The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder

The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder

by Nikki Meredith


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The Manson Women and Me

  In the summer of 1969, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel carried out horrific acts of butchery on the orders of the charismatic cult leader Charles Manson. But to anyone who knew them growing up, they were bright, promising girls, seemingly incapable of such an unfathomable crime.
Award-winning journalist Nikki Meredith began visiting Van Houten and Krenwinkel in prison to discover how they had changed during their incarceration. The more Meredith got to know them, the more she was lured into a deeper dilemma: What compels “normal” people to do unspeakable things?
The author’s relationship with her subjects provides a chilling lens through which we gain insight into a particular kind of woman capable of a particular kind of brutality. Through their stories, Nikki Meredith takes readers on a dark journey into the very heart of evil.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806538587
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 03/27/2018
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Nikki Meredith is an award-winning journalist, a licensed clinical social worker, and a former probation officer. She has been a feature reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, the Marin Independent Journal, and the Pacific Sun. Her work has appeared in ParentingPsychology Today, HealthUSA Today, and Utne Reader. She lives near San Francisco. Visit her at

Read an Excerpt

When the killers were ultimately identified, the dread only intensified. Manson, the mastermind of the carnage, was scary. But the young women he controlled didn’t look like anyone’s idea of cold-blooded murderers. They looked like our sisters, our daughters, our friends—ourselves—and yet their bloodthirsty behavior was something out of a horror movie.

Twenty years ago, I began visiting Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel in prison. I wanted to know if these women were radically different from the young women who carried out Charles Manson’s barbaric orders in 1969. If they were different, how did they understand what happened?

In grappling with the brutality of the events, I learned a great deal about human behavior, much of it disheartening, but some of it proof of our capacity as humans to transform ourselves, even those of us who have committed unspeakable acts.

