Charles Manson and the Manson Family

The notorious female followers of Charles Manson, dubbed The Manson Family, were young women who committed horrendous crimes after falling under the drug-induced hypnotic powers of the wild-haired self-proclaimed messiah.

The Telegraph, UK/April 19, 2011

Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten were all sentenced to death for their roles in the carnage that claimed the lives of actress Sharon Tate, the heavily pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and six others in Los Angeles on the nights of August 8 and 9, 1969. The penalties were commuted to life.

Atkins initially admitted stabbing Tate 16 times. She then scrawled "pig" at the scene with the dead woman's blood. Another Family member has since said she did not actually stab the actress. She died in September 2009, in prison, at the time the longest-incarcerated female inmate in the California penal system. Following her death, Krenwinkel is now the longest serving.

Another female Manson devotee, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, who was not implicated in the 1969 slayings but was jailed in 1975 after pointing a loaded pistol at President Gerald Ford from two feet away, was released on parole in 2009. Fromme, who was a dominant figure among Manson's female followers, would have been released the previous July but had to serve additional time for a 1987 jailbreak. She escaped after she heard that Manson had testicular cancer, and planned to go to his aid in jail.

Manson ordered his followers to commit the atrocities in the belief that it would provoke an apocalyptic race war, which he called "Helter Skelter" after the 1968 Beatles song which he interpreted as a coded prophecy of such conflict. A hardened racist, he believed that blacks would win the war, but then be unable to govern themselves and would turn to him and his followers to lead the survivors.

Manson is held in Corcoran State Prison in California and has been denied parole 11 times.

The cult leader remains a figure of lurid obsession. He is said to have received more letters than any other US jail inmate.

In December last year, he was among thousands of prisoners in California found with mobile phones in their cells. It was established he had contacted people in California, New Jersey, Florida and Canada.

An aspiring musician apparently on the verge of a professional career, he was also fast developing a cult-like following in the hippy community with his charismatic style. And he demonstrated an apparently hypnotic control over his devotees, fuelled by drugs, and slept with many of the women who called him "father".

The "Family" lived on a ranch in the desert where Manson formulated his increasingly twisted theories. On August 8, he announced "now is the time for Helter Skelter" and dispatched four followers to the Beverly Hills home of Tate.

Her husband, Roman Polanski, was travelling in Europe at the time, but five people were butchered there that night, including Jay Sebring and Abigail Folger, a coffee fortune heiress.

The next night, Manson accompanied six Family members to the home of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, who were gruesomely murdered in another bloodbath.

In all, Manson was convicted of nine murders.

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