Most Notorious Cults
Charles Manson - The Family
Manson was born to unmarried 16-year-old Kathleen Manson-Bower-Cavender, in the General Hospital, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Manson was first named "no name Maddox". Within weeks, he was called Charles Milles Maddox.
Charles Manson's biological father appears to have been Colonel Walker Henderson Scott Sr. against whom Kathleen Maddox filed a paternity suit that resulted in an agreed judgment in 1937. Manson might have never known his biological father. Scott worked intermittently in local mills, and also had a local reputation as a con artist. He allowed Maddox to believe that he was an army colonel, although "Colonel" was merely his given name. When Maddox told him she was pregnant, he told her that he had been called away on army business; after several months she realised he had no intention of returning.
In August 1934, before Manson's birth, Maddox married William Eugene Manson, whose occupation was listed on Charles' birth certificate as a "laborer" at a dry cleaning business. Maddox went on drinking sprees for days at a time with her brother, Luther, leaving Charles with a variety of babysitters. They were divorced on April 30, 1937, when a court accepted Manson's charge of "gross neglect of duty".
On August 1, 1939, Maddox and Luther's girlfriend, Julia Vickers, spent the evening drinking with a new acquaintance, Frank Martin, who appeared to be wealthy. Maddox and Vickers decided to rob him, and Maddox phoned her brother to help. They were incompetent thieves, and were found and arrested within hours. At the trial seven weeks later, Luther was sentenced to ten years, and Kathleen was sentenced to five years. Manson was placed in the home of an aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia. His mother was paroled in 1942. Manson later characterized the first weeks after she returned from prison as the happiest time in his life.
They moved to Charleston where Manson continually played truant, and his mother spent her evenings drinking. She was arrested for grand larceny, but not convicted. After moving to Indianapolis, Maddox started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, where she met an alcoholic named Lewis, whom she married in August 1943. As well as constantly playing truant, Manson began stealing from stores and from his home. In 1947, Maddox looked for a temporary foster home for Manson, but she was unable to find a suitable one. She decided to send him to the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana, a school for male delinquents run by Catholic priests. He soon fled home to his mother, but she took him back to the school. He spent Christmas 1947 in McMechen, at the house of his aunt and uncle, where he was caught stealing a gun.
Manson returned to Gibault and ran away ten months later to Indianapolis, but instead of returning to his mother he supported himself by burgling stores at night, and rented a room. He was eventually caught, and a sympathetic judge sent him to Boys Town, a juvenile facility in Omaha, Nebraska. After four days, he and a student named Blackie Nielson stole a car and somehow obtained a gun, which they used to rob a grocery store and a casino, as they made their way to the home of Nielson's uncle in Peoria, Illinois.
Neilson's uncle was a professional thief, and when the boys arrived he apparently took them on as apprentices. During the second of two subsequent break-ins of grocery stores, Manson was arrested and sent at age 13 to the Indiana Boys School, a strict "reform school". He later claimed that he was raped there by other students with the encouragement of a staff member. He developed a self-defense technique he later called the "insane game", in which he would screech, grimace and wave his arms to convince aggressors that he was insane when he was physically unable to defend himself. After many failed attempts to break out of the juvenile correctional facility, he escaped with two other boys in 1951.
The three escapees were attempting to drive to California in stolen cars when they were arrested in Utah. They had robbed several filling stations along the way. Driving a stolen car across state lines is a federal crime that violates the Dyer Act. Manson was sent to Washington, D.C.'s National Training School for Boys. On arrival he was given aptitude tests. He was illiterate, and his IQ was 109 (the national average was 100). His case worker deemed him aggressively antisocial.
On a psychiatrist's recommendation, Manson was transferred in October 1951 to Natural Bridge Honor Camp, a minimum security institution. His aunt visited him and told administrators she would let him stay at her house and would help him find work. He had a parole hearing scheduled for February 1952. However, in January, he was caught raping a boy at knifepoint. He was transferred to the Federal Reformatory in Petersburg, Virginia, where he committed a further "eight serious disciplinary offenses, three involving homosexual acts", and then to a maximum security reformatory at Chillicothe, Ohio, where he was expected to stay until his release on his 21st birthday in November 1955. Good behavior led to an early release in May 1954, to live with his aunt and uncle in Mcmehen.
