This is one of the more dubious rumors about Charles Manson, but Al Lewis, who was famous for playing Grandpa Munster on the hit TV show "The Munsters" used to tell people that he had Charlie babysit his kids when Charlie first arrived in Los Angeles. Whether the story is true or not is anyone's guess, but Lewis swore that he thought Charlie "very nice" and said, "he didn't chop no heads off." Even his son was skeptical of the story though.
Manson and the Family even lived on a movie set...
During that crucial summer of 1969, when the Manson Family committed their two most infamous crimes, the Tate and Labianca murders, they were living at a place called "Spahn's Ranch," owned by an 80-year-old man named George Spahn. The "ranch" was an old TV and movie set where shows like Zorro, The Lone Ranger, and Bonanza were filmed. It was filled with sets built to look like an old west town and in more recent years had been used by Spahn as a horseback riding facility. Charlie and The Family lived there for free, in exchange for helping Spahn out around the ranch. It also didn't hurt that the young women in the family flirted endlessly with the octogenarian. In fact, one of the most notorious members of the Family, Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme, got her nickname from Spahn for the noise she would make when he hugged her.
Fromme would commit her most notorious crime well after Manson was locked up for the original crimes...
It's been almost 50 years since Charles Manson and his band of hippie psychos, known as The Family, terrorized the greater Los Angeles Area. By the time they were finished, they had left a trail of at least 9 bodies and likely more in their wake. In the summer of 1969, The Manson Family, killed nine people in a bizarre attempt to start a "race war" in the United States at three different locations. The first was a drug dealer and Manson Family associate named Gary Hinman. Hinman was murdered on July 25th by three members of the cult, Bobby Beausoleil, Mary Brunner and Susan Aktins.
Two weeks later, early on August 9th, Manson sent five cult members, Charles "Tex" Watson, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkle and Atkins (along with Linda Kasabian who remained outside) to break into the house of director Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate. Once inside they brutally murdered Tate, her friend Jay Sebring, a friend of Polanski's named Wojciech Frykowski and his lover, Abigail Folger, who was heir to the coffee fortune. A friend of the house's caretaker named Steven Parent was also murdered. Sharon Tate was eight and a half months pregnant at the time she was murdered with her and Polanski's first child, who was died in the attack. Mason had told Atkins to do "something witchy" so Atkins wrote the word "Pig" in Tate's blood on the front door. Polanski was out of the country at the time and escaped the carnage.
The following night, the four Manson Family Members from the night before, joined by Leslie Van Houten and Steve "Clem" Gordon would break into another house, at random and murder Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Manson would join them on this trip and direct the other six in the brutal murders of the wealthy couple.
The murders still resonate today.
The most infamous crime the Manson Family committed was the murder of actress Sharon Tate and her unborn baby. At the time of the murder, Tate was at her home that she shared with her husband, director Roman Polanski, who was out of the country at the time. The house, located at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles was the scene of five brutal murders by Family Members Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Linda Kasabian. A little over 20 years later, Trent Reznor moved into the house and began recording his seminal album, "The Downward Spiral," in a homemade studio he called "Le Pig" after the word "Pig" that was scrawled in Sharon Tate's blood on the front door to the house by the murderers. Reznor and Tate were not the only celebrities to call 10050 Cielo Dr. home either. Cary Grant lived there in 1965. Henry Fonda also lived there for a time. Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day, lived there in 1968 with his girlfriend, Candice Bergen, before Polanski and Tate moved in. In fact, it was while Melcher and Bergen lived there that Charles Manson visited the house while he was hanging out with Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys.
The house was torn down in the 1990s, after Reznor moved out, and it was replaced with a completely new house, but the famous front door, the "pig" door was taken by Reznor and installed at his new studio in New Orleans, where it remains today. Thankfully, the blood was washed off a long time ago. He wasn't the only musician to have a connection to the Family or the Murders.
Reznor is not the only musician with a connection to Manson...
Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys had become fast friends with a strange man that wrote songs and surrounded himself with beautiful young hippie girls. In the era of free love, Dennis loved having these women around, one time boasting that he lived with 17 women in the house. The strange man was Charles Manson. It was more than a year before Manson and his followers would commit their infamous murders and Charlie was interested in getting into the music business as a singer/songwriter. One night Manson played a song called "Cease To Exist" for Dennis and told him that he said had written it for the Beach Boys.
Dennis Wilson, a founding member and original drummer in The Beach Boys was well known as a playboy and a partier around the LA area in the late 60s. Of all the Wilson brothers that made up the core of the Beach Boys, he embraced the California hippie lifestyle the most.
