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The Manson Family
June 02, 2007 - 10:03 PM UTC
August 28, 2010 - 06:36 PM UTC
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10066 Cielo Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA (
10050 Cielo Drive
Until 1994, the house that occupied this location was the site of a senseless act of violence on August 9, 1969 that remains one of the most shocking crimes of the 20th Century and which introduced the world to the Manson Family. Today, the Beverly Hills, California estate boasts of a sprawling, private complex that was built on the remains of that home and even features a new address, 10066 Cielo Drive, in an attempt to confuse curious tourists that are interested in its macabre past. However, despite those attempts to push its violent history into the shadows, the front gate continues to see visitors from around the world that are still drawn the the site of the so-called "
The infamous house at 10050 Cielo Drive actually was not the first house on the property, nor was it a stranger to housing popular celebrities. In fact, more than a few names have been tied to the home that would one day bear witness to the gruesome carnage. One of those names is the popular Hollywood actor, Cary Grant. Grant's association with the property has become the source of countless tales and innuendo - including a legend that he was present on the midnight hours of August 9, 1969 (reportedly in a tryst with the caretaker, William Garretson), or that the home served as the site of his honeymoon with actress, Dyan Cannon. The truth could not actually be further from the truth. According to the Grant biography,
by Marc Eliot, Grant rented the property back in 1940 and moved out shortly thereafter, a few years before the infamous house had even been built.
Sharon Tate House
" (as it has become known for its part in the infamous Manson murder spree), was actually built in 1944 for the French actress, Michèle Morgan. It was reportedly designed by architect Robert Byrd on three acres of land, consisting of the main house (designed in "
" or mock-chateau style), a guest house, and swimming pool. Morgan only lived there for a few years, ultimately moving back to France following World War II after apparently having difficulty in landing major roles in Hollywood films. It is not entirely clear who owned and who occupied the property for the next two decades, but according to the book,
by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry, actor Henry Fonda did rent the guest house for a short time. Fonda's stay at the house could have taken placed in the early 1960s as the property was owned at that point by Rudi Altobelli, Fonda's business manager. Altobelli purchased the home early that decade for a reported sum of $86,000. During this time, Altobelli took up residence in the property's guest house and rented out the main house out for additional revenue. By 1968, his tenant was music producer, Terry Melcher, and Melcher's girlfriend, Candice Bergen. It was at this point that the story really began.
By 1968, Melcher had already made a name for himself in the music industry; first in the vocal duet group, Bruce & Terry (with Bruce Johnston), and later as the producer of such bands as The Byrds, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Mamas & Papas, Wayne Newton, Pat Boone, and many more. In addition, he had worked with the Beach Boys on their 1966 album,
. Through this association with the Beach Boys, he would come into contact with a fledging musician by the name of Charles Manson.
In early-1968, Beach Boys drummer, Dennis Wilson, had encountered two female hitchhikers in Malibu, California. At first, he picked them up and dropped them off at their stated destination, but when he encountered them hitchhiking for a second time, he took them to his home at 14400 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Wilson opted to leave them there while he went to the recording studio, only to return to find about a dozen people inside his home, including Charles Manson. Ultimately, Wilson became fascinated with Manson and his "
" and even took an interest in Manson's music and let them stay inside his home. This interest was shared by talent scout, Gregg Jakobson, who met Manson at Wilson's house in May 1968.
According to the Bugliosi's book,
, it was Jakobson that first approached Terry Melcher about Manson's music, as Jakobson had become completely intrigued by the whole Manson package: his lifestyle, philosophies, and music. Apparently, Melcher had already met the man a few times before at Wilson's house (as had Cielo Drive property owner, Rudi Altobelli, on one occasion), but it was at Jakobson's urging that he took a trip to the Manson Family's current-residence at Spahn Ranch (see
) to listen to the music for himself. According to Melcher's recollection, he had been unimpressed with the music although he gave the family fifty dollars for food out of sympathy for their living conditions. He returned to Spahn Ranch a second time with fellow producer, Michael Deasy, whom he believed might have more of an interest in recording Manson's music. Deasy's interest reportedly waned quickly after he suffered a bad trip from the LSD Manson had given him.
Though Melcher later insisted that both the money and introducing Deasy to Manson had merely been acts of sympathy and that he had told them he was not interested in recording Manson's music, members of the Family would dispute this by saying that Melcher had failed on a great deal of promises he allegedly made to Charlie. It was these "
" that would later be recalled as a possible motivation behind the heinous murders one year later at Melcher's former Cielo Drive address. During the trial, the jury would hear that on one of Melcher's visits to Dennis Wilson's house while the Manson Family had been staying there, Wilson had given Melcher a ride home to his gate at 10050 Cielo Drive. Riding along in the backseat, singing and strumming his guitar, had been Charles Manson.
Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate
After his dealing with Manson had come to an end, Melcher had moved out of the home on Cielo Drive (for unrelated reasons) and put out word that the home was available to rent. He was soon put in phone contact with the 26-year-old actress Sharon Tate, who was interested in picking up the unexpired lease from Melcher. Tate had married director Roman Polanski a year prior and the couple was expecting a baby (Tate was just a few months pregnant at the time). The parties struck up an agreement and the couple moved into 10050 Cielo Drive on February 15, 1969 for the rent of $1,200 a month.
On March 15, a housewarming party was held at the Polanski house and attended by over 100 guests, including countless Hollywood celebrities. Among them were Warren Beatty, Nancy Sinatra, Michelle Phillips, John Phillips, Cass Elliot, Jane and Peter Fonda, Roger Vadim, and many, many more. Also in attendance were the Polanski's friends: famed hairstylist Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger (Folger Coffee heiress), and writer Voytek (Wojchiech) Frykowski. The event was not unusual during their stay, as the house apparently hosted several such parties in the months to follow and was noted for being freely open to everyone. In fact, friends of the couple would later recall being concerned about the apparent lack of security and the couple's open-armed approach to people they had never met. Just over one week later, one such gathering was slightly disrupted when a stranger was seen wandering around the property.
