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"No Name Maddox" was born November 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio. A few weeks after his birth, his mother settled on the name Charles Miles Maddox. Kathleen Maddox was a 16-year-old runaway who was an alcoholic. She worked as a sex worker to support herself after the man who impregnated her ran off. She was young, immature, and too unpredictable to provide baby Charles with a stable home. Kathleen did marry a man named William Manson but the marriage did not last long. He gave the boy his surname and Charles Manson officially came into this world.
Charles often told the story of when he was a small child in a diner with his mother;
When Charles was 6-years-old his mother and his uncle were arrested after an armed robbery. She was sent to Moundsville State Prison with a five-year sentence. He was sent to live with his deeply religious Grandmother and Grandfather. He only stayed for a few months before moving in with his Aunt and Uncle. They were religious, strict, disciplined, and highly regimented. His uncle often belittled him for being "too feminine" and being a "sissy". On his first day of school, his Uncle sent him to school in a dress so he could learn how to fight. Despite this, his time with his Aunt and Uncle were some of the most stable years of his life. From ages 6 to 8 he somewhat enjoyed life.
When his mother was not in prison he would cling to her and beg for her acceptance. She had no interest in being a mother. Charles learned to keep to himself and live through his imagination. He liked to watch everything going on around him and dream of the future.
By age 9, he had dropped out of school and started on his criminal path. He would spend most of his youth in juvenile reformatories. He was first sent to Gibault School for Boys in Terra Haute, Indiana. When the authorities came to take him, his mother promised to visit often. She never did. He stayed in the boy's school for 10-months before his first escape. He managed to rob a grocery store and get some cash, as well as some stuff on his way out. He got caught by police trying to steal a bicycle in front of the store. He was taken back to the boy's school.
Two days later he escaped again. Charles had hidden away a pair of wire cutters. He then freed himself and 30 other boys.
This would become Charles' pattern. He would escape from reform school, steal, get caught, and be sent back to reform school. It was a vicious never-ending cycle. He would often try to run to his mother while on the lam. She was always quick to reject him. She testified in a juvenile court hearing that she didn't want him and could not take care of him. His spirits were crushed.
After this hearing, he was placed in Father Flanagan's Boys Town. He only stuck around for four days until escaping with another boy he called, "Blackie Nelson". Manson would refer to all black people as "Blackie". He was a firm believer in white supremacy. The two boys stole a car and made their way to Nelson's Uncle's house. He was a WWII vet who was known for feeding and housing troubled youths. In exchange, he would have them help him with armed robberies.
On their third robbery, the two boys were caught. Charlie was sent to the Indiana School for Boys in Plainfield. He stayed there for three years but managed to escape 18 times. Charlie said his time at this Indiana School was a living nightmare. He was constantly raped, sodomized, picked on, and beaten by the other boys and the guards. He said the guards would beat him with leather straps and wooden clubs for any conceived slight against them.
After being gang-raped by some boys one night, Charlie beat one of his attackers with an iron bar while the boy was asleep in his bunk. He was beaten close to death. He then placed the bar under the bed of another boy. The other boy was blamed for the assault and Manson evaded all suspicion.
When Charlie was 15-years-old he was assessed by a psychiatrist. He was found to be aggressive, antisocial, and mostly illiterate. Separate from this assessment he was monitored by a social worker who said he was severely emotionally traumatized and in serious need of psychiatric treatment. They did both note that Charlie had a talent for music.
Because of these assessments, Charlie was transferred to a minimum-security institution. The National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C. He said that he genuinely enjoyed his time there. Things were very different from the reformatories he had been in before. Here the boys were treated well and there was a positive focus on rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Charlie did not want to be rehabilitated. He wanted to get out of there and continue his criminal ways.
