Charles Milles Madox (Manson) was born November 12, 1934. Possibly you are only familiar with the family of freaks who slaughtered actress Sharon Tate when she was 8 months pregnant and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and rightly so. The murders were all over national headlines during the 1960’s. Sharon Tate was pregnant with the child of pedophile Roman Polanski. I doubt the gorgeous actress knew about the dark side of her perverse husband or the fact that while he was away in Europe filming another movie, he was having affairs with various women. Along with Tate four other people were murdered at her home that horrible night. The following night the LaBiancas met the same fate in their home.
This blog isn’t about Polanski and he isn’t on trial. This blog is about Charles Manson and his Family, the twisted individuals who murdered many, many people. and not only the Tate-LaBianca murders that dominated the headlines when Manson was arrested.
From childhood the deck was stacked against Manson. He had a 16-year old mother named Katheen Maddox who didn’t love him. By all accounts she was very matronly looking and appeared older than her years. Manson’s birth certificate read “no name Maddox.” Within weeks, he was called Charles Milles Maddox. For a period after his birth, his mother was married to a laborer named William Manson whose last name the boy was given. She once traded her infant for a pitcher of beer at a bar. Her father, Manson’s grandfather, later retrieved the little boy. That might have been the biggest mistake of Manson’s childhood. Maddox also had a daughter she named Nancy. Charles’s mother had been promiscuous at the time of pregnancy. Somehow Manson developed the idea that his father must have been a Black man. In reality his father was a Colonel Walker Scott.
On April 19, 1937 the bastardy suit filed by Kathleen Manson in 1936 was settled in Kathleen’s favor. The Colonel was ordered to pay a modest amount of child support for Manson. In 1940 another son was born to Dorothy and Colonel. Interestingly, this son never emulated Manson’s mindset or criminal behaviour. Colonel Scott died in 1954 of cirrhosis of the liver at age 44. By that time he had a second wife Sylvia and his two sons, both half-brothers of Manson. Dorothy won custody of both boys. In 1947, Kathleen Maddox, already afraid of her “crazy-eyed” son, tried to have Manson placed in a foster home but failed because no home was available at the time. Maddox had grown to fear Manson but certainly her poor parenting had a great deal to do with his violent, angry behaviour.
Nancy recalled Manson’s penchant for violence and manipulation from the age of five. With his shy smile, coy pose and neatly slicked back hair, the five-year-old adorable-looking Manson was the image of childhood innocence. However the malevolent nature that exploded in grizzly violence on the nights of 8th and 9th August 1969 lurked within him from the very beginning. He was a ‘disagreeable child,’ who ‘even at a young age lied about everything and, when he got into trouble for telling fibs or breaking things or any of the other innumerable misdeeds he committed on a daily basis, Manson always blamed somebody else. The child was obsessed with being the centre of attention.’
When Manson’s mother and her brother were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for robbing a Charleston, West Virginia service station in 1939, Manson was placed in the home of an aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia for several years. At nine years of age, Manson set his school on fire. Cousin JoAnn recalled ‘There was never anything happy about him. He never did anything,”She was one of the many who came to fear Manson. The boy was obsessed with knives and guns and when he lost control of his anger his eyes blazed with an intensity that convinced her he was capable of injuring or even killing her. On one occasion Charlie, as he was known to his family, came into her room as JoAnn, nine, was making her bed. He brandished a razor-sharp sickle he had found in the yard. When he purposely got in her way she asked him to move, ‘Make me,’ he responded. She pushed him from the room and latched shut its screen door an act which infuriated Charlie. He slashed the screen with the sickle and ‘She was certain he meant to use the blade on her.’
From the age of 13 Manson was sent to a series of juvenile centres including the Indiana School for Boys where he was raped and repeatedly beaten. He ran away 18 times. His criminal career continued and so did his placement in juvenile centres and finally juvenile prisons. Upon her 1942 parole, Manson’s mother retrieved her son and lived with him in a series of run-down hotel rooms. Manson himself later characterized her physical embrace of him on the day she returned from prison as his sole happy childhood memory.
