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Charles Manson: Orgins of a Madman

Charles Manson is known as one of the most sinister and evil criminals

of all time. He organized the murders that shocked the world and his name still

strikes fear into American hearts. Manson’s childhood, personality, and uncanny

ability to control people led to the creation of a family-like cult and

ultimately to the bloody murders of numerous innocent people.

Charles M. Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 11, 1934.

His mother, Kathleen Maddox, was a teenage prostitute. Manson’s father walked

out on the still pregnant Maddox, never to be seen again. In order to give her

bastard son a name, Ms. Maddox married William Manson. He soon abandoned the

both of them.

Manson’s mother often neglected Charles after her husband left her. She

tried to put him into a foster home, but the arrangements fell through. As a

last resort she sent Charles to school in Terre Haute, Indiana. Mrs. Manson

failed to make the payments for the school and once again Charles was sent back

to his mother’s abuse. At only fourteen, Manson left his mother and rented a

room for himself. He supported himself with odd jobs and petty theft. His

mother turned him into the juvenile authorities, who had him sent to “Boys

Town,” a juvenile detention center, near Omaha, Nebraska. Charles spent a total

of three days in “Boys Town” before running away. He was arrested in Peoria,

Illinois for robbing a grocery store and was then sent to the Indiana Boys

School in Plainfield, Indiana, where he ran away another eighteen times before

he was caught and sent to the National Training School for Boys in Washington

D.C. Manson never had a place to call “home” or a real family. He spent his

childhood being sent from one place to another, and trouble always seemed to

follow him. His mother’s negligence left Manson without a home and without much

of a future. Manson turned to crime to support himself, and he soon became very

good at it. When just a child, he became a criminal and spent his last years of

childhood in a correctional facility.

After his release from the training school in 1954, a new period of

Manson’s life began. He went to West Virginia and soon married a girl named

Rosalie Jean Willis. She became pregnant and Manson had a child. This was

Manson’s first real family, but he didn’t stray from the criminal lifestyle. He

started stealing cars to make the money necessary to support his new family. By

the time the baby was born, Manson was in prison on Grand Theft Auto charges.

In 1958 Charles was released from prison. His wife and child had left

him, leaving Charles alone once again. Several arrests for car theft and

pimping followed; in 1960 Charles was given ten years imprisonment for forging

government checks. While he was serving his ten year sentence at McNeil

Penitentiary, he studied philosophy, took up guitar, and taught himself sing and

compose songs. His newfound musical skills would later attract followers. His

study of philosophy helped create some of his outlandish ideas that later

appealed to his would-be followers. Manson was released in March, 1967 after

serving seven years. By the time Manson was thirty-two years old, he had spent

seventeen years, more than half of his life, in prison.

This long stretch of incarceration had left its mark. “If Charlie has

any roots, they’re in the penal system,” 1 said one acquaintance.

“Inside, you have to be aware of everything, and when he

came out, Charlie was like a cat. Nothing got by Charlie if

something happened within a hundred miles of him, he

made sure he knew about it. Everytime he came into a

room, he cased it, like an animal. Where were the

windows? What was the quickest way out? He never sat

with his back to the door.”

Soon after his release, Manson traveled to Haight Ashbury, where the

“hippie” movement was in full force. At this time, hippies were gentle people,

believing in peace, love, and sharing with others. This was a perfect

environment for Manson to gain followers. Manson’s probation officer remembers

he was “shaken” by the friendliness of the hippies, but before long, Manson

learned how to exploit it. He started to collect a retinue of impressionable

girls searching for a community of love. With a guitar, a pleasant voice,

sinuous mannerisms, and sweet talk with empty promises, Manson convinced many

young-adults to leave their lives and families to be with him. The beginnings of

his “Family” took shape.

Whenever Manson succeeded in gaining one of these followers, the first

thing he did was to deprogram both their ego and their “hang ups,” about

conventional society. By “hang ups,” he meant anything he did not like.

Richard DeMargeno, a criminologist, believed Manson was able to control these

people by replacing their father figures.

“It wasn’t a very difficult process. He was dealing with

lonely insecure people in need of a father figure, people who

didn’t have much ego to begin with. What he did, in effect,

was to tear down that ego and substitute himself, thus

gaining enormous control over his followers.” 2

To his girls, Charles Manson was a “beautiful man who loved us all

totally.” Later, a group of young women outside of Manson’s murder trial

replied, “We’re waiting for our father to be set free,” when asked why they sat

on the street-side corner. Manson had obviously replaced these girls’ father

figure, placing himself at the center of their lives. Manson soon recruited

dozens of girls into his “Family.” Yet, many outsiders found him to be a

relentless recruiter who came on strong with every girl he met, a cynic who

treated his followers like possessions and seldom showed any real affection to

them. Alan Springer, a man Manson once tried to recruit, said, “In away he was

very frank and truthful, but in away he was very treacherous with words.”3 Dr.

