"Child of Satan, Child of God"

Chapter 1 - Manson

I gasped for breath and felt the dampness of perspiration across my lower back. Standing for a moment inside the door of the big brown house, I heard the pounding of my heart. There was a slight ringing in my ears. I was stoned.

The hallway was darkening in the late afternoon. No one was in sight. Faintly I heard music. “Someone’s singing,” I thought. I exhaled noisily, then stood still and listened. Somebody was singing upstairs. Delicate guitar patterns formed around the voice. I wondered. “No one here plays like that.”

I waited, and my eyes adjusted to the dimming light. “Where is everyone?” I heard myself ask. My scalp suddenly tingled, and I felt goosebumps rise on my bare arms. Maybe the police had beaten me back to the house. They were really hot after Tom. I smiled. I had given them some chase.

Now what? I climbed the stairs slowly, my bare feet silent on the carpeting and my short skirt swishing barely audibly back and forth across my thighs. I turned to the left at the top of the stairs. The music came from the big living room. Passing through the massive, oak doubledoors, I was startled. My eyes landed instantly on a little man sitting on the wide couch in front of the bay windows. The fading sun’s rays slanted through the partly opened curtains behind him, throwing his features into shadows. But I could see he was singing, his eyes seemingly closed. Without moving his head, he opened his eyes and stared directly into my face. I stared back.

A woman was seated on each side of him, and the rest of the girls in the house were ringed around him on the floor. Only two other men were in the room. A smoky haze deepened the tan aura of the wood-paneled room. The smell of marijuana was heavy, despite the sweetness of burning incense. Food and candy were piled high on the coffee table in front of the singer.

A slight smile flickered on and off the skinny little man’s clean-shaven face. “The shadow of your smile when you are gone,” he sang softly, seductively, “will color all my dreams and light the dawn.” His voice was middle range and expressive. He played the guitar magnificently.

I stood for a moment longer at the doorway, fascinated by the scene before me. The women’s faces were rapturous, uplifted toward the little man on the couch. Obviously most of them were stoned.

There was a space on the floor to the man’s right. I tip-toed to it and eased myself cross-legged to the floor, my skirt rising nearly to my hips. He looked at me and smiled. I studied him, unsmiling. He had a tattoo on each forearm—the heads of women. He wore a white tee-shirt, blue jeans, and sandals, and several strands of multicolored beads hung from his neck almost to his waist. His small hands moved deftly upon the battered guitar. “He’s like an angel.” I don’t think I spoke the thought aloud, but I was so loaded I couldn’t be sure.

“I’ve got to dance—for him.” The thoughts raced in and out of my mind. “He’s playing pretty for us. I’ve got to show him what I can do. I’ve got to dance for him.” But I was motionless on the floor. I watched the room deepen into brownness as the last sunbeams made little whirling figures in the smoke. I completely forgot my flight from the crazy cops. I was safe. Everything was beautiful.

I was aware that the man with the guitar had stopped singing. Voices and low laughter rose up and down almost lyrically. The little man’s spell still prevailed.

He was talking quietly, and smiling. But he never looked at me. As my consciousness grasped that the music had stopped, I stared at the man’s guitar. It seemed a thing of magic and wonder. “I’d like to play it,” I thought. “I bet I can play it.”

In a split second he turned his head slowly to look into my eyes. “Why don’t you play it?” He started to move the instrument toward me. My mind swirled. Had I said that aloud? No. I had only thought it. How did he know it? “No, thanks,” I said softly. “I can’t play.”

He smiled and looked, unblinking, into my eyes. It was as though something was sitting on his shoulder talking to something sitting on my shoulder. It was as though our minds were speaking.

In a second or two, he looked away and joined in conversation in the middle of the room.

“Who is this man?” I was shaken. “He’s really strange.”

Someone started the record player off to my left. It was The Doors — acid rock: “Break on Through to the Other Side.” It was a driving beat, and my body began to move to it, even as I sat on the floor. The little man with the guitar was watching me again. I could feel it. “He’s powerful,” I thought. “He knows something. But he looks so ordinary.” His brown, rather wavy hair, fairly short, was combed straight back. He 

was just an unusual, little guy. “But I’m not sure I can handle him,” I thought.