In January 1955, he married a hospital waitress named Rosalie Jean Willis. Around October, about three months after he and his pregnant wife arrived in Los Angeles in a car he had stolen in Ohio, Manson was again charged with a federal crime, for taking the vehicle across state lines. After a psychiatric evaluation, he was given five years' probation. His subsequent failure to appear at a Los Angeles hearing on an identical charge filed in Florida resulted in his March 1956 arrest in Indianapolis. His probation was revoked; he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment at Terminal Island, San Pedro, California.
While Manson was in prison, Rosalie gave birth to their son Charles Manson Jr. During his first year at Terminal Island, Manson received visits from Rosalie and his mother, who were now living together in Los Angeles. In March 1957, when the visits from his wife ceased, his mother informed him Rosalie was living with another man. Less than two weeks before a scheduled parole hearing, Manson tried to escape by stealing a car. He was subsequently given five years probation, and his parole was denied.
Manson received five years' parole in September 1958, the same year in which Rosalie received a decree of divorce. By November, he was pimping a 16-year-old girl and was receiving additional support from a girl with wealthy parents. In September 1959, he pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to cash a forged U.S. Treasury check, which he claimed to have stolen from a mailbox; the latter charge was later dropped. He received a 10-year suspended sentence and probation after a young woman with an arrest record for prostitution made a "tearful plea" before the court that she and Manson were "deeply in love ... and would marry if Charlie were freed". Before the year's end, the woman did marry Manson, possibly so testimony against him would not be required of her.
The woman's name was Leona. As a prostitute, she had used the name Candy Stevens. After Manson took her and another woman from California to New Mexico for purposes of prostitution, he was held and questioned for violation of the Mann Act. Though he was released, he correctly suspected that the investigation had not ended. When he disappeared in violation of his probation, a bench warrant was issued. An indictment for violation of the Mann Act followed in April 1960. When one of the women was arrested for prostitution, Manson was arrested in June in Laredo, Texas and was returned to Los Angeles. For violation of his probation on the check-cashing charge, he was ordered to serve his 10-year sentence.
Manson spent a year unsuccessfully trying to appeal the revocation of his probation. In July 1961, he was transferred from the Los Angeles County Jail to the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island. There, he took guitar lessons from Barker-Karpis gang leader Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, and obtained a contact name of someone at Universal Studios in Hollywood from another inmate, Phil Kaufman. According to Jeff Guinn's 2013 biography of Manson, Charles' mother Kathleen moved from California to Washington State to be closer to him during his McNeil Island incarceration, working nearby as a waitress.
Although the Mann Act charge had been dropped, the attempt to cash the Treasury check was still a federal offense. His September 1961 annual review noted he had a "tremendous drive to call attention to himself", an observation echoed in September 1964. In 1963, Leona was granted a divorce, in the pursuit of which she alleged that she and Manson had a son, Charles Luther.
In June 1966, Manson was sent for the second time to Terminal Island in preparation for early release. By the time of his release day on March 21, 1967, he had spent more than half of his 32 years in prisons and other institutions. This was mainly because he had broken federal laws. Federal sentences were, and remain, much more severe than state sentences for many of the same offenses. Telling the authorities that prison had become his home, he requested permission to stay, a fact mentioned in a 1981 television interview with Tom Snyder.
1968-1969: Manson Family crimes
In the late 1960s, Manson attracted a quasi-communal cult based in California that was later dubbed the "Manson Family". The group was involved in the murder of Gary Hinman in July 1969, then gained national notoriety after the murder of actress Sharon Tate and four others in her home on August 9, 1969, and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the next day. The Tate-LaBianca Murders were executed by Tex Watson and three other members of the Family, acting under the specific instructions of Manson. Family members were also responsible for other assaults, thefts, crimes, and the attempted assassination of United States President Gerald Ford in Sacramento.
1971-2017: Third imprisonment
Apprehension and sentencing
Manson was admitted to state prison from Los Angeles County on April 22, 1971, for seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of Abigail Ann Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Earl Parent, Sharon Tate Polanski, Jay Sebring and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. He was sentenced to death. When the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in 1972, he was resentenced to life with the possibility of parole. His original death sentence was modified to life on February 2, 1977.
