The Manson Family

By : Julia Mayfield and Reilly Martyn


According to Oxford Dictionary, the definition of a cult is ‘a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister’. Considering this description and the information surrounding the Manson Family, their group could easily be defined as a cult.

Mind control is typically a key element in the foundation in which a cult is built on. In the case of the Manson family, their leader Charles Manson, was extremely good at manipulating others. When looking for members, he sought after individuals in their late teens, clearly lost and experiencing turmoil of some kind. All of the girls either had divorcing families, abusive parents, etc., just an overall lack of place and love.

That is what Charles Manson “gave” them, a place to belong. He had them all move into an abandoned movie set called ‘Spahn Ranch’, where they experimented with drugs and sex. Charles used the girls, who never denied his asking, to lure in men so their group could expand. Everyone was so enamored by their leader, and wanted nothing more than to be embraced by him. This caused complete obedience in all he wanted from them.

This became a serious problem once Charles had a new member of their group introduce murder tactics to everyone. These lessons eventually led to actual action taken. Charles began sending out his “family” to kill people in the surrounding area. Not that there is ever a tasteful murder, but if it was to be measured by the violence inflicted, theirs’ would be the farthest thing from.

Vocabulary Terms

  1. Self-concept- From my perspective, each member of the group had no sense of self concept. The reason for my saying this is their lack of individualism, which is a key component to how you perceive yourself. It seems to me that they each became wiped of who they were and reclaimed by what Charles wanted.

  2. Significant Others- This cult in particular really puts into perspective the importance of wholesome significant others. Each member of the Manson Family lacked that in their previous life, which was the main reason for their neediness to belong. If they had each had a healthier upbringing, then they most likely wouldn’t have gravitated towards the lifestyle they did.

  3. Reference Group- In a sense, their reference group was like a single person, each piece contingent on the other. They all became accustomed to what Charles Mason’s views and ideals of the world were, so much that they became their own. I would like to think that at some point in their life they considered what they were doing to be morally wrong. Rock bottom being the place that they accepted these evil values as a norm.

  4. Looking Glass Self- The group didn’t have any good influences to support a healthy looking glass. Those they were surrounded with had similar viewpoints on values and ideals. Since they were not associated with many others, their immoral lifestyle was accepted through the eyes of each other.
  5. Isolation- This term has to do with the people in the Manson Family because they are so used to following one person, they think he is what is best for them and he makes the best decisions, so they follow. They have been isolated from the rest of society so long they do not think about how bad the things they are doing are.
  6. Distorted- Again this has to do with being away from the rest of society so long. Their perception of things is so twisted and distorted that they think these types of crimes are okay and normal because Manson brainwashed them into thinking it was.
  7. Role Taking- The members of the Manson Family follow the role of Charles Manson. They assume the viewpoint from him is how they should think and how they could view things. They had no one else's opinions to base theirs off of.
  8. Exhibit- The members exhibit the actions of Charles Manson. They think that they have found a "family" and they are loved and in order to stay loved, the had to act like Manson and mock his behavior.


In the winter of 1969, several members of the Manson Family, including Charles himself, were taken under arrest. During this period of their undecided fate, Charles Manson continued to assume the role of puppet master. The girls were basically scripted in all court and public situations. Singing songs Charles wrote, burning an X on their foreheads, yelling at the judge, shouting things at the jury, and so on.

Additionally, the members on the outside protested and fought for the release of their “family”. One of the girls, who was never called to murder, acted as a spokesperson for the group. She could not stand the only family she had ever known be taken away from her, especially Charles. Even those inside were willing to take on the brunt of the crimes, trying to lessen Charles’ time in prison.

The following year, upon their verdict trial, each of the Mason members imprisoned were found guilty of murder. To this day they remain behind bars, some having claimed remorse and trying to better the world through correctional programs. Despite this, many still rightfully so believe that the Mason Family lacks regret for their actions. Either way, life in prison is most likely for these band of killers.