Charles Manson was born Charles Milles Maddox on November 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, Ohio to 16-year-old Kathleen Maddox. Kathleen had run away from home at the age of 15, presumably out of rebellion from her religious upbringing. Shortly after his Charles’ birth, she married William Manson. Despite their brief marriage, her son took his name and would be known as Charles Manson from then on. (source)
Manson spent a few days in Boys Town where the Franklin Cover Up occurred
“Charles Manson, 14, a ‘dead end kid’ who has lived in an emotional ‘blind alley’ most his life, is happy today,” reads the Indianapolis News story from March 1949. “He’s going to Boys Town.”
Today, few Omahans know that Manson, the infamous cult leader convicted of orchestrating the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in California, spent a brief stint at Father Edward Flanagan’s children’s home. Details of his time here are scarce. Manson ran away after just a few days.
But Lawson McDowell, a 66-year-old local author and retired director of network operations at Union Pacific, spent more than a year corresponding with the imprisoned Manson, researching his historical fiction book, “Before He Became a Monster: A Story of Charles Manson’s Time at Father Flanagan’s Boys Town,” published in 2013.
“I write mainly for myself, but also to educate anybody that wants to learn,” he said. “I wanted to write about (Manson) just to let people know that he’d been here in town and left.”
McDowell’s book tells the story of how Manson came to stay at Boys Town and what happened during his time there, blending real and imagined events. The episode is shrouded in uncertainty, and Manson himself gave cryptic answers to some of McDowell’s questions.
What is certain is that Manson’s admittance to Boys Town was meant to turn his life around.
Manson’s mother was a heavy drinker and unstable caregiver, who at times found herself in trouble with the law. Her son spent much of his early life in one city or another, living with relatives or in group homes.
Eventually, he was caught stealing and ended up in the Indiana juvenile court system. In 1949, the Indianapolis News ran a story outlining the 14-year-old Manson’s troubled childhood. The boy, it read, had expressed a desire to become Catholic and had been daydreaming about the home in Omaha.
“I think I could be happy working around cows and horses. I like animals,” Manson told the court.
At his hearing, an Indiana judge encouraged him: “Maybe you’ll have that farm yet and be a real farmer, son. You just try hard and learn the things they teach.”
It wasn’t to be. Manson’s stay at Boys Town lasted all of three days, said Kara Neuverth, Boys Town spokeswoman. (In his book, McDowell writes Boys Town told him five days. Manson himself, he writes, couldn’t remember.)
Manson is not considered a Boys Town alumnus, Neuverth said. He never made it out of orientation.
“He took off and that was kind of the last of it,” she said.
In a letter to the Journal Star, a newspaper in Peoria, Illinois, Manson claimed he ran away from Boys Town, stole a car in Lincoln and continued to Idaho and later Peoria, where police caught him in more than one break-in.
But when McDowell heard from a friend that Manson had, in fact, spent time at Boys Town, he wanted to know more. So he decided to ask the man himself.
In 2009, McDowell began writing letters once a week to Manson in Corcoran State Prison, asking him if he’d be willing to talk about his time in Omaha. The letters went unreturned for more than six months, until McDowell began including photos of Union Pacific trains. Manson, McDowell learned, is interested in railroads.
One night, McDowell said, he received a call from a man who identified himself as an associate of Manson. McDowell explained what he wanted to know, and arrangements were made for him to speak with Manson through a telephone service for inmates.
Off and on for more than two years, McDowell chatted with Manson. They talked about Omaha, about Manson’s past and about the 1969 murders. True, McDowell wanted to know more about Manson’s experiences at Boys Town, but he also wanted to vet the inmate, who, for decades, has drawn attention for odd behavior.
“I was scared to deal with him because of his reputation and all,” McDowell said. “But he surprised me in how intelligent he is, and how thoughtful he is in some things.”
Manson remembered his time in Omaha fondly and vividly, McDowell said. He could recall, for example, the name of a nun who confiscated his cigarettes and specific architectural details about the Boys Town campus. Overall, McDowell said, Manson gave the impression that he appreciated what the children’s home had tried to do for him.
So why run away? McDowell asked, over and over. Manson, he said, never gave a clear answer.
After a while, McDowell grew tired of Manson’s phone calls. He wrote his book, piecing together what he learned from their conversations. He sent Manson a copy. (Source)
Manson Gets Married
In 1954, at age 19, Manson was released on parole after an unusual bout of good behavior. The next year, he married a 17-year-old waitress named Rosalie Willis and the two took off for California in a stolen car. It was not long before Rosalie became pregnant. This was beneficial for Manson because it actually got him probation rather than prison time for stealing a car. His luck would not last, though.