On December 13, 1971, Manson was convicted of first-degree murder in Los Angeles County Court for the July 25, 1969, death of musician Gary Hinman. He was also convicted of first-degree murder for the August 1969 death of Donald Jerome "Shorty" Shea. A footnote to the conclusion of California v. Anderson, the 1972 decision that neutralized California's death sentences, stated that, "any prisoner now under a sentence of death ... may file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the superior court inviting that court to modify its judgment to provide for the appropriate alternative punishment of life imprisonment or life imprisonment without possibility of parole specified by statute for the crime for which he was sentenced to death." This made Manson eligible to apply for parole after seven years' incarceration. Accordingly, his first parole hearing took place on November 16, 1978, at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, and his petition was rejected.
After 1989, Manson was housed in the Protective Housing Unit at California State Prison, Corcoran, in Kings County. The unit houses inmates whose safety would be endangered by general population housing. He had also been housed at San Quentin State Prison, California Medical Facility in Vacaville, Folsom State Prison and Pelican Bay State Prison.
In the 1980s, Manson gave four interviews. The first, recorded at California Medical Facility and aired June 13, 1981, was by Tom Snyder for NBC's The Tomorrow Show. The second, recorded at San Quentin State Prison and aired March 7, 1986, was by Charlie Rose for CBS News Nightwatch;it won the national news Emmy Award for "Best Interview" in 1987. The third, with Geraldo Rivera in 1988, was part of that journalist's prime-time special on Satanism. At least as early as the Snyder interview, Manson's forehead bore a swastika, in the spot where the X carved during his trial had been.
In 1989, Nikolas Schreck conducted an interview with Manson, cutting the interview up for material in his documentary Charles Manson Superstar. Schreck concluded that Manson was not insane, but merely acting that way out of frustration.
On September 25, 1984, Manson was imprisoned in the California Medical Facility at Vacaville when a fellow inmate, Jan Holmstrom, poured paint thinner on him and set him on fire, causing second- and third-degree burns on over 20 percent of his body. Holmstrom explained that Manson had objected to his Hare Krishna chants and verbally threatened him.
In June 1997, a prison disciplinary committee found that Manson had been trafficking drugs. That August, he was moved from Corcoran State Prison to Pelican Bay State Prison.
On September 5, 2007, MSNBC aired The Mind of Manson, a complete version of a 1987 interview at California's San Quentin State Prison. The footage of the "unshackled, unapologetic, and unruly" Manson had been considered "so unbelievable" that only seven minutes of it had originally been broadcast on The Today Show, for which it had been recorded.
In March 2009, a photograph taken of Manson, showing a receding hairline, grizzled gray beard and hair and the swastika tattoo still prominent on his forehead, was released to the public by California corrections officials.
In 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that Manson was caught with a cell phone in 2009, and had contacted people in California, New Jersey, Florida and British Columbia. A spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections stated that it was not known if Manson had used the phone for criminal purposes.
On January 1, 2017, Manson was suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding at California State Prison in Corcoran when he was rushed to Mercy Hospital in downtown Bakersfield. A source told the Los Angeles Times that Manson was seriously ill and TMZ reported that Manson's doctors considered him "too weak" for surgery. He was returned to prison by January 6; whatever treatment he had received was not disclosed.
On November 15, 2017, a source not authorized to speak on behalf of the corrections department confirmed that Manson had returned to a hospital in Bakersfield. In compliance with federal and state medical privacy laws, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation did not confirm this. He died from cardiac arrest resulting from respiratory failure and colon cancer at the hospital four days later on November 19.
Three people have stated their intention to claim Manson's estate and body. Manson's grandson, Jason Freeman, stated his intent to take possession of Manson's cremains and personal effects. Michael Channels, a pen pal of Manson has a will, dated February 14, 2002, that leaves Manson's entire estate plus Manson's body to Channels. A friend of Manson's, Ben Gurecki, has a will dated January 2017, that gives the estate and Manson's body to Manson's alleged son, Matthew Roberts. In 2012, CNN News ran a DNA match to see if Freeman and Roberts were related to each other and found that they were not. (Matches between Roberts and Manson were attempted but the results were reportedly "contaminated".)