In 1983, cult leader, musician and serial murderer Charles Manson was in California state prison when he wrote to the warden of the West Virginia state penitentiary in Moundsville, requesting a transfer there.
This is one of the stories about the prison that paranormal collector Steve Hummel tells in our movie, Moundsville (which you can watch by ordering here) and it’s a popular one in town.
Manson, who died in 2017, was born in 1934 in Cincinnati to a 16-year-old girl, Kathleen Maddox, who went on to live a life of petty crime. Charles’ youth was spent bouncing around West Virginia and Kentucky, including long stretches in McMechen, a small town near Moundsville in Marshall County.
Locked up in 1971, for seven murders, including that of actress Sharon Tate, he requested to be moved to West Virginia.
“Dear Sir,” he began, in a letter to the warden that’s displayed in the Moundsville pen, which closed in 1995 and is now a museum. “You may know some of my ken folks God knows they been enough of us in & out of your place. I’m a beanie brother from way back. California prison people had me in the hole for 14 years. They done told a pack of lies & built up so much fear.”
“Would you accept me at your place?” Manson continues in the letter. “I’m a good worker & I give you my word I’ll start no trouble. I’ve been in prison hallways over 30 years & never lied to you & never rated. That should count for something somewhere. Thank you, Charles Manson.”
Warden Donald Bordenkircher declined, telling the United Press International that it would be a “a cold day in hell” before he admitted Manson.
“I’m not really into Charles Manson,” Steve says in a phone call. “There were prisoners in the Moundsville pen who were a lot more violent than he was.”
At his own museum in Moundsville, “Archives of the Afterlife”, which I recommend visiting, Steve has a postcard from Charles Manson to a PO Box address in Orange, CA, with a certificate of authenticity. He texted me pictures of the front and back of the card:
So why the fascination in town with the Manson anecdote? “We don’t have too many celebrities associated with this area,” says Steve, listing baseball player George Brett, singer Brad Paisley and the writer Davis Grubb.
Maybe, I suggest, a small town yearns for any connection to the wider world. Steve agrees.
John W. Miller