Monday, October 22, 2018

Charles Manson's Mother

Ada Kathleen Maddox was born January 11, 1918 in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky to Charles Milles Maddox and Nancy (Nannie) Lorraine (Ingraham).  Kathleen, as she was known to family and friends, had two older sisters, Glenna and Aileene, and an older brother, Luther.  Aileene died at age 20 in 1933.  Charles Milles Maddox was a conductor for the railroad.

In 1933 the Maddox family minus Kathleen's father, who died in 1931, were living in a home located at 2105 Hilton Avenue in Ashland Kentucky.  The home as it looks today....

Kathleen and her siblings had a typical 1920/30's era Kentucky working class family upbringing complete with her mother's staunch belief in the Nazarene Church.  The religion disapproved of movies, dancing, swearing, drinking alcohol and fooling around with the opposite sex.  You know, the kind of thing that just sends some people directly in the opposite direction.  Kathleen and her brother Luther were two of those people.

Kathleen, as a young teen, began sneaking out across the Ohio River to Ironton OH from her home in Ashland Kentucky.  Ironton had a dance hall and drinking establishment named Ritzy Ray Rainbow Room where she could enjoy all the forbidden activities she craved, away from the wagging tongues of Ashland and her mother's ears.  It was there that Kathleen met Colonel Walker Scott.
(Appalachian Murders and Mysteries compiled and edited by James M. Gifford and Edwina Pendarvis 2016 page 231)

Thus began what was to become one of the most enduring true crime murder stories in our life times.

Ritzy Ray Rainbow Room still stands today but it has been remodeled and turned into a bowling alley and skating rink.

Perhaps if you are ever in that neck of the woods you can go by Spare Time Bowling and Skating and ponder for a few minutes what quite possibly took place in the parking lot 83+ years ago.

The story of Kathleen and her amateurish attempt at motherhood is probably best told by posting the only interview she ever gave regarding her son Charles.  The interview was conducted by Los Angeles Times staff reporter Dave Smith and ran on the front page of the January 26 1971 edition of the newspaper.  The article will be broken up with commentary and documentation.


Let Others, 'Usually Women,' Do His Work, She Remembers

She looks older than her 53 years and feels 90, she says. Thin and slightly hunched from emphysema that keeps her from working, she still smokes heavily.

Sometimes, when fear keeps her sitting up all night, tiredness the next day knocks her mind off-guard. Then the constant tension catches her in spasms, making her shake so badly she can hardly pick up a tea- cup or light her cigarets.

She is the mother of Charles Manson.

Since his arrest , in November, 1969, for the slayings of actress Sharon Tate and six others, she has heard herself described as the worst kind of tramp and bad mother, whose son went wrong because he was so cruelly deprived.

If anything, it was just the opposite, she knows. But she kept silent and hidden, thinking back over the past and realizing, she says now, that her worst mistake with her infamous son was an overindulgence that became a law of life, even a necessity, to Charles Manson.

Never Worked or Fought

In the Charles Manson who sent his disciples out to kill, she can recognize one strong trait in the little boy she remembers—the charming boy who never worked or fought for what he wanted, but let others, usually women, do it for him.

Married five years to her third husband and mother of a little girl from her second marriage, she lives today virtually in hiding, known only to her husband, a few relatives and one woman friend.

Located by The Times, she consented to an interview—the first she has ever given—with a plea that her name, even the state where she lives, not be identified. We will call her Mrs. Manson.

"They'd pick me to pieces, and I could take that," she says, "but it's for my little girl's sake. She doesn't know any of this, and I've hoped I could keep it quiet until she's older. If I can just have three more years, then it'll be blown over a little, and she'll be 12, more able to understand. Then my husband and I will tell her."

Even then, it will be a tall order for a 12-year-old to absorb. The girl will learn of a half-brother she was too young to remember, but who spoke proudly of "my baby sister" and then went on to notoriety in one of the most pointless, vicious massacres of the century.
She will hear descriptions-here-to-fore unchallenged—of a mother said to have been a teen-age prostitute who didn't know who fathered Charles Manson; an ex-convict sent to prison with her brother for beating and robbing men she hustled in riverfront bars in Cincinnati, an alcoholic who lived with so many different men that even her son, already delinquent himself, moved out in disgust, and an indifferent, abusive mother whose neglect and cruelty planted seeds of violence in a sensitive and deprived boy.

