39. His mother once traded the infant Manson for a pitcher of beer
If you want to turn your kid into a monster, here’s how to do it. Although she married Eugene William Manson (whose surname Charles took), Kathleen turned to prostitution to make ends meet, and what little she made was spent almost entirely on alcohol. Her invidious situation as a runaway teen mother makes us sympathetic, but there is no excusing what follows. Kathleen’s desperation for a drink saw her (temporarily, it seems) give her infant son to a broody barmaid for a pitcher of beer. Her alcoholism was out of control for years to come, ruining the baby’s life.
38. Manson’s mother and uncle once committed a hold-up… with a ketchup bottle
Kathleen’s marriage ended after just 3 years due to her drunkenness and irresponsible habit of partying every night. Even poorer, and still not out of her teens, she turned to a life of crime with her brother, Luther. Their chief scam involved Kathleen flirtatiously luring men out to the street, where Luther would beat up and rob them. When Charles was just 5, Kathleen and Luther held up a man she’d just met at a gas station, using a salt-filled ketchup bottle in lieu of a revolver. She got 5 years, and Charles was sent to live with relatives.
37. While his mother was in prison, Manson’s relatives attempted to ‘toughen him up’
Things didn’t get any better for poor Charles with his Aunt Glenna and Uncle Bill. On his first day of school, Charles was bullied and humiliated by a teacher, and fled home in tears. Bill, a tough railroad engineer, was far more livid at Charles crying than the outrageous behavior of his cruel teacher and decided to make it his mission to toughen him up. Charles returned to school the next day dressed as a little girl to teach him a lesson. Further humiliated, but more fearful of his uncle, Charles never ran home in tears ever again.
36. His cousin remembers him as a child who could switch from violent to charming in the blink of an eye
Whatever he became, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel sorry for the plight of the young Charles. Unsurprisingly, his horrendous life began to take a toll on him, as his cousin remembered in 2013. Forced to fight for his own survival, Charles soon learned to manipulate others through lies and backstabbing. Though he could win people over by playing the piano and singing hymns, he also displayed a disturbingly violent streak. He frequently tried to attack his female cousin with a sickle when she displeased him and took every opportunity to snitch on her.
35. When he got no Christmas presents himself, he burned his peers’ gifts as punishment
Although Glenna and Bill were at least employed and not career criminals, they were still very poor, and Christmas was not a happy time for Charles. One year, the only present he received was a hairbrush from his grandmother, and he was enraged at the sight of the neighborhood kids with ‘toys of all kinds: wagons, trains, cowboy hats and chaps’. Manson couldn’t stand the humiliation: ‘one day I rounded up all of their toys I could find and carted them home with me… I stacked up some wood and threw the toys on top and started a fire’.
34. Unable to cope with her son and her own addiction, Kathleen sent Manson to a school for delinquents
When Kathleen was released on parole, she immediately took custody of her 8-year-old son and moved to Indianapolis. She found a new husband at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but the tempestuous marriage only worsened the couple’s alcoholism. Charles responded to his new life by skipping school and shoplifting, and soon Kathleen couldn’t stand the strain of motherhood. She sent Charles to Gibault School for Boys in 1947, which catered to juvenile delinquents. Sick of being flogged by teachers, he soon managed to escape back to his mother but was immediately sent packing, no doubt causing yet more psychological trauma.
33. Aged just 13, Manson stole a gun from his aunt and uncle
Kathleen barely visited Charles at the Gibault School, which was a long way from Indianapolis. He later recalled missing his mother terribly: ‘I was lonely, lonelier than I had ever been in my life’. He may have been hoping to spend Christmas 1947 with his mother, but instead, he found himself once more with Glenna and Bill. At the age of 13, he stole his uncle’s gun. It’s unclear what he was planning to do, but he was a fairly experienced thief and had, no doubt, learned a thing or two from Kathleen. Fortunately, he was caught in time.
32. Also at 13, Manson escaped Gibault and went on a robbery spree so he could rent a room of his own
Life at Gibault didn’t get any better for Manson. The Catholic priests who ran it gave him daily beatings for wetting the bed and the older kids gave him a hard time. Figuring that he was away from home because his mother couldn’t cope with him, Manson decided to make a go of it himself and escaped once more in 1948. He survived off meals begged from ‘bums, winos and hobos’, and once he made it to Indianapolis robbed cash registers to rent a room ‘on skid row’. No one seemed to care or notice that he was just 13.
