The murder of Sharon Tate: a tragic, true story

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On August 9th, 1969, Charles Manson made known to the world what the power of his madness was, unleashing his delirious followers in one of the most atrocious crimes of the 60s. Their absurd violence ended the life of Sharon Tate, the baby she had in her tummy and four more people: Steven Parent, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger. Quentin Tarantino announced this year that his next movie will cover those years and the actions of the Family in the summer of 1969, the year when Los Angeles was ransacked by the Manson sect.

In those days Sharon Tate was waiting for her husband’s return from Europe, for the imminent birth of their firstborn, which would have taken place within a couple of weeks. The young actress, after years of fleeting television and film appearances, had succeeded in 1965 to get some important part and, frequenting more often the London jet set, she met Roman Polanski, whom she married in 1968.

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From London, Polanski’s spouse decided to move to Los Angeles, in Terry Melcher’s villa, son of Doris Day and companion of Candice Bergen, who gave availability to friends for his home on Heaven Drive. Melcher’s role in the music industry would have been crucial in the development of the tragedy: Charles Manson, eager to break in as a musician, approached the producer for an audition with Columbia, but he didn’t succeed.

In Manson’s distorted mind, the villa in which Melcher lived (where he already tried to break in before the murders) was the symbol of the refusal that society had always paid him. So he decided to unleash his vengeance against his occupants , whoever they were.

But who was Charles Manson? After years of getting in and out of prison, in 1967 the Family’s future leader was surrounded by a growing number of boys, who slowly became subjugated by his charisma. All together, they began to roam around the USA without apparent destination. As the group grew, at the same pace increased the control exercised by what was increasingly becoming the Father Master of a real sect, managed with taurine doses of LSD and various drugs.

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When they were about fifty people, the group finally stopped near Los Angeles, dedicating themselves, besides launching the leader’s musical career, also to robberies and other criminal activities. When Charles Manson realized that his dream of becoming an artist would never materialize, he decided release all his frustration by appointing four of his most loyal companions to avenge his wounded pride in the worst way: the murder.

Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel went to the villa where Tate and her friends Jay, Wojciech and Abigail were spending the evening. First they cut off the telephone cables and then climbed over the fence that limited the property of the villa. As they approached the entrance, they came across Steven Parent, a very young door-to-door trader, who had been a guest of the building keeper and was coming back home: four gunshots put an end to the life of the unfortunate boy.

While Kasabian was waiting outside, Watson and the other two girls broke in the villa: Sebring, who had been tied by the neck to Sharon Tate, pleaded to leave alive at least the young pregnant woman and was the first to be killed, with several stab wounds and gunshots; after him it was the turn of Frykowski, who managed for a moment to break free, but did not go beyond a short scuffle before being killed; then they passed to his fiancée, Abigail, who was stabbed several times. Sharon Tate was the last to be massacred by his tormentors, suffering sixteen stab wounds, which killed her and her child. Before leaving the villa, now reduced to a slaughterhouse, Watson wrote “pig” on the front door and “Helter Skelter” in the mirror of the bathroom, with the blood of his victims.

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The investigators discovered the murders only the following morning, when the service personnel discovered the bodies: at the beginning the investigations focused on the only survivor, the caretaker Garretson, which employed a long time to divert the attentions of the police, even passing the test of the truth machine.

The next day, Manson personally led his followers to the execution of another crime, killing LaBianca and his wife in an even more violent manner than only a few hours before. This time, the Family wrote “Healter Skelter” (with a clear spelling mistake) with the blood of the victims, while “Death To Pigs” and “Rise” had been written in the living room. These writings eventually brought the police to consider the two massacres related to each other and to stop Charles Manson’s criminal escalation in the end of 1969: he and all his followers were sentenced to death in 1971, with penalty commuted to life imprisonment in 1972.

The compulsive pursuit of fame, clearly impossible to reach by canonical way, insinuating in Manson’s insane mind the idea that perhaps the easiest way to achieve it was to devote himself to ruthless and cruel murder: he thought he was leaving his signature in the various references to Beatles songs, of which he had always been a big fan (Helter Skelter, Piggies). His obsession ended many innocent lives, victims unaware of his delusional machinations: among them was a child who never saw the light and was buried in the arms of his beautiful mother.

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Luca Divelti writes stories of music, cinema and TV on Rock’n’Blog and Auralcrave. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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