Charles Milles Manson (born November 12, 1934) is an American criminal who led what became known as "the Manson Family," a quasi-commune that arose in California in the later 1960s. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate/LaBianca murders, which members of the group carried out at his instruction. Through the joint-responsibility rule of conspiracy, he was convicted of the murders themselves.
Manson is associated with "Helter Skelter," the term he took from the Beatles song of that name and construed as an apocalyptic race war the murders were putatively intended to precipitate. This connection with rock music linked him, from the beginning of his notoriety, with pop culture, in which he became an emblem of insanity, violence, and the macabre. Ultimately, the term was used as the title of the book that prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wrote about the Manson murders.
At the time the Family began to form, Manson was an unemployed ex-convict, who had spent half his life in correctional institutions for a variety of offenses. In the period before the murders, he was a distant fringe member of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly via a chance association with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. After Manson was charged with the crimes, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially. Artists including Guns N' Roses and Marilyn Manson have covered his songs in the decades since.
Manson's death sentence was automatically reduced to life imprisonment when a decision by the Supreme Court of California temporarily eliminated the state's death penalty. California's eventual reestablishment of capital punishment did not affect Manson, who is an inmate at Corcoran State Prison.
Manson's mother, allegedly a heavy drinker, once sold him for a pitcher of beer to a childless waitress, from whom his uncle retrieved him some days later. When his mother and her brother were sentenced to five years imprisonment for robbing a Charleston, West Virginia, service station in 1939, Manson was placed in the McMechen, West Virginia, home of an aunt and uncle. Upon his mother's 1942 parole, Manson was retrieved by his mother and lived with her in run-down hotel rooms. He would one day characterize her physical embrace of him on the day she returned from prison as his sole childhood joy.
In 1947, Kathleen Maddox tried to have her son placed in a foster home but failed because no such home was available. The court placed Manson in Gibault School for Boys, in Terre Haute, Indiana. After 10 months, he fled from there to his mother, who rejected him.
Caught during the second of two subsequent break-ins of grocery stores, Manson was sent, at age 13, to the Indiana School for Boys, where, he would later claim, he was brutalized sexually and otherwise. After many failed attempts, he escaped with two other boys in 1951.
In Utah, having burgled gas stations all along the way, the three were caught driving to California in cars they had stolen. For the federal crime of taking a stolen car across a state line, Manson was sent to the Washington, D.C., National Training School for Boys. Despite four years of schooling and an average IQ of 109 (later tested at 121), he was illiterate. A caseworker concluded he was aggressively antisocial.
After temporarily honoring a parole condition that he live with his aunt and uncle in West Virginia, Manson moved in with his mother in that same state. In January 1955, he married Rosalie Jean Willis, a hospital waitress, with whom, by his own account, he found genuine, if short-lived, marital happiness, and whom he supported via smalltime jobs and auto theft.
Around October, about three months after he and his pregnant wife arrived in Los Angeles in a car he had stolen in Ohio, Manson was again charged with a federal crime for taking the vehicle interstate; after a psychiatric evaluation, he was given five years' probation. His subsequent failure to appear at a Los Angeles hearing on an identical charge filed in Florida resulted in his March 1956 arrest in Indianapolis. His probation was revoked; he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at Terminal Island, San Pedro, California.
Charles Manson Jr., Manson's son by Rosalie, was born while Manson was in prison. During his first year at Terminal Island, Manson received visits from his wife and mother, who were now living together in Los Angeles; but in March 1957, when the visits from his wife ceased, his mother informed him Rosalie was living with another man. Caught trying to escape by stealing a car less than two weeks before a scheduled parole hearing, Manson was given five years' probation; his parole was denied.
After Manson took that same woman and another girl from California to New Mexico for purposes of prostitution before the year's end, he was held and questioned for violation of the Mann Act. Though he was released, he evidently suspected, rightly, that the investigation had not ended. When he disappeared, in violation of his probation, a bench warrant was issued; an April 1960 indictment for violation of the Mann Act followed. Arrested in Laredo, Texas, in June, when one of his girls was arrested for prostitution, Manson was returned to Los Angeles. For violation of his probation on the check-cashing charge, he was ordered to serve his ten-year sentence.
In July 1961, after a year spent unsuccessfully appealing the revocation of his probation, Manson was transferred from the Los Angeles County Jail to the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island. Although the Mann Act charge had been dropped, the attempt to cash the Treasury check was still a federal offense. His September 1961 annual review noted he had a \"tremendous drive to call attention to himself,\" an observation echoed in September 1964. In the interval, in 1963, Leona was granted a divorce, in the pursuit of which she alleged she and Manson had had a son, Charles Luther.
