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Manson Family Memoir: 10 Things We Learned

In ‘Member of the Family,’ Dianne Lake – who was only 14 when she met Charles Manson – reveals new details of life in the infamous cult

The story of Charles Manson and his Family of followers has straddled history and mythology for the past 50 years, combining a well-documented trial with lore surrounding the group’s life before the Tate-LaBianca murders that effectively ended the idealistic 1960s. 

Now, Dianne Lake – who became the group’s youngest member when she joined at age 14 – has told her story in her new memoir, Member of the Family, shedding new light on some of the key events in the timeline of the notorious cult. 

charles manson dianne lake book

Charles Manson on trial in 1970.

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Manson’s manipulative techniques ultimately led to his downfall

Jack Gardiner, one of the Family’s arresting officers, took Lake in as a foster child once she was released from a psychiatric hospital. She lived with him and his family when she testified against Mason in court. When Gardiner helped Lake prepare for how she should answer questions on the witness stand, a lot of his suggestions sounded familiar.

“Jack explained how much the defense attorneys were going to try to confuse me and trip me up,” she writes. “Kind of like Charlie, I thought to myself. If that was the case I was already well trained. Jack admonished me to be on my best behavior, as Charlie had. Becoming sassy would make it look like I was not telling the truth. He had also told me to listen carefully and answer only what I was asked. He said people tend to talk too much and volunteer information. Listening is your best tool. Where had I heard that before? Again, Charlie’s tutelage would help me in testifying against him.”

Ultimately, Lake used what she learned from Manson to assist in his conviction. Manson, now 82, remains in prison.