Did anyone ever really know Charles Manson? To his fellow inmates, growing up in the criminal justice system, he was a wannabe musician with a hot temper. To his followers in 1969, he was Charlie, son of man, the loving yet strict leader of a family that adhered to his every word — eventually leading some of them to murder at his command. To the public, he was a racist, misogynist psychopath, the most dangerous man in the world, shouting threatening nonsense at Barbara Walters on national television. To his followers in his later years, he was the keeper of ATWA — Air, Trees, Water, Animals — his pro-Earth environmental philosophy.
To journalist Erik Hedegaard, Manson was his ambivalent white whale, and eventually one of the most fascinating — and terrifying — profile subjects of his 40-year career. After months of requests through followers, including Manson’s 25-year-old fiancée Star, Hedegaard was granted a visit with Manson in Corcoran State Prison in California in 2013. It would be the last media interview Manson gave before his death in 2017 at the age of 83.
“Certainly, most people cheered his demise, but I found it hard to be among them, if only because in certain ways he changed my life, and he changed it for the better, at least for a little while,” he says. “And that’s the story I want to share with you now. How it happened that I spent many long hours on the phone with him and ten hours, over two days, sitting next to him at his last home, Corcoran State Prison. And the impact it had on my life. And that it continues to have.”
Using clips of his original interviews, as well as new reporting into his life, Hedegaard take you inside the world of Manson, not just recounting the criminal history of the most notorious man of the Sixties, but maybe shining a hint of light on why so many people fell under his spell.