Charles Manson dies at 83

Charles Manson, Los Angeles Times / California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

“Charles Manson was an unlikely figure to evolve into the personification of evil. A few inches over five feet, he was a petty criminal and small-time hustler. And his followers bore little resemblance to the stereotypical image of hardened killers. Most were in their early twenties, middle-class white kids, hippies and runaways who fell under his charismatic sway,” as the Los Angeles Times is reporting.

“But in the summer of 1969, Manson masterminded a string of bizarre murders in Los Angeles that both horrified and fascinated the nation and signified to many the symbolic end of the 1960s and the idealism and naiveté the decade represented.

“Considered one of the most infamous criminals of the 20th century, Manson died of natural causes at a Kern County Hospital at 8:13 p.m Sunday, according to Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He was 83.

“Sentenced to death for the crime, Manson escaped execution when the state Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional at the time. He spent decades behind bars, an unrepentant and incorrigible inmate who’d been cited for behavioral issues more than 100 times.

“Manson did not commit the murders himself; instead he persuaded his group of followers to carry out the killings. The crimes received frenzied news coverage, because so many lurid and sensational elements coalesced at the time — Hollywood celebrity, cult behavior, group sex, drugs and savage murders that concluded with the killers scrawling words with their victims’ blood.

“Los Angeles residents were terrified by the crimes. Before the killers were apprehended, gun sales and guard dog purchases skyrocketed and locksmiths had weeks-long waiting lists. Numerous off-duty police officers were hired to guard homes in affluent neighborhoods and security firms tripled in size.”

“More than 40 years after the mass murders, Manson — whose wild-eyed stare was immortalized on a Life magazine cover — remains a figure of fascination, a homicidal anti-hero for a new generation. Rock groups have played songs that he wrote. Merchants peddle T-shirts bearing Manson’s likeness, as well as belt buckles, caps, necklaces, rosaries and cigarette lighters. Manson memorabilia is sold on the internet.

“’Manson became a metaphor for evil, and evil has its allure,’ said Bugliosi, who wrote — with Curt Gentry — the bestselling nonfiction book ‘Helter Skelter’ about the case. ‘People found him so fascinating because unlike other mass murderers who did the killings themselves or participated with others, Manson got people to kill for him.’

““Many people I know in Los Angeles,’ Joan Didion wrote in ‘The White Album,’ ‘believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on Aug 9, 1969, at the exact moment when the word of the murders … traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true…. The paranoia was fulfilled.'”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

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