Now that Charles Manson is dead, some of the mystique of his persona has fizzled out. We no longer see his past interviews played over and over again on television every time the anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders comes up, every time one of the followers dies, or every time one of the remaining Manson women in prison gets put up for parole. Slowly but surely, Charlie Manson is becoming a thing of the past.
With more important crimes and criminals facing the country and the globe today, Manson is hardly what I would describe as the criminal mastermind he’s been made out to be over the past oh, fifty years. Over the decades, with the help of Vincent Bugliosi and the constant retelling of the Helter Skelter theory, Manson has been portrayed as one of the greatest, smartest, most conniving and carefully manipulative cult leaders ever to walk the earth.
I maintain this is a myth. I submit to you that Charles Manson is no more than a two-bit hood with a severe inferiority complex and a major insecurity issue compounded by an ego that was blown into massive proportions. ALL of which drove him to be the incredibly weak schmuck that ended up in prison pretty much his whole life. Can I back up this theory? Oh, you bet I can.
I have long been interested in Charles Manson. Ever since I was in single digit ages. His was the first cult I ever heard of. I found it absolutely baffling that anybody would follow this jackass anywhere. So, I had to learn more. And over the course of MY lifetime, I feel I finally found enough information that I can generally explain who the REAL Charlie was. And he was far from a genius criminal mastermind. But, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
We have been led by Manson himself to believe a number of things about his birth and early childhood. These things were gathered from interviews Manson gave throughout his incarceration AFTER being sentenced for his commanding role in the Tate-LaBianca murders. We as the American public are supposed to believe the following: that Manson was born in 1934 as No-Name Maddox to his young prostitute mother, Kathleen Maddox. We have been told by Manson himself that he never had any family and that he was abused from an early age and was never loved by his mother. He has said that the only home he has ever known is a prison cell or a reformatory dorm room. He has repeatedly blasted the system for beating, cutting, whipping, molesting, raping, starving him, anything and everything horrible that you can imagine, Manson said it happened to him as a child, and it happened in the confines of OUR youth and adult penal systems.
Charlie has gone on in filmed interviews to explain that since his parents were a jailhouse and abuse, we as a society should expect nothing less than what we got as a result in him. For decades Manson spun a long winded tale about how he was abused and neglected by every person at every turn in his life. How he never got a break. How nobody ever cared about him or loved him or tried to help him. He constantly fed us the “oh poor me” pity party and expected a rough and troubled upbringing to be the end all be all excuse for every bad act he ever perpetrated on anyone throughout the entirety of his life.
The truth is, from his own mouth in a book that he wrote with Nuel Emmons, Manson In His Own Words, that Charlie’s childhood and adolescence, while tough and not perfect, was not near as bad as he made it out to be. The fact is that Manson repeatedly bolstered and embellished, and often outright lied, about his past in order to “justify” his actions or words.
After reading the above book cover to cover, watching countless interviews with Manson so many times I could probably repeat them to you verbatim, reading Bugliosi’s book Helter Skeltertwice and watching every documentary and fact-based movie I could find, I found that Charles Milles Manson was no more than a frightened, scraggly, insecure little man who hated himself so much he felt he had no choice but to build himself up with lies until he believed them himself.
Manson was a man filled with self-hatred and self-contempt. He felt deep down inside that he was an insignificant human being. He saw himself as nothing, which he stated in his book many times. The psychotic, wild-eyed killer persona that he embodied for the last 50+ years was an act, a role that he played and perfected for the cameras, the courts, the followers and the onlookers, all intended to distract and conceal the fact that he really had almost no self-confidence, self-esteem or self-worth.
So, let’s look at this horrible childhood he had. Charlie has repeatedly stated in interviews that he had no family, that his mother was a prostitute, that he was given away to a pimp to pay a debt, that he was beaten and raped. He even stated that his first sexual experience was in a juvenile reformatory when he was molested by a fellow young male detainee and it didn’t bother him. Thus, he became the perpetrator in violating other boys during his time in such places as a youngster.
The truth is, Charlie was born to fifteen-year-old prostitute Kathleen Maddox on November 12, 1934. Initially, yes, he was No-Name Maddox. That was only until Kathleen gave him a name. Standard law, not to mention common sense, dictates that a name MUST NOT be left blank on a birth certificate, whether one has been chosen at the time the document is typed up or not. Since Kathleen had not chosen a name yet, No-Name was inserted until one was provided. Within weeks he was given the name of Charles Milles Maddox. However, Charlie used this temporary space filler as an attempt to tug at the heartstrings of the American public from the moment he knew the information, using it as an example of proof that he was unwanted and unloved from the moment he was born.