In early 1968, Wilson spotted two attractive women hitchhiking. The women, it turned out, were Patricia Krenwinkle and Ella Jo Bailey. Unbeknownst Dennis, the two girls were members of a burgeoning cult that would eventually become the notorious Manson Family.
He drove them home, and a few days later, spotted them hitchhiking again. This time, instead of taking them to their house, he took them back to his house in Hollywood, and soon left them there and went to a recording session. When he returned a few hours later, he found an odd guy hanging out at his house with the women. The man introduced himself as Charlie Manson. It would be months before Manson would leave.
In September 1968 the Beach Boys recorded "Cease To Exist" and it was released a few months later as the B-side to their single "Bluebirds over the Mountain," and then included on their 1969 album "20/20." They changed some of the lyrics and the name of the song to "Never Learn Not To Love," but Manson received the songwriting credit.
Charlie and his band of crazy hippies would end up living with Dennis for about a year before Charlie threatened Dennis over the Beach Boys' changing the lyrics to his song, and Dennis, in turn, beat up Charlie and kicked him and his followers out.
The Beach Boys are not the only band to record songs written by Manson. The Lemonheads, Guns N Roses, and Marilyn Manson, among others, have also recorded and released his work, though "Never Learn Not To Love" was the only one recorded before the Manson Family murders. Despite its weird and sinister background, the song is actually pretty good.
Other celebrities had brushes with Manson too...
Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was one of the most dedicated members of Charles Manson's cult and to prove, she tried to shoot and kill President Gerald Ford. Fromme was a very earlier follower of Manson's and had completely dedicated herself to him. Because she was locked up on a shoplifting charge during the Tate/LaBianca murders, she was never charged with that crime, but she showed up to the trial every day and even shaved her head in support of Manson and his followers on trial. In the years after Manson went to prison, she continued to be devoted to him. She called and wrote him regularly and moved to new towns when Manson was transferred within the California Penal System to stay close to him. Finally, in 1975 she devised a way she thought she could be even closer. She came up with a plan to assassinate President Gerald Ford, thereby landing her in prison, hopefully, closer to her guru, Charles Manson.
On September 5th, 1975, Fromme approached Ford who was shaking hands with supporters at an event in Sacramento, CA. Fromme, dressed in a red robe, approached the President and extended her hand with a .45 caliber pistol in it and she pulled the trigger. The gun clicked but did not fire. Fromme had forgotten to chamber a bullet and so the gun dry-fired. Secret Service tackled her immediately and she was arrested and eventually sentenced to life in prison for the attempted assassination. She was paroled in 2009 even though she repeatedly professed her devotion to Manson while most of the other members of the Family disavowed him.
During the trial of Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten, Fromme was a constant presence outside the courthouse and played a big part in the circus that was the trial...
On June 16th, 1970, the murder trial of Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten began in Los Angeles. Manson showed up for the first day of the trial with an "x" carved into his forehead. In the days that followed, ever the loyal followers, the three women would also scratch Xs into their foreheads. Later, Manson would shave his head and the women would also.
The media surrounding the trial was, of course, intense and many of the photos show how seriously the defendants were taking to the proceedings, which is to say, not serious at all. The women were often seen smiling and laughing at the most violent pieces of evidence. On the day they were sentenced to death, they literally danced out of the courtroom, laughing.
Manson himself provided his own council and often lashed out at the judge, the police, or anyone else that got in his crosshairs like his court-appointed lawyer that was rendered basically pointless as Manson didn't follow any of his advice and was openly hostile towards him.
Finally, on March 29th, 1971 the four defendants were sentenced to death, having been found guilty two months earlier.
But not before endless antics from Manson and the women, including the possible murder of one of the original lawyers...
Ronald Hughes was the first attorney to meet with Manson after he was arrested for the Tate/LaBianca murders, but Manson fired him before the trial started. He ended up representing one of Manson's fellow defendants, Leslie Van Houten. Manson was apparently unhappy with Hughes, and the last thing Manson supposedly said to Hughes was, "I don't want to see you in the courtroom again," as the court was set for a 10-day break so the lawyers could prepare final arguments. Hughes was never seen in court again. A couple of days after the recess began, Hughes went camping with some friends in the desert, and he never returned. He had been separated from his friends during a flood, and it would be more than 2 months before his body was found. There is speculation that the Manson Family members, especially Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme, did the deed, but it has never been proven.
If Fromme or another Family associate did indeed commit the crime, it is a perfect example of how Manson controlled his followers so thoroughly. The techniques he used to gain control he taught himself in his first prison stints in the 50s and early 60s.
He even used a very famous business book to learn some of the techniques...
