Charles Manson was a cult leader and a mass murderer. However, he directed the murders through the cult he controlled, a group of young men and women called the “Manson Family.” The Manson Family were justly feared because they engaged in mass murders, and no one was out of their danger. They famously killed the pregnant actress, Sharon Tate, wife of the director Roman Polanski. To this day, members of his “family” are in jail for their actions. When they are up for parole, it makes national news. Leslie Van Houten, one female member of his family, recently was recommended for parole. However, she has been consistently denied because of her association with Manson. It has been argued that she would have been released already if not a member of the Manson family (Deutsch, 2017).
Manson presented himself as a cult leader and a mythical leader to his followers. The demographics of his followers tended to be young women who were vulnerable to his influence. These young women appeared to be under the spell of Charles Manson, and willingly agreed to do his bidding. They began as a quasi-commune situation. Communes were common during the late 1960s, a period of questioning the traditional values of society. Manson began his cult in the “Summer of Love” in 1967, in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. This was considered to be the epicenter of the “hippie” movement. Manson combined mind-control techniques of Scientology, with a religion called the Process Church. With this combined, he was able to control his members (Guinn, 2013).
Some of the key members included Squeaky Fromme, Leslie Van Houten, Linda Kasabian, Susan Atkins, and Charles Watkins (Emmons & Manson, 1986). It is not surprising that most of them were women. Manson made them feel as if they mattered to him, and convinced most of them that he was in love with them. These women tended to come from backgrounds where they had felt marginalized. They were therefore prime candidates for a cult leader. They were searching for something missing in their lives, and they felt Manson provided it. He offered them unconditional love and a paternal figure.
- Deutsch, L. (2017, September 17). Release Leslie Van Houten. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-deutsch-van-houten-release-20170917-story.html
- Emmons, N. & Manson, C. (1986). Manson: in his own words. New York: Grove Press.
- Guinn, Jeff. (2013). Manson: the life and time of Charles Manson. New York: Simon and Schuster.