Frank About Her Past

That is the general picture that until now has been drawn of Manson's early years.

But that is not the way it was, according to his mother.

Mrs. Manson speaks frankly about her past, denying some points and admitting others in a thin, weary voice that retains the country accents of her native Ashland, Kentucky.

"Charles was born out of wedlock," she admits, "but it wasn't just any man. I wasn't a prostitute, I've never been a prostitute. I was just 15 years old and a dumb kid.

"But my mother was a very strict woman, very religious, so when me and my sister got a few years on us. I guess we had a tendency to be a little wild, the way kids will."But I didn't go around with men that way, and when Charles came along, that had happened twice in in my life. And I was really in love with Colonel Scott. He was a lot older than me, 24, and he loved me, too."

Accepted Proposal

Her mother sent her with her sister to Cincinnati, to have the baby away from Ashland and while awaiting the baby she accepted the marriage proposal of William Manson, so the baby would have a name. 

Kathleen and William Manson married August 21 1934 in Newport Kentucky.  Kathleen lied about her age, saying she was 21 years old when she was just 15 years old.  She would have been about six months pregnant.

The baby was born Nov. 11, 1934, and was listed on the birth certificate as "No Name Moddox." after his mother's maiden name. But that was not out of indifference. Mrs. Manson says, but because she was awaiting the arrival of her own mother in Cincinnati.

"I figured I'd already hurt her pretty had, so I wanted to let her name the baby, you see. So she named him after my father." a few weeks later, she had the birth certificate changed to Charles Milles Manson.


A couple of birth certificates for Charles Manson were found.  Neither had "No Name Moddox" listed as the child's name.  The first birth certificate simply states "Manson" in the spot for the baby's name. William Manson is listed as the father.  Kathleen's maiden name is misspelled Moddox.  She states she is 18 years old, she was still 15 years old. The box which asks "Legitimate?" states NO.

The second birth certificate which I could only find with a watermark across the front obscuring the name a bit, gives the baby's name as Charles Milles Moddox, Kathleen's maiden name is still misspelled Moddox.  It is dated December 3 1934.

Kathleen, in the LA times interview, says that Charlie's birthday was November 11th but both of these records say his birthday was November 12th.

Her young husband had said he would try to accept the child, she recalls, but it didn't work out. She left Manson, returned to her mother in Ashland and began divorce proceedings.


Kathleen and William's co-habitation as a couple lasted just four and a half months.  The two lived with William's mother Nellie Manson in Cincinnati and it was not all sunshine and roses.  On January 5, 1935 Kathleen packed up and moved back to Ashland Kentucky to live with her mother according to divorce documents.

A pdf with all the divorce documents is linked below.  It was not Kathleen who began divorce proceedings, it was William who filed for divorce July 9, 1936, as the plaintiff and Kathleen as the defendant.

These are the juicy bits contained within.

  • Defendant refused to cook any meals.
  • Defendant refused do any housework or to help keep things clean.
  • Defendant persistently refused to perform her marital duties during the fall season of 1934.
  • Defendant is guilty of extreme cruelty for constantly nagging and berating her husband over his lack of earnings, the lack of money for dances, the lack of a home of her own, uttered in the presence of others to humiliate him.

Download the PDF:

In the Ashland 1935/36 city directory Mrs. Kathleen Manson is listed as living in the rear unit of a home on Greenup Avenue, about 3/4 of a mile from her mother's home.
She hoped to marry Scott, she says, but her own mother, disapproving because her divorce from Manson wasn't yet final, stymied that by informing Scott of the birth and her marriage. Scott, too furious to wait for the divorce, married another woman a few days later.

"All that stuff you read about Charles not knowing who his father was, that's not so. Scott used to come and pick up Charles and take him home for weekends with his own child. He just loved him," she says.

Scott died in 1954 of cancer, Mrs. Manson says.

It's not known whether or not Charles really did spend time with Colonel Scott.  It seems doubtful though.  Charlie was just shy of two months old when Kathleen left William and moved back to Ashland at the beginning of January 1935.  Colonel Scott married Dorothy Davis on July 21, 1935 in Kentucky. Dorothy was 16 years old. Their first son Colonel Scott Jr. was born January 16, 1936.

