Q: Would you rather be called Tex or Charles?
Charles will be okay. I was only called "Tex"
for the year I was with the Manson family, then
the news media picked it up and it stuck. When
people call me that, it's like they're talking
to someone else. Not me! People recognize the
name "Tex" Watson, so the nickname is
used only as a testimony.
Q: Why did you agree to this interview?
Well, usually when people ask questions, I just
tell them to read my book, Will You Die For Me?
or Bugliosi's book, Helter Skelter. A person can
get a lot of answers that way, but by giving this
interview, I think I can probably offer some new
insights after three decades. I still get letters
all the time from students doing research and
from inquiring minds. But whatever the motive,
I feel an obligation to offer some explanation
for these senseless crimes. I can possibly offer
some answers so others won't end up like me, following
some cult leader as a way to find approval, acceptance
Q: Is Bugliosi's book, Helter Skelter, fairly
Yeah, 85%, for what it covers, especially on
Manson's philosophy, since he interviewed so many
people close to Manson. But I feel my book gives
a better inside account of what was going on,
not strictly from the prosecution's point of view.
Q: How did you meet Manson?
I'm sure most people have heard of the group,
the Beach Boys. Well, in 1968, I picked up their
drummer, Dennis Wilson. He was hitchhiking on
Sunset Boulevard because he had wrecked both of
his cars. He introduced himself, and of course,
I was starry-eyed; a 22-year-old greenhorn from
Texas who couldn't believe one of the Beach Boys
was asking me to come into his house for a cup
of coffee. It didn't take me long to say, "Groovy,
I walked into Dennis' log cabin-style mansion
and I was very impressed. Dennis introduced me
to an old white-bearded man named Dean, who smiled
and said, "You've got to meet Charlie!"
It seemed like everybody I met who knew Charlie,
worshipped him! Dean showed me into the living
room. Dennis had already relaxed on the couch
and was listening to Charlie's music. So, Dean
and I joined them as a couple of the girls served
us sandwiches and coffee. It was like the girls
were slaves, and the men were kings, meant to
be served. There was this big chunk of hashish
on the coffee table. As we smoked it and listened
to Manson's love songs, I began to see why people
looked up to Charlie. As he smiled at me, it seemed
he could see right into me. It was like love filled
the air. I left that night on cloud nine. I'm
sure the hash had a great deal to do with it,
but I couldn't believe what had just happened
and couldn't wait to come back. Sure enough, Dennis
asked me to come back anytime. I don't know if
I was more impressed with Charlie or Dennis.
Q: What was Manson really like back then?
He was much different back then, than he is today.
If I met him back then, as he is today, I'd run
from him, scared for my life. Back then, he was
much younger of course, with deceptive charisma.
In my book, I think I described him as "always
changing"; his movements, his appearance,
his dress, becoming someone new everyday - rock
star, guru, devil, son of God, even a child. He
was a magician and a charmer. He was aware, almost
catlike. His eyes were hypnotic having the ability
to psyche you out immediately. I feel it was because
of the drugs and the philosophies he had studied,
but he was much more "aware" than we
In reality, we empowered him by giving him our
lives. We were young, rebellious and even angry
inside. I blamed my parents for everything going
wrong instead of taking responsibility for my
own choices. I was looking for love, identity,
direction and acceptance. At the same time I was
a very naïve "people-pleaser,"
in fear of failure. I had no sound belief system.
He seemed to have the answers in some strange
way. But believe me, he was just as lost as the
rest of us. We were deceived!
Q: What drew you to Manson, and what kept
Of course, we've already touched on this a little,
but it seemed the more we gave of ourselves to
Manson and his philosophy, and the more we invested,
the harder it was to leave. I did leave the family
once, thinking I was losing my mind, and not willing
to give up my life for him.
This happened on December 1, 1968. I'd been trying
to prove myself to Manson for a couple of months,
with little success. He made it hard. We went
to Topanga Canyon Lane to see a friend, where
we heard the Beatles' "White Album"
for the first time. His interpretation of the
album took off. I had already made up my mind
to run away from him while in town, so I called
a friend to come and pick me up. I sneaked away
for at least 3 months, but something drew me back.
While I was away, he came up with the Helter Skelter
What drew me to him? It had everything to do
with my own weaknesses. I think the world of psychiatry
would call it codependency. In reality, I had
needs that only God could meet. When I left Manson,
it seemed like I was running from the answer for
my life, because Charlie seemed to know all my
weaknesses and the things I needed to give up.
Charlie required our very life, laying it down
for him. Only, I was not willing to give it up.
I could have chosen to return to Texas or go back
to Hollywood and live with my friend, but my pride
wouldn't let me. And it seems like I was blinded,
taken in and surrounded by some strange force
desiring my very soul. The more drugs I took and
the more I totally gave myself to Manson's beliefs,
the more it seemed I was getting somewhere. For
sure, there was something evil about it all. The
vocabulary seemed to be centered around a very
dark reality: dying, death and destruction.
