Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family

Charlie's Followers

As poorly prepared for life on the outside as he was, Charlie was able to blend in with his guitar into the hippie scene in San Francisco. The high-point of the Haight Ashbury culture was past and the only ones left were the diehards and the last ones to the party. Charlie was never impressed by the hippie culture, but he lived off it and it didn't expect much from him. He learned about drugs and how he could use them to influence people.

Charlie started to attract a group of followers, many of whom were very young women with troubled emotional lives who were rebelling against their parents and society in general. He battered down their inhibitions and questioned the validity of their notions of good and evil. For the most part, Charlie's followers were weak-willed people who were naïve, gullible and easy to lead. LSD and amphetamines were additional tools by which Charlie altered their personalities to his needs.

In spring of 1968, Manson and his followers left San Francisco in an old school bus and traveled around. Eventually, he and a few of his group moved in with Gary Hinman, a music teacher with a house on the Canyon Road. Through Hinman, Charlie met Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Manson and his girls starting hanging around Wilson every chance they had. Manson tried to leverage the acquaintance with Dennis Wilson but it didn't go anywhere. Eventually, Wilson became uncomfortable with Manson and his girls and told them to split.

About that time, Manson found George Spahn and conned the old man into letting him and his followers live on the Ranch. Squeaky Fromme, one of Charlie's devotees, made sure that the elderly man's sexual needs were fully satisfied. The Manson Family survived by a combination of stealing and scavenging. Much of their food was taken from what the supermarkets discard each day.

Charlie was still hell-bent to market his music to somebody. Through his contacts with Dennis Wilson and another man in the music business, Charlie met Doris Day's son Terry Melcher. The plan was to interest Melcher in financing a film with Manson's music.

At that time, Melcher owned the house on Cielo Drive that was eventually leased to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. At various times, Manson had been by the property in a car with Dennis Wilson.

Melcher was asked to listen to Charlie and decide whether or not he wanted to record them. Melcher went out the first time and listened to Charlie sing his own compositions and play the guitar. Some of the girls sang and played tambourines. Melcher went out a second time a week later, but the music was nothing he was interested in recording. What he didn't realize is that Manson had built this recording opportunity with Melcher into something very real in his mind. When nothing came of it, Charlie was plenty angry and blamed Melcher for his disappointment.

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