March 23, 1969
On the afternoon of March 23, Tate again hosted a group of friends at her newly-rented home on Cielo Drive. Once again in attendance were Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, and Voytek Frykowski, but this time they were accompanied by Shahrokh Hatami, an Iranian photographer and good friend to the Polankis. The following day, Tate was scheduled to fly out to Rome, Italy to join her husband who was on location making a movie and Hatami was taking pictures of her while she packed.
At some point during the day, Hatami noticed a strange man walking around the property and out of concern for Tate, he stepped outside to confront him. The man informed him that he was looking for someone (later assumed to be Melcher). Hatami responded that the home belonged to the Polanskis, although the person he was looking for might be at the guest house around the back and that he should, "
Take the back alley.
" Before the man had moved on, Tate appeared on the front porch asking Hatami who the man was. After Hatami replied that he was looking for someone, the stranger turned and walked towards the guest house without saying a word. Hatami recalled seeing the man return a few minutes later and leave the property. When later questioned, Hatami's description of the stranger was a close match for Charles Manson.
Property owner, Rudi Altobelli, was still living at the guest house that day and was also preparing for a trip to Rome, although for different reasons than Tate. Altobelli spent most of the day away from his home preparing for his trip, but remembered an encounter with Manson later that evening. At the time, Altobelli was taking a shower which was interrupted when he heard his dog barking. He quickly threw on a robe and went to his front door, only to find Charlie Manson there. Familiar with Manson from his previous visits to Dennis Wilson's house, Altobelli interrupted Manson as he was introducing himself by asking what he wanted. Manson reportedly told Altobelli that he was looking for Melcher, but continued to strike up a conversation after Altobelli had told him that Melcher had moved and that he did not have his new address. Convinced that Manson was there to probe Altobelli's interest in Manson's music, he quickly informed him that he was preparing for a business trip and would not be back for some time. Before he shut the door, Altobelli told Manson not to bother his tenants in the future.
The next day, Altobelli and Tate were on the same flight to Rome. While recalling the incident much later, Altobelli reported that during the flight Tate had asked him, "
Did that creepy-looking guy come back there yesterday?
" On July 20, 1969, Sharon Tate returned to the house at Cielo Drive to be home for her final two months of pregnancy. Her husband, Roman, stayed behind to complete work on his film. Three weeks later, Sharon Tate and their unborn child were dead.
Premonitions of Doom?
Like many infamous tragedies and/or crimes, there were plenty of tales of precognition associated with the Tate Murders. As with those cases, the Tate Murders had its fair share of psychics and mediums stepping forward to claim that they had foreseen the events of that fateful night before they happened, but had been unable to warn anybody. The tales are naturally learned in hindsight with little evidence to ever validate them. However, in this particular crime, three of the people directly associated with the case had unnerving experiences that have since been interpreted as warnings of the impending horror, including two of the victims.
Probably the most subtle "
" that something may be wrong came from Tate's husband, Roman Polanski. After Tate had completed filming in Rome, she joined her husband in London, England for a short time. Due to flight restrictions concerning late-term pregnancies, Tate was unable to secure a flight home so her husband booked her a room on the Queen Elizabeth II. Although he had to stay behind in London to finish work on his film, Polanski boarded the ship with Tate and checked her into the room. As they said their goodbyes, Tate suddenly grabbed and hugged Polanski and pressed her pregnant belly against him. It was at that moment that Polanski later recalled having an overwhelming feeling that he would never see her again. However, Polanski shook the feeling off and watched his wife depart, never realizing that his instinct had been correct.
Sharon Tate, herself, had an unnerving encounter a couple of years before her murder that many have since interpreted as a vision of her own demise. At the time of the experience, Tate had been dating fellow victim, Jay Sebring, and spent one evening alone (Sebring was in New York at the time) in Sebring's house at nearby 9820 Easton Drive. The house was already notorious in Hollywood for its stories of a haunting and supposed curse that reputedly claimed two lives by drowning in the swimming pool on the property. The "
" dated back to its original builder, Hollywood producer Paul Bern, for his wife and famous actress, Jean Harlow. Only two short months after their marriage, Bern was found dead in the home with a gunshot wound to his head. The death was later determined to be a suicide, but nefarious rumors began circulating immediately that he had been murdered (some say by Harlow) that continue to this day.
As for Tate's experience, she later recounted having problems falling asleep in the Harlow House when she saw "
...a creepy little man
" (eerily recalling Tate's description of Manson to Rudi Altobelli) enter the room. According to the account, she said the apparent apparition resembled pictures she had seen of Paul Bern. Frightened, Tate ran from the room and down the stairs, but came face-to-face with another horrific sight. She was said to have later recounted, "
I saw a vision of someone tied to the staircase. It might have been me. It might have been Jay. Whoever it was, it was cut open at the throat.
" The report continued that she desperately needed a drink and something led her to check inside a bookcase where she located a hidden bar. For whatever reason, she also tore away the wallpaper beneath the bar and revealed "
...a lovely copper base.
" Now confused, she figured she must have been dreaming so headed back up the stairs, passed the body still tied to the staircase and found the figure still prowling the upstairs. Regardless, she continued on to the bed and somehow found sleep, only to awake the next day to hear Sebring complaining about the torn wallpaper and confirming that it had not been a dream.
Despite sources that state the story was in-print prior to her death, the truth is that the account appeared only after her grisly murder. According to columnist, Dick Kleiner, Tate told him her account "
" in early-1966. Kleiner published the account on August 21st (just 12 days after her death) in the
under the headline, "
Did Sharon Tate Have Premonition?
" Many have since claimed that Tate witnessed her own gruesome death, but it should be noted that, while it bore some similarities, the autopsy reports of Tate's body mention no cuts across her throat. However, it is also interesting to note that this account appeared weeks before Altobelli related Tate's description of Manson as a "
" to the authorities. It is similarly chilling in light of the fact that when their bodies were discovered, a single rope was found connecting the victims, looped around both Tate's and Sebring's necks.
