Charles Manson is known as one of the most notorious murderers in American history, and yet he did not personally kill anyone - that was the task of the Manson Family members. Manson, a master manipulator, influenced a substantial group of followers to do his bidding in the late 1960s. Mason's followers would do anything for their leader, including breaking and entering into Los Angeles homes and committing atrocious, violent murders.
In order to become one of Manson's select acolytes, members had to follow the Manson Family rules. The rules, which range from giving up books entirely to mandatory sex with other Family members, were assumed to be a test on Manson's part to see how far his followers would go to prove their loyalty to him. Those who were able to pass the test of rigorous rules were given the "privilege" of murdering actress Sharon Tate and four others on August 9, 1969.
You can't think clearly if you're high on hallucinogenics 24/7. Manson was aware of this, so he kept Family members loaded on LSD and other hallucinogens. The Family's personal messiah doled out hits to his followers daily, calling it a sacrament.
The LSD further convinced Manson's followers that he truly was a god. Brenda McCann, whose real name is Nancy Pittman, was part of the Manson Family. In 1971, she testified in court that Manson had mystical powers: he breathed life into a dead bird, communicated with animals, and could read other Family member's minds.
Some family members came into the Family with their kids, and several were born into the group during their time together. Member of the Family author Dianne Lake revealed that everyone was involved in child-rearing, even if they weren't the children's biological parents.
That may not sound that weird - and at the time among hardcore hippies, it wasn't - but Family members weren't your average hippies. So much so, that when Sandra Good was incarcerated in 1969 for credit card theft, family members took turns nursing from her, so when she was released she could continue breastfeeding.
Lake said, "The baby had been taken away, and in our way of thinking, this was an affront to all of us, just another way for the pigs to keep us down. We helped Sandy by taking turns nursing at her breasts. It didn't seem unnatural to partake of her baby's food because we were helping her maintain nourishment for one of our own."
According to former LA District Attorney and Helter Skelter author Vincent Bugliosi, sex played a big part in controlling the messed-up teens who made up the Family. The females were always coerced into sex, but before Manson had gotten to them, he'd send a younger, more attractive male, 19-year-old Paul Watkins, to rope them in. Once Manson had bedded all the girls himself, orgies were a regular part of life at Spahn Movie Ranch. Manson was in the director's seat, positioning people exactly where he wanted them.
Bugliosi said, "Charlie might dance around, everyone else following, like a train. As he’d take off his clothes, all the rest would take off their clothes. Then, when everyone was naked, they’d lie on the floor, and they’d play the game of taking 12 deep breaths and releasing them and close eyes and then rub against each other until eventually, all were touching.”
Anything went at the orgies, and if any member was reluctant to do something, Manson would become violent. On July 28, 1970, Linda Kasabian, a Family member, explained in court, “One particular girl, I don’t remember her name, was fairly young, maybe 16. She was shy and withdrawn. And she was lying in the middle of the floor... Charlie took her clothes off and started making love to her. She resisted and finally bit him on the shoulder and he hit her in the face."
Another form of control in the Family was physical abuse which Manson doled out routinely, especially to the women. As a master manipulator, Manson would quickly comfort the stricken person, tightening his grasp on their psyches.
One surefire way to get a beating from Manson was to appear deep in thought - thinking, in his estimation, could lead to freedom from the easily controlled and manipulated Family member. By July 1969, as Manson unraveled and paranoia set in, the beatings became more severe.