×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Charles Manson Dies at 83

Charles Manson, the notorious leader of the Manson Family cult that murdered actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969, died Sunday in a Bakersfield, Calif., hospital. He was 83.

The California Department of Corrections released a statement reading, “Inmate Charles Manson, 83, died of natural causes at 8:13 p.m. on Sunday, November 19, 2017, at a Kern County hospital.”

Manson returned to the hospital in mid-November after being hospitalized in January. He was transferred out of Corcoran State Prison, where he had been serving nine life sentences. He had been denied parole 12 times. 

The shocking murders brought the carefree hippie era of the late 1960s to a dark end, with Manson and his followers becoming infamous cultural figures. Though he didn’t commit the Tate and LaBianca murders himself, the Corrections Department said “On December 13, 1971, Manson received a first-degree murder conviction from Los Angeles County for the July 25, 1969, death of Gary Hinman and another first-degree murder conviction for the August 1969 death of Donald Shea.”

Though the murders took place nearly 50 years ago, they continued to have a hold over the popular imagination. Quentin Tarantino agreed with Sony Pictures on Nov. 17 to develop his 1969-based movie project that has the events surrounding Manson as a background. The current season of “American Horror Story” portrayed the Manson family in the “Charles (Manson) in Charge” episode.

A career criminal from an impoverished and abusive background, Manson was first incarcerated in 1951 and by age 32 had spent half of his life behind bars.

An aspiring musician who first learned to play guitar in prison, Manson began gathering followers in San Francisco during the Summer of Love in 1967. In the short time between his 1967 prison release and his imprisonment in 1969, Manson skirted the fringes of show business, even briefly finding himself working with one of the top rock and roll bands in America, the Beach Boys.

He became intertwined with Hollywood in 1968, when he and more than a dozen of his followers lived at the Sunset Boulevard home of Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Manson crossed paths with several entertainment business figures, including actors and film producers intrigued by his charismatic hold on his followers and his counterculture beliefs.

Manson recorded several songs and was introduced by Wilson to other show business acquaintances, including music producer Terry Melcher, the only son of Doris Day. One of Manson’s songs, “Cease to Exist,” was reworked by the Beach Boys as “Never Learn Not To Love,” and eventually released by the band with the writing credit attributed to Dennis Wilson.

The band’s changes to his song reportedly angered Manson, who allegedly threatened Dennis Wilson with murder.

In 1968, Manson and his followers were evicted from Dennis Wilson’s home and Manson relocated his group to Spahn Movie Ranch, near Chatsworth, Calif. The locale was rich with film and TV history, and films such as King Vidor’s “Duel in the Sun” and popular TV shows such as “Bonanza” and “Zorro” had filmed there.

From their Spahn Movie Ranch base, Manson launched a killing spree in 1969 with the goal of a sparking a race war he called “Helter Skelter,” based on his interpretation of a song from the Beatles’ “White Album.”

On Aug. 9, 1969, he directed his followers to kill the 26-year-old Tate — who was pregnant and married to director Roman Polanski — and four others at the home she was renting in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles.

Polanski was out of the country at the time of the Cielo Drive killings. The other victims were celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring, 35; Voytek Frykowski, 32; coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 25; and Steven Parent, 18, a friend of Tate’s caretaker. The word “Pig” was written on the front door in blood.

On the following night, Manson and his followers killed Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, at their home in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles. “Death to Pigs” and “Healter Skelter” were scrawled in blood at the crime scene.

Manson and more than 20 of his followers were arrested at ranches in the California desert in the following months. He and three followers — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten — were found guilty in a trial and sentenced to death in 1971. The death sentences were commuted to life in prison in 1972 when the death penalty was abolished in California. Van Houten was granted parole in September but her release must still be approved by Governor Jerry Brown.

Manson has been the subject of dozens of books and articles. Some, like musician-writer Ed Sanders’ 1971 tome “The Family,” have been investigative and rich in details of the cultural moment of the murders, but many have been simply cut and paste jobs published to satiate the public’s curiosity about the notorious killer.

