacklisted from Hollywood and back to a life of crime, the Manson family moved to the abandoned Spahn Ranch near Fernando Valley, California. This would remain their cult compound for the rest of their free lives.

Here, they continued their hedonistic pursuits, stealing valuables by day and getting high by night. Manson had recruited a number of loyal followers, including some male members to his family. His followers included: Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian.

Charles Manson

Manson's delusions also began to grow. Each night, he would sit around a campire reciting Bible passages to his followers. Stranger yet, he would preach his interpretations of Beatles song lyrics, believing that all their songs had hidden meanings, some of which were directed at the Manson family themselves.

Helter Skelter

The one song Manson was particularly obsessed with was 'Helter Skelter' off the newly-released White Album.

Charles Manson's interpretation of the lyrics was that it foretold an upcoming race war between blacks and whites. Manson believed black people would win this war, and then would elect Manson as God of their new world.

Manson waited for this upcoming war to rear its head, believing it would come in the summer of 1969, but nothing happened. Therefore, he decided he would take matters into his own hands and kick-start this revolution himself.

He'd do this, he decided, by murdering high-profile individuals and blaming it on the Black Panther political party.

The First Murder

In the process of these senseless killings, Manson also realized he could simultaneously exact vengeance on a few people who had wronged him in the past.

The first of these unfortunate people was Gary Hinman, the same man who'd connected Manson with music producer Terry Melcher. Manson had heard that Hinman had recently acquired a windfall and Manson wanted to steal it.

Therefore, he ordered his followers to invade Hinman's home and demand the money. They did exactly that on July 25, 1969, but Hinman refused to hand over the cash.

Manson arrived after learning of Hinman's refusal, then sliced his ear off with a sword. Afterward, he ordered his followers to kill Hinman. They stabbed him to death, then left a bloody panther print on the wall of his home.

The Tate-LaBianca Murders

The next target of Charlie's wrath was Terry Melcher himself, the producer who'd rejected his music proposals.

On August 8, 1969, Manson ordered followers Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Tex Watson to Melcher's home. Manson's instructions were to 'destroy everyone inside, making it as gruesome as possible.'

The Tate Murders

But when Manson's family arrived at Melcher's home, they discovered he didn't live there anymore. The house was being leased by film director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate, who at the time was 8-months pregnant. Polanski was in Europe at the time on business.

On the night of her death, Tate was entertaining four guests: celebrity stylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent.

The Manson family arrived at the residence around midnight, first cutting the telephone wire, then ambushing the first victim, Steven Parent, as he arrived at the property in his car.

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Linda Kasabian kept watch while the other Manson family members invaded the home. They gathered the occupants together in the lounge, with Watson first shooting and stabbing Sebring to death.

An altercation followed with Frykowski, to which Watson shot him twice in the back. Meanwhile, Folger had escaped outside, but Patricia Krenwinkel chased her down and stabbed her.

Charles Manson Photo

Lastly was the pregnant Sharon Tate. Watson bound her with rope, then stabbed her until both she and her baby were dead. Before leaving, they wrote the word 'PIG' on the wall in blood.

The LaBianca Murders

The next night, the Manson family killed again. The target this time was Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Leno was a supermarket executive and Rosemary was a dress shop owner.

This time, Manson was present for the murder, although his role in them is subject to speculation. Some reports state that the cult leader refused to enter the home until Leno and Rosemary were restrained. Others state he was inside for the whole thing.

After invading their home, Manson ordered each of his girls to play a part in the victims' deaths. They all did, stabbing Leno and Rosemary repeatedly. One of the followers carved 'WAR' into Leno's stomach, while Krenwinkel wrote'RISE' and 'DEATH TO PIGS' on the wall.

Charles Manson's Arrest

Hollywood was on high alert after the killings reached the news. Police were desperate to make headway, but found no solid evidence at any of the crime scenes.

But around two months later in October 1969, police linked the killing of Hinman to Tate-LaBianca murders. Their investigation led them to Spahn Ranch, but once again, a lack of evidence prevented them from making any arrests.

However, the same month, 24 Manson family members were arrested on grand theft charges after stealing VW Beetles and converting them into dune buggies.

They were taken into custody, and it was only a matter of time before one of them accidentally let spill about their involvement with the recent murders.

That person was Susan Atkins. She boasted to someone in her jail that she'd been the one to kill actress Sharon Tate. She claimed she was the one who did it, but that it was all Charles Manson's plan.

