Manson Follower Describes The Moment She Told Her Children About Her Dark Past

As Charles Manson’s infamy continued decades after his brutal crimes, Dianne Lake knew she’d have to tell her children about the time she spent under his spell before they discovered it on their own.

By Jill Sederstrom
Digital Original
A Short History of Charles Manson

Most parents have secrets from their past, but Dianne Lake’s secret was more sinister than most.

Lake had once been one of Charles Manson’s followers, and although she never participated in any of the grisly murders the Manson cult committed, she had harrowing stories to tell of her time with the group, which includes the day authorities arrived in 1969 to arrest him.

“I didn’t want my kids to find out from a newspaper, from the media, so we told them,” she said on the ABC special “Manson Girls” of eventually divulging her past.

Lake and her husband decided to tell their two oldest children after realizing that Manson’s notoriety and lure had continued decades after the diabolical cult leader was put behind bars for orchestrating a series of brutal murders, including that of pregnant actress Sharon Tate.

“My son was in college and he slept with a baseball bat under his bed for a couple of weeks,” Lake said of telling him the news. “It scared him. It kind of freaked him out.”

Her daughter was still living at home at the time and was grateful that her mom had been able to find a happy life after a chaotic and unconventional childhood.

Dianne Lake

“She told my husband, she said ‘Thank you for loving Mommy, Daddy,’ and he did, you know, he really loved me unconditionally,” Lake said.  

Lake decided to open up about her time with the cult, known as “The Manson Family” because she hopes her story can serve as a cautionary tale for others.

“I tell my story and tell my truth because I felt like enough time had gone by. I lost my husband almost five years ago now and I was trying to find myself,” she said. “I feel very strongly that [it's] only by the grace of God that I was protected throughout this.”

Lake joined the cult at the age of 14 after her own parents had decided to “drop out” of society and join a California commune known as the Hog Farm. While her parents thrived in the communal environment, the group’s founders believed Lake, who was already sexually active, was “jailbait” and didn’t want her to stay.

Dianne Lake

She was introduced to Manson through a couple she had been staying with and was immediately taken with the ex-convict and his philosophy of free love.

Lake would stay with the cult until law enforcement swooped in to arrest the cult members in 1969.

Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme said in the same ABC special that police initially believed the group had merely stolen Volkswagens but would later link them to the murders after Susan Atkins bragged about the crimes to her cellmate.

Lake would go on to be a “crucial witness” for the prosecution and testified against Manson in court—leaving behind the cult and eventually establishing her own family.

“I’ve moved on, and I’ve had a really wonderful life,” she told HISTORY during a 2018 interview.

It's been more than 50 years since the brutal slayings and Lake said she now sees herself as an adolescent survivor of abuse.

“I was a victim; I was abused; I was neglected; I was abandoned. My dad did apologize to me for throwing the baby out with the bath water. You know, they got carried away,” she said.

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