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Helter Skelter: The Inside Story of How Charles Manson's 'Family' Butchered Eight (FPD CASE VAULT)

helter skelter the inside story of how charles mansons family butchered eight
Source: AP

At age 78, the once-brazen cult leader has gone gray and looks like a beaten old man

Aug. 14 2023, Published 10:08 a.m. ET

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Convinced a race war would make him a world leader, cunning Charles Manson sent his cult on a sadistic 1969 "Helter Skelter" murder spree designed to speed the arrival of the apocalypse.

But after actress Sharon Tate and seven others were slain, the "name Manson became a metaphor for evil" not greatness, said California prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who put the fiends behind bars.

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The Inside Story of How Charles Manson's 'Family' Butchered Eight
Source: AP Photo/Reed Saxon

Sharon Tate's Benedict Canyon mansion

Though Manson didn't take part in the killings, he convinced his weak, warped hippy disciples, known as "The Family," to carry out his twisted plot.

On a hot August night in 1969, Manson's followers slaughtered Tate, 26, the wife of famed movie director Roman Polanski, and four of her friends at her Benedict Canyon home.

The Inside Story of How Charles Manson's 'Family' Butchered Eight
Source: George Brich/AP/Shutterstock; Bettmann Archive

Charles "Tex" Watson (left) and Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten (left to right) were all smiles after the bloodbath. But long prison sentences wiped away their grins.

Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Susan Atkins snuck onto the estate at 10050 Cielo Drive and cut the phone lines. Then they shot and killed Steven Parent, one of the caretaker's friends, as he begged for his life.

They entered the home through a window. Tate and her friends - hairstylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and companion Wojciech Frykowski - were captured then slain during a blood-crazed frenzy.

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The Inside Story of How Charles Manson's 'Family' Butchered Eight
Source: Elam/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock; Bettmann Archive

Actress Sharon Tate's body was wheeled away from the murder scene after the blonde beauty (right) was killed in her Benedict Canyon mansion


Last to be murdered was seven-months-pregnant Tate, who begged for the life of her unborn child. Atkins recalled at her 1993 parole hearing, the Valley of the Dolls beauty "asked me to let her baby live...I told her I didn't have any mercy on her."

To inspire hate and fear, the gang used the star's blood to scrawl the word "PIG" on Tate's front door. And the horrifying scene did shock veteran detectives investigating the murders as well as the rest of the world. But there was no outbreak of racial violence.


The carnage continued the next night, when Manson led Watson, Krenwinkel and Leslie van Houten to the home of supermarket mogul Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary.

Once again, the killers attacked without mercy, carving up the couple with knives and forks from the LaBianca kitchen. They defaced the walls with the bloody slogans "Helter Skelter," a reference to Manson's favorite Beatles' tune, and "Death to the pigs."

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The Inside Story of How Charles Manson's 'Family' Butchered Eight
Source: Associated Press

TV newsman Geraldo Rivera (left) was not amused as Charles Manson clowned for the camera during a March 1988 interview in California's San Quentin Prison.

Detectives collared the butchers three months later. Manson and his four groupies' death sentences were commuted to life terms when California banned the death penalty in 1972. Atkins died of cancer in 2009 in prison.

Meanwhile, 78-year-old Manson rots in Corcoran State Prison, where he was connected with the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood. He has been denied parole 12 times.


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