Perhaps the most chilling seemingly-prophetic vision was discovered on evidence turned over during the police investigation of the crime. According to Bugliosi's
, the evidence was a videotape that reportedly recorded a dinner that took place in front of the fireplace inside 10050 Cielo Drive at an undetermined date. In it were Abigail Folger and Voytek Frykowski, alongside their friend, Witold K, and an unidentified young woman. Detectives later determined that it had been filmed while both Polanski and Tate were away and Folger and Frykowski were watching the home. It was a seemingly normal dinner, although Folger and Frykowski were having a minor spat and the four appeared to be smoking marijuana and drinking. In the midst of the conversation, Folger suddenly related an odd tale of an earlier experience of Frykowski's while he had been high on marijuana. According to her, Frykowski saw a strange shape in the fireplace at the time of the incident and rushed to grab a camera to capture the shape on film. The book recounts Folger's identification of the shape as "
...a blazing pig's head.
August 8, 1969
By all accounts, it was a fairly typical day at the Polanski residence. Folger and Frykowski had agreed to stay with Tate until Polanski returned to the States. The housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, arrived in the morning and spent the afternoon doing work around the house, while some of the tenants came and went to run errands. Polanski called around 11:00 A.M. and assured Tate that he would be returning in a few days. At around 12:30 in the afternoon, Tate's friends, Barbara Lewis and Joanna Pettet, stopped by.
Actress Joanna Pettet is an interesting side-note to the Tate Murders. In 1969, Pettet had been gaining notoriety herself in Hollywood. After years of appearances on television, she was starting to land some larger roles; most notably appearing as Mata Bond in the 1967 James Bond adaptation of
. Interestingly enough, Pettet had already lost good friends to a senseless crime. At the start of the decade, Pettet had been close friends with Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert, who were found brutally stabbed to death in 1963. The crime was the start of a series of slayings that became known as the Career Girl Murders of New York City, New York. As it turned out, the crimes that befell 10050 Cielo Drive were still not the last brush with tragedy for Pettet. In 1995, Pettet made the difficult decision to remove the life support of her only son (with actor Alex Cord), Damien Zachary Cord, after he lapsed into coma following a heroin overdose. He was 26 at the time of his death. But on August 8, 1969, Pettet had no possible way of knowing about the horror that awaited her friend that evening.
Lewis and Pettet departed the residence at around 3:30 P.M., followed shortly thereafter by Winifred Chapman, who had politely turned down Tate's offer to stay for the evening to escape the heat of her own apartment. Despite Hollywood folklore to the contrary (see Myths and Legends below), there was no party planned that evening at the Polanski House. Tate did apparently invite her friend and wife of Polanski's business manager, Sandy Tennant, over for a quiet evening. Tennant was recovering from an illness and turned down the offer (her husband, William, would come to the property the following morning to identify the bodies). Similarly, Tate's younger sister, Debra, called to ask if she and a few friends could drop by. By that point, Tate replied that she was already tiring and suggested that they do it at another time. It was around this time that Jay Sebring was believed to have arrived.
While property owner, Rudi Altobelli, was overseas, he had hired then-19-year-old, William Garretson, to look out for the place and take care of his three dogs. Garretson stayed in the property's guest house with the animals and associated very little with main house's tenants. He had spent the previous evening drinking beer and smoking pot and was feeling a bit under the weather. Because of this, outside a quick errand to purchase a pack of cigarettes at around 8:30 P.M., Garretson spent much of August 8th in the guest house.
Sometime around 9:00 P.M. that evening, Tate, Sebring, Folger, and Frykowski went to the El Coyote restaurant on Beverly Boulevard to eat (see
El Coyote Cafe, Los Angeles, CA
). They were believed to have been served by waitress, Kathy Palmer, who estimated that the group left the restaurant between 9:45 and 10:00 P.M. Although she would later be unable to positively identify the four by photographs, she is believed to have been the last person to see the group alive outside their killers. Folger's mother, Inez Mijia Folger, called the residence around 10:00 P.M. and spoke with her about Folger's plans to fly back to San Francisco the next day. According to her mother's recollection, Abigail sounded calm and normal and did not express any concerns for her safety.
At approximately, 15 minutes before Midnight, 18-year-old Steven Parent arrived on the property and paid a visit to William Garretson at the guest house. Parent had picked up Garretson hitchhiking a few weeks earlier and had given him a lift to 10050 Cielo Drive. When Parent had dropped him off at the gate, Garretson had thanked him and told him to drop by anytime. Garretson later told police that he had not expected Parent to ever take him up on the offer and was surprised when he arrived at his door. However, he invited Parent in for a beer and the two chatted for awhile. Parent had brought along a clock radio that he was trying to sell, but Garretson was not interested. After Parent made a quick phone call to a friend, he then told Garretson he was going to head out and meet up with the person whom he had just spoken to. Parent then left the guest house and got into his car (a white Rambler) and began driving up the driveway. He reportedly stopped at the console to open the gate and rolled down his window. At that point, a figure emerged from the darkness and approached the car. The time was approximately 12:15 A.M. and the date was now August 9th.
Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries,
nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
The Book of Revelation
, Chapter 9, Verse 21
While the residents of Cielo Drive had returned home from dinner and were settling in for the evening, things were much different some 16 miles to the northwest. The Manson Family was staying at Spahn Ranch at the time, which had no calendars, newspapers, or clocks, so the exact time was unknown. However, later testimony placed the events starting "
...about an hour after dinner.
" At that point, various family members were standing around the ranch's saloon set when Charles Manson appeared and instructed four of the group to go and get a change of clothes and a knife. The four were Charles "
" Watson, Susan Atkins (also known as Sadie Mae Glutz), Patricia Krenwinkel (also known as Katie), and Linda Kasabian. Although Kasabian had only been with the Family for just over a month, she was the only Family member with a valid driver's license - the primary reason it is believed why she was sent along, although Watson was actually the only person to drive the car that evening.