Next, Charlie was not abandoned by his mother and given to a pimp for a debt. Charlie spent a good portion of his childhood, when he wasn’t breaking the law, with his grandmother (Kathleen’s mother). She cared for him and loved him just as any grandmother would. This is not to say that she didn’t have rules, wasn’t strict at times and didn’t punish him. While there is a lot of information about his childhood and the life he had with his mother, her drinking and running around with different men, it seems that Kathleen DID try at many times to give Charles as normal of a life as she could in her destitute circumstances.
She married a man before he was born, which was where the Manson last name came from, in an effort to give her newborn son some semblance of a family life. When he screwed up, she tried to follow through with the punishment the law set for him. Although she made many mistakes and fell into countless drinking binges and bad choices of lovers, it is clear that she did make effort in her moments of clarity to do right by her boy. There were quite a few times that Kathleen would take Charlie back into her custody after she would get released from incarceration but, her freedom and their time together would often be short lived.
So, fast forward thirty years. Charlie, by this time, spent approximately seventeen of his thirty years of life in boy’s homes, reformatories, jails and prisons. It is over the course of these seventeen years that Charlie used his time in incarceration to educate himself at the “Crime University” as it is sometimes called. Prisons are well known for being breeding grounds for making criminals better criminals. I mean, let’s face it. If they were good at what they did they wouldn’t have gotten busted and ended up in the slam to begin with. So, they often trade tales and tips, hoping to learn something from each other and their mistakes. This can be true and not true. In Charlie’s case, it was both.
On one hand, while incarcerated he was able to learn various things that made him better able to move about in the free world and function easier in and out of prison. In his book, Manson boasted that he wanted to learn how to be a pimp, that he idolized the ones he met in prison and that he wanted that kind of power and access to money and girls. This isn’t what I would consider a lofty aspiration, even for a career criminal. Still, he spent all his time with these characters, talking to them, asking them questions. He learned all he could about turning girls out, how to control them, how to exploit their weaknesses. This would be the beginning of his lessons as to the art of the con and what it would take to be a cult leader. On the other hand, Charlie remained fairly inept at thievery and his many other crime endeavors. Perhaps he wasn’t an outstanding pupil in all subjects, only pimpology.
Although I don’t believe Manson actually actively set out with the intent of being a cult leader when he got out of prison in the 1960s, I do think he had the distinct goal of becoming a powerful pimp with a lot of women and money at his fingertips. And interestingly enough, during the late 1960s, it wasn’t difficult for him to find young women looking to “live a little outside society’s norms”.
Now, before I get into all the Helter Skelter jazz, there are some things from his book I want to mention. First, Manson was always well aware of the impact his persona had on the public. He even stated in the introduction of his book that he wasn’t too thrilled about being part of it, baring things about himself, because it would detract from his known persona that he’s spent years building for us.
There are many times, in interviews and in his book, that he spouts off about how we the public have our own picture of him, this scary, horrible psycho that has been painted as a liar, a cheat, a killer, a maniacal cult leader, a rapist, a drug dealer, all by the lawyers, judges, police, etc. He then goes on to paint the picture of the abused child no one wanted in a way that implies we should feel sorry for him because he was “pushed around” all his life. But, then he contradicts himself saying that no one should feel sorry for him because he doesn’t pity himself. That is an outright lie if you pay attention to his words.
He also bad mouths his mother for being a drunk and a prostitute in his rants and then in the next paragraph he commends her for doing what she had to in order to make ends meet and professes his love for her. In an interview in the 2000s he stated that the only thing his mother ever taught him “was that everything she ever said was a lie.” Yet, in the 1980s he defended his mother vehemently for her efforts and behaviors. He bounced back and forth like this constantly throughout his entire life. He even blamed his mother’s promiscuity for ruining her marriage to his stepfather, leaving him fatherless yet again. But again, contradicted himself moments later in the book when he said, “But hey, I like my mom, loved her, and if I could have picked her, I would have. She was perfect! In doing nothing for me, she made me do things for myself.” Yet this would be the same thing he would use as the foundation for his entire case as to why he began his life in ruins.
