Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson
1955 wedding
Cousin Joann, maternal grandmother and Charlie

The author of “Manson: The life and times of Charles Manson” brings us a life story, rather than the history of the Manson murders.

Charles Manson was born in 1934 to a teenaged mother. He often said that his mother was a prostitute, but here was no evidence of that.  She did get pregnant at 15 and when the father didn’t want any part of the baby, she somehow talked William Manson into marrying her before Charlie was born. Kathleen Manson was a party girl who liked a good time and drinking and dancing, which her Nazarene mother strongly objected to.

When Charlie was 5, his mother and a couple of her friends cooked up a spur of the moment plan to rob a man who wanted to party with them. This led to a 5 year prison sentence.  Charlie went to live with his Uncle Bill, Aunt Glenna and his cousin Joann. Joann said Charlie lied about everything.  He had many setbacks, but others have managed to overcome even worse situations.  Manson was a tiny child with an oversize sense of entitlement and a habit of blaming others for the things he’d done; he soon wore out his welcome with those who took him in.

At 12 he went to the first of 6 reform schools. He got out at 19, got married and became a father. They were soon divorced.  By 21, he was in prison for car theft. He then re-married, had another child and divorced once again. While in prison, he attended a class in which he studied Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, which he claimed had a huge influence on him. He also picked up a key bit of information from the pimps in jails: “You had to know how to pick just the right girls, the ones with self-image or Daddy problems who’d buy into come-ons from a smooth talker…You wanted girls who were cracked but not broken.”  In 1967, he walked out of prison at 32 and began trolling for such women in Haight-Ashbury. He became a “guru” who would take care of his “family” of young women.

Guinn chronicles the first girl, a library assistant at UC Berkley, who let Charlie live with her and who supported him, even when he started to bring other women into the “family”. One recruit was a 14 year old girl whose parents let her go with Manson.  He immediately made her his main lover. Soon he moved them all down to LA, where he lived off the charity of others.  Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, let Manson and his “family” crash at his house, where they ran up huge tabs on his credit cards.

Charlie wanted to be a rock star and believed he would be, once he was discovered. Wilson got Tony Melcher to listen to Manson’s music, but it went nowhere. (The house Tate was murdered in was the house Melcher was living in at the time Manson knew him). Most of the attraction Manson had to those he wanted charity from was his group of sexually compliant women. They had to have sex with anyone he told them to and had to do anything the person wanted. If they balked, they would be publicly humiliated until they lost their “inhibitions”.  Eventually Wilson kicked them all out and the “family” moved to the desert.  

Manson had an ideology that featured a race war that Blacks were going to win. Once they won, they would realize they didn’t know how to run things and that was where Manson and his family would come in and take over.  The “family” had to spend part of everyday walking about in the hot desert looking for the opening to a bottomless cave where they would all live during the coming race war. They would not age while living in this cave and would be strong and healthy when it was time for them to take over. In reality, they were starving, dirty and isolated. Women were not allowed to use birth control, as it was “unnatural”. Likewise, hospital births were “unnatural”. Daily Bible readings were mandatory. (Manson thought he was Jesus Christ). After the murders, some tried to escape, but ineptitude and confusion brought most of them back.

The murders were meant to lead police to believe they had been committed by the Black Panthers (hence the slogans written in blood, etc). Manson was hoping to jump start the race war he prophesied, and also to make it look like a similar crime that one his friends was in jail for had been committed by the Black Panther’s. The police never considered this, as Black people did not frequent the areas the murders occurred in during the late 60’s. Someone would have noticed.

Charlie Manson and some of his “family” were consequently arrested for car theft. They might never have been implicated for the Tate/LA Bianca murders if it wasn’t for a couple women from his family, who were in prison, were willing to talk and who actually found someone to believe them.

There was nothing mystical or heroic about Charlie, he was an opportunistic sociopath. How is it that people like Manson (others who come to mind are David Koresh and Jim Jones) can have so much influence over others?  Reading about his life in the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s helps us see who the Manson of the 60’s really was.




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