I got up and walked to the record player, flipping through the pile of records on the floor. The player was blasting out the driving, pounding music of The Jefferson Airplane—the White Rabbit album. I needed to dance. Some of the other kids had already begun. They were passing joints around, and the intensity in the room heightened. The thoughtful, melancholy mood established by the stranger burst into pulsating, stabbing emotion. I danced formlessly around the player as the record concluded. I stopped and dropped on another Doors record. It was alive, and furious.

I threw myself into the music and danced, lost within. “I’ll dance for him.” Within half a minute, the little man placed his guitar on the floor beside the couch and walked close to me. I sensed him more than I saw him. He began to dance behind me. The music was driving. I felt his hands on my hips, and he began to move my body. “What’s he doing?” I thought in the storm of my mind. He was leading my body in movements I had never tried. Gently, with ever so little pressure, he guided my body in rhythmic, sensual variations. He moved very close to me, putting his arms around my waist from behind. He whispered into my left ear, “That’s right. That’s good. Yes. In reality—in your God-self—there’s no repetition. No two moves, no two actions, are the same. Everything is new. Let it be new.”

Our bodies moved together. Close. Then apart. We moved . . . he moved me. And we danced. It was all new . . . . It was all new. I was a good dancer, a professional dancer. I had done fantastic things with my long, slim body before the searching eyes of men. But I had never danced like this. I wasn’t merely dancing. I was dance.

We swung to face one another, our bodies moving and jerking to the pounding drum beat. Suddenly, something happened that has no explanation. I experienced a moment unlike any other. This stranger and I, dancing, passed through one another. It was as though my body moved closer and closer to him and actually passed through him. I thought for a second that I would collapse. What had happened? Was I crazy? Had our physical bodies passed through one another? It was beyond human reality. As we turned to one another again, we mirrored each other perfectly. He moved as I moved. I moved as he moved. We were perfectly together—one. Something of him was in me. “That’s it,” he was saying. It seemed far away. “That’s it. Everything is new.” We danced savagely.

I don’t know how much time passed. But, as though coming out of fleecy, white clouds, I became aware that the music had stopped. The stranger and I were standing face to face. He smiled. “You are beautiful,” he said. “You are perfect. I’ve never seen anyone dance like you. It’s wonderful. You must always be free.”

For a few moments, I could only smile. I watched his face. Its features were slender, delicate, shifting into many expressions. His eyes were almost black, flat, hard. “Thank you,” I finally said. I paused. “My name is Susan Atkins,” I said. “Who are you?”

The eye contact was broken, and he lowered his head, brushing his hair with one hand. “Who? Me? Oh, I’m Charlie. Charlie Manson.”

He turned toward the room. Most of the women were sitting on the floor again. He snapped his fingers once with a quick move of his left hand and said, “Let’s go, girls.”

Three of the women rose quickly and walked out behind him.



It was early afternoon two days later. The big brown house at Lyon and Oak Streets in Haight-Ashbury was quiet. The leaders, the men, were all in jail for selling drugs. What was to happen? Things were falling apart in our “family.” I was fast falling into discouragement. We obviously couldn’t survive without our men—Tom, the head of the commune; Bob, my man, who was second in command; and the others. I had been there several weeks and only occasionally felt the first tinges of acceptance. I could sense the smothering clouds of insecurity and dread rolling back in.

I walked into the second-floor hallway and there stood the strange little man, Charlie. He just stood there, empty-handed, slouched below his stretched-out, five-foot-seven height. “Hello,” he said. Surprised to see him there, I said nothing for several moments.

“Hello,” I finally said, unable to raise a smile.

“Where is everybody?” he asked.

“They were busted.”

“Oh, no,” he said softly. “I knew things were hot the other night, but I didn’t know it happened.”

I suspected he knew more than that. Somehow I thought he probably knew none of the men were there. But this only intensified the fascination he stirred in me. As we stood in the hallway, he seemed to change from a skinny, slouching little man in tee-shirt and jeans to a man with mysterious power. Suddenly, I was extremely vulnerable—but unafraid. I knew I had aroused interest in him. He was as attracted by the strong, willful spirit within me as I was by the powerful knowing spirit within him. I knew he was a challenge to me, and I suspected I was the same to him.

