Interview with Charles by Shadoe Steele
Joining us LIVE from Mule Creek State Prison in lone, California, about 50 miles southeast of Sacramento, former member of the "Manson Family", Charles "Tex" Watson, welcome Charles - I greatly appreciate your being with us.
A: Thank You Shadoe, I'm happy to be with you and your listeners.
1. First Charles, during your prison term, you converted to Christianity in 1975, wrote the successful book "Will You Die For Me?" in 1978, married and fathered children, created Abounding Love Ministries, Inc. in 1980, ordained in 1981, started the aboundinglove.org website in the '90s, and now in 2004 you have a new book "Manson's Right-Hand Man Speaks Out!" What a miracle; how did this happen?
A: My beliefs changed from those of Manson to trusting in Jesus Christ as my Lord & Saviour. I was only 23 when Manson's beliefs led to the deaths of 7 innocent people, which I deeply regret. And I regret the enormous pain I caused their families. Today, I am 58 years old, very thankful for my new life in Christ, and all He has done, God's grace, which I am so undeserving, is the sole reason for my success and sanity after being in prison for 35 years.
2. Charles, you were not tried with Manson and the girls, why?
A: Well, a month and a half after the crime in 1969, I fled from Manson in the Death Valley desert to Texas, where I eventually turned myself in after I found out the California authorities were looking for me. In Texas, I was fighting extradition for 9 months to avoid the Manson trial, which had turned into a circus. My attorneys thought I could get a lesser deminished capacity verdict in a separate trial, but I ended up on death row like Manson and the girls anyway.
3. What brought you to Los Angeles from Copeville Texas in 1967?
A: I was running from the pressure I felt from my parents. In reality, it was more my fear of failure [not meeting my parent's expectations], so I moved to California where a college friend of mine had moved, searching for a new identity, thinking things would be different. I was looking for the good life, where a lot of the Rock 'n Roll groups of the '60s lived, like the Doors [some I even met], but overall, I found more failure, because of the condition of my own heart.
4. Charles, you were considered to be Manson's "Chief Lieutenant" at 10050 Cielo Drive the night of August 9th, 1969 murders, how could an educated person like yourself, who attended North Texas University be brainwashed into those truly sensational acts in Benedict Canyon?
A: I was very unhappy in college, just carrying out my parent's vision for my life. I had no sound identity, no goals of my own, no satisfaction. I had become a people pleaser, a follower, looking for direction, and ripe to be used by Manson. Slowly, his twisted philosophy seemed to offer us answers, but in the end, Manson had no true answers, only lies he invented.
5. What were you studying in college?
A: I was there to study Business, but I couldn't see myself sitting behind a desk. Life became very painful trying to be something I didn't want to be, so unknowingly, I began to medicate my pain with drugs, sex and music. I believed the more I ingested, the more satisfied I would be, but like the Stones sang. "I couldn't get no satisfaction!"
6. How did you meet Manson, and what were you doing at the time?
A: I was driving down Sunset Boulevard in my '35 Dodge pickup towards Malibu Beach where I lived, when I picked up Dennis Wilson hitch hicking. Dennis was the drummer for the Beachboys. He had wrecked all his cars, so he ask me to take him home, where Manson and his girls were visiting. Dennis had picked up some of the Manson girls hitch hiking, and met Manson. So here Dennis was introducing me to Manson. The rest is history!
7. It has been a popular misconception for decades that you played on many of the infamous "Manson Family" recordings, but in fact you have never supported Manson's music, and additionally thought he couldn't hold a candle to such legendary groups of the era as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Doors when Manson himself thought he was better than all of them?
A: I never played on any of Manson's albums. And you are right, most people think the Manson followers of the '60s still live and breath the beliefs of his music. That is not true. What is true, he used his music to brainwash us with his beliefs, but I never felt his music was good. I don't know if you play it there, but it wasn't professional like the Beatles and other recordings. And you're also right, Manson felt he was King to the musicians, especially the Beatles.
8. What kind of music suit your taste Charles, I've noticed much negative press regarding such cult acts as Marilyn Manson at your website?
A: I just know from experience the damage that some music can have on the spiritual and psychological makeup of young people, and people in general. For myself, I choose to listen to mostly contemporary Christian or Praise music. Not that all other music is bad. I like the oldies. I'm sure that "Spirit Live Aide" did lots of good, but I know that as I listen to Christian music, my heart changes to the way God thinks about things around us, in a world so blinded by self-centeredness and materialism. In psychological behavior, it is well known that our thoughts [what we watch & listen to] lead to beliefs and feelings, feelings lead to actions, which lead to habits, character, and brings forth our destiny in life.
