17 May 2019
Summer of 69’
The Summer of 69’ was, to many, a peaceful time where everyone was loving each other and peacefully getting along with one another. Overnight, however, everything changed that summer. At Roman Polanski’s home in Beverly Hills, five people were brutally stabbed and murdered, including Sharon Tate and her unborn child, and heiress Abigail Folger. On a wall of the home, there was writing that said “Pig” in Tate’s own blood. The following night, two more people were violently killed in the same fashion. With their blood, someone had written on the wall “Healter Skelter” and “Death to Pigs”. Charles Manson managed to pull these murders off without laying a finger on the victims by manipulating people who were previously innocent and quiet people in society who were seduced by drugs and sex and attention to join Manson in his journey to become the monster he was.
Charles Manson became known as a monster after the murders of August 1969 to the public. Dr. Jeffrey Cohen explains how a monster, such as Charles Manson, came to be a monster through culture. In his essay researching monsters, he came up with one of seven theories which states, “The monster is born… as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment… The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy, giving them life and an uncanny independence”. During this time in the late 1960’s, the hippie counterculture was at its peak, especially in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and people of the older generation feared what was happening to the young people at the time with all the psychedelic drugs and the “peace, love, and happiness” they were spreading. The murders proved to the older generation that it was all a lie. Charles Manson just happened to come forth with the murders at the right place at the right time for the older generation, creating a monster in times of peace. But what caused this monster to commit the murders that stirred up the Los Angeles Area in August of 1969?
Manson was born in November of 1934 in Ohio to a mother who was an addict and a prostitute. He never met his biological father, so he took the last name, Manson, of one of his mother’s boyfriend. He spent his childhood in and out of foster and relatives’ homes because his mother paid little to no attention to little Charles. In fact, when he was born, he was literally named “No Name” for a while before being named Charles. As he grew older, he spent most of his time in and out of juvenile facilities, getting raped and beaten at one point. He was later caught raping another boy with a knife on the other boy’s throat in the Natural Bridge Honor Camp. Manson clearly became a disturbed adolescent.
In fact, “By age 16, Manson had been labeled ‘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’” (“Charles Manson”). Perhaps it was the lack of attention and love from his mother that started to create this monster from the beginning of his life, however, Manson is not one to sympathize. Once he reached adulthood, he ended up in San Fransisco at the height of the Hippie counter culture which presented him with drugs, music, and sex. He started to use his charm and drugs as a way to obtain girls to prostitute them, which later helped him create his “Family”. While he created this cult, Manson also tried his luck in the music industry. His interest in music only grew because of the Beatles, who’s music he used to prophesize his ideas and philosophies.
The Beatles’ White Album from 1968 was one driving cause as to what lead Manson up to the murders of 1969. After hearing the White Album, Manson created this twisted theory that he said The Beatles were telling him. A violent and bloody race war between white and African American people was what he interpreted from the album; an Armageddon of some sort was going to happen soon. In fact, Manson associated the Beatles with the Bible, and his followers were told that “the ‘four angels’ were the Beatles, whom Manson considered, ‘leaders, spokesmen, prophets,’ according to Gregg” (Bugliosi, 320). Manson placed the Beatles on a high pedestal within his cult and, in turn, caused his followers to believe that much of the Beatles’ White Album was a predicament of the present and how that was the way that The Beatles communicated with them. They believed that the Beatles were essentially warning them about the “Helter Skelter” prophecy that was bound to happen (Gillis). The Helter Skelter prophecy created this illusion for Manson about a race war. He believed him, and his followers would somehow be able to give the race war a push to start off by going through with the murders. They attempted to pin the blame on the Black Panther Party, which was a pronounced Civil Rights group during the late 1960’s, however, that was a major flop. Manson and his followers were firm believers of this apocalyptic race war; however it was only a part of the reason the murders happened.
While the Beatles had some influence in his ideas about the race war to make reason for the war to happen, another driving cause that lead up to the murders of the summer of 69’ was the rejection of Manson in the music industry. When Manson first started gathering followers, one of the ways he would seduce young girls, besides drugs and sex, was through music. He composed many songs including a Beach Boys song, which they never gave him credit for, “Never Learn Not to Love”. Manson met music producer Terry Melcher, who told him that he would not be able to make it in the music industry (Mayo). This proved to be a bad move from Melcher because Manson grew a resentment towards him. He decided to aim his sights at Melcher’s home, which by the time of the murders belonged to Roman Polanski instead. Thus, the famous murders came to be, which can be debated as to whether or not they were more accidental since Manson and his followers wanted to attack Melcher instead. Either way, his followers created some of the most gruesome scenes of crime the world has seen up to that point. The lack of empathy and the brutal stabbing of innocent people who had nothing to do with Manson and his followers, only proved just how mindless his followers were and how quiet his motives proved to be.
Perhaps one of the most important causes that was subtler than the others was his extreme narcissism and his manipulating tendencies. Adding to the previous idea of The Beatles being angels, in the Book of Revelations there is a mention of a fifth angel, this angel was believed by his followers to have been Charles Manson himself. At some point he also claimed to be the next Jesus Christ (Bugliosi, 323). The idea of Manson believing he has a high standing and implanting that idea in his followers’ minds shows how manipulating and narcissistic he was when it came to leading in the murders. In his cult, they believed he was the Jesus Christ of the time, and of course, they listened and obeyed his every command, even if it meant murdering people in his name. And that is exactly what they did. He claims that he himself didn’t force them to anything, rather they chose to follow his ideas and kill people ruthlessly to continue this idea of a racial apocalypse. According to many of the members of the cult, “The whole Family was dependent on him. He said he couldn’t tell anyone else what to do, that they should ‘do what your love tells you,’ but he also told them, ’I am your love’ and his wants become theirs” (Bugliousi, 302). Clearly, he indirectly told his followers what to do rather than tell them directly. The followers only did what they were told by Manson in a way, but still steered him from the blame using this sort of manipulation. While portraying Manson as a God, his followers only would continue to act upon what Manson said, including brutal murder.
In the end, Manson and his followers failed to initiate Helter Skelter the way Manson preached it would come. His followers only ended up with life sentences in jail while still admiring their God-like leader behind bars. Manson himself remained in prison until his death recently. He was a manipulative man with no remorse for his ideas and actions, along with his followers who obeyed his every command. His infamous legacy was brought forth through music by the Beatles, his failed music career, and his controlling mindset.
Bugliosi, Vincent, and Curt Gentry. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. W. W. Norton & Company, 1974.
“Charles Manson.” Charles Manson The True Story, http://www.charlesmanson.com/defendants/charles-manson/.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
Gillis, Charlie. “The Devil Inside.” Maclean’s, vol. 125, no. 16, Apr. 2012, pp. 30–33. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=74602263&site=ehost-live.
Mayo, Mike. American Murder: Criminals, Crimes, and the Media. Visible Ink Press, 2008. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=248150&site=ehost-live.