What Charles Manson really means when he talks about family is an open question. His own was sorely lacking on several fronts, but many another has had a bad start in life without landing on Death Row.
Here he is at the age of five, on the day before he started school. My impression? A kid with some personal charm, not bad looking, and one who is maybe feeling a little bit shy and yet excited about the whole thing.
Deciphering the rest of it, however, isn’t easy. Manson appears to have lied about damn nearly everything to do with his family and his childhood.
It’s true that he grew up without a father. It’s not true that he didn’t know who the man was. His mother was underage at the time – she was either 15 or 16, according to whether you believe one record or another. Charlie said she was a prostitute, but that doesn’t ring true either. A party girl, maybe.
Was she a hooker? Well, how many prostitutes have you ever heard of who both filed and won a paternity suit against the father, four years later? Who won child support from the father, and arranged visitation with her toddler not just once but several times?
Admittedly, the child support didn’t amount to much. One report pegs it at a measly $5 per month (that amounts to $86.23 in today’s terms).
Because it was all resolved by way of a consent decree, there were no criminal charges filed. This even though it is clear enough that Manson’s father was 24 when the boy was born, and therefore statutory rape was involved.
It’s true that Kathleen Maddox ran away from her home in Kentucky while pregnant, and gave birth to Charlie in Cincinnati, Ohio. But this was in 1934, and unwed mothers were a disgrace to be hidden away from society, if at all possible. Teenagers who got themselves in “the family way” were quite commonly sent out of town until after the birth of the child, either in a ‘home’ or in the care of geographically distant relatives. Then the baby was either put up for adoption or some polite fiction was invented about where he or she “came from.” At the height of the Great Depression, however, resources all around may have been too slender to do this with or for Kathleen.
What Charlie’s mother did manage to do was find a man willing to give the boy his name: William Manson.
At first he was listed as “No Name Maddox” but in the end Charlie was formally named Charles Milles Maddox on his birth certificate, and William Manson is listed as his father.
Kathleen and William were even married for a couple of years, and it’s been suggested that William thought the child was his, at first. But he soon departed the scene in any case, and seems to have had no further contact with either Kathleen or Charlie. Mom, however, could now bring the boy home to Kentucky and call him legitimate.
At least, up until that paternity suit was filed in 1936.
So who was this mystery man that Charlie claimed his mother couldn’t even name?
Colonel Walker Scott Sr.
Now, I could not find a photograph of the man that I had any faith in, but I did find his grave marker:
Scott is buried in the Cattlettsburg Cemetery in Kentucky. You can check it out for yourself at this site: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid= 116001100
The marker, you may notice, is bare-bones. They didn’t even bother to spell out his first name, or to mention that he’s the senior half of a father/son duo.
That’s right. There’s a Walker Scott Jr. involved in all this.
He was born about 14 months after Charlie was, to the Colonel and his first wife, Dorothy. Who wound up divorcing him in 1941. They had two sons by then. And thirteen years later, the Colonel was dead, of cirrhosis of the liver. Since the grounds for divorce included abuse, non-support, and his alcoholism, we can surmise that his death was the direct result of his drinking, and that it fully explains that minimal memorial.
It might also explain why Charlie was so reluctant to claim him. Unless, of course, actually having a father who ever supported you to any degree would interfere with the Manson myth. A malignant narcissist is apt to adapt his biography to his mythological needs, and it’s clear that Charles Manson did that all along.
He preferred to tell people that even his mother didn’t know who his daddy was, yet he actually had three.
One was the Colonel (and I cannot tell you what that honorific is worth, since Kentucky is full of ‘colonels’ who never served in any capacity, or if they did, were certainly not officers. The most famous example would be Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame).
The second was the man who named him – William Manson. And while he didn’t stick around very long, a legitimate last name in those days was far from nothing.
The third was his uncle. When his mother and her brother robbed a service station in 1939, apparently by going after an employee with a ketchup bottle, they both wound up sentenced to five years in prison. Charlie was placed with his mother’s aunt and uncle in McMechen, West Virginia, and lived with their family until 1942, when his mom was paroled.
If you want to know what that was like, you might want to check out the accounts given by Manson’s sister Nancy and his cousin Joanne, which you can find here amidst a lot hype about the Tate and LaBianca murders:
Or you can go to the source of the information given there by Jeff Guinn. He’s the author of this book, which I’ve mentioned before and which he is promoting in the newspaper piece:
I don’t know if Guinn is right about all of his conclusions regarding Charlie’s character and its development, but he does have accounts from family members who avoided the media for many years and refused to talk to all other reporters. He also has family photos that have not been seen elsewhere.
Apparently, once she was paroled, Manson’s mother retrieved her son from her aunt and uncle and lived with him in a series of run-down hotel rooms. The aunt and uncle have been described as “very strict” and members of the Church of the Nazarene (although at 13, Charlie once claimed to be Catholic in order to persuade a judge to place him at Boys Town instead of the local reformatory).
Now, one of my grandmothers belonged to the Church of the Nazarene, so I can tell you that “strict” is very likely a mild description of the discipline he underwent in their home, especially since he began getting himself into serious trouble at the age of seven and did not respond to correction of any kind.
Nevertheless, there was a father figure involved, and an actual home. Which is more than my grandfather had, after being thrown out of the house by his daddy at the tender age of ten. Thereafter he was forced to make his own way in the world. It turned him into a hard-headed, hard-handed man, known for being able to knock out a man, horse or cow with a single punch, but he never once landed in jail. He never abandoned his kids. And he didn’t blame anyone else for his own missteps. So my sympathies on that score? Limited. You can’t learn from your mistakes if you never admit to making them.
What did Charlie really think of his mother?
It’s a mixed message.
