Although Charles Manson was a career criminal and leader of a cult, to most people, his name is synonymous with one of the most gruesome and horrific series of murders of the 20th century. On August 8-9, 1969, at his direction, various members of his “family” brutally murdered five innocent people for no other reason than that they had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Evidently, Manson believed he had been snubbed by a previous occupant of the house, record producer Terry Melcher. Manson had fancied himself to be a song writer. He had gone to the house in hopes that Melcher would sign him to a recording contract. Melcher had rebuffed him. Manson believed he had been “dissed.” He wanted revenge, so he instructed his followers (“Tex” Watson, Susan Adkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel) to go there and “totally destroy everyone in [it] as gruesome as you can.”
Unbeknownst to him, on the night in question, Melcher was no longer occupying the house. The unfortunate occupants were Sharon Tate, a young aspiring actress who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, noted hairstylist Jay Sebring, Tate’s friend and former lover, aspiring screenwriter Wojcieh Frykowski, Abigail Folger heiress to the Folger coffee fortune and Frykowski’s lover, and Steven Parent a student who was visiting. Tate, along with husband Roman Polanski, owned the house. Polanski was in Europe working on a film.
The murderers followed Manson’s plan faithfully. All of the murders were exceedingly gruesome. It was a wanton, senseless, brutal killing frenzy. Tate pleaded to be allowed to live long enough to have her baby. She even offered to become a hostage. She was stabbed 16 times, many of them in her abdomen. Sebring was shot. While he was lying on the floor bleeding he was kicked repeatedly in the face, breaking his nose and eye socket, then stabbed seven times. Folger escaped the house briefly, but she was run down and tackled, then stabbed 28 times. Frykowski ran outside where he was caught and stabbed 51 times. Parent, who had the misfortune of driving up as the murders were being committed, was shot four times and stabbed. As if all that were not sufficient, the murderers wrote “pig” on the front door in Tate’s blood. Again, they were following Manson’s instructions, which was to “leave a sign… something witchy.”
The murders shocked the world with their brutality. The group was convicted of first degree murder. Originally, Manson was sentenced to death but, later, due to a technicality, his sentence was commuted to life with the possibility of parole. Thankfully, he never made parole.
Charles Milles Maddox was born on November 12, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His childhood was troubled, to say the least. Also, many of the details are murky and mysterious. His mother was an unmarried 16 year-old named Kathleen Manson-Bower-Cavender. He never knew the identity of his father for sure. He was thought to be a ne’er do well named “Colonel” Walker Henderson (who was not a “real” colonel), or it could have been a “Colonel” Scott, who may have been a “colored” cook that his mother may have been sleeping with. In his biography Manson identified Scott as a “drugstore cowboy, a transient laborer.” It is quite possible that Manson invented a fictional background to fill in the blanks of his ancestry. Like I said, murky and mysterious.
At birth, he was officially identified as “no name Maddox.” Later, he was named Charles Milles Maddox. Eventually, his mother married William Eugene Manson, and Charles was renamed Charles Manson. Not much is known about William, except he was a laborer of sorts.
Manson was in and out of trouble his entire young life. He was incarcerated various times for committing a series of crimes, including burglaries, auto thefts and armed robberies. Basically, he was in and out of prison continually. In the late 1960s he established the infamous cult that eventually committed the grisly murders for which he is notorious.
Charles Manson died on November 19, 2017 of natural causes. His name is synonymous with extreme, violent, wanton murder. Those murders shocked us to the core. They had no redeeming features or extenuating circumstances. He should have been executed for them. But for a technicality, he would have been.
Now, he is gone. Good riddance! He has been called “the devil.” Maybe, now he has met his namesake.