The Manson Family first came to public attention in the late summer of 1969, when the heavily pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends were found murdered at her home. It quickly became apparent that the Manson family were responsible for the fatal attack, and the truth about their group stunned and shocked the western world.
Charles Manson was the leader of the group, who subjected his followers to a barrage of drug induced states by feeding them a constant supply of LSD. He used his woven notion of Helter Skelter as a scare tactic, promising his group that they one day be the leaders of the world.
Charles Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 12th 1934 to a 16 year old girl named Kathleen Maddox. The troubled young woman had a heavy drinking problem, and was sentenced to five years imprisonment in 1939 for armed robbery. Manson was then sent to live with his aunt and uncle, where they imposed deeply religious moral values upon him, and made him attend church. Neighbours recall how Charles was well looked after by his family, and received everything he wanted in terms of material possessions. However, in reality, all the young Manson wanted was to have a connection with his mother, and this was the one thing he could not have. He grew increasingly close to an uncle of his who lived in the Kentucky mountains. He was extremely anti-establishment, and taught these values to his young nephew.
When Manson was nine years old he set his school on fire and was quickly moved to a reform school for boys. He was deeply unhappy, and after 10 months, he ran away in search of his mother. By this point, Maddox had been released from prison and Charles was able to locate her. Unfortunately for him, his mother rejected him, and fuelled a hatred inside him that still lingers to this day.
“The only thing my mother ever taught me was that everything she said was a lie.”
Charles Manson soon began a life of petty crimes, including breaking into grocery stores and robbery. In 1949 he was sent to Father Flanagan’s Boys Town, where it was said that he could be given a better start in life. He ran away after only four days and resorted back to his criminal ways. As he grew older, his criminal activities grew harsher, as did his punishments. When he was 13 years old, he committed his first armed robbery, and was sent to the Indiana School for boys. It was at this school where Manson claims he was repetitively raped and beaten, and he ran away a total of 18 times.
The rap sheet of Charles Manson between 1951 and 1967 consisted of a wide variety of crimes, consisting of mail theft, forgery and theft and pimping. By 1967, Manson was fully institutionalised, and when he was released it is said that he pleaded to stay in the only place he knew as home. He spent most of his days sat in his cell writing and playing music, refusing to take part in the usual prison day activities and schemes. Prison helped to determine the way in which Manson perceived the world, shaping a bias towards criminals, and a growing hatred for society on the outside. In an interview some years later, Manson explains that in prison, if you lie, you get punched. This taught him to grow up with brutal honesty, and he was sickened by the attitudes of people outside of jail.
When Manson was released from prison in 1967, he was let out into a world that he knew nothing of. By the late 1960’s the all-loving, LSD taking flower children had turned to stimulant drugs such as Cocaine and Speed and the scene was changing. Once, San Francisco was renowned for being the Hippy capital of the world, consisting of freedom, love and legal drugs. As Manson was released, he came out into a culture that was now about drugs, paranoia and violence and quickly took advantage of this.
“When I got out, all of your children came to me, because they never had anybody tell them the truth.”
Manson began to enlist a group of followers which were predominantly middles class white girls, and he began to use them in order to entice men into his group. Referring to the prettiest girls as his ‘Front Street Girls’, he would offer sexual intercourse to any males that appeared interested in the newly formed group. As the group grew, Manson began exercising an immense amount of power over his followers, and members of the community such as Manson’s parole officer were becoming increasingly concerned. When Manson attended his weekly parole meetings, he brought his female followers with him, demonstrating an orchestrated act for his parole officer.
Later in 1967, Charles Manson and his group left San Francisco for a life on the road and finally ended up in L.A. Manson was a keen musician, who believed he was destined to be a part of the rock ‘n’ roll scene. Shortly after their arrival into L.A, two of the Manson family girls were hitch-hiking, and picked up by Dennis Wilson from the Beach Boys, who brought them back to his home. Within days, the rest of the Manson Family had turned up on his doorstep and moved in. The group lived in Wilson’s house for a few months, and in this time, Wilson managed to arrange some time for Manson to record his music in a recording studio. Frustratingly for Manson, he gained no notoriety for his music and the recording turned into a failure.
