In a Nutshell
Charles Manson, widely considered among the most notorious serial killers of all time—in fact, practically synonymous with the term- never actually killed anyone, only directed others to do so.
The Whole Bushel
The so-called “Manson Family” were essentially a cult that came into the orbit of Charles, a charismatic and talented man (he even wrote a song that was recorded, with altered lyrics, by the Beach Boys). It was four of these “family members”—Susan Atkins, Charles Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian—who descended upon the house previously owned by record producer Terry Melcher on August 6, 1969 (Manson knew Melcher from his brief foray into the music business). He instructed them to “totally destroy everyone… as gruesome as you can”—and they did nothing if not comply. Actress Sharon Tate and coffee heiress Abigail Folger were among five dead, counting Tate’s unborn child (she was eight months pregnant).
The very next night, the same four plus two more- Leslie Van Houten and Steve Grogan- were accompanied by Manson to the home of Leno and Rosemary Bianca, randomly chosen for being rich (some family members had recently been to a party at the house next door). Manson helped tie up the unfortunate couple and gave the order that they be killed- but left before it was carried out.
Sure, judging by the brutal nature of the crimes he gleefully ordered—and as anyone who has listened to him talk for ten seconds can readily agree—Charles Manson is a complete psychopath, and should probably never be allowed in the same room with another human being on general principle. But a serial killer? Far from it- in fact, an FBI criminologist classified the Manson Family’s crimes as being much closer to spree killings—and Manson wasn’t even present for the crimes he is associated with, and never actually killed anyone.