There have been numerous cults that have arisen and fell without anyone batting an eye; however, none have been nearly as notorious as the likes of the Manson Family. The Manson Family, headed by Charles Manson, was a brutal cult that was responsible for multiple series of killings from the late 60s to the early 70s. Its actions made news headlines nationwide after multiple killings of well-known people.
Charles Milles Maddox was born on November 12,1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to his mother Kathleen Maddox. Kathleen was only sixteen at the time of his birth and worked on the streets as a prostitute. Charles’s mother was already an alcoholic when he was born and he lacked a father-figure in his life at the time; therefore, leading to some of his earlier actions against the law. Kathleen Maddox, Charles’s Mother, would later marry a man by the name of William Manson. This marriage was brief; however, Charles had decided to adopt William’s last name as his own. At the age of twelve Charles was placed into Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana, after he was caught stealing. Charles also attempted to live with his mother but was rejected multiple times which resulted in him living on the streets. For the following twenty years of his life Charles would spend time in and out of several different reform schools as well as prisons for misconduct and various crimes.
Before Manson had decided to send his followers on multiple killing sprees, he had been connected with the famous band, “The Beach Boys.” Dennis Wilson, the drummer of The Beach Boys, had found a couple on Manson’s female followers hitchhiking on the side of the road and decided to pick them up. When Wilson was dropping off the women they told him about Manson and how he was a musician. This really caught Wilson’s attention, and later that night Manson had greeted him at his door. At first Wilson was a bit frightened, but after a bit of talking with Manson the pair seemed to get along just fine. After that night Wilson wanted Manson to be a part of his world. Wilson introduced Manson to all of his friends and family and eventually his fellow bandmates as he wanted Manson to join the band. Wilson even went as far to allow all of “The Manson Family” to stay with him at his house. Dennis had paid a vast amount of money for all of The Family’s expenses, including medical visits. Dennis desperately wanted Manson to goto the Beach Boys’ home studio and record music with the rest of the band. While it was clear that Wilson was definitely a fan of Manson, the other members of the band were not so thrilled by Manson. Brian Wilson was the oldest of the brothers and the leader of the band and he immediately took a disliking to Manson and refused to collaborate with him. The band did eventually release one of Manson’s Songs: “Manson allegedly did record some music at Dennis’s brother Brian Wilson’s home studio. The Beach Boys released a song written by Manson entitled “Cease To Exist” (renamed :Never Learn Not To Love”) on their 1969 album, 20/20, as a single B-side”.(Editors Biography) Manson’s last recording session ended with him pulling a knife on one of the producers after he had changed some of the words in Manson’s song: “Cease To Exist”, which is now known as “Never Learn Not To Love”. Manson was with Dennis one day when he dropped off his producer, Terry Melcher, at his house at 10050 Cielo Drive. When Melcher had refused to work with Manson, Manson had begun to plot his revenge which ultimately culminated when he sent his followers to Melchers old address, not knowing that Melcher had moved houses, and had them kill everyone there. After this incident the band and Manson would never again meet.
Most likely due to the lack of responsible parents, Manson had always been committing illegal deeds and getting into trouble with the law and other authorities. When Manson was only nine years old he had attempted to set his school on fire. Charles was also extremely fond of petty theft and constantly found himself in trouble with the courts. The courts would try to send Manson off to a foster home but after their searches for a home were unsuccessful they ended up deciding to just send Manson off to Gibault School for Boys, a reform school for children who are troublesome. Gibault was the first of many reform schools that Manson would be put in and it was known for being an extremely strict school with harsh punishments for even the smallest of rule violations, “At age 12, Manson is sent to Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indianna, for stealing.”(Manson Family Murders) Manson would end up escaping from this school twice. The first time Manson escaped he went to be with his mother; however, she would end up sending him right back to Gibault. The second time he escaped he fled straight to Indianapolis where he was sent to yet another reform school in Nebraska after being caught for committing his first crime: robbing a grocery store. After only four days Manson had escaped his new school with his friend Jackie Nielson and together they robbed another grocery store and a casino. Manson and Neilson would then become apprentices under Nielson’s uncle who was a professional thief. It didn’t take Manson long to get caught again as just two weeks later he was arrested and sent to another reform school. Manson would eventually, after numerous attempts, escape this school accompanied by two other boys; however they we caught trying to cross the border in stolen cars and they found themselves being put in a different reform school. Manson was later transferred to Natural Bridge Honor Camp, and then to a maximum security reform school in Ohio due to extremely bad behavior. These definitely would not be Manson’s last offenses as later on in life he would still constantly be drifting in and out of different jails and prisons for various crimes.
