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Tereza Šnajdrová
August 15, 2022, 8:00pm
Reading time: 11:38

Charles Manson Presented Himself As A Saint. He Forced His Followers Into Brutal Murders Which Have Shaken The Entire America.

The story of Charles Manson is also a story of the end of the Hippies movement. He controlled his followers using sex, drugs and insane theories about the end of the world.

Tereza Šnajdrová
August 15, 2022, 8:00pm
Reading time: 11:38
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Charles Manson Presented Himself As A Saint. He Forced His Followers  Into Brutal Murders Which Have Shaken The Entire America.
Zdroj: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
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A famous photograph from LIFE magazine from 1969 shows a devastated director Roman Polanski in front of the door of his house with the word "pig" written in his wife Sharon Tate's blood. Sharon was very talented, very pregnant and died at only 26 years old in a very brutal way. What happened then?


This month marks 53 years since the fateful night when followers of the paranoid Charles Manson murdered not only Sharon, but four of her friends and several other people. Let's recall the horror that night at the Los Angeles mansion on Cielo Drive and what preceded it. Who was the man who masterminded the twisted plan?

Charles Manson spent his childhood in correctional facilities. He stole cars and trafficked women while he was free.

Charles Manson was born in November 1934 in the American state of Ohio into a troubled family. He never knew his biological father and never spent much time with his mother. At just 16 years old, Kathleen Maddox had frequent run-ins with the police, and when Manson was just six years old, she and her brother were sentenced to five years in prison for theft.

Relatives took in little Charles, but there were problems with the boy from the start. So from the age of 13 he was shuttled from one correctional facility to another, and whenever he was free, he repeatedly stole cars, committed armed robberies, credit card fraud, forged cheques, and for a time had a history of trafficking women. In the meantime, he took up the study of religion, fascinated by the narratives of female subordination that he despised. As a tool of control and manipulation, he learned from pimps and other criminals how to successfully exert pressure and break resistance. He made good use of this, not only in his human trafficking, but especially in his later years...

Charles Manson was eventually convicted of various major and minor offences. However, he did not stay too long in a California prison and was released in March 1967. The United States was changing significantly at the time, which played into the hands of the criminal. The time had come for him to start carrying out the plans he had had in mind for so long.


What Charles Manson wanted most of all was recognition. He wanted to become a famous musician, and Dennis Wilson, the drummer for the then famous Beach Boys, would help him achieve his dream. At first, Manson was able to manipulate Wilson easily, the musician loaned him hundreds of thousands of dollars and even got the band to record one of his songs. But the vile criminal wanted more. He wanted a record deal, fame, fortune, and relations between Wilson and Manson began to escalate.


The Beach Boys eventually took away Manson's song copyrights, distanced themselves from him, and it didn't help that the criminal threatened to kill Wilson. His dreams of stardom vanished.


The end of the 60s as a new beginning

Thousands flocked to California, the hippie era began, and with it a social revolution. Ideas of a well-ordered family, a white house with a short-cropped lawn and a golden retriever on the patio began to clash with reality and with what the young generation of the time wanted from life. They were fighting not only for an end to the Vietnam War, but also for the rights of African Americans, new religions and schools of thought were being promoted, and the country was being rocked by the protests of the Hippie movement. Suddenly there were so many possibilities, ideas and thoughts. The streets of California were filled with preachers and prophets, and Charles Manson, a petty criminal of small stature and great charisma, decided to take advantage of it.

A saint? Not at all. A racist who only honoured the white race.

And so Charles, the founder of the so-called Manson Family, came up with his own prophecy and almost immediately gained dozens of disciples. He came across as a holy man, but his philosophy was not as pure as he said it was. The thug knew how to manipulate people, subtly inciting them to racism and drumming into their heads that a race war would soon begin, won by black Americans, "violent savages", and the white race would disappear. Those who join Manson, however, will be spared as the leader takes them to an underground city where the followers will be transformed into all sorts of fantastic creatures. Then, when the war dies down, they emerge from the underground and take over the government from the African-Americans.


Manson also used the Beatles' song Helter Skelter for his speeches, which he said contained a hidden message about committing violence. "It's the Beatles and the music they put out. These kids listen to that music and take a message from it that is subliminal. It's not my music. I just listen to what it relates to. It says, 'Rise up. Kill.' Why should I take the blame for that? I didn't write the music," Manson later justified his actions in court. Manson was directly affected by the entire White Album, which The Beatles released in 1968.