In August 1968, Family member Susan Atkins found the group their new home: A disused western film set, located in Death Valley called Spahn Ranch. Isolated from society, Manson’s followers used role play as a way of discarding their previous egos, and becoming what ever Charles Manson wanted them to be.
The teachings of Charles Manson began with the notion of oneness and the power of truth and love. He was also an avid reader of the Bible, and was particularly interested in the Book of Revelation. He claimed to believe that he was the ‘fifth angel’ (taken from Verse 1 of the Book of Revelation) and that he held the key ‘to the pit of the abyss.’
In 1968, Manson was introduced to the newly released White Album by the Beatles, and quickly became infatuated. He combined his two obsessions and created a doomsday vision of a race war that would ultimately end with the death of the white man. Infamously known as Helter Skelter, this philosophy dictated that a civil war was about to begin between black and white people. The Family were to hide out in the desert whilst this war was taking place, waiting for the right opportunity to show themselves. Manson concluded that the black race would struggle to survive, due to their inexperience at leadership. They would turn to any surviving white people for help; thus being the perfect opportunity for the Family to emerge. The group members would eventually become world leaders, giving them ultimate power in a new world.
The summer of 1969 brought about a new wave of paranoia and fear to Manson and his Family, when Manson shot a drug dealer named Bernard Crowe in the stomach. Believing that he had killed this man, and that he was also a member of the Black Panthers, Manson became increasingly distraught and paranoid. His teachings grew darker, preaching that there was no wrong or right, and that death was not only a part of life, but the beginning of a new one. He spoke more and more of death and the Helter Skelter scenario, and many experts argue that he was suffering severe delusions. However, his followers consumed his every word, believing that he was the second coming of Christ.
As time passed and no sign of Helter Skelter was showing, Manson became extremely frustrated, and began preaching that the group would have to to something to kick-start the impending race war. This is when the notion of murder was introduced into the Family’s doctrine and justified.
The controversy which surrounds Charles Manson as a cult leader shows him to be an extremely dominating character, who imposed his will upon many of his group members. Particularly at the beginning of the group, Manson searched predominantly for young and troubled middle-class white girls. These girls were naïve in their nature, and were searching for answers that only Manson appeared to have. Once these girls were in his group, he began to pimp them out, selling their bodies to make money, and using them to lure men into the group.
Many of the Family experiences were drug induced, and Manson fed his family LSD on a continual basis, to experience another plane of thought with him. The majority of his followers were completely powerless under the influence of the LSD, and clung to Manson almost like a safety blanket. He preached powerful sermons at his followers whilst on LSD, including re-enacting the crucifix. The reason he managed to remain clam and in control during these trips was because the majority of the time he wasn’t taking any.
The rules of the Family were strict and in keeping with traditional cult fashion. He demanded that his followers killed off their old ego, and became whatever he wanted them to be. When the group lived out at Spahn Ranch, Manson ordered the group members to play numerous roles, creating new identities for them everyday, in the hope that they would wash away their old selves. He would often discipline his followers for still showing signs of their identities, screaming “you’re not dead yet.”
Manson monitored each move made by the Family members, allowing them to only do as he approved. Whilst Manson denies treating members in this way, former group members stand strong in their allegations. They were only allowed to listen to music by the Beatles, The Moody Blues, or by Manson himself, and were drawn in to the idea of mirroring their saviour. Manson would perform practices where he would pull an array of strange and distorted faces, and his followers had to join in, copying his every expression.
