Leslie Van Houten Was A 19-Year-Old Homecoming Queen When She Met Charles Manson


Los Angeles Public LibraryThree Manson Family murderers, from left: Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Leslie Van Houten. 1971.

Before Leslie Van Houten stabbed Rosemary LaBianca in the back 16 times, she was a normal, middle-class girl who was homecoming queen at her high school. She was the second eldest child of a traditional, all-American family on Aug. 23, 1949, in Altadena, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.

Van Houten was an athletic young girl, and outgoing enough that being crowned homecoming queen only made sense. Not averse to mischief and adventure, though, she started experimenting with drugs in her teen years. At first, it was hash and marijuana — but that quickly escalated.

Before anyone was the wiser, young Van Houten was taking LSD on a regular basis. Once, she and her boyfriend ran off to San Francisco’s hippie Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

Bobby Beausoleil

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesBobby Beausoleil and Catherine “Gypsy” Share introduced Van Houten to Charles Manson. Here, Beausoleil poses for a mugshot after being arrested for the murder of Gary Hinman.

She turned 19 in the summer of 1968 — when her life took an unimaginable turn.

It didn’t take long after meeting Bobby Beausoleil and Catherine “Gypsy” Share that she joined them on a trip. The two Mansonites welcomed her in, and hit the road.

Discussion of a man named Charles Manson filled the air with mystery and intrigue — especially when Share said he was “Christlike” and had all the answers they were seeking. By the time summer was over, Leslie Van Houten finally met the shadowy figure. He’d change her life forever.

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