This week will mark the 50th anniversary of a string of grisly murders across Southern California, carried out on the orders of Charles Manson, that shocked the nation.
Manson, born in Cincinnati, spent several of his formative years at a small house in McMechen, on what is now Caldwell Street, before his family eventually moved to the state’s capital of Charleston. Decades later, following his 1971 conviction on several counts of murder, Manson would, in 1983, unsuccessfully request to be transferred to the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville to be closer to his family.
The house Manson was raised in remains, though if Manson could see it, he probably wouldn’t recognize it. Now a large house on the corner of the block, the house has been under somewhat less notorious management since 1967, two years before Manson had made a name for himself, following the sale of the house by Manson’s aunt.
The house’s more benign residents say that out-of-town visitors are common, with people driving by slowly or occasionally getting out of their cars for a closer look at Manson’s childhood home. Two residents, Casey Mamula and his father, Nathan, said they’ll occasionally step outside to water plants only to see rubberneckers drive off in a hurry, apparently not wanting to draw attention.
“For the Mock Riot (at the Penitentiary) we’ll have people come in, still in military uniforms, coming up like, ‘Hey, we heard this was where Manson was at!’” Casey Mamula said. “Just last summer, we had a film crew here. … They were doing a show with Charlie’s grandson, Jason, and they were going through, trying to learn all the stuff they could. It’s always on TV; there’s just film crews constantly.”
Casey Mamula, 30, was raised in the house and lived there his entire life. While he’s not an obsessive fan of serial killers, he said that growing up in the house has given him a strong interest in Manson’s life.
“When I found out about it, it was like, ‘Wow!’ It had always piqued an interest. When you’re a kid, you don’t know better, and you have a fear, like, ‘Hey, this guy grew up here and he turned out to be a psycho; is there something up with the house?’
“I wouldn’t say I’m one of those obsessed-with-serial-killer types, but I’d say I have a healthy interest,” he laughed. “I watch a lot of Netflix.”
Nathan Mamula said he frequently looked around the basement for some relic of Manson’s – he particularly hoped to find a report card – but to no avail. The basement had been gutted by fire in the ’80s, and has since been remodeled. The cast iron bathtub was one of a few parts of Manson’s childhood home that remains the same, as well as the living area Casey Mamula inhabits upstairs.
“I’d almost bet money that Charlie took a bath in that tub,” he said.
Mamula said he enjoys that his house is always an icebreaker in new social situations, but said the former tenant’s reputation sometimes proceeds him.
“Even when I was in college, in Blairsville (Pennsylvania), I thought, ‘Finally, I can get away from it.’ Sure enough, there’s a guy from Wheeling there, first thing he said was ‘McMechen? Isn’t that where Charlie Manson was from?’ … I go to a lot of wrestling, where people will have (Manson’s) face on shirts, and I can say I live in his house. It’s crazy.”
Traffic past the house is on-and-off, Mamula said, but tends to ebb and flow with Manson’s relevance in pop culture, such as when a new series about the Manson family are produced. Most notably, though, was a large spike in interest when Manson died in November 2017.
“There was an influx of people,” he said. “You’ll see it on TV when it comes and goes. When he passed, there was a lot more people coming through. It’s a little harder to tell these days, with the pipeliners and stuff, but it’s all the same – they’ll park out front, you look out and wave at them, and they take off.”