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Charles Manson and the Family as a Destructive Cult


There is freedom of worship in the US and one can join any religion she/he feels like. Everyone has control of his/her life and is responsible for the actions he takes. One can do everything that pleases him as long as his actions do not hurt another person. However, some people have left others to think for them and will blindly follow instructions without having a second thought or without evaluating the effects of their actions.

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This has led to the development of many cults some of which involve themselves in criminal actions. A cult can be defined as a group of individuals headed by a single or a group of leaders who take control over the lives of the members by setting rules that have to be followed without questioning. People become members of a cult as they try to search for a group in which they can feel connected to. This happens when individuals feel down and their self-esteem diminishes, they feel weak and ready to accept any solace that comes their way. As a result they find themselves in cults and detaching themselves from them becomes a problem.

The history of cults dates back to the 1960s when cults like the Manson family emerged. The family emerged as a Christian gathering and could observe rituals as those observed in other churches. The leader of this family is called Charles Manson. This cult differs from other cults in that it is a destructive cult which causes a higher degree of harm than other cults. The main motive towards the formation of this cult was to take revenge of all the discouragement and rejection Manson had received from the society. This paper gives an overview of Manson’s life, how “the family” was formed and the mass killings that the family involved itself in, and what happened after the killings. It will also give an overview of the life today and what many people think about the family.

Charles Manson’s life

Charles Manson was born in November 1934. He is known to be the worst and devilish criminal to have lived on earth. Throughout his life, he has organized and participated in many murders that not only shock America but the whole world and he is still feared by many Americans. Since his childhood, he has grown with the ability to manipulate and control people through his cunning attitude. He managed to create a cult family that (through his instructions) murdered a big number of innocent people (Nikolas 10).

The people who were murdered were not in any way related to the motive behind the killing but were just victims of circumstances. His deviant behavior is somehow related to his upbringing because he was brought by a mother who was a prostitute during her teenage years. His father walked out of his mother when she still pregnant and never showed his face again. Latter, his mother was determined to at least give Manson a name and this made her to marry again although she was later abandoned.

Being left by two husbands, Manson’s mother felt as is the world had come to an end and was often distressed. She resorted to neglect Manson at a very tender age. She even tried to give him up in foster homes although the arrangements were futile. She really wanted to get rid of him and sent him to school at a far away place. However, he was later sent home due to his mother’s inability to pay for his school fees.

Manson crime life started while he was 14 years after he decided to run away from his mother’s abuse. He involved himself in pretty theft to obtain some money for food and to pay the room he had rented. Later, his mother learnt about his whereabouts and informed the juvenile authorities who sent him to a detention center. He only spent three days in the center and run away before he was arrested in Peoria after stealing from a grocery store. He was taken to a Boys school in Plainfield, but by them he had developed a deviant behavior and he run away as often as he could although he would not go far before he was caught.

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He was sent from one school to another and he did not have a place he could call a home and had no family either. Throughout his childhood, he lived a troubled life and was sent from one place to another, this started when his mother neglected him and was left without a family to call his own or a future to look up to. This made him turn into being a criminal and that’s when an idea of forming the family clicked his mind. He was determined to at least to find a family and to revenge on the society for all the cruelty he had to go through (Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 6).

The Manson family

Manson married his first wife called Rosalie Willis in 1954 when he was 19 years. They later gave birth to a son (Charles monsoon Jr.) two years later although Monson was arrested again for stealing. His wife could not bear to live alone and divorced Monson and married again. Monson was later released from prison although he had become a hard criminal and started stealing again. He married his second wife, Leona and was blessed with a son (Smith and Rose 103).

In 1960, he was arrested again and just like his first wife, Leona divorced him. It was in prison that he met and became friend with Alvin Krapis who was a former member of the then famous gang, Ma Barker. Manson was taught how to play the guitar by Karpis and he developed a passion for music. He wrote many songs and started singing and could see a bright future ahead of him. He thought he would soon become a famous musician once he was out of prison.

After spending six years in prison, Monson was released and went to San Francisco not forgetting his drugs and guitar. He still hoped to become a famous musician although his dream was not long lived. He met the beach boys who recorded one of his songs and thought Melcher (one of the beach boys) would help him in music (Tommy 24). However, this never happened and Monson was quite upset. He had already gathered some followers and they moved to Spahn Ranch and his group formed the destructive cult called “the family”

The members of the Manson family were completely under the control of Manson and would follow any order given to them. He would convince them that, they were doing no wrong because they were simply following orders given by a man they perceived to be Jesus Christ incarnate. To completely control and manipulate his followers, he borrowed ideas from other cults that existed in the 1960s. During the life of this destructive cult, many lives have been brutally murdered without cause and the murderers seemed not to care. They were ready to sacrifice their own life and risk imprisonment for a man they hardly knew.

The mass killings

One early morning in August 1969 (9th to be precise), police officers arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive and were left without words because of what they saw; dead bodies were lying allover and some of them were stabbed severally. Some of the murdered people were Steven Parent who had about four bullet wounds and was stabbed on the neck, and Voytek Frykowski who had two bullet wounds and at least 51 stabs. Another body was lying on the lawn which had been stabbed 28 times. As they got into the seating, they were in more shock because more bodies were lying on the floor with blood over including the body of a woman who was eight months pregnant. This was the family’s first mass murder, referred to as the Tate homicides (Vincent 25).

