Charles Manson, the serial killer and head of the Manson Family cult who terrified the nation, has died at age 83.


Manson passed away at a hospital in Kern County, California, where he has been imprisoned for years. He was serving a life sentence, and has had various health problems in recent years, including gastrointestinal bleeding.

Manson was the head of the Manson Family Cult and led a two-night murderous rampage in Los Angeles in August 1969, in which seven people were mutilated and killed by stabbing. One victim was Hollywood starlet Sharon Tate, who was then eight months pregnant by her director husband Roman Polanski.

Manson manipulated and convinced social outcasts to join his “family” in attempts to start a race war. The murders on the successive nights at first appeared random, but Manson wanted them to look like they were done by black militants. He told his followers he wanted to turn white sentiments against black people.

The killings, known as the Tate-LaBianca murders, led to the arrest and conviction of Manson and four of his followers in 1971. All five of them were initially sentenced to death in the gas chamber, but the sentences were converted to life in prison when California abolished the death penalty the following year. Manson served nine life sentences and was denied parole 12 times.

During the trial, the defendants often spoke out of turn and chanted slogans. Once, Manson had to be restrained after lunging at the presiding judge. While many of his followers believed him to be divine, Manson was not crazy as some thought. He could fake insanity very well, but more so felt the need to control others.

“Basically, Manson was a coward,” said Eric Hickey, dean of the California School of Forensic Studies at Alliant International University, in 2012. “He was the kind of guy who had other people do his bidding, and I think he really enjoyed taking advantage of people who were gullible.”

Manson was born on Nov. 12, 1934 to an unwed girl of 16-years-old who supported herself and her son on petty crime. With his mother periodically jailed, Manson grew up between homes and started his own path of crime. He dropped out of school in seventh grade, but scored a high-normal IQ of 121 when tested in prison, despite being nearly illiterate.

Manson was married twice before going to prison. The first time was in 1955 to a teenaged waitress, and the second to a known prostitute in 1959. Both ended in divorce. Manson had one son with each of his wives. His first, Charles Manson Jr., committed suicide in 1993. His other, Charles Luther Manson, is still alive.

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