Initially Manson had grown so accustomed to prison life that he didn’t want to leave; however he was forced to leave. After Manson was released from prison on March 21, 1967, he received permission to move to San Francisco where he met his future wife, Mary Brunner. Manson would eventually move in with Brunner and went on to accrue a following of up to eighteen other women to live with themManson mostly used the setting at the time to convince others to join his following, “…Manson convinced various women taken with the 19060s Summer of Love ethic of sharing and peace to move in with them.”(Serena) This would be the start of The Manson Family. Manson had also established himself as a musician and religious guru among the Haight-Ashbury district and appealed to the hippie scene during the “Summer of Love”. It was believed that Manson’s religious beliefs were heavily influenced by the Process Church of the Final Judgement and heavily implied that he was Jesus reborn by mentioning visions of himself on the cross with nails through his hands and feet. Manson was said to be very charismatic and just as manipulative, so it is no surprise that he was able to accrue such a large following that would do whatever he said. Much of Manson’s followers were women, with some exceptions to a few men and most were teens as they were easier to manipulate and they were going through “ a time of many changes when suddenly the old rules don’t work.”(Porterfield) The group actually began to be known for its large number of women: “In the public’s imagination, the “Manson girls” as they came to be known loomed almost as large as Manson himself. Mostly young women in their late teens and early 20s, Manson Family members were, in the late 1960s, not especially unusual. White middle-class women all over the country were all heading for cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, inspired by other hippies to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Manson used his female followers to lure other men to both join the group and to support it – it was several of the women that initially met Dennis Wilson and brought Manson to his home”. (Serratore) After Manson and Wilson had met the Family had moved into Wilson’s house. While the Family occupied Wilson’s house the number of women in the group kept increasing and Wilson decided to pay for just about all of their needs, including their medical bills. In the end Wilson had paid close to $100,000 in expenses for the entire Family. Wilson would eventually move out of his house and the Family would be evicted by the the owner of the house. Manson eventually found a new place for the Family named “Spahn Ranch”, which would occupy the family through both sets of murders.
Manson’s ultimate belief for the cult was known as “Helter Skelter”. Helter Skelter was originally a song written and played by The Beatles in the White Album; however after Manson had heard the album he became obsessed with both the band and it’s songs. Manson soon named his prophecy after Helter Skelter because of the way he interpreted the song’s lyrics. Manson believed that a race war between the whites and blacks was going to erupt soon and that the Family would need to be ready for it. In his prophecy of the race war Manson had predicted that the blacks were going to win and that Los Angeles was going to be utterly destroyed. The Family would need to hide out in the desert until tensions died down and after a while the Family was supposed to arise from the desert and teach the blacks how to rebuild the city, “The race war would end with L.A. in shambles and only he, Charles Manson, and his followers, who would be waiting in the desert for the exact right time to appear, would come in and save the city, “she says.” Manson would be the leader of L.A. after the ‘blacks’ had ‘risen up’ – Helter Skelter – and all would be nirvana”(Kennedy) The Family was also led to believe that The Beatles had originally predicted that a race war was imminent as Manson had stated: “The White Album songs had foretold it all in code.” According to the alleged prophecy the Family was the chosen group to lead the rebuilding of Los Angeles. Manson felt that it was the Family’s responsibility to help speed up the process of the race war by inciting the conflict. Manson planned to kill rich whites and plant the evidence on lower class blacks and as a result he sent his most loyal followers to 10050 Cielo drive on August 8, 1969 and told them to kill everyone there.
