The Manson Family Nicknames

how Squeaky, Sadie, Ouisch, Tex and others came to be

I can still recall those images in Helter Skelter, the first book I read about the Manson Family. There were, of course, the whited-out images of the victims — so nondescript that it was difficult to feel any emotion just looking at those pages. But the criminals, the Family…? Those images haunted me.

Image for post
Image for post
Mugshots and other images of the infamous Manson Family

Part of the lure of those faces was the array of emotions in those images. Charlie looks like he is plotting someone’s death (he was). Cappy looks curious and Ouisch looks bemused. Mary looks like she is doing her level best to convince Cappy and Ouisch of something. Katie is downright jubilant. Sadie appears wistful. Tex is seeing something that isn’t there, and Leslie is beseeching the camera with her wall-eyed stare.

But part of what drew my curiosity about the Family were those crazy nicknames. Cappy? Ouisch? What exactly was that all about? Why did they use different names and how did they get those nicknames?

From my book, The Manson Family: More to the Story

Charlie also frequently butted heads with Susan, whom he began calling ‘Sadie Mae Glutz’ (as though she were putting on airs). Her nickname eventually morphed into ‘Sexy Sadie’ but that was not until he heard The White Album at the end of the year.

Although Manson and Mary gave their true names at the time of the ‘Nine Nude Hippies’ arrest (Spring 1968), the others gave aliases to the arresting officers. Nancy Pitman claimed she was ‘Brenda McCann’. Ella Jo Bailey gave the capricious name ‘Ella Sinder’. Susan stated her name as ‘Sadie Glutz’. Dianne used her fictitious married name, ‘Diana Bluestein’. Stephanie was booked as ‘Susan Scott’ and Mark Hall/Bruce Bluestein as ‘Bruce Van Hall’.

One day, sitting in the kitchen of the Topanga house, 14-year old Dianne Lake remarked to Mary that she wished she could be a snake, slithering through the grass — the reptile’s method of cooling itself from the heat of the sun. She became ‘Snake’ and although other stories attributed her nickname to certain movements she made during sex, the above story is the one Dianne claims.

Nicknames, false names, even switching names — these were ways of shedding their skins, discarding past identities. Nicknames gave them an amorphous relationship with one another with a titular head — Charlie himself — as a fixed constant. Charlie never pretended to be Bruce Davis, or Bruce Bluestein. Charlie was Charlie. But the others could reinvent themselves at whim. Every day they could be a blank slate. For them, there was nothing nefarious about these changes. For Charlie, it was another tool of control.

The only ‘alias’ Charlie ever used was ‘Chuck Summers’. Summers was his talent scout alter-ego. He’d go to the clubs on Sunset Boulevard and try to pick up pretty young things.

(After the Family relocated to Spahn Ranch in the summer of 1968, the nicknames really took off. Mostly that was thanks to property owner, George Spahn — a blind ’79 year old who easily took to the girls)

Steve Grogan had recently dropped out of high school so his frustrated parents sent him to Spahn Ranch to work as a stable hand. He started taking drugs with the Family, participating in group sex and embracing Charlie’s wacky philosophies. Grogan was viewed as ‘not too bright’, possibly even mentally retarded, but in retrospect it seems that Clem (as he was nicknamed) was simply a very good puppet. The girls called Grogan ‘Scramblehead’.

It was George Spahn who, after goosing Lynette Fromme and hearing the high-pitched squeal she made in response, gave her the nickname ‘Squeaky’.

Many accounts of the Family led us to believe Charlie gave his followers their nicknames. Sometimes he did (like Sadie) but often they were bestowed by George Spahn.

“For Mary he employed the Italian (phonetically ‘Mahreeohcha’), and Ella was ‘Yellerstone’… Brenda, ‘Brindle,’ and Katie ‘Katydid’.” — Reflexion by Lynette Fromme ©2018 Peasenhall Press

14-year old Ruth Ann Moorehouse became ‘Ouisch’ (pronounced Oh-weesh!). One source cited that it was the whistling sound men made when the pubescent beauty walked by.

17-year old Catherine Gillies grew up in San Juan Capistrano, in Orange County. Spahn nicknamed her ‘Capistrano’ but the Family shortened it to ‘Cappy’.

And it was Spahn who gave Charles Watson (from Farmersville, Texas) the moniker ‘Tex’ for obvious reasons but also to differentiate him from Manson.

No matter who originated them, Charlie embraced the new names. After all, when you give people new names, you take away their past identity. They can belong to you. ‘Oche’ was probably easier to smack around than intelligent nature-lover Mary Brunner. ‘Brenda’ was stronger and braver than the surfing socialite Nancy, and eventually ‘Katie’ would be more likely to stab someone, than former file clerk Patricia Anne.

(end of excerpt)

I am currently working on a history of Spahn Ranch, so look for that here soon!

You can read more about the Manson Family women here:

Written by

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store