The Religious Cult that fascinated Charles Manson

He based many of his own Family’s practices upon the Fountain of the World

Excerpted from The Manson Family: More to the Story, published June 2019 from Swann Publications

Just a few miles from Spahn Ranch, near the Santa Susana fire station, sat a church known for its unorthodox dogma. The Fountain of the World combined pagan practices, apocalyptic Christian rituals and Hare Krishna esotericism.

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Fountain of the World

Manson Family Member Dianne Lake wrote,

“The Fountain of the World was a religious order based upon the spiritual teachings of Master Krishna Venta, who lived from 1911 to 1958. Krishna Venta and his acolytes had formed a commune in Box Canyon in the Santa Susana Mountains near Simi Valley. They were dedicated to humanitarian service. The members wore robes, grew their hair long, and went barefoot; the women wore scarves on their heads.” — Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties by Dianne Lake, Deborah Herman ©2017 William Morrow

Dianne insinuated in her memoir that Charlie’s real intention in visiting Fountain of the World was to become their new messiah, not realizing that they were still devoted to Krishna Venta, who died in a suicide bombing at their compound a decade before.

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Krishna Venta

Paul Watkins recalled,

“We were at a meeting of all the big shots of the Fountain of the Worlds and they was all talking about their Guru and how great he was; and Charlie was going to demonstrate how great he was… they told us that their Guru had hung on the cross up there for three days, and Charlie told me if I would go hang up there for a week, and so I got up and walked out the door and started figuring how I was going to get up on that thing. And then he came out and told me not to do it; he proved his point.” — Official Court Transcript: August 1970 trial testimony of Paul Watkins

Manson stayed at the Fountain for a week. There, he saw his first Messianic Passion Play, where the trial, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ is relived theatrically. Returning to Spahn Ranch, Charlie (already calling himself ‘Man’s Son’) immediately began his own passion play, with LSD as Eucharist. Mary Brunner (the first member of Manson’s ‘Family’) performed as ‘Mother Mary’, serving in the role of chief mourner during the reenactments.

Susan ‘Sadie’ Atkins recalled how Manson took on a messianic visage:

“With his long hair and beard, his eyes staring from face to face, he seemed to be Jesus speaking to his twelve apostles…That’s when I felt he might be Jesus Christ.” — Child of Satan, Child of God by Susan Atkins with Bob Slosser ©1977 Logos International

Another member of the Family, Joan Wildebush explained:

“Charlie never openly said that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. But if he didn’t say it, he sure to hell implied it. He would say things about having flashbacks about having the nails driven in through his wrists. He said, ‘The nails weren’t put in my palms, they were put into my wrists.’ And, ‘They always lie to us. Everything’s 180 degrees from the way they told you it was. And there is no difference between Jesus and the devil. So your daddy would say I’m the devil, but of course I am, because if they told you that good was right, then obviously evil is right.” — Joan Wildebush, interviewed in 1984 by Win McCormack, reprinted in “The Dichotomy of Evil: The Manson Girl Who Got Away” ©November 2017 Tin House magazine

Leslie Van Houten recalled, during a 1994 ABC interview:

“Sometimes he would reenact the crucifixion when we were on LSD and it was very realistic… and then the questions would begin. ‘Would you die for me?’” — Leslie Van Houten from the program “Turning Point” ©1994 American Broadcast Company (ABC)

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Leslie Van Houten during a 1994 interview

Paul wrote,

“Later, people asked me how a man like Charles Manson could ever be considered Christlike. The answer is simple: he listened to them, each of them.” — My Life with Charles Manson by Paul Watkins with Guillermo Soledad ©1979 Bantam Books

When Manson needed female members of his Family out of the way, he often sent them to Fountain of the World. Susan Atkins was sent there in October 1968, along with her newborn infant son Ze Zo Zo Se Zadfrack. And after the Tate/LaBianca murders in August 1969, he sent both Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten to Fountain — although they were turned away after a few days. The members of the Fountain had no idea that the women were murderers, but by then the Family had already worn out their welcome at the church.

Later, when the Family fled to Death Valley after the murders, a 15 year old boy from Fountain joined them. Hugh Rockie Todd was the son of a novitiate at Fountain. The boy had a teenage infatuation on Patricia ‘Katie’ Krenwinkel. He was among those arrested in October at Barker Ranch, when the Family was taken into custody on suspicion of arson.

Charles Manson, Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Pat Krenwinkel were among those who were convicted of first degree murder for the Tate/LaBianca killings and sentenced originally to death. Those sentences were commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole, after a 1972 California Supreme Court ruling that temporarily abolished the death penalty.

While serving his first years in prison, Charlie began using a color-coded system to refer to his women. Those color codes were inspired by Fountain of the World, which employed a similar rainbow system to their women.

Although the Fountain managed to survive their connection to Charles Manson, they did eventually fade into obscurity. On a footnote however, nine former members of the Fountain also joined Jim Jones’ People’s Temple in the 1970s. They were among those who perished in 1978 at Jonestown, Guyana.

Learn more about the Manson Family and their crimes at .

You can read more about the Manson Women here:

And here:

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

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