Charlie also took the time to point out that he didn’t want to talk about his failures in the regular world. In my opinion, doing so would mean that he would be seen as something other than the crazy, ultra-manipulative madman we’ve always seen him as. He seemed very content in speaking of his failures as a criminal. This would still add to his character and mystique even if he wasn’t a successful thief or burglar or conman. After all, nobody starts off as a perfect criminal, do they? Everyone makes mistakes. And believe me, there were many. Though Charlie spoke of his criminal exploits as if he were some sort of diabolical kingpin heading up a high class escort service, the reality was he was penniless, dirty, homeless and hungry with young runaways following him around because they either wanted food, drugs, shelter or just plumb didn’t know any better.
He constantly bragged and boasted about everything from who he knew to the girls he slept with to the crimes he committed and much more. One of the biggest problems with someone like Manson is that their ego. Now, any career criminal worth their salt knows that in order to keep their career going they have to remain in business and the first rule to staying in that line of work would most likely be to keep your mouth shut. Nobody is going to stay in a business like that for very long if they run their mouth to everyone they come into contact with. I would think another rule would be to be good at your crime of choice. Charlie wasn’t very good at anything when it came to breaking the law. That’s evident by his criminal record stemming from his childhood through his death. If he was good at that lifestyle, he wouldn’t have spent sixty-nine of his eighty-three years on this earth incarcerated. Period. Obviously he would have probably been better suited for something OTHER than thief, pimp or murderer.
One thing Charlie did put SOME effort into was his music. He didn’t have talent really but he had some passion. However, he had no patience and no will to work his way through the ropes like most musicians have to, earning their way into a recording contract. Instead he thought he could buy his way in with drugs, girls, sex, charm (which I feel he had very little of) and when that all failed to work, he tried to threaten his way in with violence.
In his book Charlie stated that he felt like an equal in prison. I find it interesting that out of all the places in his life, prison is the place where he felt he was amongst his own. This could have been because he felt this was where he could learn the most. It could also be because this was where he felt the most comfortable. Anywhere you have spent the majority of your life is probably going to be where you feel the most comfortable. Especially if it wasn’t always a bad experience for you. Manson expressed time and again that he liked being in prison. He said that it was a constant place to sleep, he had clean clothes and a shower, food to eat and for a long time he had his guitar. He said that was really all he needed in life.
Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s very easy to say that’s all you need when that’s all you are allowed to have. If you will remember the beginning of this article I told you Charlie wanted to learn to be a pimp because he wanted that power and money. Well, he craved it. His gift of gab was also there not to please anyone but himself. Charlie had an incessant need for attention, a need to be idolized and adored.
There was a small stint in 1955 when Manson got married and had a son. He was living a “normal life” but it didn’t last. Charlie hated not having any money and always being in need. Charlie said, “The patience, willingness to struggle and earn that normal life demands wasn’t part of my make up.” So, he went back to the life of a thief and landed back in prison.
Now, to me all his ranting and raving about being abused, abandoned, unloved, unwanted, created by the system, all that jazz is just a bunch of excuses. There are a ton of people that grow up way harder than poor little Charles ever did and they don’t turn into total douchebags. They don’t abuse women, become criminals and wind up morally questionable idiots known for orchestrating mass murders. No. They grow up, end up recognizing that they didn’t like how they grew up and try to do everything in their power to never have to live that way again OR put their families through anything even remotely close to that in their lives either. But, Charlie has a real problem with taking responsibility for anything when it actually means something bad will happen to him.
And the kids Charlie went after for his followers, well, he had a type, at least for the girls. He looked for girls who were “mostly young, not too pretty and without a lot of smarts”. This would not only make them easier to control but, also easier to read from the get go. For instance, upon meeting Susan Atkins he determined that she had self-esteem issues and daddy issues. This was easy to determine as most girls in their teens are self-conscious and a good portion of teen girl runaways would have had problems with their father (or lack thereof) or father figure. Then, you have someone like Leslie Van Houten. She was a very good girl, good grades, from a good family. It is easy to assume Charlie pinpointed her as a “goody-two shoes” who was looking to rebel against her straight laced family. He would easily catch onto things like this and while the kids and others around his would see it as some sort of mind reading or fantastic insight into their drugged out souls, all he was really doing was paying attention to their needs and exploiting them.
So, Charlie couldn’t’ make it as a musician no matter how hard he tried. Even when he tried to impress Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys and record producer Terry Melcher and flopped, he ended up becoming more of a nuisance and was actually told to go away. A guy like Charlie would have hated being rejected in such a fashion. But that’s not entirely made him feel the need to send people out to kill, according to him. In truth, I believe there were a number of things that conspired together to launch the tragic events of August 8 and 9, 1969.
