Charles Manson was an unplanned, illegitimate child born to a 16-year-old mother, Kathleen Maddox. The young girl could not cope with her son and often left baby Charles with his grandmother or aunt.
Manson spent some of his early years with an aunt and uncle in West Virginia while his mother was in jail for auto theft, but the couple were fervently religious and very strict. After the freedom he had had with his mother, he found this regime difficult to abide, and was constantly in and out of boys’ homes and detention centres.
It would appear that Manson preferred life inside institutions. At one point, as he was due for parole, with his aunt ready and willing to care for him, a teenage Manson was found sodomising another boy with a razor blade held to his throat. He was then sent to the Federal Reformatory in St. Petersburg, Virginia, before being transferred to a more secure institution in Ohio.
Manson was paroled aged nineteen and soon married a waitress who bore him a son, Charles Jnr. He soon re-offended, however, and on his release from prison in California began a new career as a pimp.
His next crime was to con a young girl out of $700 before drug-raping her roommate. For this he served time in a penitentiary in Washington.
In 1967, Manson was released and went to San Francisco where he met up with a group of hippies. Being musical, he blended in well. The Manson Family, as they became known, travelled around by bus and on their travels, Charles met Dennis Wilson, of the Beach Boys, through mutual friend Gary Hinman. Through him he also met Terry Melcher, the son of Doris Day.
By this time, Manson had developed a racist philosophy, stating that there would be violent race riots beginning in the summer of 1969, in which black people would overthrow white people, performing hideous crimes in acts of retribution. He believed that he and his family, by hiding out in the desert at a place called the Spahn Ranch, could avoid this violence.
He told his followers, many of whom were impressionable girls from disturbed backgrounds, that they could reach paradise through a cave underneath Death Valley where they could stay until black people, due to their innate inferiority, relinquished their power.
By that time he estimated that the family would have grown to 144,000, and preached that when they all returned to earth, he - Jesus Christ - would lead them as the fifth angel (the other four angels being The Beatles).
In 1969, when the race riots had not begun, Manson claimed that the black people needed to be shown how to kill, as they were too stupid to work it out for themselves. He and his followers slaughtered five adults including Roman Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate who was eight months pregnant, at Terry Melcher’s Hollywood home, as well as another couple in Los Angeles, and Gary Hinman. The murders were horrifically gruesome, and around the crime scenes were messages, relating to Manson’s "philosophy", scrawled in blood.
Charles Manson and other members of the family were tried in 1970, and Manson was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. He was given the death penalty, but this was later commuted. He is currently being held in Corcoran Prison, California.