10050 Cielo Drive

Five Down at Cielo Drive

Cielo Drive Coroner Bodies

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 Michèle Morgan. The house included a swimming pool, a guesthouse and a barn, which was being converted into a second guesthouse. The house, built on a hill, was similar to the house which was built directly below it, 10048 Cielo Drive, which was nicknamed the Twin House. The properties were built around the same time.

10050 Cielo Drive and Twin House
10050 Cielo Drive (center) Twin House (right)

By the end of World War II, Michèle 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 house in the early ’60s and started to rent the house out. Residents included celebrities like Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere & the Raiders.

10050 Cielo Drive 1944
10050 Cielo Drive – Circa 1944

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 Boys 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.

Melcher went to the Spahn Ranch, the Manson family hangout, and Manson auditioned. Melcher was not really impressed by Manson’s music but was interested in the lifestyle of Manson and his girls. They talked about a possible documentary and 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…

The Tate Murders

Tate Murder Set

August 7, 1969. Tate, Folger and Frykowski went to Sebring’s house for dinner. After dinner, which consisted of steak and salad made by Sebring’s butler, the four friends wanted to watch TV, but around 9 p.m. there was a power surge and the TV went out.

Several days after the murders, it was discovered that some wires outside of Sebring’s house had been deliberately cut. When the wires, which looked like phone lines, were cut, it caused a power surge, which in turn caused the floodlights to go on and off. One theory is that the four friends were already targeted for murder on the night of August 7, and that whoever had cut the wires got startled by the power surge.

August 8, 1969

The Tate Residence

On August 8, 1969, Sharon’s last day alive, the eight-and-a-half-month pregnant actress had a telephone conversation with her husband who was overseas, she had lunch by the pool with her friends, took a nap and went out for a late dinner.

Abigail Folger had ordered a new bicycle, and her brand new bike was delivered on this day. 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.

Sharon Tate
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 Robert 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 machine guns and patrols. Manson thought he killed Crowe, but it turned out Crowe survived. There were rumours 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 the girls 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…

Helter Skelter

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…

10050 Cielo Drive at Night October 1969, Jack Garofalo / Paris Match
The front porch of 10050 Cielo Drive at night. October 1969. Photo taken two months after the murders. Photo by Jack Garofalo for Paris Match Magazine.

Midnight – August 9, 1969

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 property’s 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 wrist watch. Then Watson shot Parent four times. Parent died instantly.

Steve Parent Car 10050 Cielo Drive
Steven Parent’s Car

The sound of the gun shots ricocheted across the valley. It appeared that no one inside the house was alarmed by the four gun shots. Sounds are often distorted in the canyons above Hollywood. Sounds audible a mile away can be indistinguishable at a hundred feet, and vice-versa.

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.

Cielo Drive Window Tex Watson
Watson Entered Through This Window

They found Frykowski sleeping on the living room couch. Frykowski, who was coming off a ten-day mescaline trip at the time, 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.”

Cielo Drive Living Room Bodies
Cielo Drive Living Room

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, Frykowski 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 began to cry. Watson told Tate 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.

Cielo Drive Bedroom Abigail Folger
Abigail Folger’s Bedroom

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 managed to free himself and started to struggle with Susan Atkins, who stabbed at his legs with the Buck knife. During the scuffle, Atkins lost her knife, and Frykowski managed to escape through the front door.

Watson ran after Frykowski and hit him over the head with the butt of the gun. Watson hit him so hard that the butt of the gun broke in half. Watson then shot him twice and repeatedly stabbed Frykowski.

Cielo Drive Hallway
Abigail Folger’s Escape Route

Folger took advantage of the chaos and tried to escape. Krenwinkel tried to stop Folger, and the two started fighting. Watson came to Krenwinkel’s aid and stabbed Folger in the stomach. In the meantime, Frykowski, barely alive, struggled across the lawn.

Watson went over to Frykowski and stabbed him to death. Frykowski was stabbed a total of 51 times. Folger, still alive, staggered out of the bedroom door to the pool area. Krenwinkel went after Folger, caught her, stabbed her, and tackled her to the ground. Watson joined Krenwinkel, and they stabbed Folger 28 times.

Dutch "psychic" Peter Hurkos kneels next to Sharon's dried up blood. In the background his wife stephany. Photo taken on August 17, 1969.
Dutch “psychic” Peter Hurkos kneels next to Sharon’s dried up blood. In the background his wife stephany. Photo taken on August 17, 1969.

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 tummy, but she couldn’t. Using the towel she had dipped in Tate’s blood, Atkins wrote “pig” on the front door of the house.

Sharon’s baby died in the womb. Sharon was buried with her unborn son cradled in her arms.

Roman Polanski Cielo Drive Front Door Pig Blood

Roman Polanski

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.

Prudence

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, 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.

Rudolph Altobelli and Candice Bergen at 10050 Cielo Drive
Rudolph Altobelli and Candice Bergen at 10050 Cielo Drive

Rudolph Altobelli

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 house, 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.

Nine Inch Nails "Le Pig" Studio at Cielo Drive

Nine Inch Nails “Le Pig” Studio at Cielo Drive

The last resident of the original house was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Reznor set up a recording studio, dubbed “Pig”, in the house. Reznor moved out of the house 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 house 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.

Demolition of 10050 Cielo Drive

Demolition

In 1994, the original house was demolished. A new house was built 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. During the demolition, several people took artifacts from the house, including pieces of wood, nails and soil. Some of these artifacts were sold on online marketplaces.

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