In November 2017 one of the world’s most notorious cult leaders and murderers the world has ever known died of natural causes at the age of 83 in Californian State Prison Corcoran.
Charles Manson, leader and founder of the Manson Family, orchestrated the murder of nine known victims, instructing his cult members to commit the unimaginably horrific acts.
But what drove this one-time songwriter to do this? Were the murders simply part of senseless insanity, in support of his bizarre Helter Skelter theory, or part of a much larger and sinister conspiracy?
The new two-part documentary on History, Manson Speaks: Inside the Mind of a Madman, presents an alternative theory to the mainstream motives behind Manson’s actions, using 26 hours of never-before-broadcast phone conversations with Manson.These recordings were secretly taped phone conversations between Manson and his confidant Marlin Marynick took place over a space of 10 years.
Charles Miles Manson was born in 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Young Charles’ early life was brutally moulded by his mother who was a teenage alcoholic and sex worker. It’s highly unlikely that he never his father. Growing up in relative poverty, he was first arrested at 13 for robbing grocery stores and soon enough was in a maximum-security reformatory for a grizzly assortment of violent crimes that included raping a boy at knifepoint.
Described by psychiatrists as unstable, psychologically damaged and inherently dangerous, he would spend the next decade in and out of prison for crimes that included stolen cars and goods, forging cheques and taking a teenage girl across state lines.
While serving time at McNeil Island Prison, depression-era gangster Alvin Creepy Karpis taught Manson how to play the guitar and read music. Inspired, Charles became interested in forging a music career once out of jail, and upon his release in 1967, after having spent close to half of his life incarcerated, he headed for Los Angeles in pursuit of his dream.
Charles Manson’s dream of pursuing a career in music was soon put aside. Soon after arriving in San Francisco, he became embroiled in the drugs scene of the 1960s, experimented with LSD and explored the teachings of groups such as Church of the Final Judgement and the Scientology movement. Presumably not content or satisfied with their teachings, he formed his own cult.
Known as the Manson family, he recruited young hippies and preached bizarre teachings that included an impending apocalypse, a violent and bloody race war and a unification between Jesus and Satan.
Taking ten followers, mainly women, Manson headed to Los Angeles.
Manson had become unhealthily fixated with the Beatles song Helter Skelter. He passionately believed the White Album track contained cryptic messages that supported his cult’s beliefs of the upcoming apocalypse and divinely called on him and his family to commit acts of immediate violence.
Manson’s psychotic response to Helter Skelter included hatching various plans to commit murder of high profile Hollywood residents. He believed this would be the trigger to the apocalypse.
Charles Manson instructed members the family to coerce with extreme duress money from a mutual acquaintance, Gary Hinman. Manson believed Hinman had recently inherited a small fortune and over a three-day period, the Manson family brutally interrogated Gary Hinman. Manson himself even paid a visit, slicing Hinman’s ear and face with a sword. Hinman however refused to hand anything over and on July 27, 1969 he was murdered by family member Bobby Beausoleil.
On August 9, 1969, Manson instructed four of his disciples to kill everyone at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. The house was owned by a successful music and film talent manager, Rudolph Altobelli who had rented it to film director Roman Polanski. Six months prior, Manson had visited Altobelli at the mansion’s guest house, looking for the property’s previous owner, record producer Terry Melcher, whom Manson had hoped to forge a musical career music with.
It would seem, with twenty-twenty hindsight, that Manson was both furious that he’d failed to break into the music industry and that his predicted race war showed no signs of materialising.
When the Manson family arrived at the Cielo Drive property Roman Polanski was not there. The Manson family members instead found his pregnant wife Sharon Tate with three of her close friends. In total, six were brutally killed, including the unborn child and an 18-year-old student Steven Parent. Steven had been visiting the property’s caretaker, William Garretson on that fateful summer night.
The following night Manson took three family members to a Los Feliz, Los Angeles house, home of wealthy supermarket businessman Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. Manson ordered the three disciples to brutally murder Leno and Rosemary.
In 1971, Manson was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to kill seven people. He was later also convicted for the first-degree murder of Gary Hinman and Hollywood stunt-man Donald Shea, whose body was not discovered for another six years.
On History’s two-part special Manson Speaks: Inside the Mind of a Madman, 26 hours’ worth of phone conversations with Charles Manson are examined and a new and alternative theory to Manson’s motives is put forth, arguing against the Helter Skelter theory.
This brilliant and disturbing two-part documentary also features an interview with the only member of the Manson family to have left prison and who now lives under a pseudonym.
Manson Speaks: Inside the Man of a Madman is the work of Emmy nominated producer Charlie Cook and is narrated and investigated by Cliff Shepard, a retired cold case and robbery-homicide detective with the LAPD. They provide compelling evidence suggesting that Manson not only had ulterior motives but was probably responsible for the deaths of many others.
Shocking, controversial and thoroughly engrossing this is a must see for anyone intrigued by true crime and the horrendously brutal crimes of Charles Manson and his family.
By: R.J. Hawksworth
Image: Charles Milles Manson booking photo for San Quentin State Prison, California, 1971, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.