10050 Cielo Drive
Sharon Tate called it the house of love, but the residence at 10050 Cielo Drive turned out to be a house of horror. On a hot summer night in August 1969, pregnant actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent were brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family.
The tomato red country-style house at 10050 Cielo Drive was built in the forties for French actress Michelle Morgan. The residence included a swimming pool, a guesthouse and a barn. The house, built on a hill, was similar to the structure which was built directly below it, 10048 Cielo Drive, which was nicknamed the Twin house. The properties were built around the same time.
By the end of World War II, Michelle Morgan returned to France and in 1946 actress Lillian Gish moved in to 10050 Cielo Drive with her mother while filming Duel in the Sun. Rudolph Altobelli, a talent manager, bought the building in the early ’60s and started renting it out. Residents included celebrities like Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere & the Raiders.
Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen
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 Boys drummer Dennis Wilson had befriended Charles Manson. Manson’s charisma and musical talent impressed Wilson, and he introduced Manson to producer Terry Melcher and pressed Melcher to land Manson a record deal.
Melcher went to Spahn Ranch, the Manson Family hangout, and Manson auditioned. Melcher was not impressed by Manson’s music, but he was interested in the lifestyle of Manson and his girls. They talked about making a documentary and discussed the possibility of some type of musical collaboration. Melcher eventually changed his mind and broke off contact with Manson.
A short time later, 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…
March 23, 1969. A strange-looking man entered the Cielo Drive property. Hatami, Sharon Tate's personal photographer, went over to him and asked him what he was doing there. The stranger told him he was searching for Terry Melcher. Hatami informed him Melcher had moved out. “This is the Polanski residence". He then sent the man to the guesthouse, Rudi Altobelli's place, and told him “Maybe the people you want are back there”.
Just before the stranger turned toward the guesthouse, Sharon came to the door, and asked “Who is it, Hatami? "He told her that someone was looking for Terry Melcher. It was at this moment the stranger and Sharon faced each other. It turned out later the man who visited Cielo Drive that day was Charles manson.
August 8, 1969 – The Tate Residence
August 8, 1969, Sharon’s last day alive. Around 11 a.m., the eight-and-a-half-month pregnant actress had a telephone conversation with her husband who was overseas. The couple argued over Polanski delaying his trip home, again. Tate was planning a birthday party for him, and she told him she would leave him if he hadn’t returned by then.
Around noon, Sharon had lunch by the pool with her colleagues, actresses Joanna Pettet and Barbara Lewis. Tate discussed her troubled marriage with Polanski, and she told her friends if he didn’t change his behavior after the baby was born, she intended to divorce him. Around 3 p.m., Frykowski and Folger joined Tate and her companions. Around 3.30 p.m., Tate went inside and took a nap.
Debra Tate, Sharon's younger sister, called at the end of the afternoon to ask if she could pick up a saddle that Sharon had purchased for her in Europe. Sharon declined and told Debra to pick up the saddle another day.
Jay Sebring, Tate's ex-boyfriend, came to check up on the pregnant Tate that evening around 6 p.m. Earlier that afternoon, Abigail Folger had purchased a new bicycle. Around 6.30 p.m., Dennis Herst, the son of the bike shopkeeper, delivered the bike to the Cielo Drive residence.
Later that evening, Tate and her friends reportedly went out for a late dinner at El Coyote. Around 10 p.m., Abigail Folger's mother called to confirm that Abigail was flying to San Francisco the next day. Her mom had planned a birthday party for her. Abigail Folger's birthday was August 11.
The day began like any other day, but things took a dramatic turn when Manson told four of his followers to go to 10050 Cielo Drive.
August 8, 1969 – The Manson Family Hangout
August 8, 1969, was not a good day for Charles Manson. He skipped town for a couple of days after his involvement in the Hinman murder. On August 8, around 2 pm, Manson returned to Spahn Ranch, the Manson Family hangout. Upon his return to the ranch, he learned that Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil had been arrested for the Hinman murder.
Manson, already stressed out after he shot Bernard Crowe, a drug dealer, had turned Spahn Ranch into a fortified camp, complete with rifles, machine guns, and patrols. Manson thought he killed Crowe, but it turned out Crowe survived. There were rumors that Crowe was a Black Panther, and Manson was in fear of retaliation.
The stress was building up. First, Manson’s dream of a record deal went up in smoke, then the Crowe shooting, then the Hinman murder, and now his friend had been arrested for Hinman’s murder. But his day would get worse.
Later that afternoon, Manson, still upset about the news of Beausoleil’s arrest, gave Mary Brunner and Sandra Good, two of his favorite girls, a couple of stolen credit cards, and told them to go to a department store and get some supplies.
Good, almost eight months pregnant at the time, and Brunner, mother of Manson’s son, went to the department store, used the stolen credit cards and got caught. The two girls fled the store and after a car chase, the two were apprehended and booked in jail. Things started to unravel…
leave a sign, something witchy
On the night of August 8, 1969, Manson told Tex Watson to take some of the girls and go to “that house where Melcher used to live” and to “totally destroy everyone inside, as gruesome as you can”. Manson told Watson to “leave a sign, something witchy”.
Charles "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 the house. At this point it was after midnight…
Murder and Mayhem
The residence at 10050 Cielo Drive was covered in darkness. Headlights approached. Watson told 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 guest house.
Watson first lunged at Parent with a knife, giving him a defensive slash wound on the palm of his hand, slashing the strap of his wristwatch. Then Watson shot Parent four times. Parent died instantly.
