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10 Tragic Stories From The Childhood Of Charles Manson

by Mark Oliver
fact checked by Jamie Frater

In August 1969, Charles Manson’s Family brutally murdered nine people as part of an insane plan to bring about a race war. The fame of his victims, the horrific way they were killed, and Manson’s own unique brand of madness have left him imprinted in history as one of the most horrible killers of all time.

No monster, though, is born from nothingness. Charles Manson was a child once, and that childhood was littered with tragic moments. No one would claim that these stories are sad enough to justify what he did, but they might shed light on how monsters are formed.

10 His Mother Named Him ‘No Name’

Charles Manson’s mother was a 16-year-old girl named Kathleen Maddox, and his father was a transient laborer named “Colonel,” whom he never met. Kathleen may have been a prostitute, although Manson denies that’s true. Regardless of how she made her money, Kathleen was a far cry from the world’s best mother.

When Manson was born, she didn’t even bother giving him a name. When the nurses handed her the paper, she wrote “No Name,” and to this day, his birth certificate is registered as “No Name Maddox.”

It wasn’t until Kathleen married William Manson that Charles got the full name he’s known by today. This didn’t mean that he earned a supporting father figure, though. William disappeared from his family before he was old enough to form memories.

9 His Mother Traded Him For A Pitcher Of Beer

According to Manson’s family, Kathleen traded Charles for a pitcher of beer shortly after he was born.

When he was still an infant, Kathleen took her son to a restaurant and had him resting on her lap when she sparked up a conversation with the waitress. The waitress was eager to become a mother herself, and thinking that baby Manson was cute, she joked that she’d buy him from Kathleen.

“A pitcher of beer and he’s yours,” was Kathleen’s reply. The waitress probably thought she was joking, but she brought Kathleen an extra pitcher anyway. What she didn’t expect was that as soon as Kathleen finished her beer, she sneaked out of the restaurant—and left Charles behind.

Manson only made his way back home because his uncle found out what had happened. He tracked down the waitress a few days later and got the boy back to his mother.

8 His Mother Was Arrested For Robbing Someone With A Ketchup Bottle

When Charles Manson was five years old, his mother was sent to jail. She and a friend had met a stranger named Frank Martin, who took them out for drinks. Kathleen decided that Martin had “too much money for one man” and called her brother, Luther, to help him rob him.

She talked Martin into driving her, her friend, and Luther to a hotel. When they made it out of town, Luther made Martin stop and get out of his car. Luther then held a ketchup bottle filled with salt to Martin’s back and claimed he had a gun. Martin saw through the lie, but Luther just beat him in the head with bottle and took his money anyway.

The group escaped with $27 and were arrested shortly after. Kathleen was sentenced to five years in jail, and Charles Manson was sent to live with his aunt.

7 He Didn’t Get Anything for Christmas, So He Burned His Friends’ Toys

The Maddox family wasn’t particularly rich, so it took a little creativity to make Christmas a magical holiday. Manson has recounted that one year, his grandmother got him nothing more than a hairbrush. “If you brush your hair with it,” she told Manson, “you will be able to fly like Superman.”

The young Manson believed her and went around brushing his hair and jumping as high as he could, which soon brought ridicule. To make things worse, his classmates had all been gifted a fortune in toys, which they showed off gleefully. Overcome by jealousy, Manson came to believe they were doing so to mock him.

Manson got his revenge with his first recorded act of violence. He gathered up every toy he could find that belonged to someone he knew, threw them all on a woodpile, and set them on fire.

6 He Calls Getting Hugged By His Mother His Only Happy Memory

Charles Manson Age 5

Photo via the Daily Mail

After three years in prison, Kathleen was released on parole. In 1942, she came home and gathered up her son. She rented out the cheapest hotels she could find and brought her then-seven-year-old boy along to live with her.

His mother had dismissed him and tried to sell him, but when she came home, she did something that was rare in Manson’s life: She hugged him. It seems like a small gesture, but to the love-starved boy, it meant a lot, so much so that, later in his life, Manson would look back on that hug and call it his “sole happy childhood memory.”

The joy didn’t last. By the time Manson was 13, his mother had started looking into geting him into foster care.

5 His Mother Sent Him Away And Wouldn’t Take Him Back

Kathleen knew she wasn’t fit to take care of a child, so she tried to get Charles into the care of the state. Foster care wasn’t available, but with some effort, she managed to get him into a reform school called The Gibault School for Boys.

Manson wasn’t happy. He made few friends and found the boys there untrustworthy. His only happy moments were the rare and sporadic visits by his mother, during which she would promise to take him home when she had enough money.

After ten months, Manson couldn’t take it anymore. He broke out of the school and made it all the way back to his mother’s home, knocking on the door and hoping to earn one more loving embrace. Instead, though, his mother told him she couldn’t handle him, closed the door on him, and sent him back. She never picked him up, and Manson never lived with her again.

4 He Started Robbing Stores When He Was 13

Charles Manson Age 13

Photo via the Daily Mail

Manson couldn’t handle living in Gibault, and he planned to get out. At age 13, he began a string of robberies targeting every store in the area, trying to save up enough money to rent a room of his own.

He was caught while stealing a bicycle and sent to a juvenile detention center, but he managed to break out within 24 hours and went right on robbing people. With the help of a classmate, he made his way through the city committing armed robberies before he was finally caught breaking into a grocery store.

Manson was arrested and earned his first criminal charge—but he got out of Gibault for good.

3 He Was Sexually Assaulted At A Boys’ School

After being arrested, Manson was sent to live at the Indiana Boys’ School. He hated being there so much that he broke out twice, only to be returned each time. Shortly after his escapes, the reason he wanted to get out became clear.

Manson publicly accused the school of sexual assault, claiming that he had been repeatedly and consistently beaten and raped over the three years that he spent there. His accusations have never been proven, but they definitely attracted attention.

A priest named Father Powers intervened and had Manson sent to better school called Father Flanagan’s Boys Town. This was meant to be Manson’s big chance, and papers reported on it with the headline “Dream Comes True for Lad.”

Manson, however, was already psychologically scarred and violent, and his behavior didn’t change. His wave of crimes continued, and he was soon kicked out of the school and sent back to institutions.

2 He Was Illiterate

Charles Manson Teenager

When he was 16, Manson was psychologically tested while in prison. The results were troubling. Although he had an IQ of 109, he could barely read or write a single word. He had spent four years of his life in boys’ schools, and he’d barely learned a thing.

The psychiatrist who diagnosed Manson blamed many if his problems on his strained relationship with his mother. He noted the amount of “rejection, instability and psychic trauma” that Manson had experienced and said that he was constantly struggling to impress the other boys because of his “lack of parental love.”

1 He Asked To Stay In Prison

Charles Manson Adult

Photo via ABC

Charles Manson’s childhood was sad, but that doesn’t mean he was a good person. Even as a boy, he committed strings of heinous crimes, including raping a boy with a razor held to his throat. By adulthood, he had already spent half his life in prison, and he was a clear danger and threat to society.

Even Charles Manson felt so. When his sentence in Terminal Prison ended in 1967, Manson had made peace with being a prisoner—and he didn’t want to leave. He begged to stay in jail, saying that he was incapable of living outside of prison walls.

His request was denied, and Manson was released despite his own protests. A short while afterward, he started his infamous Manson Family cult. Less than two years later, he was responsible for one of the most infamous mass murders in US history.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion's StarWipe and His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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