After the group had re-assembled, Manson instructed the group, "
Go with Tex and do whatever Tex tells you to do.
" After the four loaded into a 1959 yellow Ford owned by ranch hand, Johnny Swartz, and had began to pull away, Manson stopped them. He reportedly leaned into the open passenger-side window and said, "
Leave a sign. You girls know what to write. Something witchy.
" In the backseat were a pair of wire cutters and a rope. In addition to the knife he was carrying, Watson had also brought along Manson's .22 caliber Longhorn revolver.
While en route, Watson told the girls that they were heading to the house that used to belong to Terry Melcher, because Watson knew the layout of the home. Several members of the Family had previously been sent on so-called "
" missions. These nightly outings entailed dressing in dark clothing and entering a random home while the residents inside were asleep. The participants would slink around in the dark and, on occasion, move things around so that the residents would know that they had been there when they woke in the morning. It was not unusual for the Family members to carry knives as they "
" However, any thoughts that this was one of those missions would soon be shattered. According to Atkins's grand jury testimony, Watson reportedly told the girls that they were to "
...get all of their money and kill whoever was there.
August 9, 1969
Presumably around the time that Steven Parent was talking to William Garretson inside the guest house, the '59 Ford carrying the Family members had pulled up outside the gate of 10050 Cielo Drive. After he parked the car, Watson grabbed the wire cutters from the backseat, climbed the telephone pole next to the gate, and cut the telephone wires to the house. The group then backed the car back down the hill and parked it away from the house. The four Family members then grabbed their weapons and Watson grabbed the rope and they walked back up the hill to the gate. Rather than climb over the gate, the group climbed the embankment to its right and then scaled the fence and walked onto the property.
At that point, the car driven by Parent was approaching the gate. As the girls quickly dropped to the ground and out of view, Watson approached the Rambler with the gun in hand. Parent reportedly cried out, "
Please don't hurt me! I won't say anything!
" It is presumed that Watson swung his knife at Parent at this point, as the autopsy later revealed a defensive cut on his left hand that managed to sever the band on his watch and knock it into the backseat. Watson then fired four shots at point-blank range and reportedly hit Parent in the head and chest as the teen sat in his parent's car. Steven Earl Parent was 18 years old at the time of his death. He was laid to rest at nearby Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Rowland Heights.
Following the shooting of Parent, Watson was said to have leaned into the car and turned off the engine. He then pushed the car back up the driveway a short distance, and called to the others to follow. When they reached the main house, they searched for an open window or door. Although Kasabian apparently found an open window (the window to the nursery was left open to let the fresh coat of paint inside dry), she told the others that everything had been locked. At that point, Watson cut one of the screens on the main window and then told Kasabian (who was reportedly shaken from Parent's shooting) to go back and wait by Parent's car. He then entered the house, opened the front door from the inside, and ushered Atkins and Krenwinkel inside.
Inside, the three found Frykowski lying on the couch but stirring, possibly from the sounds of the break-in. Watson pointed the gun at Frykowski and told him not to move. Startled, Frykowski asked who they were and why they were there. Watson was said to have replied, "
I am the devil and I'm here to do the devil's business.
According to Atkins, Watson then ordered her to search the rest of the house for others. In the first bedroom, she spotted Abigail Folger sitting on her bed and reading. The two women reportedly smiled to one another (Folger apparently believing that Atkins was a friend of Tate's). In the next bedroom, she spotted Jay Sebring sitting on a bed talking to Sharon Tate who was lying down. Neither noticed Atkins watching them and she returned to the living room to report the three other people in the home. Watson had her tie up Frykowski and then sent Atkins and Krenwinkel to retrieve the three others. They did so by knife point. The apparently shocked Folger, Tate, and Sebring did as they were told.
Back in the living room, Watson ordered the three to lie down on their stomach. Sebring reportedly protested by saying, "
Can't you see she is pregnant? Let her sit down,
" referring to Tate. Watson responded by shooting Sebring who fell to the floor in front of the fireplace. Tate and Folger screamed. After silencing them with threats and inquiring about money inside the home, Atkins led Folger back to her room to retrieve 72 dollars from her purse. The two returned to the living room where Watson tied the rope around the necks of Sebring, Tate, and Folger and then threw the remainder of the rope up and over a ceiling beam. He then pulled the rope taught. The resulting tension brought Tate and Folger to their feet. Watson then told the pleading victims that they were "
...all going to die.
At some point, Frykowski broke free of his restraints and began fighting with Atkins, who responded by stabbing Frykowski multiple times in the leg. Watson came to Atkins's assistance and, during an unclear moment in the struggle, shot Frykowski two times and then proceeded to strike him multiple times in the head with the butt of the gun, breaking its handle. Severely wounded, Frykowski still managed to escape outside where he encountered Kasabian, who had come back to the house allegedly to try to get her friends to stop the massacre. She later told authorities that she looked at Frykowski and told him, "
Oh, God, I am so sorry,
" before he collapsed into the bushes.
Back inside the house, Watson was said to have walked over to where Sebring was lying in front of the fireplace, kneeled down, and stabbed him multiple times in the back. In total, Sebring was stabbed seven times in addition to the gunshot wound. Jay Sebring was 35 years old at the time of his death. A service was later held at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather, Forest Lawn in Los Angeles before his body was taken to Southfield, Michigan where it was laid to rest at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
Meanwhile, Folger had broke free from her restraints and was fighting with Krenwinkel. Watson reportedly rushed to her assistance and stabbed Folger once in the stomach. She fell to the ground, but was still alive. At that point, Tate was pleading with Atkins. While in jail for the murder of Gary Hinman a few months later, Atkins told a cell mate that Tate pleaded, "
Please don't kill me. I don't want to die. I want to live. I want to have my baby.
" Atkins said that she replied with, "
Look, bitch, I don't care about you. I don't care if you're going to have a baby. You had better be ready. You're going to die and I don't feel anything about it.