David Smith, founder and director of the free clinic in Haight Ashbury, thought

that these two sides of Charles Manson were not contradictory:

“To take an example, if you get to know any paranoid

schizophrenics it won’t puzzle you at all. The schizophrenic

usually believes in a mystical system in which he is right,

and he can plan in the most calculating and cunning way

possible. He himself does not really know he is a con man,

or whether he really does love the girls. He vacillates

between one emotion and the other, one of the

characteristics of a schizoid personality is the inability to

sustain one emotion. It doesn’t confuse me that he would be

able to convey sincere emotion and carry on in a very

plotting way. Of course, he would hide the cunning side as

much as possible from those he wanted to involve in his

system.” 4

When a new girl came into Manson’s group, their biggest conflict was the

idea of sex on demand. Charles could be very brutal when necessary and any girl

that stayed with him accepted the idea of having sex with him or anyone else he

wanted. He preached that women should be submissive to men. Surprisingly,

these girls came to believe as he did. Obviously, Charles had an unbelievable

talent of manipulating people. According to Paul Watkins, a one time follower

of Manson, he soon had almost complete control over his followers.

“I lived with Charlie for about one year straight and on and

off for two years. I know Charlie. I know him inside and

out. I became Charlie. Everything I once was, was Charlie.

There was nothing left of me anymore. And all of the

people in the Family, there’s nothing left of them anymore,

they’re all Charlie too.” 5

Charles packed his crew of fourteen, consisting of nine girls and five

boys, into an old school bus and headed south in the spring of 1968. The

“Family” settled at Spahn Ranch in the Santa Susana Mountains, just north of

San Fernando Valley. The owner of the Ranch, eighty five year old George Spahn,

was blind and feeble and allowed the family to stay with him. Manson ordered

one of his girls to care for the man so that the “Family” could might stay there

as long as they wished. Mr. Spahn soon grew desperately afraid of Manson and

only allowed him to stay because he enjoyed the attention he got from the girls

who cooked and cleaned for him. It was at this ranch that Manson seriously

started developing his cult.

Manson’s following grew and many more people were recruited in the

“Family.” He started preaching to his followers in bizzare ways. He would have

the group take acid trips then listen to him as he spun twisted stories that put

ideas into their heads. Charles would reenact the Crucifixion of Christ, trying

to instill upon his follower’s minds that he was Jesus Christ, that he was a

higher power that they all needed to follow unquestionably. Manson convinced

his followers that a war of the races was coming, which he named Helter Skelter.

He got the name from a Beatles song, and had his followers prepare for the

upcoming war by collecting guns and other weapons. Manson turned the ranch into

a fortress. He started to change his following from being a group of freedom

searching people into an organized army-like force. A prosecution witness in

the later murder trial said, “…, he [Manson] wants to build up a thing where

he can be leader of the world. He’s crazy.” 6 The men would target practice

and guards were posted. Escape routes to the desert were planned. Caches of

gasoline and other necessities were buried all over the Death Valley area. Then

Manson had his followers start the crimes, then he had them start the killings.

On August 9th, 1969, Manson ordered a party of his followers to

burglarize a residence in the Los Angeles. All of the people going knew they

were supposed to kill everyone there, yet they didn’t think twice about doing it

for Manson. Before they left, Manson told the party, “If you’re going to do

something, leave something witchy.” 7 This order was later followed to a

hideous extent. The residence targeted by Manson for the robbery and murders

belonged to Roman Polanski, a movie director, and his pregnant wife Sharon Tate,

an up-and-coming movie star. Mr. Polanski was in Europe. His wife had Abigail

Folger and Voytek Frykowski staying with her until his return.

That night, Jay Sebring and Steven Parent were visiting Mrs. Tate.

Manson’s followers broke into the residence, and viciously murdered everyone

there. They were very brutal in the slayings, acting without remorse or guilt.

Manson had them believing there was nothing wrong with murdering these people.

One of Manson’s girls, Sandra Good, said, “Whatever is necessary, you do it.

When somebody needs to be killed, there’s no wrong. You do it, then you move

on.” 8 Manson’s followers mutilated the bodies, Ms. Folger’s corpse was so

bloody that her once white night gown appeared to be red. Sharon Tate’s body

was no different. She was covered in stab wounds and had a rope tied around her

neck that ran over a rafter in the ceiling and was bound to Mr. Frykowski’s neck.