In June 1966, Manson was sent, for the second time in his life, to Terminal Island, in preparation for early release. By March 21, 1967, his release day, he had spent more than half of his 32 years in prisons and other institutions. Telling the authorities that prison had become his home, he requested, unsuccessfully, that he be permitted to stay, a fact touched on in a 1981 television interview with Tom Snyder.
Manson also established himself as a guru in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, which, during 1967's "Summer of Love", was emerging as the signature hippie locale. Expounding a philosophy that included some of the Scientology he had studied in prison, he soon had his first group of young followers, most of them female.
Before the summer was out, Manson and eight or nine of his enthusiasts piled into an old school bus they had re-wrought in hippie style, with colored rugs and pillows in place of the many seats they had removed. Hitting the road, they roamed as far north as Washington State, then southward through Los Angeles, Mexico, and the southwest. Returning to the Los Angeles area, they lived in Topanga Canyon, Malibu, and Venice — western parts of the city and county.
In an alternative account, which does not mention the eighteen girls at Brunner’s place, Manson, apparently accompanied by Brunner, acquired Family members during some months of travels that were undertaken, in part, in a Volkswagen van; it was November when the school bus set out from San Francisco with the enlarged group.
Inside the house, Wilson discovered 12 strangers, mostly girls. Over the next few months, as their number doubled, the Family members who had made themselves part of Wilson's Sunset Boulevard household cost him approximately $100,000. This included a large medical bill for treatment of their gonorrhea and $21,000 for the accidental destruction of an uninsured car of his which they borrowed. Wilson would sing and talk with Manson, whose girls were servants to them both.
Wilson paid for studio time to record songs written and performed by Manson, and he introduced Manson to acquaintances of his with roles in the entertainment business. These included Gregg Jakobson, Terry Melcher, and Rudi Altobelli, the last of whom owned a house he would soon rent to actress Sharon Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski. Jakobson, who was impressed by "the whole Charlie Manson package" of artist/lifestylist/philosopher, also paid to record Manson material.
In the quasi-autobiographical Manson in His Own Words, the account is that Manson first met Wilson at a friend's San Francisco house where he, Manson, had gone to obtain marijuana. The Beach Boy supposedly gave Manson his Sunset Boulevard address and invited him to stop by when he would be in Los Angeles.
Located in (or near) Chatsworth, the ranch had once been a location for the shooting of Western films; then, with its old movie sets run down, it was primarily doing business in horseback rides. While Family members did helpful work around the place, Manson kept the nearly-blind, octogenarian owner, George Spahn, on his side by having Lynette Fromme act as Spahn's eyes and, along with other girls, service Spahn sexually. For a tiny squeal she would emit when Spahn would pinch her thigh, Fromme, one of the early Family members who had boarded the school bus, acquired the nickname "Squeaky."
The Family was soon joined at Spahn Ranch by Charles Watson, who had met Manson at Dennis Wilson's house. A small-town Texan who had quit college and moved to California, Watson had given a lift to Wilson, who had been hitchhiking because his cars had been wrecked. Watson's drawl earned him a nickname from George Spahn: "Tex".
While back at Spahn Ranch, no later than December, Manson and Watson visited a Topanga Canyon acquaintance who played them the Beatles' White Album, then recently released. Despite having been 29 years old and imprisoned when The Beatles first came to America in 1964, Manson was obsessed with the group. At McNeil, he had told fellow inmates, including Alvin Karpis, that he could surpass the group in fame; to the Family, he spoke of the group as "the soul" and "part of 'the hole in the infinite.'"
For some time, too, Manson had been saying that racial tension between blacks and whites was growing and that blacks would soon rise up in rebellion in America's cities. He had emphasized Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, which had taken place on April 4, 1968. On a bitterly cold New Year's Eve at Myers Ranch, the Family members, gathered outside around a large fire, listened as Manson explained that the social turmoil he had been predicting had also been predicted by The Beatles. The White Album songs, he declared, told it all, although in code. In fact, he maintained (or would soon maintain), the album was directed at the Family itself, an elect group that was being instructed to preserve the worthy from the impending disaster.
In early January 1969, the Family escaped the desert's cold and positioned itself to monitor L.A.'s supposed tension by moving to a canary-yellow home in Canoga Park, not far from the Spahn Ranch. Because this locale would allow the group to remain "submerged beneath the awareness of the outside world," Manson called it the Yellow Submarine, another Beatles reference. There, Family members prepared for the impending apocalypse, which, around the campfire, Manson had termed "Helter Skelter," after the song of that name.
