As you may have heard, Charles Manson is getting married. In light of this bizarre news, I decided to call up my mom, who attended the Manson murder trial when she was a high school senior living in Los Angeles.
It's a story that I heard many times as a kid, but which gained strange new meaning after learning that Manson had once again seduced a younger woman (this time from his jail cell). Though it's more than 40 years later, my mom still remembers the events like they happened yesterday, including looking deep into Manson's murderous eyes. But perhaps most chilling is her interaction with Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a Manson Family cult member who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford five years later.
Here's what she had to say:
Hey Mom! So, tell me about your experience with the Manson trial.
When I was a senior in high school, for my high school government class, we had to do some kind of project. My best friend Becky’s mother happened to be the bailiff at the trial, so she took my friend and I to the court house a number of times.
So, did you did you actually see Manson?
Yes. While I was there Charles Manson kept looking at me with these big, dark-brown eyes in this very seductive, alluring way. I felt like I understood why those women followed him. I could feel his magnetism.
Creepy. How much were people talking about it at school?
Everybody was talking about it—it was a huge deal! It was frightening. There was a lot of controversy about it because of the drugs involved, about whether the drugs caused people to act like that and kill people, or if they caused the cult behavior. Drugs were kind of newly prevalent, so they were scary to people.
Tell me about "Squeaky" Fromme.
While we were at the trial, we were out in the hallway and "Squeaky" Fromme, one of the women in the group that was still living at the house, invited us out to the ranch. She wrote her name and telephone number down for me so that we could go meet them at the ranch where they were still hanging out. I wish still I had that piece of paper. I kept it for years.
What was "Squeaky" like when she asked if you wanted to hang out?
She was just this short, little friendly young woman. She could've been a friend of mine. I knew differently, though. I knew better than to befriend her.
How did she start the conversation?
We were standing out in the hall. I think she came up to us kind of curious about why we were there. She asked us something about like, "Oh, are you attracted to Charles?" Something like that. She wanted to know why we were there because we were young women like she was. She was very welcoming.
Yes, very spooky.
What did you end up doing for the government class report?
We had to write about our experience, the proceedings, and what was it was like to be in the courtroom. It was the first time I was ever in a courtroom and don’t think I'll ever been to a courtroom of that magnitude again. I really was living the political culture of the day. The trial was all over the news, so going there and seeing what was going on—just having a sense of how bizarre and creepy the whole situation was—was fascinating.
Is there anything else you remember about the trial?
I just remember the feeling of being in that room. I thought about what it represented for the law, and for the United States of America. The proceedings, the judge, and the people being on the witness stand; it left a big impression on me.
What did you think when you learned that "Squeaky" Fromme had tried to kill President Ford a few years later?
One of the thoughts I had was that these people were very personable, even though they were obviously really crazy. They were very seductive, mesmerizing people. So it made me think twice about who you talk to and who you trust. If I had decided to hang out with "Squeaky," I could have taken a path that would [have] destroyed my future. I didn't feel so different from her at the time. Obviously I am very different, because I didn’t choose that path, but if I were a lost girl and didn’t have a sense of right and wrong, or personal identity, I could have become one of those fallen people. So, it made me pause and think about life and the choices that we make.
Wow, that's deep, mom! Did you hear that Manson is getting married?
No, are you kidding me? That’s crazy. He’s getting married in jail?
Yeah and the woman is really young—she's 26.
Oh my gosh. That’s allowed? And he’s how old now?
Oh, he’s 80? That’s insane.
You're a psychotherapist now. Do you think that he still has that charismatic appeal you described?
Yeah, I think it is probably psychopathic—I mean, that magnetism. That's just my guess, so perhaps he still has that quality. I don’t think that would go away.
Thanks Mom! Love you!
Nathan Reese is a News Editor at Complex. He's glad his mom didn't take "Squeaky" up on her offer. He's on Twitter.