By Saul Roth
When Charles Manson was born, he entered the world as an unwanted addition to his mother’s already crowded household. His early years were spent bouncing between relatives and institutions all across the Midwest until finally ending up at age 14 living with different families who had taken him in out of charity or circumstance.
By the time Manson was in his early 20s, he had already married twice and fathered a son. So when authorities released him from prison they thought it would be best if this particular inmate could stay out of circulation for good.
When the hippie movement hit San Francisco, it was no surprise that an older figure would take center stage. Meet Charles Manson – leader of a group made up almost entirely women who were looking for something new in their lives. Manson’s migration to Berkeley and then onto nearby Oakland meant he ended up right at home when this city became flooded with young people eager explore life outside of traditional structures like family or career paths offered by society as usual.
The late 60’s were a time of social experimentation, when runaway hippies mixed freely with Hollywood royalty and Mr. Manson was able to tell others what they wanted hear; even though he himself didn’t always believe it. This ability led him to becoming friends with Dennis Wilson, drummer for The Beach Boys.
The Family members behind the August 1969 murders were apprehended and put on trial. Manson didn’t do any of the actual killing, but prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi argued that he commandeered these people – including their murder – to help carry out his orders successfully.
It is not hard to see how this group of young women could have been drawn into the orbit of Charles Manson. They were all white, middle class and from small towns across America where being a hippie stuck out like a sore thumb; but there are some other things you might not know about them. The “Manson girls” as they came to be known loomed almost as large in pop culture history than their leader.
When the Family moved to Spahn Ranch, Manson took on an almost father-like role. He wanted his followers’ trust so completely that they were forbidden from wearing eyeglasses or carrying money.
The Manson Family was a group of depraved and sadistic killers who committed crimes against humanity in the late 1960s. Their reign terrorized Americans with their brutalities, which touched on some deep-seated fears about celebrity culture as well.