By February, Manson's vision was complete. The Family would create an album whose songs, as subtle as those of The Beatles, would trigger the predicted chaos. Ghastly murders of whites by blacks would be met with retaliation, and a split between racist and non-racist whites would yield whites' self-annihilation. Blacks' triumph, as it were, would merely precede their being ruled by the Family, which would ride out the conflict in "the bottomless pit" — a secret city beneath Death Valley. At the Canoga Park house, while Family members worked on vehicles and pored over maps to prepare for their desert escape, they also worked on songs for their world-changing album. When they were told Terry Melcher was to come to the house to hear the material, the girls prepared a meal and cleaned the place; but Melcher never arrived.
Manson was met by Shahrokh Hatami, a photographer and Tate friend, who was there to photograph Tate in advance of her departure for Rome the next day. Having seen Manson through a window as Manson approached the main house, Hatami had gone onto the front porch to ask him what he wanted. When Manson told Hatami he was looking for someone whose name Hatami did not recognize, Hatami informed him the place was the Polanski residence. Hatami advised him to try "the back alley," by which he meant the path to the guest house, beyond the main house. Concerned over the stranger on the property, Hatami was now down on the front walk, to confront Manson. When Tate appeared behind Hatami, in the house's front door, and asked who was calling, Hatami said a man was looking for someone. Hatami and Tate maintained their positions while Manson, without a word, went back to the guest house, returned a minute or two later, and left.
That evening, Manson returned to the property and again went back to the guest house, where, presuming to enter the enclosed porch, he spoke with Rudi Altobelli, who was just coming out of the shower. Although Manson asked for Melcher, Altobelli felt Manson had come looking for him, as is consistent with prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi's later discovery that Manson had apparently been to the place on earlier occasions since Melcher's departure from it.
Speaking through the inner screen door, Altobelli told Manson that Melcher had moved to Malibu; he lied that he did not know Melcher's new address. In response to a question from Manson, Altobelli said he himself was in the entertainment business, although, having met Manson the previous year, at Dennis Wilson's home, he was sure Manson already knew that. At Wilson's, Altobelli had complimented Manson lukewarmly on some of his musical recordings that Wilson had been playing.
When Altobelli informed Manson he was going out of the country the next day, Manson said he'd like to speak with him upon his return; Altobelli lied that he would be gone for more than a year. In response to a direct question from Altobelli, Manson explained that he had been directed to the guest house by the persons in the main house; Altobelli expressed the wish that Manson not disturb his tenants.
Manson left. As Altobelli flew with Tate to Rome the next day, Tate asked him whether "that creepy-looking guy" had gone back to the guest house the day before.
By June, Manson was telling the Family they might have to show blacks how to start "Helter Skelter". When Manson tasked Watson with obtaining money supposedly intended to help the Family prepare for the conflict, Watson defrauded a black drug dealer named Bernard "Lotsapoppa" Crowe. Crowe responded with a threat to wipe out everyone at Spahn Ranch. Manson countered on July 1, 1969, by shooting Crowe at his Hollywood apartment.
Manson's mistaken belief that he had killed Crowe was seemingly confirmed by a news report of the discovery of the dumped body of a Black Panther in Los Angeles. Although Crowe was not a member of the Black Panthers, Manson, concluding he had been, expected retaliation from the group. He turned Spahn Ranch into a defensive camp, with night patrols of armed guards. "If we'd needed any more proof that Helter Skelter was coming down very soon, this was it," Tex Watson would later write, "[B]lackie was trying to get at the chosen ones."
On July 25, 1969, Manson sent sometime Family member Bobby Beausoleil along with Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins to the house of acquaintance Gary Hinman, to persuade him to turn over money Manson thought Hinman had inherited. The three held the uncooperative Hinman hostage for two days, during which Manson showed up with a sword to slash his ear. After that, Beausoleil stabbed him to death, ostensibly on Manson’s instruction. Before leaving the Topanga Canyon residence, Beausoleil, or one of the girls, used Hinman’s blood to write "Political piggy" on the wall and to draw a panther paw, a Black Panther symbol.
In magazine interviews of 1981 and 1998-99, Beausoleil would say he went to Hinman’s to recover money paid to Hinman for drugs that had supposedly been bad; he added that Brunner and Atkins, unaware of his intent, went along idly, merely to visit Hinman. On the other hand, Atkins, in her 1977 autobiography, wrote that Manson directly told Beausoleil, Brunner, and her to go to Hinman’s and get the supposed inheritance — $21,000. She said Manson had told her privately, two days earlier, that, if she wanted to "do something important," she could kill Hinman and get his money.