October 24, 1951, Charlie was moved to the Natural Bridge Honor Camp in Petersburg, Virginia. Though not a model inmate, he had kept to himself and kept clean. One week before his parole hearing he viciously sodomized another inmate while holding a knife to the boy’s throat. After this event, he was reclassified as “extremely dangerous” and transferred to a high-security facility. The Federal Reformatory, also in Virginia. He was in this reformatory for 7 months and had 8 major violations on his file. By the end of his time there he was deemed “defiantly homosexual, dangerous and safe only under supervision, with assaultive tendencies.”
By the end of the next year, he was moved to a higher-security facility where he manipulated the system and became “a model prisoner”. He took reading and math lessons and began working in the vehicle maintenance department. On January 1, 1954, he was awarded a Meritorious Service Award for his scholastic achievements. Charlie was “constantly striving for status and [looking to secure] some kind of love.”
Finally, in May of 1954, he was paroled at 19 years old. He was put into the care of his Aunt and Uncle but only stayed with them for a month before running off to find his mother. She had recently been released from prison as well.
Six months after his release, Charlie married Rosalie Jean Willis. He worked in an extremely low-paying job and stole cars to supplement his income. One of the cars he stole, he loaded up and they drove across the county to Los Angeles, California. Along the way, he was stopped and the car was identified as stolen from Ohio. He was charged with the federal crime of taking a stolen car across state lines and received five years probation. At this point, Rosalie was heavily pregnant with their son, Charles Manson Jr.
Charlie missed his probation hearing and was arrested. He was quickly sentenced to three years in prison at Terminal Island, in San Pedro, California. He was at the prison for a few months before learning that his wife and small son were living with another man. Two years later, Rosalie officially obtained a decree of divorce. Heartbreakingly, Charles Manson Jr. took his own life in the 1990’s. He tried desperately to escape his father’s dark reputation but was unsuccessful.
In 1958, he was released with five years of parole. He was in LA at this time and made money pimping out young girls, conning people out of their money, auto theft, passing stolen checks (which he took directly out of mailboxes), and other petty crimes. He was caught for these crimes and sent to the McNeil Island Prison in Washington State. During his time in McNeil Prison, he learned to read music and play the guitar. He became close friends with fellow inmate, former public enemy number one, and infamous member of the Ma Barker Gang, Alvin Karpis. He helped Charlie learn how to play and gave him a steel guitar. Karpis would later say that “Manson was a master manipulator of other people.” The prison authorities also noted that Charlie had a tremendous drive to call attention to himself.
Also in 1958, Charlie married his second wife. Sex-worker Leona Rae Stevens aka Candy. They had one son named Charles Luther Manson. The marriage would be short-lived and the two divorced in 1963.
Manson would later recount how drugs, art, and music played a role in developing his extremist mindset. He would heavily dose himself with LSD and listen for what he perceived to be messages in songs and books. He quickly became obsessed with the Beatles song, “Helter Skelter” from their White Album. He was also captivated by the idea of Armageddon from the Book of Revelations in the Bible. As well as the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard in Scientology and other cult churches like The Church of the Final Judgement.
A prison official had this to say about Manson: “He was pathologically deluded into believing that he was the harbinger of doom regarding the planet’s future.” Manson believed that he would be the one to usher humankind into the age of Armageddon.
Despite being deemed so dangerous, he was released from prison on March 21, 1967. Before leaving he asked the prison officials if he could stay and live at the prison. It had become his home and he didn’t want to leave. They refused and he was forced to leave.
Manson made his way to San Francisco to the Haight-Ashbury District. All he had with him were the clothes on his back, $35 dollars, a guitar, and some drugs. He managed to secure himself a small apartment and made money by panhandling. He started preaching his beliefs to anyone that would listen and he gained a small devoted following.
One of his first followers was a woman named Mary Brunner. She was a librarian at U.C. Berkeley. After a short time, she invited him to move in with her. A woman named Lynette Fromme soon joined. Manson convinced Brunner to open her home to other people that believed in his messages. They would eventually find 18 women who were searching for a purpose. He would tell these ladies who and who not they could have sex with. No one was ever to question his authority. His word was law. The girls would all do LSD and amphetamines while listening to his music and his sermons. They all became totally committed to Manson and they would do anything he asked. Most of these women came from troubled backgrounds and held deep insecurities. They were easy to manipulate and bend to his will.
