Even people not born when the murders took place shudder when they hear his name.

With a swastika tattooed on his forehead, Charles Manson was the very embodiment of evil.

The notorious "mad eyed" killer from Cincinnati languished in prison since 1971 when he was convicted for conspiracy to commit murder, according to the Daily Mail.
He directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people including actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski.

Charles Manson is pictured smiling while wearing a suit and tie. Photo / Bettmann Archive
Charles Manson is pictured smiling while wearing a suit and tie. Photo / Bettmann Archive

"Maybe I should have killed 500 people, I would have felt I really offered society something," he said after he was sent down.

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Manson was in reform schools and juvenile centres from the age of 12.

His career of crime started with robbing liquor and grocery stores before he stole cars, pimped women, and committed forgery. He ended up orchestrating cold-blooded murders.

"I'm special," Manson said. "I'm not like the average inmate. I have spent half my life in prison. I am a very dangerous man."

Manson was an accident, born to 16-year-old prostitute Kathleen Maddox on November 12, 1934.

The alcoholic often left her young son in a relative's care so she could continue with her wild lifestyle.

At one point the teenage mother allegedly sold Manson to another woman for a pitcher of beer.

Manson possibly never met his father, Colonel Walker Scott, as his mother married labourer William Eugene Manson after his birth.

Charles Manson was a cult leader who drove several of his members to murder nine people. Photo / AP
Charles Manson was a cult leader who drove several of his members to murder nine people. Photo / AP

Manson showed "dangerous" signs of his penchant for violence at the start of his adulthood.

After serving a 10-year sentence for cheque forgery in the 1960s, Manson was said to have pleaded with authorities not to release him because he considered prison home.

"My father is the jailhouse. My father is your system," he would later say in a monologue on the witness stand. "I am only what you made me. I am only a reflection of you."

At 18 he was moved to a high security reformatory after he sodomised a boy while a razor was held to the boy's throat.

"If I wanted to kill somebody I'd take this book and beat you to death with it and I wouldn't feel a thing,' Manson said. 'It would be just like walking to the drugstore."

In prison Manson became obsessed with music and learned how to play the steel guitar. He believed his musical talents would earn him fame and a following.

He was set free in San Francisco during the heyday of the hippie movement in the city's Haight-Ashbury section, and though he was in his mid-30s by then, he began collecting followers - mostly women - who likened him to Jesus Christ. Most were teenagers; many came from good homes but were at odds with their parents.

The "family" eventually established a commune-like base at the Spahn Ranch, a ramshackle former movie location outside Los Angeles, where Manson manipulated his followers with drugs, supervised orgies and subjected them to bizarre lectures.

Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case, 1969, Los Angeles. Photo / AP
Charles Manson is escorted to his arraignment on conspiracy-murder charges in connection with the Sharon Tate murder case, 1969, Los Angeles. Photo / AP

He befriended rock stars, including Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. He also met Terry Melcher, a music producer who had lived in the same house that Polanski and Tate later rented.

By the summer 1969, Manson had failed to sell his songs, and the rejection was later seen as a trigger for the violence. He complained that Wilson took a Manson song called Cease to Exist, revised it into Never Learn Not to Love and recorded it with the Beach Boys without giving Manson credit.

Manson was obsessed with Beatles music, particularly Piggies and Helter Skelter, a hard-rocking song that he interpreted as forecasting the end of the world. He told his followers that "Helter Skelter is coming down" and predicted a race war would destroy the planet.

"Everybody attached themselves to us, whether it was our fault or not," the Beatles' George Harrison, who wrote Piggies, later said of the murders. "It was upsetting to be associated with something so sleazy as Charles Manson."

According to testimony, Manson sent his devotees out on the night of Tate's murder with instructions to "do something witchy".

Charles Manson, with a swastika on his forehead, walks to court in Los Angeles, during the the penalty phase of the Sharon Tate trial. Photo / AP
Charles Manson, with a swastika on his forehead, walks to court in Los Angeles, during the the penalty phase of the Sharon Tate trial. Photo / AP

The state's star witness, Linda Kasabian, who was granted immunity, testified that Manson tied up the LaBiancas, then ordered his followers to kill. But Manson insisted: "I have killed no one, and I have ordered no one to be killed."

His trial was nearly scuttled when President Richard Nixon said Manson was "guilty, directly or indirectly". Manson grabbed a newspaper and held up the front-page headline for jurors to read: Manson Guilty, Nixon Declares. Attorneys demanded a mistrial but were turned down.

From then on, jurors, sequestered at a hotel for 10 months, travelled to and from the courtroom in buses with blacked-out windows so they could not read the headlines on newsstands.

The American public first heard of Manson and his Family when Tate, 26, was viciously murdered at her home. She was eight months pregnant with husband Polanski's child when she was stabbed to death, with an X cut into her stomach and one of her breasts cut off, according to a Time article published in 1969.

The body of actress Sharon Tate being taken from her rented house on Cielo Drive in the Bel Air Estates area of Los Angeles. Photo / AP
The body of actress Sharon Tate being taken from her rented house on Cielo Drive in the Bel Air Estates area of Los Angeles. Photo / AP

The gruesome Manson Family didn't stop there. In addition to Tate's murder, Manson orchestrated his Family to murder six other victims.

Manson was eventually revealed as the mastermind and convicted of conspiracy of murder. He was given the death sentence but it was changed to nine consecutive life sentences after California abolished the death penalty.

Although Manson did not personally kill any of the seven victims, he was found guilty of ordering their murders.

He was later convicted of ordering the murders of music teacher Gary Hinman, stabbed to death in July 1969, and stuntman Donald 'Shorty' Shea, stabbed and bludgeoned that August.

The three Manson 'family' girls with carved foreheads, from left Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. Photo / AP
The three Manson 'family' girls with carved foreheads, from left Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten. Photo / AP

Manson's life in prison wasn't all grim. He was caught twice with a contraband cell phone and was engaged to Afton Elaine 'Star' Burton when she was 27 and he was 80, in 2014.

Their marriage licence expired and they were never married. Burton first started seeing Manson when she was 19 after she moved from Illinois to California so she could visit him.

Afton struck up a relationship with Manson when she started writing to him after a friend chose him as the subject of a school project.

The marriage licence expired amid lurid reports that Afton had only wanted to marry Manson so that she could take possession of his corpse on his death and use it for profit - charging people a fee to view it.

Mason fathered three sons. In November 2009, a Los Angeles DJ and songwriter named Matthew Roberts, who was adopted at birth, claimed to be his fourth son.

Roberts' biological mother claims to have been a member of the Manson Family who left in the summer of 1967 after being raped by Manson. Manson himself has stated that he "could" be the father.

Manson died on Monday, aged 83, a week after he was admitted to hospital.

Charles Manson is escorted to court in Los Angeles during an arraignment phase. Photo / AP
Charles Manson is escorted to court in Los Angeles during an arraignment phase. Photo / AP

The California Department of Corrections said he had spent the past 27 years incarcerated in the Protective Housing Unit at Corcoran, which houses inmates whose safety would be endangered by general population housing.

Before that Manson had also been housed at San Quentin State Prison, California Medical Facility, Folsom State Prison and Pelican Bay State Prison.