On the night of August 8, Manson directed Watson to take Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel — one of the hitchhikers allegedly picked up by Dennis Wilson — to "that house where Melcher used to live" and "totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can." He told the girls to do as Watson would instruct them.
When the four arrived at the entrance to the Cielo Drive property, Watson, who'd been to the house on Manson's orders, climbed a telephone pole near the gate and cut the phone line. It was now around midnight and into August 9, 1969.
Backing their car down to the bottom of the hill that led up to the place, they parked there and walked back up to the house. Thinking the gate might be electrified or rigged with an alarm, they climbed a brushy embankment at its right and dropped onto the grounds. Just then, headlights came their way from farther within the angled property. Telling the girls to lie in the bushes, Watson stepped out, gave a command to halt, and shot the approaching driver, 18-year-old Steven Parent, to death. After cutting the screen of an open window of the main house, Watson told Kasabian to keep watch down by the gate. He removed the screen, entered through the window, and let Atkins and Krenwinkel in through the front door.
On Watson’s direction, Atkins found the house's three other occupants and, with Krenwinkel's help, brought them to the living room. The three were Tate, eight and a half months pregnant; her friend and former lover Jay Sebring, a noted hairstylist; and Frykowski’s lover Abigail Folger, heiress to the Folger coffee fortune. Polanski, Tate's husband, was in London, at work on a film project.
Watson began to tie Tate and Sebring together by their necks with rope he'd brought and slung up over a beam. Sebring's protest — his second — of rough treatment of Tate prompted Watson to shoot him. After Folger was taken momentarily back to her bedroom for her purse, which proved to hold about $70, Watson stabbed the groaning Sebring seven times.
Frykowski, whose hands had been bound with a towel, freed himself and began struggling with Atkins, who stabbed his legs with the knife with which she had been guarding him. As Frykowski fought his way toward and out the front door, onto the porch, Watson, who joined in against him, struck him over the head with the gun multiple times (breaking the gun's right grip in the process), stabbed him repeatedly, and shot him twice. Around this time, Kasabian, drawn up from the driveway by "horrifying sounds", arrived outside the door and, in a vain effort to halt the massacre, told Atkins falsely that someone was coming.
Inside the house, Folger had escaped from Krenwinkel and fled out a bedroom door to the pool area. Having been pursued to the front lawn by Krenwinkel, who stabbed and, finally, tackled her, she was dispatched by Watson; her two assailants stabbed her a total of 28 times. As Frykowski struggled across the lawn, Watson finished him off as well, with furious stabbing that brought his total stab wounds to 51.
Back in the house, Atkins, Watson, or both killed Tate, who was stabbed a total of sixteen times. Tate pleaded to be allowed to live long enough to have her baby; she cried, "Mother... mother..." — until she was dead.
Earlier, as the four Family members had headed out from Spahn Ranch, Manson had told the girls to "leave a sign… something witchy"; now, using the towel that had bound Frykowski’s hands, Atkins wrote \"pig\" on the house’s front door, in Tate's blood. En route home, the killers changed out of bloody clothes, which were ditched in the hills, along with their weapons.
In initial confessions, to cellmates of hers at Sybil Brand Institute, Atkins would say she killed Tate. In later statements — to her attorney, to Vincent Bugliosi, and before a grand jury — she would indicate Tate had been stabbed by Tex Watson. In his 1978 autobiography, Watson himself would say that he stabbed Tate and that Atkins did not. Since he was aware that prosecutor Bugliosi and the jury that had tried the other Tate-LaBianca defendants were convinced Atkins had stabbed Tate, he falsely testified he did not stab her.
According to Atkins and Kasabian, Manson returned, after disappearing up the driveway, to say he had tied up the house's occupants; he then sent Watson up with Krenwinkel and Van Houten. In his autobiography, Watson would state that, having gone up alone, Manson returned to take him up to the house with him: when Manson had pointed out a sleeping man through a window, they entered through the unlocked back door. Watson added that, at trial, he "went along with" the women's account, which he figured made him "look that much less responsible."
Rousing the sleeping Leno LaBianca from the couch at gunpoint, as Watson tells it, Manson had Watson bind his hands with a leather thong. After Rosemary LaBianca was brought briefly into the living room from the bedroom, Watson followed Manson’s instructions to cover the couple’s heads with pillowcases, which he bound in place with lamp cords. Manson left, sending Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten into the house with instructions that the couple be killed.
