Who was Charles Manson?

Charles Manson (birth name: Charles Milles Maddox) was born November 12, 1934 to unmarried 16-year-old Kathleen Manson-Bower-Cavender. He never met his biological father and some statements from his case file allude to the possibility that his father was of black ancestry. However, when asked, denied such thing is true.

His early life is not very clear and we don’t know much about it, this in part because Charles made multiple statements to different interviewers, that he later retracted. Much of the things he said in his many interviews were false therefore leading to many things from his early life to be disputed.

What we do know is that in 1939, Charles together with his mother and her brother robbed a service station in Charleston, West Virginia but they were caught and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Charles was placed at his aunt in McMechen, West Virginia. In 1942 his mother was released and she was reunited with him. According to his own statements, the hug that his mother gave him that day they reunited, was the happiest memory of his childhood. For the next several years, they lived in run-down hotels.

Sentiments of Rejection

In 1947 his mother tried to place him in a  foster home, but failed because of lack of such homes in the area. The court stepped in and placed him at Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana, where after 10 months he escaped and tried to reunite with his mother. This reunion didn’t go as expected and ended up in him being rejected by his own mother.

The string of offences and imprisonments

Young Charles Manson

Manson started to commit burglaries to get money so he can get by. His first burglary of a liquor store, procured him enough money so he could pay his hotel room in which he was staying and crashing  While stealing a bike from a bike store, he got caught and sent to an Indianapolis juvenile center where he escaped and was recaptured the same day. Then he was sent to Boys Town and just days after his arrival there, together with another boy, he escaped again. While on the run, they robbed to stores. He was caught and sent to the Indiana Boys School at the age of 13.

In 1951 he escaped again with other two boys, then  arrested driving a stolen car and was sent to the D.C.’s National Training School for Boys. There, a case worker deemed him as antisocial and violent as well as illiterate.

In October 1951, Manson was transferred to Natural Bridge Honor Camp, a minimum security institution. From there on he was constantly transferred from one institution to another. But surprisingly about a month after the transfer at the Federal Reformatory at Chillicothe, Charles became almost a model resident and in May 1954 he was granted parole.

One of the conditions for his parole was to live with his aunt and he did that for a short while, until he moved in with his mother who was living in West Virginia as well.

His First Marriage

In January 1955, he married a hospital waitress named Rosalie Jean Willis. He was doing small jobs to support his wife while stealing cars on the side.

In October 1955, Charles traveled with his pregnant wife to Los Angeles, where he was caught traveling in a stolen car. Manson was again charged with a federal crime for taking the vehicle across state lines and was given five years’ probation. In March 1956 he got an order of arrest in Indianapolis for failing to appear at a hearing for similar charges. His probation was revoked and he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment at Terminal Island, San Pedro, California.

While in prison, his wife gave birth and for a while both his wife and his mother used to visit him. These family visits didn’t last long because his mother notified him in 1957 that his wife is living with another man. Upon hearing this, around two weeks before a parole hearing, Manson tried to escape, stealing  a car again. His parole was denied and got 5 years probation in 1958. The same year his wife was granted divorce.

By November the same year, he was pimping a 16-year-old girl and was receiving additional support from a girl with wealthy parents. In September 1959, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to cash a forged U.S. Treasury check.

His Second Marriage

He got a 10-year suspended sentence and probation after a young woman with an arrest record for prostitution told the court that she and Manson were “deeply in love … and would marry if Charlie were freed. The woman later married Manson. Her name was Leona. He was held and questioned for violation of the Mann Act. He was released but he suspected that the investigation had not ended so he vanished. A bench warrant was issued and in April 1960, an indictment for violation of the Mann Act followed. He got caught and arrested in Laredo, Texas, in June 1960, then returned to Los Angeles and was ordered to serve his 10-year sentence.

In July 1961, after  unsuccessfully appealing the revocation of his probation multiple times, Manson was transferred to the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island.

In 1963, Leona was granted a divorce. She alleged that she and Manson had a son, Charles Luther.

By March 21, 1967, his release day, he had spent more than half of his 32 years in prisons and other institutions. He told the authorities that prison had become his home, and he requested permission to stay.

Manson Establishes Himself as a Preacher

After his release, Manson moved to San Francisco where he got to know Mary Brunner, a 23-year-old graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who was working as an assistant librarian at UC Berkeley. Manson moved in with her and not long after, Charles started bringing other women in to live with them, soon sharing Brunner’s residence with 18 other women.

