Charles Manson



The range of opinions posted on the Internet concerning Charles Manson&emdash;thirty years after his apocalyptic pronouncements and the related Tate-LaBianca murders&emdash;testify to the complexity of his persona. His unstable childhood&emdash;with a promiscuous, rebellious mother, an oppressively religious grandmother, and abuses suffered at some of the facilities and schools he entered&emdash;probably explains much of both Manson's character and apocalyptic world-view.

16-year old Kathleen Maddox gave birth to "bastard child" "no name Maddox" on November 12, 1934 in Cinncinnati, Ohio. The teenager had run-away from a stifling home-life and rebelled through promiscuity and crime before giving birth to a son out of wedlock. In Manson's words his mother "loved freely," "answered to no one, and gave life her best shot,"&emdash;a teenage girl who was incapable and basically unwilling to raise a child (Emmons 29). Passed around to relatives and hired sitters and once sold for a pitcher of beer, Manson knew a childhood of negligence and instability. He states in Manson in His Own Words, "Rejection, more than love or acceptance, has been a part of my life since birth" (Emmons 24). Upon his mother's imprisonment for attempted robbery, Manson moved in with his grandmother for a few weeks. The stern religious woman administered strict discipline, said grace before each meal, and guided her grandson in long prayers at night. Manson writes that during this time he, "believed and practiced all that my grandmother taught" (Emmons 31). Perhaps the influence of his grandmother, during this period and holidays, laid the basis for Manson's knowledge of the Bible and interest in the figure of Jesus Christ&emdash;knowledge that would later contribute to the formation of his "Helter-Skelter" apocalyptic theory.

After three years with his aunt and uncle and a brief stint with his mother after her parole, Charles Manson was sent to a Catholic school for boys. The physical discipline he received there, as well as his rebellious nature, forced him to run away and support himself through crime. Crime put Manson into a reform school in which fellow inmates raped him. Manson escaped from the reform school 18 times over the next several years until, at age 20 the truant was paroled from a tougher reformatory for good-behavior. Theft and and pimping finally caught up to Manson in 1961, when he landed a 10-year prison sentence. It was at McNeil Island Penitentiary that the inmate encountered the philosophies that would later help shape his idea about society's impending doom. Mysticism, Eastern philosophy, the occult, and hypnotism were popular counter-culture approaches that attracted many convicts of the day. Scientology and the the Black Muslim movement particularly interested Manson during his incarceration, and he began to develop a spiritual reputation by incorporating Scientological jargon into his vocabulary. The Bible, psychology books, group therapy, and Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land&emdash;which explores free love and the reversal of conventional morals&emdash;also all appealed to Manson for the insights that they offered toward his study of the human mind. Manson's time in prison was signficant not only because of the philosophical and spiritual ideas he developed there but also because of his music study. Manson writes "I became obsessed with music. I enjoyed playing the music of recording stars, but even more, I enjoyed writing and composing songs of my own"(Emmons 73).

Shortly after Manson's release from prison in 1967, he became acquainted with the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. It was here, in the midst of promiscuous sex and heavy drug use that he began to develop a following of mostly young hippy women who became his sexual and philosophical pupils. He enjoyed the confidence and power of leading this group, while they enjoyed loosening themselves from "the fetters" of social taboos and inhibitions. The Family, as they dubbed themselves, lived a nomadic existence of heavy drug use, vegetarianism, free sex, and learning from the parables and example of their leader Charles Manson.


Note: all information, except for those sentences cited, taken from Jess Bravin's Squeaky: the life and times of Lynette Alic Fromme.


Works Cited

Bravin, Jess. Squeaky: the life and times of Lynette Alice Fromme. New York: St.

Martin's Press, 1997.


Emmons, Nuel, ed. Manson in His Own Words. New York: Grove Press Inc., 1986.