Why Did The Manson Family Members Have Nicknames?

Charles Manson required his followers to give up their belongings—and their names—as part of his continued manipulation, according to one expert.

By Jill Sederstrom
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Manson: The Women Living At Spahn Ranch

Soon after arriving at Spahn Ranch, many of the women in Manson’s notorious “family” turned their back on their pasts—shedding their histories and birth names for more whimsical nicknames like “Squeaky” “Gypsy” “Lulu” and “Snake” as they tried to redefine their lives.  

But did the nicknames—often given to the women by Charles Manson or ranch owner George Spahn—serve a more sinister purpose?  

One Manson expert believes so.  

“There was at the beginning some fun to it and Charlie preached (about) having fun and being open and giving yourself to family, but it came at a price,” Lis Wiehl, author of “Hunting Charles Manson: The Quest for Justice in the Days of Helter Skelter” told producers of “Manson: The Women,” a documentary on Oxygen. 

She says that by giving up their names, the women were also giving up their identities and sense of self.  

“Charlie would give you a name,” she said. “You had to give up your family and your…personal belongings. You had to give that to the family and by giving up yourself, of course, you were giving to Charlie.”  

She believes this was just one of the subtle ways Manson was able to control his followers—some of whom would later go on to murder innocent victims under Manson’s direction.  

“He took away their names, he took away their birthdays. He took away their belongings. So, they didn’t have anything,” Wiehl said. “I mean, if you take away your name and your birthday, and…your physical belongings so that everything is given to you by, you know, Jesus Christ, the God, everything that is Charlie, then your whole identity is given to you by someone else.” 

One-time Manson follower Dianne Lake told “Manson: The Women” producers that Manson gave everyone alternative names when he got fake ID’s for everybody. That’s how Susan Atkins became Sadie Mae Glutz, Patricia Krenwinkle became Katie and Ella Bailey became Cinder Ella, she said.  

Lake said her name on the fake ID Manson made was Dianne Bluestein but she could never remember how to properly spell the last name.  

“I always would get confused,” she said. “It was like it was E before I, or I before E in spelling it.”  

Lake would later become known as “Snake” a nickname that she said she unintentionally helped create for herself.  

Lake told Rolling Stone Magazine that she earned the name while doing a lemon honey water cleanse. She said the drink gave her a natural high that led her one day to roll around on the grass on her stomach pretending to be a snake. After she told the other girls about the experience, Manson overhead and gave her the nickname, she said. 

Manson was often the source of the nicknames—also giving Sandra Good the nickname “Blue.”  

“Charlie gave us names,” Good told producers. “He said, ‘Woman, you’re earth. I’m naming you Blue. Fix the air and the water. It’s your job.’” 

Manson: The Women - Full Episode Promo Image

But many of the nicknames were also linked to George Spahn, the owner of Spahn Ranch who agreed to let Manson and his “family” of followers live on his property, in exchange for taking care of the elderly ranch owner.  

It was through Spahn that Lynette Fromme earned the infamous nickname “Squeaky.”  

Fromme told producers that the name’s origins were not “lecherous” as some believe.  

“We’d sit next to him, and this is all the girls, he’d put his hand on our arm and put his hand on our knee and say ‘who (is) it?” she said of the blind octogenarian.  

Fromme’s reaction during this exchange would earn her the nickname.  

“I kind of went ‘Eee!’ and he started called me Squeaky,” she said. “He laughed about it. Anytime George would laugh, it was great because…it made the whole house feel good.”  

Spahn was also credited for giving Charles “Tex” Watson his nickname, according to CieloDrive.com. As the moniker implies, Watson grew up in Texas before striking out to California after leaving college. He’d later go on to serve as Manson’s right-hand man of sorts and lead most of the violence at both the Sharon Tate murders and the LaBianca murders. 

Catherine Share, known amongst Manson’s followers as “Gypsy” told Oxygen she gave the nickname to herself after meeting a man in Topanga Canyon named Gypsy.  

“He had the same birthdate as me and looked just like me, so I thought he was my cosmic twin and um, so I told him, ‘Gypsy’s a great name. Maybe I’ll call myself Gypsy someday,’” she said.  

But whether the nicknames were given to Manson’s followers by the cult leader, Spahn or discovered on their own, some now believe it was just one more way Manson manipulated his followers and encouraged them to lose their sense of self, making them all more susceptible to his suggestion. 

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