Sounds of a scuffle in the bedroom drew Watson there to discover Mrs. LaBianca keeping the girls at bay by swinging the lamp tied to her neck. Subduing her with several stabs of the bayonet, Watson returned to the living room and resumed attacking Leno, whom he stabbed a total of twelve times. After Watson had finished, he carved "WAR" on the man's exposed abdomen, as he would state in his autobiography. Atkins, who did not enter the LaBianca house, told a grand jury she believed Krenwinkel had carved the word. In a ghost-written newspaper account based on a statement she had made earlier to her attorney, she said Watson carved it.
Returning to the bedroom, where Krenwinkel was stabbing Rosemary LaBianca with a knife from the LaBianca kitchen, Watson — heeding Manson’s instruction to make sure each of the girls played a part — told Van Houten to stab her too. She did, on the exposed buttocks and elsewhere. At trial, Van Houten would claim, uncertainly, that Rosemary LaBianca was dead by the time she stabbed her. Evidence showed that many of Mrs. LaBianca's forty-one total stab wounds had, in fact, been inflicted post-mortem.
While Watson cleaned off the bayonet and showered, Krenwinkel wrote "Rise" and "Death to pigs" on the walls and "Healter [sic] Skelter" on the refrigerator door, all in blood. She gave Leno LaBianca fourteen puncture wounds with an ivory-handled, two-tined carving fork, which she left jutting out of his stomach; she also planted a steak knife in his throat.
Hoping for a double crime, Manson had gone on to direct Kasabian to drive to the Venice home of an actor acquaintance of hers, another "piggy." Depositing the second trio of Family members at the man's apartment building, he drove back to Spahn Ranch, leaving them and the LaBianca killers to hitchhike home. Kasabian thwarted this murder by deliberately knocking on the wrong apartment door and waking a stranger. As the group abandoned the murder plan and left, Susan Atkins defecated in the stairwell.
Steven Parent, the shooting victim in the Tate driveway, was determined to have been an acquaintance of William Garretson, a young man hired by Rudi Altobelli to take care of the property while Altobelli himself was away. As the killers arrived, Parent had been leaving Cielo Drive, after a visit to Garretson. Held briefly as a Tate suspect, Garretson, who lived in the guest house and told police he had neither seen nor heard anything on the murder night, was released on August 11, 1969, after undergoing a polygraph examination that indicated he had not been involved in the crimes. Interviewed decades later, he would state he had, in fact, witnessed a portion of the murders, as the examination suggested. (See "Later events," below.)
On August 12, 1969, the LAPD told the press it had ruled out any connection between the Tate and LaBianca homicides. On August 16, the sheriff’s office raided Spahn Ranch and arrested Manson and 25 others, as "suspects in a major auto theft ring" that had been stealing Volkswagens and converting them into dune buggies. Weapons were seized, but because the warrant had been misdated the group was released a few days later.
By the end of August, when virtually all leads had gone nowhere, a report by the LaBianca detectives, generally younger than the Tate team, noted a possible connection between the bloody writings at the LaBianca house and "the singing group the Beatles’ most recent album."
The arrests had taken place at the desert ranches, to which the Family had moved and whence, unknown to authorities, its members had been searching Death Valley for a hole in the ground — access to the Bottomless Pit. A joint force of National Park rangers and officers from the California Highway Patrol and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office — federal, state, and county personnel — had raided both the Myers and Barker ranches after following clues unwittingly left when Family members burned an earthmover owned by Death Valley National Monument. The raiders had found stolen dune buggies and other vehicles and had arrested two dozen persons, including Manson. A Highway Patrol officer found Manson hiding in a cabinet beneath Barker's bathroom sink.
A month after they, too, had spoken with Lutesinger, the LaBianca detectives made contact with members of a motorcycle gang she'd told them Manson had tried to enlist as his bodyguards while the Family was at Spahn Ranch. While the gang members were providing information that suggested a link between Manson and the murders, a dormitory mate of Susan Atkins succeeded in informing LAPD of the Family’s involvement in the crimes. One of those arrested at Barker, Atkins had been booked for the Hinman murder after she’d confirmed to the sheriff’s detectives that she’d been involved in it, as Lutesinger had said. Transferred to Sybil Brand Institute, a detention center in Los Angeles, she had begun talking to bunkmates Ronnie Howard and Virginia Graham, to whom she gave accounts of the events in which she had been involved.
