In his 80s now, rotting away in a California prison, Charles Manson still has the power to disturb and horrify. His crimes, along with those of his group of young followers, have come to embody the American nightmare. Since their string of vicious and violent murders in 1969, the comfort and safety of people in their very own homes has never quite been the same.
At the age of 35, Manson had already amassed a group of followers in California. They had isolated themselves on an old ranch that still sometimes doubled as a set for cheap westerns in the 1960s. Without getting his hands dirty himself, he instructed his young and devoted followers to commit a string of horrific murders in California - including targeting a number of celebrities. The case quickly gained national attention as many feared they could easily be next.
Taking full advantage of the free love decade, the kumbaya "love thy neighbour" attitude of the era was stopped dead in its tracks. Eventually caught on incidental charges, police pieced together what had happened and Manson, along with key followers, were put on trial for their nightmare crimes. Manson was sentenced to death for his involvement, though when California would repeal the death penalty in 1972 that would be repealed.
Manson has been in prison ever since but has lost none of his muster. Every few years he cycles back into the media, with a new cult or with a new revelation of his crimes. He still seems spry and healthy for an 80-year-old and can still apply for parole -- though there is no way he will ever get out.
In spite of representing a kind of national nightmare, a lot is not known about this charismatic cult leader (few people realize, for example, that this enthralling cult leader was just 5'2), and we are here to shed some light on the enthralling but still mysterious cult leader.
15 Manson Rearranged A Murder Scene
While Charles Manson himself did not commit any of the murders in the Tate residence, he did make sure the scene was dramatic enough. After his followers brutally killed the four people inside the Tate Residence, actress Sharon Tate, scriptwriter Wojciech Frykowski, Folgers Coffee Heiress, Abigail Folger and Jay Sebring, celebrity hairstylist, Manson returned inside. As the murders themselves were meant to point the blame away from the Manson Family of misfits and meant to look more like a political act, according to some sources, Charles Manson rearranged the American flag found in the home to be draped near the dead body of Sharon Tate. This tells you something about his mindset that in a home full of murdered bodies he's not worried at all, just making sure the scene looks "right."
14 At 80, Was Engaged To A Hot 27-Year-Old
The wistful Star with her long black hair and wide-eyed innocence could have stepped right out of the late 1960s and we would not be any of the wiser. Eerily beautiful, slim, with a wide-eyed vacant stare, Star (born as Afton Elaine Burton) could have easily have been one of the original Manson girls. Old enough to be her grandfather, Star has nonetheless said, "I think he's the most handsome man in the world," according to Rolling Stone magazine. She visited him regularly and eventually convinced the ardent anti-Marriage Manson to agree to an engagement. While not criminal, the whole thing is incredibly creepy - especially since Star seems pretty convinced that Manson may be innocent. Lest you think things are a little too weird though, don't worry, Manson is not allowed to have conjugal visits -- the most physical him and Star get are a kiss and a hug when they meet and depart.
13 Broken Engagement - She Just Wanted Him For His Corpse
For those of you upset that a cult leader serial killer who has been in prison for decades has better luck in love than you, fear not, apparently things were too good to be true. While Star and her family deny it to this day, apparently Star was not interested in Manson for his mind or body... well she was for his body, but not the way you think. Star was hoping that in marrying Charles Manson at the time of his death she would be able to have control of his remains as Manson has no current relatives who would want anything to do with them. Star apparently wanted to put them on display, for either profit or as a part of a larger scheme of devotion depending on how true her actual belief system is. Some claim though, that Manson is not heartbroken and he was just happy to string anyone along willing to bring him cakes and fresh toiletries.
12 He Had A Celebrity Hit-List
Charles Manson had celebrity aspirations from the very start. Long before he plotted out his murder spree, he wanted to be a famous musician. He had learned to play guitar in prison and written a few songs. With the help of his posse of young and attractive teen girls, he managed to make quite a bit of leeway in Hollywood circles, even befriending people like Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. When it became clear that Manson's career was not taking off as planned, he started to harbor some violent revenge fantasies. While rumors have always swirled around his crimes, among them is the idea of a "Death List" which included some of the most famous people in the world. According to Manson's follower, Susan Atkins, the Family had a celebrity death list which included Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones.
