Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten on why they followed Charles Manson

As followers joined Manson, they left San Francisco and drove to Los Angeles, where they settled at Spahn Ranch.
10:04 | 03/18/17

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Transcript for Patricia Krenwinkel, Leslie Van Houten on why they followed Charles Manson
man to know which way the wind was blowing when an estimated 10,000 hippies showed up in golden gate park. To understand how Manson did what he did, we have to understand the context of the time and place. Demonstrators took to the streets. A time in American history when you've got Vietnam and you've got the race riots. Six days of rioting in the Negro section of Los Angeles. It seemed anything was possible, both wonderful and terrible. "If you're going to San Francisco" becomes a huge hit. And what it is, is an advertisement for the summer of love in San Francisco. ??? With flowers in their hair ??? By the end of the "Summer of love," 75,000 people, they are descending on haight-ashbury. Everybody's got there, because of this belief we're gonna change the world. And this draws a lot of broken kids from all across America. And here's Charles Manson, the ultimate predator. And so just as Manson is released from prison in California, the movement is like a magnet for all these people whose particular characteristics make them highly vulnerable to the thing that Manson has, the ability to manipulate. People tend to think that only oddballs ended up following Manson, and that's not true. Leslie van Houten's a great example. And so she got wrapped up into that and evidently this whole situation was love to begin with. But it didn't end up that way. Diane sawyer talked to Manson's ex-flex-followers. And they disscribe was their we overtaken. Leslie, in high school, was very bright. She's gorgeous. All the boys love her. She plays baritone sax in the marching band, for gosh sakes. Leslie van Houten is an example of how people can be very Normal but they -- all of us have vulnerabilities. And Manson could smell it. I seemed to want more living out of life than what was expected of young girls at that time -- drugs, sex, you know, breaking away from the norm. Leslie van Houten's father moved out. She lost her way after that. I think that when my father left, I was desperately seeking someone that I could love and hold onto and call my own. Charlie Manson got her hooked is that he would always tell her little puzzles to try to work out. He would say "You can figure this out, you're smart." He always finds the way to make the other person feel loved, appreciated. He was like Christ and he had the answers. For as twisted as it all got, you know, I really think that -- I felt that I had met someone that, by being around him, would have a positive change. I don't think anyone ever joined the Manson family who completely were self-confident. He could always find a way in. Manson met Patricia krenwinkel when she was stage with a sister who had problems. Manson said to pat, "You should come away with me. You're so ugly and I'm ugly, we're the only two people who will tell each other we're beautiful." That night, we slept together and when we made love, all I remember is just crying and crying to this man, because he said, "Oh, you're beautiful." I couldn't believe that. I just started crying. Pat krenwinkel basically left with him, Charlie Manson, the next day. And pat firmly believed that he was gonna be her new boyfriend. Imagine her shock when she found out she was only part of a harem who would have to share him. He had great confidence in his own sexual prowess. And what they really liked about me? You want to hear it? Yes. I Good. He'd break people down, build them back up in his image. And they would become essentially fingers on his hand, subject to his every direction. These kids were putty in his hands. It didn't happen overnight. He spent a lot of time taking middle class girls and remolding them. I was an empty shell of a person that was filled up with Manson rhetoric. It wasn't so strange in 1967 to drive a bus, to give up all your clothes, you know, and going around and talking peace. A lot of times, where you might have had someone say, "Don't you think what you're doing is odd?" Instead, we were always in places where people were saying, "Wow, can I join you?" The posse gets bigger and bigger and eventually, they all pile in that bus and they drive down to Los Angeles from San Francisco where they settle at Spahn ranch. The Spahn movie ranch, which is in the northwest part of L.A. All the cowboy shows from the '50s and early '60s were shot there. The saloon, the hotel, the dusty main street. Manson and his family just moved in there. And that became their base of operation. For Manson, like any demagogue, if you're trying to take followers and make them buy into your reality, as opposed to anybody else's, you wanna get 'em isolated. You wanna get 'em away from outside influence. I was cutting off my past in my own brain, it was, like, "I can't go back." You could absolutely not talk about your past at all. And one thing we didn't have is watches and the whole idea was to let time disappear. There was no time. We gave up our birthdays. Squeaky Fromme was another young girl with parental issues. Charlie found her weeping on a bench outside Venice, California one day. Introduced himself as the man who's called the gardener, because he tends to all the little flowers in haight-ashbury, and that she should come with him. And she did. I kept thinking, "This is fate." Because he was exactly what I was looking for. Love is infinitely strong and mad. It's crazy. People have described her to me as, among all Charlie's followers, the greatest true believer. She's a little more of a performer, maybe, than the other people in the family. You have to make love with it. She's very verbal. She has a certain childlike quality that kind of endears you to her, until you listen to what's coming out of her mouth. You can pick it up any second and shoot. People who met him wanted to be like him. Men especially wanted to have that kind of charisma. So they would do the things that he did. But they didn't do them with the same spirit. Drugs were always an important part of Charlie's appeal. In those days, the enlightened culture was using drugs. You honestly believed that smoking marijuana, taking lsd, would open up your consciousness. I was smoking a lot of marijuana, hash. And I had at that time already had used acid a couple times. But at that time, drinking and using drugs did not seem unusual, because I was doing it with my high school friends. Charlie would use lsd for his special ceremonies on a daily basis, where he would preach to people towards the end of the day. Oh, we took hundreds of trips together. He would personally put the dosages in his followers' mouths. But when he took some himself, he was careful to take less so he would stay in control. Sometimes he'd claim he was Jesus Christ come again. He even would take up positions as though he was being crucified. Sometimes he would re-enact the crucifixion, when we were on lsd, and it was very realistic. And then make the connections of "Manson," "Son of man," you know. And then the questions would begin. Would you die for me? And in their drug-induced situation, they listened. So he used lsd as a form of mind control. There was, at times, basically, group sex, but it was always very planned, because it was a means of control. When he'd have different men that he was trying to initiate into the family, try to bring them in, he would offer them whatever women he had. Isn't that what women are for? Women receive men and reflect men. Man hold dominion up over woman. It's been that way since -- since we grunted and we came out of caves. If a man wanted you, you went with him. You couldn't resist. He was an excellent pimp. Manson deliberately sent out the women in the family to go around the different areas of L.A. Where the stars lived and troll for famous musicians. They were the bait. That's how Charlie meant to use them. He thinks he's going to be a singer-songwriter like Bob Dylan or like Neil young. And what he finds is something very different. And something that fuels his anger towards society.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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