Manson Family Commune
Manson built a quasi-commune that arose in the California desert in the late 1960s. Manson believed in what he called “Helter Skelter”, a term he took from the song of the same name by the Beatles. Manson believed Helter Skelter to be an impending apocalyptic race war, which he described in his own version of the lyrics to the Beatles’ song. The lyrics that strongly influenced Manson were:
Do you, don’t you want me to love you
I’m coming down fast but I’m miles above you
Tell me tell me tell me come on tell me the answer
Well you may be a lover but you ain’t no dancer
Now helter skelter helter skelter
Manson believed the murders would help precipitate that war. He strongly believed the war would be between Blacks and Whites and that Blacks would prevail if Whites didn’t assert their power. Yet ultimately he would slaughter only White victims. At the time the Family began to form, Manson was an unemployed former convict, who had spent half of his life in correctional institutions. Manson’s name for his cult was no accident. He’d never had a family of his own and he carefully selected the members of his cult. His dominance over his family members was a result of his maltreatment by his mother. At a young age, Manson was rejected by his mother after her release from prison. This was a turning point in his troubled life.
After temporarily honoring a parole condition that he live with his aunt and uncle, Manson moved in with his mother. In January 1955, he married a hospital waitress named Rosalie Jean Willis, and he found marital happiness. He supported their marriage via small-time jobs and auto theft. In March 1957, while he was imprisoned, and when the visits from his wife ceased, his mother informed him Rosalie was living with another man. Upon his release from prison Manson committed many other criminal offences for which he received jail time, including subjecting women to prostitution and theft auto.
Manson established himself as a guru in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, which during 1967’s “Summer of Love“, was emerging a hippie locale. Manson taught his followers that they were the reincarnation of the original Christians, and the Romans were the establishment. He implied that he was Christ; he often told a story envisioning himself on the cross with the nails in his feet and hands. Sometime around 1967, he began using the alias “Charles Willis Manson.” He often said it very slowly (“Charles’ Will Is Man’s Son“)–implying that his will was the same as that of the Son of Man.
Initially any woman who joined the compound were expected to have sex with Manson but eventually be began beating all of his women, including loyal followers such as Susan Atkins. While he preached ‘Free Love’ Manson picked his girls carefully , ones from troubled families, ideally with father issues, and mostly plain girls he could seduce by telling them they were beautiful. He fed them a potent mixture of lies and LSD and erased any objections they might have had to his outlandish requests, just as any abuser silences his victim’s complaints: beating them one moment and making love to them the next. Sometimes Manson forgot the girls names. After his arrest Manson claimed “these were your children and you threw them out.”
Lynette Fromme was another Manson woman but she didn’t participate in the murders. In high school she was voted “personality plus” by her classmates. However Fromme was a troubled girl. By her senior year, Fromme frequently missed classes. On one occasion while at work, Fromme commanded attention by taking a staple gun and shooting her upper arm. It was speculated that her father abused Fromme. When Lynette turned 13 her father suddenly stopped speaking to her for three years while living under the same roof. He simply felt she was not worth talking to. Fromme believed Manson was father figure.
Yet Leslie Van Houten, one of the Tate-LaBianca murderers lived an ordinary middle-class life and was a happy, outgoing, pretty woman. She had been a homecoming princess. Patricia Krenwinkel grew up in a Los Angeles suburb. Her father claimed “that was a darned good kid. Didn’t complain about anything.” However by the time both girls reached high school their parents divorced, leaving the girls isolated and angry. Decades later Van Houten stated “I believe that I was desperately seeking someone I could love.” Both girls turned to drugs and alcohol. Atkins was the most deprived of all the Manson women. At 16 she dropped out of high school and became a topless dancer. Her mother died when Atkins was in her early teens – a trauma that affected her terribly. The three women spent years looking for love.
Manson was responsible for the birth of many children, most of whom died. He insisted that the women who birthed the children leave them out in the wilderness to “toughen them up.” Naturally a lack of nourishment and wild animals killed the infants. Manson was known to have adults at the commune murdered. If anyone arrived at the Family ranch who posed a threat to Manson he had them killed and buried in graves that were about 8 feet deep on the property. It is believed the number of people he killed were was in the double digits.
