The Rein of Terror of Charles Manson

charles mansonCharles Manson wanted to be as famous as the Beatles.  And while his attempts to achieve legendary status through his music failed utterly, in the end, his fame in many ways accomplished that goal.  But instead of being famous for great music as the Beatles are and were, Manson has become a byword for a crazed, cult like figure who directed his followers to perform acts of inhumanity so terrible that they exceeded anything we had seen before in the history of 20th century crime.

The vicious murders that were carried out in 1969 by the “family” of Charles Manson gripped the Las Angeles area in fear because they were so brutal and because they were so senseless.  To rational people, the most terrifying thing imaginable is a crazed killer breaking into homes and murdering strangers without any apparent reason.  While the killings carried out by the Manson family seemed to be part of robberies, the bloody execution style murders combined with perverse and strange use of the victims blood to scrawl messages on the walls of the crime scenes demonstrated that these murders were the outcome of the madness of Charlie Manson which was a madness he inflicted on his followers who later became known as the Manson family.

The personal history of Charles Manson certainly had all of the elements that would lead a person to a career as a homicidal maniac.  People who knew Charlie as a youth always said he was incredibly charismatic and intelligent.  And those qualifications helped him in recruiting his famous “family” who did his bidding to go out and commit hideous murders.  Charlie was the son of an unwed mother and a father he never knew.  He got his last name from a man she married for a short time.  Not only did Manson’s father abandon him, his mother who was an alcoholic and prostitute in every way rejected Charlie in his youth.

Small wonder Manson spent much of his early life in juvenile detention and prison.  By the age of 33, Charlie Manson already had passed one half of his lifetime in prison.  But after learning music from another prisoner, Charlie got a vision for himself as a famous artist and set out to find fame upon his release.  But just as his early life was one of rejection, his music career failed which drove him to crime.  The murders of people in the entertainment industry were in part revenge against the music industry for not helping Charlie realize his dream of musical fame.

The reasons for the killing of the wife of Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate along with the La Bianca family and others who were unfortunate enough become victims of the Manson family made no sense.  Clues as to why these devoted followers killed to obey the orders of Manson might have been found in the messages they scrawled on the walls of the homes where the murders took place, which included words like “Rise”, “Pig” and “Helter Skelter”.  

One reason we are fascinated with the Manson Family and the murders they carried out was the devotion the women in that family had for Charles Manson and their willingness to kill without thinking and to perform brutal acts to please him.  Manson could be a prototype for a cult figure who used his influence over others for terrible acts of murder.  His ability to cast that spell was so powerful that to this day, many of his family who are doing life sentences in prison for their crimes continue to vow loyalty to Charles Manson.  And while it is certain Manson will never be released from prison, his rein of terror in 1969 is fascinating part of the history of 20th century crime and an episode that had a twist to it that as like no other.

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