“CHARLES MANSON DEAD”
In recent years, I started wondering if I would ever live long enough to actually read those words. After cheating the executioner when the death penalty was revoked in California in 1972, Charles Manson would go on to outlive not only the man who first walked on the Moon just a couple of weeks before he sent his “Family” out on their unbelievably vicious killing spree, but the prosecutor who successfully had him sentenced to death in the first place. Manson the man was starting to appear as in-killable as the myth.
I was too young in 1969 to remember or have even been aware of the case, but I was at exactly the right age to be terrified and haunted by it when the HELTER SKELTER TV mini-series first aired in Australia in 1976. The mini-series of course was accompanied by ample TV and newspaper coverage looking back at the real-life case which it was based on, and though I was already a burgeoning film buff it was the first time in my young life that the lines between reel horror and real horror became intertwined and blurred. To a twelve-year-old boy, it was absolutely a horror story and a true nightmare that stuck with me and kept me awake at night for a long time.
Over the ensuing years I have read (and collected) more Manson-related books and magazines and watched more movies and documentaries on the subject than I could ever possibly remember, and have also written several published pieces relating to the case (mostly regarding the movies influenced by it). Though I am fascinated with the case mostly from its psychological angle and the impact it has had on history’s perception of the 1960s, I still grapple with understanding that fear that was ingrained in me while sitting in front of the family TV set back in 1976.
Though Manson himself was never actually convicted of murdering anybody, he was just as responsible and guilty as the people who actually drew blood on his command. I can never celebrate anyone’s death, but I hold no sympathy for Manson upon his passing. He not only enjoyed a bizarre celebrity status behind bars but got to live decades longer than all of those who were killed in his name, and he got to die in a lot more peaceful and compassionate manner also. Most would say that was a lot better than he deserved.