The Music Industry
Before the murders, he was a singer-songwriter on the fringe of the Los Angeles music industry, chiefly through association with Dennis Wilson, drummer of the Beach Boys. After Manson was charged with the crimes of which he was later convicted, recordings of songs written and performed by him were released commercially. Ultimately Wilson dropped Manson from his list of client, a snub that infuriated Manson.Various musicians, including Guns N’ Roses, White Zombie, Lemon Heads, Devendra Banhart and Marilyn Manson (who deliberately named himself after Charles Manson), have covered some of his utterly banal songs. The only comment I have about that is these people must be as sick as Manson himself.
Manson established a base for the group at Spahn’s Movie Ranch not far from Topanga Canyon Boulevard, in August 1968 after Wilson’s manager told the Family to move out of Wilson’s home. The entire Family then relocated to the ranch. Family members did helpful work around the grounds. Manson ordered the Family’s women, including Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, to occasionally have sex with the nearly blind, 80-year-old owner, George Spahn. Perhaps they were a hallmark card – when you care enough to send the very best.
On the night of August 8, 1969, Manson directed Watson to take Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to “that house where Melcher used to live” and “totally destroy everyone in [it], as gruesome as you can.” The victims themselves were chosen on the flimsiest of premises. Tate and Polanski had the misfortune to live in a home on Manson’s radar as the former home of music producer Terry Melcher, whose disinterest in Manson’s music had crushed his dreams of recording fame. He reasoned the house was likely to still be occupied by someone high-profile enough for their murders to bring the press attention he sought. His intention was to blame Blacks for the murders in order to instigate the race war.
On Watson’s direction, Atkins found the house’s three other occupants and, with Krenwinkel’s help brought them to the living room. Watson began to tie Tate and Sebring together by their necks with rope he’d brought and slung up over a beam. Sebring’s protest of rough treatment of the pregnant Tate prompted Watson to shoot him. Back in the house, Tate pleaded to be allowed to live long enough to have her baby, and even offered herself as a hostage in an attempt to save the life of her unborn child; her killers would have none of it, as either Atkins, Watson, or both killed Tate, who was stabbed 16 times. One day later the Family murdered two more people in their home, the LaBiancas, but it would be months before the murders were connected.
Conspiracy in furtherance of Conspiracy’s Objective
He was convicted of the murders through the joint-responsibility rule, which makes each member of a conspiracy guilty of crimes committed by fellow conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy’s objective. Manson has been denied parole 11 times. The last time he appealed for parole was 15 years ago. Years after his incarceration Manson gave one of several interviews to a reporter who asked him who he was. His epic answer was “I’m nobody. I’m a tramp, a bum, a hobo, I’m a box car and a jug of wine. And a straight razor if you get to close to me.” Truer words were never spoken.
Manson continues to fascinate the public. The Charles Manson room at the Museum of
Death in Hollywood features crime scene photos from the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders. A few miles away on Saturday mornings, Scott Michaels hosts the “Helter Skelter Tragical History Tour.” For $65, you can buy a bus seat to see where the murders took place, as Michaels tells the story of Helter Skelter. “We have people from around the world that sign up. We added an additional anniversary tour, which is sold out.” There are people who continue to support Manson. He has received more mail than any other inmate in state history. According to California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Manson still gets about 80 letters a week, some sending him money.Like any notorious killer in a maximum state penitentiary Manson has his death groupies. At 80, he married 26-year-old Ashley Burton. Manson named her Star. In an interview she was asked “do you believe he’s crazy?” She replied “mm-hm. I really don’t care.”
Atkins died of brain cancer on September 24, 2009 while still in prison. Incredibly Geraldo Rivera featured an episode entitled Manson Family Reunion on the now defunct show Geraldo. Larry King Live featured Leslie Van Houten, one of the Tate-LaBianca murders. Manson’s grisly childhood behaviour was an ongoing ploy for attention He certainly has it.