Q: How long were you with Manson?
I was only with Manson for nine months. In late
August 1968, I didn't have a place to live, so
Dean and I moved to Spahn's Ranch, alongside a
dry creek bed in a tent. This is where we started
earning our way into the family. Dean didn't make
it because he was too old. I stayed for three
months until December, and then ran away for three
months. I then went back to the family for the
six months before the crime, in August.
Shortly after the murders, while living in the
desert, I ran away from Manson again. I was in
a state of confusion, shock and disbelief. Finally,
I went back to Texas, extremely depressed. It
was like going into another world.
Q: Charles, you were raised a lot differently
than Manson. Can you tell me about your upbringing?
You're right. I was raised in a fine family with
high standards and good morals. We went to church,
only it didn't take. Growing up, I was an honor
student, a star athlete and almost a college graduate.
But at the same time, I had this void in my life
that I've spoken about, a need that could only
be satisfied spiritually. I was mixed up, in desperate
search of fulfillment and I feared failure, running
from my wonderful parents and family. I traded
them for a bunch of lost, mischievous souls. I
was a fool, rejecting my parent's instructions.
I was hard-headed and chose to learn the hard
way -- by experience. Proverbs says, "
fools plunge ahead with
great confidence" (14:8,16 NLT).
Q: How did Manson manipulate his followers?
Manson simply played on our weaknesses. It was
like he could see through you with the all-encompassing
eye of God. For example, if we had an acceptance
hang-up and he could see that we didn't feel accepted
in the family, he and longstanding members would
make it harder for us to be accepted. We were
manipulated by guilt. This way we would try harder.
Down the road, that trying harder would even mean
murder. There was much peer pressure among family
members and at the same time, none of us had good
identities. Manson simply gave us new ones. That's
when I became "Tex."
Even though his music only sounded good while
on drugs, it and the drugs were used to charm
us; programming us with his philosophy, turning
us from any previous values to very evil ones.
Manson's goal was to free us from our past, all
sexual inhibitions, all ego and fear, and turn
us into his image of love. Drugs such as LSD made
us extremely open to suggestions and the force
of a stronger personality. I didn't realize it
until later, but Charlie was actually a sorcerer,
using drugs to gain power, and using that power
to manipulate us. Acid, combined with Charlie's
diabolical personality and insight, turned us
from rebellious kids to pliant slaves. I'd suggest
reading my book Will You Die For Me? for greater
insight on Manson's manipulation.
Q: Why did Manson's cult teachings demand
that murder be committed?
See, part of Manson's philosophy pertained to
a black-white race war. He thought the blacks
would start it with a Hollywood slaughter, like
the Tate-LaBianca murders. He said the blacks
would be blamed for the murders, get mad and start
a race war in the cities. And not only that, to
Charlie, the Beatles were telling him to start
it, through their songs.
Also, Manson thought he had to take things into
his own hands when he saw that his prophetic philosophy,
Helter Skelter, wasn't happening on its own. He
needed money to finance Helter Skelter, you know,
for guns, knives, dune buggies and the like. He
tried to get money from musician Gary Hinman,
but ended up having him killed instead.
When one of the family members, Bobby Beausoleil,
was arrested for the murder, I was shocked! Then,
a few days later, when Helter Skelter still wasn't
"coming down," Manson thought a copycat
murder would spring Bobby, and bring down Helter
Skelter at the same time. He had built the Helter
Skelter philosophy, and when it didn't happen,
the copycat murder idea just gave him an excuse
to start it. And at the same time, he thought
the police would think the real killers of Hinman
were still free to commit the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Therefore, they would let Bobby go.
Q: Did Manson believe this Helter Skelter
Philosophy, or was he just into controlling people?
Yeah, he believed it, but we also let him control
us. Remember, I ran from Manson on December 1,
1968, the day we listened to the White Album together.
That day he began to formulate part of his philosophy
from the Beatles, because to him their music confirmed
his black-white revolution theory. For the next
three months, while I was away, he persuaded the
hard-core family members with this madness. So
much so, that when I was drawn back to the family
at the end of February, all they could talk about
was Helter Skelter coming down fast. To them,
I was ignorant and blind and had a lot of catching
up to do. I didn't know what they were talking
about. My head was spinning from all this new
Not only did Manson believe his philosophy with
strong conviction, but also he took pride in it.
He didn't tell us where he was borrowing it from,
but to him the Beatles were confirming all he
believed. Others believe he was a false prophet,
"For false messiahs and false prophets will
rise up and perform great miraculous signs and
wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's
chosen ones" (Matthew 24:24 NLT).
See, Manson was looking for answers all his life.
He studied Scientology in prison, and claimed
to have reached "theta clear." It's
a shame he never saw the simple truth of God sending
Jesus Christ for his sins, to give true love and
peace. He was looking for love, something I think
he lacked as a child and never accepted from God.
Also, he wanted to be recognized for his music.
We chose to follow him, thinking he had the answer.