He watched me closely as we talked about the drug raid, and I knew he was seeing inside me. I was tough, but still only eighteen. I felt my weaknesses—my fears—were being laid bare before his eyes.

“Why don’t we go for a walk?” He said it matter-of-factly, simply. “You intrigue me. I’d like to talk to you about it.”

We went out into the street and walked slowly, seemingly haphazardly, for several blocks. We ended up in front of a big, wooden apartment building, shabby and rundown.

“I’m staying here,” he said. “Come on up and we’ll talk some more.” He said it so openly.

We stood in front of the mirror in the bedroom he had been given to use. It was a full-length mirror. He put his arms around me and we kissed, long and hard. Together we removed my clothes, and I stood naked before him. He looked at me in the mirror.

“Look,” he said softly. “Look at yourself. You’re beautiful.”

Sex was nothing new to me. But his words still embarrassed me, and I was aware that the guy holding the apartment was just a few feet away in the living room. I looked at the two of us in the mirror. He was standing slightly behind me, holding my body.

“Don’t be crazy,” I said, half-giggling. “That’s not beautiful.”

He almost cut me off. “Yes. Yes! You are beautiful. You are perfect. You’ve got to see yourself as perfect—beautiful.” His voice was low and soft. But even in its softness, it seemed to have an echo in it.

“You’ve got to love yourself,” he said. As he talked, he kissed my shoulders and my neck. In the mirror, his eyes burned into mine. They never left my eyes.

“His eyes don’t blink,” I thought. I knew he saw inside of me.

Continuing softly, he said, “When you were a little girl, did you ever want to make love to your father?”

I was stunned. My mind went blank, and then raced swiftly over images of my dad. I’m afraid I giggled again. “Don’t be silly,” I said. “No.”

“I know you have,” he said. “You must be honest. Every girl at some time wants to make love to her father.”

I was silent.

“You’ve got to be free of all your inhibitions and your fears. They’re weighing you down. They’re choking you. You’ve got to break free.”

He moved his hands over my body, continuing to watch me in the mirror. “You’ve got to break free,” he said again. My mind recalled the song by The Doors, “Break on Through to the Other Side.”

“Make love with me.” His voice was even lower. “Make love with me and imagine that you’re making love to your father. You must break free from the past. You must live now. There is no past. The past is gone. There’s no tomorrow. There is now. You’ve got to break free from your father. Now.”

We made love in Charlie’s bed. “How many others has he done this with right here?” The thought flashed into, and immediately out of, my mind. I tried to imagine that Charlie was my father. But my mind wouldn’t hold that image either. It raced over and over Charlie’s words. I knew he was right about the past. “I must live in the now,” I thought. I was fully convinced.




It was late afternoon as we sat on a curb at the edge of the sidewalk. The streets were beginning to fill with people, the counter-culture people—”the hippies,” the world called them. Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco was in full swing. I was well acquainted with it, having started with weekend flings into the life of a “flower girl” to escape the rushing, mindless, plastic world I had frequented as a topless go-go dancer.

Charlie seemed to talk in several directions at once, always driving in one way or another at escaping from the past and realizing the present. Sometimes it seemed that he babbled, but there was knowledge in it. There was power in his mind.

Suddenly he said, “Susan, if I postulate what I want, I’ll get it, you know.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. “What do you mean?”

“It’s simple. If I think about a quarter, for instance—if I think about it, and see it, I’ll get it.”

I said nothing, watching the people go by. They were interesting—bearded, long-haired men in simple clothes; barefoot women, mostly young girls, in long dresses or faded jeans. Without warning, a young, brown-haired man turned around and walked up to Charlie. “Here, brother,” he said, “I want to give you something.” He put a quarter into Charlie’s hand.

Charlie looked into my face. He said nothing. After a moment he got up and led me into a small fast-food shop and bought a cup of coffee with the quarter.