According to Jeff Guinn, Kathleen filed a bastardy suit against Colonel Scott two weeks before her divorce from William Manson was final.
Manson: The Life And Times Of Charles Manson (2013) page 18

Records show that William and Kathleen's divorce was finalized April 30, 1937 and the bastardy suit was finalized April 19, 1937.  So, the bastardy suit would have been filed prior, sometime in 1936.  Guinn says that Colonel Scott came to visit the toddler a few times after the court ruled Scott the father.

However, according to the later divorce of Colonel Scott and his wife Dorothy there is absolutely no mention of Charles Manson being the son of Colonel Scott nor does the child support show up as a debt in the finances of the Scott's.  Dorothy was the one who kept the books for her family. It leads me to believe that Dorothy Scott knew nothing about Colonel's bastard child.  Also, Colonel Scott Jr. would have been an infant during the time that Kathleen says Colonel Scott took little Charlie home for weekends with his own child.  I think Dorothy would have noticed another child in the house!

Even though Kathleen had a baby at home to support she still seemed to be able to get out and have a little fun with friends.  On June 5, 1936 Kathleen and another girl were taken into custody for investigation after a car accident in Eaton, Ohio.  They had been hitchhiking in Ohio and the car they were riding in struck a culvert.  Eaton is a whopping 176 miles from Ashland where she lived at the time.  The girls had told the officer who responded to the accident that they were 25 years old.  The officer wisely thought the girls were more like 16 years old.

When Charles was 4, Mrs. Manson left Ashland for McMeehen, W.Va., and the boy's contact with his real father was broken. But always he was surrounded by family—his mother, his grandmother, an aunt and an uncle. 
It was during this time that Mrs. Manson and her older brother went to prison for two years, when Charles was 6. She was 22. She and her brother and an older woman who later married her brother robbed a man, she admits, and she went to prison instead of her future sister-in-law because the woman and her brother persuaded her that the other woman could do more to secure their release if she remained free. Charles was 8 when she got out. 
But throughout those early years, she says, Charles was not only not neglected, he was even pampered by all the women who surrounded him. 
"Maybe it was because my own mother had been so strict, but if Charles wanted anything, I'd give it to him. My mother did, too; she eased up a bit as she got older.

As you will read in the original police report the "sand filled" catsup bottle was filled with salt, not sand.  The catsup bottle was used at a restaurant, they all had been to that night, as a salt shaker.  It was taken by Luther in anticipation of knocking out and robbing Martin. The future sister-in-law was not charged and sent to prison because although she had been with the party that night, she was not seen by witnesses as being in the car when Luther hit Frank Martin over the head with the bottle.  Only Kathleen was seen in the car.

Download the PDF:

Didn't Have to Work

"He never had to do a thing to earn what he wanted. Those stories about him earning his own living selling newspapers when he was 7 or 8. Those aren't true. He didn't even have to do things around the house, like rake leaves or mow lawns."

Charles had a wonderful personality. Mrs. Manson recalls, and always charmed people at first meeting. " He always had a way with people. Even later, when he was in prison, he was able to get special treatment, so I don't believe any of that stuff about his hypnotizing those girls in his family. I think it was just his personality, and the effects of dope they all took.

"But he always had charm. He was real musical and had a real nice voice, so I gave him singing lessons. But then he got so conceited about his music that I made him stop the lessons, but he still sang special solos in church, and people always talked about how good he sang.

"I think that made him over-confident. He never had to take a fall, not till he was a grown man. Everything just was handed to him, I admit."

When Charles was 10, Mrs. Manson marred Jack Thomas — not his real name — to whom she stayed married for 21 depressing years. She describes Thomas as "a drunk."

Separated Often

She and Thomas separated frequently over the years, once for 12 years, but she was always vulnerable to his promises to reform- until their divorce about six years ago.

Meanwhile, she admits, Thomas was an unstable man for Charles to model himself after, even though they got along well.

By the time Charles was 10, he had already begun running away from home. Mrs. Manson doesn't know why, but he did it repeatedly, when he was living with her, when he was with his aunt and uncle, and, later, from correctional institutions.


The man that Kathleen married was named Lewis Cavender.  She did not lie about her age but she did lie about her marital status, she said she had never been married.  She gave her father's name as, get this, Charles Manson!  Neat trick, Charlie was his mother's father.  It's possible that Kathleen did not know she was legally divorced from William Manson, since she did not file for the divorce, so fudged a bit on the marriage application to Cavender.