11 Believed He Communicated With The Beatles
This little tidbit might not be so obscure for followers of the Beatles or Charles Manson. After all, the best-selling book about Manson and his crimes is called Helter Skelter. The obsession with the Beatles ran deep though, very deep, to the point where Manson believed that The White Album was a prophecy predicting and guiding his actions in this tumultuous period. He would make his followers listen to the album non-stop as he explained that The Beatles were communicating information about an incoming race war and how Manson was going to be a key figure. Songs like Revolution 1 were interpreted as simply a call for a general social revolution, whereas things sometimes got a little more... specific. He thought the lyrics from the song 'I Will', which sung, "Your song will fill the air/ Sing it loud so I can hear you," meant that HE should make an album to declare to the world he was the new Jesus Christ. He also believed that there was evidence that the Beatles were going to join him in California once he got his revolution underway. Apparently, a number of his followers were shocked when the Beatles did not support Charlie when he was incarcerated.
10 Still Has Obsessed Followers Today
It's been nearly fifty years since Charles Manson and his family committed some of the most gruesome murders in American history, but to this day - Manson who has never been free since still has followers. It's unclear how many of his followers who were not imprisoned still follow him, though most of those involved in the killings who are still living have long disavowed both Manson's influence and their support. Manson has always had an unmistakable sway that prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi (who recently died) credits to the lure of evil and general curiosity. In recent years Manson has accumulated new followers and supporters through the Internet and letter writing. At least a few years ago, much of his day was devoted to communication by phone and writing to his new supporters.
9 Believes He's Immortal
Of all the crazy things that Manson has said or done, the fact he believes he's immortal doesn't really rank among the weirdest. In the aftermath of his marriage and breakup with the beautiful and young, Star, Manson has commented on the situation a number of times. Alluding at times to the fact that he was just using her, he has also insinuated that he never had anything to hide from her. If she really wanted his corpse when he died, that was never going to happen - there was never going to be a corpse. Was that because Manson wanted to be cremated? Nope, it's because he is never going to die, ever. At least according to him and so far, that seems to hold up.
8 Mother Sold Him For A Pitcher Of Beer
Most serial killers have less than ideal upbringings and Manson is no different. Born to a fifteen-year-old teenager, for the first few months of his life Charles Manson didn't even have a proper name. Growing up in a broken home with a family who never really seemed to want him, Manson did not get a whole lot of love growing up. According to a number of reports, as a baby, his mother had actually sold Charlie to a waitress at a bar. In exchange for a pitcher of beer, the childless waitress could raise the infant Charlie and get him off his mother's hands. Charlie's uncle interfered, though, and went to retrieve the child. It makes you wonder if things would have been different if Charles Manson had actually had someone who wanted him. As awful it is to buy someone's baby, part of us believes he might have been better off with her.
7 The Failed Musician Targeted A Producer
As we've already established, Charles Manson's big dream was to become a rock star. While that eventually twisted into the fact that his music career was meant to be a way to communicate to the world that he was the next Jesus, that dream started on more humble terms. After arriving in Hollywood, thanks to his friend Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys, Manson had the opportunity to play for some record producers. His "best shot" was with record producer Terry Melcher, who met with Manson on a number of occasions. Melcher was actress Doris Day's son and had worked with The Byrds, Pat Boone, Dennis Wilson and The Mamas and the Papas. Manson had once met with Melcher at a house on Cielo Drive, which was eventually rented by the Polanskis. While Manson had claimed he had chosen a house at random for his spree, it seems more than a coincidence that he targeted a house he believed Terry Melcher had been living in.
