Sharon Tate called it the house of love, but the residence at 10050 Cielo Drive turned out to be a house of horror. On a hot summer night in August 1969, pregnant actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent were brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family.
The tomato-red country-style house, located at the end of a cul-de-sac, was constructed in the 1940s and was originally the home of the French actress Michelle Morgan, who had fled France during the German occupation. Morgan purchased the home, which sat on a 3.3-acre plot, for $32,000.
The 3,200-square-foot residence included a swimming pool, a 2,000-square-foot guesthouse, a wishing well, and a garage. Built on a hill, the residence was similar to the one directly below it, 10048 Cielo Drive, which was nicknamed the Twin House. Both of these properties were constructed around the same time.
By the end of World War II, Michelle Morgan returned to her homeland. Subsequently, Dr. Hartley Dewey and his wife Louise, who were regulars on the LA social scene, purchased the property. They rented out the house to celebrities such as the Baroness de Rothschild and famous silent film actor Lillian Gish, who moved into 10050 Cielo Drive along with her mother while filming Duel in the Sun.
In 1963, Rudolph Altobelli, a prestigious Hollywood business agent who counted the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda as his clients, bought the property for the sum of $86,000. In the summer of 1966, Altobelli leased the home to music producer Terry Melcher, the son of actress Doris Day. This would set off a chain of events that culminated in the fateful day of August 9, 1969.
In the early 1960s, Terry Melcher made his debut into the music business as a producer, composer, and lyricist for numerous groups such as The Byrds, The Ventures, Pat Boone, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Melcher was especially close to The Beach Boys, particularly drummer Dennis Wilson.
Melcher lived in the Cielo Drive house for about two and a half years with his girlfriend, actress Candice Bergen. In her 1984 memoir, Knock Wood, Bergen compared the hillside property to a Hollywood fairytale.
“There was a cartoonlike perfection about it: You waited to find Bambi drinking from the pool, Thumper dozing in the flowers, to hear the dwarfs whistling home at the end of the day. It was a fairy-tale place, that house on the hill, a Never-Never Land far from the real world where nothing could go wrong.”
But things did go wrong. After Melcher and Bergen abruptly moved out of 10050 Cielo Drive, Altobelli rented the house to the up-and-coming Hollywood director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate Polanski. The couple were expecting their first child at the time of the move.
Despite what many people think, Terry Melcher and Candice Bergen were not the intended victims of the mass killing on August 9. Charles Manson knew that Melcher and Bergen had moved out of the house. Manson had even visited the Cielo Drive residence after Melcher had moved out, and Charles Manson and Sharon Tate had locked eyes during that visit.
A week after the murders, journalist Thomas Thompson and photographer Julian Wasser accompanied Roman Polanski as he returned to the home for the first time since his pregnant wife was murdered. In a photo published in Life magazine, Roman Polanski was captured sitting on the veranda, next to the front door that had been covered with his wife’s blood.
According to the photographer, Polanski had given the Polaroid shots to psychic Peter Hurkos in an attempt to track down the then-unknown killers. However, Polanski eventually found out that Hurkos had sold the photos to the press instead.
Altobelli sued Polanski over the photos that were published in Life magazine, arguing that the images had hurt his chances of selling the residence. He further suggested that because Polanski had not paid Augustus’ rent, Altobelli was entitled to the copyright of the photographs.
Rudi Altobelli struggled to find new tenants for the property. Three weeks after the murders, Altobelli moved in to the house himself, and lived there for the next 20 years, despite the fact that the house was forever linked to one of the most horrific and infamous crimes in American history.
“I moved right back into the house three weeks after the murders happened,” Altobelli said. “When I came back to that property, I felt safe, secure, loved and beauty.”
In a controversial move, Altobelli filed a lawsuit against the estate of the late Sharon Tate, demanding nearly half a million dollars to cover the damage done to his property during the murders, as well as damages for “embarrassment, humiliation, emotional, and mental distress”. However, the court largely sided with tate’s family and only granted Altobelli a small amount of $4,350. Despite the backlash, Altobelli eventually sold the house for $1.6 million, 18 times what he’d paid for it.
The last resident of the original house was Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Reznor had set up a recording studio called “Pig” in the building, a macabre reference to the word that had been written in Sharon Tate’s blood. Marilyn Manson, who’s name was created by combining the names of Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson, recorded his debut album, “Portrait of an American Family,” at 10050 Cielo Drive.
Reznor eventually moved out of the residence in 1993, explaining that “there was too much history in that house for me to handle.” As a reminder of his time in the infamous residence, Reznor had taken the front door of the Cielo Drive home with him when he moved out and installed the door at Nothing Studios, headquarters of his record label, which had been converted from a funeral home.
In 1994, the original house at 10050 Cielo Drive was demolished, replaced by the luxurious Villa Bella, with a new street address of 10066 Cielo Drive. During the demolition process, several souvenir hunters made their way to the site to collect pieces of wood, stone, and soil, some of which were later sold on online marketplaces.
During the demolition, they tried to erase every reminder of Sharon Tate and the murders, but the memory of what happened there on that fateful day endures.