Watson and Krenwinkel, too, were already under arrest, authorities in McKinney, Texas and Mobile, Alabama having picked them up on notice from LAPD. Informed that there was a warrant out for her arrest, Kasabian voluntarily surrendered to authorities in Concord, New Hampshire on December 2.
Before long, physical evidence such as Krenwinkel's and Watson's fingerprints, which had been collected by LAPD at Cielo Drive, was augmented by evidence recovered by the public. On September 1, 1969, the distinctive .22-caliber Hi Standard "Buntline Special" revolver Watson used on Parent, Sebring, and Frykowski had been found and given to the police by a ten-year-old who lived near the Tate residence. In mid-December, when the Los Angeles Times published a crime account based on information Susan Atkins had given her attorney, the boy's father made several phone calls which finally prompted LAPD to connect the gun with the murders. Acting on that same newspaper account, a local ABC television crew quickly located and recovered the bloody clothing discarded by the Tate killers. Discarded knives used at the Tate residence were never recovered, despite a search by some of the same crewmen and, months later still, by LAPD.
Because of his conduct, including violations of a gag order and submission of "outlandish" and "nonsensical" pretrial motions, Manson's reluctantly-granted permission to act as his own attorney had been withdrawn by the court before the trial’s start. On Friday, July 24, the first day of testimony, Manson appeared in court with an X carved into his forehead and issued a statement that he was "considered inadequate and incompetent to speak or defend [him]self" — and had "X'd [him]self from [the establishment's] world. Over the following weekend, the female defendants duplicated the mark on their own foreheads, as, within another day or so, most Family members did, too.
The prosecution placed the triggering of "Helter Skelter" as the main motive. The crime scenes' bloody White Album references — pig, rise, helter skelter — were correlated with testimony about Manson predictions that the murders blacks would commit at the outset of Helter Skelter would involve the writing of "pigs" on walls in victims’ blood. Testimony that Manson had said "now is the time for Helter Skelter" was supplemented with Kasabian’s testimony that, on the night of the LaBianca murders, Manson considered discarding Rosemary LaBianca's wallet on the street of a black neighborhood. Having obtained the wallet in the LaBianca house, he "wanted a black person to pick it up and use the credit cards so that the people, the establishment, would think it was some sort of an organized group that killed these people." On his direction, Kasabian had hidden it in the women's rest room of a service station near a black area. "I want to show blackie how to do it," Manson had said as the Family members had driven along after the departure from the LaBianca house.
Some Family members attempted to dissuade witnesses from testifying. Prosecution witnesses Paul Watkins and Juan Flynn were both threatened; Watkins was badly burned in a suspicious fire in his van. Former Family member Barbara Hoyt, who had overheard Susan Atkins describing the Tate murders to Family member Ruth Ann Moorehouse, agreed to accompany the latter to Hawaii. There, Moorehouse allegedly gave her a hamburger spiked with several doses of LSD. Found sprawled on a Honolulu curb in a drugged semi-stupor, Hoyt was taken to the hospital, where she did her best to identify herself as a witness in the Tate-LaBianca murder trial. Before the incident, Hoyt had been a reluctant witness; after the attempt to silence her, her reticence disappeared.
On August 4, despite precautions taken by the court, Manson flashed the jury a Los Angeles Times front page whose headline was "Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares," a reference to a statement made the previous day when U.S. President Richard Nixon had decried what he saw as the media's glamorization of Manson. Voir dired by Judge Charles Older, the jurors contended that the headline had not influenced them. The next day, the female defendants stood up and said in unison that, in light of Nixon's remark, there was no point in going on with the trial. On October 5, denied the court's permission to question a prosecution witness whom the defense attorneys had declined to cross-examine, Manson leaped over the defense table and attempted to attack the judge. Wrestled to the ground by bailiffs, he was removed from the courtroom with the female defendants, who had subsequently risen and begun chanting in Latin. Thereafter, Older allegedly began wearing a revolver under his robes.
As the body of the trial concluded and with the closing arguments impending, attorney Ronald Hughes, who had been representing Leslie Van Houten, disappeared during a weekend trip. When Maxwell Keith was appointed to represent Van Houten in Hughes' absence, a delay of more than two weeks was required to permit Keith to familiarize himself with the voluminous trial transcripts. No sooner had the trial resumed, just before Christmas, than disruptions of the prosecution's closing argument by the defendants led Older to ban the four defendants from the courtroom for the remainder of the guilt phase. Older said it had become obvious the defendants were acting in collusion with each other and were simply putting on a performance.
