Dianne Lake didn’t stand a chance for a normal childhood. Her father gave her LSD when she was 13. Then they dropped out of society and moved the family into a bread truck. This was the 1960s, so they were all fighting against traditional norms. Within a year they gave Dianne permission to live on her own.
She was barely a teenager and living alone on the streets of Topanga, California. It was a recipe for disaster, and that’s exactly what she found when she met the charismatic, yet dangerous, Charles Manson.
“I needed to be part of this movement, part of a family,” Dianne told CBN. “It’s part of his con that he was able to hone in on whatever a person’s weaknesses were — whatever their needs were —and then fill it, provide it … He made all of us, I think, feel individually that we were his favorite, that we were loved and adored.”
The two had sex within hours of meeting. Dianne was 14, and Manson was 34.
Like the other dozens of Manson followers, or family members as they called themselves, Dianne became enamored with his preachings — a mix of racism, Scientology and parts of the book of Revelation taken out of context. At one point, Manson even had his followers running around the California desert looking for a secret entrance to an underground world he called the Bottomless Pit.
While it sounds nonsensical to outsiders, you have to remember that a lot of this was drug-fueled. Most Manson followers used LSD regularly.
For two years, Dianne lived with the cult, worshipping and having sex with Manson even though she was still a minor. He wasn’t preaching about race wars and murder back then. That came later, after a few years spent growing his following.
Then, one day, she learned some of her friends and fellow Manson followers had killed seven people throughout a one-month killing spree.
While she wasn’t with them at the time of the slayings, Dianne was still traumatized by the revelation that she was living among killers.
Two months after the murders, several Manson family members were arrested — including Dianne. It took another two months before she was able to tell the grand jury, “I’m Dianne Lake. I’m 16, and I want my mommy.”
She eventually became one of the key witnesses for the prosecuting attorneys, avoiding prison time because of her young age.
Following Jesus, Not Manson
After the arrest and release, Dianne spent time in a psychiatric hospital before one of the detectives who worked the killings took her in as a foster child. She testified against the cult leader, ultimately leading to his conviction and subsequent life sentence.
With all that behind her, she tried to get her life back on track without the influence of Manson.
Over time Dianne learned about Jesus, and soon gave her life away for the second time, but this time it was to God.
Looking back, she knows it was God who kept her safe during her time with the Manson family. After four decades of living outside the spotlight, Dianne came forward with her memoir, noting that telling her story was a cathartic experience.
“Jesus is a servant,” Dianne told CBN. “He’s a servant leader. He loves us no matter what, you know, and He’s there to hold us up with the dirty face and the tears. But I really feel like He was holding me in the palm of His hand. And … I just thank God for seeing me through, and that’s why … I want to share that with people. I didn’t want it to be a secret anymore. It was a dark, dark episode in American history. It was dark, but I survived. I prevailed … and I want to bring some light into this whole dark era.”
Manson died in November 2017. While he never accepted Jesus — or at least never spoke out about any conversion — some of his other family members found the real savior in Jesus. Tex Watson, once known as Manson’s right-hand man and someone Dianne thought of as a big brother, is now an ordained minister who shares the Gospel from inside his prison cell. Susan Atkins, another follower who was involved with the slayings, also embraced Christianity in prison.
From a troubled childhood, to following the wrong savior, to a life of laying low, to eventual redemption and healing, Dianne is just one example of how far God will go to help those He loves.