" Finally, she told her cell mate that while someone else held Tate down, she began stabbing her and did not stop "
...until she stopped screaming.
" However, she testified later to the grand jury that it was Watson that had stabbed Tate.
Outside, Kasabian later recalled seeing Folger run out of the house with Krenwinkel in pursuit, knife raised. At that point, Frykowski managed to get to his feet and stumble to the lawn where he fell again. Watson appeared and again hit him over the head (presumably with the gun) and then proceeded to stab him repeatedly in the back. In total, Frykowski had been shot twice, hit over the head with a blunt object 13 times, and was stabbed 51 times. Voytek (Wojchiech) Frykowski was 32 years old at the time of his death. His body was reportedly cremated and his ashes were returned to Lodz, Poland where they were interred in the family plot at Saint Josef's Cemetery.
After witnessing Watson's attack on Frykowski, Kasabian took off running in the direction of the 1959 Ford. By then, Krenwinkel had caught up with Folger, tackled her to the ground, and began stabbing her. Watson soon came to her assistance and was believed to have stabbed her as well. According to their accounts, she tried to get them to stop the attack by saying, "
I'm already dead.
" Her autopsy later reported that she had been stabbed 28 times. Abigail Anne Folger was 25 years old at the time of her death. Her body was returned to her family in San Francisco and laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma.
Atkins had joined Krenwinkel and Watson outside and the two women began looking for the missing Kasabian. Instead, Watson instructed Atkins to return inside and write something on the front door in one of the victim's blood. He added, "
Write something that will shock the world.
" Atkins did as she was instructed by grabbing a towel and wiped blood off of Tate's chest. She then used the bloody towel to write the word "
" on the outside of the front door and then tossed the towel back into the living room where it landed on Sebring's head (leading to later accounts that the killers had placed a hood over his head). The Family members then left the property behind and caught up with Kasabian at the car, which she had already started and was preparing to leave. Watson hopped in the driver's seat and the four fled into the night.
Atkins later recalled that as she had dipped the towel in Tate's blood, she could hear, "
Gurgling sounds like blood flowing into the body out of the heart.
" Tate had been stabbed 16 times in the chest and back. Sharon Marie Tate Polanski was 26 years old at the time of her death. Her coroner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, later told the press that the fetus had been a perfectly healthy baby boy and had a post-mortem cesarean been performed within 20 minutes of her death, he could have been saved. Roman Polanski posthumously gave the child the name, Paul Richard Polanski. Mother and son were laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in nearby Culver City (see
Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, CA
It is unclear how long the violence went on. Several neighbors later reported hearing the possible sounds of gunshots, panicked voices, and screams during the night - most around 12:30-1:00 A.M. The hills of Benedict Canyon are known to distort noise and makes direction of a particular sound nearly impossible to locate. Because of this and the fact that the sounds ceased relatively quickly, many of the witnesses simply shrugged it off and went to bed. However, a few phone calls were made to police - the last reporting the sounds of gunshots being logged at 4:11 A.M. It is also not entirely clear if any patrol units were dispatched to investigate.
The bodies were not discovered until sometime after 8:00 A.M. that morning when the Polanski's housekeeper, Winifred Chapman, arrived for work. The police quickly descended on 10050 Cielo Drive and were horrified by what they saw. During their investigation of the property, they searched the guest house and found a surprised William Garretson and quickly subdued him. They led the confused boy around the crime scene and, despite his claim of innocence, he was placed under arrest for murder.
During a polygraph test later administered William Garretson testified that he had been listening to music on his headphones inside the guest house and heard nothing unusual. However, he reportedly stated that he had been unnerved during the evening after noticing that his door handle appeared as if someone had tried to enter the guest house. Similarly, he tried to use the phone to check the time but found that the line was dead. Investigators later performed field testing to re-simulate the events of that evening and determined that neither the screams or gunshots were audible while listening to music through the headphones with the stereo set to the same volume. The field tests and the polygraph results confirmed his story. He was released from custody two days later on August 11, 1969.
Despite this (and his criminal trial testimony that told the same account), an interview with Garretson on the episode,
The Last Days of Sharon Tate
of the series
E! True Hollywood Story
told a much different story. On July 25, 1999 (30 years after the crime), Garretson told a reporter that he had heard what he believed to be firecrackers shortly after Steven Parent left, believing Parent had set them off. He also claimed to have seen Abigail Folger being chased across the lawn, but looked away because he did not want the parties to think he was spying on them, as he thought it was just two women playing around. The report simply concludes that he had lied to the investigators in 1969, but provided no motive as to why nor offered any explanation as to why he had passed the polygraph exam if he had been lying.
One day after the so-called "
" Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were discovered dead in their Los Feliz home (see
The LaBianca House
). Although police initially dismissed the apparent similarities, the press played up a possible connection. Coupled with Garretson's release from custody and the realization that the assailants were still at large, a citywide panic ensued. The paranoia was perhaps most felt in the Hollywood community after the deaths of well-loved Tate and Sebring. Speculation ran rampant and everything from drugs to satanic rituals were discussed as motives. Hollywood celebrities reportedly hired bodyguards, carried weapons, and/or turned their own homes into fortresses out of fear that they might be next. As it turned out, this might not have been an overreaction in some cases. Manson Family members later stated that they had a death list and precise plans of how they would kill the likes of Frank Sinatra (who reputedly went into hiding), Steve McQueen, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Tom Jones.
