The moments that shaped a monster: How Charles Manson became Charles Manson.

In 1969, humans landed on the moon and thousands of free spirits attended a music festival in Woodstock, New York.

Across the country in Los Angeles, a crazed cult went on a two-day killing spree, murdering nine innocent victims.

Their leader was the now infamous Charles Manson.

But Manson’s story starts long before 1969 and the Manson Family murders.

A new podcast, Young Charlie, is exploring how a boy from Cincinnati, Ohio become a cold-blooded killer. The six-part series, which is Wondery’s second season of Hollywood and Crime, will delve deep into Manson’s childhood and the moments which shaped a monster.

Manson's story starts long before 1969 and The Family murders. Image via Getty.

On November 12, 1934, Kathleen Maddox, a 16-year-old runaway, gave birth to her son in Cincinnati General Hospital, surrounded only by disapproving nurses.

Maddox was from a family of religious fanatics and the father of her child was a man she knew only as 'Colonel’. The father wasn't at the birth and Kathleen made the decision not to list him on the newborn’s birth certificate.

She also decided to list 'No Name' as the baby's name on the hospital documentation. To this day, Charles Manson's birth certificate reads 'No Name Maddox'.

The baby who would later become known as Charles didn't have an easy start to his life.

When he was just a small boy, Kathleen sold him to a waitress at a restaurant for a pitcher of beer.

When Kathleen's aunt and uncle found out what she had done, they went and found Charles and returned him to his mother.

But their reunion wouldn't last long. When he was just four years old, Kathleen met a man named Frank Martin. Kathleen decided that Frank had "too much money for one man," and orchestrated a robbery with her brother, Luther.

The crime would land her in jail for three years.

With his mother behind bars, young Charlie went to live with his aunt Glenna and uncle Bill, who were very strict on him.


On his first day of school, a teacher taunted him for being the son of a criminal. When Charles went home in tears his uncle Bill told him that crying was only for girls. He then made Charles return to school the next day, dressed up as a girl for punishment.

This event would have a profound impact on his development.

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Even as a young boy, people thought there was something not quite right about Charles Manson. He was described as disagreeable, dishonest, and out-of-control. His cousin Jo Ann said he had "crazy eyes" and an uncontrollable rage bubbling just below the surface.

When Kathleen was released from prison, she embraced her son for the first time. To this day, Charles says that moment was his "sole happy childhood memory".

As he grew older, Charles started to become violent towards the boys and girls around him.

His mother decided to wipe her hands of him and she sent him to the Gibault School for Boys, a Catholic school for juvenile delinquents.

After 10 months at the school, Charles ran away back to his mother. But he was not welcomed back with open arms.

Charles would never again live under the same roof as his mother.

At the school, he joined a group of thugs who would drive stolen cars across state lines. He never learned how to read or write. He would runaway again, this time to Indianapolis where he would break into shops and steal money to survive.


He was soon arrested and sent to Indiana Boys School.

At that school, Charles repeatedly escaped only to be brought back by authorities. What they didn't realise at the time was that he was running away to escape the violent rapes he says he was repeatedly subjected to.

charles manson podcast
Manson at the time of his arrest. Image via Getty.

No one ever came to visit him at the school.


Once he left school, Charles was in and out of prison for the next decade. When he was finally released at age 33 in 1967, he begged the authorities not to let him leave. Prison was the only real home he knew.

They refused, and so out he went into the world, with just $35 in his pocket.

Over the next two years he formed the community which would be forever known as the Manson Family Cult.

On August 8, 1969, the group set out on a killing spree across LA as part of a botched attempt to start a race war. They entered the home of actress Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski, and killed Tate and her unborn child. Tate was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time of her murder.

Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were also killed during the murderous spree.

While Charles Manson was not directly involved in the killings, he was convicted of nine counts of first degree murder. He was sentenced to death, but his sentence was reduced to life without parole when the state of California abolished the death penalty.

He remains in prison to this day.

You can listen to the first episode of Young Charlie here.

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