Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Manson and the Manson Family

Institutional Politician

In 1951, Charlie and two other boys escaped and headed for California living entirely by burglary and auto theft. They got as far as Utah when they were caught. This time he was sent to the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C. While he was there they gave him various tests which established that his IQ was 109, that he was illiterate and that his aptitude for everything but music was average.

His keepers said this about him: "Manson has become somewhat of an 'institution politician.' He does just enough work to get by on. Restless and moody most of the time, the boy would rather spend his class time entertaining his friend. It appears that this boy is a very emotionally upset youth who is definitely in need of some psychiatric orientation."

That same year, Dr. Block, a psychiatrist examined him, noting "the marked degree of rejection, instability and psychic trauma." His illegitimacy, small physical size and lack of parental love caused him to constantly strive for status with the other boys. "This could add up to a fairly slick institutionalized youth," Dr. Block concluded, "but one is left with the feeling that behind all this lies an extremely sensitive boy who has not yet given up in terms of securing some kind of love and affection from the world."

For a short time, things started to look up for Charlie. His aunt had agreed to take care of him and his chances for parole were good. Shortly before the parole hearing, Charlie held a razor blade against another boy's throat while he sodomized him. Charlie was transferred to the Federal Reformatory at Petersburg, Virginia, where he was characterized as definitely homosexual, dangerous and safe only under supervision.

In September of 1952, he was sent to a more secure institution in Chillicothe, Ohio. His keepers there saw him as "criminally sophisticated despite his age and grossly unsuited for retention in an open reformatory type institution." For some reason, Manson suddenly changed his attitude. He was more cooperative and genuinely improved educationally so that he was able to read and understand basic math. This improvement lead to his parole in May of 1954 at the age of nineteen.

At first he lived with his aunt and uncle, then his mother for a short period of time. Early in 1955, he married a waitress who bore him a son, Charles Manson, Jr. Charlie worked at various low-paying jobs and augmented his income by stealing cars. One of them he took to Los Angeles with his then pregnant wife. Inevitably, he was caught again and eventually found his way to the prison at Terminal Island in San Pedro, California.  

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