31. Manson was sent to another juvenile facility, but escaped to spend weeks breaking the law
The law caught up with Manson within a few weeks, after he was caught riding a stolen bike. The sympathetic judge sent him to the famous Boys Town facility, the subject of a Hollywood movie starring Mickey Rooney, but after just 4 days inside, Manson and an accomplice escaped, stole a car, and committed a few armed robberies. The youngsters eventually wound up committing burglaries on behalf of the other boy’s Fagin-like uncle. On their third job, they were caught escaping through a skylight, and arrested. Manson escaped the very same night, letting 30 others free with him.
30. He was raped and sexually abused at his next juvenile detention center
This escape didn’t last long, either, and after a few more weeks of robbery and vagrancy, Manson was sent to a far harsher institution: the Indiana School for Boys at Plainfield, Indiana. He’d made a mockery of the law too many times for the ‘sadistic, perverted a**holes’ employed as prison guards, and they made it their mission to give the young Houdini a really tough life. He received daily beatings from the guards and, most horrific of all, Manson was frequently gang-raped by other inmates at the chief guard’s instigation, causing yet more humiliation and crippling psychological trauma.
29. At 16, he received a disturbing psychological report
Manson escaped from Plainfield twice, and on the second occasion was apprehended in a stolen car at a Utah road block. Crossing state lines made this a serious federal offense, and he was sent to the National Training School for Boys in Washington, DC. There, aged 16, he was given a psychological examination, revealing that, although his IQ was 109, he was illiterate, and ‘aggressively anti-social’. The report, heartbreakingly, concluded that ‘behind all this lies an extremely sensitive boy who has not yet given up in terms of securing some kind of love and affection from the world’.
28. Manson missed parole in 1952 after raping another boy at knifepoint
The accuracy of the report quoted above is debated: some think that it’s an instance of Manson’s great gift for manipulation. Either way, the report saw him transferred to the Natural Bridge Honor Camp in 1951, a minimum-security institution. He was scheduled for a parole hearing in February 1952, but a month before it was due to take place guards found Manson raping another inmate at knife-point. A horrific act, no doubt, but it’s hard not to see the 18-year-old Manson as a product of the brutalizing environment he’d been subjected to for most of his formative, teenage years.
27. Between 1954 and 1967, Manson was frequently imprisoned for pimping, robbing, and violating parole
Despite committing ‘eight serious disciplinary offenses, three involving homosexual acts’ at his next facility, Manson was released over a year early in May 1954. Within a year, he was married, but like his mother found no stability in wedlock, and was in and out of prison for the next 12 years for offenses ranging from taking stolen vehicles across state lines, forging cheques, pimping out teenage girls, and parole violation. He served the final years of this period at Terminal Island, Los Angeles, and in 1967, aged 32, he had spent over half his life behind bars.
26. When released in 1967, Manson begged not to leave prison
But if you thought he’d be pleased to be released, you couldn’t be more wrong. As his release date grew ever closer, Manson panicked. His final prison report from Terminal Island stated that ‘he has no plans for release as he says he has nowhere to go’. It’s unsurprising that a man who had spent so much of his life, including those important teenage years, in prison had become somewhat institutionalized, no matter how hard incarceration had been. As he was led from Terminal Island on March 21, 1967, he begged the escorting officer to let him stay.
25. He soon attracted a group of followers known as ‘The Manson Family’, who went to live at the Spahn Ranch, California
Manson reluctantly moved to San Francisco to pursue a musical career, and his strange aura soon attracted a group of besotted and psychologically damaged people. Setting himself up as a guru of sorts, Manson attracted mostly middle-class women from broken homes, and announced that he was the Second Coming. He ordered his followers to recruit male members through sex, and soon had sway over around dozens of people, a cult that swallowed his pseudo-Buddhist spiritual teachings line and sinker. After years of drifting, they eventually moved to the Spahn Movie Ranch in exchange for free labor.
24. Manson subjected his brainwashed followers to horrific abuse and control
Manson recruited only the most vulnerable and credulous people into the Family, and exercised a terrifying level of control over them. He convinced them that they were reincarnations of the original Christians, with himself as Christ, and that the authorities were the Romans who persecuted them first-time around. He forbade members from owning anything, including prescription glasses, and dosed them with LSD while he gave his lectures on the future. He forced female members to have sex with each other and forage for food in bins. Even after Charles’s life sentence, one Manson Family member tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford.