Kathleen's assertion that Charlie never had to do a lick of work as a child and that he kept running away but she didn't know why seems to fall flat.  At least for a period of time, when Charlie was 14 years old. he did work at odd jobs and paid rent for a room in downtown Indianapolis IN away from his mother and her then boyfriend.

There were articles in two Indianapolis newspapers saying that Ada Cavender and Lloyd Deer were arrested for adultery in the first week of January 1949.  Ada being Kathleen's given first name.  Kathleen was released on her own recognizance with assurances from a businessman that she would show up for her court date in February.  Deer was also released.  When the February court date rolled around neither Kathleen nor Deer were to be found.  She had decamped after her arrest and left town without Charlie, leaving him to fend for himself.

The reason Kathleen was arrested in the first place was because Charlie had been up to a bit of mischief, stealing, and when police went to Kathleen's looking for Charlie she told them where he could be found.  Much to her surprise she was arrested on the adultery charge.  An article in the Indianapolis News written March 7 1949 recounts the story.

Of course, we know that Charlie blew that opportunity, he escaped or fled Boys Town within the week and embarked on a series of crimes beginning with the robbery of $1,700. from a Peoria IL market for which he was arrested March 25 1949.  Over the next few years Charlie was sentenced to various juvenile facilities, escaping from them and committing crimes.
By the time Charles was 21, he had served in several reformatories and finally, a prison term for car theft. Paroled, he came home, where he took menial jobs that he always lost through lateness, absence or general neglect, and his mother, or grandmother, or aunt always came through with the money he needed.

In January, 1955, Charles married a waitress from McMechen. Rosalie Jean Willis. By the end of that year, he was back in custody, this time in Terminal Island Federal Prison in San Pedro, for transporting stolen cars across state lines.

Rosalie, in California to be near Charles, bore their son, Charles Jr., while Manson was in prison, and before he got out. In 1958, she had divorced him, married another man and moved back east.

Mrs. Manson, who also came to California to help Rosalie and Charles eke out a living, stayed on, sharing an apartment with him in Culver City.

"I think the business with Rosalie really hurt Charles," she says. "I think Rose was the only woman he ever really loved, and from then on, he never respected women."

And it was during this time, she says, that she began to feel he needed psychiatric treatment, though it was far beyond their means.

Not long after, they went their separate ways, Mrs. Manson leaving Los Angeles, Charles drifting on to his bizarre future. For a few years, Mrs. Manson was in touch, even after Charles went back to prison on bad check charges.

And still she gave him everything he asked for, anything within her means, and as fast as possible.

"I'm' awfully upset," she said Monday, after the guilty verdict was read. "I still believe that if those jurors would just talk to Charles for 15 minutes, they could see he's mentally ill. He needs treatment, has for years. I don't know what, to do now. Just start worrying again, I guess"

Kathleen continued her on again off again relationship with Lewis Cavender moving around the US.  Cavender may have been a drunk, I don't know, but he did work for the railroad long enough to get a pension from them.  They spent some time in Los Angeles before moving up to Spokane WA.  In 1961 Kathleen gave birth to Charlie's half-sister, Lewis Cavender was her father.

Divorce records for the two could not be found but by 1965 both of them remarried.  Kathleen married Gale Bower in Spokane WA, where both were living, on October 21 1965.  Cavender had married his second wife August 4 1965 in Coeur d'Alene ID, although both were residents of Spokane.

Kathleen died not too much longer after she gave this interview.  She passed July 31 1973 at the age of 55, cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke).

Gale Bower didn't seem to know much about Kathleen, personal information on the death certificate is either wrong or missing.

It has been said that Gale Bower adopted Kathleen's daughter.  She did go by the last name Bower in school.  There is no way to find if and when the adoption took place because adoption records are sealed.  However, when Lewis Cavender died in 1979, six years after Kathleen, the daughter is named in his obituary with the last name of Cavender.

                                            Charlie's half-sister when she was 16 years old.

Nature or nurture?  It's hard to say why Charlie turned out like he did.  His mother certainly was immature as a parent but she was only 15 years old when she gave birth.  It doesn't sound like she ever put the needs of her child before her own wants though, even when she got older and more mature.

Plenty of kids endure a much more violent childhood than Charlie and most turn out pretty good in the end.  Charlie's childhood seemed to be more about neglect and indifference but in the end, he turned to violence.