Charles Manson, the infamous and insane psychopath and 1960's cult leader died on Sunday of natural causes. He was 83 years old. This was a man who terrorized Los Angeles and, in turn, the world after he played a pivotal role in the murders of seven people. He and his many followers (the "Manson Family") wound up in jail on life sentences. Originally sentenced to the death penalty, he was later saved by a change in the law that abolished such punishment to prisoners.
Manson may go down in history as one of the most famous mass murderers of all time and books and documentaries have chronicled almost everything about his life, with audiences never seemingly growing tired of hearing both his life story and what led to that fateful and horrific night in August of 1969. Still, if you ask anyone if they've heard of Charles Manson, many will say yes, but many will also admit that there is a lot they still didn't know about someone so famous for being so evil.
It's difficult to overstate just how much of an effect Manson had on society at that time or the fascination with a man who never actually carried out these murders but got so many people to follow him so loyally. When you take a look at some of the secrets people didn't know about the man known as the United States' leading resident psycho, you can begin to understand how people are enamored with his story.
With the news of Manson's death, this seems like an appropriate time to revisit things and below is a list of 15 things you probably didn't know about Charles Manson.
15 Used To A Prison Cell
By the time Charles Manson was 83 years old, he had spent 60 years or nearly 73 percent of his life in prison. He had spent nearly half his life in jail prior to August of 1969 when these murders happened and was first convicted of armed robbery when he was only 13. By the age of 32, Manson had been incarcerated for a total of 17 years and was only out for a short while before he started getting into the minds of his followers.
He wouldn't have been in prison this long if it weren't for a changed law that saw Los Angeles abolish the death penalty. All of his sentences were turned into life sentences when that happened, and he was denied parole on multiple occasions. This was a man who, in many ways, became famous for being a prisoner.
14 Bryan Cranston Was Almost A Victim
Bryan Cranston is now famous for his role on Breaking Bad, but long before he ever became a household name, he had a run-in with Charles Manson when Manson was simply known as "Charlie."
In a series of tweets after Cranston had heard of Manson's death, Cranston revealed a story about his encounter with the murderer. Cranston wrote, "Hearing Charles Manson is dead, I shuddered. I was within his grasp just one year before he committed brutal murder in 1969. Luck was with me when a cousin and I went horseback riding at the Span Ranch, and saw the little man with crazy eyes whom the other hippies called Charlie."
A turn of fate the other way and who knows what the future would have held for Cranston. Manson was able to reach a lot of young and impressionable people at that time. Cranston would have been quite young then.
13 Was Sold For A Pitcher Of Beer
There's a story that circulated saying that Charles Manson was once sold for a pitcher of beer to a waitress who couldn't have kids of her own. Manson's alcoholic mother was a major factor in his disturbing upbringing and she was a drunk who never wanted Manson, "Charlie" only being saved by his uncle after the deal had already been consummated.
Manson's childhood was awful. He had no father and his mother and brother were both arrested in 1939 for robbing a gas station with a ketchup bottle. Perhaps Manson was too young to realize how easily his mother tried to get rid of him (for a couple drinks) but a kid like him had to know how little he was wanted in that household (if you could even call it that).
12 He's On A Beach Boys Album
Part of the reason why Manson was able to do what he did was his ability to connect to young and impressionable people through music. He loved music and had tried numerous times to make a career out of it.
Manson actually wrote a song that the famous band The Beach Boys, picked up in 1969. It was entitled "Cease to Exist" and even though Manson's friendship with then-Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson had ended, the band reworked and retitled the name of the song to "Never Learn Not to Love" and put it on the b-side of their 1969 album 20/20. Manson didn't get a writing credit, and I'm sure the band wasn't advertising the fact that the most famous murderer in the world that year had written one of their songs.
11 Rejected Music Connected The Murder Scene
When we mentioned that Manson loved music, perhaps we didn't emphasize just how much. It has been well-documented that part of what transpired that night can be traced back to Manson's music career being rejected by producer Terry Melcher.
Melcher was the son of famous singer Doris Day. Melcher lived in the Benedict Canyon residence which is the same house that the first murder of five people took place. It was actress Sharon Tate who was part of that first group, and she was renting the house that Melcher lived in. Had Melcher not rejected Manson, there is no way of knowing, but perhaps Manson doesn't convince his followers to go to that house.
10 Used The Popularity Of The Beatles To Sway His Followers
Sometimes you hear people sing the wrong lyrics to a song and you don't think much of it. Other times, you notice that someone has gotten the intended meaning of a song completely wrong and you wonder what it was they were actually listening to. There may never be another song as misinterpreted as the song "Helter Skelter" was by Charles Manson.
Manson believed that Beatles song promoted a cultural change and a coming race war and he used that belief to convince his "Manson Family" that they should do what he asked of them. At the time, the Beatles were as popular a band as there was and fans followed everything they did. Manson's followers even wrote the words "Helter Skelter" on the walls of the murder scene. They actually misspelled it, "Healter Skelter."
9 One Of The Defending Lawyers Of The Trial Mysteriously Died
The trial was definitely front page news when it took place, and during the trial, one of the defense lawyers (he defended Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten) strangely disappeared in 1970 while the trial was on a ten-day recess. No one knew where he'd gone. But three months later, his body was found suggesting that he'd died while out on a camping trip.
