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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 and appreciation.

Q: Is Bugliosi's book, Helter Skelter, fairly accurate?

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, man!"

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 were.

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 you there?

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 philosophy.

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 deceive themselves…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 insight.

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 and family.

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 crime?

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 to others.

Acknowledgments Table of Content Chapter One
About Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter

California Dreamin'

Cult Madness

An Angel of Light

Helter Skelter Review

Terrorist Connection


Will You Die For Me?

Manson's Right-Hand Man Speaks Out!

Christianity For Fools

Our Identity in God's Family
Outreach Ministries
Statement of Faith
The Gospel
Prisoner Outreach Ministries
Family Outreach Ministries
Prisoner Prayer List
Friends Testify
Study Chart Galleries
The Ezekiel Wheel Project
Study Charts Chain Booklet
Prison Reform
Bondage-Breaking Prayer
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Forgiven: The Charles Watson Story - Scenes from original docudrame, including interviews with Charles and Rosemary LaBianca's daughter.

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