"He saw in the Beatles the things he so desperately wanted: worldwide respect and fame and, of course, money. As a struggling 'artist' he had none of these. He was desperate to break into the music industry in LA in the late 1960s. His defense in court was that he had done nothing, that the kids listened to the music and it told them what to do," said then-federal prosecutor Lisa Wiehl.

It was just a whirlwind of parties in California, with Manson and his allies often taking to the streets and his sect soon amassing hundreds of followers. These were people who had no good backgrounds, no place to lay their heads, and were easily recruited. There was simply nothing to keep them at home. Most of them were young women, and some were attracted by the relaxed atmosphere, sexual freedom, and open opportunities, so they voluntarily followed their leader to George Spahn's ranch, where the sect settled.

With his "children", he manipulated using drugs and sex 

It was George Spahn's ranch that was the key place where the transformation and disconnection of followers from ordinary life took place. All with the help of hallucinogens and intimate contact. "We had hundreds and hundreds of trips. The goal was to get rid of the self, to get rid of the self. Sometimes we'd stage a crucifixion scene while drugged. It was very realistic. At the end, when Charles, as Jesus, was taken down from the cross, he said to us, 'I died for you. Will you die for me?'" said former cult members Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. Charles Manson himself rarely took LSD. He had to concentrate on controlling his minions so that they would forget about life around them.

To do this, he often used sex and intimacy. "A lot of us had self-esteem problems. When Charlie slept with me, I felt beautiful and loved," Van Houten recalls.

Although Manson bonded with most of his followers, some of the girls were more attracted to him. One of them was twenty-three-year-old Mary Brunner, who had her own house and a steady income, which won the leader over immediately. The influenced girl turned to crime while Manson recruited other followers. The leader also had a similarly close relationship with Dianne Lake, just 14, who joined the cult with the consent of her parents, who were not even bothered by the fact that the girl was having a sexual relationship with Manson.

Manson's followers killed 8 people

As time went on, Manson began to take his "children" on so-called haunted walks. He instructed them to wear black clothes, get in the car and go for a walk. During the walk, the cult members would sneak into the homes of sleeping families, moving furniture around to scare the residents when they woke up. But the haunted walks escalated and Manson's followers began stealing food and small valuables.


Then he ordered his "sheep" to murder. The race war wouldn't come, so Manson wanted to hurry his "turkeys" along. The horrific murders were made to look as if they were committed by the very African-Americans Manson so hated. He ordered the victims to die in a very cruel manner and also that the executors of the murders should write words like "political swine" or "Black Panthers" (the political organization for the emancipation of African Americans at the time) on the walls of the house in the blood of the murdered. Both the men and the leader's female fans, many as young as 20, went out to commit evil.


Their first victim was musician Gary Hinman, who opened his arms and his home to anyone in need. He paid the price when he met Charles Manson. He housed several of Manson's "sheep" in his house, and when he planned a trip to Japan in the summer of 1969, Manson began to think Gary was rich. He ordered his henchman Bobby Beausoleil to rob Hinman of $1,000. But the musician had no money, so the disgraced Beausoleil called Charles Manson. In a fit of rage, the latter cut off Hinman's ear with a sword and left. Beausoleil panicked and killed Hinman. He then wrote "political bullshit" in his blood on the wall to make the police think it was the Black Panthers who committed the murder. But he failed to fool the investigators, and Bausoleil soon ended up in jail.

The murder of pregnant Sharon Tate has shaken the whole world

So Manson came up with a plan to free his crony - to commit another similar crime and throw the police off the scent. In reality, however, Charles Manson was panicking, he was failing to make it big in Hollywood, the cult members were not growing in numbers, and the brutal criminal was determined to prove how much control he had over his followers. He ordered them to attack a Los Angeles mansion on Cielo Drive. It had so much to do with the Hollywood success he hadn't achieved. In fact, the house had previously been occupied by producer Terry Melcher, who had helped Manson with his career as a musician. Melcher had allegedly been threatened with murder by the sect leader on several occasions and only now decided to make good on his words.

However, it was no longer Melcher but director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate who lived in the lavish house. Manson knew this, but since he had the house connected to everything he desired, he wanted revenge on whoever was in it. He ordered his followers to kill anyone they could find at the address. But before that, he made sure to drug them properly. On August 9th, the Manson Family committed a murder that shocked the world.

On that fateful evening, the Los Angeles mansion was occupied by a pregnant Sharon Tate, who was just weeks away from giving birth, hairdresser Jay Sebring, photographer Wojciech Frykowski and his girlfriend Abigail Fogler. The four members of the Family were given a clear assignment - to massacre everyone present in the worst possible way.