A Murderous Past

Officers soon pieced together the evidence based on the new information. They found one of Patricia Krenwinkel's fingerprints at the crime scene, essentially implicating the entire Manson family. More evidence soon surfaced, including Atkins's knife and Watson's service revolver.

The Manson family were sent to trial for the Tate-LaBianca murders. The defendants were: Charles Milles Manson, Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel. Tex Watson was tried separately.

The trial started on July 15, 1970. Manson regularly appeared in shabby clothing, and later arrived with an X carved into his forehead.

Manson's Sentencing

While their guilt was determined, the jury deliberated on what punishment the defendants should receive. Atkins, Van Houten and Krenwinkel all testified that Charlie didn't carry out any killings himself - which was true.

Charles Manson Prison Photo

However, his influence could not be understated. Therefore, they found Manson, Krenwinkel and Atkins guilty of first degree murder in all seven of the Tate and LaBianca killings. They found Van Houten guilty of murder in the first degree in the LaBianca killings.

On March 29, 1971, all four were sentenced to death. Three years later, this was commuted to life imprisonment following the recently abolished death penalty in California.

Cultural Impact

Despite his horrific actions, Charles Manson remains something of a cultural icon, even four decades on from his crimes.

Charlie has become the poster child for counter-culture; someone for the hippies and weirdos of the world to latch onto and even celebrate. The world's obsession with Manson is as prevalent as ever, perhaps even more so in our politically and economically divided times.

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But once again, this is Manson's manipulation tactics at work, but this time not just on his followers but on the general public.

The impression that Manson was a free love-preaching hippy is highly misleading. Manson wasn't an outsider or a rogue product of sixties hippy movement. He was a manipulator and a con man who abused the elements of hippy counterculture to worm his way to wealth and power.

The narrative of Manson's mythical status has since diminished since his incarceration. Behind his erratic behavior and his nonsensical ramblings there's a mundane, exploitative narcissist who abused women and used drugs as a bargaining tool to gain prominence.

Charles Manson's Death

Charles Manson moved through various prison systems during his life imprisonment. He spent many years at the famous San Quentin prison in California being housed in Corcoran for the remainder of his sentence.

On November 15, 2017, Manson was rushed to a hospital in Bakersfield, California, allegedly suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding. Two days later on November 19, Charles Manson passed away. His ashes were scattered on an undisclosed California hillside.

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When did Charles Manson die?

Charles Manson died on November 19, 2017 from natural causes. He was 83 years old at the time of his death and had been in prison for 45 years.

How tall was Charles Manson?

Charles Manson was 5 ft 6 inches (168 cm). Many sources report him to only be 5 ft 2 inches (157cm) but this isn't true.

What did Charles Manson do?

Charles Manson was an American cult leader who convinced his followers to carry out a spree of murders throughout California. Under his influence, Manson's followers killed five people, including actress Sharon Tate.

Who did Charles Manson kill?

While Charles Manson didn't personally carry out any killings, his followers killed famed actress Sharon Tate, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Steven Parent, Leno LaBianca, Rosemary LaBianca, Gary Hinman and Donald Shea.

How did Charles Manson die?

Charles Manson died of natural causes in prison hospital on November 19, 2017.

Why did Charles Manson kill Sharon Tate?

Charles Manson killed Sharon Tate for two reasons. The first reason was that the previous owner of Tate's home was music producer Terry Melcher, and Mulcher had refused to record an album with Manson. The second was that Manson wanted to begin a "race war," by killing whites and blaming the murders on black people.

Where is Charles Manson buried?

Charles Manson was cremated after his death. His ashes were scattered on a California hillside.

Where was Charles Manson from?

Charles Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1934, but moved to Los Angeles, California in 1955.

How long was Charles Manson in prison?

Charles Manson was incarcerated in 1972 and passed away in 2017. He was in prison for 45 years.

What was Charles Manson convicted of?

Charles Manson was convicted of 9 counts of murder and 1 count of conspiracy to commit murder. He was originally sentenced to death, but later changed to life in prison.

When was Charles Manson arrested?

Charles Manson and his followers were arrested on October 12, 1969. He was initially arrested on charges of grand theft auto, but his murderous past came to light after officers interrogated other members of the Manson family.

How did Charles Manson get caught?

In October 1969, Charles Manson and his followers were arrested on suspicion of stealing vehicles. This led to them uncovering the fact they were responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders.

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