Charles Manson Finishes His First Life Sentence

Icon of mass murder Charles Manson gets an "early release" at 83.

Charles Manson in The Helter Skelter Murders (1970)

Charles Manson just completed the first of nine life sentences. He was condemned to death in 1969 along with four of his disciples, but when the death penalty was abolished he was sentenced to nine lives behind bars. Maybe he’ll get one karmic life off for good institutional behavior and maybe one for the shitty life he actually led.

On August 8, 1969, Manson ordered Tex Watson to lead Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten, and Linda Kasabian into a house that had once been owned by record producer Terry Melcher, who’d recently passed on bringing the songwriter into his studio. Manson’s family killed actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and the 18-year-old Steven Parent, who showed up at the house by accident. Tate was eight months pregnant at the time of the murder.

Manson didn’t just take those lives. He ended the era of love and peace, the age of Aquarius, and the decade of nonviolent civil disobedience with a counterrevolutionary punch of Kaliuga. He also stole “Helter Skelter” from the Beatles and claimed responsibility for the fame of Sharon Tate, the wife of director Roman Polanski and the hypnotic witch in the under-appreciated cult horror thriller Eye of the Devil. We can only imagine what roles she would have played that he stole from us. 

Manson is probably the most infamous convicted killer of all time. He is the man of nightmares made flesh. No Name Maddox was born in Cincinnati on Nov. 12, 1934. His mother, 16-year-old Kathleen Maddox, was a prostitute and he never knew his biological father. He took the name Charles Milles Manson from William Manson, who was briefly married to his mother. Manson was abused and neglected as a child. From the age of five to eight he was moved between relatives in three states while his mother did time for robbing a gas station.

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The poster child of teenage delinquents lived in reform schools from the age of 12 where he was raped and abused. Manson married his second wife, 16-year-old Candy Stevens, whom he was pimping, so she couldn’t testify against him for passing bad checks.

Manson had been in prisons most of his life. He was 32 when he moved to Haight-Ashbury in March of 1967, and no hippie. His own philosophy was a mix of Scientology and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, the principles of which also taught him how to be a good pimp. Manson learned to play guitar from prison friend Alvin “Creepy” Karpis and recorded some lousy music. Manson moved to Los Angeles to break into the music industry, and took over Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s house.

The Manson trials, which began in June, 1970, were a media spectacle. Charlie carved a cross on his forehead, his followers carved swastikas into theirs. Charlie followed back. President Richard Nixon pronounced Manson guilty before the jury had gone out.

Besides the countless films and TV series the killings inspired, Manson inspired the phrase “Manson lamps,” which was used on The Sopranos to describe Richie Aprile. He also inspired the Symbionese Liberation Army, Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple, and the OTO and Scientology offshoot The Process Church.

Zeena, better known as Zeena Schreck and even more known by a name she’s rejected, knew Manson “for just shy of 30 years and some of his ‘associates’ played a role in her early family life. She wrote “For Charles – Blessing you with Strength, Compassion, Love and Wisdom on my birthday during your passing,” to her Instagram page. “Go Quickly to the Clear Light.”

Manson was imprisoned at Corcoran State Prison in Kings County, California. He would next have been eligible for parole when he turned 92. Charles Manson doesn’t appear to have relatives on file with prison officials. His body will continue to be held in state custody, possibly for eight more lifetimes. He won’t be missed.

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