You never hear about unsuccessful cult leaders. Struggling cult leaders living paycheck-to-paycheck. Guys with two or three followers who keep arguing with him and keep eating his lunch–clearly marked LEADER–out of the cult fridge.
“Number 47, did you eat my egg salad, again?”
“Why do you keep calling me Number 47? There are three of us, Stan.”
“I demand you call me God.”
“Absolutely not. Listen, me and Phil took a vote and–”
“There’s no voting! There’s no voting in cults!”
And so on.
Charles Manson was a successful cult leader, Younger Enthusiasts. You may not know about him other than his name and his swastikated forehead, but that’s okay. There are more important things to learn. The Krebs cycle, the Battle of Agincourt, the slope intercept formula: these are subjects fit for education. You learn about politicians and generals in school, not cult leaders.
He belonged to the Post-War Era, which we are no longer in even though no one’s noticed, and he belongs to the past, when you could get away with almost anything right up until the moment you took your dick out on the Main Drag. It was easier to go off the grid, as the grid had barely been invented and was sparse in most places. Forget about the internet, a lot of places didn’t have phones. No cameras on the streets. Paid cash for your groceries, or guns, and the register into which your money was deposited was not hooked up to any database at all, not one. You could get away with anything right up until the moment you stabbed a pregnant movie star to death.
Half his life in prison for stealing cars and stabbing men and pimping women. California lets him out in ’67, and he’s been reading. Dianetics and occult bullshit and the Bible: all the nutrients the growing cult leader needs. Insinuates himself into the Berkeley scene and begins amassing followers, generally women. They buy a bus and take a road trip, because no Baby Boomer story is complete without a road trip on a bus. The Manson Family (they’ve got a name by now) settle in Los Angeles and Charlie tries to get a record deal. (His songs, which are terrible, would go on to be covered by all sorts of artists trying to appear edgy.) Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys becomes involved.
(Dennis was the Donald, Jr., of the Wilson boys. Brian had better judgement, and that man shits in a sandbox. I know he says it’s for his piano, but I know he shits in there like a giant kitty.)
They move to Spahn Ranch. There, they take too much acid and listen to Charlie rant about the upcoming race war, which he had been informed of by the Beatles’ White Album. (Younger Enthusiasts, I swear I am not making this up.) To hasten this race war, several members of the Family brutally murder a house full of people, including the previously mentioned pregnant movie star. The next night, they kill another couple. It’s not a great plan, from a practical standpoint.
Cops got ’em a few months later. These were amateurs on acid; they must have left evidence everywhere. But this was the past, and so there was no method to read the evidence. So it took a few months. All the fancy folks in Los Angeles bought guns.
That was it for Charlie. Back to jail, where he always belonged, to be feted by reporters for the noble act of killing someone who mattered. Green River Killer only killed whores, so no one cares about him, but Charlie was a social-climber and so he had his own section in Hot Topic.
And now he’s dead.