Of course, if you were to discover that the leader of a messianic thrill-kill cult may have been the source of half of your DNA, your first impulse might be to prove, using every conceivable scrap of evidence, that you are nothing like him. And to be fair, Roberts does take pains to point out that he is a gentle, contemplative soul who's been known to stand at the rim of a swimming pool scooping out drowning bugs with a cup. (He is also a devout vegetarian—"I just don't like killing things," he says—but then, so was Manson.) On the other hand, there have been times when the echoes between Roberts' life and Manson's have been so striking—so straight-up weird—that he's begun to wonder whether he's receiving signals from the universe. After all, "mass-murdering mystic" was Charlie's backup plan; his original career goal was "rock star."
The First Rays of the New Rising Sun, a self-published 157-page memoir-manifesto that Roberts wrote in the nineties, is rife with Mansonisms. Full of ruminations on numerology, alien contact, David Koresh, electromagnetic vibrations, and dozens of other quasi-scientific-spiritual topics, and studded with lines like "Oxygen will fire the codes of consciousness" and "The negative energy vortex had sucked me in" and (in jest) "See, I am Jesus Christ! I've thought it all along!," the tome comes across as something that Manson himself might've dictated to a harem of stoned flower children while cruising through Death Valley in a giant dune buggy. "I know, I know," Roberts says. "Stuff in that book is a page out of his rhetoric. And I wrote it when I was 23 years old. It just came to me, like music does."
Like Manson, Roberts is gifted with a mesmerizing eloquence, and he's inclined to attribute any creepy parallels to coffeehouse-cosmic forces like "morphic resonance" and "quantum entanglement." A more hardened soul might be led to wonder whether he's just making shit up. Roberts hasn't gone through a DNA test with Manson yet—getting reliable genetic data from a convicted felon turns out to be more of a challenge than you might imagine—and he firmly resists letting the press contact his adoptive family or his biological mother. Journalist and poet Ed Sanders, the author of a legendary Manson book called The Family, says that a good many souls have convinced themselves that they're Spahn Ranch spawn. "People call up now and then who claim to be children of members of the family," he says. "It could be ascribed to the exhortation 'Get a life.' It's like the peasant who's the illegal son of the king—you're not just the unwanted child of a teenage runaway; you have a noble birth, you have pizzazz in your family tree, you have a moment of outlaw glory."