Dead People You Should Know: Charles Manson

There is nothing particularly admirable about Charles Manson. He was the notorious cult leader who directed the murders of actress Sharon Tate, business couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, and many more in August of 1969. However, before we get to that story, let’s tell it where it all began.


Charles Manson was born Charles Milles Maddox on November 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio to a 16-year-old prostitute named Kathleen Maddox. She later married a man named William Manson, but divorce soon followed. At the age of 12, Charles was placed in a correctional school. He would make several attempts to return to his mother, all of which ended in rejection. This left Manson homeless and drove him into a life of petty crime. Over the next two decades, Manson would be in and out of jail. After his release from prison in 1967, he moved to San Francisco.


Here, he began his infamous Manson Family - a group made up of about 100 members, some of which were highly impressionable girls who believed his every word, including his outlandish predictions of a race war and claims of being Jesus Christ. Manson also had a strange fascination with The Beatles single, “Helter Skelter,” believing the song sent subliminal messages of impending racial conflict. However, Beatles member Paul Mccartney swears the song is only about the Roman Empire.


Before Manson’s complete dive into insanity. He had an interest in becoming a musician. Since he befriended Beach Boys singer Dennis Wilson and was allowed to live in his home, Wilson was able to get Manson an audition with a popular music executive Terry Melcher. After hearing some recordings, Melcher decided he was not a fan of Manson’s music. However, Manson did have some success, getting a song published as a “B-single” on one of the Beach Boys’ albums. 


Though it is suspected that the family perpetrated at least 35 murders, most of the cases never went to court. The few cases they were tried and convicted for were the murders they committed in August of 1969. On August 9th, Manson directed three members to the home of actress Sharon Tate where they would brutally slay five people, including Tate's unborn child. The following night, he sent more members to slaughter a business couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. While it is widely believed that Manson perpetrated the murders to incite a race war, according to the Washington Post, that is mostly a myth perpetuated by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi.


In January 1971, Manson was given a life sentence for his role in the murders. Many of his followers were given similarly harsh sentences. He would spend the next four decades in prison, being denied parole eleven times until his death in 2017 at the ripe old age of 83.


The story of Manson is not only a story of a man who was born without a home, but also of one who never had a chance. It was clear from the get-go that Manson would become a menace to society. He was seen as an accident at birth and abandoned by his mother. Manson is a reflection of the worst parts of our society - a product of a cruel world. When one sees a man like him, it is easy to say he is a loon, a kook, a madman. However, he is only a product of a society that abandons people like him. Basic psychology dictates that man is largely shaped by their environment. Therefore, if our goal as a society is to create better individuals, we should aim to create better environments. Hopefully limiting the Mansons of the world.  


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