History

How Charles Manson Won Friends and Influenced People

The criminal and the self-help book

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This explains so much:

SURF OR DIE

Dale Carnegie Training, the self-help program that's shaped the lives of such people as Warren Buffett, Johnny Cash, and Emeril Lagasse, can claim an additional ardent disciple: Charles Manson.

In his new book, Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson, author Jeff Guinn credits Carnegie training with transforming Manson from "a low-level pimp" to the "frighteningly effective sociopath" who created a cult of killers in the late 1960s. Manson took classes in "How to Win Friends and Influence People," based on Carnegie's iconic book, while doing time for car theft in a California federal prison in 1957. "It was critical in shaping how he manipulated people," says Guinn, noting that the young convict told people he'd enrolled to get strangers to open up to him.

Manson was interested in Scientology and transactional analysis, too—a connoisseur of self-help fads and pop psychology. Sometimes he seems less like the closing chapter of the '60s than a dark parody of the '70s that no one recognized because it came in advance.

[Hat tip: Bryan Alexander.]