Every American alive since 1969 is familiar with the story of Charles Manson — cult leader and the orchestrator of at least seven murders — whether they want to be or not. Actor Bryan Cranston, however, is one of the unlucky few to have an actual memory of the man. Inspired by news of Manson’s death on Sunday, Cranston took to social media to reflect on his unexpected real-life experience with the cultist at Spahn Ranch in Los Angeles County, the onetime home of the group later known as the Manson Family.
“I was within his grasp just one year before he committed brutal murder in 1969,” the actor tweeted. “Luck was with me when a cousin and I went horseback riding at the Spahn ranch, and saw the little man with crazy eyes whom the other hippies called Charlie.” Cranston has recounted his Manson story before, telling the tale of visiting the ranch in 1968 as a 12-year-old during a Hudson Union Society interview last year. “I couldn’t take my eyes off him,” he then said of Manson, whose mere arrival sent the other ranch residents into a furor. After his cousin called him to connect the dots from the Manson murders to the wild-eyed man they had seen, Cranston wondered at the difference between the odd but benign Charles Manson he had seen, and the monster the man would become. Mused Cranston,“Why, on that day, was it okay?”