In March 1956, Rosalie gave birth to Charles Manson Jr. (he committed suicide in 1993), just one month before his father was sent to prison after his probation was revoked. The sentence this time was three years in Terminal Island Prison. After just one year, his wife found someone new, left town, and divorced Manson in June 1957. (source)
Manson the Con Man
In 1958, Manson was released from prison. While out, Manson began pimping in Hollywood. He also conned a young woman out of money and, in 1959, received a 10-year suspended sentence for stealing checks from mailboxes. He also married again, this time to a prostitute named Candy Stevens (her real name was Leona), and fathered a second son, Charles Luther Manson. She would divorce him shortly after his next prison sentence.
This arrest occurred on June 1, 1960. The charge was crossing state lines with the intent of prostitution and it led to the immediate revocation of his parole. He was sentenced to seven years and sent to the McNeil Island Penitentiary off the coast of Washington State. Part of his sentence would be served back at California’s Terminal Island.
It was during this prison sentence that Manson began studying Scientology and music. He befriended the infamous Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, a former member of Ma Barker’s gang. After Karpis taught Charles Manson to play the steel guitar, Manson became obsessed with making music. He practiced all the time, wrote dozens of original songs, and started singing. He believed that when he got out of prison, he could be a famous musician. (source)
Manson Gets a Following
On March 21, 1967, Manson was once again released from prison. This time he headed to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury where, with a guitar and drugs, he blended in and began to get a following. Mary Brunner was one of the first to fall for Manson. The UC Berkeley librarian with a college degree invited him to move in and her life would change forever. It was not long before she started doing drugs and quit her job to follow Manson where ever he went. She was the key figure who helped entice others to join what would be called the Manson Family.
Lynette Fromme soon joined Brunner and Manson. In San Francisco, the trio found many young people who were lost and searching for a purpose in life. Manson’s lengthy prophesies and hypnotic, coercive songs led to a reputation that he had some sort of sixth sense. He relished this new position as a mentor and the skills of manipulation he had honed in childhood and prison only fueled his attraction to those who were vulnerable. He and his followers saw Manson as a guru and prophet and they would follow him anywhere. In 1968, Manson and several of his followers drove to Southern California. (source)
The Spahn Ranch
Manson was still hoping for a music career. Through an acquaintance, Manson met and hung out with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. The Beach Boys even recorded one of Manson’s songs, which appeared as “Never Learn Not to Love” on the B-side of their “20/20” album.
Through Wilson, Manson met Terry Melcher, Doris Day’s son. Manson believed Melcher was going to advance his music career but when nothing happened, Manson was very upset.
During this time, Charles Manson and some of his followers moved to the Spahn Ranch. Located northwest of San Fernando Valley in Chatsworth, the ranch had been a popular location to film westerns in the 1940s and 1950s. Once Manson and his followers moved in, it became a cult compound for “the Family.” Brunner also gave Manson his third son. Valentine Michael Manson was born on April 1, 1968. (source)
The Manson Family Members
- Charles “Tex” Watson (b. December 2, 1945)
- Shot three victims of the 10050 Cielo Drive massacre
- Stabbed both of the LaBiancas
- Involved in the murder of Donald Shea
- Became a born-again Christian in 1975
- Wrote an autobiography, Will You Forgive Me?, with the help of his chaplain. It was published n 1978.
- Got married in 1979 while in prison and had four children with his wife through conjugal visits
- Divorced in 2002
- Susan Atkins (May 7, 1948 – September 24, 2009)
- Linda Kasabian (b. June 21, 1949)
- Testified against the other Family members in exchange for immunity
- Bobby Beausoleil (b. November 6, 1947)
- Aspiring musician and actor
- Boyfriend of Leslie Van Houten
- Had parts in a few softcore pornography movies, one of which was shot at the Spahn Ranch, and was set to star in the short film Lucifer Rising, but had a falling out with the director and was replaced. Some of his footage was included in a revival of the project. During his incarceration, he was allowed to compose and record the soundtrack for the film.