Manson loved being the guru, the mentor, the spiritual master, and the prophet for his girls. His “teachings” were centered around science fiction, the occult, and fringe psychology. As one of his followers said, “He preached the coming of an apocalyptic race war that would devastate the United States and leave The Family in a position of dominant power.”
Manson began to tire of San Francisco. He thought there were too many “blackies” around. He claimed that the city was “overrun with blacks and crime was rampant.” Of course, he didn’t consider himself or his followers a contributing factor to the crime problem. They stole credit cards and used counterfeit money. Among various petty crimes, they stole a large yellow bus and painted it black. They drove this bus throughout the west coast and the southwestern United States. Going as far as Texas and back within 18-months. They finally came to settle in Topanga Canyon, near LA, in a two-story house.
Here Manson began to bring in male members to his “family.” The first was a teenager named Bobby Beausoleil. He showed up for a party one night at the Manson home and never left. He had been introduced to Manson through his music teacher, Gary Hinman. Bobby lived with Gary not far from Manson and The Family. Bobby would go on to become Manson’s right-hand man.
A music career was an important part of Manson’s plan. During his last stint in prison, he had become a prolific songwriter and performer. Writing up to 90 songs in one year. He swore that he would be bigger than the Beatles. He went to meet with a record executive at Universal Studios and took a few of his girls with him. This opened the doors for Manson to start hanging out with the rich and famous in the Hollywood Hills.
Just by chance, the drummer from The Beach Boy, Dennis Wilson, picked up a couple of hitchhiking ladies. These girls were members of The Manson Family. Wilson and the two girls had a threesome that afternoon in his Beverly Hills home on Sunset Boulevard. After hours of intense sexual activity, Wilson left for a recording session. Promising to return and pick up where they had left off. He returned in the early morning hours the next day. His house was overrun with hippies. As he stood in his driveway and looked at his home, a man with “scraggly hair and a beard” came out and dropped to his knees in front of Wilson. He then began kissing his feet. The hitchhiking girls that Wilson had picked up earlier came running out and said, “This is the guy we were telling you about…this is Charlie!”. Once inside the house, Wilson found 12 women. All topless and lying around smoking pot and doing other various drugs. Manson told him that they were all there for his pleasure.
Wilson was impressed with the power Manson held over all of these women. He welcomed “The Family” with open arms and they began regularly hanging out at his house. Manson would use the house to organize large drug-fueled orgies. Wilson gave Manson permission to use anything in the home, which included his Ferrari, Rolls Royce, any food, drinks, or drugs.
Eventually, Wilson’s manager became fed up with the negative influence and expense that Manson was causing. He ordered The Family out of the house. There were other reasons that The Family was being evicted from this posh, Hollywood lifestyle. There were rumors that some of the children of Hollywood’s rich and famous were being plied with drugs and alcohol. Then they were being taken advantage of sexually. All under the direction of Manson.
The door to Hollywood was firmly slammed shut in Manson’s face.
After being so unceremoniously evicted from Hollywood, Manson moved his family to the Spahn Ranch. An abandoned movie set from the 40’s and 50’s, northwest of the San Fernando Valley.
Life was hard at Spahn Ranch and the family was barely scraping by. The only things they were able to bring in were gained from stealing and scavenging. Manson made it routine to have his family sit around the bonfire at night and he would preach to them. He would talk of Armageddon and the black revolution that he called Helter Skelter. His followers hung on his every word. Unfortunately, Manson thought that the black community was taking too long to rise up. He needed to give them a push in the right direction.
On the night of July 25, 1969, three of The Family members, Bobby and two women, broke into Gary Hinman’s home. Manson had heard rumors that Hinman had recently inherited $20,000. He wanted the money. He told his followers to get the money or kill him. When Hinman refused to hand over the cash Manson was called up to the house. He screamed at Hinman, pulled out a sword, and cut off the man’s ear.
