Charles Manson, “Helter Skelter,” and the Manson Family Murders

Charles Manson (aka Charles Milles Maddox, Charles Willis Manson, Charles William Manson, Charles Willis Hanson, Charles Miller Manson, Charles Miller Milles, Charles Miller Benson, Charles Deer, JC, Jesus Christ, God, Soul, The Devil, Chuck Summers, Charles Miles Summers)


Born in Cincinnati, Charles Manson was in trouble from an early age.

Charles Manson was born on November 12, 1934 and died of natural causes on November 19, 2017 at the age of 83. Manson remains one of the most notorious killers in American history although he didn’t commit any of the Tate/LaBianca murders himself.

According to the narrative of prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, in the late 1960s, Manson often spoke to members of the Charles Manson Family about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic race war arising from tensions between blacks and whites. This “vision” involved references to  The Beatles White Album and to the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. Manson and his followers were convicted of the Tate/LaBianca murders based on the prosecution’s theory that they were part of a plan to trigger Helter Skelter. Other possibilities suggest the murders were a copycat ploy to spring Bobby Beausoleil, or a robbery, or a failed hit on Terry Melcher, or a drug deal gone bad. Regardless, on the nights of August 9th and August 10th 1969, Tex Watson, with some help from Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Van Houten, brutally murdered seven innocent people. The true motives remain the subject of many books, films, and online forums.

“[‘Helter Skelter’] means confusion, literally. It doesn’t mean any war with anyone. It doesn’t mean that some people are going to kill other people… Helter Skelter is confusion. Confusion is coming down around you fast…” — Charlie Manson 

Charlie Manson was born to a run-away sixteen-year-old girl named Kathleen Maddox in Cincinnati, Ohio. His birth place is listed as the Cincinnati General Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. For the first few weeks of life Charlie Manson had no name, being first named “No Name Maddox,” but within a short period of time he became, “Charles Milles Maddox.” His father was a “Colonel Scott” of Ashland Kentucky, whom Manson claims he never met.

For a period after his birth, his mother was married to a transient laborer named William Manson, and the young child took the surname. His life of turmoil, at its then very beginning stages, would never end. Much about Charles Manson’s childhood remains disputable because of the variety of different stories he has told to interviewers. Some of which were untrue.

When Charlie Manson was five, the courts sentenced his mother to five years for armed robbery. Manson moved in with his aunt and uncle in West Virginia. His mother reclaimed him in 1942, but within five years her heavy drinking got Manson placed in a care-taking school in Indiana.

School officials described young Charles Manson as moody and suffering a persecution complex–but “likable” during those periods he was feeling happy. At age 13, Manson began his life of crime, robbing a grocery store and a casino. For most of the next decade, Manson was shuffled from one institution to another, usually committing a series of crimes during his brief periods of freedom.

The shrinks labeled him “aggressively antisocial.” A prison psychiatrist described Manson at age 18 as suffering “psychic trauma,” but still “an extremely sensitive boy who has not yet given up in terms of securing some love and affection from the world.”

“I was so smart when I was a kid that I learnt I was dumb fast.” 

Out on parole in 1958, Manson took to pimping. In June 1960, Manson was arrested on a Mann Act charge. The Mann Act charges were dropped, but the courts gave Manson a ten-year stint for violating his parole from an earlier conviction where he’d forged a Treasury check in the amount of $43.

Prison records from the early 1960s show Manson had interests in Scientology, drama, softball, croquet, and especially the guitar. When Manson’s release date came on March 21, 1967, he begged authorities unsuccessfully to let him stay in prison.

Manson, age 32, headed for San Francisco and there he found the initial members of what people would later call “The Family.” 

“People outside are more locked up than the ones who are in prison.” 

Charles Manson

Charles Manson, born November 12, 1934, died on November 19, 2017 (aged 83) in Bakersfield, California. 

Combining ideas from the Beatles White Album and Revelation 9, Manson allegedly developed a bizarre prophecy that blacks would soon rise up against the white establishment. And then turn to him–having survived the coming Helter Skelter” in an underground hole beneath Death Valley, to lead the newly constituted nation. Again, this is all according to the prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s theory, which posits that in August 1969, Manson sent several Family members to the Tate and LaBianca homes with orders to kill everyone. The motive, according to prosecutor Bugliosi, was to launch Helter Skelter.

Ronald Hughes, an inexperienced lawyer with an extensive knowledge of alternative culture, was the state-appointed attorney for defendants Manson and Van Houten. He suggested to Manson that he obtain a more competent attorney, Irving Kanarek, and continued to defend Van Houten. Kanarek took over two weeks before the start of the trial. The reason for Hughes’ pre-trial maneuver was apparently so he could defend Van Houten more effectively. He hoped to show that Van Houten was acting under the influence of Manson, and to prove Manson had controlled her actions.

“I ain’t got no magical powers or mystical trips and all that kind of crap. It’s kind of silly.”  — Charles Manson

This may have cost him his life. In late November, 1970, Hughes went camping near Sespe Hot Springs. He disappeared and two fishermen discovered his decomposed body four months later. Some theories suggest other members of the Family killed Hughes in reprisal for impugning Manson in court.

Manson himself was not present at the Tate killings, but he was convicted of murder on January 25, 1971 and on March 29, 1971 the jury gave Charles Manson death. The death sentence was later automatically commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court’s People v. Anderson decision resulted in the invalidation of all death sentences in California prior to 1972.

Manson remained in prison until he died of natural causes on November 19, 2017 at age 83. During his sentence, Manson received more mail than any other prisoner in the United States prison system.

In his own testimony at trial, Manson described himself as a chameleon-like character:

“Charlie never projects himself…. People see in Charlie their own reflection…. Linda Kasabian testified against me because she saw me as the father she never liked…. I do what love tells me.” — Charles Manson

Manson 1968

Charles Manson, at the California Department of Corrections in 1969. 

Hundreds of musicians have recorded songs related to Charles Manson. For example, Neil Young, who actually knew Manson. System of a Down wrote the song “ATWA” on their Toxicity album about the media’s viewpoints on Manson. The list is endless. Guns ‘n Roses drew the most notice when they recorded a song authored by Manson. Part of the profits would have gone to him but legal action diverted them to victim Frykowski’s son instead.

Until the day he died, Manson professed his innocence. The Charles Manson murders remain some of the most horrific and debated crimes in American history. To this date Charles Manson movies, and books about the Manson Family continue to fascinate audiences worldwide.

“I have killed no one, and I have ordered no one to be killed.”

Watch this extensive Charles Manson interview.

Discuss this topic in the new Charles Manson forum.


The People of the State of California vs. Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, Charles Denton Watson (Case No. A253156)



Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders and millions of other books are available for Amazon

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