On August 17, 1969, Tate's husband, Roman Polanski, returned to 10050 Cielo Drive for the first time since the murders. Accompanying him were psychic, Peter Hurkos (reportedly to try and find out what happened that evening), and
magazine writer/photographer, Thomas Thompson. In addition to picking up some personal belongings and attempting to make some sense of the horrific act of violence, Polanski posed for a picture for the magazine. The picture was taken out front with Polanski next to the front door, where the word "
" was still readable in his wife's blood. When the issue hit the stands, Polanski was heavily criticized for the incident (the biography
The Roman Polanski Story
by Thomas Kiernan reports Polanski was paid five thousand dollars for the picture), but claimed he was trying to get someone to come forward by shocking the readers. It was later reported that he had given away all of the possessions inside the house, as they were too much of a painful reminder for him. As for Hurkos, he later told the press that his readings of the crime scene had three men (known by the victims) commit the heinous acts after taking a large amount of LSD and performing a black magic ritual known as a "
It would not be for another two months until authorities would be looking at Charles Manson and the Family as the prime suspects. Based on information from Family associates, as well as cell mates who Susan Atkins had confided in at the Sybil Brand Institute for Women where she was being held for the murder of Gary Hinman, police zeroed in on the group and began piecing together their case. After making a deal to take the death penalty off the table, Susan Atkins implicated herself and the other three assailants in her grand jury testimony in addition to ringleader, Charles Manson. It was not until December 1st before the indictments and arrest warrants were handed down for the Tate/LaBianca murders. Atkins later repudiated her testimony and prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi, turned to Linda Kasabian (the only member that reportedly did not directly murder any of the victims) and gave immunity for her testimony.
The trial did not start until June 15, 1970 and lasted several months. On January 25, 1971, the jury returned with their verdicts. Charles "
" Watson, Susan "
" Atkins, Patricia "
" Krenwinkel, and Charles "
" Manson were all found guilty of murder in the first degree and conspiracy to commit murder for the Tate/LaBianca slayings. Family member, Leslie Van Houten, was similarly found guilty on the same charges for the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. On April 19, 1971, all four defendants were sentenced to death. Just over a year later, the state of California abolished the death penalty and the sentences were reduced to life in prison. In the years since, both Watson and Atkins have married their respective spouses in prison (Atkins twice) and Watson has fathered four children with his wife. All five of the inmates have repeatedly been denied parole and remain incarcerated to this date. At each hearing, family members of the victims have spoken out against their release.
Myths and Legends
The Tate/LaBianca murders, the introduction of Charles Manson and his murdering hippie commune known as the Family, and the sensational trial and convictions captured the world's attention at the time and continues to fascinate people to this day. While the horrific, random acts of violence and cult atmosphere of the Family made for strange stories in of themselves, there are countless tales and exaggerations that continue to be propagated to this day - some seemingly more normal than the actual truth.
The Tate slayings, in particular, have generated countless tales of innuendo and folklore. Aided by early newspaper accounts and reports (including a completely inaccurate report that was printed by the normally reputable
magazine), inaccurate descriptions of the actual crime scene continue to be passed along several decades later. These accounts describe such things as the victims being either nude or scantily clad (only Sharon Tate was actually found wearing a bra and panties - her typical attire in the summer heat), sexually mutilated (some accounts state that one of Tate's breasts was cut off), and/or with an "
" carved into their bodies (the word "
" was carved into Leno LaBianca's stomach the following night). Perhaps most baffling are accounts that Tate's unborn child was cut out of her body. Others describe the crime scene as a drug party gone bad. While a couple of the victims showed traces of drugs in their systems, the coroner concluded that they were more than aware of what happened to them that evening.
Still further speculation blames satanism and/or black magic for the crimes. In fact, a publicity shot of Tate from
Eye of the Devil
(1966) is often passed off as proof that she belonged to a satanic cult. Other tales suggest tapes of wild orgies in 10050 Cielo Drive were discovered by the police. In fact, a tape of Tate and Polanski having intercourse was located at the scene, but none of the sex free-for-alls that are still suggested. The stories still manage to persist to this day, however, despite testimony from those that knew Tate personally and who contradict all of these claims.
Perhaps the most common tale that is passed around regards various Hollywood celebrities suggesting that they had been invited to a party at 10050 Cielo Drive that evening, but decided against going and, thus, avoiding a similar fate. As stated earlier (see August 8, 1969 above), friends and family of Sharon Tate told police that, to the best of their knowledge, no parties were planned for the evening. However, it is entirely possible that either Sebring, Folger, or Frykowksi did make such invitations. For example, in Quincy Jones's book,
Autobiography of Quincy Jones
, the music producer recounts inviting Jay Sebring to a special screening of the film Bullitt on August 8, 1969, and Sebring telling him, "
There's a party going on at Sharon Tate's house tonight. Roman's still in London, but Sharon will be there, and a lot of fun folks, a lot of industry people.
" According to Jones, he knew the house because he had almost purchased it from Altobelli in 1967 and he said that he would come, but changed his mind when he got home that evening. Since his account contradicts the timeline constructed by investigators of Sebring's whereabouts on August 8th, it is possible that he may have been remembering a conversation from an earlier date. In fact, his later recollection of several key factors in the case as written in his book contain various inaccuracies.
Another such account appeared in the biography of Jacqueline Susann,
by Barbara Seaman. Susann was the author of the bestselling novel,
The Valley of the Dolls
, which co-starred none other Sharon Tate in the 1967 film adaptation. According to the book, Susann and film critic/friend, Rex Reed, were invited to a small gathering at 10050 Cielo Drive that evening by Tate. Susann initially planned to attend, but Reed was fatigued and they decided to stay home for the evening. Years later after Susann had become terminally ill, she reportedly told Reed, "
It could have all happened a lot sooner if we'd gone to Sharon's that night.
Perhaps one of the stranger accounts came in the form of a woman that called herself, Rosie Tate-Polanski. On a national television interview for the 2001 History Channel documentary,
What Happened After the Manson Family Murders?
, Rosie claimed that she was the child that was rescued from the body of Sharon Tate. According to her accounts, her rescue was covered up by the family and authorities in an effort to protect her. While she apparently has offered no proof of her claims, she seemingly found the support of the former-caretaker, William Garretson, who appeared on the same program and said he believed her. However, members of the Tate family have unequivocally challenged her claims and went on the validate that Tate's unborn child was, first and foremost, a boy and that he was laid to rest with his mother following their deaths.
