The Manson Bloggers
The Folsom State Prison, one of the facilities where Manson has been held.
From The Believer:
An interest in murders and cults and cult murders makes sense in teenagers. Being sixteen feels chaotic and a little insane, even under the best circumstances; the appeal of these stories is not so different from the melodrama of many young-adult novels. Like many teenage fans of the lurid and macabre, I had moved on to more-complex icons of rebellion by the time I graduated from high school. Charles Manson now seemed to me to have as much depth as a T-shirt decal. Murder fandom felt like a relic of a more turbulent time—something that could wash off, like unfortunate eyeliner.
For some people, though, the obsession doesn’t fade with time.
There are a dozen regularly updated Manson Family websites; the most interesting was born as Evil Liz’s Manson Cult, but is now simply called the Manson Family Blog. The site hosts dozens of contemporary photographs of former Manson Family members and associates. Leslie Van Houten and most of the other famous Manson Girls are all still in prison, of course; instead, the Manson Family Blog focuses its energy on more-peripheral members, people who would qualify as celebrities only within this very small subculture. Through various sneaky means, including, allegedly, exploiting lax Facebook privacy controls, the Manson Bloggers track down photographs of these people as they are now.
These photographs would look banal to the uninitiated: a grandmotherly type on a bench, clutching a water bottle; a short woman standing on the beach, flanked by three young men—her sons? These people are infamous not because they’ve killed anyone—they haven’t—but because when they were fourteen or nineteen or twenty-three, they had the bad luck or bad taste to befriend some people who did.
In the intervening four decades, some of these ex–Manson Family members changed their names or became born-again—whatever it took to distance themselves from their turbulent, murder-adjacent youths. Sometimes these people write angry emails to the Manson Bloggers, asking for their photos to be taken down. It’s easy to imagine them looking back at their former selves, shaking their heads, and thinking, That person isn’t me anymore. But the Manson Family Blog is always there to remind them: yes, yes it is.
The Manson Bloggers spend hours hanging out with each other virtually, via emails and chat rooms, blog posts and blog comments. A few years ago, they decided to meet in person for the first time. It went so well that they now take an annual trip to Southern California to visit various Manson sites together.