Upon news of Charles Manson’s death, Bryan Cranston says he “shuddered” at the memory of his run-in with the murderous cult leader back in 1968.
The Emmy-winning actor, currently playing Howard Beale for a stage adaptation of Network in London, recounted his Manson story via Twitter on Monday. He was 12 years old when they crossed paths. “I was within his grasp just one year before he committed brutal murder in 1969,” Cranston explained. “Luck was with me when a cousin and I went horseback riding at the Span [sic] Ranch, and saw the little man with crazy eyes whom the other hippies called Charlie.”
Cranston has recounted the story in the past. While doing press for his movie The Infiltrator last year, the actor described the encounter in more detail to The Daily Beast.
“[My cousin and I] were dropped off to go horseback riding while my mom and uncle went off and did something else,” he said. “So we were checking out our horses at Spahn Ranch, which is very close to where I was raised. We noticed that the people around there were all strange in their own kind of interesting way. There was an old guy [Spahn] checking us in and some guy in his twenties came in yelling, ‘Charlie’s on the hill! 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. We asked the old guy what was going on, and he said, ‘Oh, it’s nothing. It’s happened before.’ We thought, well, Charlie must be someone important.”
Manson died on Sunday at age 83 of natural causes. The cult leader was found guilty in 1971 of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the deaths of seven people. He’d formed the Manson Family, a quasi-commune, in the late 1960s, and they killed a total of nine people in the summer of 1969.
Upon meeting him a year earlier, Cranston didn’t think much of him at the time, but picked up on an unsettling energy. “After we left the barn area where the horses were gathered, we see this trail of horses coming back,” he told the Daily Beast. “There were about eight or so people, and there was a man in the middle on a horse… 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. 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.”