23. Manson made friends with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, and even wrote them a song
In 1968, Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys picked up hitchhiking Manson Family members and took them to his house. Sensing a shot at musical glory through the pop star, Manson himself turned up a few days later, and the two became friends. The whole Manson Family even moved into Wilson’s home for a while but were evicted after spending a fortune on his credit cards. Wilson refused to discuss his relationship with Manson after the latter’s murder convictions but, creepily, the Beach Boys song, ‘Never Learn not to Love’, is actually an adaptation of the Manson original, ‘Cease to Exist’.
22. Before their falling-out, Dennis Wilson tried to get Manson a record deal, with nearly disastrous consequences
Manson convinced the Family that stardom was the way to spread their message of love to the world, and even managed to persuade Dennis Wilson to get him an audition with record producer Terry Melcher. Melcher, son of Doris Day, was interested in Manson’s music, but rightly determined that he would be too difficult to work with after the apparently peace-loving hippy pulled a knife on Melcher’s staff when they criticized his performance. Manson auditioned at Melcher’s rented Beverly Hills home at 10050 Cielo Drive, which he would make notorious the following year…
21. He predicted an apocalyptic race war between white and black people was coming
Along with the standard, ‘60s peace-and-love aphorisms, Charles Manson had other messages for the Family. He saw the simmering racial tensions between black and white people in the US, and concluded that there was a global race war coming. It would be kicked off by black people, sick of being oppressed, violently murdering white people, leading to revenge murders of black people. This would quickly erupt into a wholesale civil war across the globe, which black people would eventually win, exterminating all white people in the process, who would also turn against themselves and kill one another.
20. Manson planned to hide out for the war’s duration, then rule the victorious black race with the Beatles
And what did all this mean for the all-white Manson Family, you may wonder? Well, Manson’s big plan was for them to hide with the Beatles in a secret city at the bottom of an abandoned mine shaft he found in Death Valley and wait for it to end as predicted. Once it was all over, they would emerge, and become the rulers of the victorious black race. He believed that black people were incapable of ruling anything because they were made to serve, and so would willingly hand over control to the Manson Family and the Fab Four.
19. This whacky prediction was drawn from the Beatles song, ‘Helter Skelter‘
Manson’s name for the coming race war and its aftermath was Helter Skelter, named after a track from The White Album (1968) by the Beatles. This was no act of whimsy: the album as a whole was seen by Manson as a coded revelation of the race war, and from these hints and intimations he derived his whole prophecy. For example, he thought the song ‘Helter Skelter’ referred to the Family hiding in the mine shaft with the Beatles, rather than getting to the bottom of a slide, and that ‘Piggies’ referred to the black uprising against the white authorities.
18. He planned to kick off racial Armageddon by releasing music with subliminal messages
Just as the Beatles had reached him through subtle messages on The White Album, Manson felt that he could achieve something similar and presumably more widespread with his own music. He planned to write and record a follow-up to The White Album with the Family, which would be a call-to-arms to all black listeners, according to Manson Family member Charles Watson: ‘they were message songs, like the Beatles’, with lots of subtle symbols aimed at the different parts of society that would be involved in what was coming’, in order to kick off Helter-Skelter once and for all.
17. Manson shot a black drug dealer, Bernard Crowe, in May 1969
Manson announced that Helter Skelter was imminent on New Year’s Eve 1968. Preparations began immediately: Manson continued to write his subliminal album whilst the Family gathered weapons and money. Along the way, the Family defrauded Bernard Crowe, a black drug dealer, out of $2,500. Crowe was a hardened criminal and threatened to destroy the Spahn Ranch in retaliation. Seizing the initiative, Manson drove with Family member Thomas Wallemann to kill Crowe first, but Wallemann chickened out, meaning that Manson had to pull the trigger. Crowe survived, but Manson believed he was dead, bragging about having killed another ‘blackie’.
16. Tired of waiting, Manson had members of the Manson Family kill Gary Hinman, in order to frame the Black Power movement and start Helter Skelter, in July 1969
Manson’s album never got made, allegedly because Terry Melcher pulled out, and he grew sick of waiting for Helter Skelter to begin unassisted. In July 1969, Manson changed tactics, and ordered three Family members to the home of Gary Hinman, a student and political activist, initially to get money off him. They held Hinman hostage for 2 days without success, before Manson himself turned up and ordered Bobby Beausoleil to kill him. The words ‘Political piggy’ and a panther paw were daubed on the walls in Hinman’s blood to frame the Black Panther movement and help Helter Skelter along.
