Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family

Sold for a Pitcher of Beer

Manson tells the story that circulated within his family: "Mom was in a café one afternoon with me on her lap. The waitress, a would-be mother without a child of her own, jokingly told my Mom she'd buy me from her. Mom replied, 'A pitcher of beer and he's yours.' The waitress set up the beer, Mom stuck around long enough to finish it off and left the place without me. Several days later my uncle had to search the town for the waitress and take me home."

John Gilmore in his insightful book called The Garbage People describes how Charlie adapted to this life of emptiness and violence:

He kept to himself. Though friendless, his young mind bypassed the loneliness of his surroundings. He watched, listened, pretended his imaginative resources knew no limit. And he began to steal, as if to hold onto something that continually flew away. There was a consistency and permanency to the habit of stealing and it became easier. With everything transient, the thefts and goods he carried with him offered a sense of stability, a kind of reward. An object owned gave identity to an owner, an identity that had yet to be acknowledged.

Charles Manson at 14
Charles Manson at 14

When he was nine, he was caught stealing and sent to reform school and then later when he was twelve, he was caught stealing again and sent to the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1947. He ran away less than a year later and tried to return to his mother who didn't want him. Living entirely by stealing and burglary, he lived on his own until he was caught. The court arranged for him to go to Father Flanagan's Boys Town.

He didn't last long at Boys Town. A few days after his arrival, thirteen-year-old Charlie and another kid committed two armed robberies. A few more episodes like that landed Charlie in the Indiana School for Boys for three years. His teachers described him as having trust in no one and "did good work only for those from whom he figured he could obtain something."

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