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Who Is Charles Manson?

Charles Manson Is Dead at 83 — Here Are 9 Chilling Facts About the Infamous Cult Leader

Charles Manson died at the age of 83 on Nov. 19. According to authorities, the murderous cult leader passed away at a hospital in Kern County, CA from natural causes. He was one of the most infamous figures in criminal history, ordering one of the most horrifying murders in Hollywood: that of actress Sharon Tate. He was the leader of one of the world's most infamous cults. And he was recently factored into American Horror Story: Cult. With Charles Manson's recent resurgence as a person of interest in the public eye, it's entirely possible that a lot of people in the present day don't know his story. After all, he committed his most prolific crimes in the late 1960s. Here's a primer on who he is, what he did, and where he was before his death.

  1. He had a tumultuous early family life. Charles Manson was born on Nov. 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, OH. His mother, Kathleen Maddox, was 16 at the time. She was allegedly an alcoholic and a sex worker. At one point, reports say she sold him for a pitcher of beer to a mother who wanted to have children. According to the story, his uncle had to track him down to get him back.
  2. He was getting into trouble from a very early age. Charles began spending time in prison as young as 16 years old. He was first put behind bars in 1951 and served time almost continually until 1967, when he was released. He moved to San Francisco once he was let go.
  3. In the late 1960s, he started to amass a group of followers. It's not entirely clear how Manson managed to get so many people under his control. He called these devoted individuals his "family." Sometime around 1968, he moved to a huge ranch in Chatsworth (a city near Los Angeles). This became his home base of sorts. The Manson "Family" cult grew to about 100 followers, mostly young girls.
  4. His main anger toward Hollywood and the music industry stemmed from an early rejection. At some point during this period, Manson met a music teacher named Gary Hinman. Gary introduced him to Dennis Wilson, a member of the Beach Boys. From there, Manson became acquainted with Terry Melcher, a record producer who was the son of actress Doris Day. Terry initially showed interest in some music Manson was working on, but eventually decided not to work with him.

  1. A big switch-up precipitated a deadly event. In this same span, between 1967 and 1968, Terry Melcher lived in a Beverly Hills home on Cielo Drive. He moved out, and the home was rented to director Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate.
  2. Charles Manson ordered a horrifying, high-profile Hollywood murder in August 1969. Knowing the address as Terry Melcher's home and presumably wanting revenge, Charles Manson ordered his most loyal followers — Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian — to go to the house and kill everyone in it. The "family" members did as they were told and murdered the eight-months-pregnant Sharon Tate and four other people: Wojciech Frykowski, Folger's Coffee heiress Abigail Folger, celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent, the family gardener.
  3. Charles Manson and his most loyal followers were convicted in 1971. Manson and his followers were arrested in November 1969, not because of the murders but because of suspected auto theft. Eventually, through a series of confessions, Manson and the aforementioned murderers were all indicted for the murders and put to trial. The proceedings began in June 1970.
  4. The entire group received the death penalty, with one exception. Manson, Patricia, Susan, and Tex were all found guilty in January 1971. Linda Kasabian received immunity in exchange for her testimony against Manson.
  5. He was in prison until his death. At age 83, Manson was serving his time at the Corcoran State Prison in California. He was denied parole for the 12th time in 2012. His next hearing would have been set for 2027.
Image Source: Getty / Bettmann
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