15. On August 8, 1969, the Manson Family were ordered to Roman Polanski’s home to murder everyone ‘as gruesome as you can’
On August 8, 1969, Bobby Beausoleil was arrested for Hinman’s murder, and Manson announced Helter Skelter must begin. He ordered Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to kill white celebrities ‘as gruesome as you can’ and make it look like the Black Power movement was responsible. He sent them to 10050 Cielo Drive, where Manson auditioned for Terry Melcher. Melcher no longer lived there, and instead, in August 1969 it was home to Roman Polanski and his young wife, Sharon Tate. This was no accident: Manson personally called at the house beforehand and spoke to Tate.
14. First they murdered an 18-year-old boy leaving the property in his car
The four Manson Family members arrived at 10050 Cielo Drive on the night of August, 8. Watson first cut the home’s telephone line, then they snuck in through a hedge. As they approached the house, a car drove towards them, which Watson halted. The unfortunate driver was Steven Parent, a teenager visiting the home’s caretaker. As he aimed the .22 at the boy’s head, Parent begged for mercy, but Watson simply stabbed and then fatally shot him four times in the chest and abdomen. Watson entered the property through a cut-out window, leaving Kasabian to keep watch outside.
13. Confronted by Wojciech Frykowski, Family member Charles Watson replied ‘I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work’
The four occupants of 10050 Cielo Drive were in bed at around midnight when Watson broke in. They’d spent the evening at a Mexican restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, and everything seemed perfectly ordinary upon their return. While they slept, something was afoot: after letting in Atkins and Krenwinkel, Watson accidentally woke Wojciech Frykowski, a 33-year-old screenwriter spending the night on the couch. When Frykowski asked the Family who they were in his fatigued confusion, Watson brutally kicked him in the head, and uttered the chilling words: ‘I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s work’.
12. The Family next rounded up the house’s occupants and began to execute them
Acting on Manson’s orders to ‘totally destroy everyone in [the house]’, Watson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel patrolled the house, rounding everyone up at gun and knife-point and frogmarching them to the lounge. The four occupants were tied up and rough-housed, but Frykowski managed to wriggle free. Atkins stabbed him in the legs, but he made it to the front porch before Watson managed to stab him 51 times, shoot, and pistol-whip him to death. Frykowski’s lover, Abigail Folger, also managed to make a run for it, but was tackled by Krenwinkel by the swimming pool, where Watson fatally stabbed her 28 times.
11. Sharon Tate, 8 and a half months pregnant, was tied to her former lover, who was then executed while still attached
The final two victims were Sharon Tate, the young wife of Roman Polanski who was 8 and a half months pregnant at the time, and the hairstylist Jay Sebring. Polanski himself was in Europe, but Sebring, Tate’s former lover, was there to keep her company. The pair were tied together by their necks with a rope suspended over a beam, and Sebring twice protested about the treatment of the heavily pregnant Tate. In response, Watson shot him while he was still attached to Tate, then fatally stabbed him 7 times in front of the hysterical actress.
10. Tate begged for her unborn baby’s life in vain, as she was stabbed 16 times
After dealing with Frykowski and Folger outside, Watson returned to find Tate sobbing and begging for her life. She asked that they spare her unborn baby’s life, and take her with them as a hostage. ‘It was the first time I’d realized she was pregnant, and for a moment it almost seemed like a good idea’, recalled Watson, ‘but then… Charlie’s [Manson’s] tape whirred, “Kill her!” inside my head’. Atkins simply replied, ‘Look bitch, I don’t care about you’. As Tate called out ‘mother’ over and over again, Watson stabbed her 16 times until she lay lifeless and mutilated.
9. As they left, the Manson Family wrote ‘PIG’ in blood on the front door, again to frame the Black Power movement
The Family had carried out Manson’s orders perfectly. They’d killed everyone at 10050 Cielo Drive ‘as gruesome as possible’ and simultaneously stolen all the money they could find, but one important task remained: to ignite Helter Skelter. So as they were leaving the house, Atkins grabbed the blood-soaked towel she’d used to bind Frykowski’s hands and smeared the word ‘PIG’ in the unfortunate screenwriter’s blood. The ‘logic’ here was that the Black Panther movement had frequent run-ins with the police and establishment, ‘piggies’ in Manson’s warped interpretation of the eponymous Beatles song which predicted this stage of Helter Skelter.
