StMU Research Scholars

Charles Manson: The Helter Skelter Plan of World Domination

The first gun shot explodes. Jay Sebring has just become the first victim of Charles Manson’s “Helter Skelter” murderous plan. Sebring fell to the floor after being shot under his arm. The bullet went through his rib, pierced his lung, and finally exited through his back. The gunshot rang out, and Sharon Tate and Abigail Folger screamed at the top of their lungs, begging for someone to save them. At that very moment, the victims in that house knew they were soon to face sudden death.

Charles Manson was the mastermind behind these gruesome murders and was the leader of a cult better known as “The Manson Family.” His plans of mayhem started when he gained inspiration from The Beatles album titled The White Album, one song from which he took the name of his plot, “Helter Skelter.” He had been in the process of creating a “family” for people who felt that they didn’t conform to society’s models. Manson became a leader to many young adults, because he took them in when they were abandoned by their families. Once “the family” started to grow, more young adults began to join, due to Manson’s views of Earth Ecology, self-expression, and ultimate freedom. The followers then began to see him as a messiah, and as their savior.1 His values boiled down to igniting a race war. The vision he preached to his family consisted of the complete domination of all major cities and of having the white population cut off from ruling power. When that was fulfilled, he would then rise up from the desert and rule over the remaining human population.2

Charles Manson booking photo, San Quentin State Prison, 1971 | Courtesy of Wikipedia

He commanded four of his most loyal family members, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Lisa Kasabin, and Tex Watson, to murder the famous occupants of the Benedict Canyon Bungalow located on the northern crest of Beverly Hills, California, in hopes of igniting the war.3 The four victims of this horrific crime were famous socialites who had been in and out of the spotlight. Sharon Tate, a respected actress, was eight-and-a-half months pregnant by Roman Polanski, who was one of the most idolized directors of the 1960s. Polanski was not at the bungalow during the time of the murders because he was in England working on a film. Jay Sebring, a world-renowned hair stylist, was previously engaged to Tate, and was a good friend of Polanski. Wojciech Frykowski and his girlfriend Abigail Folger, heiress of A. J. Folger Coffee Company, also fell victim to the murders, but they both fought hard for their freedom. The murders of the night of the August 9, 1969, marked the most horrific murders of the century. Charles Manson and his band of family members absolutely terrified the nation by sending out a clear message; he was not prepared to show mercy, and would not stop until his prophecy was fulfilled.

Sharon Tate circa 1967 | Courtesy of Wikipedia

On the night of August 9, 1969, Charles Mason commanded his four most loyal family members to proceed to the bungalow. It started with Tex Watson cutting the telephone lines from the house, to limit any attempt to call for help. While doing so, Watson was spotted by a young Steven Parent, who proceeded to ask what Watson was doing. Watson immediately ran up to Parent’s car, emptying four shots from his fifteen-inch revolver into Parent.4 Steven Parent became the first victim of that horrific night, and he was not even a part of the bungalow target. The murdering of Parent caused Linda Kasabian to express severe trauma over the sight of death; she was commanded to stay behind and watch over the gate while the others went to commit the crimes. Tex Watson was the first to enter the house by cutting open the screen of the window located in the nursery. As he let the others into the living room, the music was blaring. Wojciech Frykowski was asleep on a couch trying to recover from the partying that had just occurred. Suddenly, he was awoken to a gun pointed at his head by “family member” Tex Watson. Frykowski immediately asked the stranger with the gun, “Who are you?” and Watson replied “I’m the Devil and I’m here to do the Devil’s business.”5 Atkins proceeded to check for others around the house, where she later found Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, and Abigail Folger. Folger was the only one to notice her, where she even smiled back at Atkins, and thought nothing of it. Atkins led Folger, Tate, and Sebring into the living room to face the man who called himself the devil.

As Sebring slumped to the floor upon being shot, they immediately knew that they were not going to make it out of there alive. Frykowski was the first to be bound and tied by a towel around his hands. The others were tied up by a nylon rope around their necks where they were forced to stand. Atkins was then ordered to kill Frykowski, which empowered him to try to make a break for it. During the scuffle that occurred between Atkins and Frykowski, Atkins lost the knife that was going to be used to kill him. Watson immediately came over to them and fired two shots into Frykowski. The weapon misfired on the third shot, which led Watson to finish him off by clubbing him over the head. During the commotion with Frykowski, Folger used her rush of adrenaline to run for her life. She broke free from the nylon rope and ran towards the back bedroom to a door that would have led her outside. Krenwrinkel began a pursuit behind her. Once Krenwrinkel caught up to her, Folger began to fight for her freedom. Tex Watson walked inside after clubbing Frykowski to see Sebring desperately fighting for his survival. Watson then stabbed Sebring multiple times and repeatedly stomped on his face to insure that he was dead. During the scuffle between the two girls, Watson appeared outside after just having murdered Frykowski and Sebring. That is when the will to survive disappeared from Folger, and her last words were “I give up. Take me.”6 Watson then stabbed her twenty-eight times resulting in a open gash on her stomach. Detectives stated that the white nightgown she wore to sleep that night appeared red.7 In the bungalow sat a petrified Sharon Tate, staring at her dead ex-lover Jay Sebring. When the three murderers walked back into the home, Tate immediately started begging for her life, yet they showed no remorse. Atkins held Tate’s arms as they stabbed her.