Hinman was tortured for three days before Bobby stabbed him to death. They then staged the scene to look like the political group, The Black Panthers, had done it. They left the words “political piggy” on the wall and a paw print in red paint.
Bobby was arrested for the murder on August 6, 1969. He was found driving Hinman’s car.
On the night and early morning of August 8th and 9th, Manson chose Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian to commit the next deadly deed. He gave them the address 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, just north of Beverly Hills. He had chosen this house because it was owned by Terry Melcher. A man who had listened to Manson sing and made promises of a grand musical career. But then the promises were never fulfilled. Manson wanted to take revenge on Melcher for crushing his dreams. What Manson did not know was that Melcher didn’t live in the home. He was renting the home to director Roman Polanski and his very pregnant wife Sharon Tate.
Manson instructed the group to take a change of clothes and a knife. As they were leaving he instructed them to, “leave a sign. You girls know what I mean, something witchy.” As they were leaving in an old ford, Manson told them, “totally destroy everyone in it, make it as gruesome as possible.”
The murderous group arrived at the home around midnight. Watson climbed the closest telephone pole and cut the phone line. They left their car at the bottom of the hill and walked up to the house. They climbed over a bushy embankment to get onto the grounds. As they got closer to the house, a pair of headlights approached. It was Steven Parent. An 18-year-old boy who lived in the guest house. He was returning home from a night with friends. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Watson went to meet up with the car and shot Parent four times and slashed him with a knife. Kasabian was the only one horrified by the act. She would stay outside and serve as a lookout. She would later go on to serve as a star witness in the trials.
On this particular night, Polanski was not at home. He was away working in London. Tate had been very upset with him because he would be away when their child was born. Tate had guests; Voyteg Frykowski, a writer and business partner, Abigail Folger, a coffee bean heiress, and Jay Sebring, a celebrity hairstylist.
Pictured above from left to right: Sharon Tate, Voyteg Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Jay Sebring.
Watson, Atkins, and Krenwinkel all broke into the house and herded everyone into the living room area. Frykowski demanded to know what they wanted and why were they there. Watson said, “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s work.”
Pictured above from left to right: Susan Atkins, Charles “Tex” Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian
He then began to tie Tate and Sebring together at their necks with rope. Sebring attempted to protect Tate when their attackers started treating her roughly. He was shot, stabbed seven times, and kicked. Then Watson threw a bloody towel over his face.
Frykowski was struggling with Atkins. She managed to stab him in the torso and the legs before he bolted out the door. Watson took off after him and caught him on the porch. He smashed his head in with the butt of the .22 caliber rifle and shot him twice.
Folger was also able to escape the house but was chased down by Krenwinkel who tackled her and stabbed her 28 times.
Sharon Tate was the last to die. She pleaded for her life and the life of her baby. She was lying on the floor with the rope still around her neck. She begged to live long enough to see her baby but either Watson or Atkins said, “Look, bitch, I have no mercy for you. You’re going to die, and you’d better get used to it.” She was then stabbed in the torso, stomach, and legs until both she and her baby were dead.
Atkins tasted Tate’s blood and said it was, “warm and sticky.” She then took the blood and wrote “PIG” on the door.
Watson would later go on to describe the victims as “running around the place like chickens with their heads cut off.”
After it was all over, there were 102 stab wounds between the four victims. Two lay in the house and two lay in the yard and one was in his car.
What follows is the crime scene photos from the murders. They are gruesome and incredibly GRAPHIC. If you have a weak stomach I would suggest that you scroll really fast past these pictures:
Manson was greatly disappointed with the murder and called it “sloppy” and “messy”. He told them they would have to go out again and this time he would go with them. Kasabian was ordered to go out and drive around the neighborhoods of LA looking for their next victims. Manson assigned Watson, Krenwinkel, Clem Tufts and Leslie Van Houten to the murder team.
