On the night of August 8th, 1969, murderous cult leader Charles Manson gave fatal instructions to his followers – they were to go to “that house where (record producer Terry) Melcher used to live” and “totally destroy everyone in (it), as gruesome as you can.”
Charles “Tex” Watson then took followers Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to commit one of the most gruesome murders Los Angeles had ever witnessed. Amongst the victims was eight-months pregnant actress Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski.
Above: Director Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate
In 1971, Manson was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to life in prison. Had the death penalty not been abolished – he would have likely have faced execution.
So what led the one-time musician to turn into one of the most chilling criminals of all time? Here we look at how rejection from a young age played a huge part in his life and his eventual crimes…
According to The Beach Boys drummer, Dennis Wilson, Manson “didn’t have a musical bone in his whole body.” John Phillips of Mamas and Papas also said, “I’d just shudder every time. I’d say no, I think I’ll pass.” Manson was roommates with Wilson and as one of their musical careers went from strength to strength – the other was left behind with the rejections piling up.
Wilson was a generous character and he introduced Manson to the rest of The Beach Boys, in the hopes he would eventually be bought into the fold, however, the other band members took an instant disliking to the 5ft 1″ inspiring rocker. Paranoid about Manson’s erratic behavior – the band even hired a private investigator to look into his past, according to the book Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s.
Above: Dennis Wilson and Charles Manson
Wilson later introduced Manson to his close friend and record producer Terry Melcher. Together they recorded a few tracks but the plug was pulled when Manson caused problems by bringing far too many people into the studio. Clearly, from the beginning, this was one character desperate to be surrounded by those who seemingly adored him.
Due to the complaints, Manson was rejected. Faced with his early childhood memories of a mother, known as Kathleen Maddox, who was “promiscuous, a criminal, (she) drank too much and failed to take care of (Manson)” teamed with this later rejection later in life, he did the one thing any true maniac would do – create a quasi-commune with an appetite for murder.
The Beginnings of “The Family” and “Helter Skelter”
Following his release from prison for petty crimes in 1967, he moved to a deserted ranch in the San Fernando Valley and was followed by more than 100 devotees, which eventually became known as ‘The Family’.
In the months leading up to the Tate murders, Manson spoke to the members of his ‘Family’ about Helter Skelter; this he believed was an apocalyptic war arising from racial tensions between blacks and whites. High on LSD and their awe for Manson – his followers believed he was Jesus himself.
The Key Manson Family Members
Charles “Tex” Watson was Manson’s right-hand man – a former honor student and school athlete, he was earning a reputation as one to watch on the track field before he met Manson. Leslie Van Houten was the popular homecoming queen but she also fell under the spell of Manson – a decision that landed her life behind bars.
Above L-R: Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkle
Then came the four vulnerable followers – Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel, Susan “Sadie” Atkins, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme and Linda Kasabian. They all had a history of either juvenile decency, drug dealing, petty crimes or dancing in strip clubs – they were easy pickings for Manson.
When Manson told Tex to take the followers to 10050 CieDriveive, Los Angeles, and “totally destroy everyone in (it), as gruesome as you can.” They did just that…
10050 Cielo Drive
10050 Cielo Drive, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California was the home of actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski. Formerly, the home belonged to record producer Terry Melcher who had previously rejected Manson’s musical career – and he sought revenge.
On August 8th, 1969, when Tate was just two weeks away from giving birth, Polanski called to say he was delayed in returning from a trip to London. Later in the evening, Tate dined at her favorite restaurant before inviting her friends – hairdresser Jay Sebring, writer Voytek Frykowski and heiress Abigail Folger – back to her home for the night.
Shortly after midnight, Tex arrived with Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to the house. The first victim was 19-year-old Steven Parent who was driving to the Tate house as he normally stayed with his acquaintance and caretaker of the estate, William Garretson. Parent came face-to-face with Tex who shot him and stabbed him to death.
Then they climbed the telephone pole, cut the wires, and entered the house after slicing through a screen door with a knife. When a sleeping Frykowski woke up on the couch and asked them what they were doing there, Tex chillingly replied, “I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s business.”
Tate was just two weeks away from giving birth and begged to be held hostage so she could give birth to her child before her death. She was stabbed 16 times – 5 of which were fatal – and later Tex claimed she cried out “Mother … mother …” as she was being killed. As the other victims attempted to flee from the followers, they were stabbed in cold blood.
The next morning police found the bodies of Tate and Sebring stabbed to death in the living room – rope had been tied around their necks keeping them together. On the front lawn laid the bodies of Frykowski and Folger.
Polanski returned to Los Angeles where he found the words “PIG” written in blood on his front door at the crime scene where he had lost his wife and unborn child. In 1994, the house was demolished and replaced with a new mansion called Villa Bella and an updated street address of 10066 Cielo Drive.
Manson had certainly rocked the world – but not as he had originally intended.