A report released Tuesday stated that convicted felon Charles Manson has been taken to a hospital in Bakersfield, California. While specifics are yet to be released, Manson is reportedly suffering from gastrointestinal issues. Many younger readers may be wondering just who Manson even is, and why this 82-year-old prisoner still garners so much attention.
Manson came into infamy well over four decades ago, and his legacy has never fully left the nation's consciousness. Head of his own little cult, Manson mixed rogue spiritual ideas of his own grandeur with a homegrown disgust of affluence. The result was a boundary-free community of hypnotized and brainwashed young people who viewed Manson as a messiah figure and leapt to do his bidding.
Tragically, that bidding included Manson asking his sycophants to kill several people. On August 9, 1969, four of Manson's followers broke into the home of Hollywood director Roman Polanski and murdered five people. One of them was Sharon Tate, the director's wife, who was nine months pregnant.
Time magazine called Manson's group a "semi-religious hippie drug-and-murder cult," and that's as fitting a description as any. Manson had so brainwashed his young followers that they seemed to suffer no remorse whatsoever over the gruesome murders they had committed. In responding to her role in the killings, Susan Denise Atkins said, "I didn’t know any of them. How could I have had any feelings — nothing. What I was doing was right. I was coming from love." To stab a pregnant stranger out of "love" indicates a deeply warped and demented mind, yet Manson did not let any of his clan plead insanity during the murder trials.
Though Manson himself was not present for the killings, he and perpetrators were given the death penalty for what came to be known as the seven Tate-LaBianca murders. What spared them was California outlawing capital punishment before they could be put to death. Thus, Manson lives on in Corcoran State Prison, alive enough to even register for a marriage license in 2014. (Manson reportedly got engaged to then-25-year-old super fan Star Afton Burton.)
Part of Manson's ongoing ability to capture attention no doubt stems from the Hollywood targets of his murder orders. But surely another reason is the sheer disturbing oddness of Manson's "hippie drug-and-murder cult." Combining the off-the-grid lifestyle of hippies with bloodlust for the wealthy made for a story simply too bizarre to ignore, even today.