I suppose, if you follow what Manson said in his book, it all began when Susan Atkins and Tex Watson robbed some bikers. It’s not as if this was anything new but, these particular bikers decided to come looking for their money at Spahn’s Ranch. When they arrived, there was a man named Crowe with them. (I do not know if Crowe was a biker or a friend of the biker gang’s or what.) During the argument that ensued, Charlie shot Crowe. He said it was in self-defense.
Now Charlie is scared that the bikers are going to somehow bring the cops down on them at the ranch, because you know, that’s what criminals do when they get jacked, is rat out the other criminals. Cops are definitely going to spend time and effort finding the scum that robbed a criminal of his money. (Not that all bikers are criminals. Some of my best friends are bikers, so relax peeps. But, I think we can all agree that bikers that come to your house with people and guns to get back money you stole would probably not be considered an upstanding citizen.) Anyways, Charlie also somehow gets it in his head that this Crowe fella is a Black Panther and that it’s only a matter of time before that organization comes looking for revenge on The Family.
To top it all off, one of the guys in the room at the time of this shooting was connected to the recording industry and Charlie was convinced that THAT ruined his chances for ever recording an album. Yet he had already been denied by Melcher AND The Beach Boys, not to mention random people at various studios and auditions. This caused Charlie to begin to stew endlessly in hatred and contempt.
He was always very generous with the drugs. He often just gave away whatever he had access to. There were many nights when he would lead massive campfire LSD trip parties where he would perch himself on a big rock and sit higher than his flock and preach to them as they left the world of reality and crossed into the world of whatever Charlie shaped for them that night. He often used scripture and reenacted scenes from the Bible while everyone else was stoned, drunk or tripping out of their minds. And here’s the kicker. While Charlie would be the only one to dole out the drugs, he would often give his followers two sometimes three times the amount he would take, just so he could better maintain his faculties and more easily control theirs.
So, Crowe was dead. Charlie was a failed musician and hating it. His ego was being slammed and he felt disrespected. He was still getting a lot of admiration from his followers though as his nighttime preaching was going over very well. He was focusing on The Book of Revelations and the end of the world. Now, a lot of people think this is a big deal, I’m about fifty-fifty on that. I mean, a lot of cult leaders use End of Days fear to intimidate their followers and conversely, a lot of regular average non-cult members are still scared about the end of the world and judgment day. Either way, he’s pissed off and drugged out. Needless to say, he’s paranoid and irritable by this point.
Enter the Gary Hinman fiasco. Gary Hinman got killed, truly at the behest of Manson, over $2000, after being tortured for days. Hinman was a slight and meager type fellow who wasn’t going to let Manson or his people push him around. He refused to give The Family ANY money when they came to rob him and it got him killed. Later Bobby Boselie was arrested in connection with Hinman’s murder because he was pulled over driving Gary’s car (like I stated before, these people were never criminal masterminds or geniuses to be reckoned with…felony stupid maybe…but not geniuses).
Now there’s a lot of pressure in Charlie’s eyes. First of all, Charlie had been running the family for a long time by now, at least in his mind. He never wanted the family life even though he had more than one child with more than one woman. It’s not like he was actually father material. The pressure of being responsible for all these people was starting to get to him. Yes, they were allowed to come and go as they pleased but, these were really just lost flower children of the 60s with nowhere to go and very little knowledge of the real world. I think that’s one of the reasons they not only stayed with Charlie but stayed out on the ranches. They didn’t have all the rules of society and it’s hard to live by rules you don’t know, don’t understand or don’t agree with. Then there was the Hinman murder, Bobby’s arrest, Crowe’s murder, the bikers, they’d been stealing auto parts and cars for some time. Manson knew things were starting to get too complicated, too hot.
With Bobby in jail, it is suggested by SOMEONE (there is disagreement as to who) that they should commit some copycat murders so Bobby will be released, as the police will think they have the wrong guy. (I know, but they were on copious amounts of acid so, they weren’t thinking 100% clearly.) So, they all agree that THIS is the banner idea of the century to get Bobby out of jail and thus the skeleton plan to commit the Tate murders is hatched.
