Charles Manson, the hippie cult leader who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, died Sunday after nearly a half-century in prison. He was 83.
Manson, whose name to this day is synonymous with unspeakable violence and madness, died of natural causes at Kern County hospital, according to a California Department of Corrections statement.
TMZ was first to report on the killer’s death. The celebrity-news site reported that Debra Tate, the sister of Sharon, said she received a call from Corcoran State Prison informing her that Manson died.
Sporting a carved swastika on his forehead, Manson was the long-haired, wild-eyed head of a California desert commune in the late 1960s.
The “Manson Family” was largely made up of runaways and societal dropouts whom Manson controlled with a mix of his charismatic yet calculating personality and hallucinogenic drugs.
Obsessed with Armageddon and what he saw as a coming race war, Manson masterminded a series of murders that he hoped would spur black vs. white violence. A failed musician, Manson believed several songs on The Beatles’ “White Album” – notably “Helter Skelter” – also predicted a racial clash.
He ordered a small, devoted group of followers to carry out the murders, although he never took part in the actual acts.
Manson was rejected for parole 12 times and would not have been eligible to apply again until 2027.
Despite his infamous reputation as one of the 20th century’s most twisted mass murderers, Manson still managed to attract fans behind bars and nearly married a woman in her 20s in 2014. The woman, who called herself Star, applied for a marriage license with Manson, then 80, but a ceremony never took place.