CORCORAN, Calif. – Cult figure-murder orchestrator Charles Manson is dead. The announcement comes with impact for a generation that saw the spell-binding power one man could have over others. The hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday after nearly a half-century in prison, reported Fox News. He was 83.
Manson, whose name to this day is synonymous with unspeakable violence and madness, died of natural causes at Kern County hospital, according to a California Department of Corrections statement.
TMZ was first to report on the killer’s death. The celebrity-news site reported that Debra Tate, the sister of Sharon, said she received a call from Corcoran State Prison informing her that Manson died.
The Manson Family
Sporting a carved swastika on his forehead, Manson was the longhaired, wild-eyed leader of a California desert commune in the late 1960s.
The “Manson Family,” as they were called, was largely made up of runaways and societal dropouts. The cult figure controlled his underlings with a mix of charisma and hallucinogenic drugs. Add to that his calculating personality and it became a witch’s brew for multiple murders.
Manson was obsessed with Armageddon and what he saw as a coming race war. As a result, he masterminded a series of murders that he hoped would spur black vs. white violence.
The notable commune leader was a failed musician. Consequently, Manson believed several songs on The Beatles’ “White Album” – notably “Helter Skelter” – also predicted a racial clash.
Due to his distorted worldview, he ordered a small, yet devoted group of followers to carry out the murders, although he never took part in the actual acts.
“There’s no need to feel guilty,” Manson said during an interview in the 1980s. “I haven’t done anything I’m ashamed of.”
Charles Manson Orchestrated Murders
While Manson may have ordered dozens of slayings, he was eventually convicted for two high-profile massacres.
The first occurred at the Beverly Hills house of director Roman Polanski and claimed the lives of his wife, actress Sharon Tate, her unborn child and five others. Polanski was away at the time. One of the enduring images of the brutal slaying is the word “pig,” scrawled in blood on a door of the house.
The next night, another group of Manson devotees killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
In a recently released book by pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie titled, “Steve McQueen, the Salvation of an American Icon,” he revealed that McQueen was suppose to be at Polanski’s home the night of the murders. But fate took him elsewhere.
Polanski has been a fugitive from American justice since 1978, facing criminal charges for statutory rape. He lives in exile in France.
Manson was convicted of first-degree murder in 1971 for the Tate/LaBianca murders. As a result, he was sentenced to death. But the California Supreme Court’s 1972 decision to outlaw capital punishment automatically commuted Manson’s sentence to life behind bars. Consequently, he has served his time at California’s Corcoran State Prison.
Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi
After Manson was convicted and sentenced, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wrote the book, “Helter Skelter.” It was a spellbinding account of the Manson murders and trial that became the No. 1 true-crime best seller of all time.
According to Bugliosi in his interview with Time, “Helter-skelter was the motive for the murders. Manson borrowed that term from a Beatles song on the White Album. In England, helter-skelter is a playground ride. To Manson, helter-skelter meant a war between whites and blacks that the Beatles were in favor of. When the album first came out, in December of ’68, he got a copy, and he came racing back to the ranch all excited and said, ‘The Beatles are telling it like it is! The s___ is coming down!’ It was this war that he felt he could ignite by killing white people and blaming black militants, this war called helter-skelter.”
Moreover, Bugliosi said, “Manson’s moral values were completely twisted and warped, but let’s not confuse that with insanity. He was crazy in the way that Hitler was crazy. In fact, Hitler was Manson’s greatest hero — he spoke about Hitler all the time. He said that Hitler had the right answer for everything, that he was a tuned-in guy. So he’s not crazy — he’s an evil, sophisticated con man. We’re talking about evil here, as opposed to mental illness. Manson wanted to kill as many people as he could.”
‘Chop off His Head’
During trial, Manson grabbed a sharpened pencil and leaped over the counsel table toward the bench. He told the judge he wanted to “chop off his head,” as he was tackled by bailiffs. As a result, the judge began carrying a .38 revolver beneath his robe, according to Bugliosi.
Attempt to Assassinate President Ford
One Manson follower who tried to keep the flame alive after his incarceration was Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme. She tried to assassinate President Ford in 1975. As a result she was sentenced to life in prison. However, she was released on parole in 2009, after serving nearly 34 years.
Charles Manson Never Showed Remorse
In interviews, Manson would frequently challenge the notion that he was guilty of the murders. Furthermore, he never showed remorse at the loss of life.
“Remorse for what?” Manson said. “You people have done everything in the world to me. Doesn’t that give me equal right? I can do anything I want to you people anytime I want because that’s what you’ve done to me.”
Manson was rejected for parole 12 times and would not have been eligible to apply again until 2027.
Attracted Fans While Incarcerated
Despite his infamous reputation as one of the 20th century’s most twisted mass murderers, Manson still managed to attract fans while incarcerated. He nearly married a woman in her 20s in 2014. The woman, who called herself Star, applied for a marriage license with Manson, then 80, but a ceremony never took place.
Manson, was born Charles Milles Maddox in Ohio in 1934 to a 16-year-old alcoholic prostitute. She later married a man named William Manson, who was not Charles’ father, but from whom he took his notorious last name. Spurned by his mother and with no interest in attending school, Manson spent much of his early years committing crimes such as burglary, armed robbery, auto theft, check forgery and pimping.
He had numerous stints in prison and spent about half of his first three decades in a penitentiary.
Following a release from jail in 1967, Manson befriended Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. Manson and several of his followers lived at Wilson’s home for a period of time and the Beach Boys ended up recording a song, “Never Learn Not to Love,” that was heavily influenced by one of Manson’s compositions, “Cease to Exist.”
“At the beginning of the trial, I said ‘Charlie, I’m gonna convict you,’ but I said, ‘After you get a fair trial,’ ” said Bugliosi in a 2014 interview with CBS Los Angeles.
“And he says, ‘You know, you haven’t accomplished anything at all. All you’ve done is send me back where I came from,’ ” Bugliosi recounted.
Bugliosi continued, “Every member of his family, before they met him, had already dropped off society. He reprogrammed them to be his slaves and to be his followers. So I would say that sex, drugs and sermonizing to his family on a day-to-day basis were the main techniques that he used to gain control.”
“The Manson family may have murdered 35 people, and they had plans to murder prominent personalities like Frank Sinatra, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Steven McQueen, Tom Jones,” Bugliosi said.
(Photos: Flicker/California Department of Corrections)