The Manson Family committed one of the most reviled crimes in modern American history: the Tate LaBianca Murders, which brutally ended the life of actress Sharon Tate (wife of director Roman Polanski) when she was eight and a half months pregnant, along with four of her friends and her gardener's son. The next day, married couple Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were murdered by the Manson Family in equally brutal fashion, this time with Charles Manson himself helping commit the crime. The cult had hoped to frame a black man for the killings to spark race riots in Los Angeles, which they believed would usher in the apocalypse.
While the facts in this case are well-documented, the Manson Family lies at the center of many other mysteries, as well, including several similar but unsolved murders. Other stories about the Manson Family have circulated for years, including several conspiracy theories that make them agents of the CIA or members of a secret Satanist network (or both!). This list looks as some of the most compelling unsolved mysteries and conspiracy theories surrounding Charles Manson and his cult of killers.
Some Think the Manson Family Murders Were a CIA Conspiracy
Almost no one disputes that Manson and his followers are directly responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders. The physical evidence against them is too strong to argue that they didn't, physically, do it. But some people think it doesn't stop there.
A popular conspiracy theory holds that Manson's drugs were being supplied by the CIA, and that Manson himself was a product of the infamous MK ULTRA program, supposedly designed to produce mind-controlled assassins.
Why would the CIA do this? To discredit the 1960s counter-cultural movement, some claim, and make all hippie communes seem dangerous.
The CIA motive here was to discredit the hippies and the anti-war movement, as well as to deepen their control of the American mind in general.
Strange Coincidences Link the Manson Family, Rosemary's Baby, and the Beatles
The Manson Family didn't exist in a vacuum. The pop culture of the late 1960s was fascinated by alternative spirituality, mind-expanding drugs, and sexual experimentation. This led to a lot of strange cross-contact between various leaders and celebrities of the decade.
The dots connecting the Manson Family with the movie Rosemary's Baby and the death of John Lennon are straightforward enough: the Mansons murdered Sharon Tate, wife of film director Roman Polanski, in a home owned by Polanski; Polanski later directed the film Rosemary's Baby, starring Mia Farrow, which was filmed at the Dakota Hotel; and John Lennon was living in the Dakota Hotel at the time of his murder in 1980. Manson called his apocalyptc scenario "Helter Skelter," in reference to a song on the Beatles's White Album.
But those data points swim like fish through a sea of other coincidences and connections that some people find a little too convenient. (And yes, the Beach Boys play a part in this, too, as well as everyone from the Maharishi to Anton LaVey.) This led to a widespread belief that a broader Satanic conspiracy was behind everything.
Whether the Satanists in question were also CIA agents is anyone's guess...
One of the Beach Boys May Have Witnessed a Manson Murder
Beach Boy Dennis Wilson's brief connection to the Manson family is well-documented. He hosted the Manson family at his own expense for a period of time, spending $100,000 to cover their food and health expenses. He even brought Charles Manson into his recording studio, where the Beach Boys recorded some songs written by Manson (one of which ended up on a Brian Wilson solo record, and another of which was re-written as a Beach Boys song).
But Wilson was scared by the Mansons, too, and eventually, a friend got him out of the situation, and the family moved on to their infamous Spahn Ranch dwelling. What spooked Wilson?
According to fellow Beach Boy Mike Love, Wilson witnessed Charles Manson murder a black man by shooting him in half with an M-16 rifle, then stuffing the body down a well.
The alleged crime was never reported to the police, and no officials who have heard the story since find it credible. The consensus seems to be that Wilson hallucinated the incident while under the influence of LSD.
The Manson Family Is Linked by an Unsolved Murder to Another Bizarre Cult
James Sharp, age 15, and Doreen Gaul, 19, were found murdered in a Los Angeles alleyway on Nov. 7, 1969, not far from where the Tate-LaBianca murders were committed. And like those murders, Sharp's and Gaul's involved "extreme overkill," a similarity immediately noted by police investigators.
The strangest possible connection to the Mansons, though, is religious. Both Sharp and Gaul were involved with a splinter group of Scientology known as the Process Church of the Final Judgment, or "The Process" for short.
Manson himself was connected to The Process, borrowing some of their ideology for his own cult, and maintaining contact with them after his conviction.
Whether Sharp's and Gaul's murders were committed by the Mansons or had anything to do with their religious involvement is unknown, as the case remains unsolved and with no apparent motive.