Charles Manson is a notorious cult leader who led what became known as the Manson Family, a hipster commune formed in California in the late 60s that committed a series of murders, most notably that of actress Sharon Tate. He is currently serving nine concurrent life sentences in a Californian prison.
Here are a few things you might not know about the poster child for the macabre: Charles Manson.
Charles Manson Facts
1. A Strong Argument for Sexual Education
Charles Manson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Kathleen Maddox, an unwed 16 year old mother.
He had no name when he was born and was listed as “No Name Maddox.”
3. In The Name of the Father
His mother was briefly married to William Eugene Manson from whom he got his surname.
4. On a Special Episode of Maury
His biological father was reported to be a “Colonel Walker Scott” against whom his mother filed a paternity suit. Manson may have never met his biological father.
5. Once You Go Black
There were rumors that Manson’s father, Colonel Scott, was black. Manson emphatically denied this for reasons that will become clear as you continue reading.
6. Worst Bud Light Commercial Ever
According to Manson, his mother once traded him to a childless waitress for a pitcher of beer.
7. Hug Your Kids
His mother and brother were jailed for armed (with a ketchup bottle) robbery, and upon her return, the hug he received from his mother was, apparently, the only good memory he had of his childhood.
8. You Can’t Hold Me!
Throughout his youth, Manson escaped from a number of juvenile detention centers.
9. Grand Theft Auto
Manson was arrested numerous times for vehicular theft having stolen bicycles and cars. He was charged more than once under the Dyer Act, a federal law prohibiting the transport of a stolen car across state lines.
Sign up to our newsletter.
History’s most fascinating stories and darkest secrets, delivered to your inbox daily. Making distraction rewarding since 2017.
10. Book Him!
Despite four years of schooling and a tested IQ of 109, Manson was illiterate.
11. Happy Wife, Happy Life
In 1955, Manson married a hospital waitress named Rosalie Jean Willis and he claimed that during this time he had found actual happiness.
12. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
He had a son, Charles Manson Jr., with Rosalie, but Manson was imprisoned during this time, and eventually Rosalie left him for another man who wasn’t constantly behind bars. So picky.
13. Check Please
Manson was arrested once again for forging a US Treasury check, yet another federal crime.
14. From the Frying Pan…
He got divorce papers in 1958, and also only a suspended sentence and probation for the aforementioned crime of cheque forgery after a young woman named Leona, with a history of prostitution, made a tearful plea that she and Charles were “deeply in love… and would marry if Charlie were freed.” They did get married later that year, but under suspicion that it was so she would not be required to testify against him.
15. Like Taking Candy
Manson started making a living as a pimp, with several women in his stable including his new wife, Leona, who worked under the name Candy Stevens.
16. Stringed Out
After being sent to a Los Angeles prison for violating his probation, he took guitar lessons from a gang leader named Alvin “Creepy” Karpis.
While in prison, Manson listed his religion as “Scientology.”
18. The Antisocial Contract
In 1963, Manson got another divorce. Apparently, aggressively antisocial individuals have trouble keeping marriages together.
In 1967, Manson had spent nearly half of his 32 years behind bars and, despite being released, he requested permission to stay as prison had become his home. Spoiler alert: He would eventually get his wish.
20. Opiate of the Masses
Following his 1967 release, he established himself as a guru, borrowing philosophy from Scientology as well as the Process Church who believed that Satan would become reconciled to Christ.
21. What Fun Wordplay!
Charles Manson started painting himself as a Christ figure and would introduce himself by saying his name slowly: “Charles’ Will is Man’s Son” implying that his will was the same as that of the Son of Man.
22. We Are Family
Based on these preachings, he started the Manson Family. Most of the members were female.
23. Size Matters
Manson was skilled at finding a person’s weakness and playing them. He co-opted an influential individual from a motorcycle gang by granting him access to the “Family” women. He did so by claiming to be sexually pathetic and convinced the biker that his “outsized endowment” was all that kept the females happy.
24. Come One, Come All
Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys picked up a couple of hitchhiking women and convinced them to come back to his Sunset Boulevard mansion to “hang out.” he left the house for a late-night recording session. Plot Twist: the girls were part of The Manson Family, and when he returned home, he found Manson and a dozen women in his house. Rather than kick them out, he let a number of women in The Manson Family live with him.
25. A Not-So-Clean Bill of Health
The Family members who made themselves home at Wilson’s Sunset Boulevard household cost him $100,000, which included a large bill for treatment of gonorrhea.
Wilson paid for Manson to have some studio time so he could record songs that he’d written. These songs have since been re-recorded by other artists such as Rob Zombie, Guns n’ Roses, and of course, Marilyn Manson.
27. Goo Goo G’Joob
Manson was obsessed with The Beatles and believed he could surpass the group in fame. To the Family, he spoke of the group as “the soul” and “part of the hole in the infinite.” Manson was the worst Beatles fan ever, and that includes Mark David Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon.