There were no charges laid in connection to Ronald Hughes' death and coroners did not determine the cause of death but many people believe this to be far too large a coincidence and there were far too many people keenly against Manson for people not to have speculated that the trial and the lawyer's death were not somehow related.
If this sort of thing were to happen now, everyone would immediately assume the two things were connected. It surprisingly wasn't a massive issue at the time.
8 President Nixon Almost Got Manson Off Without A Trial
Living in today's society, people are used to a President who sticks his foot in his mouth on a continual basis. Donald Trump isn't the only President in U.S. history to have said the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Richard Nixon was furious when he'd heard about the murders and trial of Charles Manson. He publicly called Manson "guilty, directly or indirectly." That could have amounted to a mistrial and Manson getting freed of all charges. Fortunately, the court ruled that it was not enough to warrant a mistrial. Manson was smart to try and play off the President's public mistake but it didn't work.
7 More Followers, More Damage
The majority of the press went to Manson and his Manson Family followers who committed the murders. And despite outrage over the ferocity of the crimes, there were still some who sympathized with his "cause." Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme was one of those people.
She was a Manson devotee who camped outside the trial when it took place in 1970. Still devoted to his cause, in 1975, she attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Her gun jammed and her attempt landed her 34 years in prison but she was determined to carry forward Manson's message despite his being found guilty and sentenced to a never-ending future in prison. Even today, there are people who revere Manson in a strange way and some will use his death as a reason to celebrate his twisted acts.
6 Strange Guns N' Roses Connection
Going back again to Manson's connection with music, the famous band Guns N’ Roses recorded a version of a Manson song, entitled ‘Look at Your Game Girl’. The song appeared on the album, The Spaghetti Incident, and there was some discussion as to how exactly Charles Manson was going to be compensated as most artists would for work that lands on another band's album. Would he get writing credit? Would he get a residual payment while he was in prison?
It appeared, in fact, that Mason would get paid. But Bartek Frykowski, the son of one of Manson’s victims, scooped in and made a legal case against letting Manson profit off of this and the royalties were instead paid to him as reparation for his father’s death since he hadn't seen any of the $500,000 he won in a federal case up to that point. The deal would pay Mr. Frykowski $62,000 for every million copies of the album sold.
5 Had No Name
For a while, after he was born, Charles Manson didn't have a name. He was referred to as "no name Maddox." Maddox was his last name after his mother, Kathleen Maddox, who was a teenager at the time. He was later given the name Charles and then Manson after she married someone named William Manson.
It's not to suggest that kids who are born with no name are troubled kids or will grow up to be psychopaths. But in this case, you have to think that it literally started out from day one that this child was not thought of, unloved, and really didn't have parents who had any interest in his future. Not a lot of thought seemed put into his existence. He started off on the wrong foot and got worse and worse as time went on.
4 Lived On A Movie Set
After he met and then alienated his friend from the Beach Boys, Denis Wilson, Manson and his 10 "women friends" who had pretty much squatted in his house and racked up over $100,000 in expenses were kicked out and went to live in the Spahn Movie Ranch. The Ranch was a setting used for Western TV shows like Zorro, The Lone Ranger, and Bonanza. It was a fairly famous place back in that time.
Manson was able to live there rent-free because he and his female followers agreed to do labor on the property. If only the landlord had known. This wasn't Manson's only connection to Hollywood as he actually had friends who were well-known. In one example, he babysat Al Lewis' (Grandpa on the Munsters) kids.
3 A Literal Full House
The house of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, where the first murders took place, is now a famous house but for more than one reason. First, the crime scene was extremely bloody and Polanski used his experiences in seeing the property as fuel for his later works. When staffers told him he was using too much blood on certain projects, he responded, "Trust me, I know blood. You should have seen my house last summer."
That house also became famous because the creator of the show Full House, Jeff Franklin, lived there. It's ironic in a way because the house from Full House is almost as much a character on that show as the people themselves were. I'm not sure why anyone would want to live in a house so synonymous with murder but there's always that unique mind that finds it fascinating.
2 Got Engaged At Age 80
You can learn how to do a lot of things while you're in prison for your entire life. Perhaps meeting a woman and getting engaged is one of them. For Manson, it probably wasn't as difficult as one might think as there are all sorts of disturbed females with both daddy and mental issues that are looking for attention from older certifiably insane people.
Manson got engaged to a 26-year-old named Star (born Afton Elaine Burton). Perhaps more than anyone, Star would have taken the news of his death the hardest. She won't get a lot of sympathy from people. At least now she's still young enough to live a normal lifestyle with him out of the picture. Hopefully...
1 Had A Celebrity "Death List"
We've discussed at great length Manson's desire to be famous. He surrounded himself with musicians and movie stars whenever he could, and he lived on properties that were close to Hollywood or with stars who had connections he hoped would take him places as a celebrity. Unfortunately, none of those plans played themselves out as he would have liked.
While some of his songs were picked up, he never did get famous for anything other than killing people and influencing young impressionable minds. When he didn't make it the traditional way, he resented a lot of people and made a list of celebrities he wanted to do away with. Among them was Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and others. Manson was clearly starstruck and his eventual "creative outlet" was a horrific couple of nights that cost seven people their lives.