“Let me have my baby and then kill me”: Sharon Tate’s plea on the bloody night that the Manson clan murdered her.

The actress, eight months pregnant, begged for mercy before being stabbed 16 times by Charles Manson’s followers on the night of August 9, 1969. The Beatles song they interpreted as a premonition of “race war,” the orgy of violence, the rampant sex and the walls written in blood

The guy was a wretch, a kind of human waste raised behind the bars of orphanages and correctional institutions, a petty thief who had cells as classrooms and dangerous criminals as his only teachers. Perhaps, so many years of intimate brutality had made him lose his sanity a little. However, with the same or similar stories, other human beings get their lives back on track and become symphony soloists, sports geniuses or ambassadors to the UN. This was not the case with Charles Manson.

Sharon Tate on her wedding day to director Roman Polanski

Sharon Tate on her wedding day to director Roman Polanski

He believed that a racial war between blacks and whites was coming in the United States and in the name of this imminent war, the result of his disturbed mind, on August 9, 1969 he was going to murder the actress Sharon Tate, wife of the Polish director Roman Polanski, and three of her friends. Manson had been told about the war by a Beatles song, “Helter Skelter”; his numb mind took those verses as a coded message announcing the imminent hecatomb. In fact, at one of the crime scenes Manson ordered his gang of killers to commit, that title was written in the blood of one of the victims. Manson formed a gang, a sect of followers, and addicts, all shielded by the hippie movement and its culture, and determined to commit murder for pleasure, out of resentment, with the conviction, supposed or not, that these deaths would precipitate the race war.

To carry out his conjectured and fictitious conflict, Manson created what he never had: a family. So he called it: “The Manson Family” later known as “The Family”. They had settled in California at the end of the 60’s and gathered a hundred followers: they lived hipism to the fullest, those were the glory years of the hippie movement and California was the ideal state to host it. They used psychoactive drugs such as benzedrine, a form of amphetamines, and LSD. Most of the clan members were young, middle-class women attracted to the hippie culture, communal living and the magnetism, or whatever it was, of Manson, who planted in his family the seeds of hatred, resentment and frustration, all directed toward theft and crime.

Manson had arrived with the aura of a guru in San Francisco in 1967, the legendary “Summer of Love” of hippiedom, riding the coattails of music festivals, open-air life and sex, mass rallies and rejection of a world they judged to be in decline. Historian William Manchester evoked in one of his works the Haight-Asbury neighborhood, home to violent gangs eager to corner the LSD market. “In that atmosphere, a bearded, psychopathic guy used to drop into the Avalon Ballroom where the Grateful Dead were playing. He liked to lie on the floor in fetal positions and harbored a secret desire to persuade girls to have oral sex with dogs, and to gouge out the eyes of a beautiful actress and then rub them against the walls. Later, his name would be well remembered in Ashbury. His name was Charles Manson.

Yes, he would be remembered. In 1968, near the death throes of the hippiedom that Manson and his crimes were about to bury, the head of “the family” and eight or nine followers boarded a hippie-painted school bus, overflowing with colorful blankets and pillows, and traveled north to Washington state, then back south to Mexico, then north again to Los Angeles, where they set up their own tribe and shantytowns in the Malibu and Venice Beach area.

Manson tried his hand at the music scene; he hooked up with, among others, Dennis Wilson, drummer of the Beach Boys, and tried to move into his house with his whole troupe of outcasts. In August of that year, when Wilson’s manager ordered him to leave the musician’s house, Manson found a home for his family. It was the Spahn Ranch, where Hollywood occasionally filmed westerns. There, family members worked to pay the rent. They worked little. Manson ordered the women to have relations with the ranch owner, a nearly blind octogenarian who had the favor of almost every girl in the group, including Manson’s own wife. By that time, the clan had already decided to kill to endure, to provoke the race war and become, through their leader, little less than masters of the world.

Who was the unhinged Manson? He was the son of a sixteen-year-old prostitute, Kathleen Maddox, and was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 12, 1934, as Charles Milles Maddox. She never knew her biological father. His surname was the idea of his mother who was married for a very short time to a laborer named William Manson. He himself recounted that his alcoholic mother once sold him for a pitcher of beer to a waitress who had no children. The boy was rescued days later by an uncle.

At the age of thirteen, in 1947, he was arrested for armed robbery of a small supermarket: he escaped from the reformatory to which he was sent four days after his arrival and in the company of another boy with whom they committed other crimes during their escape. He was imprisoned between 1951 and 1954, when he was released for good behavior he married, he was nineteen years old, with Rosalie Jean Willis, a seventeen year old nurse with whom he had a son. He was arrested in 1958 for stealing a car and was released on parole only to be arrested again in 1961 for check forgery. Divorced from the nurse girl, he married a prostitute, Candy “Leona” Stevens, with whom he had a son, Charles Luther Manson. By then, he had spent more than half of his adult life in prison. It was behind bars that he trained in esotericism and showed an interest, if that was possible, in Eastern philosophy. Hence his earned fame as a guru with which he arrived in San Francisco.

