- NAME: Charles Manson
- OCCUPATION: Serial Killer, Cult Leader
- BIRTH DATE: November 12, 1934 (Age: 79)
- Did You Know?: The Beach Boys released a song written by Charles Manson, "Cease To Exist" (renamed "Never Learn Not To Love"), as a single B-side on their 1969 album, 20/20.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Cincinnati, Ohio
- ZODIAC SIGN: Scorpio
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Charles Manson is an American cult leader whose followers carried out several notorious murders in the late 1960s and inspired the book Helter Skelter.
Charles Manson - Early Life (1:34)
Charles Manson - The Family (2:02)
An inside look at Jeff Guinn's new book "The Life and Times of Charles Manson." Video courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Learn how Charles Manson’s early years shaped the serial killer the world knows today.
To Charles Manson, The Beatles were prophets who were sending him and others messages within their lyrics.
An inside look into the day in the life of the Manson family.
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Other grisly and macabre acts were to be perpetrated against the victims. Atkins also revealed that a list of other high profile Hollywood stars were on a list to be killed and mutilated. These included Elizabeth Taylor and husband Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra,
Steve McQueen and Tom Jones. When asked why they wanted to kill such people, Atkins replied that they (Manson and Family) wanted to commit murders that would shock the world and make people take notice.
The trial began on the November 18, 1969. Ronald Hughes was a young lawyer with experience and knowledge of 1960's counter culture. He was assigned as Manson and Van Houten's attorney, but decided to drop Manson in favor of defending Van Houten who he thought could convince the jury that she was under the influence of Manson. The move may have cost him his life. In 1970, Hughes went camping and disappeared. His decomposed body was found several months later. It is thought he was the victim of 'retaliation killing' by members of Manson's Family for, in their eyes, betraying their leader.
During the trial, Manson released an album titled Lie in an effort to raise money for his defense. Manson reveled in media attention and during court proceedings turned up with an X carved into his forehead. Some of his female followers copied the act and shaved their heads, sometimes sitting outside the court house. The X was gradually modified until it turned into a swastika.
Throughout the trial the killers often giggled and exchanged grimaces with Manson. They showed no remorse for their crimes.
On January 25, 1971, Manson was convicted of first degree murder for directing the deaths of the Tate/La Bianca victims. He was sentenced to death but this was automatically commuted to life in prison after the Californian's Supreme Court invalidated all death sentences prior to 1972.
Kasabian was granted immunity for her part in acting as star witness. Susan Atkins was sentenced to death, but was later commuted to life in prison. She was incarcerated from 1969 until her death in 2009.
One interesting aspect to this disturbing saga was the emergence of record producer Terry Melcher, son of Doris Day and friend/producer of popular '60s band the Beach Boys. Before the Manson Family's murderous spree, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys had allowed Manson and several members of his Family to stay at his home after picking up two female members of the Family who'd been hitchhiking. It was through this association that Manson got the opportunity to audition for Melcher, who was living at Polanski's house at the time. Melcher wasn't interested in signing a contract with Manson. However, Manson allegedly did record some music at Dennis's brother, Brian Wilson's home studio, and the Beach Boys released a song written by Manson entitled "Cease To Exist" (renamed "Never Learn Not To Love") on their 1969 album, 20/20, as a single B-side.
According to one of the Family member's statements, the Polanksi household had been targeted because it 'represented' Manson's rejection by the showbiz world and society.
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Combine a charismatic personality with fringe beliefs and an appetite for violence, and you get some of history's most notorious cult leaders. Charles Manson terrorized frightened Americans in the late 1960s, convincing his followers to commit heinous murders in his name. David Koresh led the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas, leading to a standoff with the federal government in 1993 that resulted in the death of Koresh and 75 of his believers. Learn about these leaders, and many more, who inspired hundreds to follow their unconventional philosophies—often with tragic results.
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Charles Manson's eerie ability to control his "family" of young hippies in California remains as mysterious and intriguing today as it did in 1969, when Manson orchestrated the infamous murders of Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Many Manson Family members were sentenced to life in prison for participating in those murders, including Squeaky Fromme, Susan Watkins and Patricia Krenwinkel. Members Bobby Beausoleil and Steve Grogan, under Manson's bizarre influence, committed other murders. Examine our list of Manson Family members and find out about life on the Spahn Movie Ranch, Charles Manson's uncanny hold over his followers, and the random and brutal crimes that ensued.
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