Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders Helter Skelter discussion

Why the draw?

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Crystal In the afterword and epilogue of this book, Bugliosi attempts to answer the question: why are people obsessed with Charles Manson? It is quite strange how this serial killer, these murders, have garnered so much...well...attention. And what's most incredulous is the number of followers/supporters that have stood up since the case broke! Why and how has Manson become a subculture icon? How did it become fashionable to wear "Free Manson" t-shirts?

Cheryl S. Hi Crystal--To put the Helter Skelter story in a present day context I think it is something like a certain segment in our society doing the same thing with the Columbine shooters.  At the time, the events of Helter Skelter were so shocking because no one had ever heard of someone who could control others to that extent.  It was a sensation and everyone talked about Manson's "power".  He was a kind of symbol for the isolated oddballs who hang around the fringe of society and want to feel important by whatever means.


Barry Good theorizing by Cheryl. I believe the fact that Manson represents the dark underbelly of the counter-culture has a lot to do with the fascination. His followers were typical middle-class drop-outs, just like millions of other American kids who adopted the "hippie" lifestyle and philosophy to varying degrees. So the "family"-members weren't so "odd" as people would like to think.

message 4: by Stephy (last edited Mar 30, 2008 04:07AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Stephy Weren't so ODD? Are you bananas, Francis? Cheryl has a better handle on this than you do! These weren't just squirrelly people who dressed funny together. Their idea of an interesting evening was going out and slaughtering people! Because they could!

Manson's "power" was that he paid attention to large children with no personalities, no humanity, no spines: puddles of nondescript dna. Totally unparented beings. "Tell me you love me and I'll kill anyone for you, daddy" psychos. He was a "Father" to them, alright, just like any other pimp.

He was dangerously crazy. The big word for them all was sociopaths. While "under his spell", these "kids", as you call them, committed bizarre ritual murders. Nothing normal, I tell you, about sticking a fork into a pregnant woman's belly, dead or alive. And where was their personal accountability? No remorse, NONE! Ever! And just what kind of thing is named Squeaky? A dog toy!

Do not even THINK about equating 'Hippies" and "The Manson Family". It won't wash. Hundreds of thousands of kids left home back then, and we didn't all become mass murderers for the hell of it. I hope he NEVER gets out of jail.

What a shame some of his little freaks are already out! They should be doing community service cleaning up after rats forever. Let them hang out with other large rodents.

I'm 58 years old, and still have nightmares about Charles Manson and his sick little group. Time to go get your "beliefs" a reality check on the topic of mass murder, Frank. Get a grip.
By the way, the book sucked.

Maureen Part of the fascination with Manson comes from the fact that he is an enigma. Carl Jung postulated that there are certain people in this world who are conduits for evil. In his psychotherapy practice, he said that these people were untreatable. That is the case with Manson. I once heard a guard from Vacaville, the California prison where all the high-profile inmates are housed, say that the only person he was ever scared of was Manson. He said it was Manson's eyes. This guy was about two feet taller than Manson and outweighed him by at least a hundred pounds. That is what people find fascinating about the most evil man in America.

Stephy Manson is no enigma. He's a cold blooded killer.
As for the title : "Most Evil Man in America", I'm relatively certain that belongs to a dead man named John Wayne Gacy, who lured boys into his home, torture, raped and murdered them,and buried them in the crawl space of the home he shared with his wife.
Although I could be wring . There was, after all, Jeffrey Dahmer, who did pretty much the same thing, except then he cut them up and ate then. By comparison, Manson is just another low life thug murderer. We destroy animals that kill people. Why is Manson still sitting in jail? If even the prison guards are afraid of Manson, all the more reason to put him down like the mad dog he is.

Dick Peterson If all had gone as planned, Manson and those convicted with him would have been executed and the enduring legs of the story would not have developed. Enter the Supremes. The death penalties were thrown out. Now the tale gets a booster shot every time one of the principals comes up for parole. All that said, it is undeniable that the case had many interesting aspects. The Columbine example was spot on.

