Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family


Just who was this Charlie anyway? Both the LAPD and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office started to dig through the rubble of his heavily documented 36 years. As information came in about him, it was no surprise that he was in trouble. If ever a kid had a miserable start in life Charles Manson was it.

An illegitimate and unplanned child, he was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, November 12, 1934 to Kathleen Maddox, a promiscuous sixteen-year-old who drank too much and got into a lot of trouble. Two years later, Kathleen filed suit against Colonel Scott of Ashland, KY, for child support, which she was awarded, but never received. Kathleen was briefly married to William Manson who gave his name to the boy.

Charles Manson in Nuel Emmons' book Manson in His Own Words describes the Maddox family:

Kathleen was the youngest of three children from the marriage of Nancy and Charles Maddox. Her parents loved her and meant well by her, but they were fanatical in their religious beliefs. Especially Grandma, who dominated the household. She was stern and unwavering in her interpretation of God's Will, and demanded that those within her home abide by her view of God's wishes.

My grandfather worked for the B&O Railroad. He worked long hard hours, a dedicated slave to the company and his bosses...He was not the disciplinarian Grandma was...If he tried to comfort Mom with a display of affection, such as a pat on the knee or an arm around her shoulder, Grandma was quick to insinuate he was vulgar.

For Mom, life was filled with a never-ending list of denials. From awakening in the morning until going to bed at night it was, "No Kathleen, that dress is too short. Braid your hair, don't comb it like some hussy. Come directly home from school, don't let me catch you talking to any boys. No, you can't go to the school dance, we are going to church..." In 1933, at age fifteen, my mother ran away from home.

Other writers have portrayed Mom as a teenage whore...In her search for acceptance she may have fallen in love too easily and too often, but a whore at that time? No!...In later years, because of hard knocks and tough times, she may have sold her body some...

Charlie never knew his father and never had a real father figure. His mother was the kind that children are taken away from and placed in foster homes. Kathleen had a habit of disappearing for days and weeks at a time, leaving Charlie with his grandmother or his aunt. When Kathleen and her brother were both sentenced to the penitentiary for armed robbery, Charlie got sent off to live with his aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia. The aunt was very religious and strict in stark contrast to his mother's permissiveness.

When Kathleen was released from jail, she was not responsible enough to take care of him, preferring her life of promiscuity and hard drinking to any kind of normal lifestyle. There was no continuity in his life: he was always being foisted on someone new; he moved from one dingy rooming house to another; there were only transitory friendships that he made on the streets.

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