Back on the street, we walked along quietly. Rain was falling lightly, but it was warm. We started down an incline at a driveway and my bare feet slipped on the wet pavement. My body started backward. Suddenly Charlie grabbed my right arm and held me up. His face was close to mine. “I won’t ever let you fall,” he said softly. The words gripped me. “I won’t ever let you fall.”  That’s what I craved. I was a tough, streetwise, eighteen-year-old ready for a new world culture, but I needed someone who was stronger than I was. I needed someone who wouldn’t fail me. I wanted Charlie to grab me and keep me from falling. He was short, skinny, almost emaciated, but he had strength. He had mind strength. I knew he would keep me from falling.  

Even before he asked me, I knew I would leave the big brown house and go with him. He had other women with him; I knew that. But I wanted what he had.

“Come on,” he said simply. “We’re going to L.A. 



The big, battered school bus had been remodeled inside as a camper. The seats had been replaced by a bed, sleeping bags, a sink, and odds and ends. I threw all my belongings into the back end, as did the five other women, and Charlie drove out to the highway and headed south. We were a strange-looking group — a skinny little man with a gang of girls yelling and laughing our way in an old, hollowed-out school bus.

It was late at night and we were somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles when Charlie pulled the bus off the road and stopped. We had picked up two guys and two girls who were hitchhiking south.

“Let’s have a party,” Charlie said, swinging out from the driver’s seat. There were enough of us for that.

Each one of us dropped acid (LSD) immediately. And we all sat around on the floor of the bus. All but Charlie. He sat cross-legged on a huge pile of multicolored pillows, looking down on us. And he talked.

In minutes the scene was transformed. We all listened intently as Charlie talked. Suddenly my mind was paralyzed by the knowledge that I was going to die. I was dying.  Through the paralysis came Charlie’s words. “You are all going to die. You all must die.”.

It was the most frightening experience of my life. I looked at Charlie. His mouth was moving and his hands moved through the air, punctuating his words. But nothing was coming from his mouth. Yet I could hear his voice, eerie, echoing. I could hear his words plainly. “You are all going to die.”

I turned my head. “My God!” I thought. “His words are coming out of the sink! He’s speaking through the sink.”

I looked up at him. He was still speaking, staring first straight ahead and then at one, and then another. “This is insane!” I screamed inside. But I kept my mouth closed.

“You must die to self,” the voice said. “You must die. You must become one.”

Suddenly the bus shook violently. It shook so hard that I nearly fell over. I looked at one of the guys leaning against the wall. I couldn’t believe what I saw. He had turned to bones. He was all bones. A skeleton. He had no flesh or hair or clothes. Only bleached white bones. I couldn’t believe it. The others watched him, too.

Then, just as quickly, his form, his flesh, returned, and he was the same young man. But his eyes were full of terror. Charlie slipped down from the pillows and yanked the boy to his feet. Like a flash of lightning he punched the boy in the mouth, knocking him to the floor. The force of the blow was superhuman. The youth screamed and cried, scrambling madly toward the front of the bus and the door. He tore it open and ran into the night.

Insane laughter filled the bus. It was Charlie’s laughter—screeching, cackling, horrible laughter. It scraped nerves, grating, grinding. Charlie, standing in the middle of the bus, had his head back and his mouth wide. But the laughter, the hideous noise, came from the sink. It boomed from the sink, filling the air.

I crawled on my hands and knees, dragging my drained, nearly paralyzed body across the hard floor, and clutched frantically at Charlie’s leg. I grabbed it and held on. “Am I dying? Oh God, am I dying?” The words screamed in my head, but my mouth was tightly shut. I held onto his leg desperately. “I must hold on!”

Abruptly, everything became quiet. I was prostrate on the floor. Charlie went back to the pillows. The others sat or lay quietly. After several minutes, I was aware of people moving toward the door. All but our original seven left without saying anything. They disappeared into the darkness.

The bus was filled with fear. We were all afraid. I looked at Charlie, and his face was chalky white. He rubbed his hands back across his hair.

I walked over to him, and he looked up at me. “Did you see that?” His voice was almost a whisper, and it came from his mouth this time. He rubbed his head again. “My voice came out of the sink.”

“Yes.” That’s all I could say. I didn’t know what more to say. We had been out of control. We had been through something beyond this world.

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