9. Did you live at Spahn Ranch north of Los Angeles with the Manson Family?
A: Yeah for 9 months. We took on the thoughts and beliefs of Charles Manson. We acted upon those beliefs and brought forth Manson's version of Helter Skelter. I look back and see a bunch of mischievous souls trying to find their way, looking for a new identity and direction in life, only to find the false "Helter Skelter" philosophy of Charles Manson. How sad! Helter Skelter became Manson's vision for the family. In his mind's eyes, there was to be a black and white race war where blackie [as he called them] would rise up and give whitie a damn good whacking. The Beatles were his prophets telling us through their songs on the White Album what to do [Helter Skelter, Blackbird, Piggies, Sexie Sadie and others], and the songs verified to Manson's twisted beliefs that we were doing God's destiny for our lives. And we believed it!
10. What was an average day like with Manson and the others at Spahn Ranch?
A: Sphan's was a run-down movie set. We'd dress up a different character every day. The guys would tend to the rental horses, the girls would cook and sew; there was a lot of work and there 'was peer pressure. I was the mechanic; we bathed in the creeks, and at night, we'd always get in a big circle to eat and for Manson's brainwashing through his music. This is where the Manson's "Helter Skelter" indoctrination took place. Then, we would play around after that until we crashed!
11. Like many "family" members, did you believe Manson was God, and were you willing to do anything and everything he asked you?
A: I thought Manson was either Jesus or the Devil, at times both. He was who we looked to for direction. We had him high and lifted up. There was a charismatic presence about him that made him able to easily deceive us. And, YES, I was willing to even die for him; instead others died!
12. Charles, were you also at the Barker Ranch in Goller Wash on the outskirts of Death Valley to live among the animals with Manson?
A: Several times I was at Barker Ranch. We went there after the murders looking for the Bottomless Pit mentioned in the Revelation 9 of the Bible. I left Manson there in a depressed state, and returned to Texas after not finding the pit, knowing I had made a tremendous mistake in judgment, to say the list. You mentioned animals: There were rattle snakes and other vermins, but we were the ones acting like animals.
13. What were you looking for in the '60s movement?
A: I didn't know it at the time, but I was looking for love. Not just any kind of love, like physical love, but unconditional love. Someone to love me just the way I was with all my shortcomings. Someone to believe in, who shared the way I felt, to be able to understand me, and to give wisdom, guidance and direction to my life. But I never found it!
14. Why did you convert to Christianity in 1975?
A: For 29 years, I searched for love and peace, trying to fill a void, not really knowing what it was, until 1975, in the prison Chapel, where I accepted the death of Christ as payment for my sins. All my burdens lifted! For the first time, I experienced true love and peace through a relationship with God Who is love. I went back to my cell, bathed in love, I looked in the mirrow, my face was glowing. I was 10 times higher on Jesus than I had ever been on drugs. True love & peace had filled my heart.
15. As a minister of the Gospel, does it bother you thinking back on Manson quoting the Book of Revelation from the Bible? Kind of blasphemous in retrospect isn't it?
A: It is, but it doesn't bother me. The Lord knows I was not playing with a full deck back then. I was ignorant of God, like many of the Rock Groups, who blaspheme Christ and misuse the Cross. But when I repented of my sin, God forgave me of all my foolish mistakes. And if God forgives me, no matter how blasphemous I've been, I'm to forgive myself!
16. How do you deal with the guilt and shame of such horrible crimes?
A: I don't let my crime identify who I am today! I've grown to understand the song that we all know, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see." I see myself as God sees me, He sees me forgiven, because of Jesus! Otherwise, guilt and shame can be very destructive emotions in our lives.
17. What is the goal of your work with the website?
A: My goal is to always make people feel loved, and to always make others believe that God loves them. For people to change the way they see God: that He not only loves them, but because of Christ, forgives them for whatever they've done, and can make them useful in life,as He has me.
18. Charles, your new book "Manson's Right-Hand Man Speaks Out" has over 200 Questions and Answers, and it is available on your website, correct?
A: That's right, I'd encourage people to go to the website, where they can read the book, published in full, at no charge. Thank you very much Shadoe for having me!
Charles "Tex" Watson in a rare interview joining us from Mule Creek State Prison in Northern California, Charles thank you again for being with us, it's not easy to arrange such a chat, my best wishes to you and your family and good luck with your ministry! I hope we speak again!