Charles Manson has been in prison for the past 44 years. All told, he's spent approximately two decades of his 79 years as a free man. With all of the media coverage that the Helter Skelter murders received at the time—and all of the television interviews Manson granted in the '80s and '90s—his recent silence has made it easy for some to forget that he's still alive, serving out a life sentence in a California prison.
California prisoners aren't allowed to participate in recorded interviews any longer and, somewhat in protest, Manson hasn't opened his world to the media for some time, now. But, the December 5th issue of Rolling Stone includes an expansive feature on the man. It's currently available on the Internet and will absolutely engulf you for thousands of words spread across seven pages.
Charlie sighs and takes a seat, seeming lost and befuddled. But then, before I know it, he's reached out and bounced one of his fingers off the tip of my nose, fast as a frog's tongue, dart and recoil.
He leans forward. I can feel his breath in my ear.
"I've touched everybody on the nose, man," he says, quietly. "There ain't nobody I can't touch on the nose." He tilts to one side and says, "I know what you're thinking. Just relax." A while later, he says, "If I can touch you, I can kill you."
He puts his hand on my arm and starts rubbing it. An hour after that, we're talking about sex at the ranch in the old days, what it was like, all those girls hanging around, a few guys, too, the group-sex scene. "It was all this," he says, putting his hand on my arm again, sliding it up into the crook of my elbow and down. "That's what it was like. We all went with that. There's no saying no. If I slide up, you've got to go with the flow. You were with anyone anyone wants." I nod, because for a moment, with his hand on my skin, sliding up, I can see how it was. It feels OK. It feels unexpectedly good to go with the flow, even if it is Charlie Manson's flow and even if, since he's touching me, he can kill me, which is probably how it was way back when, too.
The feature includes Manson's threats, ramblings, conspiracy theories, and missives about his relationship with a 25-year-old woman he's named "Star" who has carved Manson's signature "X" into her forehead. It includes his rants and complaints and tall tales, and opinion of Internet trolls, even though he's never been on a computer before.
Rolling Stone's Erik Hedegaard walks you through his relationship with the most notorious serial killer in American history. The story is creepy and self-aware. You know how, when you watch a horror movie, you always wonder why the hell the people keep walking into whatever haunted mansion they're navigating? That's how you'll feel when you pull a muscle trying to click to the next page of Hedegaard's profile.
It's vulgar and terrifying and apt and addicting. Do yourself a favor and read every word of it. [Rolling Stone]