Charles Manson & marriage: an ungodly duo
Society and your parents have imprisoned you, he told the runaway girls he identified as prime prey among the hordes of kids drawn to California. You can become free “by giving everything up—possessions, individuality, ego.” His line of spiritual blather wasn’t much different from that spouted by every other street-corner guru in the Haight, but apparently he spouted it with extraordinary charisma and knew exactly what buttons to push with troubled, needy teenagers. They could leave behind their unsatisfying biological families, he said, “to become part of a real family, one that accepted and cherished them for who they were."
The End of an Era
Fast-forward two years to that mythical summer of ‘69.
That summer, everything seemed possible. Between August 15 and 18th, Upstate New York held a little concert that took the country by storm and forever changed music: Woodstock. Anyone who hadn’t bought the hippy-zeitgeist dream before now got onboard as Woodstock rolled its way into the American consciousness.
They didn’t know it then, but that great love-in was over before it began.
One week before Woodstock, on August 8th and 9th, the Manson Family committed mass murder, slaughtering Sharon Tate and her beautiful rich, famous, cultured friends. By the time sentencing occurred two years later, the age of the hippy was off-track for good.
At that time, no one knew a July 27th killing was the start of a spree. That was a test Manson set to ensure he could command others to kill at his behest. Bobby Beausoleil, aided by Manson Family members Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins, passed the test in killing music teacher Gary Hinman.
Helter Skelter & The Beautiful People
It’s a long, weird story as to how Manson chose his victims between August 8th and the 11th, and it’s equal parts mistaken identity and impulsivity. In four days, there’d be eight people and an unborn child all brutally slain by the gang of malcontents, with Manson calling the shots.
Hinman’s death is disputed -- either Helter Skelter started there, or it was a perverse revenge ordered by Manson for what he presumed was a betrayal, or the consequence of selling the Family a bad batch of mescaline, like Beausoleil claims.
The Tate murders, though, were a mix of bizarre race-baiting and mistaken identity.
Sharon Tate and friends were killed because they were on a property leased from Manson’s original target -- Beach Boys’ producer Terry Melcher, who’d moved just recently and leased the place to Polanski, away for work.
They died because Melcher pissed Manson off. At first, he liked Manson’s music, planned to record it, and even began to shoot a documentary on the Manson Family’s seemingly-utopian Spahn Ranch life, but he walked when he got an inkling that Manson wasn’t the guy he'd fronted himself as.
In the aftermath of the Tate murders, Manson loathed the “sloppiness.” He wanted more victims, because the “message” of the murders had to be clear. On the prowl on August 10th, they found random victims -- Leno and Rosemary Labianca. Manson's "message" was complete.
And there the killing stopped. Would the “Family” have continued killing if Manson so ordered? Arguably, yes.
Fortunately for the public, Manson’s mission was to start a race war. He wanted to unleash fear and panic amongst whites, triggering an outcry against blacks. They’d left “clues” like bloody handprints to suggest the crime had been committed by militant Black Panthers.
This scheme wasn’t new. Manson had wanted a “race war” for some time. What was new was his name for it, "Helter Skelter." He’d stolen his beloved Beatles’ song’s name and, between December 31st, 1968, through February, 1969, he made his masterplan.
Originally, it wasn’t supposed to be murder, just mass death, and like the Pied Piper, he planned to pull it off with music. Wikipedia sums it nicely:
“He and the Family would create an album with songs whose messages concerning the war would be as subtle as those he had heard in songs of The Beatles. More than merely foretell the conflict, this would trigger it; for, in instructing "the young love," America's white youth, to join the Family, it would draw the young, white female hippies out of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury. Black men, thus deprived of the white women whom the political changes of the 1960s had made sexually available to them, would be without an outlet for their frustrations and would lash out in violent crimes against whites. A resultant murderous rampage against blacks by frightened whites would then be exploited by militant blacks to provoke an internecine war of near-extermination between racist and non-racist whites over blacks' treatment. Then the militant blacks would arise to sneakily finish off the few whites they would know to have survived; indeed, they would kill off all non-blacks.”