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 (eight-and-a-half months pregnant), celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger, aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski, and recent high school graduate 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 and Dyan Cannon, Henry Fonda, George Chakiris, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere & the Raiders.
Charles Manson, Dennis Wilson and Terry Melcher
In the summer of 1966, Altobelli leased the Cielo Drive house to music producer Terry Melcher (the son of Doris Day) 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. Dennis Wilson was so impressed by Manson’s charisma and musical talent that 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 friendship with Manson.
Not long after ending his friendship with Manson, Melcher and Bergen moved out of Cielo Drive. 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
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, August 9, 1969.
Just then, 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 struggled across the lawn. Watson went over to Frykowski and then stabbed him to death. Frykowski was stabbed a total of 51 times.
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.
Nine Inch Nails – The last resident of 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 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.
Cielo Drive’s Survivors: The Dogs (and cats, a lot of cats)
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.
After the murders 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.
Fun fact: There was a population of about 26 cats on the Cielo Drive property.
After the murders, police found the two puppies hiding in a closet. “They were scared to death, We took Prudence home and found a home for Tom. I wouldn’t leave him behind.”
“I’ve been told that people want to know what happened to Prudence. 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.”
Sharon Tate with Prudence at Cielo Drive
Cielo Drive Images