Charles Manson, the leader of the notorious 'Manson Family' cult which committed a series of violent murders in 1969, has died in prison aged 83.
The cult leader, who wasn't present at any of the murders his followers committed - but was sentenced to death for ordering his devotees to carry out seven of the nine gruesome crimes, infamously had a swastika tattooed on his forehead. He died of natural causes after having been admitted to Bakersfield hospital, California earlier this month, the BBC reports.
A murdering spree
Members of the murderous 'Manson Family', about a dozen people who all lived together at the isolated Spahn Ranch in California, were responsible for the death of Hollywood actress Sharon Tate, who was heavily pregnant at the time. Tate, who was 26 when she was brutally stabbed 16 times - including in the stomach - was married to director Roman Polanski. He had been due to return to California from London, where he was working, on August 12th - four days after the attack took place.
Sharon Tate's friends, writer Wojciech Frykowski, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and hair stylist Jay Sebring were also killed at the actress' house, as was Steven Parent, a friend of the family's gardener.
The 'Family' continued their killing spree in the days that followed, murdering a wealthy couple and others. But what would possess a person to join this dangerous cult? One woman, Dianne Lake, knows all to well.
Joining the cult
Dianne was just 14 when she joined the cult, and became the youngest member. She spent two years living in Charles Manson's fold, although she never participated in any of the murders. Eventually, aged 16, Dianne managed to escape, and ultimately ended up testifying against the ringleader in court, helping to put him away for life.
In her new book, Member of the Family: My Story of of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties, Dianne recounts the childhood she spent in Minnesota, how she lived out her early teen years living in communes with her parents, and how this led to her becoming part of the Manson Family.
Speaking to Cosmopolitan.com recently, Lake gave a rare insight into her experience of Charles Manson. "I'm sure he was angry and disappointed and felt disenfranchised," she said of why she believes he plotted the violent murders his followers committed. "It was just the perfect storm and he already had this mindset... that there was this race war coming and that we were going to go to the desert."
Lake, now 64, opens up in her book about how Manson had sex with her within hours of their acquaintance. An excerpt of the book published on The New York Post describes the pair's initial meeting, Lake recalls how she found Charles - who she frequently refers to as 'Charlie' - "charming", and how he said within minutes of meeting her that she was beautiful. "Like a raindrop joining a puddle, I blended in easily, my loneliness disappearing," she wrote in the book, explaining how she got sucked in.
Making an escape
Reflecting on the events that ensued, Dianne Lake wrote in her memoir that she "[finds] it hard to reconcile the man I followed onto that bus with the monster the world now knows him to be."
Despite initially having been entranced by Charles Manson and his cult, the sinister nature of it all gradually became clear to a teenage Dianne, and she sought help to leave. She went on to testify against him in court when she was just 17 - a brave move which ultimately contributed to the death sentence he received in 1971 for his manipulative role in the murders. He never was put to death, but served more than four decades in prison until he died on Sunday 19 November 2017.
When asked if she was worried about other members of the cult coming after her following her police testimony, Lake recalled: "Not too much because at that point I was living with a sheriff, and I felt protected and I didn't feel like the people that were left were going to pursue that.
"But I was worried that he would still have a hold on me by looking at me. I was afraid that the memories of my being in love with him would draw me back in, but the spell was broken."
You can read about Dianne's experience in Charles Manson's cult in her new book, 'Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties'.
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