The murder of Sharon Tate: What Hollywood got right and wrong
Charles Manson is a name that conjures up some disturbing images and words, such as race war, Helter Skelter, and the wild face of a man with a symbol on his forehead. The crimes of the Manson Family are bloody and brutal, but the victim most associated with the group is actress Sharon Tate, who was the wife of director, pedophile, and US fugitive Roman Polanski.
In recent years, Hollywood has gotten fixated on the Manson family and Tate. An explosion of films and television series have emerged with Once Upon A Time In Hollywood at the top of the list. The Quentin Tarantino film, however, changed the ending of Tate’s story. Instead of dying, she fights back and survives her encounter with the Manson family.
So if you want the true story about the murder of Sharon Tate, then here’s what you need to know.
The Manson Connection
The murder of Sharon Tate had less to do with Sharon herself and more of her home address, 10050 Cielo Drive. Charles Manson, who already amassed his cult, had a connection that the home when Tate and Polanski moved in. Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson picked up Manson and some Manson family members as they were hitchhiking on Sunset Boulevard. Wilson and Manson became fast friends.
Manson, who was hoping to become a famous musician, met Wilson’s friend, producer Terry Melcher, at 10050 Cielo Drive. Melcher was renting the home at the time with Candice Bergen, but the pair moved out. When Manson went looking for Melcher later, having remembered the address, he found Tate instead.
It’s suspected that with Manson and Manson Family member Tex Watson having been there once before that the location was chosen due to their familiarity with the layout of the home.
August 8, 1969
Charles Manson, despite his connection with the murders, did not actually kill anyone. Instead on the night of Aug. 8, he sent Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to 10050 Cielo Drive to, according to some accounts, “totally destroy everyone in that house, as gruesome as you can.”
Two weeks prior, Manson slashed musician Gary Hinman’s face up with a samurai sword and tortured him for three days straight before he and his followers smothered him with a pillow. Manson wanted the murders at 10050 Cielo Drive to make an ever bigger impact than that.
Manson said, “Make it a real nice murder, just as bad as you’ve ever seen. And get all their money.”
On that night in particular, Tate had filled the house with her friends. By August, she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her and Polanski’s child, a son that they were going to name Paul. Polanski, however, was out of town filming a movie and friends stayed with Tate so she wouldn’t be alone.
Coffee company heiress Abigail Folger and her boyfriend, aspiring screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski were staying with Tate. Joining them that night was Tate’s ex-boyfriend and celebrity hairstylist, Jay Sebring. The other victim, Steven Parent, was visiting caretaker William Garretson at the guesthouse. Garretson would be the sole survivor of the night.
Parent was the first killed. He was leaving the property when the Manson Family members came upon him in his car. Watson, who cut the phone line to the house, shot Parent four times in the chest and abdomen, killing him. Watson and the others pushed the car out of sight.
The group then broke into the house. Watson woke up Frykowski, who was asleep on the couch, and told him, “I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s business.”
The remaining members of the house were quickly gathered up.
Frykowski was stabbed 51 times, but made an attempt to run outside to scream for help. Doing that, however, he was shot twice. Sebring, meanwhile, tried to object to the rough handling of Tate, who was heavily pregnant, and was shot once for it. He then was stabbed seven times. Folger tried to give the Manson Family all the cash she had on her, but was stabbed 28 times.
Sharon Tate, meanwhile, begged and pleaded to live long enough to give birth to her baby. Instead, the Manson Family stabbed her 16 times. On the door of her home, they wrote the word “PIG” in her blood.
The next day, housekeeper Winifred Chapman found the gruesome crime scene and called police.
What happened after?
The Tate murders, as they are known, were not the only murders to occur at the Manson Family’s hands on that night. They also killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca as well, which is an article for another time. It was no less gruesome than the Tate killings.
Following the arrest and trial of the Manson Family, all involved in the killings were originally sentenced to death. In 1971, however, those death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment.
Susan Atkins died in 2009 from brain cancer. Charles Manson died in 2017. Watson, Van Houten, and Krenwinkel remain behind bars.
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