Two days after the mass killings at the home of Sharon, another homicide occurred (the LaBianca murders). This happened in the home of Rosemary LaBianca and Leno who were stabbed to death. Other mass killings were carrying out by “the family” leaving the entire nation in fear, including the police officers who witnessed the scene of the crimes. Greatly angered by the events that took place, the police carried out a thorough investigation to locate the clothing of the murders so as to serve as evidence in court (Anon. ‘Susan Atkins’ Story of 2 Nights of Murder” 3).

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However, their investigation did not bear results since they could not find the clothing although they were later saved the agony by a television news crew which managed to find the clothing. It was found that, Manson never took part in the killings but the killers were members of “the family” who were just following orders issued by their leader (Manson).

Motives of the murderers

Many people have been wondering what might have triggered the mass killings. There seem to be no direct motive behind these killings although some motives have been identified which seems to be connected to the murders. Some of these motives are:

  1. The main motive is that, Manson wanted to take revenge on the society because of the hostility he had to go through at a very tender age
  2. Earlier on Manson had tried to record his first song but the music industry rejected him. This angered him and he was determined to revenge on the injustice he went through. His main target was the Tate house because it reminded him of the rejection he received from Terry Melcher who refused to help him in music.
  3. Manson had lived such a miserable live that, he neither experienced nor understood the meaning of love. He was not concerned about death and it did not matter the number of people who died as long as he got his revenge.
  4. Once the ‘Helter Skelter” song was released by the Beatles, Manson and his followers believed that, the song predicted a race war that was about to occur. They believed this would happen in 1969 when the blacks would take revenge on the whites and slaughter them in a war known as Armageddon. Manson had come to the conclusion that, he was destined to be a beneficiary of Armageddon. However, this never took place but Manson could not swallow his words and was determined to carry on with his mission which led to the mass killings of the 1969 (Emmons 13).

Arrest of the family

The police took many months before they could identity the murderers. However, after being assisted by the television news crew to locate the clothing, they were able to identity who were responsible for the mass killings and the “the family” was held responsible and arrested in December 1969. Their trial began in July 1970 and on 25 January the following year; Manson and three of the family members were convicted of murder and found guilty and sentenced to death.

However, in 1972, laws were changed in California and the death sentence was outlawed. This favored Manson and his followers who were later sentenced to life imprisonment which they serve up to this day. They have been in prison for more than three decades though it is documented that Manson receives many mails form friends and well wishers more than any other inmate in the U.S. prisons (Pellowski 50).

In August 1997, Manson was found guilty of a drug bust and moved from Corcoran prison to Pelican Bay State Prison which was believed to be the toughest of the prisons in the United States. He was actually put in a separate cell where he could not contact other inmates. This was a tough time for him since he had learnt how to control and manipulate people and he could not do it in the separate cell. However, in March 1998, he was taken back to Corcoran prison where he is believed to be serving his life imprisonment to this date (Edward and Dary 43). He goes for parole from time to time although it seems as if he will end up spending his entire life in prison.

One of Manson’s followers Leslie Van Houten, who is also sentenced to life imprisonment, has been seeking for parole although she has been denied more than 14 times. She was one of the murderers during the LaBianca homicide. During her time in prison, she has managed to obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degree and has been a disciplined inmate. She has realized her mistake and has formed a rehabilitation group which addresses alcohol and drug abuse. It is now more than 30 years since she participated in the serial killings and she is now a renewed person. Witnesses say that, for the last three or so decades, she has not tasted drugs and is now more of a leader than an inmate.

The prison has really transformed his life and if given a chance, she is ready to start a new life (Watkins and Soledad 72). After some of the family members were arrested, the family did not die. Lynette Fromme (one of the Manson obedient members), took over leadership of the family. She had couple of followers mostly women who were ready to continue with what Manson had started. In September 1975, Fromme tried to assassinate the then president of U.S., Gerald R. However, she was not successful and was later arrested (Blankstein 4)


Today, the members of the family are longing to have their freedom back. It is now about 40 years since the destructive cult conducted the brutal mass killings. Manson is now 74 years old and him together with the other followers eagerly waiting for the day they will be set free. One of the followers, Susan Atkins, was suffering from cancer but the Supreme Court denied her request for a compassionate release. She later died in September 2009 at the age of i6 years (Fox 6). Most of these members have reformed their lives after realizing their stupidity. Many people argue that, they have learnt their lesson while in prison and it is time to release.

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However, many people still live in fear and some of the families of the murdered victims still attend parole hearing to ensure that these murders rot in prison. Their future is not known although many people argue that, their life in meant to be in prison considering the acts they committed.

Works Cited

Anon. ‘Susan Atkins’ Story of 2 Nights of Murder Los Angeles Times, 1969.

Blankstein, Andrew “Manson follower Susan Atkins dies at 61”. Los Angeles Times. 2009.

Edward George, and Dary Matera. Taming the Beast: Charles Manson’s Life Behind Bars. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

Emmons, Nuel. Manson in His Own Words. New York: Grove Press, 1988.

Fox, Margalit “Susan Atkins, Manson Follower, Dies at 61”. New York Times. 2009.

Nikolas Schreck. The Manson File. New York: Amok Press, 1988.

Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Destructive cults: The Family; Charles Manson, 2008. Web.

Pellowski, Michael J. The Charles Manson Murder Trial: A Headline Court Case. California: Enslow Publishers, 2004.

Smith, David E. and Rose, Alan J. “A Case Study of the Charles Manson Group Marriage Commune”. Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine, 1970, 17 (3): 99–106.

Tommy Udo. Charles Manson: Music, Mayhem, Murder. Sanctuary Records, 2002.

Vincent Bugliosi. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.

Watkins, Paul and Soledad, Guillermo. My Life with Charles Manson, New York: Bantam, 1979.

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