8. The very next day (August 9) Manson took his Family out to murder more people
The following night, Manson summoned the Tate murderers and Leslie Van Houten to commit more atrocities. Manson felt the previous night’s work had been sloppy, and wanted to show the Family how to murder properly. They drove around for three hours reviewing potential victims before settling on Leno and Rosemary LaBianca of Los Feliz. Entering through the unlocked backdoor, they roused the sleeping couple, and, at Manson’s command, brutally stabbed them to death. Watson carved ‘WAR’ into Leno’s stomach, and the words ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘Rise’, and ‘Death to Pigs’ were written in the victims’ blood on the walls and refrigerator.
7. After a bungled, 4-month investigation, the Manson Family were finally charged with the murders
On August 12, the LAPD told the press that there was no connection between the bloody murders of August 8 and 9, overlooking some fairly obvious and intentional similarities. Manson Family members were arrested a few days later, but ironically for vandalizing part of Death Valley National Park weeks before, and Manson himself was arrested a few weeks after the murders for stealing cars. But one of the Family implicated Atkins in the Hinman murder, and whilst in prison Atkins bragged about the Tate and LaBianca massacres. She was indicted, and confessed all: Manson and the Family were charged.
6. The trial lasted 7 months, and all defendants were sentenced to death
After their arrest in December 1969, Manson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel were charged with both the August 7th murders, and Van Houten with murdering the LaBiancas. Linda Kasabian was controversially given immunity in exchange for her witness testimony against the Manson Family, for she had only been an accomplice at 10050 Cielo Drive. The Family’s behavior was bizarre during the 7-month trial: they showed no remorse whatsoever, chanted in Latin, and Manson was prone to strange outbursts. All 4 received the death penalty. Watson was tried separately in 1971 after fighting extradition from Texas, and received the same sentence.
5. Manson was originally sentenced to death, but when California rules changed, he was able to apply for parole
After the trial, more murders came to light for which the guilty parties were convicted, and other Manson Family members were sentenced for crimes committed after their leader’s imprisonment. But in 1972, the People vs Anderson case saw the death penalty outlawed in the state of California, and the Family’s sentences were automatically changed to life imprisonment. This meant that they were able to apply for parole, and Manson made a bid at the earliest possible opportunity in November 1978. His application was thankfully rejected, and he was unsuccessful on a further 11 occasions.
4. Manson had a swastika tattooed between his eyebrows
Throughout their trial, all Family members, including Manson, had the letter ‘X’ carved between their eyebrows to show solidarity. But when Manson suddenly changed his appearance from innocuous-looking, long-haired hippy to thuggish skinhead, he altered the mark into a crude swastika. He later turned this into a tattoo during his incarceration, when he had more time on his hands. ‘The mark on my head simulates the dead head black stamp of rejection, anti-church, falling cross, devil sign, death, terror, fear’, he explained in a 1971 interview. His white supremacist beliefs presumably also contributed to his adoption of the Nazi symbol.
3. In 1984, a fellow inmate set Manson on fire, leaving him with burns covering 20% of his body
At the time of his final, unsuccessful appeal for parole in 2012, Manson had committed 108 serious discipline violations during his incarceration, 35 of which were violent. His predilection for violence, swastika tattoo, and the heinous crimes he committed made him a target for many other prisoners. In 1984, he was involved in a particularly nasty incident at the California Medical Facility. After threatening fellow inmate, Jan Holmstrom, for his religious beliefs, second-degree murderer Holmstrom doused Manson in paint thinner at the facility’s hobby shop and set him on fire. Manson suffered burns on 20% of his body.
2. He died in 2017, having never expressed any remorse for his crimes
In total, Manson was convicted of 9 murders, some of which only came to light during his imprisonment. For decades, he denied all charges against him, but in 2011 he had the following to say to a prison psychologist: ‘I am special. I am not like the average inmate. I have put five people in the grave.’ But although he seems to have admitted to some of the murders for which he was convicted (assuming these weren’t others that hadn’t been discovered), Manson never once showed remorse for what he’d done. He died alone after a heart attack in 2017.
1. Manson has released several albums, and there is still something of a cult surrounding him to this day…
Manson’s trial gave him the level of fame he had long-coveted, and the platform from which to spread his beliefs. Unable to secure a record deal before his arrest in 1969, a recording of 13 of his songs, Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, was released shortly before the trial got underway, and he recorded many other albums during his imprisonment. Manson gave many interviews while in prison, some of which were filmed for documentaries. References to Manson’s thoughts are numerous in popular music but, most disturbingly, he is still idolized by Neo-Nazi groups across the world today.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources: