Snapshot of the Manson Family

The Lucky and Unlucky Charles Manson Family Members

Photo of Charles Manson
Michael Ochs Archives/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The criminal acts of Charles Manson and the members of the Manson Family have fascinated crime followers for over 45 years. The murders were high-profile and horrific as were other serial murders during the 1970s.

But the Manson murders stand out, both due to the bizarre motivation of Charles Manson and to the images these murders conjure in the public eye— images of drug-crazed hippies trying to steal the minds and pervert the moral foundation of young adults with flowers in their hair, trying to find meaning in their lives.

Influenced by the times, Charles Manson grew into a master manipulator. Vulnerability, hallucinogenic drugs, an atmosphere of intense rebellion, unrealistic expectations and the quest for a newfound "freedom" were embraced by a portion of the 60s generation. Manson tapped into this group, as they gathered in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco, and pulled the weakest into his ranks.

The Lucky and the Unlucky

It has likely passed through the minds of some of that generation, now looking old age in the face, that they managed to avoid Manson, and those like him, back then by sheer force of luck. Some sat in the same parks, listened to the same music and smoked the same dope as many of the Manson family, but managed to avoid being targeted. Then again, there are those who were swept into his circle but managed to escape before experiencing irreparable harm. Those were the truly fortunate ones.

Then there were the unlucky ones - a small fraction that did not escape and in time were used and abused to the point that whoever they once were no longer existed. Their only truth was what Manson dictated. They bent their moral fiber to survive another day with their chosen leader.

As you go through the Manson Family Photo Album you will see examples of some of the lucky ones who escaped from the clutches of the Manson family before their lives were ruined forever, some that died before they could escape, and those that lived most of their lives in prison as a result of their actions while under the Manson spell.

Profiles of the Manson Family's Key Members 

  • Charles MansonCharles Manson was an ex-con, a thief and a pimp who hit the streets of Haight-Ashbury and became the cult leader of the Manson Family. Under the direction of Manson, members of the family were later found guilty of what became known as the Tate and LaBianco murders.
  • Charles Watson (Tex)Charles Watson was a high-school honor role student and a good athlete and earned the reputation as a local track star; then he met Charles Manson.
  • Leslie Van HoutenVan Houten was a popular teenager who was twice voted as homecoming queen at her high school. But she also made bad choices, one that eventually led to being locked behind bars for the rest of her life.
  • Patricia Krenwinkel (Katie)Patricia Krenwinkel suffered from low self-esteem during her teen years, having once been over weight and suffering from an excess of body hair. She spent her teens feeling shunned and unattractive. She was easy pickings for Charles Manson.
  • Susan Atkins (Sadie)Unlike many of Manson's girls, Atkins quickly fell into a world of crime and was a topless dancer and drug dealer before joining the Manson family.
  • Lynette Fromme (Squeaky)Fromme was a member of the Athenian Honor Society and the Girls Athletic Club, but her family life was dysfunctional, and she left home while attending college. She never made it back.
  • Linda KasabianKasabian developed the "hippie" spirit of the times - free love and peace. She eventually realized that the Manson family was into just the opposite, but not before she was led deep into their criminal activities.

It is doubtful that any of the family members found guilty for their involvement in the Tate and LaBianca murders will ever be free. Their actions were too brutal, even by today's standards. Those who are still alive will likely die in prison.