A cordial response -- from Charles Manson
Published on September 18, 1992 in the Journal Star:
I've been amazed by two facts regarding Charles Manson:
One of his first arrests was in Peoria.
There's scant information about his activities here.
In the Journal Star morgue, we have only two short stories about his local doings.
It's small potatoes compared to the Tate-LaBianco murders for which he's doing life at California State Prison in Corcoran, Calif.
The stories say that in 1949, the 16-year-old Manson and another youth broke into Waugh's Market, 3919 SW Adams, taking $1,200.
On March 22 of that year, Peoria police got a call someone was breaking into Earl Johnson Chevrolet on Main Street.
As a squad car pulled up to a side door, Manson, thinking the police car was his getaway car, ran from the building and jumped in the squad car.
Within seconds, he was looking at two pistols in his face. His reaction: "Ah, (expletive)! "
I wanted to know what brought him to Peoria and what he did here, so I dropped him a line.
I got his address from a California prison spokesman, who said he doubted I'd get a response. He was wrong.
My letter came back with messy yet legible cursive scrawl on the front, back and margins.
Though the spelling and grammar are poor, (Manson admits, "I dont spell . . . in English to good"), the response was cordial and devoid of expletives.
What follows is the letter, nearly unedited except for grammar and spelling changes. The parenthetical additions are mine.
I ran out of Boys Town, stole a car in Lincoln, Neb., and rolled to Idaho. I stole a hearse, (a) meat wagon, (and) ran with a kid.
Went to the Peoria housing projects, where his uncle ran the numbers out of Chicago.
We took a safe box -- 500 pounds -- and threw it off the bridge onto the railroad tracks and did a lot of underworld stuff.
That town's always been good to me. It's not too big like L.A. or St. Louis, yet big enough to get lost in.
The cops got me for a lot of money two times. I wrecked the hearse and they send me back to Indiana reform school.
I was never a real kid. I grew up myself, fast, and was raised by the underworld and monks and sisters in the boys' homes.
Me and Blackie buried a lot of rings, gold watches from a jewelry-store heist. I guess he went back and got it because we got split up.
Yeah, I did a lot of growing up in that town (Peoria) -- fast growing up. They put me in the jail last time I went through there. . . .
It may sound foolish, but that town has always been sweet for some reason.
I'm not sure where Manson and his buddy Blackie dumped the safe and buried the jewelry. Maybe Manson can clear this up.
He wrote that the Journal Star stories I had sent him weren't with the letter, and he'd like to see them.
"Send and I'll respond," he wrote.
What happened to the stories?
"It's very possible someone in the mailroom in the prison took the clips as a souvenir or whatever," wrote Sandra Good, who sent along Manson's letter to me.
I assume this is the same Sandra Good who was a member of the Manson family and once roomed with Squeaky Fromme, who once tried to kill Gerald Ford.
Why would Manson send the letter to her first, instead of directly to me? Maybe to save a stamp, or maybe she's his press agent.
I don't know; her number's unlisted. I'll ask about this in my next letters to both of them.
And maybe we'll find out if he left any hidden treasures during his short stay in Peoria.