The henchmen arrived at the front of the property and Manson's "right-hand man" Tex Watson climbed a telephone pole where he cut the wires, disconnecting the victims from the outside world. They then drove their car back down the hill and returned on foot. They climbed over the fence, and Watson told the girls who accompanied him (Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linka Kasabian, editor's note) to kill everyone they saw. At that moment, the group of killers was approached by Steve Parent, who was visiting the caretaker of the house, William Garretson, at the residence. At the moment the expedition passed, Watson rushed out of the shadows and stabbed the poor man in the left arm through the rolled-up window and fired his pistol four times at him.

Kasabian, meanwhile, returned to the gate to keep watch, and the rest of the party entered the house through the window. Photographer Wojciech Frykowski was asleep in the living room, and Watson knocked him out with a kick while Atkins tied his hands behind his back. Atkins then went to explore the rest of the house, where she found Abigail Folger and Sharon Tate, who had just been talking to Jay Sebring. Manson's devoted follower brought all of the aforementioned into the living room. It should be noted that all of the Manson Family attackers were under the influence of various drugs, but it was Susan Atkins who later admitted that she enjoyed the murders.

Watson tied Sebring's hands, tied one noose around his neck and wrapped the other end around a beam near the ceiling. He then began to tie the rope around Tate's neck, to which Sebring objected and Watson shot him in the stomach. Thereupon Watson called upon his prisoners to give him all their money. However, when he discovered that there was only $70 in the house, he became angry and in a fit of rage began stabbing Sebring. He then announced to everyone that they were going to die.

At that point, Frykowski managed to free his hands and attacked Atkins. He fled the house but fell on the lawn, Watson caught up with him and stabbed him to death. Folger also tried to escape from the house, and was overtaken by Krenwinkel, stabbed several times, and then Watson finished her brutal work. The attackers then returned to Sharon Tate, who begged them for the life of her unborn child. She vowed that if the killers waited two weeks, she would give herself up to them after giving birth so they could kill her. But the brutal sect was not softened. Atkins grabbed Sharon and Watson began stabbing her and the unborn child with a knife. Atkins then described the actress's blood on the house with words similar to those found at the scene of Gary Hinman's murder.


Only one person survived the brutal attack. The aforementioned caretaker, William Garretson, lived in a garden house at the property and slept through the attack. Police suspected for a while that he might be the killer. However, the evidence was clear and Garretson was cleared shortly after the attack.


Just a day after the massacre at Sharon Tate's house, the Manson family committed more murders. They broke into the home of the LaBianca's, tied them up, robbed them of anything of value, and then took them each to another room. Leno LaBianca remained in the living room where Watson began stabbing him and when Rosemary, who had meanwhile been dragged into the bedroom by Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, heard this, she made her escape. Watson and the two women caught up with her and stabbed her 41 times. Watson then returned to Len and finished the job. He then carved the word "war" on the shopkeeper's stomach and stuck a fork into his abdomen.

Los Angeles was taken over by fear and panic. 

At first, police did not connect the brutal murders to the strange group around Manson. But in the winter of 1969, Manson and other members of the sect were taken to the police station in connection with the theft of cars found on their ranch. The family was supposed to be released, but Susan Atkins kept her mouth shut in her cell, boasting that she and her cronies were the ones involved in the summer murders that shook the entire United States.

Twenty-four people, including Manson, were taken into custody, and on June 15, 1970, a trial began that dragged on for several months. Police interviewed dozens of witnesses, examined evidence, fingerprints from the crime scene, and examined the murder weapon. Then in January 1971, Charles Manson, along with Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkel, was sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life imprisonment.


The Manson Family trial was one of the most watched in history. During the trial, the defendants made monkey faces, laughed and acted like celebrities. They finally had the attention they craved and the media interest they enjoyed.

Manson made several attempts at parole until 2012, as he was never proven to have personally participated in any of the murders, but met with no success. He then died in hospital in November 2017 as a result of a prolonged illness.



"I used the Helter Skelter symbol as a metaphor for the top-down ride - the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. It was about extinction, about going down. You might have thought of it as a rather cute title, but from then on all the sinister overtones swirled around it because Manson chose it as his anthem," Paul McCartney described in his book Many Years from Now.


This brutal story has made an indelible mark on pop culture. It has inspired countless books and several films, including the most popular 2019 adaptation from director Quentin Tarantino. Controversy has also been stirred up by the band Nine Inch Nails, who rented a house on Cielo Drive and filmed a music video in addition to an album.


The Manson Family murders seemed to foreshadow the demise of an entire generation
of hippies, free love and carefree. The atmosphere in the United States has never been so relaxed, free-thinking, and even self-proclaimed clergymen, leaders and preachers have disappeared from the streets.

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