The very next night after the murders in the Polanski home, the LaBianca family were murdered. Leno LaBianca was a wealthy supermarket executive living in Los Feliz with his wife, Rosemary. Before entering the home, Manson instructed his Family, “Don’t let them know you are going to kill them.” They were then tied up and Watson stabbed them to death with a chrome-plated bayonet. Leno was found with 12 stab wounds, 7 fork wounds, and a knife in his throat. Rosemary was found with multiple stab wounds as well in her torso, face, and neck.
Written on the walls and the doors, in the victim’s blood, was “DEATH TO PIGS”, “RISE”, and “HEALTER SKELTER”. (They actually misspelled it) Carved into Leno’s stomach was the word “WAR”.
You are about to see the crime scene photos from the LaBianca murder. Please scroll fast if you don’t want to see them. GRAPHIC pictures ahead!!
These horrific murders caused massive panic in the LA area. It took police months to narrow down their suspect pool until they were able to link Gary Hinman’s murder with the Tate-LaBianca murders.
October 1969, 24 of the Manson Family members were arrested – including Charlie. At the time of his arrest, Manson was dressed completely from head to toe in buckskins.
While in custody, Susan Atkins began bragging about her involvement in the Tate-LaBianca murders to her cellmate, Virginia Graham. She kept referring to Manson as a “beautiful cat” and named him the mastermind. She explained how she found Tate laying in her bed with her bikini bra, underpants, and protruding pregnant belly. She described the taste and texture of her blood. There was no remorse and she seemed excited by the memories. Atkins also listed off other celebrities that were on their hit list, such as; Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Tom Jones, Steve McQueen, and Frank Sinatra.
Word of this confessional conversation made its way back to the LAPD.
Atkins was not the only one who couldn’t keep the murderous news quiet. Manson himself told a friend that belonged to the motorcycle gang “The Straight Satan’s” about how he had “[knocked] off five people.” Other Manson Family members told Danny DeCarlo, also a member of the Straight Satan’s, “we got five piggies.”
When questioned by the LAPD they said that Manson had told them some information that was never disclosed to the public. Manson supposedly told them that they had “written something on the…refrigerator in blood…something about pigs.” This was damning evidence against the Manson Family.
For the impending Manson trial, the district attorney chose Vincent Bugliosi as the chief prosecutor. He was chosen because of his high success rate. Out of the 104 felony trials he had been a part of, he had won 103. Bugliosi was a devoted prosecutor. He was part of the search that took place at the Spahn Ranch and nearby Barker Ranch. On these properties, they found .22 caliber bullets and shell casings. As well as magazines and articles from World War II that idealized Hitler and his teachings.
For a successful trial on the part of the prosecutor, they would need the testimony of someone who had been present at the murders. Someone who had witnessed the events of those nights. Susan Atkins. A deal was struck with Atkin’s lawyer that they would not seek the death penalty in return for her testimony. Plus they would consider a further reduction of the charges if she continued to cooperate throughout the trial. She appeared in front of the grand jury on December 5th. She talked about how she was “in love with the reflection” that was Charles Manson. That there was “no limit” to what she would do for him. She talked about how since the murders she “felt dead…I feel dead now.”
Murder indictments were brought down on Manson, Watson, Krenwinkel, Atkins, Kasabian, and Van Houten.
The trial began on July 24, 1970. It would go on to be the longest, most expensive trial in American history up to that point. Lasting for 225 days. The jury was composed of seven men and five women. On the first day of court, Manson came in with a freshly cut X on his forehead. He said that he had, “X’d himself from [our] world.” Many of his followers, who were camped outside the courthouse, did the same.
As the trial progressed Manson would fall into a trance-like state and stare down both the judge and prosecuting attorneys.
Kasabian was set to serve as a principal witness for the prosecution but refused to testify at the last minute. It was suspected that she had received threats from Manson and his followers. After much convincing, she finally agreed to go on the stand a few days after the trial began. Manson’s lawyer had an outburst and angrily objected, “OBJECTION your honor! On the grounds, this witness is not competent and is insane!” The judge called this outburst “outrageous” and Kasabian was sworn in as a witness. She remained on the stand for 18 days, seven of which she was cross-examined by Kanarek. Manson’s defense attorney.
