5 things to know about the infamous Manson murders
On August 9th, 1969, an emerging starlet and soon-to-be-mother, Sharon Tate, was brutally murdered alongside four of her friends in the Benedict Canyon home she shared with her husband, Roman Polanski. Their deaths were carried out by members of the “Manson Family” and were perhaps the most infamous Manson murders out of the several committed.
The story of Charles Manson and his followers is both complex and tragic. As of Monday, November 13th, the 83-year-old former cult leader was brought to a Bakersfield, California hospital, where he is now supposedly clinging to life. His story is seemingly reaching the end of its final chapter.
Manson spent his formative years in and out of reform schools and prison, having continuously committed various crimes to land him in either-or. After being released from prison in 1967, Manson obtained a following of around 100 people who wanted to live life the way he did, which often included using hallucinogenic drugs.
This cult called themselves “The Family,” and five of its members were responsible for six high-profile murders, and perhaps several other killings, that shook Hollywood to its core. The details behind the murders are as fascinating as they are troubling, and they still strike fear in the hearts of many almost 50 years later.
1Manson himself didn’t take part in the first Family murders.
The cult leader ordered four of his most loyal followers — Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian — to kill everyone in the home of Roman Polanski on August 9th, 1969. But Manson did not attend the slaughter.
While Kasabian kept watch outside after the first victim, 18-year-old Steven Parent, was shot dead trying to leave the property, the other three Family members gathered Sharon Tate, writer Wojciech Frykowski and his partner, coffee bean-heiress Abigail Folger, and celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, into the living room where they were bound and shot. Folger and Frykowski managed to escape, but were chased and stabbed to death outside of the home.
Sharon Tate was two weeks away from giving birth to her first child with Roman Polanski.
2Upset at the Tate/Frykowski murders’ “sloppiness,” Manson attended the next night’s killing.
The following night, Manson joined his followers — this time, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, Kasabian, Leslie van Houten, and Steve “Clem” Grogan — on a manhunt for their next victims. They decided to strike the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca. LaBianca and his wife Rosemary were brutally murdered inside by Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten.
The murderers wrote “Helter Skelter” on the wall using their victims’ blood. in reference to The Beatles’ song of the same name.
3The song “Helter Skelter” from The Beatles’ White Album heavily influenced Manson’s philosophy.
Not only did Manson and his followers indulge in mind-altering drugs like LSD and mushrooms, but Manson often read into the lyrics of several songs like The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” to form his philosophies. He believed the lyrics of “Helter Skelter” called upon listeners to incite violence and bring on Armageddon. Specifically, he thought “Helter Skelter” was a sign of an impending race war between blacks and whites, and that secret messages and codes were woven into its lyrics.
"Helter Skelter means confusion. Literally. It doesn't mean any war with anyone," Manson said in a November 1970 interview. "It doesn't mean that those people are going to kill other people. It only means what it means. Helter Skelter is confusion. Confusion is coming down fast...It's not my conspiracy. It is not my music. I hear what it relates. It says 'Rise!' It says 'Kill!' Why blame it on me? I didn't write the music. I am not the person who projected it into your social consciousness."
4Manson and his followers were not initially arrested for the murders.
Charles Manson and the Family were not under suspicion of the Tate/LaBianca murders at first. They were actually picked up by police in late 1969 for suspicion of vandalization of the Death Valley National Park. It wasn’t until Susan Atkins confessed to the murders while being held under suspicion for the murder of music teacher Gary Hinman that police realized the Family was connected.
Atkins supposedly revealed details of the horrific murders to other inmates and told them that the Family had a list of other Hollywood stars they wanted to kill. Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, and Tom Jones were all reportedly on said hit list.
5The murderers received the death penalty.
In March 1972, after a seven-month trial, Manson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, Watson, and Van Houten were all sentenced to death for their roles in the Tate/LaBianca murders.
Kasabian was given immunity for her eye-witness testimony against Manson and the other guilty Family members.
The death penalty in California was abolished in 1972, so the Manson Family sentences were commuted to life in prison.
Now an old man, laying ashen in a hospital bed, Charles Manson is a fragment of the outspoken, wild-eyed cult leader who ordered the deaths of seven people. And although his days are reportedly numbered, Manson’s havoc-wreaking legacy will live on for decades after his death.