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10 Facts About Charles Manson’s Imprisonment That Will Disgust You

by Adam R. Ramos
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Infamous convicted murderer Charles Manson has spent nearly five decades imprisoned since his death sentence in 1971 was commuted to life. Suffice it to say that his peculiar behavior behind bars is far from that of a model prisoner. The following 10 facts take a glimpse into the life of a caged madman as well as the bizarre fan base his lunacy attracts.

10 A Disturbing Fan Base


Photo credit: The Daily Beast

Despite the fact that Manson undoubtedly has had a lot of “alone” time—over four decades locked away in protective custody in a California state prison—he receives plenty of fan mail to keep him occupied as well as continuous meet-and-greet requests. In fact, Manson has received more mail than any other prisoner in the US, begging the question: What the hell is wrong with his fan base?

It is puzzling to understand the sick fixation that some people have with serial killers and even more troubling to know that such minds walk the streets. Sadly, it’s more prevalent than one may think.

Case in point: Manson receives over 60,000 letters from fans annually. There is even a website celebrating the life of Manson. It includes his mailing address for those who wish to write him as well as detailed instructions on how to transfer money to the murderer via

9 ‘Not Mentally Ill’


Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

It comes as no surprise that Manson is repeatedly denied parole, with the board concluding that he “continues to pose an unreasonable danger to others and may still bring harm to anyone he would come in contact with.” Despite the analysis, Manson’s attorney, DeJon R. Lewis, has a differing opinion, believing that Manson doesn’t need incarceration. Instead, Lewis thinks that Manson should be moved to a mental hospital.

It’s uncertain what credentials Lewis has to form such an opinion. But Manson did spend nine years in a psychiatric hospital, the California Medical Facility at Vacaville, where he was declared not mentally ill. Thus, he was subsequently transferred to San Quentin Prison.

Regardless of one’s view regarding Manson’s mental state, the prison medical center where he spent nearly a decade has continuously come under scrutiny for providing inadequate care despite 10 years of oversight to raise the quality of care. In fact, the facility failed on 50 percent of “14 key benchmarks” in 2016.

8 And Away We Go . . . 


In 1980, Charles Manson took a job in the penitentiary’s chapel, where he would once again become a nuisance to the prison staff. One evening, a guard discovered the chapel doors tied shut from the inside with electric cord. Thus, he ordered that the doors be opened.

To no one’s surprise, he found the ever-so-charming Manson as well as other inmates plotting a delusional scheme straight out of Hollywood. They intended to escape using a hot air balloon to fly over the prison walls to greener pastures.

About 30 meters (100 ft) of nylon rope and a catalog on hot air balloons were found in the chapel’s attic. A later search of Manson’s cell turned up a prison-fashioned blade made from a piece of scrap metal.

Manson and his stooges were placed in “special custody” pending the investigation.

7 Arts And Crafts

While in prison, Manson has made it a point to “keep the fear up” through his bizarre behavior, instilling a permanent sense of unease not only in prison staff but inmates as well. His lunacy doesn’t even cease for a momentary respite while focusing his attention on the arts. Case in point: On one occasion, Manson made a voodoo doll resembling a guard whom he despised. Then Manson recited evil chants while stabbing the doll.

When his attention is not focused on playing the bongos and pricking dolls with pins, Manson expresses himself through his artwork of spiders and scorpions woven from shreds of linen. It’s safe to assume that his notable works of art will not be displayed at the Louvre anytime soon, especially since they are continuously confiscated by guards in an attempt to prevent his art from being sold as murder memorabilia.

6 Contraband


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Craig Hammond (aka “Gray Wolf”), a 63-year-old Manson follower who moved to California to be near the man he believes possesses “deep insight into environmental issues,” was arrested in 2013 for contraband. Specifically, Hammond was attempting to smuggle a wristwatch cell phone prior to a scheduled meeting with his idol. Such an offense comes as nothing new for prison staff because Manson has already been caught with cell phones on several occasions.

In 2010, the notorious cult leader was caught hiding an LG flip phone under his mattress. He had used the phone several times, making calls and even sending text messages to people in New Jersey, California, Florida, and British Columbia. Manson’s punishment was counseling, a reprimand, and 30 days added to his sentence.

5 Music And Hacksaws


In 1982, Manson was permitted to work among other inmates, a privilege that had been denied him since 1971. But his newfound sense of freedom ended in 1985 when it was discovered that Manson had smuggled musical tapes out of the Vacaville mental facility. These tapes contained his own recorded music which he wanted his acquaintances to market and distribute to the world.

The final straw came a few days later when guards transferring Manson to San Quentin discovered a metal hacksaw blade in his shoe. According to Manson, he wanted to be caught so that he could be placed in a segregated unit to ensure his safety from other inmates.

In retrospect, it’s quite a hypocritical and pointless endeavor coming from a man who boasted about his immortality and the fearless persona he so blatantly attempted to epitomize.

4 Up In Flames


In September 1984, Manson suffered burns over 18 percent of his body after being doused with paint thinner and set on fire by a fellow inmate while working in the psychiatric prison’s hobby shop.

His assailant, Jan Holmstrom—who was classified as a mentally disordered offender—was serving time for murdering his father with a shotgun in the family’s driveway. The improvised bonfire was instigated after Manson chided Holmstrom for reciting Hare Krishna chants, not to mention the fact that God had “told [Holmstrom] to kill Manson.”

Whether or not Holmstrom has the ability to communicate with a higher being, one thing is certain: Manson was left with second- and third-degree burns over his face, hands, and scalp.

3 Prison Narcotics


Even while incarcerated, Manson continues to find ways to break the law. In June 1997, he was found guilty of trafficking drugs in prison after an internal investigation was conducted by Corcoran State Prison officials. Prior to this, Manson had tested positive for drugs on at least two separate occasions.

He was immediately ordered into administrative isolation and had his visitation and commissary privileges restricted. In addition, his dayroom privileges were limited to three hours twice a week as opposed to every day. Although it’s not clear which drugs were involved in the 1997 incident, guards had found marijuana and LSD while searching Manson’s cell at the California Medical Facility in 1982.

2 The Price Of Life


Photo credit: CBS News

After nearly five decades behind bars, Manson has recently been reported as sick and dying. Despite his appalling fan base, the real tears may actually be shed by California taxpayers whose tab for his imprisonment has already exceeded $2 million. That financial figure is conservative given that the total expense incurred by the state may never be accurately tallied.

According to a study conducted in 2012 by Vera Institute of Justice, the annual cost to maintain a prisoner is $42,000. However, a prisoner on death row can cost substantially more depending on the particular circumstances.

From a financial standpoint, the statistics beg the question of whether it’s more expensive to imprison a criminal or inflict the death penalty on him. Death row inmates clearly have nothing to lose by committing further offenses and cost an average of $90,000 more per year than the standard inmate.

1 Love Is Blind


Photo credit: New York Post

In 2015, Charles Manson’s bizarre and unexpected engagement to 27-year-old Afton Elaine Burton (aka “Star”) came to a sudden end when their pending marriage license expired. What was once perceived as being a blissful love story for us hopeless romantics turned out to be a complete sham rooted in greed.

It turned out that Burton, who is 53 years Manson’s junior, sought to marry the madman to gain rightful ownership of his corpse following his death. Once in possession of the wrinkly and disheveled shell of a psycho, Burton planned on publicly displaying Manson’s body for financial gain.

Unfortunately for Burton, her get-rich-quick scheme never came to fruition. According to Manson, if the couple had actually married, such an idea was idiotic to begin with considering his belief that he is immortal.

Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.

fact checked by Jamie Frater