The Hinman Murder
The first murder committed by the Family was July 25th 1969, just weeks before the ‘Tate murders’. Three Family members ( Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins) were sent to the home of Gary Hinman, who was a music teacher and alleged mescaline manufacturer. Under strict instructions from Manson, the three group members were not to leave the property without obtaining a large sum of money from Hinman. Many experts debate on what this money was, but one theory is that Manson wanted it back for some bad drugs he purchased from Hinman. The other theory is that Hinman inherited this money, and Manson wanted it.
Regardless of the finer details, the Manson family held Hinman hostage for three days. At one point, Manson entered and sliced Hinman’s ear off with a sword. At the end of the three days, Manson allegedly ordered his demise, and Gary Hinman was stabbed to death . Manson wanted to make this look like an attack by the Black Panthers for two reasons: To take any suspicion away from him and his group, and to make people think the black community had began killing the whites, thus kick-starting Helter Skelter. “Political Piggy” was written in Hinman’s blood on the wall, alongside a bloody paw print, to point investigators in the direction of the Black Panthers. The plan did not work, and Bobby Beausoleil was arrested on August 6th, just two days before the killing frenzy.
The Tate and Labianca Murders
On the night of August 8th 1969, four Family members were sent by Charles Manson to 10050 Cielo Drive, the home of the celebrity couple Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. Their orders were to kill everyone there, and leave the scene the same way they did with the Hinman murder; leave bloody messages behind to make investigators believe this was another attack by the Black Panthers.
Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian did as they were instructed. Tex first shot Steven Parent, who was visiting the caretaker on the property. He was leaving the property in his car when he was approached and killed. The group entered the house and tied up and killed the people residing there, which were:
Pregnant actress, Sharon Tate
Coffee Heiress, Abigail Folger
Wojciech Frykowski, a friend of Sharon’s husband, Roman Polanski
Hair stylist, Jay Sebring
When authorities found the scene the next day, officers were horrified by the grotesque mess that was purposely left behind. There was blood throughout the house, including on the back doorstep, close to where Abigail Folger’s body was found in the back garden. Sharon Tate lay inside the house with a rope tied around her neck, and then looped onto the beam above. On the other end of the rope was Jay Sebring. Wojciech Frykowski was found lying dead on the front lawn, and on the front door “Pig” was written in Sharon Tate’s blood. In total, there was 102 stab wounds afflicted on the victims.
At first, no one knew who was responsible for this ghastly attack, and rumours spread across the country. It became apparent that the grounds caretaker, William Garretson was on the property during the killings, and although he denied having an part in the murders, he became the first suspect in the case. Others presumed it to be some kind or drug hit, whilst more people thought it was an attack on celebrity. Celebrities including Frank Sinatra fled the area in fear for their safety, and the whole of society was shaken.
Whilst the country was still reeling from the Tate murders, the second attack was about to take place the very next night at the Labianca residence. Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Steve Grogan, Leslie Van Houten, and Linda Kasabian approached the home of Rosemary and Leno Labianca, and watched as Manson and Watson went into the house to tie the couple up. Leaving Watson in the building, Manson left, and on his way out, he ordered Krenwinkel and Van Houten to join Watson and kill the Labiancas. They carried out their orders.
Police found the scene as horrific as the previous Tate killings, but they were convinced that it was simply a copycat killing. Leno Labianca was found in his home with a carving fork protruding from his stomach, and a knife in his throat. The word ‘War’ was etched into his flesh.
Leno’s wife, Rosemary was found in the bedroom with a pillowcase over her head and a lamp cord tied around her neck. Messages had been left on the wall in the couples blood, saying: ‘Death to pigs’ and ‘Rise.’ On the door of the refrigerator ‘Helter Skelter’ was written, once again in their blood. The victims were stabbed a total of 67 times that night.