Midway through the penalty phase, Manson shaved his head and trimmed his beard to a fork; he told the press, "I am the Devil, and the Devil always has a bald head." In what the prosecution regarded as belated recognition on their part that imitation of Manson only proved his domination, the female defendants refrained from shaving their heads until the jurors retired to weigh the state's request for the death penalty.
The effort to exonerate Manson via the "copycat" scenario failed; on March 29, 1971, the jury returned verdicts of death against all four defendants on all counts. On April 19, 1971, Judge Older sentenced the four to death.
On the day the verdicts recommending the death penalty were returned, news came that the badly-decomposed body of Ronald Hughes had been found wedged between two boulders in Ventura County. It was rumored, although never proven, that Hughes was murdered by the Family, possibly because he had stood up to Manson and refused to allow Van Houten to take the stand and absolve Manson of the crimes. Though he might have perished in flooding, a Family member allegedly said Hughes was "the first of the retaliation murders."
In February 1972, the death sentences of all five parties were automatically reduced to life in prison by California v. Anderson, 493 P.2d 880, 6 Cal. 3d 628 (Cal. 1972), in which the Supreme Court of California abolished the death penalty in that state.
In a 1971 trial that took place after his Tate/LaBianca convictions, Manson was found guilty of the murders of Gary Hinman and Donald "Shorty" Shea and was given a life sentence. Shea, a Spahn Ranch stuntman and horse wrangler, had been killed approximately ten days after the August 16, 1969, sheriff's raid on the ranch. Manson, who suspected that Shea helped set up the raid, had apparently believed Shea was trying to get Spahn to run the Family off the ranch. Manson was annoyed, too, that the white Shea had married a black woman; and there was the possibility that Shea knew about the Tate/LaBianca killings. In separate trials, Family members Bruce Davis and Steve "Clem" Grogan were also found guilty of Shea's murder.
Before the conclusion of Manson's Tate/LaBianca trial, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times tracked down Manson's mother, remarried and living in the Pacific Northwest. The former Kathleen Maddox claimed that, in childhood, her son had known no neglect; he had even been "pampered by all the women who surrounded him."
In 1977, authorities learned the precise location of the remains of Shorty Shea and that, contrary to Family claims, Shea had not been dismembered and buried in several places. Contacting the prosecutor in his case, Steve Grogan told him Shea’s corpse had been buried in one piece; he drew a map that pinpointed the location of the body, which was recovered. Of those convicted of Manson-ordered murders, Grogan would become, in 1985, the first — and, as of 2008, the only — to be paroled.
In the 1980s, Manson gave three notable interviews. The first, recorded at California Medical Facility and aired June 13, 1981, was by Tom Snyder for NBC's The Tomorrow Show. The second, recorded at San Quentin Prison and aired March 7, 1986, was by Charlie Rose for CBS News Nightwatch; it won the national news Emmy Award for "Best Interview" in 1987. The last, with Geraldo Rivera in 1988, was part of that journalist's prime-time special on Satanism.
On September 25, 1984, while imprisoned at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville, Manson was severely burned by a fellow inmate who poured paint thinner on him and set him alight. The other prisoner, Jan Holmstrom, explained that Manson had objected to his Hare Krishna chants and had verbally threatened him. Despite suffering second- and third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body, Manson recovered from his injuries.
In December 1987, Fromme, serving a life sentence for the assassination attempt, escaped briefly from Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia. She was trying to reach Manson, whom she had heard had testicular cancer; she was apprehended within days.
In January 1996, a Manson web site was established by latter-day Manson follower George Stimson, who was helped by Sandra Good. Good had been released from prison in 1985, after serving 10 years of her 15-year sentence for the death threats.
In a 1998-9 interview in Seconds magazine, Bobby Beausoleil rejected the view that Manson ordered him to kill Gary Hinman. He stated Manson did come to Hinman's house and slash Hinman with a sword. In a 1981 interview with Oui magazine, he denied this. Beausoleil stated that when he read about the Tate murders in the newspaper, "I wasn't even sure at that point — really, I had no idea who had done it until Manson's group were actually arrested for it. It had only crossed my mind and I had a premonition, perhaps. There was some little tickle in my mind that the killings might be connected with them...." In the Oui magazine interview, he had stated, "When [the Tate-LaBianca murders] happened, I knew who had done it. I was fairly certain."
William Garretson, once the young caretaker at Cielo Drive, indicated in a program broadcast in July 1999 on E!, that he had, in fact, seen and heard a portion of the Tate murders from his location in the property’s guest house. This comported with the unofficial results of the polygraph examination that had been given to Garretson on August 10, 1969, and that had effectively eliminated him as a suspect. The LAPD officer who conducted the examination had concluded Garretson was "clean" on participation in the crimes but "muddy" as to his having heard anything. Garretson did not explain why he had withheld his knowledge of the events.
