The Uphill Slide

There is always something.



My phone whistled in the night.

Charles Manson was dead at 83 of natural causes. He was an evil of my youth.

Manson’s iconic photo showed a crazy-looking man. Most of us would cross the street to avoid someone with that look. How had he charmed others to commit murder? That look readers saw could not have been the look or persona he showed to his followers. In Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, Jeff Guinn recounted the recollections of family and acquaintances of a very young boy who charmed and manipulated others, FBO Charles Manson. Were these memories in hindsight true? Was he born ‘bad’? Had he possessed the same murderous character traits of the sugar-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth child in the fictional movie The Bad Seed? Or was he created by his early life or some combination of heredity and environment? No more opportunities to study the man unless in death a brain autopsy shows anomalies from the ‘normal’ brain.

We are fascinated by those in our society that deviate to crime as serial and mass murders. No, not fascinated. Stymied to understand such a mind, such a person. Google labeled Manson a schizophrenic and a paranoid delusional. Does that explain him?

A personal anecdote, once-removed, of another infamous killer. In 1985 a co-worker at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in the foothills of Tucson recounted her story of an eerie and serendipitous encounter. The woman was originally from Chicago. On July 13, 1966 a man came to her apartment door. A couple of days later when the face of the man-at-the-door filled her television screen and was printed on front-pages, she recognized him. She had encountered Richard Speck. True story? I believed her.

We learn about these serial and mass murderers too late. Can we ever predict them? And stop them?


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