Twisted Ambitions and Violent Acts: Manson’s Deranged Quest for Race War and Revenge

In 1969, with the music of The Beatles understood in his own way, “Helter Skelter” foretelling a race war, poor lads from Liverpool what a mess they got them into, Manson laid out his plan for world domination based on race war. He deduced that the savage murder of wealthy people in their luxury mansions was going to accelerate the racial conflict, if he succeeded in making, that was a piece of cake for him, that the blame would fall on black organizations like the Black Panthers whom, however, he saw as the victors of the conflict. To make it simple, Manson was convinced that the war between blacks and whites would be won by the blacks who would immediately realize that they were not capable of ruling a new society and would appoint him, Manson, as the new leader of that new world: to avoid uncomfortable confusion about the quality of his future leadership, he had a swastika tattooed on his forehead.

On July 25, 1969 “the family” Manson murdered musician Gary Hinman in his Los Angeles home. One of the clan members, Bobby Beausoleil stabbed him twice in the chest while Susan Atkins and Mary Brunner, Manson’s wife, covered his face with pillows. Then, with Hinman’s blood, they wrote on a wall “political piggy” and left printed, also in blood, a panther’s paw as if to place the blame on the leftist black group. Hinman’s murder fulfilled Manson’s strategy: a silver guy murdered in his residence and a suspicion installed toward black people. But Hinman had also been condemned to death by the clan for not wanting to join “the family”.

Manson also carried another frustration. He had taken up with musician Terry Melcher, who was the son of actress Doris Day and Al Jorden, in the hope that he would open the doors to a world that had been closed to him: the world of the staff and the art of combining sounds. Since Melcher may have been strong-willed but was not deaf and had good taste, he shirked any kind of goodwill towards Manson’s musical ambitions, who decided to take revenge. He ordered five members of his family to go to the house at 10050 Cielo Drive, north of Beverly Hills in Los Angeles to “kill everyone there.” Manson knew that Melcher no longer lived in that house. He didn’t give a damn: he intended to demonstrate his rejection of show business, the world music establishment and those wicked souls who had shut him out of a world as rich as the music business. While his clan was killing, he was going to wait for them at Spahn’s Ranch camp. On the night of August 9, 1969 four members of the Manson clan, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Linda Kasabian and Tex Watson set out to kill the inhabitants of 10050 Cielo Drive, no matter who they were. Manson had ordered the women to obey Watson’s orders.

Living in that house at the time was actress Sharon Tate, twenty-six years old and eight and a half months pregnant by Polish film director Roman Polanski, who in those days was working in London on a new movie project. She was a young star whom Polanski had cast in 1967 in his film “The Dance of the Vampires” and now they were living together and expecting their first child in just over two weeks. Tate had returned to Los Angeles from London twenty days before that night.

On the day of her death, Sharon Tate had lunch with two friends: actresses Joanna Pettet and Barbara Lewis, to whom she told of a disappointment: she had spoken that morning with her husband, who had confessed that he would return to Los Angeles a few days later than planned. That afternoon, Polanski and Tate spoke on the phone again. Sharon’s younger sister, Debra, also called her to ask if she could stay that night at her house, together with her sister Patti. Sharon told her no: she already had guests.

That night, the actress dined at her favorite restaurant, El Coyote, with Jay Sebring, the “hairdresser to the stars”, with a screenwriter friend of Polanski’s, Wojciech Frykowski, and with his wife, Abigail Folger, heiress of the Folgers coffee company. They all returned home at half past ten at night.

The Manson clan members rode in the car of Tex Watson, who had been to the Cielo Drive house at least once before. Upon arrival, it was he who climbed a pole and cut Polanski’s phone line: it was midnight on August 9. Watson, Atkins, Kasabian and Krenwinkel jumped into the garden of the mansion after climbing a kind of wall of weeds. In a bag they carried clean clothes and knives; Watson carried a revolver and thirteen yards of nylon rope coiled and slung over one shoulder. The killers came upon an unexpected sight. A white car was plowing down the path leading out of the mansion from the landlord’s home, William Garretson. It was being driven by an eighteen-year-old boy, Steve Parent, who had gone for a couple of beers with his friend the landlord. Watson stopped him and the frightened Parent boy rolled down the car window: Watson cut him deep in the palm of his hand with a knife and when Parent wanted to flee, he put his revolver through the window, fired four shots into the boy’s chest and killed him on the spot.

