Charles Manson, the cult leader of the Manson family who masterminded the Tate-LaBianca killings of 1969 and one of the most reviled and fascinating figures in American pop culture, died Sunday night, CBS Los Angeles reports. He was 83. Manson had been rushed to a Bakersfield, California hospital from Corcoran State Prison earlier this month for an undisclosed medical issue.
Manson died of natural causes at Kern County hospital, according to a California Department of Corrections statement.
A career criminal, amateur musician, enigmatic cult leader and unrepentant racist, Manson became synonymous with the dark underbelly and ominous end of the Sixties. The two-day killing spree he orchestrated in August 1969 left seven people dead and, as legend has it, sprang from his mad interpretation of the Beatles' White Album – specifically the song "Helter Skelter" – which he believed foretold a coming apocalyptic race war.
On August 9th, 1969, tired of waiting for that war to break out, Manson sent four members of his so-called Family to a house on Cielo Drive in Los Angeles with the order to "totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can." They killed the eight-and-a-half-month pregnant actress Sharon Tate, 26, wife of director Roman Polanski; celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, 35; screenwriter Voytek Frykowski, 32; heiress to the Folger's coffee fortune Abigail Folger, 25; and 18-year-old bystander Steven Earl Parent. The next night, Manson ordered the crew, with one additional member, to a different home on Waverly Drive, where grocery-store-chain owner Leno LaBianca, 44, and his wife, Rosemary, 38, were stabbed to death. At both houses, the culprits left words like "rise," "piggies" and "helter skelter" scrawled in blood.