Charles Manson Family Murders
Charles Manson is dead at age 83. The news release issued by the California Department of Corrections read “He died of natural causes in a hospital.” It was eerie to meet a member of his cult so soon after hearing of his death.
Eerie Timing to Meet a Manson Family Member
The timing is eerie. Manson died and right after that I came face-to-face with a Manson Family member. Her name is Dianne Lake. She was in attendance at one of my Manhattan speaking events for writers. It was October 28 when we met near Penn Stations. The venue was inside the Hotel Pennsylvania.
It’s a fun paying gig that I do a few times every year. As a journalist, I talk about how to pitch their book to writers like me. Then, I answer questions during the meet-and-greet Q&A afterwards. Tired, I headed for the elevator, to head home. But, after pressing the down arrow, I noticed two women beside me. One had a hardcover book tucked under her arm.
The cover photo of Charles Manson captured my gaze, as did the title, “Member of the Family.” I’ve been obsessed with true crime books since seventh grade. The first was Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” and I devoured it in two days — the next was the chilling “Helter Skelter.”
Helter Skelter: The True Story of The Manson Murders is a 1974 book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. Bugliosi was the prosecutor in the 1970 trial of Charles Manson.
Helter Skelter & Other Manson Cult Books
Curious, I struck up a conversation. “I’ve read Helter Skelter three times,” I said with a smile. The woman who was holding the book turned out to be Lake’s co-author Deborah Herman. After introducing herself, Herman said, “Guess who this is.” She pointed to Lake and said “This is Dianne, the youngest member of the Manson family.” I must’ve looked startled because Herman explained, “This is her story.” Then handed me the book.
Intrigued, I read the subtitle: “My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties.”
Meeting Manson Family Member
Although eager to read the jacket, I didn’t want to be rude so I looked up and extended my free hand to Lake. Hesitatingly, as if in slo-motion, Lake took my hand and we shook. She offered a polite hello in almost a whisper. Her cautious manner and the way she looked me in the eyes for only a moment before her gaze darted away, gave me the impression she was either shy, tired, or at the very least, uncomfortable in the moment. A feeling came over me that she too was a rape survivor.The cliche, “It takes one to know one,” proved true as I read her heart-wrenching account.I don’t want to give any spoilers. I highly recommend this book.
Member of the Family
In Lake’s Words
At age 14, I became one of Charles Manson’s Girls. At 17 I helped put him in prison. This is my story.
At fourteen Dianne Lake had a note in jeans pocket. It was from her hippie parents granting Diane permission to to leave. She became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson.
In this poignant, disturbing memoir of lost innocence, coercion, survival, and healing, Dianne Lake tells her story. The book chronicles her years with cult leader Charles Manson. Diane reveals for the first time that her true identity. She was the youngest member of the Manson Family. Her books offers new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminals. And, what it was like to be one “Charlie’s girls.”
Over the span of two years, the impressionable teenager endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse. The harsh realities of who Charles Manson was revealed itself. From Spahn Ranch and the group acid trips, to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s dangerous messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness as she lived it.
The Gruesome Crimes
Dianne Lake never participated in the group’s gruesome crimes. She was purposely insulated from them. However, Dianne was arrested with the rest of the Manson Family. As Diane learned more and more about the heinous Manson Family murders, she became a valuable witness for the prosecution’s case against Manson.
The cop who arrested Diane, took her into his home. She also met other good Samaritans along her journey. And that is how the courageous young woman eventually found redemption. Miraculously, she grew up to lead an ordinary life.
While much has been written about Charles Manson, this riveting account from an actual Manson Family cult member is a chilling portrait that recreates in vivid detail one of the most horrifying and fascinating chapters in modern American history.
Member of the Family includes 16 pages of photographs.
Dorri Olds is a freelance writer and journalist whose bylines include The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day, The Establishment, ROAR, The Fix, Forward, Yahoo, and Tablet. Her short stories are published in eight book anthologies including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.