In a January 2008 segment of the Discovery Channel’s Most Evil, Barbara Hoyt said that the impression that she had accompanied Ruth Ann Moorehouse to Hawaii just to avoid testifying at Manson's trial was erroneous. Hoyt said she had cooperated with the Family because she was "trying to keep them from killing my family." She stated that, at the time of the trial, she was "constantly being threatened: 'Your family’s gonna die. [The murders] could be repeated at your house.'
On March 15, 2008, Associated Press reported that forensic investigators had conducted a search for human remains at Barker Ranch the previous month. Following up on longstanding rumors that the Family had killed hitchhikers and runaways who had come into its orbit during its time at Barker, the investigators identified "two likely clandestine grave sites... and one additional site that merits further investigation. Though they recommended digging, CNN reported on March 28 that the Inyo County Sheriff, who questioned the methods they employed with search dogs, had ordered additional tests before any excavation. On May 9, after a delay caused by damage to test equipment, the sheriff announced that test results had been inconclusive and that "exploratory excavation" would begin on May 20. In the meantime, Tex Watson had commented publicly that "no one was killed" at the desert camp during the month-and-a-half he was there, after the Tate-LaBianca murders. On May 21, after two days of work, the sheriff brought the search to an end; four potential gravesites had been dug up and had been found to hold no human remains.
Manson will not be eligible for parole again until 2012. He is an inmate in the Protective Housing Unit at Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, California, where his inmate number in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is #B33920.
Since that time, there have been several releases of Manson recordings — both musical and spoken. The Family Jams includes two compact discs of Manson's songs recorded by the Family in 1970, after Manson and the others had been arrested. Guitar and lead vocals are supplied by Steve Grogan; additional vocals are supplied by Lynette Fromme, Sandra Good, Catherine Share, and others. One Mind, an album of music, poetry, and spoken word, new at the time of its release, in April 2005, was put out under a Creative Commons license.
American rock band Guns N’ Roses recorded Manson's "Look at Your Game, Girl," included as an unlisted thirteenth track on their 1993 album "The Spaghetti Incident?" "My Monkey," which appears on Portrait of an American Family by Marilyn Manson (no relation, as is explained below), includes the lyrics "I had a little monkey/I sent him to the country and I fed him on gingerbread/Along came a choo-choo/Knocked my monkey cuckoo/And now my monkey’s dead. These lyrics are from Manson’s "Mechanical Man, which is heard on LIE.
Several of Manson's songs, including "I'm Scratching Peace Symbols on Your Tombstone" (a.k.a. "First They Made Me Sleep in the Closet"), "Garbage Dump", and "I Can't Remember When", are featured in the soundtrack of the 1976 TV-movie Helter Skelter, where they are performed by Steve Railsback, who plays Manson.
According to a popular urban legend, Manson failed a late 1965 audition for the Monkees; which is refuted by the fact that Manson was still incarcerated at McNeil Island at that time.
Manson has been a presence in fashion, graphics, music, and movies, as well as on television and the stage. In an afterword composed for the 1994 edition of the non-fiction Helter Skelter, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi quoted a BBC employee's assertion that a "neo-Manson cult" existing then in Europe was represented by, among other things, approximately 70 rock bands playing songs by Manson and "songs in support of him."
Just one specimen of popular music with Manson references is Alkaline Trio’s "Sadie," whose lyrics include the phrases "Sadie G," "Ms. Susan A," and "Charlie’s broken .22. "Sadie Mae Glutz" was the name by which Susan Atkins was known within the Family; and as noted earlier, the revolver grip that shattered when Tex Watson used it to bludgeon Wojciech Frykowski was a twenty-two caliber. "Sadie’s" lyrics are followed by a spoken passage derived from Atkins’s testimony in the penalty phase of the trial of Manson and the women.
Manson has even influenced the names of musical performers such as Spahn Ranch and Marilyn Manson, the latter a stage name assembled from "Charles Manson" and "Marilyn Monroe. The story of the Family's activities inspired John Moran’s opera The Manson Family and Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins, the latter of which has Lynette Fromme as a character. The tale has been the subject of several movies, including two television dramatizations of Helter Skelter. In the South Park episode Merry Christmas Charlie Manson, Manson is a comic character whose inmate number is 06660, an apparent reference to 666, the Biblical "number of the beast.