Sharon Tate starring in Eye of the Devil | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Watson began stabbing her by puncturing her left breast through her bra. Then together they stabbed her a total of sixteen times. After Atkins tasted the blood of Sharon Tate on her hands, she grabbed a towel, soaked it using Tate’s blood, and then wrote the word “PIG” on the front door of the bungalow.8 Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwrinkel, Linda Kasabian, and Susan Atkins all left the scene unidentified. They immediately ran back to report to Charles Manson that they had just sparked his Helter Skelter plan.

The housekeeper discovered the bodies the next morning, and nobody had any idea who could have done such horrific crimes. Manson, though, was not satisfied with the work of his loyal followers, due to their sloppiness. A few months later, Manson and a number of his followers were arrested at Barker Ranch in the Mojave Desert. Susan Atkins was a part of the number of family members that were arrested. They were brought into custody based on charges unrelated to the Sharon Tate murders. While in custody, there was no mention of the murders up until Susan Atkins decided to brag to another inmate about what she had done that fatal night of August 9th. She proceeded to point out the family’s plans to continue these slayings of famous celebrities in the future.9 This led to the other family members being questioned, and with that, they cracked under pressure.

Charles Manson and his “family” were put on trial for the murders of that night and one other, in one of the most sensational trials of the era. And they were found guilty and sentenced to death, which was later changed to life imprisonment, due to California’s law change regarding the death penalty. The murderers all confessed to the slayings and laid out the details of how it all happened. Patricia Krinwrinkel gave the most troubling testimony of all. She stated: “I stabbed her and I kept stabbing her.” When asked how it felt, Krenwinkel replied: “Nothing, I mean, what is there to describe? It was just there, and it was right.”10 Patricia Krenwrinkel won the title of being the longest incarcerated woman in the California Penal System, and continues to serve time to this day.11 Susan Atkins served almost forty years behind bars and was later diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008, from which she later died in 2009.12 Linda Kasabian was the only one of the murderers to walk away free; she was never directly involved with the slayings, and she played a key witness to taking down the others.13 Tex Watson still continues to live out his life sentence, and is using prison as a positive reformation. He has since claimed that he has found God. He also has obtained a bachelors degree in business management.14 Watson has turned his life over to salvation in order to find forgiveness for what he had done.15

Finally, Charles Manson himself lived a well-deserved yet terrible life in prison. He faced many threats to his life. He was sentence in 1971 to live out the rest of his life behind bars, yet many other inmates wanted to make him suffer. In 1985, a cell mate of his doused him in paint thinner and set him on fire.16 During 2017, Manson began to crumble, and his health problems started with intestinal bleeding in January, and he was hospitalized in November. He later died at the age of eighty-three due to intestinal bleeding.17 Sharon Tate has lived in her murderers’ shadow, due to the horrific things that happened to her that night; but overall, she got the justice she deserved.  

  1.  The Scribner Encyclopedia of American LivesThematic Series: The 1960s, 2003, s.v. “Manson, Charles Milles,” by Bernadette Lynn Bosky.
  2.  American Decades, Vol. 7: 1960-1969, 2001, s.v. “Manson, Charles  1934-,”  by Judith S. Baughman.
  3. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2015, s.v. “Charles Manson,” by Brion Sever.
  4. Rob Kirkpatrick, 1969: the year everything changed (New York, NY: Skyhorse publishing, 2009), 157.
  5. Rob Kirkpatrick. 1969: the year everything changed (New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009), 158.
  6. Rob Kirkpatrick, 1969: the year everything changed (New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009), 159.
  7. Women Criminals: An Encyclopedia of People and Issues, 2012. s.v. “Patricia Krenwinkel.”
  8. Rob Kirkpatrick, 1969: the year everything changed (New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009), 159.
  9. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2015, s.v. “Charles Manson,” by Brion Sever.
  10. Women Criminals: An Encyclopedia of People and Issues, 2012. s.v. “Patricia Krenwinkel.”
  11. Women Criminals: An Encyclopedia of People and Issues, 2012. s.v. “Patricia Krenwinkel.”
  12. Women Criminals: An Encyclopedia of People and Issues, 2012. s.v. “Patricia Krenwinkel.”
  13. Women Criminals: An Encyclopedia of People and Issues, 2012. s.v. “Patricia Krenwinkel.”
  14. Charles D. Watson, Manson’s Right-Hand Man Speaks Out (Abounding Love Publishers, 2003), 3.
  15. Charles D. Watson, Manson’s Right-Hand Man Speaks Out (Abounding Love Publishers, 2003), 3.
  16.  The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: The 1960s, 2003, s.v.  “Manson, Charles Milles,” by Bernadette Lynn Bosky.
  17. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2015, s.v. “Charles Manson,” by Brion Sever.

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121 Responses

  1. I remember buying the book, “Helter Skelter”. I got only to the 5th page and it freaked me out. I gave it to a friend of mine at the time. I think I was 13 when I bought it. Years later I would write a paper about the family. I have been interested in the story every since. I find out new things all the time. I am not sure if they are true or what I learned so long ago. People keep saying Charlie had nothing to do with the murders. I know that is not so. He may have not been there during the murders, but he had a hand in putting this idea in those young peoples heads. And they have spend so much of their lives in prison. I have also read his book too. I can understand he had no one but others have not had a happy childhood and they didn’t turn to crime and murder. He was just an evil person.

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