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Charles Manson: Leader of the murderous cult who was obsessed with Beatles

world Updated: Nov 20, 2017 14:23 IST
Agencies, Los Angeles
Charles Manson,Charles Manson dies,Cult leader

In this June 10, 1981 file photo, convicted murderer Charles Manson is photographed during an interview with television talk show host Tom Snyder in a medical facility in Vacaville, California.(AP File Photo)

Charles Manson, the charismatic cult leader who ordered his followers to claim their victims in 1960s Los Angeles, died on Sunday at the age of 83 after nearly half-a-century in prison.

Manson was convicted for the brutal murders of nine people in 1969, including actress Sharon Tate who was stabbed 16 times while she was 9-months pregnant even though he didn’t kill them himself. According to a testimony, Manson sent his devotees out on the night of Tate’s murder with instructions to “do something witchy”.

Here are some of the things to know about him: 

• Manson was born in Cincinnati on November 12, 1934, to a teenager, possibly a prostitute, and was in reform school by the time he was 8. After serving a 10-year sentence for check forgery in the 1960s, Manson was said to have pleaded with authorities not to release him because he considered prison home.

• The charismatic, guru-like Manson surrounded himself in the 1960s with runaways and other lost souls and then sent his disciples to butcher some of Los Angeles’ rich and famous in what prosecutors said was a bid to trigger a race war — an idea he got from a twisted reading of the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”

• Hoping to boost his music career, Manson became friends with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson and producer Terry Melcher. He later became upset with Melcher, who was the son of actress Doris Day, because he did not make a record with him. The first round of murders by Manson’s followers occurred in the house where Melcher had previously lived.

Before the killings, the Beach Boys recorded a song Manson wrote, titled “Never Learn Not to Love”. Later, Guns N’ Roses recorded his “Look at Your Game Girl” and Marilyn Manson, whose stage name was partly inspired by the killer, used lyrics from Manson’s “Mechanical Man” in his song “My Monkey.” Trent Reznor, front man for the band Nine Inch Nails, lived in the house where the Tate murders occurred.

• The Manson Family, as his followers were called, slaughtered five of its victims on August 9, 1969, at Tate’s home: the actress who was 8½ months pregnant, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, Polish movie director Voityck Frykowski and Steven Parent, a friend of the estate’s caretaker. Tate’s husband, “Rosemary’s Baby” director Roman Polanski, was out of the country at the time.

Convicted murderer Charles Manson looks towards the parole board in San Quentin, California. (AP File Photo)

• Manson was obsessed with Beatles music, particularly “Piggies” and “Helter Skelter,” a hard-rocking song that he interpreted as forecasting the end of the world. He told his followers that “Helter Skelter is coming down” and predicted a race war would destroy the planet.

• Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Manson maintained during his tumultuous trial in 1970 that he was innocent and that society itself was guilty. “These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them; I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up,” he said in a courtroom soliloquy.

• Denied his request to represent himself during his 9-1/2 month trial, Manson showed up in court with an “X” carved into his forehead, and would later alter it into a swastika. Co-defendants Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel cut “X”s in their foreheads, shaved their scalps, sang Manson-written songs and giggled through chilling testimony.

• The powers of manipulation that Manson used on his followers were honed in prison when he took a class based on “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the 1936 book by self-help guru Dale Carnegie, according to the biography “Manson.”

• While in prison in Washington state in the early 1960s, Manson befriended Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, who had been allied with the deadly Barker bank robbery gang in the 1930s. Karpis taught Manson to play guitar and in a 1980 memoir he described “Little Charlie” as lazy but having “a pleasant voice and pleasing personality, although he’s unusually meek and mild for a convict.”

• Manson was anything but a model prisoner after his conviction in the Tate-LaBianca murders. He was involved in frequent fights, set his mattress on fire, was disciplined for possessing weapons and selling drugs to inmates and often refused to participate in rehabilitation programs or psychiatric evaluation. He suffered serious burns in 1984 when an inmate set him on fire.

• A Manson devotee, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, but her gun jammed. She served 34 years in prison.

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 13:07 IST