Grim Details About Marilyn Manson's Childhood

The following story contains details about sexual molestation, assault, and bestiality.

Brian Warner has been tied to the dark for nearly his entire life. His more infamous stage name of Marilyn Manson owes half its makeup to a notorious cult leader. That choice was made, he said, to contrast the destruction of Charles Manson with the beauty of Marilyn Monroe, but it also plays into the provocative nature of his shock rock act. Controversy over his music, art, and film work has dogged the musician since his rise to fame, with bizarre and often unsavory details about his personal life not far behind. Wild and sometimes invented claims circulated alongside reports of self-harm, drug abuse, alienated collaborators, and multiple allegations of sexual abuse.

Media observers have alternately found Manson's background — an only child to parents who placed him in a Christian school in Ohio — appropriate and baffling for what he later became. Manson himself told The Guardian, "I created a fake world maybe because I didn't like the one I was living in." He has often discussed macabre and unusual details from his childhood, and both himself and others have explicitly tied his public persona to his rebellious attitude toward Christian school and urge to disguise himself. But some of the grim details of his youth that he's shared are no more or less than that — dark episodes in the life of a dark man.

He has made disturbing claims about his grandfather

Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson, was born on January 5, 1969. His parents, Hugh and Barbara, were permissive, trusting, and present throughout his childhood. But his grandfather Jack was also present, and it was Jack whom Manson called "the ugliest, darkest, foulest, most depraved figure of my childhood" to The Guardian. He claimed that Jack maintained a basement full of toy trains, which he would play with while masturbating. Manson used memories of seeing his grandfather's sexual activity for one of his songs, "Kinderfeld," and later said that the experience caused recurring childhood dreams of sexual violence.

Manson has alleged another fetish of grandpa Jack's, also kept in the basement. In his memoir "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell," Manson said that he and a cousin found a collection of pornographic photos, apparently from a mail-order service, that depicted bestiality. Of finding the pictures, Manson wrote, "It wasn't just that they were obscene. They were surreal."

He was allegedly molested by a neighbor

In his memoir "The Long Hard Road out of Hell," Marilyn Manson wrote that when he was a child, his neighbors had a son named Mark, three years his senior. When Manson was around 8 or 9 years old, he started hanging out with Mark, who he admired for his age and antics. The two would watch "Flipper" together in Mark's basement, then play a prison game at Mark's urging. According to Manson, Mark would force them both into the dumbwaiter while naked, because the "prison" they were imagining wouldn't allow them clothes. While in the dumbwaiter, Mark would molest Manson.

Manson told his mother about Mark's behavior, and she immediately confronted his parents. They said Manson was lying, but they also shipped Mark off to military school. Manson remained terrified of Mark, who wouldn't speak to Manson when he came home. Mark never said anything, but Manson worried that his neighbor would try to attack him, his parents, or his dog in revenge.

Manson's father experienced PTSD

Marilyn Manson's father, Hugh Warner, was a furniture salesman during Manson's youth, often away on business. But before he worked in furniture, he was a military man. He joined the U.S. Air Force at 17 years old and served in the Vietnam War. Manson claims that his father taught him to shoot with a rifle lifted off a dead Viet Cong soldier. Manson also had to submit to regular federally sponsored check-ups for children of U.S. soldiers exposed to Agent Orange, which his father deployed in Vietnam.

Warner shared little of his wartime experiences with Manson, who recalled his father as being both physically and emotionally distant during his childhood. He says that his mother took to calling him by his father's name to compensate for his absences, and that when Warner was home, he often showed his temper. But Warner's distance from his family was, in part, due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his experiences in the Vietnam War. After Manson's mother died, Warner went to his son's house, where "Apocalypse Now" was playing. Seeing what was on the screen, he told Manson, "When you've killed so many people and then you have to come back to a normal world, it's very difficult to adjust to it." 

He claimed he once tried to 'throttle' his mother

With his father often away on business, Marilyn Manson became a self-described "mama's boy," but he and Barbera Warner's mother-son relationship was not what one would expect from such a description. Manson once told Rolling Stone that his mother suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a psychological disorder where the person experiencing it tries to gain attention through the imagined or fabricated ailments of someone in their care. Warner, a nurse, frequently took her son to the hospital, told him that he had myriad allergies, and kept on him about his supposedly overlarge earlobes so much that Manson later had them reduced through plastic surgery.

But Manson has also told Rolling Stone that his relationship with his mother was "was kind of abusive — but on my part. I wish I could go back and change the way I treated my mom because I used to be really rude to her, and she didn't really have any kind of control over me." Manson resented his mother turning him into a proxy for his often-absent father and acted out against her. At one point, he suspected her of carrying on an affair and, as The Guardian put it, he attempted to "throttle" her over it.

Manson had violent dreams and an allegedly violent encounter as a child

Marilyn Manson had strange and macabre dreams as a child, dreams that seem even more disturbing in light of the allegations made against him. After spying on his grandfather's sexual behavior, Manson started cutting out the genitals and breasts of pictures of naked women, then dreamed that he was doing the same thing to real people. He was deeply disturbed by the recurring nightmares.

Manson's sleep was unsettled by another, physically violent incident, at least according to his mother. She told Manson that when he was around 8 or 9 years old, somebody broke into their house and tried to kill him by smothering him with a pillow. It's an incident Manson claims no memory of. But between that alleged encounter and his violent dreams, Manson took to sleeping with a TV playing in the background, something that's endured into his adult life.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

If you or someone you know is dealing with spiritual abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.