In truth, Rosie-Tate Polanski is just one of many people that have claimed some connection to the crime. Several other people have made claims of relationships/engagements to one of the killers, parenting one of Manson's children, and some have even claimed to be a specific person from the case. While all of the above is an example of the strange stories that emerged in the wake of the Tate/LaBianca murders, few would pale in comparison with the generally accepted motive of the crime.
While Melcher's past history with the family was believed to play a role in why the Family chose the Cielo Drive residence, it was only a small part. Although some dispute the motive that Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney and author of
, Vincent Bugliosi, presented to the jury, several Family members and associates (including some convicted of the crime) support the claims.
According to their accounts, Charlie Manson believed a "
" between the whites and the blacks was imminent, which would be like all the previous wars stacked on one another. He called this impending apocalypse "
" from a song with the same name that appeared on the Beatles's self-titled album (more commonly known as
The White Album
). Manson based his theories behind Helter Skelter from both lyrics by the Beatles and
The Book of Revelation
(primarily Chapter Nine) from
The New Testament
. In short, he saw himself as the "
" that would lead his followers (the Family) to a bottomless pit to wait out the war and only emerge after one-third of the population (the whites) had been wiped out. At that point, the remaining black survivors would need him to clean up the mess and restore order worldwide.
In preparation, the Family had begun stockpiling weapons and dune buggies at the Myers and Barker Ranches in the desert of Death Valley. After apparently growing tired of waiting for this apocalypse to get started, Manson told others that "
" only knew what he was told to do and that, "
I'm going to have to show him how to do it.
" On August 8, 1969, Manson reportedly informed his followers at Spahn Ranch that, "
Now is the time for Helter Skelter.
" That night he set his plan into motion.
The Disney/Manson Connection
Although fairly circumstantial, there has been much made between at least two coincidences between the Tate/LaBianca Murders and the famous personage of Walt Disney. As mentioned, the crimes sent shockwaves throughout the Hollywood community and the entire Los Angeles-area. One could imagine then the difficulty faced by the world-famous theme park in nearby Anaheim,
, when faced with the daunting task of opening their first "
" on the heels of such a notorious crime. On August 12, 1969,
debuted the first
attraction at the nearby Anaheim location (see
Disneyland - Haunted Mansion
), although select park guests were allowed a special preview of the ride in the advance days, starting on August 9 - just as the news of the horrific crime up the hills were reverberating throughout the city.
What makes the coincidence all the more interesting is the fact that Disney's name again pops up in the LaBianca murders as well. Prior to moving back to his family's home on Waverly Drive, Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary owned another Los Feliz home nearby. Interestingly enough, the residence had been priorly owned by Walt Disney, himself. This has led to various erroneous reports that Disney had owned the Waverly Drive residence where Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were brutally murdered (including the popular book,
, by Ed Sanders), but the couple had actually moved out of the "
" in 1968 after finding it needed too much work. As it often goes, the connections between the crimes and the name of Walt Disney, while purely coincidental, only added to the notoriety and the lore of infamous murders.
Joseph Stefano and the Psycho Connection
For one horror film screenwriter, the murders were a little too close to home. Joseph Stefano, the renowned screenwriter of the Alfred Hitchcock classic,
(1960), as well as its sequel,
Psycho IV: The Beginning
(1990), and several genre television shows (including the original
The Outer Limits
) lived nearby at 10216 Cielo Drive at the time of the murders. Although there are no accounts of him hearing anything strange that infamous evening, it has not stopped rumors that the screenplay for
was highly influenced by the Tate/LaBianca Murders. As intriguing as the rumor is, it falls apart quickly under even brief examination. Aside from the fact that the film was actually based on a novel by author Robert Bloch,
was released on June 16, 1960 - a full nine years before the murders even occurred. In fact, Stefano did not move into his place on Cielo Drive until after the release of the film. That is not to say that there are some interesting connections between the two.
A recent posting on
(a group of scientists out to debunk various paranormal phenomena and hosts of a reality series) by Mark Edward (see Related Sites below) is dedicated to the form of spiritual communication known as automatic writing. In it, Edward recounts an example of automatic writing that was shared with him by Joseph Stefano's wife, Marilyn. According to her account, the Stefano's hosted spiritualism-based parties with the Hollywood in-crowd during the late 1960s. In one such session of automatic writing, those in attendance were baffled by what appeared to be the name "
" spelled out in cursive writing from one of the sheets. The name meant nothing to them until a few nights later when the brutal murders of the five victims, including Abigail Folger, occurred across the way.
The crime apparently resonated with Stefano over time as, towards the end of his career, it served as an inspiration for one of his last screenplays, reportedly titled
Within Screaming Distance
. The story was apparently set at a Hollywood party on the night of August 8, 1969, right next door to the infamous 10050 Cielo Drive. In 2009, it was reported that the movie was in development by the production company, American Media Group, but no further reports can be found and the production is presumed dead. Stefano passed away on August 25, 2006 and his wife, Marilyn, moved out of their Cielo Drive residence shortly thereafter.
Rudi Altobelli and Successive Owners
The owner of 10050 Cielo Drive returned to the states following the murder, but the police had sealed off the property. Homeless and concerned that the killers that night had been targeting him, Rudi Altobelli moved in with Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen at a Malibu beach house owned by Melcher's mother, Doris Day. When the police had what they needed, Altobelli returned to the property at Cielo Drive. When the Manson Family was finally caught and Melcher's connection to Cielo Drive became one of the motives of the killing, Altobelli realized that he could have picked a better place to stay in the interim.
In an article on
How to Sell a House of Horrors
, Altobelli was quoted as saying, "
I moved right back into the house three weeks after the murders happened. When I came back to that property, I felt safe, secure, loved and beauty.
" He remained there for another 19 years, ultimately putting the house up for sale in September 1988. Despite warnings from associates that the house would never sell, investor John Prell bought the home for the asking price of $1.9 million just a one month later.