Manson established himself as a guru in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, exploring a philosophy that included some of the Scientology beliefs( which he appears to have studied in prison). Soon had his first group of young followers, most of them female.

Dennis Wilson’s (of The Beach Boys) place becomes Manson’s crash place

In late spring 1968, by some accounts, Dennis Wilson, of The Beach Boys, picked up two hitchhiking Manson women and brought them to his Pacific Palisades house. but returning home in the early hours of the following morning from a night recording session, Wilson was greeted in his own driveway by Manson, who emerged from the house.

When Wilson entered the house, much to his surprise he discovered Inside, 12 more women, but this for whatever reason didn’t seem strange to Wilson and so The “Manson family” members made themselves at home at Wilson’s place. Charles started growing the number of followers and Wilson was picking up the costs of their medical issues (gonorrhea to be exact) plus other expenses of property destruction, and daily expenses. You might ask yourself why Wilson would accept that, but It seems that the women served as servants to both Wilson and Manson, which could explain their living arrangements.

Wilson also paid for recordings and songs written by Manson and to top that he also seems to have introduced him to other names in the industry. These names included Terry Melcher, Gregg Jakobson and Rudi Altobelli. Rudi was the one who owned and rented a house to the famous movie director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate.

This living arrangement fell apart in August 1968 when Manson and his “family” moved out of Wilson’s house after Wilson’s manager asked them to leave the property.

Another new “home”

After being kicked out from Wilson’s property, Manson managed to establish the family not far from Topanga canyopn, at a ranch that had been a television and movie set. Due to building deterioration, the ranch was a cheap crash place for Manson and his followers, but not that cheap because apparently he ordered the women to have sex with the owner (George Spahn). It is at this ranch that Charles Watson joins the group pf followers.

His Preaching Started

By November 1968, Manson changed the headquarter of his family, moving into two small ranches, one owned by the grandmother of one of his cult members and the other one promised to fix it up in exchange of free staying.  He started talking about racial issues and predicting racial tensions and black rebellion in America. He started preaching that the group was being instructed in one of the Beatles album to prepare for the upcoming disaster.

His delusions grew bigger and by February 1969, Manson’s vision was complete. The Family would trigger the predicted chaos which meant whites would be murdered by blacks then would be met with retaliation, and a split between racist and non-racist whites would yield whites’ self-annihilation.

How did the crimes start?

On March 23, 1969 Manson went to Rudi Altobelli’s house which at that time was rented out to Sharon Tate and her husband, movie director Roman Polanski. At the time of his visit, Manson was actually looking for Terry Melcher, who supposedly said he would come visit Manson and his “family” to listen to the albums they created.

Shahrokh Hatami, a photographer and friend of Tate’s, greeted Manson upon his arrival at the house and asked Manson who was he looking for. Upon hearing that Manson is looking for Melcher,  Hatami told Manson that he had no recollection of that name so he instructed him to try at the guest house, which he did and left minutes later. But the same evening, Manson returned at the house and tried again at the guest house, this time he was met by Rudi himself who told him that Melcher had moved out from this property and he is not aware of his new address so Manson left after beeing told that Rudi will be traveling for the next year.

In June, 1969 Manson was in preparation for “Helter Skelter” – the apocalypse he was preaching about and one of his cult members, Watson, was in charge of getting the necessary money, but he did that by defrauding a drug dealer: Crowe. In his turn, Crowe threatened the community and on July 1st 1969, Manson shot him. Being delusional, Manson believed that Crowe was part of Black Panther and he transformed the ranch into a defense camp, thinking that this was the start of Helter Skelter.

The Killing Spree

Charles Manson Followers

On July 25, 1969, Manson sent Bobby Beausoleil along with Mary Brunner and Susan Atkins to the house of Gary Hinman, to persuade him to turn over money that he thought Hinman had inherited. Gary was held hostage for two days, until he was eventually killed by Beausoleil who stabbed him to death. One of the two family members used the victim’s blood to write “Political Piggy” on the wall, drawing a Panther symbol as well.

On August 6, 1969 Beausoleil was arrested and police found the murder weapon in Gary’s car which he was driving.

