Charles Manson, leader of the notorious “Manson Family” cult, died of natural causes on Sunday after spending five decades in prison for his spate of murders in 1969.
The wild-eyed failed musician made international headlines after the gruesome killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others conducted by Manson and his followers, which later became known as the Tate-LaBianca murders. His manipulative control over members, sexual abuse of “the girls” and predatory recruitment tactics were triggered by an obsession to induce his Helter Skelter racial war.
Horrifying details emerging from the 1971 Los Angeles trial originally ended with a death penalty sentence for Manson, but was later reversed to life in prison after California’s brief abolishment of capital punishment.
Host Larry Mantle spoke with former member of the Manson family, Dianne Lake. She was the youngest member of the family to join at age 14. She did not participate in any of the murders but witnessed their aftermath, and wrote a memoir about her experience.
ON FIRST HEARING ABOUT THE DEATH OF CHARLES MANSON
“It brings relief and I think it brings — it brings closure. I hope it brings closure. I hope that this will help deescalate his fame or his notoriety. There’s a lot of people out there I think that want to be, or wanted to be, members for some reason. It was really a very horrific end to the ‘60s. What started out as good ended badly.”
ON BECOMING A MEMBER OF THE “FAMILY”
“I already had been emancipated by my parents with this little note … and when I came back I found that my parents were living in a commune, and the leader of the commune [Hog Farm] Hugh Romney was not happy with having a sexually active 14-year-old in his midst, or in this commune, because he told me, ‘You’re jailbait and we’re uncomfortable having you here.’ And so they wanted me to sleep in the attic. So then when I met Charlie he totally made me feel loved and adored and accepted. He and the girls.”
ON TESTIFYING AGAINST MANSON AT THE MURDER TRIAL
“It was hard … I was afraid that when I stepped into Charles’ presence that I was gonna start hearing his voice, and that he was gonna have some mind control over me, or I would remember the good times and block out the bad times and wouldn’t be able to testify. But I was able to testify and it really was a very powerful moment.”
This post has been edited for clarity. To hear more about Dianne’s experience, along with comments from historian and Manson author Jeffrey Melnick, click the blue play button above.
Dianne Lake, the youngest member of the Manson family who joined at age 14; she recently came out with the memoir, “Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness that Ended the Sixties” (HarperCollins, 2017)
Jeffrey Melnick, professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston; author of “Creepy Crawling: Charles Manson and the Many Lives of America's Most Infamous Family” (Arcade Publishing, 2018)