Unspeakable Times
1.3m readers

Inside Charles Manson's Messed Up Childhood

Updated June 24, 2019 1.3m views12 items

Charles Manson is one of the most well-known criminals in American history. Like fellow killer Ed Gein, Manson had a complicated relationship with his mother, who went to prison when Manson was only 5 years old. He never knew his biological father and 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 Manson Family." 

Psychologists believe tracing Manson’s development from child to adulthood offers insight into the mind of a man the media find synonymous with madness and death. Manson's turbulent upbringing may factor into how he convinced his “Family” to commit the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969. 

  • He Got His Female Classmates To Beat Up Boys He Didn't Like

    Jeff Guin - who wrote the 2013 biography Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson - connects events in Manson’s adolescence to the man Manson became. In first grade, Manson persuaded girls to beat up the boys he didn't like. When the principal questioned him, Manson offered the same defense he would later use after influencing his Family to commit the Tate-LaBianca murders:  

    It wasn't me; they were doing what they wanted.

  • His Uncle Made Him Wear A Dress To School As Punishment

    Biographer Jeff Guinn related a story about Manson's childhood. When Manson was 5 years old and living with his family in West Virginia, his uncle reportedly forced him to wear his cousin Jo Ann's dress to school as punishment for crying in front of his first-grade class. In the biography, Guinn shares his perspective

    It didn't matter what some teacher had done to make him cry; what was important was to do something drastic that would convince Charlie never to act like a sissy again.

  • He Committed His First Armed Robbery At Age 13

    After one of his escapes from Gibault School for Boys, 12-year-old Manson robbed a grocery store to get rent money. He committed his first armed robbery at age 13. A string of store robberies followed, during which he also managed to steal a bike. Authorities eventually caught Manson in the act and sent him to a juvenile detention center. Manson later escaped.

  • He Threatened His Cousin With A Sickle

    In an interview with biographer Jeff Guinn, Manson's cousin Jo Ann recalls an incident that took place while Manson was living with her and her parents. Allegedly, Manson found a sickle in the yard and took it to Jo Ann's room, blocking her way out. When she asked him to move, he said, "Make me." She pushed him out and latched the screen door, which infuriated Manson. He slashed the screen, and Jo Ann maintains he would have used the blade on her, too, given the opportunity.