On August 8, 1969 a group of Manson’s four most devoted followers drove to 10050 Cielo drive with malicious intent. Manson’s group was led by Charles “Tex Watson and it consisted of: Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel. Tex had received his nickname from the owner of Spahn Ranch for his Texan accent as he moved to California from Texas, “…he flew to Los Angeles where he immersed himself into the drug and music scene. It was there that he met some of the Manson Family women who introduced him to Manson at the infamous Spahn Ranch.”(Pak) The house was rented out to different people and at the time it was occupied by movie director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. Polanski was away from the house in Rome working on his film “A Day At the Beach”. Victims Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Wojciech Frykowski had just arrived at the home after a late-night dinner in town. As Manson’s group arrived at the house they were spotted by Steven Parent who was just visiting the house’s caretaker, William Garretson. Watson was equipped with a 22. Caliber pistol and shot Parent with it a total of four times after using a knife to slash at his hand. The group then entered the house through a window and rounded up all of the houses occupants in the living room. Sebring was the first to be killed and after a struggle Frykowski managed to get free; however he was quickly caught by Tex and killed on the front lawn. Folger also managed to free herself, but she also was caught and killed. Tate was the final one to be killed along with her unborn child. “PIG” was later written on the door by Atkins with Tate’s blood as instructed by Manson to “Leave something witchy”.
Even though the Family members had done just as Manson asked, he was still very disappointed as in his eyes they were too sloppy and he needed “to show them how to do it.” On August 9,1969 Manson formed a group of seven people which included himself, the four from the previous night, Leslie Van Houten, and Steve “Clem”Grogan. The group drove out to 3301 Waverly Drive with the same plan as the night before. The night occurred similarly to the night before, ending in the murders of the LaBiancas, wealthy supermarket executives.
Manson and his cult had managed to elude police suspicion until he was arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft. It was only after one of the Family members had begun to brag about their crimes that Manson was charged for the murders. Manson had planned on causing more havoc by killing more celebrities, including: “Elizabeth Taylor and her husband Richar Burton, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, and Tom Jones.” (Editors Biography) Throughout his trial death did not really seem to be a serious concept to Manson as he expressed no remorse for ordering his followers to go on multiple killing sprees. Manson would exhibit “bizarre and violent behavior” throughout his trial.
Manson did not physically participate in the murders, “Manson stayed out of the Polanski house on the night of the crime and didnt take part in the LaBianca killings either.”(Editors History) he and some of the Family members were charged with the death penalty after the trial; however, in 1972 California had ceased to use the death penalty, resulting in their sentences being converted to life in prison. Manson, Atkins, Watson, and Krenwinkle were never allowed to be on parole and Manson and Atkins died in prison.
After Manson and the rest of his conspirators were arrested, the remaining members of the cult began a series of retaliation murders. The first victim would be James L.T. Willet, a U.S. marine veteran who was forced to poorly dig his own grave by some of the Family members. Police had found his car parked outside the house the the Family was occupying at the time and they arrested everyone there. Upon investigating the house, the police discovered both the Willet’s infant daughter and the body of James’s wife, Lauren Willet.
On September 5, 1975 the Family managed to remain in view after an attempt to assassinate the president. The event occured in Sacramento after both Squeaky Fromme and Sandra Good moved there to live closer to Manson. The actual attempt itself never got to occur as police searched the apartment that the two were living in and found plenty of evidence that pointed to a planned attempt on Gerald R. Ford, the president at the time. Good was charged with conspiring to send threatening communications through the United States mail and Fromme was the first person in history to be charged for attempting to assassinate the president. Fromme did manage to escape her prison in an attempt to see Manson; however she was quickly caught and sent back. Fromme was later released on parole in 2009.
The Manson family was a malicious cult and it was a tragedy that the Family had managed to commit so many murders before being caught. The way Manson managed to lure in so many individuals and submit them to do anything that he wanted just shows that he was a dangerously manipulative leader. Even though the Family did commit a vast amount of murders, it’s fortunate that the police did manage to catch the murderers and thus ruining their plans to kill more influential individuals.