Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family


Right after the trial, there were a number of articles written that were favorable to Manson and his followers. For a while, it appeared that he might become some sort of cult hero. That never really materialized, however, and there is very little left of the Manson Family today. However, Manson still receives a large amount of mail, much of it from young people who want to join the Family.

Lynette Fromme
Lynette Fromme

There have been several plays about him, movies and documentaries and even an opera. Charlie's music has been played by the Guns N'Roses rock band.

Why, when other murderers that were responsible for many more deaths than Manson are forgotten by most people, does Manson remain so notorious?

Perhaps because the people they murdered and the ones they planned to murder were celebrities. Also, perhaps because of Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme's failed attempt to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975, even though it is unlikely that Manson put her up to it. 

Bugliosi believes the notoriety continues because it is the most bizarre and strange, almost unbelievable, murder case in history. He thinks that Manson has become a "metaphor" for evil, catapulting him to near mythological proportions...People worry about this man the way they worry about cancer and earthquakes."

An older Manson
An older Manson

Manson endures, even as a sixty-year old, comparatively passive prisoner, unlikely to ever be paroled. Bugliosi sums up the continued fascination with the more fanatical elements of society: "Today, almost every disaffected and morally twisted group in America, from Satanists to neo-Nazi skinheads, has embraced Manson and the poisons of his virulent philosophy. He has become their spiritual icon, the high priest of anti-establishment hatred."

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