Infamous cult leader Charles Manson may be a beast to many, but never to prison pen pal Ken Dickerson. They were pen pals for several years beginning in 2005 when he wrote the inmate after reading Helter Skelter.
The aspiring musician and sculptor remembers Manson as an enigmatic prisoner who counseled and taught him how to tune the guitar like a professional.
Another Manson Pen Pal: Who is Ken Dickerson?
Thirty-two-year-old prison pen pal Ken Dickerson of House Springs, Missouri sees Manson as a mentor and friend. He showed off several letters Manson sent him from prison, and replayed phone call recordings between them.
Dickerson describes Manson’s handwriting as a cursive script, and is confident he could identify any letters actually written by the famous prisoner. He said the cult leader’s voice was also very distinctive, and he could tell it apart from hundred others:
“He writes in cursive, (except) the delivering address. On the outside of the envelope, he prints. His letters are always in cursive and I thought it was childlike. I’m going to say sloppy. When I got my first letter, I could only make out half of it.”
He recalls Manson has a way of always signing his letters or postcards with a swastika. The charismatic prisoner who spent 48 years in prison for masterminding nine murders in 1969, had a swastika tattooed on his forehead.
Phone Recordings of Manson Appear
Dickerson showed over two dozen cassette recordings of his phone conversations with Charles Manson. Charlie did indeed have a Southern accent.
The prison pen pal said the infamous killer was not initially aware he was taping their conversations until he prompted him to do so:
“One time, we were talking on the phone; it was before I started recording all the time…he (Manson) asked, ‘Are you recording this?’ I said no,” Dickerson said. “He goes, ‘Well, you should because it’s history.’ I guess he wanted people to record him. The prison was obviously recording him.”
Manson Composed Original Song for Prison Pen Pal
Ken Dickerson said he and Manson never really discussed the famous prisoner’s crimes. But after learning that Dickerson played the guitar as an aspiring musician, they wrote and spoke at length about music and how to better play the guitar.
On one occasion, Manson urged his penpal to master guitar playing on his own. He even promised to send him some helpful guitar chords.
There were few occasions where Manson asked Dickerson to play his guitar over the phone so that he could critique his proficiency with the chords. Dickerson recalls Manson composed an original song for him from behind prison bars.
The infamous prisoner wrote down the lyrics and the accompanying guitar chords on a prison postcard before mailing it to him.
Dickerson said he was the first person to initiate contact with Manson. He was 20 at the time. The young man wrote the cult leader first after watching Helter Skelter, a documentary detailing the Manson Family crimes.
He has since seen Manson’s court transcripts, and still remained his friend. Their prison penpal communications lasted seven years – from 2005 to 2012 after a death in Dickerson’s family:
“It was a perfect storm of everything because it wasn’t just (the death). Everything happened all at once. I pretty much had to reset my life.”