“We always wanted to do anything and everything for him,” Kasabian would say. She testified that she didn’t want to go to the LaBianca murders but went anyway “because Charlie asked me and I was afraid to say no.” The defense attempted to make her look like an “insane, spaced-out, and drug-fueled hippy” but the prosecutor presented a stronger case for her credibility.
On August 3rd, President Nixon released a statement declaring “Manson Guilty!”. It was front-page news on every paper in America. Kanarek attempted to have the trial declared a mistrial because this headline may have prejudiced the jury against the defense. It was denied after each individual jury member swore not to be swayed by the President’s declaration of guilt.
Witnesses were lined up to testify against Manson but many of them refused last minute. The Family had been threatening them and they were scared away. One of Manson’s top recruiters did make it up to the stand to testify. 19-year-old Paul Watkins told the court about how Manson would talk nonstop about The Book of Revelations from the Bible and the idea of Helter Skelter.
The prosecution presented their case for 22 weeks and finally rested on November 16, 1970. The next day, when it was the defenses turn to present their side they surprisingly rested immediately. They did not have a single witness to call on their behalf. Three women in the seats behind Manson protested loudly that they wanted to testify! Their individual counsels had advised against it. The lawyers believed that if the women were to sit on the stand they would say that they were doing as they were told – by Manson. This would have been catastrophic for the defense.
After a brief private meeting with the defense’s counsel in his chambers, Judge Older ordered that the witnesses had a right to testify. Atkins was sworn in as a witness. Her attorney Daye Shinn refused to question her saying that it would be like, “aiding and abetting a suicide.”
Manson also wanted a chance to speak for himself. He was granted this chance but only if the jury were to be excused so they would not be subjected to any potentially incriminating evidence that might prejudice the jury.
Once he took his seat on the stand he stayed there and filibustered for over an hour.
“I haven’t got any guilt about anything because I have never been able to see any wrong.”
Judge Older asked Manson if he would like to present his testimony in front of the jury but he declined, saying, “[I] already relieved all the pressure I had.”
The trial properly resumed on November 30.
Ronald Hughes, defense attorney for Leslie Van Houten fail to show at this point. He had gone on a camping trip over the weekend and disappeared. He was never seen or heard from again. It was rumored that The Family had taken care of him. He did not present the case as Manson had wanted and that put a mark on his back.
Kanarek continued to work even with this missing counsel. He was suggesting that Tex, who was being held in Texas in the process of extradition, was the real mastermind of the murders.
This would turn out to be a weak defense and after one week of deliberation, Manson was found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. His four cohorts were also found guilty and all were sentenced to death. This was on January 25, 1971. Manson stood and hollered at the jury, “You people have no authority over me!”.
Krenwinkel said, “You have judged yourselves.”
Atkins said, “Better lock your doors and watch your kids.”
Van Houten said, “The whole system is a game.”
After being found guilty, Manson shaved his head completely and said, “I am the devil, and the devil always has a bald head.” Other family members, both men and women, followed suit. Many also carved X’s on the foreheads to match their guru.
The group’s death sentenced was commuted to life in prison after the death penalty was declared unconstitutional in 1972.
During his time at the California State Prison in Corcoran, he received more mail than any other inmate in the entire United States. He wrote a book in 1986 called Manson in his own words.
“My eyes are cameras. My mind is tuned to more television channels than exist in your world. And it suffers no censorship. Through it, I have a world and the universe is my own.”
He took a job in the prison chapel in 1980. Later it was discovered that he had been planning an escape. Guards found marijuana, one hundred feet of nylon rope, and a catalog for hot air balloons.
The female defendants showed remorse for their crimes later in life. They were model prisoners for their entire lives. They worked with charities. They were genuinely good people. If Manson had never drifted into their lives they could have gone on to be average citizens. Most likely never murdering anyone.
Manson died on November 19, 2017, at the age of 83. He remains one of the strongest symbols of counter-culture in America today.
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