But in reality, we empowered him to form a cult.
Really, he wanted to be God, Christ Himself, carrying
out his own will much like Lucifer (Isaiah 14).
Q: Should we be afraid of Manson?
No, not at all. He'll never get out of prison.
And to fear Manson gives him power over your life.
It seems the reason people fear him is because
the Manson murders have taken on a life of their
own. The movie is shown many times each year.
The media bombards your thoughts with the possibility
that it could happen to you. As a result, there
is this built-up fear of Manson.
We should caution our children about him and
the like, so they too don't get deceived. But
to fear him gives him way too much power. In our
minds, we made a monster out of Manson, and that
plays right into his hands. His game is to make
you fear him so he can control your mind. For
myself, I remember this Scripture to keep things
in perspective: "For God has not given us
a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and
of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7).
In the '60s, Manson used both fear and love to
control his followers. Manson knew that mankind
is controlled by deadly fear. He even believed
that love overcomes fear; not God's love, but
his love. He taught this principle through his
own devilish, selfish wisdom, much like terrorists
are trained today. My young mind was very confused,
not understanding the spirit of fear, or the power
of God's love through Christ to free us from the
fear of death.
Q: What are your feelings about Manson today?
Most people expect me to hate him, but the more
I've become accountable for my part in the crime,
the less I've blamed Manson. Even though I feel
I was used by Manson, I forgive him for the deception.
I even pray for him.
Manson is easy to hate. We are to hate what he
stands for, but should we hate the individual?
Again, to do so would be giving Manson power over
our lives. I've chosen not to do that any longer,
but rather to forgive.
Manson needs our prayers for salvation. His health
is also failing, so he may not be with us much
longer. God loves Charlie, and "He does not
want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time
for everyone to repent" (II Peter 3:9b NLT).
Q: So do you think anyone exposed to Manson's
philosophy could fall under his spell and do the
things that he demanded, even murder?
No, not particularly. It was designed for my
deception. I do believe it's possible for almost
anyone to fall under a similar spell or philosophy
in a situation designed for them. No one knows
exactly what that would be for them. It would
be different for everyone, depending on that person's
weaknesses. Of course, we have power over these
hellish deceptions by faith in Christ.
Q: So what situations transpired in your life
to cause you to fall under Manson's spell?
There were a lot of factors that came together
at once, to cause me to fall under his spell.
As you know, I was slowly dropping out of society.
I went to live with Manson, who had a strong personality,
versus my weak one. I felt like a failure, fearful
of disappointing my family, and thinking that
the love of the Manson family was what was missing.
My spiritual identity was null and void and at
the mercy of Manson's concepts. The isolation
from society was a catalyst, as well as Manson's
anger against society and my growing anger at
my parents. But bottom line, the cause was my
own sin of unbelief and disobedience against God
The signs of the time, anti-war protest, race
riots and the rebellious atmosphere of the flower
children were things I could identify with. Physically,
we were all lacking a good diet and proper sleep.
Peer pressure was tremendous in the family; that
is, to be accepted and recognized by Charlie and
the members. This, along with Charlie's propaganda,
the misinterpretation of the Beatles' music and
drugs took me over the edge.
Q: Do you think there's something innately
wrong with someone who could commit such a horrible
I believe there is something innately wrong with
all of us by nature of being born. As a Christian,
I believe sin passed upon all mankind through
Adam and Eve's fall in the Garden of Eden. This
is why we need to be born-again. We all have a
heart problem that causes us to trust in ourselves
instead of God.
But I understand your question. I think you are
asking if some of us are born naturally as murderers
and some not. I'd say no, we don't inherit it
from our parents; it's acquired as we grow up,
through the circumstances of our lives and the
choices we make.
During my childhood, feelings for others and
their cares and concerns were not taken into consideration,
because of my self-centeredness. My life was based
on looking good, feeling good, being right and
in control - idolatry. I think through the use
of drugs, I got to the place of being "past
feeling," until my conscience sort of shut
down. My judgments of right and wrong changed
into very immoral ways. So, what I would normally
do, I didn't do, and what I wouldn't normally
do, I did. I had no idea that I would reap what
I was sowing.
Furthermore, I learned many deadly ideas and
values from various worldviews. I became ungodly
and hopelessly confused. My mind became closed
and full of darkness. I was far away from the
life of God because I hardened my heart against
Him (Ephesians 4:17-19).
Q: What do you think you would be doing today,
if you had never met Manson?
I can't say for certain, because of my instability
at the time. I think God originally had a great
future planned for me. I believe I had a call
on my life for the work of the ministry. I just
got in the way of it. I came from a great family
who had lofty goals in mind for me. If I had been
obedient to my parents instead of rebellious,
things would have gone well for me!
I wanted to be successful and have a family.
I failed so miserably. But despite my grotesque
sin and failure, God gave me a second chance.
He has restored life to me, even though I'm in
prison. My family still loves me, and I am now
blessed with wonderful friends and a ministry