During the investigation of the Tate murders, the Family were questioned and arrested under a non related auto theft charge. They quickly retreated back into their ranch, but were arrested once again for auto theft and arson. One of the arrested group members, Susan Atkins, bragged to other prisoners of her role in both sets of killings. Her fellow inmates were not impressed, and reported their findings to the authorities, exposing the Manson Family for their murderous acts. In December 1969, five Family members were arrested for the murders, one of which was Charles Manson. As he technically did not murder any of the victims, nor was he even in the buildings when the killing took place, Manson could not be tried for murder. He was brought into the station under circumstantial evidence, and by law of conspiracy, and the trail of the century was set to take place.
On June 15th 1970 the trial of Susan Atkins (21 years old), Patricia Krenwinkel (21), Leslie Van Houten (19), and Charles Manson (35) began. The trial of ‘Tex’ Watson was to be held separately.
Manson was initially granted permission to act as his own defence attorney, but due to his bizarre and incomprehensible conduct, this was quickly revoked, and Manson was forced to hire a professional. He selected an attorney called Irving Kanarack for himself, and appointed a separate team for the three girls. In response to Manson’s refusal, he carved an ‘X’ into his forehead, to represent his removal from society. Within days, the three girls followed suit, along with remaining Family members who were not begin prosecuted.
Atkins, Krenwinkel and Manson were all charged with seven counts of murder, and one of conspiracy. Van Houten, however, was not present at the Tate murders, and was therefore charged with two counts of murder and one of conspiracy. Former group member Linda Kasabian was granted immunity from prosecution, providing that she gave a testimony on the nights of the killings. She became the prosecution’s main witness, alongside other former group members such as Barbara Hoyt.
Many remaining members of the Family loitered outside the courtroom, in the corridors and outside the courthouse. Reporters decscribed a ‘festive’ atmosphere, as the Manson tribe did their best to show the media that they were not monsters. Their efforts appear to be in vain, as the bizarre behaviour of Manson and the three girls spiralled into lunacy, demonstrating his hold over them to the world. Each morning before trial, Manson and the girls would meet to discuss their plan and strategy for the day. Krenwinkel described how Manson always had a list of instructions for things they had to do or say, orchestrating their attitudes and responses. One morning, the three girls walked hand in hand to the courtroom smiling and singing one of their leader’s songs. The world recoiled in horror as these three murderesses sang for the camera, displaying their affection for the notorious Charles Manson.
The trial was a media sensation, with news reporters coming from across the world to catch a glimpse at the mysterious group. Manson relished in the spotlight, feeling that finally he was getting the attention he deserved. In court, he spent his time trying to intimidate and amuse, playing up to the press and the spectators. He would often stare at members of the jury, along with witnesses to perpetuate his name of being a bizarre and evil monster.
At the beginning of August that year, President Nixon gave a speech on the Tate and Labianca murders. In this speech, he declared that Manson and his Family were all guilty of this abhorrent crime. The newspaper headlines the following day read: “Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares.”
Both Manson and the defence attorney were furious that the President would label Manson guilty before the end of his trial. Irving Kanarack demanded a mistrial, declaring that Manson and his Family no longer stood a fair chance. Their demands were denied and the trial continued regardless.
The prosecution rested their case on November 16th 1970, and to everyone’s surprise, the defence rested just days later, without calling a single witness to testify. Manson and his girls were outraged, shouting and screaming that they want their voice to be heard. The defence lawyers of the three females were aware that all three of them wanted to declare that Manson had nothing to do with it, and they had planned both murders without his consent or knowledge. Knowing that Manson had ordered the girls to do this to save himself, the lawyers tried to avert this by resting the case. Van Houten’s attorney, Ronald Hughes, outwardly spoke of his refusal to “push a client out the window.” Coincidently, Hughes went missing during a weekend break, causing an eventual re-trial for Leslie Van Houten in 1976. His body was eventually found in a wilderness area, and an ex-family member declared he was murdered because he disagreed with Manson regarding Van Houten’s defence.
