The infamous “Manson Family” were a collection of drifters and dropouts drawn to the magnetic, twisted personality of Charles Manson—to the point they committed nine grisly murders on his instructions. But Manson also had a real family—a mother, a grandmother, two wives, and at least three children. Crime writer Jeff Guinn sheds some light on Manson’s real family life in his biography, Manson. Here are eight things you may not have known about the infamous cult leader.
1. Manson’s mother, Kathleen Maddox, was just 15 when she gave birth to him. She may not have been the greatest mother, but she was probably not as wild as the press portrayed her. She had lousy jobs and a deadbeat husband, but she did try to help her son. He was Charlie Maddox until his mother married William Manson, and he took his stepfather’s name.
2. Manson lived for part of his childhood with his grandmother, and his aunt and uncle. But they may not have been such a great influence either. They reportedly sent him to school in a dress to toughen him up, after hearing he had cried in class.
3. Young Charlie was not popular with his cousins or his classmates. Early on, he developed a reputation as a liar and a cheat who would try to blame others if he was caught doing something wrong. He reportedly learned early that if he acted crazy, he might create enough of a distraction that he could escape punishment.
4. Manson was not stupid, but he was not the genius some of his followers (and some reporters) believed he was. His IQ was in the “high normal” range.
5. Manson married his first wife, Rosalie Willis, in 1955. Their son, Charles Manson, Jr., dropped the Manson name and took the name of his mother’s second husband. But his biological father’s crimes reportedly haunted him. He committed suicide in 1993.
6. Manson’s second son, Charles Luther Manson, was born to his second wife, Leona Stevens who worked as a prostitute under the name “Candy.” Manson’s second son has apparently managed to disassociate himself from his notorious father. His whereabouts today are unknown.
7. Manson’s third son, Valentine Michael Manson, was the first born to a Manson “family” member—Mary Brunner. But he grew up outside the cult and, like his brothers, managed to ditch the Manson name and escape into anonymity.
8. A fourth possible Manson son is the only one who actively sought to connect himself with Manson. Charles Roberts was adopted and says he only learned when he was 25 that Manson was his biological father. He says his mother (he does not reveal her name) fell into Manson’s orbit and became his favorite. Charles Roberts reached out to Manson in prison who acknowledged he could indeed be his father.
Featured photo: Getty Images; Additional photo: WikiTree