Charles Manson was born in Ohio
, the son of an unwed teenage mother, Kathleen Maddox. He was probably the son of an otherwise unidentified Colonel Scott, but was given the surname of his stepfather, William Manson, instead. His mother was probably an alcoholic, and allegedly traded him for a pitcher of beer when he was a baby. At the age of five he was placed in the care of his uncle and aunt while his mother served a sentence in prison. Three years later he was collected by his mother, who raised him in a series of low-rent motel rooms until the age of thirteen, when she attempted to have him placed in foster care. This attempt failed and he was instead placed in the Gibault School for Boys, where he remained for ten months before fleeing the school and returning to his mother, who turned him away. Manson then turned to crime in order to provide for himself, committing a series of burglaries throughout the region before being caught and sent to a juvenile centre, from which he promptly escaped. This freedom was short-lived, and he was sent to Boys Town, from which he also escaped four days later. He was caught sometime later in the commission of another crime, and sent to the Indiana
Boys School. He finally escaped from there in 1951 along with three other boys, with whom he went on an interstate crime spree. They were captured sometime later, and Manson was sent to the National Training School for Boys where he was found to be intelligent, but illiterate, as well as antisocial. He was sent to a minimum security facility, and was nearing parole when he attacked and sexually assaulted another boy in the facility. This was followed by two subsequent transfers before he suddenly became a model student, applying himself to his education and ultimately being paroled in mid 1954. The following year he got married, and briefly obeyed the conditions of his parole, but by 1956 he had fallen firmly back into criminal ways, and was imprisoned until 1958. After his release he fell into pimping, and married again, this time to a prostitute. By 1961 he was back in prison for a series of violations and new crimes, and he remained there until 1967.
After being released from prison in 1967 he moved to San Francisco
, where he took up work as a panhandler. Around this time he encountered the first in what would be a large number of young women who were drawn in by his charm, Mary Brunner. At the end of the summer of 1967 he had eight or nine followers with whom he retrofitted a bus and roamed the countryside. In the late spring of 1968 they encountered Dennis Wilson, a member of the Beach Boys, with whom Manson ingratiated himself, living with him and having him pay for most of the Family's needs. Wilson also introduced Manson to several people involved in the entertainment industry including Rudi Altobelli, who owned the house in which Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski would live in 1969. In August of 1968, Manson moved his family to a disused movie ranch, called Spahn's Ranch, in California
. He payed the owner of the ranch for the accommodations via work done on the ranch by members of the Family, as well as the occasional sexual favours of female Family members. In late 1968 he began establishing alternate headquarters at two Death Valley ranches. Following the release of The Beatles' White Album
he became obsessed with the group. Around this time he also began actively preaching the idea of an uprising by African-Americans, which he claimed was predicted in the White Album
. He further claimed that the album directed that he and the Family would emerge as the leaders following the uprising. He termed this theory "Helter Skelter." In early 1969 he moved the Family to Los Angeles
, where he claimed they would be better able to monitor the supposed racial tensions that were boiling to the surface. The Helter Skelter theory was finalized around this point, with Manson intending to create an album with the family to trigger this uprising; he predicted a murder of whites by blacks would shatter white society, leaving the black populace triumphant. Then, Manson believed, the blacks would turn to the Family for leadership. In late March of 1969 he travelled to the home of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski, believing it to be the home of music producer Terry Melcher. After a tense and awkward confrontation with Tate, Altobelli and a second man, Manson left the property.
By the summer of 1969, Manson began suggesting that the family might have to take a more active hand in the beginning of Helter Skelter. One member of the Family, Charles "Tex" Watson, obtained money for the Family by defrauding a drug dealer. When the drug dealer threatened the members of the Family, Manson shot him, but failed to kill him. Manson believed the man to be dead, however, and became paranoid about possible reprisals from the Black Panthers, whom he believed his victim to be associated with. On July 25th 1969 he sent three Family members to the house of an acquaintance, Gary Hinman, from whom Manson hoped to extort some money. They held him for two days, during which Manson sliced the man with a sword, before allegedly ordered one of the family member's to murder Hinman. This done, one of the member's wrote on the wall in Hinman's blood, attempting to stage the scene so it appeared to be Black Panther-related. On August 6th the Family member who had murdered Hinman was arrested, causing Manson to believe that it was time for Helter Skelter. On August 8th he directed four Family members to Tate's house, ordering them to murder everyone they found inside in as gruesome a manner as possible. His orders were carried out, resulting in the deaths of five people and Tate's unborn baby. The next night Manson directed six Family members, four of whom had been present at the Tate murders, to commit another murder. On this occasion he accompanied them, and was involved in securing the victims. Both occupants of the house were killed under Manson's directions. Another attempted murder was foiled by a Family member, Linda Kasabian, who purposefully knocked on the wrong door. On or around August 26th he ordered and was present fot the murder of Donald "Shorty" Shea, who lived on the ranch with the Family but was not a member.
After the murders
Following the murders, Manson and the Family members returned to Spahn's Ranch. He and a majority of family members were arrested on the 16th of August for involvement in an auto theft ring, but soon released due to a problem with the warrant. Manson was again taken into custody soon after, this time under suspicion for his involvement in the murders. In June of 1970 he was officially charged with seven counts of murder and one of conspiracy. He initially requested to serve as his own attorney, and this was briefly granted before being revoked due to his behaviour. During the trial Manson carved an X into his forehead, later replacing it with a swastika. He was disruptive in court, at one point actually attempting to attack the judge. He was found guilty on January 25th 1971, and sentenced to death on April 19th of that year. Throughout the subsequent decades he remained in the public eye through a combination of the actions of Family members, especially Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, and interviews he himself gave to reporters. In 1984 he sustained serious burns after being doused in paint thinner and set alight be a fellow inmate who claimed that Manson had insulted and threatened him. Manson has been denied parole eleven times, and is due to be denied again in 2012. He is currently incarcerated at Corcoran State Prison in Kings County, California.
In Other Media
Manson has long been a subject of fascination in the media, and so has featured prominently in a number of documentaries, films, books and television shows.