Jan C I would still Manson the vote for "evilest man in America". He manipulated other people into doing the killing for him. Gacy and Dahmer did it themselves.

I lived in Southern California at that time. I was visiting in Chicago when they found out about Gacy. I was visiting a family where a son had a friend who had met Gacy. Luckily for him that was all it was. Dahmer was just disgusting.

message 9: by Dick (last edited Sep 19, 2011 08:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dick Peterson Jan C wrote: "I would still Manson the vote for "evilest man in America". He manipulated other people into doing the killing for him. Gacy and Dahmer did it themselves. ..."

I agree. Gacy and Dahmer killed more people and, though evil, were driven by madness. Charlie was plotting, diabolical, and as mentioned, leveraged his evil through the manipulation of others.

JohnS2165 I just finished this book. I think people became obsessed with Manson because of the links to popular culture at the time-hippies, music, drugs and Hollywood. Plus Manson made outrageous statments that only added fuel to fire. Of course none of this justifies anyone wearing a "free Manson" tee shirt. In general, as a society, we're always fascinated by notorious criminals/killers.

On a side note, what kept going through my mind throughout this trial is how poor Manson's defense was. I almost think he could have been found guilty of lesser charges if he had decent legal representation and didn't act up so much in court. Bugliosi commented throughout how surprised he was with the defense's actions(or inactions). In the end, Manson simply didn't care, and he wanted to be locked up.

Terri It has all the elements that American culture loves. We have a cult like leader who seduced "good" girls and boys to do his dirty work. We have a man who understood the underside of American society and who manipulated it. It involved Hollywood and both the movies and the record industry. There was the whole Hippie and drug culture. Manson has that genius/devil persona that people can't quite understand. It was such a brutal crime- chopping a pregnant woman and using her blood to write a message. Mass Murder was really a exceptional crime in the 1960's. Yes, you had Whitman in the tower in Texas killing random people and In Cold Blood was at the top of the best seller list but it was rare Jonestown and Gacy were for another decade.

George Evil is a mystery. Perhaps that explains our interest in people like Manson -- and other monsters depicted in best selling True Crime books like Helter Skelter. Most "normal" people cannot begin to comprehend the sadism, cruelty, and evil of a John Wayne Gacy or a Charles Manson. Evil fascinates. Being educated in Catholic schools, I was taught that evil can be spiritual, supernatural. I was taught that evil, on a most basic level, infects almost everything in our world like some incurable toxic virus. I was taught that evil is a spiritual entity with a name and a face, an entity we need to validate, recognize, confront -- and not sugarcoat it with psycho babble or science babble. In our empirical age, we tend to substitute the term "evil" with words like "sick" or "crazy." But not everyone who commits mass murder is sick or crazy. Not everyone who commits mass murder has suffered from a traumatic childhood -- or was born with a malfunctioning brain. Evil is a dark and perplexing mystery, woven forever into the fabric of the cosmos. Science can try to explain it, but science will never be able to tell us "why" some individuals like Charles Manson or John Wayne Gacy appeared among us. We look have to look elsewhere answers for those answers, if there are any.

Maureen Well said, George. I, too, believe that there is evil in the world, and that it must be confronted. It is pernicious, and feeds on itself. It becomes greater when simply allowed to continue to exist. On the flip side, I also believe in goodness and kindness, and in their power to triumph over the dark side. I don't really think it matters whom we wish to call "the most evil man in the world." It is the evil itself of which we must continuously be aware, and actively confront and resist.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Bugliosi's book about the OJ Simpson trial (which basically announces in its title what he thought of it) is a good way to answer the question. Mediocre at best people making mediocre at best judgements. Aided by a mediocre media. (For example, count the number of times Manson is mentioned in media sources, and then count the number of times they mention someone truly worthy of praise. For example, the people who discovered things like what what insulin does, the true cause of diabetes, or even just the formulae for Humalog. The comparison will depress you and leave you in no doubt that merit generally takes a sprint from notoriety.)

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