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From an innocent looking altar boy to one of America’s worst nightmares. Charles Manson, was born on November 12th 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His mother got pregnant at the age of sixteen and she was not the most influential person. Manson was an unwanted child but Kathleen, his mother, still kept him. If Charles Manson had never been created, there would be no “Manson Family”, bad childhood that lead to his mental state, and the death of Sharon Tate, along with her unborn baby and numerous victims. Signs of Manson being a serial killer were there from an early age. He committing petty crimes that soon enough lead to federal crimes. The start of his in and out trips in jail, started in the year of 1956. In 1967, when he was released from prison, he went to San Francisco. Monster theory one helps describe a good part of his social creation because he really had to be alive during a time where people were experiencing with shrooms and LSD. Times were changing and Manson saw this as the perfect opportunity to find followers that were seeking connection and understanding. As a result, he got what he wanted and created a cult with many young and loyal followers. 

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Manson’s childhood was not like any ordinary child’s because from the start, Manson went from stealing food to cars and taking them across state lines. In “Thesis Number Seven: The Monster Stands at the Threshold” from Cohen’s Seven Monster Theory, he mentions how monsters can be created from a bad childhood. In the text he says, “They ask us why we have created them” (Cohen 20) and “Monsters are our children.” (Cohen 20). Kathleen Maddox was sent to jail for armed robbery in Charlie’s childhood years. While she was away, he lived with his uncle and aunt due to his absent father. After it being too much for them, his uncle, aunt and mother agreed to send him to the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was a school for boys considered to be juvenile delinquents and run by Catholic priests. It was a strict school where punishment for even the tiniest infraction included beatings by either a wooden paddle or a leather strap. According to a community newspaper “The Weekly View”, “It’s been speculated that it was at the Indiana School for Boys that five foot Charles Manson was beaten and raped for over three years by bigger and stronger kids. Sometimes these actions were encouraged by staff members. For the next five years, Manson would escape from the reform. During these detentions, Charlie was “discovered” by local priest, Reverend George Powers and he had some things to say about young Charles Manson like “This particular boy seemed very lonesome, just craving attention and affection. He looked like an innocent altar boy, and he was so ashamed of mother.” For a first impression of young Charlie and what he became to be, it’s a real shocker to read or listen to what someone has to say about Manson. “He won everybody over,” said the priest. “The juvenile court judge was completely taken with his personality. He had the ability beyond his years to present himself; he was a beautiful kid for his age.”  

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Manson’s childhood had a large impact on his mental state. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, antisocial behavior and paranoid delusional disorder. According to “Interpretation of Schizophrenia” written by S. Arieti, the definition of this disorder is “a specific reaction to severe anxiety, having its origin in childhood, and experienced again and reinforced in a later period of life, and it generally involves a motivational use of an advanced impairment of the abstract attitude. The retreat from reason, from emotion, and from society is detailed.” (Arieti 5). In the book Rethinking Our War on Drugs: Candid Talk about Controversial Issues written by Gary L. Fisher and William L. White, their research on the anti behavior came to be “Antisocial personality disorder is considered one of the most difficult of all personality disorders to treat. Individuals rarely seek treatment on their own and may only indicate therapy when mandated by a court.” (Fisher and White 138).  He manipulated his followers so well that they would do anything he said, even kill people. Even Charlie’s mother said “Even though she’d finally changed her ways, Charlie continued to lie, steal, and skip class. Every so often he’d lose control and scream, and then even though he was just a kid, barely five feet tall and maybe sixty or sixty-five pounds, he still scared Kathleen with his crazy eyes.” In chapter three of the book Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn, the author mentions that Kathleen felt guilty and knew that her terrible behavior had a negative impact on her son Charlie. She changed her ways to be a better role model but it was already too late and Manson was too deep in. Charles Manson loved being the center of attention, even one of his cousins said. The key to Manson’s control, as with all cult leaders, was to ensure that followers not only saw him as an all-powerful, messiah-like figure, but that followers see themselves as members of a superior elite that has the answer to the world’s problems. Even if that meant to kill the rest of the world along the way. Manson persuaded his followers to commit murders to trigger “Helter Skelter.” He interpreted Helter Skelter in his own way which signified an apocalyptic race war he believed would arise between blacks and whites and in which would elevate him to world leadership. He espoused a rambling, incoherent apocalyptic worldview that was nevertheless completing and captivating for his followers. He also provided a family and basic needs.

His followers bizarre behavior had been born out of Manson’s evil persuasiveness and fed by their constant drug use. One of his followers Susan Atkins had dropped acid at least 300 times and also consumed other drugs that were in sight. According to an interview about the description of Sharon Tate’s murder in 1969, nineteen year old Susan Atkins mentioned that her and tenty-four year old Tex Watson were very wired off cocaine or meth, she couldn’t remember which of the two they were. The other followers were Tex Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Linda Kasabian. Four of them drove to Tate and Polaski’s home on August 8th, 1969 and killed everyone in the house including Sharon Tate who was eight months pregnant. The very next day, the Manson family moved onto another home in Los Feliz, claiming the lives of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, the owners of a chain of grocery stores in Los Angeles. Manson tied up the couple and Manson’s “family” took care of the rest, stabbing them to death and writing “PIGS” or “DEATH TO PIGS” in blood on the wall.

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Among Cohen’s Monster Culture (Seven Theses), in thesis number four which is ‘The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference’ helps explain how not only from what we classify what monsters look like but also what their actions and choices are what separates them from “us”. Being abused at a young age and treated horribly, later on benefited him because the young women felt sympathy towards him and had a connection.The causes of Charles Manson actions were not hidden and were seen from the start. The main causes were his mental illnesses, his cult and his childhood. It was perfect for Manson to get people to become part of his “Manson Family” in which would be known as his cult. Those causes matter because they made a great impact on Manson’s future. The causes of his childhood resulted in people caring and being loyal to him.  Manson truly got under the skin of America meanwhile the hippie movement was going on and also how there were lots of people trying to seek deep understanding and a connection. However, we never really know where the line ends but when we cross the line, we are considered monsters.

 Works Cited

Arieti, Silvano. “Interpretation of schizophrenia.” (1955).

This source gave me a definition of schizophrenia that was more in depth. I learned how retreat from reason, from emotion, and from society is detailed. It’s interesting to know how they apply to mostly serial killers and I trust this source because it is a scholarly source.

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture: Seven Theses.” From Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 3-25.

The Seven Theses was very helpful and a better understanding of how monsters were created. Lots of people have different interpretations of monsters and this source gives you many ways to look at the interpretations of monsters. I trust this source because it was discussed as a class and introduced by Professor Ramos.

Fisher, Gary L., and William L. White. Rethinking our war on drugs: Candid talk about controversial issues. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.

This book not only mentions drugs but also American politics and cultural history. There has been a lot of controversy on drugs and this book helps elaborate on that. I trust this source because it is well organized and cited by a lot of people. 

Guinn, Jeff. Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson. Simon and Schuster, 2014.

This book is very detailed and I recommend it to anyone who wants to read and get a better understanding about Charles Manson’s life. I can tell this book wasn’t rushed and everything was thought out. I trust this source because it has been cited a lot.

Linda and Rod Dubrow-Marshall. “How Cult Leader Charles Manson Was Able to Manipulate His ‘Family’ to Commit Murder.” The Conversation, 16 Aug. 2019

In this journal, all about Manson is organized and very well understood. I read a lot about him but it was confusing to put the pieces together but when the writers Linda and Rod Dubrow-Marshall came together, everything made sense. I would read about Helter Skelter and knew it was a song but it didn’t really make sense. I trust this source because it made everything clear.