Prell held on to the property for a few years, ultimately selling it to Alvin Weintraub of the the real estate firm, Weintraub, Casey, Zurkow Inc., for an undisclosed sum in March 1991. Within one year, Weintraub again offered the house for "
...sale as is for $4.95 million, or we'll sell it for about $18 million when we're finished.
" Those plans included expanding the main home to 15,000 feet and converting it into a Mediterranean villa with a tennis court and canopied viewing platform. As they looked for a buyer, the house was rented to musician and Nine Inch Nails founder, Trent Reznor.
Reznor reportedly moved into 10050 Cielo Drive sometime in October 1992 for a monthly rent of $11,000, according to the
Los Angeles Times
. He has said since that he was already interested in the house before he even knew it was the site of the infamous Tate murders. Reznor later told
in an article titled
Making Records: Where Manson Murdered Helter Skelter
Little sounds would make me jump at first, but after a while it was just like home. The house didn't feel terrifying so much as sad - peacefully sad. But that could just be my own insanity.
" However, he quickly found out that the residence had a morbid curiosity for some. In the same article he said, "
Sometimes I'd come home and find bouquets of dead roses and lit candles in the front gate. It was really eerie. Who were they leaving the shrines for - Tate or Manson?
Despite the stigma associated with the property (and the fact that the killers left the word "
" scrawled in Tate's blood on the front door), Reznor built a make-shift studio in the house to record his new album,
The Downward Spiral
and dubbed the studio, "
" Much of the album was recorded inside the home and also featured such songs as
March of the Pigs.
In an interview with
magazine in 1997, Reznor recounted an encounter with Sharon Tate's sister where she confronted him about exploiting her sister's death by living in the house. The event later left him shaken and upset with his callousness. He said, "
...when you understand the repercussions that are felt - that's what sobered me up: realizing that what balances out the appeal of the lawlessness and the lack of morality and that whole thing is the other end of it, the victims who don't deserve that.
" Reznor lived in the house until December 1993 when Weintraub elected to have the property demolished and a new mansion built. Before he left, Reznor grabbed the front door (with Weintraub's permission) where Susan Atkins had left the cryptic message 24 years before and installed it as the entrance to his studio/record label headquarters, Nothing Studios, in a former funeral home in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 2004, Reznor again relocated to Los Angeles, however it is believed that the door remained behind.
Following the house's demolition, a 18,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style villa was built on its remains and completed in 1996. In order to further scrub their hands of the property's notorious history, the address was changed to 10066 Cielo Drive and even given a new name - Villa Bella. Although he had hoped for $18 million with grander plans in 1992, Weintraub was forced to lower the cost substantially after no offers were made. On January 25, 2000, the house finally sold for $6.4 million to Jeff Franklin - Hollywood producer and creator of such series as
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
The house continues to be owned by Jeff Franklin to this day and remains private property. However, the house continues to draw both film crews for the latest documentaries on the Manson Family, as well as curious visitors to the gate. Those that wish to visit should take care not to trespass on the property and respect the owner's right to privacy. However, they might be better off by taking a driving tour such as those offered by
Dearly Departed Tours
(see Related Sites below), which offers tours specifically geared towards the Manson crimes.
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A comprehensive Web site dedicated to the ongoing fascination of Charles Manson and his cult. The site contains everything you need to know about the Family and their murder victims.
A Web site with a plethora of information on the infamous Manson Family and their crimes.
Dearly Departed Tours
The official Web site for the tour company, Dearly Departed Tours, that operates in Los Angeles, California. In addition to movie tours, the group offers The Hollywood Tragical History Tour and The Helter Skelter Tour for Manson Family locations.
Skepticblog - Automatic Writing
An article on skepticblog discussing the concept of automatic writing, which includes an interesting account of the spiritualism tool which possibly foreshadows the infamous Sharon Tate murders to horror writer, Joseph Stefano.
Tommy Johnson's Headstone
Sunset Memorial Park, Norman, OK
See Also on TheCabinet.com
Horror Television Database: Helter Skelter (1976)
Horror Television Database: Helter Skelter (2004)
Dark Destinations in the News (10/28/07)
Blog: Dark Destination's Birthday: Top 25 Destinations (08/05/08)
Blog: The Manson Family and Fay Wray (08/10/08)
Blog: The Top 25 for the Month of October 2008 (11/04/08)
Blog: The Dark Destinations Top 50 for Spring 2009 (05/24/09)
Blog: The Manson Murders on Cielo Drive: 40 Years Later (08/09/09)
Blog: Top 20 Dark Destinations for Month of January 2010 (01/31/10)
Available from Amazon.com
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders
Helter Skelter (Director's Cut)
The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter
True Crime Authors: Helter Skelter With Vincent Bugliosi
The Helter-Skelter Murders
The Manson Family (Unrated 2-Disc Special Edition)
What Happened After? Manson Murders
Manson Family Movies
Manson in His Own Words
The Downward Spiral
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Photo of the grave of Sharon Tate and her unborn son at Holy Cross Cemetery in L.A. - January 2009.
Photo of a pregnant Sharon Tate taken shortly before her murder.
Photo of cult leader Charles Manson.
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Closed to the Public
" is marked that for a reason and we discourage any visits or attempts to gain access to that facility. Similarly, take note of any "
" that may be associated with a destination. Finally, treat any location and its local residents with respect. Any vandalism and/or unruly behavior is completely despicable and only ruins the experience for future visitors.
There are 2 comments in the database.
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George Vreeland Hill 2
Jun 08 2011, 01:28 AM UTC
The sad part of it all is that Sharon and the others could still be alive today if it were not for the murders.
As of this writing (6/7/11), Sharon's baby would be almost 42 years old.
George Vreeland Hill
Oct 30 2008, 09:03 AM UTC
I arrived here shortly after a stop at the Simpson's house at Midnight the day before Halloween.
There is definitely a menising feeling in the air and I got extremely freaked out.
I think I'll make my next trip in the day time cause this place is far too scary!
Edited on: Oct 30 2008, 09:04 AM UTC
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