In 1994 the house at 10050 Cielo Drive was demolished. But the memory of what happened there in the early morning hours of August 9, 1969, endures. Actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent were brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family.
The house was built in the late forties for French actress Michèle Morgan. The house was similar to the house which sat on its own plateau directly below 10050, 10048 Cielo Drive, which was called the Twin House. The properties were built at the same time.
By the end of World War II, Michèle Morgan had returned to France and in 1946 actress Lillian Gish moved in 10050 Cielo Drive with her mother while filming Duel in the Sun (1946).
Rudolph Altobelli, a talent manager, bought the house in the early 1960s and often rented the house out. Residents included celebrities like Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere & the Raiders.
Dennis Wilson and Terry Melcher
In the summer of 1966, Altobelli leased the Cielo Drive house to music producer Terry Melcher and actress Candice Bergen, whose time at the house would set the tragic events of August 9, 1969 into motion.
Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson had befriended Charles Manson. Wilson was impressed by Manson’s charisma and musical talent and he introduced Manson to producer Terry Melcher and pressed Melcher to land Manson a record deal.
Manson auditioned for Melcher but Melcher was not impressed and declined to sign Manson. After witnessing Manson getting in a fight with a drunk at Spahn Ranch both Wilson and Melcher ended their relationship with Manson.
After ending his friendship with Manson, Melcher and Bergen abruptly moved out of Cielo Drive. According to Bergen, something spooked Melcher, “Terry wanted to record an album with Charles Manson, then he got spooked and suddenly we were moving. I was like, in a few months? He said ‘No, tomorrow.’
On February 12, 1969, Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife Sharon Tate signed a lease for the house on 10050 Cielo Drive. They moved in three days later…
The Tate Murders
“It was a night so quiet you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling in cocktail shakers in the homes way down the canyon.”
On Sharon Tate’s last day alive, the eight and a half months pregnant actress had an argument with her unfaithful husband who was overseas, she had lunch by the pool with her friends, took a nap and went out for a late dinner.
The day began like any other day, but things took a dramatic turn when cult-leader Charles Manson told four of his followers to go to 10050 Cielo Drive.
Contrary to popular belief, Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen were never the targets of the August 9 murder spree carried out by Manson’s followers. Manson knew very well that Melcher moved out of Cielo Drive.
On the night of August 8, 1969, Manson told Tex Watson to take some of the girls and to go to “that house where Melcher used to live” and to “totally destroy everyone inside, as gruesome as you can” and Manson told Watson to “leave a sign, something witchy”. Tex Watson took Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to Cielo Drive.
When they arrived at the entrance of the Cielo Drive property, Watson climbed a telephone pole near the gate and cut the phone line to prevent telephone access from the house. At this point it was after midnight.
Midnight – August 9, 1969
Headlights approached. Watson ordered the women to lie in the bushes. He then stepped out and ordered the approaching driver to halt. Eighteen-year-old student Steven Parent had been visiting the property’s caretaker, William Garretson, who lived in the property’s guest house. Watson first lunged at Parent with a knife, giving him a defensive slash wound on the palm of his hand, then shot him four times in the chest and abdomen.
The group then proceeded to the main house. Watson told Kasabian to keep watch down by the gate. Watson cut the screen of a window and entered through the window, and let Atkins and Krenwinkel in through the front door.
They found Frykowski sleeping on the living room couch. Watson kicked him in the head. When Frykowski asked him who he was and what he was doing there, Watson replied: “I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s business.”
Atkins and Krenwinkel searched the house and found Tate, Sebring and Folger and forced them to the living room. Watson began to tie Tate and Sebring together by their necks with rope and slung the rope up over one of the living room’s ceiling beams. Sebring’s protested to the rough treatment of the pregnant Tate. Watson then shot Sebring and stabbed him seven times.
Frykowski’s hands had been bound with a towel. Freeing himself, Frykowski began struggling with Atkins, who stabbed at his legs with the knife with which she had been guarding him. As he fought his way toward and out the front door, onto the porch, Watson caught up with Frykowski and struck him over the head with the gun multiple times, stabbed him repeatedly, and shot him twice.
Around this time, Kasabian was drawn up from the driveway by “horrifying sounds”. In an effort to stop the massacre, she falsely told Atkins that someone was coming.
Meanwhile, Folger had escaped from Krenwinkel and fled out a bedroom door to the pool area. Krenwinkel ran after Folger, caught her, stabbed her, and tackled her to the ground. Watson joined Krenwinkel and they stabbed Folger 28 times. In the meantime Frykowski, barely alive, struggled across the lawn. Watson went over to Frykowski and then stabbed him to death. Frykowski was stabbed a total of 51 times.
Pregnant Tate Was The Last To Die
In the house, Tate pleaded to be allowed to live long enough to have her baby, and even offered herself as a hostage in an attempt to save the life of her unborn child. Susan Atkins told Tate as she begged, “Look, bitch, I don’t care about you. I don’t care if you are having a baby. You are going to die and I don’t feel a thing about it.” At this point either Atkins, Watson, or both killed Tate (testimonies vary). Tate was stabbed 16 times. Watson later wrote that as Tate was being killed, she cried for her mother.
Using the towel that had bound Frykowski’s hands, Atkins wrote “pig” on the house’s front door in Tate’s blood.
In a photo published in Life magazine days after the murders, Roman Polanski sits on the veranda, next to the front door that has been covered with his wife’s blood. According to the photographer, Julian Wasser, Polanski wanted the Polaroid shots to be given to a psychic to track down the then-unknown killers.
There were several dogs present at the time of the murders in the Cielo Drive house, most notably Sharon’s Dog Prudence. Roman Polanski bought puppy Prudence for Sharon after Wojciech Frykowski accidentally ran over Sharon’s Yorkshire terrier Sappy on the driveway of Cielo Drive.
The morning after the murders Prudence was found hiding in a closet. Prudence was adopted by Sharon Tate’s mother and sister. Unfortunately, 10 years after Sharon was murdered, Prudence was killed in a car accident. Debra Tate, Sharon’s sister, accidentally ran over Prudence in the driveway of her parents house.
Three weeks after the murders, Rudolph Altobelli, the owner of the house, moved in to the Cielo Drive house and lived there for the next 20 years.
“I moved right back into the house three weeks after the murders happened,” Altobelli said. “When I came back to that property, I felt safe, secure, loved and beauty.”
Altobelli reportedly sent Roman Polanski a bill for damages done to the house during the Tate murders.
Altobelli eventually sold the house for $1.6 million, 18 times what he’d paid for it.
Nine Inch Nails “Le Pig” Studio at Cielo Drive
The last resident of the original house was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Reznor began renting the house in 1992 for a reported $11,000 a month, and set up a recording studio in the house.
The studio, dubbed “Pig”, a reference to Susan Atkins writing “Pig” in Tate’s blood on the front door of the house, was the site of recording sessions for most of the Nine Inch Nails album The Downward Spiral.
Reznor moved out of the house in December 1993, explaining “there was too much history in that house for me to handle.” Reznor took the front door of the Cielo Drive house with him when he moved out and installed it at the New Orleans headquarters of his record label, Nothing Studios, which had been converted from a funeral home.
In 1994, the original house was demolished. A new house was build on the property called Villa Bella, with a new street address of 10066 Cielo Drive. The owner of the property as of 2013 is Hollywood producer Jeff Franklin.