6 His Followers Attempted To Murder A Key Witness
Not all of Manson's followers were imprisoned in the aftermath of the two major murder sprees. To be fair, not all were directly involved. While this might have been a good opportunity to distance themselves from the events, they actually doubled down. Whether this is because Charles Manson really did have that kind of thrall, that they were young and stupid, or that they were enjoying the brief glow of fame - it's hard to say, but they found a way to get themselves into deeper trouble. One of the key witnesses in the State's case against Manson and the Family was Barbara Hoyt. She had been one of Manson's followers but had not been directly involved in any of the murders that took place, she did report to police upon her arrest that the others had claimed to be responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders in the aftermath. Unsure if she really wanted to speak against the Family, she was bribed by them to take a trip to Hawaii - all expenses paid - in order to not testify. This was a bit of a gamble, though, so just to be safe they fed her a burger with ten doses of LSD in the hopes it would kill her or she'd get herself killed. It didn't work out though and only made her more eager to testify against the Family.
5 Used Substances To Control Teen Followers
According to Helter Skelter, the book written about the case by prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, drugs played a smaller role in the Manson murders than many assume. While a lot of smoke was being smoked and acid being dropped, the murders themselves were committed stone cold sober. If anything, according to Bugliosi, sex played a much larger role in the persuasion techniques of Manson. He treated sex as a tool of manipulation and as often as he would "deflower" virginal teens, he made sure to always have handsome men in his entourage to keep them under control. While it's easy to look at all the craziness and wonder how anyone would ever follow a crazed mad-man like Charlie, it's important to note that most of his followers joined the Family before the age of twenty. Most were from broken homes and were easily manipulated by the much older Charles Manson.
4 Tried To Frame Black Panthers With Murder
One thing that often gets swept under the rug about the Charles Manson murders is that race played a huge role in his vision. Manson was an ardent racist and his entire world view was shaped around the civil rights movement, as he believed African Americans were going to stage a coup and take over society. In this scenario, he believed that Black people were still genetically inferior and he would be welcomed as their leader once they realized they were in over their head. To speed up this outcome, Manson tried to convince his followers to make their murders look as though they were committed by the Black Panthers. With references to "pigs" that served an homage to The Beatles and a call to what the Panthers called the establishment, Manson hoped that these murders would be blamed on the Black Panther group. For him, Helter Skelter, was what this new revolution was to be called.
3 Tate Was 8-months Pregnant When Murdered
Actress Sharon Tate was not a huge star when she was murdered by the Manson family. She had been acting for a year and was unnaturally beautiful, gaining attention and building small momentum along the way. Her most notable roles were as the romantic lead in her husband, Roman Polanski's film, Fearless Vampire Killers! and the pulpy Valley of the Dolls. At the time of the murders she was eight months pregnant with her first child with Polanski, only adding more weight to the awful tragedy. Without going too much into details about exactly what went on... she apparently begged for the life of her unborn child before being stabbed to death. Polanski, who was in the UK at the time, was supposed to arrive earlier to meet with his wife but had postponed his plans.
2 Was Inspired By Scientology
Charles Manson's ideology was pasted together from a bunch of different sources, but everyone agrees that Scientology played a pretty big part in the evolution of his cult of manipulation. While in prison for another crime, Manson became a Scientologist. While much has been overplayed in his exact involvement with the cultish religion, he was very taken by the belief system but also very frustrated by its pyramid structure that required monetary investment to rise up the ranks. Manson's biggest takeaways from his time as a Scientologist, which were admittedly short-lived, were the tools of persuasion and manipulation used to keep people under control and to hold check over your destiny. Unsurprisingly, during this era of his life he was also very taken by the all-time best seller 'How to Win Friends and Influence People.' It becomes pretty clear that Manson was never all that interested in anything spiritual but was always searching for how he could have the upper hand on just about anyone.
1 Been In Jail For Over 80% Of His Life
Long before Charles Manson urged his followers to commit violent mass murder for him, he had already spent the majority of his life behind some kind of bars. Since the age of twelve he had been in and out of reform school and prison. By the time he was 32 years old, he had already spent a cumulative sixteen years behind bars - most of his "free" years taking place before puberty. Many have claimed that Manson had always felt more comfortable behind bars where he knew how to get his way and how the power structure worked. It's here that the fruit of his philosophies emerged, but also where he learned to read and play guitar. As of 2016 he has been in prison for his involvement in the Tate-LaBianca murders for nearly 45 consecutive years.