"How To Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie has been and still is a hugely influential book in the business world. First published in 1936, it has since gone on the sell millions and millions of copies, and to this day is still one of the highest selling books on Amazon. During Charles Manson's second stint in prison, he studied the lessons in the book incessantly and used the techniques once he got out to influence and recruit the people that would become the members of his cult, The Mason Family. Those techniques include "Six ways to make people like you." and "Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking."
Manson also studied the techniques of L. Ron Hubbard and The Church Of Scientology...
Charles Manson began studying Scientology while he was in prison for a 1960 violation of the Mann Act. He had been sentenced to 10 years and was released 7 years later. It was his second stint in prison. During his time in jail, he learned a lot. Most notably, he learned about L. Ron Hubbard's new religion, Scientology, which had begun developing in 1954. While in prison Manson read Hubbard's books and at one point, he had declared himself "clear." After his release, there are records of him going to the Scientology Center in San Francisco as well as showing up at the famous Celebrity Center in LA. There are even reports that Manson kept an "E-Meter" at Spahn Ranch, where the Family lived during the time they committed their crimes.
Though there is no proof he studied Scientology after he was released, he did find time to have a few children...
Charles Manson has a least three sons. He claims there may be more, but there are only the three that are known for sure. The oldest, who was born while Manson was married to his first wife, Rosalie Jean Willis, is named Charles Manson, Jr., but as you can imagine, he changed his name. He was adopted and raised in Illinois with the name Jay White, but he knew the truth of his biological father and in the 90s it drove him to suicide.
Manson's second son was born to a woman named Candy Stevens, whom Manson briefly married in the late fifties after divorcing Rosalie. He divorced Stevens in 1963, and it's unknown what has become of their son, Charles Luther.
Mary Brunner, who was one of the very first converts to Manson's cult, is the mother of his third child, Valentine Michael Manson. After the Tate/LaBianca murders, Brunner sent her son to live with her parents in Wisconsin, and that's where he remained for his childhood and upbringing. He was aware of who his father was, but he says he "feels no connection to his father" and that he views his grandfather as his father, who he says provided him with a normal upbringing.
Manson would almost get married again, this time, in 2014.
Manson receives a tremendous amount of mail and often, he writes back. In 2014, a penpal relationship with a woman named Afton "Star" Burton soon blossomed into a romance, of sorts. Manson, who was 80 years old at the time, eventually planned to marry Burton and for her part, Burton was excited to marry Manson. Burton had been in love with Manson since she was 17 and she took her life savings - $2000 - and moved from her hometown of Bunker Hill, IL to Cocoran, CA, where Manson is imprisoned.
The romance was fleeting though. It is suspected that Manson learned Burton was really only interested in the rights to Manson's body after he died and that was too creepy, even for a monster like Manson.
Manson is not the only member of The Family to find romance while in prison...
All of the members of The Family that committed the Tate/LaBianca murders are still alive except Susan Atkins, who died in 2009. All of the participants in the murders were sentenced to the death, but in 1972 all had their sentences commuted to life in prison after California did away with the death penalty.
Tex Watson is incarcerated at Donavan State Prison in San Diego. He got married while in prison and had 4 children, thanks to conjugal visits. He was divorced in 2003.
Patricia Krenwinkle has been denied parole 14 times. She is the longest-serving female inmate in California history.
Leslie Van Houten has been offered parole twice by the California Parole Board, first in 2011, but California Governor Jerry Brown reversed the decision, as he has the right to do as governor. More recently in 2017, Van Houten was up for parole, but Brown has not decided if he will sign off this time, so for the time being, she remains behind bars.
Linda Kasabian became a key witness at the original trial and she never served time. After the trial she moved to New Hampshire and has lived a quiet life, only occasionally coming into the public eye with interviews, most recently in 2009.
Steven "Clem" Grogan helped police find the body of another Manson family victim at Spahn Ranch and in return was granted parole in 1985. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
Bobby Beausoleil is an artist and musician, but he does it all behind bars at the California Medical Facility where he is incarcerated. He will be next eligible for parole in 2019.
Charles Manson is now 82 years and has been locked up for all but 9 years of his adult life. When his death sentence was commuted, he became eligible for parole, but he rarely even showed up. He is next up for parole in 2027, when he'll be 92 years old. It's unlikely he'll get out then, even if he's still alive. In 2015, it was reported that Manson was engaged to a woman from Missouri, but the wedding was called off later, possible because the woman was only interested in the rights to Manson's body after he died. So the bizarre seems to be continuing to the end for Charles Manson. Manson still receives more mail than any other inmate in the California system.
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