I had sex with Charles Manson at 14 but worse was hearing my acolyte ‘sister’ say she wanted to cut out pregnant victim’s baby
BEING taught to “rip upwards” to inflict maximum injury to someone’s internal organs when stabbing them sounds like something from a horror movie, especially when the advice came from notorious cult leader Charles Manson.
But it was a reality for Dianne Lake, who first met the mass murderer in 1967 when she was just 14 and became a member of his cult known as the Family.
“He told us you wanted to stab somebody in their chest area, and rip up. That way you’d hit more vital organs,” says Dianne on new documentary I Lived With A Killer, which tells of her time living with Manson and his followers.
Fifty years ago, members of the group, not including Dianne, went on a killing spree in which they murdered seven people including pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
“It just made me feel sick. I couldn’t imagine actually sticking a knife in someone, and ripping up.”
It was a vast departure from the free love message which had drawn Dianne to Manson, who she describes as charismatic, playful and fun.
She had sex with him within hours of that first meeting, but even that didn’t seem strange to the impressionable teenager.
“He seduced me but in a very loving and in a very different way than I had ever been loved before,” she recalls.
“He took time to do this hand motion, and it was just very sweet, very gentle, and very loving, very patient.
“He made me feel very much like a woman, and not just a young girl who didn't know anything.”
'His eyes twinkled'
Dianne met Manson and “his girls” at a Los Angeles party. They immediately embraced her and made her feel loved.
Having recently become emancipated from her hippy parents, the group filled a void in Dianne’s life.
“He had a twinkle in his eye, he just exuded love,” says Diane.
“He really adored his girls, and that was really reassuring to me. I just felt instantly like I belonged.”
After seducing Dianne on their first night together, Manson invited her to join his family – an opportunity she leapt at.
As one of Manson’s inner circle, Dianne quickly struck up friendships with the likes of Susan Atkins, Patty Krenwinkler and Leslie Van Houten, who would later kill unquestioningly for their beloved leader.
Although in the beginning Manson appeared kind and patient, it wasn’t long before he began beating and manipulating her.
As well as sleeping with Manson, Dianne was expected to have sex with the associates whose houses the Family stayed at. If she refused, she was hit.
The Family were subjected to horrific trials of strength, such as being forced to hold their hands over candle flames and even being refused food.
Manson strengthened his hold on the group through messages in songs he wrote and which they sang, and before long he became consumed with the idea of an apocalyptic “race war” he called Helter Skelter.
He claimed songs on The Beatles’ White Album predicted this, insisting black people would murder all white people leaving only members of the Family as survivors.
Manson was so convinced a race war was imminent that he decamped his followers to an abandoned ranch in the Californian desert, armed everyone with six-inch Buck Knives and delivered his devastating “rip upwards” advice.
“Patti put her arm around me at one point and said, ‘You just have to be willing to do it,” recalls Dianne.
“I really felt that willing to kill was a mind game.”
Just months later, in August 1969, some of Manson’s followers embarked on the infamous murderous rampage which left seven people dead.
By this point his delusions had spiralled so far out of control when his fated race war failed to begin, he started it himself with the murder of local drugs dealer, Gary Hinman.
Then, on August 8, the feared cult leader ordered four of his blood-thirsty disciples – Susan Atkins [known as Sadie], Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles ‘Tex’ Watson – to the Beverly Hills address of movie actress Sharon Tate with the instruction to kill everyone in the house.
'Gleeful' gloating over murders
As well as Tate, who was married to director Roman Polanski and pregnant with his child, they murdered four other people at the property that fateful night.
Less than 24 hours later, the deadly gang – plus Leslie Van Houten and Steve ‘Clem’ Grogan – savagely tortured, murdered and mutilated wealthy LA couple Rosemary and Leno LaBianca.
Although not involved in the murders, they had a harrowing impact on Dianne. Hearing the women she’d previously viewed as her “sisters” discussing the crimes so casually finally made her realise the dangerous position she was in.
“Patti, Sadie [Susan Atkins] and Leslie started telling me about their experience with killing these people,” Dianne recalls.
“It was just horrendous. The tone they used. These girls were almost gleeful.”
Far from regretting their violent assassinations, Manson’s ‘girls’ could hardly contain their pride.
They even boasted about what they’d done at the Family dinner table days later, believing that their slaughter was the ultimate show of love for their great leader.
“Sadie was going on about how she considered cutting out Sharon’s baby, to try and save it,” says Dianne.
“Patty told me that the scene at the Tate house was just blood everywhere and she wrote some things in blood on the door.
“I was horrified that these girls that I loved, who were my sisters, could do this. I was just shocked."
Brainwashed and terrified
“After that, I was scared to death,” says Dianne.
“I realised if this guy was capable of murder, what’s to stop him from killing me if I tried to escape? I really felt I had no option but to stay.”
It wasn’t until the Manson family were arrested two months later that Dianne was finally able to get away from their grip.
At the trial in 1970, she testified against Charles Manson, who was found guilty of seven counts of first-degree murder, and one count of conspiracy to murder.
His accomplices were all sent down for the murders too, apart from Kasabian who testified against them and played no direct part in the killings.
He was sentenced to the death penalty, which was later commuted to life imprisonment. But he later died in 2017 of colon cancer.
For most of her life since, only Dianne’s husband and her pastor knew about her involvement in the Manson clan.
But in 2017, Dianne finally broke her silence and wrote a book about her life with Charles Manson called Member Of The Family.
"The book made me realise I was the victim. And I feel like a whole person now. I don’t have this hidden skeleton in the closet.”
I Lived With a Killer: The Manson Family is on C&I tonight at 9pm.
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