NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t



Lots of listeners read all kinds of messages into The Beatle’s White Album, but nothing compares to the album’s impact on Charles Manson. He heard it as a message to him and his followers — known as “The Family” — that the world was on the verge of an apocalyptic race war in which blacks would rise up against their white oppressors and enslave them. This battle would be set off by an event called Helter Skelter, after the eponymous Beatles song, and Manson planned to lead his followers into the desert, where they would hide until the chaos ended. That’s just one example of Manson’s distorted thinking, but there are many more in Jeff Guinn’s new biography of the cult leader, Manson. Among the many people Guinn spoke with are Manson’s sister and cousin, who had never before given interviews, and former Manson followers who are now in prison serving time for murder. Manson and his followers were responsible for nine murders, including that of Roman Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. Guinn’s book has new information about Manson’s upbringing and how Manson came to San Francisco in 1967, after serving time in prison, and used what he learned from pimps, the Bible, Scientology and ’60s counterculture to attract followers — mostly young women — and teach them to follow and fear him. Guinn tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross about how Manson accumulated followers and then struggled to keep them. MORE