In 1967 Charlie Manson emerged from his prison cell onto the streets of Haight-Ashbury and soon became the leader of followers who became known as the Family. Manson wanted to get into the music business, but when that failed his criminal personality emerged and he and some of his followers became involved in torture and murder. Most notably were the murders of actress Sharon Tate who was eight months pregnant and four others at her home, along with the murders of Leon and Rosemary LaBianca.
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Born Charles Maddox:
Charles Manson was born on November 12, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His 16-year-old mother, Kathleen Maddox was promiscuous, a criminal, drank too much and failed to take care of her illegitimate child. Soon after his birth, Kathleen was briefly married to William Manson, and Charlie's last name changed from Maddox to Manson. Kathleen grew up in a strict religious home and seemed to rebel against all she was taught. In 1940, she was found guilty of Strong Armed Robbery and sent to prison.
Mixed Childhood Messages:
Six-year-old Manson was moved to various relatives. His grandmother subjected him to the fanatical religious standards, from which his mother fled. One uncle he stayed with decided Manson was too feminine, so dressed him as a girl for his first day of school. Another uncle, while caring for Manson, killed himself in protest to the authorities taking his land. There were no consistent modes of behavior for Manson to live by, a fact that carried into his adulthood.
A Childhood Story:
A story Manson often told described the lack of care his mother showed him. "Mom was in a cafe one afternoon with me on her lap. The waitress, a would-be mother without a child of her own, jokingly told my Mom she'd buy me from her. Mom replied, 'A pitcher of beer and he's yours.' The waitress set up the beer, Mom stuck around long enough to finish it off and left the place without me. Several days later my uncle had to search the town for the waitress and take me home."
Mom Chooses Boyfriend Over Manson:
Charlie and his mother were reunited for a short time after her release from prison. This ended when Kathleen's boyfriend decided he did not want Charlie around. Kathleen tried but failed to get Manson into foster care. Rejected by his mother, Manson began to steal regularly. Some believe his instant attraction to theft stemmed from his need to call something his own, allowing for him to create an identity for himself. He ended up being sent to the Gibault Home for Boys in Indiana.
A Manipulative Loner:
This was just the first of a lifetime of incarceration for Manson. Between stays at reform schools, he spent his time as a loner and daydreamer. In school he was manipulative, only performing for those from which he felt the could get something.
Charlie Manson's Teen Years:
As Manson entered his middle teens, his life was much the same as his late childhood, spending his time either in or escaping out of reform schools. When out he lived on his on, using money from armed robberies and getting around in stolen cars. Charlie proved to be as poor a thief as he was a student, always managing to get caught and ending up back in an institution. While at the Indiana School for Boys in Plainfield, Indiana, Charlie claimed he was repeatedly raped and he soon escaped.
From Reform School to Prison:
In 1951 Manson's criminal activity moved from state to more serious federal offenses after he was caught driving a stolen vehicle over state lines. For his crime, Charlie graduated from reform school to federal prison. He proved to be a less than model prisoner, with his first year resulting in eight assault charges. He was transferred to another prison and cleaned up his act, resulting in his release in 1954. During the next year, he met and married 17-year-old Rosalie Jean Willis.
Charles M. Manson Jr. is Born:
Soon after their marriage, the newlyweds took off to California in a stolen car. Rosalie became pregnant, a fact which kept Charlie out of prison after being arrested with the stolen car. Being on probation failed to slow him down, however, and his probation was revoked and he was sent to Terminal Island Prison for three years. Rosalie gave birth to Charles M. Manson, Jr. (who committed suicide in 1993) and left town with a new boyfriend. Charlie never saw his wife or his child again.
Pimping and Stealing:
Manson was released from prison in 1958 and supported himself as a pimp in Hollywood. By 1959 he was again in front of the courts after being arrested for trying to cash a check stolen from a mailbox. He received a 10-year suspended sentence, allowing him to meet and marry his second wife before his next arrest in June 1960. Again, facing federal charges for crossing state lines for the purpose of prostitution, Manson was found guilty and his probation was revoked.
Charles Luther Mason is Born:
Manson spent the next seven years first at the McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington State then at Terminal Island in California. His wife divorced him after the birth of his second son, Charles Luther Manson. Charlie spent prison time learning to play guitar and studying Scientology. He was released in March 1967 and headed to Haight-Ashbury, where he blended in among many other outcasts who gravitated to the area in the 1960s.
Soon after arriving in the area he met Mary Brunner, who was a college graduate working as a librarian at UC Berkeley. He moved into her apartment and Brunner began falling in love with Manson. Her life changed drastically once Manson became part of it. She accepted his desire to sleep with other women, started doing drugs and soon left her job and began traveling with Manson around California. She was instrumental in helping entice people they met to join the Manson Family.
Manson the Guru:
Lynette Fromme was one of the first to join Brunner and Manson. The three lived together on Cole Street in San Francisco. Charlie was busy playing his guitar, prophesizing and enjoying his role as mentor to those who found themselves lost in life. The Family began to grow as did Charlie's reputation for having a kind of sixth sense about him. His manipulative traits from childhood, polished during his years in prison, were now refined and his followers believed he was a guru/prophet.
The Family, Helter Skelter
The Murders, Trial & Today