9 shocking facts about cult leader Charles Manson & his Family

It's been 50 years since Charles Manson's followers went on a heinous killing spree, but their crimes continue to capture the world's imagination

09 August 2019 - 12:45
Charles Manson convinced his followers he was Jesus Christ resurrected.
Charles Manson convinced his followers he was Jesus Christ resurrected.
Image: Getty Images/Bettmann

Shortly after midnight on August 9 1969, three people stormed into the LA home of heavily pregnant actress Sharon Tate and murdered her, her unborn child and four other people who were visiting at the time.

It would later emerge that the killers were members of a cult run by a charismatic and dastardly character named Charles Manson.

Called the Manson Family, their brutal acts signified for many the dark side of the hippie culture that had blossomed in the 1960s, particularly in California. Their crimes heralded the end of an era of hope, and ushered in a much darker era of the American psyche.

On the 50th anniversary of the Tate murders, and with the killings playing a significant role in the forthcoming Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, here are nine things you might not know about Manson and his followers: 

1. MANSON WAS BORN WITHOUT A NAME

The man who everyone came to know as Charles Manson was in fact listed on his birth certificate as “No Name Maddox,” and given the surname of his 16-year-old mother.

2. HIS MOTHER ONCE SOLD HIM FOR A PINT OF BEER

Manson would often tell the story of how, when he was a child, his mother once sold him to another woman in exchange for a pint of beer. The boy’s uncle was forced to search for him and returned him home the next day.

3. HE SPENT MOST OF THE FIRST 20 YEARS OF HIS LIFE IN PRISON

A petty thief and a pimp, Manson was in and out of prison for most of his youth. There he fell under the spell of Scientology and the hugely popular self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

When he was paroled Manson apparently begged the authorities not to let him back into normal society as he felt he had no way of living in it, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.

4. THE MANSON FAMILY WAS A SEX CULT

At one time the so-called Family had almost 100 members, who were mostly young women; some were as young as 14.  

Manson's followers would drop acid and, during their trips, he'd convince them that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and would frequently get them to exchange sex for benefits to the Family.

5. MANSON ASPIRED TO BE A ROCK STAR

Manson fancied himself as a musician and befriended Beach Boy founder Denis Wilson who participated in group sex sessions at the Family’s Spahn Ranch.

When the Beach Boys changed the lyrics to one of Manson’s songs, Cease to Exist, and released it as Never Learn not to Love without crediting him, Manson was furious and sought revenge against his former pal who went into hiding, fearing for his life.

LISTEN | The Beach Boy's track 'Never Learn Not To Love'

LISTEN | Charles Manson's track 'Cease to Exist'

Manson was also obsessed with The Beatles’ The White Album, in particular the song Helter Skelter, which he believed contained subliminal messages about a coming race war in America.

6. TATE AND FRIENDS WEREN'T THE FAMILY'S INTENDED TARGETS

Impatient at the failure of the race war predicted in the supposed subliminal messaging of The White Album, Manson decided to kickstart it by instructing three of his family members —  Tex Watson, Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian — to go to the house at 10050 Cicelo Drive and kill everyone they found there.

American actress Sharon Tate at her wedding to Polish director Roman Polanski. Tate was murdered by followers of Charles Manson, when heavily pregnant with Polanski's child.
American actress Sharon Tate at her wedding to Polish director Roman Polanski. Tate was murdered by followers of Charles Manson, when heavily pregnant with Polanski's child.
Image: Keystone/Getty Images

Manson believed the house to be occupied by record executive who he felt had double crossed him. What he didn't know was that the exec wasn't there and had rented the property to Tate and her husband, filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was away at the time of the murders.

7. THE FAMILY COMMITTED OTHER MURDERS TOO

Manson wasn’t happy with the way his followers had carried out their mission at the Tate residence and so, the next night, he drove around with them in search of other victims. 

They arrived at the house of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and murdered the couple using forks and knives.

Manson did not directly participate in the murders and ordered his followers to write  “Helter Skelter” and “Death to pigs” on the wall using the blood of their victims.

8. HE NEVER ACTUALLY KILLED ANYONE 

The Manson Family court case was one of the most publicised trials in the history of the US. Although Manson didn't actually kill anyone, he was sentenced to death for his involvement in the murders.

When California later abolished the death penalty, Manson's sentence was changed to life imprisonment. 

9. HIS FIANCE WANTED TO DISPLAY HIS DEAD BODY

In 2014, Manson announced that he was engaged to a 26-year-old woman called 'Star', who he claimed wanted to marry him so that she could display his body in a glass case after he died.

He died in 2017 at the age of 83, but his fiancee's wish was never carried out.


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