January 25th 1971, all four defendants were found guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Soon after this, Manson trimmed his beard into a fork shape and shaved his head, declaring to news reporters: “I am the Devil, and the Devil always has a bald head.” Keeping up with their leader, the three girls also shaved their heads, as did many of the remaining Family members.
The four defendants were handed death sentences in March 1971, and Manson did everything in his power to avoid the gas chamber. Contradictions in his preachings were showing, as he often divulged into how death was beautiful, and how it often set people free from lives they didn’t want. Yet here stood, fighting for his own life, begging not to be sent to the gas chamber. The trial lasted nine and a half months, and was the longest murder trial ever to be held in the U.S.
Months later, ‘Tex’ Watson was also given a guilty verdict, along with a death sentence, just as his fellow Family members had previously.
The following year, in 1972, the Supreme Court overturned the death penalty, commuting all death sentences to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. This meant that all five of the convicted Manson Family were removed from death row, and had the chance of release in the future. Charles Manson glowed at this, and revelled in the fact that he was just sent back to where he came from. To Manson, prison was home to him. It was not a form of punishment, and many experts suggest that this is how Manson got away with murder.
The remaining incarcerated Family members were not so accustomed to prison life, and Manson’s grip on them deteriorated to the point that all of them cut ties with him completely. Being faced with Manson’s lies and hypocrisies, eventually the four saw Manson for being a manipulative and deeply disturbed ego maniac.
In 1976, Leslie Van Houten was granted a re-trial on the grounds that her defence attorney had disappeared before the end of her previous trial. She was granted bail, and her supporters paid a total of 200,000 to have her released. Just six years after the murders, Van Houten was now walking free. She began working as a part-time legal secretary for an attorney, whilst also attending trial. She appeared to the court to be full of remorse, declaring that all ties with Manson had now been cut. Despite her pleas, the jury did not believe her and she was once again handed a guilty verdict and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In the late 1970’s, both ‘Tex’ Watson and Susan Atkins declared themselves to be born again Christians, renouncing Manson’s ideology and claiming their repentance to God. Each of the four ex Family members declared their deepest regrets and apologies to the victims and their families. They claim they live with that fact everyday, and that it tears them apart.
In contrast, Manson stated: “You could pile a hundred dead bodies outside my cell, and it don’t set me to do nothing..” He still shows no signs of remorse and continues to mystify and allude the world with his deranged antics. For his first parole hearing in 1978, Manson re-inked the swastika tattoo on his forehead and gave a three hour monologue to the board. Needless-to-say, he was not released and his débâcles inside prison continued. A fellow prison inmate tried to kill Manson by pouring lighter fluid over him and setting him alight. Manson is covered with burn scars across his chest leading up to his neck.
Due to Manson’s continued notoriety, prison officers feared for his life, and after the attack, Manson was sent to a secure unit where he still lives to this day in almost complete solitary confinement. He did try to make another attempt at a music career, and produced an album entitled: Charlie Manson’s Good Time Gospel Hour. As with his previous attempts, this album failed to reach and entertain the masses that he wished, and he once again retired in bitter resentment.
In total, Manson has been denied parole nine times
Van Houten has been died parole 17 times
Atkins and Krenwinkel have both been denied parole 11 times. Atkins died in 2009, reportedly of natural causes.
Whilst Manson refuses to even turn up to the majority of his parole hearings and doesn’t take them seriously in the slightest, the three surviving ex Family members are still desperate to be released.
Tate Baby Conspiracy
Whilst it remains mainstream knowledge that Sharon Tate was eight months pregnant with a boy, who died in utero with his mother, there is another theory that this is not the case.
A woman that goes by the name of Rosie Tate-Polanski claims that the mainstream story was invented as a cover-up, in order for her protection. She became close friends with the Tate’s former caretaker, William Garretson, who also believes that she could be the daughter of Sharon Tate.
There is no evidence to support the claim that the Tate-Polanski baby survived, and the remaining Tate family declares that the baby did die in utero, and lies buried with his mother at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.