I was just a child on August 9, 1969, when members of Charles Manson’s cult kill five people in movie director Roman Polanski’s Beverly Hills, California, home, including Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate.

Manson Family

The Manson Family Cult

Growing up in the 1970s, I knew the Charles Manson story but I supposed just the highlights.  I hadn’t known who Sharon Tate was and I didn’t know that Roman Polanski had been her husband.  He of course had his own share of trouble with the law.

Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate's Rented Home

Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate’s Rented Home

from left, Voytech Frykowski, Tate, Stephen Parent, Jay Sebring and Abigail Folger. Polanski was in London at the time of the murders.

from left, Voytech, Frykowski, Tate, Stephen Parent, Jay Sebring and Abigail Folger. Polanski was in London at the time of the murders.

Less than two days later, the group killed again, murdering supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary in their home. The savage crimes shocked the nation and, strangely, turned Charles Manson into a criminal icon.

Rosemary and Leno LaBianca

Rosemary and Leno LaBianca

LaBianca Home 1969

LaBianca Home 1969

Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1934 to an unwed 16-year-old mother. He spent much of his childhood in juvenile reformatories and his early adulthood in prison. After his release in 1967, Manson moved to California and used his unlikely magnetism to attract a group of hippies and set up a commune, where drugs and orgies were common, on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

family-1

Manson preached his own blend of eccentric religious teachings to his acolytes, who called themselves his “Family.” He told them a race war between blacks and whites was imminent and would result in great power for the Family. Manson said they should instigate the war by killing rich white people and trying to make it look like the work of blacks.

Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist), was not the cult leader’s intended target. Manson, an aspiring musician, chose the Polanski house because he had once unsuccessfully tried to get a recording deal from a producer who used to live there. Polanski was out of town at the time of the murders, but his wife and her friends, including coffee heiress Abigail Folger, were shot or stabbed to death. Manson stayed out of the Polanski house on the night of the crime and didn’t take part in the LaBianca killings either. However, he would later be charged with murder on the grounds he had influenced his followers and masterminded the crimes.

After initially eluding police suspicion, Manson was arrested only after one of his followers, already in jail on a different charge, started bragging about what had happened. Manson’s subsequent trial became a national spectacle, in which he exhibited bizarre and violent behavior. In 1971, he was convicted and given the death penalty; however, that sentence became life behind bars when the California Supreme Court overturned the death penalty in 1972.

Charles Manson Through the Years

Charles Manson Through the Years

Manson has been the subject of numerous movies and books, including the best-seller Helter Skelter (the title is a reference to a Beatles’ song of the same name, through which Manson believed the group was sending secret messages to start a race war). Manson remains in a California prison.  Here is a website that details how the Beatles various songs on the White Album influenced Charles Manson’s ideaologies.  The Influence of the Beatles on Charles Manson

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Born Today in History:

Michael Kors (August 9, 1959 – ) an American fashion designer best known for serving as a judge on the popular television show Project Runway. He’s also known for designing Michelle Obama’s dress for her first official portrait.

Died Today in History:

Jerry Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995) was the lead guitarist and one of the principal vocalists and songwriters of the psychedelic jam band the Grateful Dead.

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4 responses

  1. bebs1 says:

    Oh wow, I never really knew the story of Charles Manson even though I knew who he was. Now the story is much clearer to me, thanks to your blog. Have a great weekend!

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  2. Wasn’t there a link with Paul McCartney’s song Helter Skelter and Charles Manson too ? Paul sings “when they get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide/where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride/Helter Skelter !”Manson interpreted this as his crazy followers emerging from the bottomless pit or something like that and then forcibly risng up and seizing power. Helter Skelter was Manson’s Armageddon song ?

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    • There is no doubt that Manson believed that the Beatles White Album spoke to him and I think the link would be all one sided by Mansion only. The song was written, recorded and released well before Manson’s killing spree. Here is what resources say about the actual song Helter SKelter:

      McCartney was inspired to write the song after reading a 1967 Guitar Player magazine interview with the Who’s Pete Townshend where he described their latest single, “I Can See for Miles”, as the loudest, rawest, dirtiest song the Who had ever recorded. McCartney then “wrote ‘Helter Skelter’ to be the most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera” and said he was “using the symbol of a helter skelter as a ride from the top to the bottom; the rise and fall of the Roman Empire—and this was the fall, the demise.” In British English, the term “helter-skelter” not only has its meaning of “in disorderly haste or confusion” but is the name of a spiralling amusement park slide. McCartney has used this song as a response to critics who accuse him of only writing ballads.

      On 20 November 1968, two days before the release of The Beatles, McCartney gave Radio Luxembourg an exclusive interview, in which he commented on several of the album’s songs. Speaking of “Helter Skelter”, he said: “Umm, that came about just ’cause I’d read a review of a record which said, ‘and this group really got us wild, there’s echo on everything, they’re screaming their heads off.’ And I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, it’d be great to do one. Pity they’ve done it. Must be great — really screaming record.’ And then I heard their record and it was quite straight, and it was very sort of sophisticated. It wasn’t rough and screaming and tape echo at all. So I thought, ‘Oh well, we’ll do one like that, then.’ And I had this song called “Helter Skelter,” which is just a ridiculous song. So we did it like that, ‘cuz I like noise.

      Charles Manson told his followers that several White Album songs including “Helter Skelter” were a part of the Beatles’ coded prophecy of an apocalyptic war in which racist and non-racist whites would be manoeuvered into virtually exterminating each other over the treatment of blacks. Upon the war’s conclusion, after black militants would kill off the few whites they would know to have survived, Manson and his companions would emerge from an underground city in which they would have escaped the conflict. As the only remaining whites, they would rule blacks, who, as the vision went, would be incapable of running America. Manson employed “helter skelter” as the term for this sequence of events.

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