Conspiracy Theories Reignite After Manson Death

Charles Manson
Charles Manson arrives for court in 1971 with a shaved head, an open shirt and a swastika carved in his forehead. Manson was convicted for his part in ordering his followers to commit the Tate-LaBianca murders. Bettman/Getty Images

In July and August of 1969, followers of charismatic cult leader Charles Manson brutally murdered nine people, including eight-and-half-months pregnant movie star Sharon Tate, hoping to pin the blame on black militants and incite a race war. During the trial that followed, the revelations of Manson's philosophies, his strange and compelling personality, and his tumultuous life story fascinated and disturbed the nation.

Though his actions are shocking enough on their own, even stranger theories have sprung to life around the enigmatic megalomaniac. Stuff They Don't Want You to Know's Matt Frederick, Ben Bowlin and Noel Brown take a deep dive into the murky waters around Manson in a special two-part series of the podcast, Charles Manson is Dead, Part Two.


One of those theories they talk about is that the Manson Family — and Charles Manson himself — was responsible for more murders than they were charged with. While no evidence has successfully linked these other, random killings to the Manson Family, it's not hard to imagine that the violent tendencies on display in the Tate-LaBianca murders flared up previously.

Another conspiracy gained traction after head prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi wrote his book "Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders" and compared Manson's ability to influence his followers with techniques used by the military. That led some to speculate that Manson was a product of the CIA's project MK-Ultra, which was a top-secret mind control project that experimented on prison inmates with drugs and hypnosis in an attempt to create more effective torture procedures.

Did the U.S. government drug and brainwash Manson, perhaps turning him into a cult leader primed to violently discredit the hippie, anti-war movement? This theory strengthened after Manson follower Charles "Tex" Watson wrote that something seemed "off" with the drugs they took; while the Family thought they were dosing on LSD to open their minds and accept new realities, it turns out they were on a special blend called "Orange Sunshine." Was this a special kind of hallucinogen the CIA manufactured and distributed? Did these drugs have some hypnotic capabilities to help Manson get a firm grip on his followers? Were these cold, brutal kills all part of the plan?

Manson has also been linked to the Church of Scientology and its offshoot the Process Church of the Final Judgment. Might Manson have learned his indoctrination techniques from studying these churches methods? Paul Crockett, the Manson Family's nearest neighbor, recognized Manson's influence for what it was. Crockett, who worked to de-program some of the Manson Family members when he was able to, attributed Manson's influence to the occult, and once said Manson had "a hole in his humanity."

What other conspiracies have surrounded Charles Manson? Listen to the podcast to learn more about Crockett and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love (also called the Hippie Mafia), and hear more stories about the notorious cult leader. And don't forget to check out Charles Manson is Dead, Part One, where the guys focus on the facts of Manson's turbulent life and the Tate-LaBianca killings.