Editorial: A modern-day monster

It’s hard to explain just how chilling Manson’s presence was

As long as humans have walked the earth, monsters have stalked our imaginations.

 

From Cyclops, Hydra and Typhon of mythology, to the Draculas, Frankensteins and Godzillas of movies, we have ever conjured creatures to frighten, entertain and rectify us.

But there are real-life monsters that make those of folklore seem absolutely quaint.

Charles Manson was one of those.

Unlike Frankenstein, Manson, the rootless, streetwise spawn of a prostitute, was created not in a laboratory but on the streets.

After a youth of repeated crime and punishment, and after the would-be musician was rejected by a producer, his maleficent adolescence, hatred and now-evident insanity formed a dark confluence of flowing bloodlust. Even knowing he no longer lived there, on Aug. 9, 1969, Manson ordered a band of twisted drugged-up disciples to kill whoever was in the offending producer’s house.

It turned out to be actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, and a star-crossed gathering of her friends.

The next night, unsatiated, they slaughtered another couple in their home.

The Manson murders shocked, horrified and captivated the nation, both for their savagery and their incongruous connection to the glitz of Hollywood. Manson became the object of revulsion and curiosity, and even twisted fascination for some – a caged animal few of us ever wanted to see, despite the occasional unwelcome celebrity interview through the years.

His death at 83 Sunday is a welcome end to the sordid saga.

But looking backward from our perch in 2017, even one of the most infamous killers in American history pales in comparison to the monsters of today – who, with even less and often no provocation, murder much more efficiently and senselessly.

Have you ever tried to explain to your children how frightening you found the wicked witch of the west? Her green scowl and cackle are but child’s play now.

Amid today’s psychotic mayhem – and an entertainment culture that is both able and gleeful to generate monstrous images that put the ancient Greeks to shame – it’s difficult to communicate to our young just how deeply haunting Charles Manson and his wide-eyed glare have been. We’ve had to live with it as long as he did.

 

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