LOS ANGELES, CA — It was the “creepy crawl” that shook the world. Shortly after midnight on August 8, 1969, devotees of homicidal hippie cult leader Charles Manson crashed the rental home of Sharon Tate, a 26-year-old Hollywood star who was then married to world-class filmmaker Roman Polanski.
Once inside, three unhinged agents of the Manson Family, as they were called, unleashed an onslaught of pain and murder so previously inconceivable that it continues to chill and captivate the public today.
The spree began in the driveway in the driveway outside the residence at 10050 Cielo Drive, when Manson acolyte Charles “Tex” Watson, 23, happened on 18-year-old high school student Steven Parent and murdered him on the spot.
Upon breaking in, the invaders grotesquely slaughtered Tate — who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant — along with her visitors: celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring, 35; coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 26; and Wojciech Frykowski, 33, a Polish-born friend of Polanski’s who was dating Folger.
Prior to this atrocity, the members of the Manson Family, as they called themselves, had engaged in warm-up “creepy crawls,” which were clandestine excursions through the homes and properties of L.A.’s rich and famous.
During these missions, Family members would perhaps pocket a few small items or rearrange furniture to disorient the owners when they noticed later. With the massacre at the Tate house, though, the Family believed they’d ignite “Helter Skelter,” Charlie Manson’s theory of a coming race war.
Manson prophesied that Black people would soon rise up and defeat the white power structure. Afterward, he said, the victors would need guidance to run society, and the Manson Family would become their leaders. Before the true interracial combat of “Helter Skelter” could commence, though, Manson dictated that a massively shocking act of violence would have to be blamed on the Black community.
As a result, Manson set his bloodthirsty minions loose on one of L.A.’s most upscale neighborhoods.
Many observers believe, though, that Manson may have specifically targeted the Cielo Drive home thinking it was still being occupied Terry Melcher, a music biz executive (and the son of movie icon Doris Day) who had once refused to give Charlie a record contract.
Manson had himself snuck onto the property back in March and asked a neighbor where Melcher was. The neighbor said Melcher moved and that Tate and Polanski had taken the place. Regardless, on August 8, Charlie reportedly ordered Watson, Atkins, Kasabian, and Krenwinkle to “go to the house where Melcher lived and totally destroy everyone in there, as gruesome as you can!”
Charlie also told the soon-to-be-killers: “Leave a sign — something witchy!”
That night, the foursome pulled up outside 10050 Cielo Drive. Tex Watson climbed a telephone pole and cut the home’s phone lines. He and the women then climbed the fence. An approaching set of headlights, coming from somewhere else on the grounds, startled them.
Steven Parent, who had been visiting the property’s caretaker, was driving home. Watson stopped the car, whipped out a knife, and slashed Parent. As the teenager pleaded to be let go, Watson fatally shot him four times.
Upon reaching the house, Watson slit open a window screen and slithered inside, where he opened the door for the Atkins and Krenwinkel. Linda Kasabian stayed down by the car.
Wojciech Frykowski, who’d been sleeping on the living room first, noticed the intruders first. He asked who they were. Watson allegedly power-kicked Frykowski in the skull and announced: “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s business!”
Hell followed from that point onward.
Atkins and Krenwinkel forced Tate, Sebring, and Folger into the front room. Watson used a towel to bind Frykowski by the wrists. He threw a rope around Tate and Sebring, prompting the hairdresser to shout that they should go easy on the pregnant woman. Watson responded by pumping a .22-caliber slug into Sebring. Later, he’d stab Sebring relentlessly, well beyond the point of death.
Frykowski managed to wriggle free of his constraints and bolted for the front porch. Watson tackled the fleeing man, stabbed him, and shot him. He also pistol-whipped Frykowski so severely the repeated impact broke the gun’s handle.
Folger, too, got outside. As she ran across the lawn, Krenwinkel caught up and knifed her. Watson came over and, together, he and Krenwinkel stabbed Folger 28 times.
Back inside, Sharon Tate begged to be taken hostage, just long enough to give birth to her baby. She was due in two weeks. Accounts vary as to whether Atkins, Watson, or both plunged a blade into Tate 16 times as she cried for mercy. Regardless, Sharon died reportedly yelling, “Mother! Mother!”
Making sure to sign their heinous handiwork as directed, Susan Atkins used a towel sopped with Tate’s blood to scrawl “something witchy” on the front door: the word “PIG.”
Winifred Chapman, Tate’s housekeeper, walked in on the aftermath the following morning. Humanity has simply not been the same since her discovery and the Manson madness that followed — including the massacre of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca the very next night.
Watch Investigation Discovery’s Manson: The Prison Tapes on ID GO now!
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Main photo: Sharon Tate, 1968 [Wikipedia]