Watson, Atkins and Krenwinkel entered the house. Kasabian, by order of the only man in the group, was left outside, near Parent’s car. Then the massacre was unleashed. The killers cornered the four occupants in the main living room and ordered them to lie face down on the floor. Hairdresser Sebring asked to contemplate Tate’s advanced pregnancy and the killers allowed the actress to sit on the floor. The reconstruction of the murders was made by the criminals themselves during their trial in 1971. Sebring tried to take the revolver from Watson, who shot him in the chest and then kicked him in the head, broke his nasal septum and one eye socket.

Watson demanded money, the intent was not to rob, it was to kill, and Abigail Folger gave him all she had: seventy dollars. Watson tied up the women and the unconscious Sebring and ordered Atkins to kill Frykowski but Polanski’s friend resisted, grabbed Atkins by the hair and hit him over the head, but the woman stabbed him three times in the back and leg. Watson then shot him and hit him in the head with the butt of the revolver. Frykowski’s wife, Abigail Folger, still unharmed, managed to break free of her restraints and ran toward the entrance while calling for help. She was chased by Patricia Krenwinkel and Watson, who earlier stabbed the unconscious Sebring four more times. When Krenwinkel and Watson caught up with Folger in the garden, they stabbed her twenty-eight times; still, the woman managed to get to her feet and walk a few yards to near the swimming pool. Then she dropped dead.

Her husband, Frykowski, was not dead. Badly wounded, he managed to get out of the house as well and managed to walk to where Kasabian was waiting, next to the car of the murdered Parent boy. There, Frykowski leaned against a lamppost and slowly fell: Watson then stabbed him fifty-one times.

Sharon Tate, still unharmed, tied to the corpse of her friend Jay Sebring, the hairdresser to the stars, tried to flee. Desperate, she even tried to negotiate with her killers and even asked to be allowed to have her child and then killed. There are two versions of her murder. One says she was held down by Atkins and Krenwinkel and Watson stabbed her sixteen times. The other version, both of which were given by the killers, says that it was Atkins who stabbed her sixteen times.

At the trial, before sentencing, Atkins was asked again what his involvement in Tate’s murder had been. He said, “They didn’t even look like people. I didn’t relate Sharon Tate to anything but a store mannequin. She sounded like an IBM machine: she begged and pleaded, begged and pleaded. I got sick of hearing it, so I stabbed her.”

It was Atkins who dipped a towel in the blood of the dead to write “Pig” on one of the walls.

The Murder of Sharon Tate and the Demise of the Hippie Movement

The murders of Sharon Tate and her friends, which fell like ice water on a country that was still celebrating the arrival of man on the moon just a month before the events, also spelled the end of the hippie movement that was not going to make it to the 1970s safe and sound. The party was over. And badly.

Polanski immediately returned to Los Angeles and, faced with the disorientation of the police as to who might have murdered his wife and her friends, he had to answer some unpleasant questions about Sharon’s friendships. On Wednesday, August 13, Sharon Tate was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. Over the body of the actress, between her arms, was placed the body of her unborn son, whom they named Paul Richard Polanski, names that paid homage to the couple’s parents. The funerals of the other three victims who were friends of the director were scheduled at different times to allow mutual friends to say goodbye to them all.

In his biography “Roman by Polanski”, published in 1984, the director tried to explain what his feelings had been: “Since Sharon’s death and despite what may seem otherwise, my enjoyment of life has been incomplete. In times of such unbearable personal tragedies some find solace in religion. In my case the opposite happened. Whatever religious faith I had ended with Sharon’s assassination. My faith in absurdity was reinforced.”

Aftermath and Legacy of the Manson Clan Murders and Convictions

The Manson Clan members who took part in the murder of Sharon Tate were all sentenced to death with the exception of Linda Kasabian. He was offered, and accepted, an immunity deal in exchange for becoming, and was, the chief witness for the prosecution. He died on January 21 of this year in Washington. She was seventy-three years old. She was never convicted of any crime. The remaining death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment after the California Supreme Court first temporarily vacated all capital sentences imposed before 1972.

Susan Atkins was, until her death in September 2009 at the age of sixty-one, the longest-serving inmate behind bars in California’s prison system, which housed her in the Downstate Prison for Women. That dishonorable record is now held by Patricia Krenwinkel, who is 75. Tex Watson is 77 years old and is housed at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. He was denied parole seventeen times.

Until her death in 1992, Doris Tate, Sharon’s mother, became an advocate against the eventual parole of any of the Manson Clan members. In 1984 she confronted Watson and told him, “What mercy did you show, sir, when my daughter was begging for her life? What mercy did you show my daughter when she said, ‘Give me two weeks to have my baby and then you can kill me?’ When will Sharon get her parole? Will these seven victims, or possibly more, come out of their graves if you get freedom? You are not to be trusted.”

Charles Manson died Nov. 19, 2017, at Bakersfield Hospital, north of Los Angeles, from colon cancer. He had been rushed there from the California Correctional Center. He was eighty-three years old.

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