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Valentine Michael Manson: Charles Manson’s Youngest Son

Photo Credit: Bettman/ Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bettman/ Getty Images
One of the age-old biological debates is the one surrounding nature vs. nurture – whether a person is shaped more by their genetic or learned influences. Perhaps there is no better example of how this plays out in reality than in the case of Valentine Michael Manson, one of the biological sons of infamous murderer and cult leader, Charles Manson.

Although the men who followed Manson as part of his “Family” called themselves his sons, he also had three real sons. Valentine was born to a woman considered to be one of the first Family members, shortly before they began committing murders.

The Manson Family

Charles Manson had a turbulent childhood and began his criminal activities very early on, landing himself in various juvenile detention centers. At the age of 19, however, he attempted to live out a normal life, getting married and settling down. This didn’t last long as he quickly ended up in prison for failing to show up for a court appearance. Between 1957 and 1967, he spent time in and out of prisons, before he finally moved to San Fransisco.

Group of Manson Family members sitting outside on the sidewalk.
Members of the Manson Family, including Lynette Fromme and Ruth Ann Moorehouse, sitting outside the Los Angeles Hall of Justice during Charles Manson’s trial, October 23, 1970. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images)

It was there that he first began to form his cult, which was rooted in his prophecy that there would be a race war that he wanted his followers to prepare for. Eventually, this would escalate and he would use his Family to start the so-called war. Those that he brought into his cult were predominantly part of the California hippie scene, and many of them were already rebelling again the status quo.

Mary Brunner

It was there, in California, that Manson met the first follower that he would recruit to his cult, Mary Brunner. She had moved to California to work as a library assistant. This is where she met Manson, who had just been let out of prison. The two entered a relationship very quickly, and Brunner allowed him to live with her. Soon she abandoned her job to support Manson in his endeavors to recruit other Family members and commit crimes alongside him.

Black and white photo of a ranch where the Manson family live with a building and a truck in the frame.
A sign at the Spahn Movie Ranch, owned by American rancher George Spahn and residence of the Manson Family, Los Angeles County, California, US, 28th August 1970. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Later in the same year, Brunner became pregnant. She gave birth on April 15, 1968 to Valentine Michael Mason. It’s unknown exactly where he was born, as some sources list his place of birth as Los Angeles, California, after his mother and Manson traveled there to recruit more Family members. Others, however, list his birthplace as the Manson Family house in Topanga Canyon.

Valentine’s childhood

Regardless, Manson, Brunner, and their new son eventually moved to the Spahn Ranch. The property was mostly derelict. It was owned by an older farmer, George Spahn, who let the growing cult move onto the property in exchange for fixing it up. At their “home,” Brunner was called the “Mother Mary” of the Manson Family as she was one of the most senior followers, and was considered to be a nurturing presence.

Robert Beausoleil holding up a card for his mug shot.
Robert ‘Bobby’ Beausoleil poses for a mugshot after being arrested for the murder of Gary Hinman at the request of Charles Manson, 1969. (Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images)

Alongside her, Valentine was also considered to be at the top of the hierarchy on the Ranch as male children were placed second only to Manson himself. Brunner gave her son the nickname “Pooh Bear,” which is what he was most commonly called. This part of Valentine’s life, however, didn’t last long, and he spent very little of his childhood with his biological parents, or on the Ranch.

Arresting the Family

In 1969, Manson began pushing his followers to kill people, including the famous Sharon Tate. Brunner eventually turned against her Family while they were on trial for musician Gary Hinman’s July 27, 1969, murder. She acted as a witness to his death and earned herself immunity.

She was involved in protests to have Family members released for Tate’s August 9, 1969, murder.  In 1971, Brunner was involved in a plan to hijack a plane in order to free Manson and other jailed Family members. She was caught when she and some associates held up a store, holding customers and employees at gunpoint and allegedly debating whether to kill them all. Brunner was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. She was paroled six years later, in 1977.

Charles Manson being escorted from the courtroom by a group of deputies.
Seven deputies escort Charles Manson from the courtroom after he and three followers were found guilty of seven murders in the Tate-LaBianca slayings. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

Not much is known about Brunner’s life after she was released from prison on parole in 1977, but it appears as though she hasn’t reconnected with other cult members. 

From Valentine Michael Manson to Michael Brunner

Much of what is known about Valentine’s early childhood was revealed in a momentous interview with KCBS in 1993. In it, Valentine described his relationship with his mother as “sibling-like.” After his mother’s arrest, Valentine Michael was sent to live with his grandparents. They knew that their grandchild’s personal life was always something that was going to be of interest to the public as he was the son of Charles Manson. In an effort to distance him from the name, his grandparents renamed him Michael Brunner. They raised him in Eau Claire, Wisconsin which is exactly where his mother had been raised.

Steve Grogan and Bruce Davis, Manson family members, handcuffed together as they walk through the courthouse.
Steve Grogan (left) and Bruce Davis (right), defendants in the murder of movie stunt man, Donald (Shorty) Shea are taken into court. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

Despite their efforts, people soon found out who his father was. He was bullied extensively, and also received numerous death threats. Michael’s biological father also attempted to make connections with him while he was still in prison, although he wanted absolutely nothing to do with his father. In his KCBS interview, he emphasized that he felt no connection to Manson, nor was he worried about inheriting his father’s psychosis.

The children of Charles Manson

Valentine Michael Manson was not the only child of Charles Manson, the killer actually had three. From oldest to youngest:  Charles Manson Jr., Charles Luther Manson, and Valentine Michael. Manson’s oldest son was born in 1956 to him and his then-wife, Rosalie Jean Willis. When he was born, Manson was in jail for a parole violation. Only two years later the couple divorced, and the boy’s name was changed to Jay White.

Susan Denise Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, Manson followers, laughing as they leave court.
Susan Denise Atkins, (left), Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, (right), laugh after receiving the death sentence for their part in the Tate-LaBianca killing at the order of Charles Manson. (Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

Later in his life, because of who his father was, he ended his life. Manson’s second child was born to him and Leona Rae Stevens, whom he married after his first divorce. His second marriage also failed, and they split in 1963. Less is known about Manson’s second son, but some believe he changed his name to Jay Charles Warner.

More from us: Steve McQueen Was Supposed to Be at Sharon Tate’s House on the Night of the Manson Murders

Of Manson’s three children, Valentine Michael (Michael Brunner) is the only one who has been outspoken about his relationship with his father. Since his interview in 1993, however, he has remained out of the public eye.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.