Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Written Explanation of my Interest in Charles Manson

I realized I haven't posted anything about writing for awhile. I'm still cleaning out my hard drive, and I came across this essay I wrote last spring. I think the writing is pretty good, but I also think it's a topic worthy of debate.
"The Enduring Allure of Charles Manson"
by KLo

My obsession with Charles Manson is not based on admiration.

I feel pure disgust for this monster and his actions. In spite of this, I cannot help my mind from contemplating the man, his crimes, the psychology that exists within his twisted brain, and the persona he has created for himself that continues to the present day.

Charles Manson was a small time felon who became the proverbial “institutionalized man” before he reached adulthood. Although he reportedly begged, “Don’t let me out, I can’t cope with the outside world” prior to being released from prison in 1967, a thirty-three-year old Manson was set loose and, through coincidences of timing, location, and sheer luck, was elevated to Christ-like status by his followers.

According to John Gilmore’s Manson: The Unholy Trail of Charlie and the Family, the aspiring musician was a “late-comer” to the anti-war love fest best exemplified by San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. The “flower children” Manson encountered were “only the diehards of a disappearing scene.” A number of these lost youths, almost exclusively female, were drawn to Manson; he was old enough to exude an air of wisdom yet not so old that he reminded them overmuch of their parents.

While gathering “members” to what would eventually be known as “The Family,” Manson skirted the edge of the music scene. Record producer Terry Melcher, songwriter Gregg Jakobson, and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson each at one time encouraged Manson’s dream of being a musician with Manson even contributing to several songs credited to the Beach Boys, most notably "Never Learn Not to Love". Manson felt that he had received promises from each of these men that they failed to keep; instead of elevating his status in the music world, they brushed him under the carpet, actions that more than likely played a role in the carnage that was to come.

By 1968, a bitter Manson was struggling to maintain control of his followers as they lived on an abandoned movie ranch near Topanga Canyon. He used hallucinogenic drugs and sexual degradation to accomplish this, but he correctly sensed that his hold was slowly weakening. In order to regain his power, Manson began spinning his theory of “Helter Skelter” to his followers. Using every shred of mind control he had achieved, Manson convinced his minions that a race war between blacks and whites was imminent. He preached that the long-repressed blacks would rise up in battle, annihilate the white race except for the “chosen ones” hiding in a hole in the earth located in Death Valley, but then prove unable to lead and would be returned to their “rightful place” by the holy and pure whites, led by none other than Charles Milles Manson (he started giving his name as Charles Willis Manson and emphasizing the “Man’s Son” coincidence at around this time).

Under the premise of sparking the supposed race war, Manson directed Charles “Tex” Watson to go to the residence he thought belonged to producer Terry Melcher late at night on August 8, 1968 and create a murder scene “as gruesome as you can.” He ordered three girls, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian, to follow Watson’s directions when they reached their destination. With Kasabian serving as a lookout, Watson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel violently stabbed the house’s inhabitants—-aspiring movie star (and nearly nine months pregnant) Sharon Tate, respected men’s hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, and her boyfriend Voytek Frykowski as well as a late-night visitor to the estate’s caretaker, recent high school graduate Steven Parent. Following Manson’s request to write “something witchy,” Susan Atkins used a towel to scrawl the word PIG in Sharon Tate’s blood on the door of the house.

The next night, Manson accompanied another group that again included Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, and lookout Kasabian as well as “Clem” Grogan and Leslie van Houten to a house on Waverly Drive in L.A. After Manson entered the residence and tied up homeowners Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, Watson, Krenwinkel, and van Houten brutally butchered the couple while Manson and the others went out in search of more violence but were fortunately unsuccessful. This time Krenwinkel left the bloody words: Rise, Death to Pigs, and Healter (sic) Skelter.

After an overlong investigation hampered by the refusal of the Tate homicide detectives to work in tandem with the LiBianca detectives as well as neither group wanting to hear about a similar crime being investigated by the L.A. Sheriff’s Office, Manson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, and van Houten were tried, convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to death for the Tate-LaBianca homicides in large part due to the testimony of non-participant Linda Kasabian. Watson was tried separately with the same result. All sentences were commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was abolished in California in 1972.

Since 1971, these individuals have been languishing away in prison, the teenage girls giving way to middle-aged women and men. One by one, they have denounced Manson, Patricia Krenwinkel going so far as to say in a 1994 interview, “I wake up every day knowing that I'm a destroyer of the most precious thing, which is life.”

Only Manson is unrepentent; only Manson does not apologize. For that, my mind wanders in various directions whenever I read about Manson or view a documentary or interview. How could one man possess the power to turn regular old American kids into monsters willing to commit the most brutal of crimes at his whim through what can only be described as mind control? Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll are undoubtedly part of the answer; the rest lies within the warped embodiment of Charles Manson, his wild brown eyes and swastika-engraved forehead hiding the secrets of the only man sentenced to death for crimes where the blood on his hands was only psychological--but no less deadly.

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