There are some murderers with stories that are so twisted — the Zodiac killer, Ted Bundy — that they live on for decades after they commit their crimes. Charles Manson and his "Manson family" definitely fall into this category. While he was at large in the 1960s, his killings still terrify people today. In this season of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy decided to incorporate real cult leaders into the plot, including Manson. But what happened to the real Charles Manson? His terrifying crimes will be depicted on AHS: Cult during this week's episode, aptly titled "Charles (Manson) in Charge" with Evan Peters once again taking on the portrayal.
While Charles Manson was imprisoned many times throughout his life, he's most famous for the crimes he facilitated through his cult, the Manson family. From 1967 to 1968, Charles Manson attracted a group of followers, and they all lived in an abandoned ranch in California. Many of his followers were young girls, who believed everything Manson told them — like that he was actually Jesus Christ and his prophecies about a race war. This race war was the crux of Manson's philosophy, which he called "Helter Skelter." He believed — or made his followers believe, at least — that black people and white people would inevitably get into this war... but he apparently had a way to rise above it.
Manson convinced his "family" that they would escape Helter Skelter by hiding in a cave until the "war" was over. He planned on inciting the war by killing white people and blaming black people; he did this (or attempted to, anyway) by committing murder and putting the victims' wallets in African-American communities. The Manson family is thought to be responsible for 35 killings due to his teachings. Manson sat out some of them and let his followers do his bidding; he was present for others, however.
One of the most famous is the murder of Sharon Tate, an actress who was pregnant at the time. In August of 1969, several of Manson's followers went to the home she leased with her husband, director Roman Polanski. The house formerly belonged to Terry Melcher, a record producer who rejected Manson's music compilation. Manson reportedly ordered his family to "destroy everyone in it — as gruesome as you can." And, well, that's what they did. The following day, Manson accompanied his family to murder Leno LaBianca, who owned a grocery store, and his wife. Manson believed there wasn't enough hysteria over the Tate murders, so he wanted to continue his killing spree.
Authorities tracked down Manson and his families five months after the gruesome murders, and in 1971 Charles Manson was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. What made him so chilling was not only the crimes he facilitated, but the control he had over his followers. They not only agreed to carry out his awful commands, but some did not express remorse. The story of the Manson family has inspired both real-life documentaries and stories of fictional cults, like in The Girls (one of my favorite novels from last year).
Manson is still alive, and frequently makes the news. He is serving out a life sentence in Corcoran State Prison, and is almost 83 years old. His latest headline was about how Manson is a "model inmate" now, but had many infractions in the past. Manson isn't the only one to still be in the American lexicon. His family is as well; the memoir Member of the Family by Dianne Lake came out just last month.
The horrors Charles Manson incited will no doubt live on after his death. I'm curious to see how he will be depicted on American Horror Story, and how Kai will draw inspiration from the dreadful Manson family murders.
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