Table of Contents

Foreword Caitlin Meredith xi

Introduction 1

1 The Formosa Café 9

2 Abigail Folger's Smile 16

3 "Healter Skelter" 21

4 Banned-Tools of the Trade 25

5 Unfathomable Remorse 27

6 Wallet on the Beach 33

7 Mrs. Tate's Fury 37

8 Living Without Hope 40

9 Orphaned by the Holocaust 44

10 Mondo Video A-Go-Go 55

11 Disordered Thoughts and Demented Machinations 61

12 "I Felt Like a Predator" 66

13 Folie à famille 69

14 Falling in Love with Anne Frank 74

15 Everybody Can Be a Killer 82

16 "Is There Anything Worse Than Dying in Terror?" 88

17 The Empathic Brain 91

18 Unforgetting Retribution 96

19 Dues-Paying Member of the Little Wildlife Society 98

20 "They Were on a Tear" 104

21 Dreaming of Hitler 107

22 The Need for a Scapegoat 109

23 An Abiding Friend to Families of Victims 114

24 The Agony of Mothers 117

25 Homecoming Princess 122

26 A Good Soldier 126

27 Searching for a Cessna 133

28 The Metaphorical Microscope 142

29 Decoding Manson 151

30 Broken Empathy Circuit 154

31 "Leslie Is My Daughter" 160

32 Ich bin ein Jude 164

33 Bad Apples or Bad Barrel? 169

34 A Psychedelic City-State 173

35 "Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo" 182

36 Micheltorena Hill 188

37 Mule Creek Prison 192

38 Every Facet of Her Mothering 202

39 A Lethal Convergence 209

40 "You Couldn't Find a Nicer Group of People" 212

41 Pat's Anger 215

42 Scapegoats-The Need to Blame 220

43 "She Did Appeal to My Humanity but I Had None to Give Her" 229

44 The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang 232

45 Heaven's Gate 238

46 A Different Pat 241

47 The Terror of Being Excluded 243

48 Hatred More Powerful Than a Mother's Love 245

49 The Shade Trees of Hollywood High 251

50 Fused Identities 255

51 A Drop of Jewish Blood 258

52 A Make-Believe Dodge 270

53 "A Damn Good Whacking" 275

54 The Swastika 278

55 Yes, She Would Kill for Him 280

56 Insatiable and Warped Need for Love 282

57 The Ultimatum 284

58 The Truth Is, the Truth Doesn't Matter 288

59 Not That Kind of Girl 299

60 We Are All Rwandan 311

61 "You Took God Away from Me" 314

62 Unforgetting, Unforgiving 320

63 "I'd Be Nice to a Stray Dog If It Needed Help" 326

64 The Mothers Who Poisoned Their Babies at Jonestown Haunt Her 331

65 Starlight Ballroom 336

Epilogue 341

Acknowledgments 349

Customer Reviews

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The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Patloveshistory More than 1 year ago
This book is 15% about the Manson women and 85% about the author coming to terms with her Jewish Blood. Save your money. Nothing new to learn, unless you are having trouble dealing with being Jewish! I paid $1.99 for this book, and still feel I paid $1.90 too much!
AnnMarie33 More than 1 year ago
An interesting look at two of the women in the Manson family. The author details her visits with Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krewnwinkel in prison. I with Meredith left out the stories regarding her own background and family because they didn't exactly fit into the narrative. This book reads more like a memoir than true crime.
LLPodcast More than 1 year ago
Nikki Meredith’s personal experiences and relationships with Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten is a fascinating and in depth dealing with understanding and empathy. The book is not a sensationalised account of two murderers and a journalist hoping to find an angle that will push this further. What we have is a book that is thought provoking and raises questions on the human spirit and asks can a person change from their early self. Meredith has a very interesting writing style that delves the reader into the subject matter without speaking down or pushing her ideals forth. Her strengths comes with providing the facts and letting the reader come up with their own understanding and she gives you enough time to digest the information before moving on. Interestingly enough, the author was in high school who would become a Manson member years later. She looks into their relationship at this point and examines how they both changed as people. Starting out with very similar views but leading very different paths. This is what makes the book rich reading from my point of view, Meredith examines the situations with Krenwinkle and Van Houten and relates this to her own life and her own decisions and experiences. Leading in through this perspective, lifts the subject matter above the usual fare that is out there dealing with the Manson family or any true crime books out there. Meredith has provided an interesting subject and personalised it to become real. As for people’s understanding or changing of perspective on how you feel about Krenwinkle or Van Houten will depend on your own personal views but this book will challenge even though who have very strict views on this. This is an outstanding look into the lives of two women who made some bad decisions which lead them down a dark path whilst in their late teens to early 20’s and the prices they have paid. It deals with changes of personality, thoughts and overview people have as they go into their 60’s to 70’s. It is a fact that as we mature, we are seldom the same person we were in our younger days than what we are now. This is a must read and highly recommended. Fascinating, personable and thought provoking in an intelligent and personal way.
TUDORQUEEN More than 1 year ago
Thank you to the publisher Kensington Books who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley. This book focuses primarily on Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, members of the notorious Manson family imprisoned since the 1970s involving the Sharon Tate and LaBianca murders in LA. While author Nikki Meredith also interviewed former Manson member Tex Watson in prison, she established a twenty-year relationship visiting Van Houten and Krenwinkel at the Frontera prison where they both are inmates. When the author initially broached interviewing these women, she also reached out to fellow former Manson family member Susan Atkins, also an inmate at Frontera. Although Atkins initially seemed open to it, she ultimately denied access claiming it would interfere with another media project she was involved with. In hindsight, Nikki Meredith was relieved of the abandoned Atkins interview opportunity; she sensed an inherit evil about Atkins that she did not find in Van Houten and Krenwinkel. Atkins died in prison in 2009 from brain cancer. Not only is this book about the Manson women, but about the author herself, and some connections she has to people involved in the Manson/LaBianca orbit. She was high school friends with a girl named Catherine Share who later became Manson family member and recruiter "Gypsy". She also was high school friends with Stephen Kay, who became deputy district attorney in LA, working directly under lead Manson prosecutor Victor Bugliosi during that trial. She also has the experience of her brother having spent a short time in prison, and leading a rehabilitated, meaningful and successful life afterwards. Finally, Meredith has been a magazine writer, NPR reporter, award-winning Bay Area journalist, family therapist and probation officer. It is with this varied professional and personal background that she delves into the psyche of these Manson women. The parts about the book I found most interesting were the author's meetings and conversations with Van Houten and Krenwinkel in prison. She also had the opportunity to interview a couple of their parents. Throughout the book, she tries to come to conclusions as to whether they are rehabilitated, how they really feel about what they did, and to figure out how they became brainwashed by Manson. Interspersed throughout the book she cites various psychological studies regarding people who murder and how they can become immune to feeling anything about it. Although I read a least half of these accounts, I admit I tired of the medical jargon and began to page through these sections. I was more interested in the one-on-one experiences the author had with the Manson women. Ultimately, the author's opinion (and that of the parole board) is that Leslie Van Houten should be paroled after her almost 50 years in prison. However, Governor Jerry Brown once again declined her parole in January 2018, although this had still been undecided at the time of this book's writing.