The Tate Murders

On the night of August 8, Manson directed Watson to take Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to the house where Melcher used to live and destroy everyone there as gruesome as they can, ordering the women to do as Watson would tell them. At the time the house was occupied by Sharon Tate, her friend and former lover Jay Sebring, aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, and Frykowski’s lover Abigail Folger

Sharon Tate

First collateral casualty

When the cult members arrived at the property, Watson climbed a telephone pole to cut the lines, this being around midnight. While trying to climb over a brushy area into the property, they noticed a car approaching and alarmed the followers. But Watson stopped the driver, slashed him on his arm and palm and then shot him 4 times, killing him and then ordered the women to hide the car.

After killing the driver, Watson managed to enter in the house through a window and then let Atkins and Krenwinkel inside the house through the front door.

Breaking into the Tate residence

Frykowski awoke on the living-room couch andWatson kicked him in the head.  On Watson’s direction, Atkins found the house’s three other occupants and they were brought to the living room. where Watson began to tie Tate and Sebring together by their necks. Howevger, Watson shot Sebring  upon his protest at Tate’s treatment. Folger was taken momentarily back to her bedroom for her purse, out of which she gave the intruders $70.  Then Watson returned to Sebring and stabbed him seven times.

Freeing himself, Frykowski began struggling with Atkins, but she stabbed him in the leg. Frykowski managed to get out, but was followed by Watson who hit him over the head with the gun, multiple times and stabbed him.

Kasabian arrived outside the door. In an attempt to stop the massacre, she told Atkins falsely that someone was coming.

Back in the house, Folger had escaped from Krenwinkel and fled out a bedroom door but was pursued by Krenwinkel, who stabbed her. Then Watson joined in what we could only call a killing frenzy. Her two attackers had stabbed her 28 times. Outside, Frykowski was struggling across the lawn when Watson returned for the last time to him and murdered him with a final stabbing. Frykowski was stabbed a total of 51 times.

Tate pleaded to be allowed to live to have her baby, and even offered herself as a hostage but her killers would have none of it. Atkins, Watson, or both killed Tate, who was stabbed 16 times. Watson later wrote that Tate cried, “Mother… mother…” as she was being killed.

While leaving the murder scene, Atkins wrote “pig” on the house’s front door, in Tate’s blood and on their way to the ranch, the killers ditched in the hills their weapons and bloody clothes..

The LaBianca Murders

The very next night, at the orders of Manson, the four attackers from the previous night, Manson himself and Leslie Van Houten with Steve “Clem” Grogan arrived at the house of Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. Manson was displeased of how the previous night events have unfolded so he decided to show them himself how it’s done. After entering the house, he woke up the sleeping Leno LaBianca from the couch at gunpoint and had Watson bind his hands with a leather thong. After Rosemary LaBianca was brought  into the living room, Watson covered the couple’s heads with pillowcases and he bound these in place with lamp cords. Manson left, sending Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten into the house with instructions that the couple be killed.

Rosemary was retuned to the bedroom and Watson sent the 2 women to take care of her. He then went to the living room and began stabbing Leno LaBianca with a chrome-plated bayonet. The first thrust went into the man’s throat.

Mrs. LaBianca was keeping the women at bay by swinging the lamp tied to her neck. Watson stabbed her and then he returned to Leno and continued the stabbing.  Watson carved “WAR” on the man’s exposed abdomen.

Returning to the bedroom, Watson found Krenwinkel stabbing Rosemary LaBianca with a knife from the kitchen. Heeding Manson’s instruction to make sure each of the women played a part, Watson told Van Houten to stab Mrs. LaBianca too. She did, approximately 16 times in the back. But by that time, the victim was dead already.

Krenwinkel wrote “Rise” and “Death to pigs” on the walls and “Healter Skelter” on the refrigerator door, using the victims’ blood.

Third murder abandoned

Hoping for a double crime, Manson told Kasabian to drive to the Venice home of an actor acquaintance of hers, another “piggy”. He then drove back to Spahn Ranch, leaving them and the LaBianca killers to hitchhike home, but Kasabian however, deliberately knocked on the wrong door, waking a stranger. This leading to abandon the murder plan.


Charles Manson Victims

The trial

The Tate murders became headlines and it didn’t take long until police gathered enough evidence against Manson and his family, which made it possible for the trial to begin on June 15, 1970.  Kasabian became the prosecution’s main witness, who, along with Manson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel, had been charged with seven counts of murder and one of conspiracy.

On January 25, 1971, guilty verdicts were given to the four defendants on each of the 27 separate counts against them. On April 19, 1971, they were sentenced to death.


Manson died today, 20 November 2017. He was 83 years old.

Charles Manson dies at age 83


Federal Bureau of Investigation

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