Bryan Cranston recounts chilling encounter with Charles Manson
“Hearing Charles Manson is dead, I shuddered. I was within his grasp just one year before he committed brutal murder in 1969,” the “Breaking Bad” star tweeted Monday. “Luck was with me when a cousin and I went horseback riding at the Span Ranch, and saw the little man with crazy eyes whom the other hippies called Charlie.”
Cult leader Manson, who was convicted along with his Manson Family followers of killing seven people over two horrific nights in 1969, died Sunday at the age of 83.
Cranston has previously talked about running into Manson before he and and his crew committed the killings, when Cranston was a 12-year-old growing up in the Canoga Park section of Los Angeles.
The future star was riding horses with his teenage cousin at Spahn Ranch — a ranch used for filming Western movies and TV shows whose owner George Spahn allowed Manson and his murderous acolytes to live there rent-free in exchange for performing odd jobs.
Cranston and his cousin were checking out their horses when a man in his 20s started yelling, “Charlie’s on the hill!”
“Everybody looked around, and there was this frantic nervous energy going on, and they all jumped on horses and away they went,” Cranston told the Daily Beast last year. “We asked the old guy [Spahn] what was going on, and he said, ‘Oh, it’s nothing. It’s happened before.’ We thought, ‘Well, Charlie must be someone important.’ ”
Cranston’s cousin, who was about a year-and-a-half older than he, would have been about the same age as Dianne Lake, Manson’s youngest devotee, when she joined his “family” at the age of 14 in 1967.
Cranston and his cousin rode out to find “Charlie” and see what all the fuss was about — and there they found a drugged-out Manson, who still oozed charisma despite being whacked out of his gourd, Cranston recalled.
“There were about eight or so people, and there was a man in the middle on a horse, but he wasn’t holding his own reins — there was someone on the horse in front holding the reins — and Charlie, I guessed, was this comatose, bearded, long-haired guy with big eyes riding as if he’s just stuck to the back of a horse. Totally zoned out. You couldn’t take your eyes off him,” he said.
“My cousin turned back to me and said, ‘Wow, that guy’s weird.’ When we passed him and their whole group, she turned around again and said, ‘That must be Charlie,’ and I said, ‘Yeah … and Charlie’s freaky!’ We didn’t think anything of it.”
The kids instantly recalled Charlie when news of the murders broke.
“I saw his face on the news, and my jaw dropped,” Cranston said. “My cousin called me first and said, ‘Can you believe this?’ The picture of Charlie Manson was the guy on the back of this horse. And we thought for a second, oh my god, what if? It was very freaky, to say the least. Oh, man.”