killers Inside Charles Manson's Messed Up Childhood  

Cristina Sanza
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Charles Manson is one of the most well-known criminals in American history, and those fascinated by his crimes often wonder what Charles Manson was like as a kid. It's no surprise that Manson's life was troubled from the very beginning. Like fellow killer Ed Gein, Manson had a complicated relationship with his mother, who went to prison when little Charlie was only five years old. He never knew his biological father. He bounced between his aunt and uncle's home, reform schools, motels, and prison for most of his life until he started the cult known as The Family. 

Charles Manson's childhood partly explains how he became the master manipulator who convinced his Family to commit the horrific Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969. Tracing Charles Manson as a kid to Charles Manson as an adult gives some small insight into the mind of a man synonymous with madness and death. He didn't have it easy as a child, but as his cousin said, there was always something wrong with Charlie.

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His 16-Year-Old Mother Didn't Give Him A Name


The baby who would become Charles Manson was born on November 12, 1934, in Cincinnati, OH, to 16-year-old Kathleen Maddox. His father was likely a transient worker named Colonel Scott, who took off shortly after finding out Kathleen was pregnant.

When he was born, his mother neglected to give him a real name and simply listed him as "No Name Maddox" on his birth certificate. She later named her son after her father, Charles Milles, and had a short-lived marriage to William Manson, who gave the boy his last name.

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His Mother Traded Him For A Pitcher Of Beer


According to Manson, his mother once traded him for a pitcher of beer. Kathleen brought her young son to a café and was chatting with the waitress, who wanted a child of her own and thought Manson was cute. "A pitcher of beer and he's yours," she said. The waitress assumed she was joking, but gave her an extra pitcher anyway. True to her word, Kathleen finished her drinks and left her child behind. Days later, Manson's uncle tracked him down and brought him home.

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He Set His Neighbors' Christmas Presents On Fire


Manson's family never had much money and he didn't get many Christmas presents, though he recalls his neighbors having toys of all kind.

One year, the only present Manson received was a Superman hair brush. His grandmother told him it would make him fly, so he kept brushing his hair and trying to "take off." When the neighborhood kids made fun of him, he gathered up their toys and set them on fire.

There's an eerie parallel here to Manson's later life. While the Family was living on Spahn Ranch, Manson forced his followers to abandon their possessions, like books, watches, and even eyeglasses.

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He Was Sexually Abused At School


After three escapes from Gibault School for Boys, the teenaged Manson was sent to the Indiana School for Boys in Plainfield, IN. He alleges that he was beaten by staff members and sexually assaulted by older boys during his time there.

"I know the school is still in operation, but I hope all the warped, sadistic bastards I met there are now dead," Manson wrote in his book.