In Manson: In His Own Words, he said her physical embrace of him on the day she returned from prison in 1942 was his only happy childhood memory.
The way Manson talks about Kathleen Maddox is telling , though. When he was asked about her, there’s a famous quote:
And then there’s this one:
I’ve never run across anyone else who refers to his Mom as a “good girl.” Especially after he made the woman out to be a whore to the general public, and admitted to hitting her. I’m also mindful of what his cousin and sister said – that Kathleen herself was afraid of him and tried to put her son into foster care when he was twelve. The court instead placed Manson in the Father Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Charlie spent ten months here, taking classes taught by priests. He never did learn to read, but it may have been where he picked up enough Catholic cant to convince another judge that he was in fact a Catholic, and so he should be sent to to Boys Town (which he ran away from within four days of his arrival).
Charlie has demonstrated a lifelong pattern of blaming everything that goes wrong on pretty much everyone else, including society at large. No surprise, really, among criminals and/or narcissists. I certainly never met anyone in a holding cell who owned up to his deeds. A wife beater, for example, will blame his victim without fail. Somehow she “made” him do it. And the same is true of husband-abusers.
So why do I care, either way?
Well, as I said, I was wondering what Charlie really means when he talks about family. He himself has never referred to his followers as Family. They call themselves that but as far as I can tell, it’s in the same sense that gangbangers do – they band together as a substitute for the families that failed them or were lost to them for all kinds of reasons. They get jumped in to gain protection from other gangs, and to give themselves a shot at having a life.
In any case, the pseudo-family life of gangs is a complicated topic, and people disagree strongly about how it really works. If you’re interested in that, you could do worse than by starting here:
The thing I saw with gangs when I was doing forensic work was that gangsters do support each other, cover for each other, and take chances I would consider insane on each other’s behalf. There’s a big profit motive involved, of course, but it’s more than that. And they wind up dead a lot, thanks to turf wars and drug deals gone bad and whatever else.
The thing is, whenever a gangster does get killed, the odds are even on whether he (or she) was done in by a rival gang, or by their own group.
And that’s what I see with the Manson Family. James and Lauren Willett, Gary Hinman, John Haught, Shorty Shea, Reet Jurvetson, Mark Walts, and possibly Susan Scott (we’ll get to that one later) – they were all either known associates or members of the Family. It seems pretty clear to me that they were all killed by the Family, and most of it was done on Manson’s orders.
So what does family mean to Charlie?
I ask because there was a messy murder in his biological family too.
I’m talking about his father’s brother, Darwin Orell Scott.
Now, Walker Scott may have been a drunk but Darwin Scott was an out-and-out jailbird. He was in and out of both state and federal prisons from 1931 onward, and he had a reputation for cheating even his closest associates at every opportunity. It was all about fairly minor stuff, though, compared to Manson-style mass murder. Darwin Scott was more into burglary, robbery, illegal gambling, forgery, theft, and running hooch of several kinds that never met up with legitimate tax stamps.
Several more of these are posted at this site (although like this one, they’re fuzzy enough to be difficult to read):
More intriguing, to me anyway, is this little item:
I’m not sure precisely what laws applied in this case, or what Mrs. Scott thought she was doing with this one, but if her husband did lose thirty grand to Ed Curd in the space of 14 months – well, that was a hell of a lot of money in 1949… more than three hundred grand in today’s terms. And she was asking for the best part of a million bucks in restitution and damages.
I don’t know how that court case turned out, but I’d be amazed if she won. Or collected anything if she did. And there is no mention of Faye Scott being a part of Darwin’s life at any time past that point.
What we do know is that twenty years later, somebody took a butcher knife to Darwin Scott. He was found in his Ashland, Kentucky apartment on May 27, 1969. He’d been stabbed 19 times, and left pinned to the floor with that knife.
Known to keep fairly large sums of money around, Darwin might have been targeted on that basis, or by somebody who held a grudge. Or both. If so, they seem to have succeeded on both counts. There were no wads of cash laying around when the cops arrived, although there was plenty of booze: no less than 86 fifths and 28 pints of whiskey. Which implies that at the age of 64, he was still active in moving illegal hooch.
But there’s another possibility. Just before the murder, a “scraggly little dude” who called himself “Preacher” drifted into town, leading a band of female hippies. They wound up getting chased out again by the local folks, who were mad as hell about the group handing out drugs to their kids, including LSD.
According to Edward George, who wrote his own book about Manson and was for several years his prison counselor, several Ashland residents later identified Preacher as none other than Charlie Manson.
He was out on parole, and supposedly in California at the time of the murder. But when Darwin Scott was killed, Manson was out of touch with his parole officers.
Could he have gone to Kentucky? The Family still had that converted school bus, didn’t they?
And they’d been taking that bus up and down the full length of the west coast, so why not strike out for the east? After all, it’s where Manson himself is from. Where his mother and father were from. Where James Willet’s family still lives and runs a distillery (and both of the Willetts were still alive at this point). It so happens it’s also where his uncle was living. Until he wasn’t.
Why would Manson want to kill Darwin? He had so very little contact with Walker Scott Sr., it seems unlikely he had any kind of relationship with Uncle Darwin. But Unc always seemed to have crap-loads of cash. And Charlie always needed that.
Manson and his cohorts killed Gary Hinman for money he didn’t even have. They may very well have killed Joel Pugh too, in London, just to safeguard Manson’s access to a trust fund. The chop shop/dune buggy business was all about money.
So I’d have to say, I think it’s entirely possible. The Family’s time line for 1969 certainly has a May-sized gap in it big enough to accommodate a cross-country road trip. And using a knife? Overkill with a knife? Well, that’s practically diagnostic, at this point. A serial killer’s signature.