- Was briefly a member of The Grass Roots (which later changed its name to Love) in 1965
- Stabbed Gary Hinman to death
- Leslie Van Houten (b. August 23, 1949)
- Girlfriend of Bobby Beausoleil
- Involved in the LaBianca murders
- Has been denied parole over 20 times
- Has written a number of short stories in prison and done some secretarial work there
- Granted parole in September 2017 following a total of 21 appearances before a parole board
- Steve “Clem” Grogan (b. May 24, 1952)
- Was kept under observation at a mental hospital for indecent exposure in 1969
- Involved in the LaBianca murders and the Shea murder
- Released from prison in 1985
- Patricia Krenwinkel (b. December 3, 1947)
- Involved in the Tate and LaBianca murders
- Is reportedly a model prisoner, but has been denied parole thirteen times, most recently in 2011, and won’t be eligible again until 2018, but was denied parole once again early in June 2017
- Mary Brunner (b. December 17, 1943)
- Lived with Manson when he first came to California
- Bore one of Manson’s children, Valentine Michael, in 1968
- Was involved in the Hinman murder
- Was in jail for attempting to use stolen credit cards along with Sandra Good during the Tate and LaBianca murders
- Led a robbery and attempted hostage taking in Hawthorne, California in 1971 and was injured after being shot by police
- Was released in 1977. Has since changed her name, regained custody of her son and currently lives in the Midwest
- Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (b. October 22, 1948)
- Catherine Share (b. December 10, 1942)
- Born in Paris the daughter of a Hungarian father and a German mother
- Had a relationship with Bobby Beausoleil
- Involved in the Brunner-led attempted hostage taking in Hawthorne, California in 1971
- Was convicted of multiple counts of fraud and interstate transportation of stolen property
- Sandra Good (b. February 20, 1944)
- Off and on university student
- Was in jail for attempting to use stolen credit cards along with Mary Brunner during the Tate and LaBianca murders
- Was convicted of “conspiracy to send threatening letters through the mail” in 1975
- Paroled in 1985
- Is still devoted to Manson, but is forbidden from going to the state of California
- Bruce McGregor Davis (b. 1942)
- Involved in the murders of Hinman and Shea
- Vaguely suspected of being the Zodiac Killer
- Became a preacher in the prison chapel during his incarceration
- Despite getting several recommendations from the state parole board, he has been denied parole by the governor and remains in prison
The Family: Satanism, Drug Trafficking, Contract-killers, and Child Pornography
In his book, The Ultimate Evil, investigator-author Maury Terry writes that between 1966 and 1967, the Satanic cult, the Process Church, “sought to recruit the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.” During this period, Terry reports that a photo of Rolling Stones leader Mick Jagger’s longtime girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, appeared in an issue of The Process Magazine. The picture shows her supine, as if dead, clutching a rose. Terry’s book goes on to implicate the Process Church cult in the Charles Manson and Son of Sam multiple murders. Charles Manson was a “Light-bearer” with the Church of Satan. Kenneth Anger was a High Level Magus with the Church Of Satan.
During 1966-1967, when the Process Church is reported to be recruiting in London, Anger was also on the scene. Author Tony Sanchez describes that Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, and their girlfriends Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenburg, “listened spellbound as Anger turned them on to Crowley’s powers and ideas.”(Tony Sanchez, Up and Down With the Rolling Stones, p.155)
While in England, Anger worked on a film dedicated to Aleister Crowley, called Lucifer Rising. The film brought together the Process Church, the Manson Family cult, and the Rolling Stones. The music for the film was composed by Mick Jagger. Process Church follower Marianne Faithfull went all the way to Egypt to participate in the film’s depiction of a Black Mass. The part of Lucifer was played by a guitarist of a California rock group, Bobby Beausoleil. Beausoleil was a member of the Manson Family, and Anger’s homosexual lover.
A few months after filming under Anger’s direction in England, Beausoleil returned to California to commit the first of the Manson family’s series of gruesome murders. Beausoleil was later arrested and is now serving a life sentence in prison along with Manson (Manson died 11/17). Having lost his star performer, Anger then asked Mick Jagger to play Lucifer. He finally settled upon Anton LaVey, author of The Satanic Bible and head of the First Church of Satan, to play the part. The film was released in 1969 with the title Invocation To My Demon Brother.
In London, Anger had succeeded in recruiting to Satanism the girlfriend of one of the Rolling Stones, Anita Pallenberg. Pallenberg had met the Rolling Stones in 1965. She immediately began sexual relations with three out of the five members of the group. Anger, commenting on Anita, said, “I believe that Anita is, for want of a better word, a witch…The occult unit within the Stones was Keith and Anita…and Brian. You see, Brian was a witch too.”
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