The sound of the gunshots ricocheted across the valley. It appeared that no one inside the house was alarmed by the four gunshots. Sounds are often distorted in the canyons above Hollywood. Sounds audible a mile away can be indistinguishable at a hundred feet.
The group 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 into the dining room, and let Atkins and Krenwinkel in through the front door.
They found Frykowski sleeping on the living room couch. Frykowski, who was coming off a ten-day mescaline trip, woke up and mistakenly thought the three people hovering over him were friends of Tate and asked them what time it was.
Watson kicked him in the head and pointed a gun at Frykowski. When Frykowski asked Watson 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, armed with a Buck knife, searched the house. Atkins passed by Abigail Folger’s bedroom. Abigail thought Atkins was a friend of Sharon and, looking up from her book, smiled and waved to her, Atkins smiled and waved back. Atkins continued her search and found Tate and Sebring in Tate’s bedroom. Atkins forced Tate, Sebring, and Folger to the living room at knifepoint.
Watson tied Tate, Sebring, and Folger together by their necks with a rope and slung the remaining piece of rope up over one of the living room’s ceiling beams. Tate cried, Watson told her to shut up. Sebring protested the rough treatment of pregnant Tate, and stepped toward Watson; Watson then shot Sebring twice and stabbed him seven times.
Watson told Krenwinkel to turn off the lights. Watson asked the victims if they had any money. Folger answered, “I have several credit cards.” Atkins took Folger to her bedroom and retrieved her wallet. It had seventy dollars in it. “Is this all you have?” Watson asked. Folger sobbed, “Yes.” Watson then told his victims, “Prepare to die.”
Watson told Atkins to kill Frykowski. Frykowski’s hands had been bound with a towel. He freed himself and struggled with Susan Atkins, who stabbed at his legs with the Buck knife. During the scuffle, Atkins lost her knife, and Frykowski escaped through the front door.
Watson ran after Frykowski and hit him over the head with the butt of the gun. Watson struck him so hard that the butt of the gun broke in half. Watson then shot him twice and repeatedly stabbed Frykowski.
Folger took advantage of the chaos and tried to escape. Krenwinkel struggled to stop Folger, and the two started fighting. Watson came to Krenwinkel’s aid and stabbed Folger in the stomach. Meanwhile, Frykowski, barely alive, struggled across the lawn.
Watson went over to Frykowski and stabbed him to death. Frykowski was stabbed 51 times. Folger, still alive, staggered out of the 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.
Pregnant Tate Was The Last To Die
Back 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 held Tate in a headlock, and 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.” Watson stabbed Tate while Atkins held her down. Tate was stabbed 16 times. Watson later wrote that as he stabbed Tate, she cried for her mother.
“She was pleading to me and pleading to me, but I didn’t even have a moment of hesitation. I took a knife and just slit a big slit across her face. And I just kept cutting her and carving on the body and started stabbing her in the chest— I’d say maybe 15 cuts and stabs. She was crying and saying, “Oh mother, oh mother.” She said, “Just let my baby live. You can kill me, but let my baby live.”
Atkins picked up the towel that had bound Frykowski’s hands and dipped the towel in Tate’s blood. She thought for a moment about cutting the baby out of Tate’s womb, but she couldn’t. Using the towel she had dipped in Tate’s blood, Atkins wrote “pig” on the front door of the building. On her way out, Atkins left a bloody footprint at the entrance of the house.
Sharon’s baby died in the womb. Sharon was buried with her unborn son cradled in her arms.
Roman Polanski and Peter Hurkos
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 gave the Polaroid shots to ‘psychic’ Peter Hurkos to track down the then-unknown killers. Polanski later found out that Hurkos had sold the photos to the press.
Altobelli, the owner of the house, sued Polanski over the photos that were sold to the press. Altobelli claimed that the images hurt his chances of selling the residence. He further suggested that because Polanski had not paid Augustus' rent, that he (Altobelli) was entitled to the copyright of the photographs.
Sharon Tate’s Dog
There were several dogs present at the time of the murders in the Cielo Drive house, most notably Sharon’s Dog Prudence. Polanski bought puppy Prudence after Frykowski accidentally ran over and killed Sharon’s Yorkshire terrier Sappy on the driveway of Cielo Drive.
The morning after the murders, the police found Prudence hiding in a closet. The police took Prudence and the other dogs to a shelter. Sharon Tate’s mother and sister adopted prudence. 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 parent's house.
"Oh geez, do I have to tell this? I've been told that people want to know what happened to Prudence. Ok, I'll tell you. I accidentally ran over Prudence in my parent's driveway and killed her. It was awful! I was leaving after a visit, backing out of the driveway and I didn't realize that she'd run outside. I was twenty six when this happened so it was ten years after Sharon died. So now you know --Prudence is with Sharon".
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.”
Music producer Terry Melcher, who had previously fled the home, joined Altobelli and stayed at the house for a month. Melcher, trying to cope with the murders in his own way, once dressed himself in the clothes of the murdered Frykowski.
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.
The last resident of the original house was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Reznor set up a recording studio called “Pig” in the building. Reznor moved out of the residence in 1993. According to Reznor, “there was too much history in that house for me to handle.” Reznor took the front door of the Cielo Drive home with him when he moved out and installed the door at Nothing Studios, headquarters of his record label, which had been converted from a funeral home.
In 1994, the original house was demolished. A new mansion was built on the plot 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. During the demolition, several people took souvenirs from the building, including pieces of wood, nails, and soil. They sold some of these artifacts on online marketplaces.
A Visual Guide to the Tate Murders