ST. LOUIS - The Tate murders in Beverly Hills were gruesome and the story captivated the nation. The man behind the bloody crimes was Charles Manson. He would spend 46 years behind bars for those crimes--and ultimately died in prison--but he used some of his time to write and call a man from Missouri.
Ken Dickerson said he began communicating with Manson in 2005 and the communication ended sometime in 2012. During that time, Manson sent him drawings, postcards, autographs, and long, rambling letters that were difficult to read.
Manson also called Dickerson often as many as three calls a day some weeks.
The repeated contact gave Dickerson a look into this criminal mastermind.
"I set the school on fire in third grade and I ain't been back since," Manson said on a recorded cassette tape.
In describing his relationship with Manson, Dickerson said, "It's no different than anyone else for the most part, outside of not being able to hang out with the dude."
When asked why he would want to communicate with Manson, Dickerson said, "He was there, he was alive, he was someone of importance to history."
A history that included a brutal, two-day murderous rampage in August 1969. "Helter Skelter" as it was called, was Manson's motivation to kick-start a race war.
Did Dickerson ever think about Manson Family's victims?
"I just separated the two. I took that guy that I've read about in books and stuff and put him over there and I put the other guy in my ear," said Dickerson. "…For the most part, when I talked to him, we talked about art and music."
There were also glimpses of Manson's life behind bars, according to Dickerson. Manson mentioned during one conversation that he had been beaten up and in the fight, his guitar had been destroyed.
"When his guitar got busted over his head he felt like he just lost his dog," said Dickerson. "Because of who he is, he would get taken advantage of a lot and used. He also got upset when some of the women he spoke to would start talking to other people in the unit, nah, he didn't like that."
Dickerson claimed Manson never asked him for anything and only wanted friendship, companionship, and someone to talk to about music. When asked why he recorded the conversations with Manson, Dickerson claimed, "He asked if I was recording it and I said no. He said you should. You don't know what you're missing. This is a part of history."
When asked if he thought Manson was evil, Dickerson said, "He acted insane when he wanted to and acted evil when he wanted to or he could be a little puppy."
Charles Manson died in November 2017 at the age of 83. Dickerson knows that many people see Charles Manson as an evil man that was the mastermind behind some of the most brutal murders in history.
When Dickerson's mother told him Manson had died, he was disheartened.
"I actually did feel like I lost a friend," he said. "I know that sounds, I don't know the right word to use, but it did feel like I lost a friend."
Below you can listen to a recorded phone call between Dickerson and Manson: