29 Things You Didn’t Know About Cult Leader Charles Manson

The Beach Boys song “Never Learn Not To Love” was co-written by Charles Manson. 

By Jill Sederstrom and Jaime Lutz

Charles Manson was known as a charismatic cult leader who led his followers to commit some of the most gruesome murders in U.S. history, including the brutal murder of actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant when she was stabbed in her California home. Although Manson, who died in prison of natural causes in 2017, spent most of his life behind bars, his life is punctuated by strange connections to popular culture names of the '60s, such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys, and disturbing events that would define and shape one of the most feared men in America.

Here are 29 facts about Manson you may not have known:

1. Manson was born to a teenage girl named Kathleen Maddox and was initially called “no name Maddox.” He later became Charles Maddox, and then Charles Manson after his mother married a man named William Eugene Manson.

2. It's rumored that Manson's mother once sold him for a pitcher of beer to another woman. His uncle later tracked the woman down to retrieve his nephew. After Manson was caught stealing, he was sent to the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana.

3. Even as a young teen, Manson was a frequent juvenile delinquent for crimes such as stealing cars, burglarizing stores, and robbing fill stations. 

4. He was deeply influenced by Dale Carnegie’s book "How To Win Friends and Influence People" and used its techniques to manipulate people.

5. Once, after he was imprisoned for stealing a car, he tried to escape prison — by stealing a different car. This happened less than two weeks before his parole hearing.

6. He requested not to leave the Federal Correctional Institution Terminal Island because he told officials that it had come to feel like his home.

7. Manson was once a married man. He married hospital waitress Rosalie Jean (Willis) Manson in 1955. They divorced sometime later and Manson was reportedly married to an alleged prostitute named Leona Rae "Candy" Stevens in the early 1960s. He almost got married a final time in 2014 to Afton Burton, who went by the name of Star. Although a marriage license was reportedly obtained, the nuptials never occurred.

8. Manson is a father and has at least two known children, Charles M. Manson Jr. and Charles Luther Manson.  His first born son, Manson Jr., committed suicide in the 1990s.

9. At the age of 32, he had spent more than half his life in prisons and other institutions.

10. He learned to play the steel guitar in prison and wanted to be a musician.

11. He met the first member of the Manson Family, Mary Brunner, just a few weeks after being released from prison. They soon became lovers and Manson convinced Brunner to let her bring other women into the relationship. Soon 18 women were living with the couple.

12. Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys once picked up two hitchhiking Manson Family women and let them stay at his house for a few hours. He left for a recording session, came back, and found Charles Manson and over 10 members of the Family crashing there. The Family stayed there for several months, costing him about $100,000.

13. The Beach Boys song “Never Learn Not To Love” was co-written by Charles Manson. Dennis Wilson had been a friend of Manson’s at the time and promised Manson that the group would record his song “Cease to Exist,” as long as he didn’t change the lyrics. When Wilson did change the lyrics, Manson threatened to kill him.

14. After Wilson evicted the Family, they moved into the Spahn Movie Ranch rent free, in exchange for labor. The ranch had been used in Western TV shows like "Zorro," "The Lone Ranger" and "Bonanza."

15. The actor Al Lewis, who played Grandpa on the Munsters, was friends with Manson and let him babysit his kids on several occasions.

16. Manson told his followers that the White Album was written for the Family about an impending race war, which he called “Helter Skelter” — and that they needed to create a response album to trigger that war.

17. Manson visited the house of actress Sharon Tate and her husband, the director Roman Polanski, a few months before Tate’s murder. A photographer talked to Manson on behalf of Tate, who called Manson “that creepy-looking guy.

18. When Manson finally ordered his followers to kill people, he did it with the instructions to make the killings look like the work of Black Panthers, in order to trigger a racial panic. When Gary Hinman was murdered in July 1969, his followers wrote “political piggy” and a panther paw on Hinman’s wall using his blood.

19. A little more than a week later, the Family was directed to kill the occupants of the Tate-Polanski house in the same way, writing “pig” using Tate’s blood on the door of house. Tate was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. Four other people were murdered at the Tate home that night. Though Manson didn’t commit the murders himself, he returned home to rearrange the crime scene for maximum, gruesome impact.

20. Polanski was in London working on a film at the time. When he released Macbeth a year after the Tate murders, a production designer complained he was using too much blood in violence scenes. Polanski replied “I know violence. You should’ve seen my house last summer.”

21. A day after the Tate murders, Manson directed his followers to enter the house of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary, and to kill them both. Rosemary was stabbed a total of 41 times, after she fought off her attackers with the lamp they had tied around her neck.

22. Manson and his followers almost got away with the murders and were originally apprehended by authorities because they were suspected of vandalizing the Death Valley National Park. Their connection to the murders wasn't determined until Susan Atkins, who was being held in connection to the murder of Gary Hinman, confessed and eventually led police to discover the connection the Manson family had to the gruesome murders.

23. Today, Jeff Franklin, the creator of Full House, lives on the former Tate-Polanski property.

24. Manson carved an X onto his forehead during the murder trial to say that he had removed himself from society. His followers did the same. Later, Manson turned this into a swastika. 

25. The female defendants in the Manson trial tried to confess to the murders so that they’d be convicted instead of Manson. The prosecution claimed that this idea had been planted in their heads by Charles Manson himself.

26. One of Manson's lawyers, Ronald Hughes, disappeared after he dropped Manson as a client to focus on representing fellow family member Leslie Van Houten. That same year, he disappeared during a camping trip and his body was discovered months later.

27. Manson told his followers that he would put on a “Crazy Charlie” act if captured to convince law enforcement that he was insane. 

28. Manson frequently wrecked havoc in prison after being convicted and was reprimanded for having weapons, selling drugs and fighting during his time behind bars. He reportedly suffered serious burns after an inmate set him on fire in 1984 during a dispute.

29. After his death,  a fight emerged over who had claim to Manson's body. Four people claimed they had a right to the body, including two people claiming to be his sons; however, the body was eventually awarded  to his grandson Jason Freeman, who planned to have him cremated.

[Photo: Getty Images]

Crime Time is your destination for breaking crime news, original reporting, and information about Oxygen's programming. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our Martinis & Murder podcast!

All Posts About:
Charles Manson

You May Also Like...

Recommended by Zergnet