The story of the trial was re-told in the 1976 TV film, “Helter Skelter,” based on the 1974 book by prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. Steve Railsback portrayed Manson. The book was adapted for a second TV movie in 2004, directed by John Gray and starring Jeremy Davies as Manson.

The events surrounding the murders were explored in numerous other movies and TV shows including NBC series “Aquarius,” indie film “Manson Family Vacation” and on “South Park.”

In 2013, James Franco announced he would play hairdresser Sebring in “Beautiful People,” though the film was never put into production.

Over the decades, pop culture references to Manson and his murderous clan have abounded, from the name of goth rocker Marilyn Manson to the alt-rock band Kasabian, named after one of his followers, Linda Kasabian.

Manson’s impact was also seen with numerous Manson Family mentions in acclaimed novelist Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 bestseller set in ‘70s Los Angeles, “Inherent Vice,” while Joan Didion’s “White Album” includes an examination of the impact of Manson as well as an interview with Kasabian.

Manson again made headlines in 2015 when his fiancee at the time, Afton Elaine Burton, AKA “Star,” 53 years his junior, was reported to be planning their nuptials in order to secure a claim to his corpse, which she hoped to exploit as a commercial public display piece.

Since the murder convictions, Manson has been imprisoned at San Quentin; the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, Folsom, and at Corcoran. 

Steve Gaydos contributed to this report.

More Music

  • Joe Osborn Dead: Bassist Who Played

    Joe Osborn, Wrecking Crew Bassist, Dies at 81

    Bassist Joe Osborn died of pancreatic cancer on Dec. 14 at 81. Osborn was no ordinary studio musician. From the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, Osborn was ubiquitous, playing on tunes as silly as The Monkees theme and as sublime as Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” You can see Osborn backing Ricky Nelson [...]

  • Kanye West Is Looking For ‘Metal

    Kanye West Is Looking For ‘Metal Gear Solid’ Creator Hideo Kojima in NY

    American rapper and fashion designer Kanye West took to Twitter on Friday in an attempt to reach out to creator of “Metal Gear Solid” Hideo Kojima, and seemingly set up a meeting while both are in New York. “Heard Hideo Kojima is in NY We need to meet Does anyone know where he is or [...]

  • Cardi B

    Offset Crashes Cardi B's Set at Rolling Loud Festival (Watch)

    Migos rapper Offset is continuing a public display of contrition to win back wife and fellow rapper Cardi B. Appearing onstage at the Rolling Loud Festival in Los Angeles on Saturday night, Offset surprised the crowd at the Banc of California Stadium by appearing during Cardi’s set with flowers and a cake and displaying the [...]

  • Peter Bjorn and John -Björn Yttling

    As Peter Bjorn & John Celebrates 20 Years, the Band Returns to its 'Darker' Roots

    A trifecta of pure energy hit the stage at the Teragram Ballroom in Downtown Los Angeles Saturday night as Peter Bjorn & John performed the second-to-last stop of a 2018 tour. Promoting their new album “Darker Days,” which dropped October 19, the band went back to basics as a three-piece for this outing (drummer John [...]

  • Adam Levine Cardi B

    Maroon 5 and How the Super Bowl Halftime Show Became Music's Least Wanted Gig

    Who would have thought that the Super Bowl Halftime show, an American institution watched by more than 100 million people, would become the least wanted gig in music? But thanks to the ongoing controversy concerning the NFL’s stance on a player’s right to protest, brought to the forefront by football’s top conscientious objector Colin Kaepernick, [...]

  • Mary Poppins 1964

    P.L. Travers' Efforts to Adapt 'Mary Poppins' for Film, TV Were Often Less Than Jolly

    Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” a sequel decades in the making, opens Dec. 19. Even before the 1964 original, Hollywood made several attempts to adapt P.L. Travers’ books, with Samuel Goldwyn and Katharine Hepburn among those involved in the chase. But aside from a one-hour 1949 CBS television version, they all hit a dead-end. The first [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content