28. It’s All Black and White
Manson believed that there was an apocalyptic race war coming, which he named Helter Skelter, and the purpose of The Family was to precipitate this conflict, which would wipe out racist white people, and then rule over the black survivors, which, just on the face of it, sounds like a plan with a pretty low survival rate.
29. Helter Skelter Shelter
During the race war, the Manson Family was told that they would get to hide in a secret city hidden underneath Death Valley called the Bottomless Pit that was accessible through a hole in the ground. Unsurprisingly, this city did not exist. Although that didn’t stop Family members from searching for it.
30. Paul is Dead
Manson convinced his Family that the Beatles’ “White Album” was written just for them. He said it was a coded message that confirmed the upcoming turmoil, and also confirmed that the Family was a select group tasked with preserving the worthy, of which they were obviously included.
31. Discord Progression
Manson’s vision was to create a music album whose songs would trigger the racial chaos that he had predicted. Who did he think he was? Justin Bieber?
32. Fundraising Program Gone Wrong
In order to get money to help the Family prepare for the predicted conflict, one of Manson’s subordinates defrauded a black drug dealer who then threatened to wipe out the entire family. Manson responded by shooting him and mistakenly thought the dealer was dead after there were reports of a body of a Black Panther found.
33. Arrested Development
On Manson’s instruction, his Family murdered Gary Hinman in order to steal money for the cause. The murderer was arrested after he was caught driving the victim’s car with the murder weapon in the tire well because, in the period before DNA testing was a thing, one of the most common ways criminals got caught was by being monumentally stupid.
34. The Family that Slays Together
On the night of August 9th, 1969, upset at being snubbed by a record producer, Manson directed members of the Family to murder everyone at his home, which was being rented by Roman Polanski. Among the five victims was Polanki’s wife and actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant at the time.
After his arrest, Manson was originally given permission to act as his own attorney, but his horrendous misconduct before the trial resulted in withdrawal of that permission.
36. X Marks the Crazy Person
On the first day of testimony, Manson appeared in court with an X carved into his forehead, claiming that he was “inadequate and incompetent to speak or defend himself” and had “X’d himself from the establishment’s world.” The female defendants followed suits, as did most Family members. Rather convenient that these people would mark themselves for public safety.
37. X Marks the Hate
Manson would later turn the X on his forehead into a swastika.
38. Not Exactly a Criminal Mastermind
During the trial, it came out that Manson ordered one of the wallets of the victims left in a predominantly black neighborhood in the hopes that a black person would use those credits cards, be blamed for the murders, and help trigger his Helter Skelter race war scenario.
39. Probably a Sign of Contempt
After being denied the court’s permission to question a prosecution witness, Manson attempted to attack the judge during the trial, which is generally a poor way to beat a murder rap.
40. Order in the Court
Following the incident, the judge reportedly wore a gun under his robes.
41. Can I Get a Witness? No? Darn
Witnesses to the case were threatened with one badly burned in a suspicious van fire while the other given a near lethal dose of LSD in her hamburger.
42. In Defense of the Defense
Upsetting the defendants and shocking the court, the defense rested without calling any witnesses. Their reasoning was that they believed that Manson had coerced the female defendants into taking all the blame, in an effort to save himself. The defense refused to allow this to happen.
43. Nice Try Ladies
During the penalty phase, the female defendants testified, as they had originally planned, that the murders were “copycat” versions of other murders and they tried to take credit in order to absolve Manson. The effort to exonerate Manson failed and all the defendants were sentenced to death.
44. White Power Bottom
After returning to prison, Manson held little sway. He was temporarily accepted into the Aryan Brotherhood, but as a submissive to a sexually aggressive member of the gang.
45. Squeaking By
In 1975, the Manson Family grabbed national headlines again when one of its members, Squeaky Fromme (so named because she squeaked when pinched), attempted to assassinate US President Gerald Ford.
Fromme escaped from prison to try and reach Manson, who she had heard had testicular cancer.
47. Cult vs. Cult
While in prison, one of Manson’s fellow inmates poured paint thinner all over him and lit him on fire. According to the other prisoner, it was done in retaliation as Manson had objected to his Hare Krishna chants. Despite burns to 20% of his body, Manson recovered.
48. He Rose to the Occasion
A 1986 interview of Manson by Charlie Rose for CBS News Nightwatch won the national news Emmy Award for “Best Interview.”
49. Now We Ain’t Saying She’s a Gold Digger…
In 2014, it was announced that Manson was engaged to a 26-year old who had been visiting Manson in prison for at least nine years. It was later reported that she only wanted to marry Manson so they could use his corpse as a tourist attraction after his death. Hey, at his age, it’s nice that somebody still wants him for his body.