On both nights Charlie was not present at the murders. He also admitted to his co-author that while he never explicitly forced anyone to kill, he did know that me made suggestions that lead to those events and that he was the only one that could have stopped those events from unfolding. Even after the murders Charlie left the ranch immediately because he was sure that the police were going to be hot on their trail. Especially since he told them where to go for the night of the Tate murders. They knew that was Melcher’s old house. Manson picked that house not only because it represented a place of personal rejection to him and he could get some sort of satisfaction by the murders being there but, also because he knew the layout of the house and was familiar with the grounds.
Also in the days after the August murders of 1969, Charlie started to really dive into his theory of the end of the world and the need for The Family to relocate to the desert to hide and wait for the war to be over. While Charlie talked a lot about this “race war” and supposedly linked it to “Helter Skelter”, this was a theory he made no mention of in his book, nor did he mention much of The Beatles except that he liked their music. No, his explanation for the crimes for which he was convicted is much more believable, plausible and provable.
The Helter Skelter theory is as follows:
Charlie supposedly wanted to start a race war during which he and his followers would hide out in the desert until it ended. He also said that the black man would rise up against the white man and would win said war. This is where things become laughable and ridiculous. After the war is over, Charlie believed that the black race would be too inept to run the world on their own so they would still need white people to tell them what to do. (This is some of the dumbest crap I’ve ever heard.) As he felt such instruction would be needed and all the other white people would be killed off in the war, Charlie and his followers would be the only white folks left, there would be no choice but to have Charlie lead the world in their new way of life. However, Charlie got tired of the American public being too civilized especially after general society began to accept the Civil Rights Movement and Equality for All (which I agree, is unfortunately still in progress). So, he decided he would jumpstart the whole ordeal by committing some horrifyingly gruesome murders in a rich, upper-class white neighborhood. He then assumed by trying to leave Black Panther clues and a wallet in a black neighborhood that the Keystone Kops that made up LA’s finest at the time were going to somehow come to the conclusion that this was ALL racially motivated and THEN publicize it and THAT would cause a race war to break out.
Needless to say, that’s a very flimsy plan that hinders on a lot of what-ifs and a lot of variables that were way out of their control. In my opinion, that just further lends more credence to the much more plausible story Manson gave in his book.
I commend Bugliosi for getting his conviction on the Helter Skelter theory and the sensationalism it brought. That man lived and breathed this case for two years and then countless interviews and books, movies, documentaries, etc. after that. This was his legacy. I don’t want to take away from that. He did a fantastic job with what he had at the time and that was very little considering that none of the Manson followers had become disillusioned and deprogrammed yet.
Here is what Charlie said about himself toward the end of his book:
“I was a half-assed nothing who hardly knew how to read or write, never read a book all the way through in my life, didn’t know anything except jails, couldn’t hold onto my wives, was a lousy pimp, got caught every time I stole, wasn’t a good enough musician to hit the market, didn’t know what to do with money even if I had it and resented every aspect of family life. But a week after Sadie’s story, I was a charismatic cult leader with a family, a genius who could program people into doing whatever I asked of them.”
All his life Charles Manson blamed the system for his shortcomings. He also blamed the system for driving its youth into his criminal arms. He remarked that he was disappointed that so many would just eat up whatever they were fed, that people would be so gullible. Still, had it not been for that very gullibility he wouldn’t have had his little moment in the sun, his time living as a leader, an idol, the one who was adored.
Over and over he criticized everyone who wasn’t him. But all he really wanted was to be accepted and successful. And those were the two things he just wasn’t willing to work with society for. Society and life are both all about compromise, negotiation, effort. And Charlie was only willing to compromise other people. He never compromised on anything. He wasn’t willing to work for anything. And the only effort he was willing to make was the effort that was going to give HIM immediate gratification…and nothing more.
So, was Charlie Manson REALLY a criminal genius? Was a REALLY a masterful manipulator that carefully concocted a plan to murder seven people so he could lead the free world?
No. He was a tiny little nobody who wanted nothing more than to be somebody. And no matter how hard he tried, the only somebody he ever was, was selfish, evil, full of anger and hate, jealousy and resentment towards anyone who had anything he didn’t. He didn’t want to try. He didn’t want to work. He made excuses and felt entitled. All because he had a chip on his shoulder and couldn’t get it off. Between that chip on one shoulder and his ego on the other, I’d say they crushed his brain in the middle. If Manson had put in half the effort into working that he put into being “an outlaw”, the man could have had a freakin; career and a family easy. He just didn’t like that life. And I mean, let’s face it. Nobody would have REALLY wanted him as a neighbor anyways, would they?