Site of the Tate Murders by the Manson Family Cult
Bill Robles’s sketch of Charles Manson leaping toward Judge Charles Older in 1970. (Gift of Tom Girardi via Library of Congress.) (Image and caption from The Washington Post)
A photograph of the 10050 Cielo Drive mansion before it was demolished. Mansion circled in red. (Publicly available image uploaded to google maps)
Photo of the Mansion circa 1969 (sourced from blog located at http://mastercontrol.tumblr.com/post/145256006137/10050-cielo-drive-above-beverly-hills-home-of)
Backstory and Context
In the late 1960s the infamous cult leader Charles Manson began to gather a following of women which would later come to be known as the “Manson Family.” Manson’s religious teachings to the family were an amalgamation of various religious sects he had encountered earlier in his life including Scientology, which he studied while in prison, and the teachings of the Process Church, which was a sect that splintered off from the Church of Scientology. At first, the family lived a communal lifestyle of vagrancy, living for months in a customized school bus while roaming across the coastal Pacific states. In 1968, however, Manson and many members of the Manson Family came to reside with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys fame. During this time Manson and Wilson became friends and Manson familiarized himself with many of Wilson’s associates and colleagues within the entertainment industry. Many of these acquaintances became enamored with Manson’s presentation of himself as a musician and philosophical thinker. Of specific note, Manson met Terry Melcher, the producer of the band The Byrds, who owned the house at 10050 Cielo Drive that would later be the site of the Tate Murders. During the final months of 1968, Manson and Wilson’s relationship began to deteriorate, largely because of Manson’s increasingly violent and unstable behavior. This resulted in the eviction of the Family from Wilson’s residence, and their subsequent relocation to a historic movie ranch owned by George Spahn. In exchange for sexual favors and manual labor, George Spahn allowed the family to live on the ranch free of charge. It was at this ranch that Charles “Tex” Watson joined the family.
On August 8, 1969, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel, led by Tex Watson on Manson’s orders, infiltrated the mansion at 10050 Cielo Drive and enacted the murder of five people. Manson had instructed Watson to “totally destroy everyone in [the mansion,] as gruesome as you can.” Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, Abigail Folger, and Steven Parent were the victims of the Family’s plot. Sharon Tate was eight and a half months pregnant at the time. The murders at 10050 Cielo Drive were enacted to bring about Manson’s religious concept of “Helter Skelter,” a doomsday race war that would result in the Manson Family ruling the world. Named after the Beatles’ song of the same name, the Helter Skelter scenario was a heavily racist prophecy that Manson believed foretold a racial uprising that would result in the destruction of nearly white person in the world. Manson believed that he and the Family were responsible for the initiation of Helter Skelter by means of subtle messages in their music and an initial, violent kick-start (the Tate Murders.) He believed there was a secret city beneath Death Valley, California, that was prepared for the Family to inhabit while they waited out the war. In the end, Manson believed the family would rise from their secret city and come into power over the weakened population of the planet.
All of the victims at 10050 Cielo Drive had no relation to the Manson Family; they were complete strangers. Only Manson and Watson had any ties to the location at all, Watson having been to the house before and Manson being familiar with the owner of the house. Neither of them knew who was inhabiting the house on the night of the murders. The murders were indeed carried out in a brutal and horrific fashion, intended to cause shock and fear that they believed would help perpetuate Manson’s Helter Skelter scenario.
The following nights, the Manson Family carried out a number of other gruesome crimes. Despite the proximity of the events in time and geography, it took a number of months for investigators to tie the incidents together and ultimately discover the perpetrators of the Tate Murders. Manson himself was arrested for an unrelated car theft charge on August 16, 1969, just days after the murders were carried out, but was released due to issues with the warrant. Watson, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian were arrested between the first and second of December of 1969. In the following court trials, Kasabian, who did not participate in the actual killing of any of the victims, testified against Manson and the other perpetrators of the crime. The trial drew large media attention, in part due to the Family’s continued involvement and disruption of the proceedings. The Family, which had at that point grown considerably in members, crowded courtrooms, protested the proceedings, and took retaliatory action against witnesses in the case. The lengthy court process concluded on April 19th of 1971, with the judge upholding the jury’s verdict of guilt against each of the defendants.
Wikipedia.org. Charles Manson. Accessed June 17, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Manson. A heavily annotated meta-source about the perpetrator of the murders at 10050 Cielo Drive
Webb, Adam. A Profile of Dennis Wilson. The Guardian. December 14, 2003. Accessed June 17, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2003/dec/14/popandrock. An interview of Dennis Wilson in which he discusses some of his involvement with Charles Manson
The Manson Family. Wikipedia.org. Accessed June 17, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manson_Family. A heavily-annotated meta-source on the Manson Family as a whole
The Spahn Ranch. Wikipedia.org. Accessed June 17, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spahn_Ranch.
Helter Skelter (Manson Scenario). Wikipedia.org. Accessed June 17, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helter_Skelter_(Manson_scenario). A heavily annotated meta-source on Manson's teachings concerning helter skelter
Tate Murders. Wikipedia.org. Accessed June 17, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tate_murders.