The word ‘PIG’ was scrolled with blood on the front door of the home, thus

Manson’s orders of leaving something “witchy” were followed.

Susan Atkins, one of Manson’s followers, claimed to have almost enjoyed

these murders, saying it gave her a sort of trip.

She had wanted to cut out the baby, Susan said, but there

hadn’t been time. They wanted to take out the eyes of the

people, and squash them against the walls, and cut off their

fingers. “We were going to mutilate them, but we didn’t

have a chance to.” 9

The next night following the Tate murders, Manson and his followers

struck again. The target was the home of Mr. and Mrs. LaBianca. This time,

Manson himself accompanied his family members to the residence. After the group

broke into the home and detained the LaBianca’s, Manson issued orders to kill

the couple and then left. Manson’s followers stabbed Mrs. LaBianca fourty-one

times, stabbed her husband to death, left a fork and a knife in his chest, and

carved the word “WAR” into his stomach. The words “RISE”, “HELTER SKELTER”, and

“DEATH TO PIGS” were scribbled on the walls and the refrigerator in the victims’

blood. These brutal slayings demonstrate the evil in Manson’s warped mind. He

was able to convince normal human beings to commit unspeakable acts of violence

the likes of which the world had never seen. In a sense, Manson molded his

followers’ beliefs and values to represent his own. He had once again ordered

his “Family” members to slay innocent people in his name and they gladly did so.

It wasn’t long before Manson and his followers were arrested for the

savage murders. Manson carved an “X” into his head, that he later turned into a

swastica, claiming that he “X’d” himself from our world. Many of his women

quickly followed suit. Even when faced with the death penalty for the murders,

Manson’s followers still believed in and loved their leader. The murder trial

attested to Manson’s twisted mind even more. He often burst out with strange

comments or demands, and freely spoke of his strange ideas in front of the jury.

It soon became obvious that Manson had some sort of psychological problam. Yet,

through the whole trial, Manson contested that he was innocent, that he didn’t

force any of his followers to do anything. This showed he had no love for his

followers, he didn’t care what happened to them. Manson said to the prosecuting

attorney, “You know, I only made love to her [a women follower] two or three

times. After she had her baby and lost her shape, I couldn’t have cared less

about her.”10

The prosecution attorney did an excellent job of proving the murderers’

guilt, and all persons charged, including Manson, were found guilty. The jury

sentenced all of the murderers to be put to death, but because the state of

California soon after abolished the death penalty, the sentences were commuted

to life imprisonment.

To this day, Manson and his followers are still in prison. Manson is

eligible for parole, and has had several hearings. He still claims that he

wasn’t responsible for the murders and acts as if the bloody slayings were of no


Manson was a criminal to the core. In his life he had committed almost

every crime imaginable. His life of crime developed a warped mind that he used

to sinister ends. His never having a loving family deadened him to having any

morals or guilty feelings. He felt no remorse for the killings and acted as if

the people he had killed did not deserve to live. His uncanny ability to

control people allowed him to gather the followers he needed to accomplish his

devilish tasks. He was able to convince these followers into sharing his

beliefs and used these people as killing machines. The murders of numerous

innocent people were a direct result of Manson’s ability to control people and

his corrupted childhood that created created his criminal mind.


1Steven Roberts, “Charles Manson: One Man’s Family,” New York Times, January 4,



3Eve Babitz, The Manson Murders, W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1974, p. 113.

4Ibid. p. 87

5Vincent Bugliosi, Helter Skelter, Bantam Books, October 1975, p. 623.

6Ibid. p. 122.

7″The Manson Women: Inside the Muders,” Turning Point, ABC, New York, November


8Bugliosi, p. 624.

9Bugliosi, p. 114.

10Bugliosi, p. 415


Babitz, Eve, The Manson Murders, New York, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1974.

Bugliosi, Vincent, Helter Skelter, Bantam Books, October, 1975.

Roberts, Steven, “Charles Manson: One Man’s Family,” New York Times, 45:1-3,

January 4, 1970.

Sanders, Ed, The Family, New York, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1971.

“The Manson Women: Inside the Murders,” Turning Point, New York, ABC, November

9, 1994.

The Internet (Universal Relay Languange Addresses Available.)

Unknown, “The Power of a Cult,” Glamour, 11:160-183, January, 1995.

Encyclopedia of Occultims and Parasychology, Gale Research, Inc., 1991.

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